A familiar face visited the WEEI broadcast booth on Tuesday night ‘€“ The Rocket.

Roger Clemens, shown at Fenway in 2013, still feels strong ties to Boston. (Getty Images)

Roger Clemens, shown at Fenway in 2013, still feels strong ties to Boston. (Getty Images)

A familiar face visited the WEEI broadcast booth on Tuesday night ‘€“ The Rocket.

Roger Clemens was in town to throw batting practice as part of a Jimmy Fund event, and after broadcasting a couple of innings with Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien, and before heading out for dinner, he stopped to discuss his feelings for Boston, his thoughts on Pedro Martinez heading into the Hall of Fame, and his own hopes of one day reaching Cooperstown.

Now a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, Clemens was making his first visit to Boston since being inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame last August.

“Boston’s always been great to me, every time I’m here,” he said. “This is where I got started. I have wonderful memories here, you bet.”

With so many former Red Sox stars now regular visitors to the park ‘€“ including Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley and Tim Wakefield ‘€“ Clemens was asked if he could envision being a more visible presence locally at some point, too.

“I’m pretty visible everywhere,” he said. “I’m pretty busy. Anytime we come up, we do all kinds of things in the city.”

As for Martinez heading into the Hall of Fame later this month, Clemens praised his one-time rival.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Pedro had a wonderful career and it’s a well-deserved honor. It was fun doing the little deal that we did here with him a little while back.”

That leads to Clemens’ own Hall candidacy. Because of his links to performance-enhancing drugs, the seven-time Cy Young winner has never received more than 37.6 percent of the vote. He hopes that changes, but realizes it’s out of his hands.

“I don’t worry about it too much,” he said. “I don’t have a say in it. I appreciate [people saying he’s deserving], but it’s not going to change who I am as a person.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

In calling up Travis Shaw after optioning Steven Wright back to Pawtucket, the Red Sox presented Shaw with another opportunity. He had been given a chance twice earlier in the season — once at the beginning of May and again in the middle of June.

Xander Bogaerts spied the media surrounding his locker on Tuesday night, but before taking questions on his latest clutch hit – a game-winning three-run single over the Marlins – he stopped to watch the A's close out the Yankees.



Travis Shaw (right) picked up his first big league hit in Tuesday's win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Travis Shaw (right) picked up his first big league hit in Tuesday’s win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In calling up Travis Shaw after optioning Steven Wright back to Pawtucket, the Red Sox presented Shaw with another opportunity. He had been given a chance twice earlier in the season — once at the beginning of May and again in the middle of June.

He had been unable to capitalize so far, but on Tuesday night, as the Sox pieced together a 4-3 comeback win over the Marlins, Shaw got his first major league hit, and there’s a ball in his locker saying so.

“When you go back down and it’s just like ‘ugh,’ you missed an opportunity to get that first hit,” he said. “That’s what everybody searches for, but this year’s been a little different for me. I’ve never experienced any of the up and down stuff or the come up here and not play as much as you used to, so it’s, for me, just trying to stay in a rhythm as best as I can so I’ve been able to do that. I’ve been grateful for my opportunity up here so far and just hopefully we can keep this rolling.”

But Shaw’s night didn’t end with his single to right-center field in the second inning. He recorded hits two and three of his career as well, both of which were singles. The second one had enough on it to be a double, hitting off the center field wall, but Shaw tripped rounding first and fell down. Shaw said he just tried to replicate the same strategy in every at-bat, trying not to do too much and getting pitches in his zone that he could hit.

It wasn’t a question of comfort, though. There wasn’t anything inherently different about the way he approached the plate than when he had in his previous appearances when he was 0-for-9 to start his career.

“Honestly it’s been the same,” he said. “I’ve hit two or three, four balls hard before and just haven’t had any luck, just hit it right to guys so tonight though, obviously once you get that first one the confidence level goes up.”

Manager John Farrell echoed the first baseman’s sentiments, noting that he liked the look of Shaw’s swing even before his hits.

“When he was with us previous, he took some good swings on some pitches and you get a chance to see a guy over a couple of spring trainings and you see their confidence, their maturity — his has come a long way in the two years that he’s been in big league spring training,” he said. “He’s balanced and he’s staying through the middle of the field pretty well.”

Shaw hadn’t been up with Boston until this year, spending his time in the Red Sox‘ farm system before finally breaking through this season. While he is primarily a first baseman, he has seen some time at third base since coming into the Red Sox system and embraces the chance to show his adaptability.

“Versatility’s always good,” he said. “I mean, you look at Brock Holt. He’s an All-Star now with being able to be versatile. Being able to play third for me is huge, I think for this team, if somebody goes down at multiple positions that gives me another opportunity to play a different position. I’m not locked in just at one.”

One of Shaw’s strongest influences when it comes to baseball is his father, Jeff, who is a former major league relief pitcher and two-time All-Star. Tuesday also happened to be his birthday, and Travis spoke of the way he’s helped him hit.

