Not a bad start for the new-look Red Sox.

Yoenis Cespedes didn't play Friday night, but he was around to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees. (AP)

Yoenis Cespedes didn’t play Friday night, but he was around to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees. (AP)

Not a bad start for the new-look Red Sox.

Just one day after dealing five players on the major league roster in four deadline moves, the Sox began their new direction with a 4-3 win over the Yankees Friday night in the opener of their three-game series at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox welcomed a pair of new faces in Allen Craig, who was acquired from St. Louis in a trade for John Lackey, and starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, who was called up to the majors from Triple-A Pawtucket in the wake of trading Jon Lester and Lackey.

Craig contributed a double in a what was a relatively lively offensive effort. The Sox’ four runs were their most in a game since last Friday in Tampa Bay, which is saying much considering they scored just six runs combined in a three-game series against the Blue Jays this week. Eight different players reached base safely in the nine-hit effort.

The offensive effort wasn’t nearly as strong as Ranaudo’s work on the mound, however. The 24-year-old allowed two runs on four hits over six innings for his first big league win. His only notable mistake came in the fourth inning when Carlos Beltran drove a 1-0 pitch into the bullpen for a solo home run.

Dustin Pedroia led the Sox offensively with two hits and two RBIs.

The win improves the Sox’ record to 49-60 for the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– It was a more than ideal debut for two Red Sox newcomers Friday night. Ranaudo’s effort was most impressive. The rookie held the Yankees to four hits and avoided any high pressure situations. New York had more than one base runner on at a time just once for the game, and failed to score in that situation. Ranaudo was, however, hurt by some command issues. He allowed four walks, struck out one and threw just 53 of his 91 pitches for strikes.

Craig got his first hit since July 22 after going 1-for-4? Friday with a double to left in the third. Craig was part of a logjam in the Cardinals’ outfield this season, limiting his playing time while trying to battle career-worst struggles. His four at-bats Friday were his most in a game since July 13.

– If the Sox are going to improve offensively, they’ll need more run production from the top of the order. Friday was a good start. Hitters one through three – Brock Holt, Pedroia and David Ortiz – combined for four hits, three RBIs and a pair of runs. They were especially key in the Sox’ two-run third inning. Holt led off the frame with a triple to the right field corner, then scored on a ground-rule double by Pedroia to dead center. Ortiz singled to right to score Pedroia and give the Sox something they haven’t had much this season: an early two-run lead.

The triple was a nice boost for Holt, who had just three hits in his last 29 at-bats prior to that plate appearance. The super utility player also broke a four-game strikeout streak. Pedroia, on the other hand, continues to roll. His two-hit effort marked his third multi-hit game and his fifth in the last seven.

– On Wednesday, the left side of the Sox’ infield included Bogaerts at third base and Stephen Drew at shortstop. On Friday, Will Middlebrooks was at third for his first major league game in over two months and Bogaerts made his long-awaited return to short. The results were solid both on the field and at the plate. Bogaerts went 1-for-4 with a single and Middlebrooks doubled and scored a run.

Bogaerts made a nice diving stop on a Jacoby Ellsbury grounder heading to center field, but the speedy Ellsbury beat out the throw for an infield single. The play ultimately counts as a base hit, but the effort was one worth noting as Bogaerts tries to show he can handle a full-time shortstop role.

– Also making his mark in the field Friday night was Mookie Betts, who made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track in center to rob Ellbury of extra bases. Betts is still new to playing a major league outfield after being forced to switch from his original second base spot, so the catch is sure to give the 21-year-old some confidence as he continues to learn his new position.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Junichi Tazawa was hit hard in what was nearly a costly eighth inning for the Red Sox. Derek Jeter led off the inning with a first-pitch solo shot over the Wall in left field. Tazawa would’ve given up a potential triple to deep center to Ellsbury one batter later if it weren’t for Betts’ leaping heroics. Mark Teixeira followed with a ground-rule double and Tazawa walked Brian McCann with two outs and Teixeira on third before escaping trouble by forcing Chase Headley to ground out.

– The Red Sox have found themselves on the wrong side of challenges pretty regularly this season. Friday was no different. Ellsbury was initially called out on a stolen base attempt in the top of the sixth inning. But after a challenge by Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi, the umpires ruled that Ellsbury slid underneath Bogaerts and into second before he could apply the tag. Beltran drove the outfielder in two batters later to score the Yankees’ second run.