“He’s been one of the biggest hitting coaches I’ve had my entire life,” he said. “He’s seen me grow up, he’s seen my swing evolve, and obviously he’s a pitcher, so he sees a different side of it than I do.”

At a pivotal point in the Red Sox‘ season, now five games back with a series against the division-leading Yankees on tap for this weekend, Shaw said the chance to step in, with Mike Napoli struggling, is huge for him.

“I was just trying to make the most of it tonight so being able to contribute three hits, get a couple runs, it was big for me, big for my confidence level,” he said.

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen
Xander Bogaerts' two-out,  three-run single in the seventh inning gave the Red Sox a 4-3 win over the Marlins. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts’ two-out, three-run single in the seventh inning gave the Red Sox a 4-3 win over the Marlins. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox couldn’t get a hit when they needed it Tuesday night against the Marlins — that is until Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.

The Red Sox had first and second with one out in the second inning, but Mookie Betts hit into his first double play of the season. In the third inning, the Sox had second and third with no outs and their best three hitters up in David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but they couldn’t score in that inning either.

Then came the seventh inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Brock Holt struck out against weird-throwing reliever Carter Capps, which left it up to Xander Bogaerts who came through with a three-run single to put the Red Sox on top 4-3, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Right man, right spot,” manager John Farrell said. “Against a power arm with a very unorthodox delivery, who has been dominant in his time in the big leagues here with them. But, to put up an eight-pitch at-bat like he did, fought off a number of fastballs. The key to me in that spot was we get to a 3-2 count and Mookie has a chance to be on the move. That’s why we’re able to score three runs on a base hit. Like I said, right man, right spot for Xander.”

Capps, whose delivery looks almost like he’s jumping at the hitter, was touching 99 mph, but Bogaerts remained calm, even when the count went from 3-0 to 3-2, fouling off a number of pitches before he lined a fastball with the runners off with the pitch into the right center field gap. With the runners off with the pitch, Betts was able to score the winning run from first base.

It was the last three-run, regular-season single by a Red Sox hitter since Gary Allenson in 1982. Jacoby Ellsbury had one in the 2008 ALDS.

“You don’t even know what you’re doing up there against that pitcher,” Bogaerts said. “You don’t want to stay inside, outside, you just want to hit it. He’s throwing 100 so, just put the ball in play. All I was thinking was just tough it and hit it hard, not swing hard, just try and hit it hard. Sort of just touching it.”

Bogaerts was exactly the player the Red Sox wanted to have up at the plate in that situation, especially with how many times they failed to get a big hit earlier in the game. He entered the game with a team-leading .379 average this year with runners in scoring position, which was fourth in the AL. Since June 7, that is even better, as he is hitting .500 and now overall for the season he’s hitting .388.

It’s been a complete turnaround from last season for Bogaerts with runners in scoring position, as in 2014 with runners in scoring position he hit just .153. Farrell said the improvement has to do with his overall game and how much he’s grown as a player.

“You could say his entire game has improved dramatically,” Farrell said. “Defensively, offensively, I think he’s grown up after a year in which he was challenged and learned a lot about himself along the way. A guy who we’ve talked about a lot in those key spots where he’s playing with a lot of confidence and no bigger than tonight.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Joe and Dave talk with Xander after he had the game winning 3 run single off the Marlins Carter Capps.

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Brock Holt was named to the American League All-Star team on Monday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Brock Holt was named to the American League All-Star team on Monday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The big piece in the trade was going to be Joel Hanrahan.

Back in December 2012, the Red Sox sent pitchers Mark Melancon and Stomly Pimentel to the Pirates along with infielder Ivan De Jesus and utility man Jerry Sands in exchange for a two-time All-Star closer in Hanrahan and Brock Holt, a 24-year-old infielder with a hot bat and an All-Star minor league pedigree.

Hanrahan made nine appearances for the Sox in the 2013 season before sustaining an elbow injury in early May, ending his season. Holt appeared in just 26 contests that year, slashing .203/.275/.237 as a third baseman who got a handful of looks at second.

Hanrahan was released after the season ended, but Holt still hangs around Fenway and has a trip to Cincinnati scheduled next week to represent the Sox at the All-Star Game.

He didn’t make an immediate impact in 2014, not seeing time until he was called up from Pawtucket 16 games into the season. He played seven straight for the Red Sox before being back sent down to Triple-A. After that, he earned his keep as a regular in the Sox lineup, providing a type of energy and durable style of play that took him on a tour of positions three through nine. If it didn’t take place on the mound or behind the plate, Holt had a go at it.

“Because of injuries last year, just threw him in the situation of, ‘What do you think about playing left field?'” manager John Farrell said. “Don’t you know the first hitter of the game hits a sinking line drive, he dives for and makes the catch. Whether or not that was some instant belief that he could play an outfield position, but what we’ve seen is all three have been played extremely well. How he’s been able to stay sharp and get enough work to feel comfortable enough in a major league game to go to  those positions is really what stands out.”

But it’s not just Holt’s ability to pick up new positions with ease that makes him such a valuable player, according to Farrell. It’s his demeanor and overall approach to taking on new endeavors on the field.

“Because of that he wasn’t concerned about being embarrassed defensively when he went to new positions for the first time and the first time at the major league level,” he said. “To me, his attitude is the thing that stands out and is so significant while being so successful in the role.”

The second baseman, going into Tuesday was batting .295 so far this season with a .383 on-base percentage and a .424 slugging percentage, with just under a third of his hits going for extra bases. He also added an impressive feat to his resume when on June 16 he hit for the cycle in a 9-4 win against the Braves.

Farrell said he was given a heads up about Holt’s selection late last week and Sunday, following the Red Sox‘ 5-4 victory over the Astros, he let his player know that a trip to the All-Star Game was in his immediate future.

“Obviously he quickly lit up,” Farrell said. “I would think a flash of all that has gone on in his time here in Boston went through his mind. But, to a man downstairs, I think every guy is extremely happy for Brock to see the way he’s played the game.”

Holt, who has again worked his way around the field this season, has a flexibility that gives the Sox multiple options within a game — night in-and-night out, acting as a “safety valve” if needed.

“When we’ve gone with a three-man bench, it’s like you’ve got two or three players with Brock,” Farrell said. “You can’t place a value or a price tag on that.”

Similarly, with Holt on the All-Star Team, Royals manager and American League manager Ned Yost will have the chance to work with the options Farrell does every night.

“Having been in that position where you’ve got a roster or a lineup voted in by the fans, one that’s voted by the coaches and players, you’ve got probably two guys at every position,” Farrell said. “To have that one player that can go anywhere in the event of a pinch-hit, pinch-run, and injury, it’s one of the main reasons Brock is on that team.”

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen
Carter Capps has one of the most unique deliveries in baseball. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Carter Capps has one of the most unique deliveries in baseball. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

The bottom of the seventh, down two runs and the bases loaded and two out. It’s the situation every big league hitter would salivate over.

But when a 6-foot-5 crow-hopping righty is throwing 100 miles an hour on the mound, that excitement can wane just a bit. Just ask Xander Bogaerts.

Even after his rare three-run single propelled the Red Sox to a 4-3 win over Carter Capps and the Marlins Tuesday at Fenway, he admitted that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to focus in and get the job done.

What makes Capps so unique is that after beginning his windup with his right [back] foot on the pitching rubber, he jumps forward in the middle of his delivery and his right foot is about two feet in front of the rubber when he fires the ball to the plate. There has been plenty of debate among those paid to observe the game for Major League Baseball as to whether it’s a legal delivery.

But MLB ruled at the start of the season that Capps’ delivery, while unorthodox, is legal.

“That’s really funky,” Bogaerts said. “I never faced that guy before. I’ve seen him a few times on TV pitching against other teams. I mean you don’t know to expect until you’re up there hitting. I was kind of tracking the first pitches. I’m lucky enough he threw balls so I could see him pretty good and then I put a good swing on the last one.

“A lot of guys would want to hit with bases loaded, for sure, but I’m not sure too many against that guy. Funky delivery, throws hard but we came out on top today.”

How fast did Capps look?

“I faced a few guys that throw pretty hard, like [Trevor] Rosenthal I faced a couple of times but they have normal deliveries. This guy has a weird thing going on right there. I was just hoping he wasn’t throwing a slider right there because I haven’t seen him in enough at-bats so I don’t know what it was going to look like. But he threw a fastball.”

Bogaerts, in the midst of a terrific season at the plate and showing his maturity, did not try to do too much. But truth be told, he said he didn’t have much choice.

“You don’t know what you’re doing out there with that pitch,” Bogaerts said. “You don’t want to stay inside, outside or anything. You just want to hit. He’s throwing 100. Just put the ball in play. All I was thinking is not just touch it but hit it hard, not swing hard just hit it hard instead of just touching it.”

The Red Sox are suddenly five games out of first place, having won three straight and eight of their last eleven to improve to 40-45 on the season.

“That’s really good,” Bogaerts said of the hot stretch. “I remember we were playing pretty tough baseball but lately we’ve been playing really good. Definitely the momentum, the vibe, everything in the clubhouse has changed. It all comes with winning, you know?”

How many fan votes does Bogaerts think he won in the All-Star “Final Vote” tally with Tuesday’s heroics?

“I don’t know. Red Sox fans tend to vote a lot for their guys,” Bogaerts said. “Hopefully, they vote a lot tonight.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Facing arguably the five biggest games of the season leading into the All-Star break, the Red Sox kicked those games off in style.