– David Ross left the game after the sixth inning due to what was described as right foot plantar fasciitis recurrence. Ross was hobbling to first while running out a ground ball he hit to third. The catcher was immediately replaced by Christian Vazquez the following inning.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were welcomed to Oakland, Friday afternoon. Once at the podium, there were few surprises.

Here is what Lester and Gomes had to say to the assembled media at the O.Co Coliseum:

LESTER

Initial reaction trade?

Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes were introduced in Oakland Friday. (AP)

Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes were introduced in Oakland Friday. (AP)

Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were welcomed to Oakland, Friday afternoon. Once at the podium, there were few surprises.

Here is what Lester and Gomes had to say to the assembled media at the O.Co Coliseum:

LESTER

Initial reaction trade?

I think excitement. Obviously leaving Boston after being there for so long is difficult, but I’€™m excited to be here, going from a team that hasn’€™t done so well this year to the team with the best record in baseball is exciting. Fortunately I have a few faces here that I recognize and know well, so it should make the transition pretty smooth.

Being part of Oakland rotation

It looks great. I’€™ve got to see a few of these guys from the other side pitch against us in the past, and they’€™ve done really well, and obviously their numbers speak for themselves. Hopefully I can just fill my spot and do my job and give some innings and give these guys a chance to swing the bat and score some runs.

What last few days were like

The anxiety of it, not knowing where you’€™re going to be ‘€¦ having a family makes it difficult. When you leave someplace you call home for eight years, that made it harder. But, like I said, I’€™m happy to be here and happy to be a part of this, and hopefully I can contribute.

Thoughts on A’s from afar

Full of energy. They play the game the right way. Obviously their pitching staff has always been strong. It’€™ll be fun to be a part of. They’€™ve got a lot of young guys that have already been around awhile, so the youth and the energy is still there. It’€™s exciting to be a part of it and see it from the other dugout now.

Pressure of winning

I wouldn’€™t say pressure. These guys have been in the playoffs before, they’€™ve made runs before, it’€™s not going to be anything new to a lot of these guys here. Hopefully with adding us, we can maybe just add a little bit more experience the further side of it, going deeper, and help out as best we can as those situations once we get there. But I wouldn’€™t say pressure. I think these guys here expect to go the playoffs every year now. It’€™s a good atmosphere to have when you have the clubhouse in the same direction, having the same goal.

Difference in pitching in new park

Obviously having the Monster 300 feet away isn’€™t exactly great for pitching, but it’€™s a lot more foul territory, bigger in gaps, it’€™s going to be fun to see what those doubles that scrape the wall are fly balls to left. It’€™ll be nice to see that instead of the cheap doubles. We’€™ll see. I’€™ll just pitch my style and see what happens.

Importance of relationship with Oakland pitching coach Curt Young

Huge. That’€™ll definitely make the transition a little bit easier. You go through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of trials and errors, stuff you get into in bullpens, during a game, and he knows how I am as a competitor and a person. That makes a transition for me as a pitcher, and our catchers, defense, a little bit easier. You don’€™t have to learn someone all over again. He knows that from a full season, so it’€™ll make it a lot easier on me and hopefully on the team.

Relationship with Red Sox

Any time you negotiate with a team and it doesn’€™t go the way everyone wants it, there’€™s always a little bit of disappointment, but that’€™s not to say the effort wasn’€™t there on both sides to get something done. But my time in Boston will be something I always remember and cherish, from 2002 to yesterday. I’€™ve got nothing but great things to say about the organization, the way they treated me, treated my family through the good times and bad times. We’€™ll see where that relationship goes later on, but right now I’€™m an A and I’€™m going to go out and perform for these guys and do the best I can to bring the championship here.

 

GOMES

On Lester

Lester knows, you create a different bond of guys when you go through a season that takes you into the playoffs. Like last year with the Sox and the year before here. Little biased from my end, growing up in the area, being an A’€™s fan. I always thought it was unique coming here. I went from A’€™s pajamas to an A’€™s uniform in about 22 years. I put a lot of work into the young guys, physically, mentally — like a proud father watching these guys take off, see six A’€™s in the All-Star Game, that was pretty cool. So I of course kept tabs on individual guys, as well as the organization.

On returning to Oakland

When I left here, it was one of the most unique things, being a part of it. To get standing ovation from the crowd and even get your opponents, the Tigers, to top their caps, you really realize how magical that season was. The effort that went into what we accomplished. I was fortunate enough to have that lifelong goal to get that World Series ring. I thought I was hungry to get that World Series ring. Now that I have it, I’€™ve become starving for it. It really sinks home to that’€™s what we play for. It’€™s not the contract, it’€™s not the fancy cleats, this and that. It’€™s separating yourself, being a World champion. The history of Fenway is pretty awesome, obviously, but you come here and look up to the three-time World champs, one of two teams to do that, the history of winning is here. There are some alum here that expect a title out of this organization.

More thoughts on Lester

Not only is this guy well-decorated and climbing the totem pole of the left-handers in the game and left-handers in the postseason, that’€™s what you guys get to see. You guys don’€™t get to see the work ethic, what goes into his success, what goes into his championship pedigree, something I didn’€™t know on the other side. It truly is a breath of fresh air to know the best pitcher on the team is also the hardest-working guy on the team. We both realized early on in our career why we play 162. 162 is just the appetizer for what this game’€™s all about. This is a pretty big piece to add to a ballclub. I’€™ve been blessed and lucky to have behind him. I can’€™t think of a better guy to toe the rubber in a big situation.

Walk back in and treat it like you never left?

These guys have done an unbelievable job this year and last year without me. I hope I did have a little bit of an impact on their career to get here, some of the guys. But I’€™m not here to mix things up, be the new sheriff in town. I’€™m just here to add on to what this team has done to this point. I’€™m just coming in all business right now. There were six of them at the All-Star Game. I haven’€™t been to one. These little guys are trumping me. I’€™m just going to come in, be Jonny Gomes and be ready when Bob Melvin calls on me.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The 2014 has certainly not gone the way that Allen Craig wanted it to go.

Allen Craig

Allen Craig

The 2014 has certainly not gone the way that Allen Craig wanted it to go. After having his offseason cut short due to the World Series and rehabbing an ankle injury, Craig has struggled at the plate to the tune of a .236 batting average, .291 on-base percentage, seven home runs and 44 RBIs. After finishing 21st in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting in 2013, Craig has certainly fallen back in terms of offensive production.

The trade to the Red Sox, in a way, represents a clean slate for the outfielder to start fresh. Red Sox manager John Farrell says that right now, the focus for the team is to get Craig firmly supplanted in Boston and comfortable in his new surroundings.

I’ve had a chance to talk to Allen a little bit today and we haven’t really started to dig in to get his feedback,” Farrell said. “Today has been about… just getting him settled in a little bit. We’ll get to know what he’s been dealing with a little bit more specifically as his at-bats are witnesses here. We’re clearly excited to have him.”

Craig said he was surprised to hear that he had been treaded because he hadn’t heard very many rumors.

I was surprised. As the day went on, I started to get really excited about where I was going to go,” Craig said. “I think it’s still sinking in, being in the clubhouse and seeing a lot of faces and putting names to faces and that type of stuff. I’m looking forward to getting down there and playing ball.”

The struggles that Craig has endured this season have been part of a big learning process for the 30-year-old.

Making adjustments and figuring out pitchers are going to do to you. I feel like I learned a lot from the first half of my season and I’m ready to look forward,” Craig said. “The first half of was frustrating. Ups and downs, but this is part of the learning curve of this game. It’d be nice to go out there and be great every single night, but sometimes you need to learn and I definitely learned.”

Craig does not consider his shortened offseason as an excuse for his struggles.

“I never like to use anything as an excuse,” Craig said. “My offseason was cut short because we played in the World Series and it was long. In that regard, my offseason was a little bit shorter, but I was healthy going into this year and I’m healthy now and that’s something that I’ve put in the past and I feel good and ready to go.”

For Craig, coming back to Fenway Park brings back memories of playing in the World Series for the Cardinals. The outfielder says playing at Fenway for the first time during the World Series was an incredibly positive experience.

I loved the atmosphere. It was a great experience for me and I’m happy to be back,” Craig said. “It’s cool to be on this side of the clubhouse and get to know the guys on this side.”

Craig, who says he will contribute offense to the Red Sox lineup, has not thought through about how hitting in Fenway Park will benefit him.

I’m just excited to be a part of this organization and get to know these guys,” Craig said. “Obviously, the tradition here is rich and winning the World Series last year and I’m just here to do my part and contribute to a good team.”

 

Blog Author: 
Joon Lee

It was 3:50 p.m. Thursday, just 10 minutes before Major League Baseball‘s trade deadline, and Stephen Drew‘s phone had been quiet all day.

It was 3:50 p.m. Thursday, just 10 minutes before Major League Baseball‘s trade deadline, and Stephen Drew‘s phone had been quiet all day.

The shortstop was simply enjoying his off day. He brought his two kids to teammate Jon Lester‘s home while the pitcher was out attending a birthday party and was outside enjoying the summer weather while the kids were playing. At this point, the thought of being traded so late seemed improbable.

“To be honest, I wasn’t even monitoring it,” he said.

About five minutes later, Drew received a call. He had been traded to the Yankees for infielder Kelly Johnson. Drew was soon on his way to Fenway Park to clean out his locker.

Fortunately for Drew, the Yankees were coming to Boston Friday to begin a three-game series at Fenway. So his travels consisted of nothing more than moving his stuff from the Red Sox‘ clubhouse over to the visitor clubhouse on the other end of the park.

“It’s definitely different, over there just playing a game and then an off day and then the moves,” Drew said. “It comes with the business though. We all know that as players, we know that as our job.

“It is different walking across from the guys you were just playing with a day ago. Was over there with them, now I’m over here. I’m excited, it’s going to be a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”

Drew was a contributing member of the Sox’ 2013 World Series championship team, but wasn’t brought re-signed by the team until early May to add infield depth while rookie Xander Bogaerts was still acclimating to playing shortstop in the big leagues. 

The move ultimately failed. Drew was liability at the plate, hitting .176/.255/.328 in 40 games. Meanwhile, the Sox were slipping into the AL East stellar and Bogaerts appeared negatively affected by the move back to third.

But Drew joins the Yankees hoping for a fresh start. He has new teammates to meet, a new No. 33 Yankees jersey and a new position to play at second base.

Most importantly for Drew, he goes from a last-place team to a club just 3 1/2 games out of a wild card spot entering Friday.

“Over there was definitely not expected,” Drew said. “It’s something over there everybody wishes that you could’ve turned around and started over in spring training, but that’s the way this game is. It’s definitely something that — it’s been kind of crazy that two months that I had when I was there.

“I’m just trying to move past that now and looking forward to being here with the Yankees and help this organization the best I can. We’re still in a race so it’s fun for me.”

As for his new position, Drew said it’ll be worth moving from shortstop to second in order to play alongside Derek Jeter, who he said he idolized growing up.

“I’m just going to take this opportunity and run with it and looking forward to playing beside a future Hall of Famer with Jeter,” Drew said.

He said of playing second base: “I think it’s just getting acclimated to it, just playing there every day and learning that position as much as I can as fast as I can.”

The trade reunites Drew with former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury, whom Drew playing with on the Red Sox last season. Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees in the offseason, texted Drew after he heard the news to offer any advice he can give.

“He was a teammate last year,” Ellsbury said of Drew. “Obviously we won it all so you’re close with those guys. He’s a very good player and a good friend of mine.”

Drew spoke fondly of his time with the Red Sox before leaving the clubhouse to embark on his first batting practice with the Yankees.

“My time with Boston, there’s nothing negative about it,” he said. “This is just the nature of how baseball works and the memories I have over there, last year winning a World Series and being a big part of that, it’s huge and I’m thankful for the opportunity I got over there last year and coming in and playing short for them and doing well.

“Playing over there with [Dustin Pedroia], he’ll be a Hall of Fame second baseman over there as well so to play with two Hall of Famers is pretty neat for me.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas
Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes hopes to provide pop to the Red Sox lineup. (Joon Lee/WEEI.com)

The legend of Yoenis Cespedes is already larger than life. Cespedes, built more like an NFL fullback rather than an outfielder, makes throws from the outfield reminiscent of a bullets slicing through air and has won back-to-back Home Run Derbies.

Cespedes has even been the subject of an internet viral video, one created by his agent that showcased the outfielder’s ability to hit baseball a mile, dance with his family and cook a whole pig over a roasting fire.

But when Cespedes heard about the trade, he was partaking in activity that non-pig roasting, non-home run hitting mortals do on a daily basis.

I was sleeping when the news came through,” Cespedes said through a translator. “It caught me by surprise. There is a saying that only God knows why things happen.”

The outfielder is currently hitting .256/.303/.464 with 17 home runs, 67 RBIs with 26 doubles and 62 runs scored. Manager John Farrell said that Cespedes will play right field for the Red Sox moving forward, a spot unoccupied currently due to Shane Victorino‘s latest stint on the disabled list. Cespedes said that he has some experience playing the position from his time in Cuba. The acquisition of Cespedes filled the need for a power-hitting outfielder with a major league ready talent.

“We’ve been very clear internally the need to improve and upgrade our offense was a goal,” Farrell said. “We’ve been able to do that through these trades. To be able to bring in a middle of the order, All-Star caliber bat from a contending team, it’s not typical. I think as this deal came about, it became unique in its own right and our ability to lengthen out the lineup with he and Allen Craig gives us that depth that has been lacking throughout the course of the season.”

Cespedes, who is eligible to become a free agent after the 2015 season, said that he will be able to provide pop to the Red Sox lineup. How much pop, however, is unknown.

I know I have some power,” Cespedes said. “I can’t predict the amount of home runs I’m going to hit because when I’m there, I’m not looking to hit a home run, I’m just looking to make hard contract.”

Cespedes feels that he has become a better player since arriving in America and will continue to improve as time rolls on.

I’ve been getting better and better,” Cespedes said. “Incrementally, just like anything, I can get better every day, just like anything else.”

Cespedes, who defected from Cuba in summer of 2011 and signed with the Oakland Athletics before the 2012 season, is happy to call Boston his latest home.

I feel very happy to be able to share a part of my career with the Red Sox,” Cespedes said. “In Cuba, I wasn’t able to watch too many Red Sox games or any major league games for that matter, but the legend of Fenway Park precedes itself and I’m very excited to be here.”

Blog Author: 
Joon Lee

As baseball players, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury don’t have much in common. The way they’re built and their position on the field couldn’t make that more obvious.

The former is a big, powerful starting pitcher known for his humble demeanor and his sneaky, game-changing ability on the mound. The latter is a speedy outfielder better known for his athleticism in the field and his threat on the base paths.

However, one thing both players have in common, as of Thursday morning, is that they’re both former Red Sox.

Ellsbury left Boston via free agency in the offseason after signing with the Yankees on a seven-year, $153 million contract, a number unmatched by the Red Sox. Lester, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, was traded to Oakland at the deadline after contract negotiations failed to come to fruition.

Ellsbury, in Boston Friday for the Yankees‘ three-game set at Fenway Park, came up through the Sox’ minor league system with Lester and won a pair of World Series titles with him.

While some may have been surprised to see Lester go, Ellsbury said he wasn’t sure what to expect given the business of baseball.

“It’s hard to say,” Ellsbury said. “You come up through the minor league system and that’s really all you know. Like I’ve said numerous times, I enjoyed my time in Boston and I think Lester has said the same thing but you just never know. You never know how it’s going to go. I wish him the best. Hopefully things work out how he wants it too.”

The Lester trade was one of just four deals made by the Sox by Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline. The deals represented a shift in focus for the last-place Sox, who appear to be rebuilding for next season.

The Yankees, however, are still in the hunt. New York is five games back in the AL East and 3 1/2 games out of the wild card entering Friday. If the money wasn’t enough justification for Ellsbury, the chance to win consistently appears to be an added incentive.

Ellsbury, however, said he isn’t focused on what his former team is up to.

“You can’t really pay attention too much to what they’re doing,” he said. “You have to focus on the task at hand and that’s over here, trying to get where we want to go. We’re competing. We’re trying to get in the playoffs, grinding, trying to do everything we can to win.

“What I talked about when I came back was the opportunity to win every year. Once you get a taste of that World Series you want to experience it each and every year. Hopefully we’re stepping in the right direction.”

Ellsbury is more than halfway through his first season with the rival Yankees. He’s already made his return to Fenway and faced the Sox numerous times. He said he doesn’t see much difference with the way the two organizations are run.

“At the end of the day it’s baseball,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and compete, you’ve got to go out there and perform at a high level. Obviously both markets expect to win, which I appreciate. I appreciate that expectation that the fan base expects you to win going out there each and every night.

“This is a first-class organization, but I’m happy I spent my seven years in Boston. Two World Series, definitely appreciative of my time over there, them drafting me, going through the minor league system. Nothing but good memories.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas