A Red Sox lineup in a constant state of flux features another new wrinkle on Friday, as Brock Holt — recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket — will start at third base and bat ninth against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman.

Grady Sizemore will get his first career start in front of the Green Monster on Friday. (WEEI.com)

Grady Sizemore will get his first career start in front of the Green Monster on Friday. (WEEI.com)

A Red Sox lineup in a constant state of flux features another new wrinkle on Friday, as Brock Holt — recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket — will start at third base and bat ninth against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman. Holt had been enjoying a tremendous start in Pawtucket, hitting .380/.446/.600 in 56 plate appearances.

The Sox lineup will also feature some additional wrinkles. David Ortiz has a scheduled day off, and so Mike Napoli will serve as designated hitter while Mike Carp plays first base. With Ortiz out, Dustin Pedroia is moving down to the third spot in the order, behind leadoff man Grady Sizemore (playing left) and Daniel Nava (playing right).

While Sizemore has seen time both in the leadoff spot and in left field this season, he has yet to play in his career in front of the fabled Green Monster. Sizemore received something of a crash course in playing the Wall from outfield and first base coach Arnie Beyeler on Friday afternoon, but Farrell didn’t attempt to pretend that there will be a degree of foreignness to Sizemore’s task.

“Grady has not played left field in this ballpark,” said Farrell. “We can’t go out and have so much repetition to get him comfortable with it this afternoon. He’s going to get some. But he’s in left field.”

RED SOX LINEUP

Grady Sizemore, LF

Daniel Nava, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Mike Napoli, DH

Mike Carp, 1B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Brock Holt, 3B

Felix Doubront, SP

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

When the Red Sox signed Ryan Roberts to help man third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks, they sat on the cusp of a stretch where they’d face five left-handed starters in a 10-day span. Though the Sox went 4-1 in those contests, that was hardly a reflection of Roberts’ performance.

The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

When the Red Sox signed Ryan Roberts to help man third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks, they sat on the cusp of a stretch where they’d face five left-handed starters in a 10-day span. Though the Sox went 4-1 in those contests, that was hardly a reflection of Roberts’ performance. The 33-year-old was just 2-for-19 with two singles and three walks, good for a .105/.227/.105 line, and with the Sox now arriving at a stage where they’ll face primarily right-handed starters, and with Middlebrooks moving closer to a return from the DL, the team elected to designate Roberts for assignment.

In his place, the team called up Brock Holt from Triple-A Pawtucket. Holt, who spent one day on the big league roster when Middlebrooks first landed on the DL, has been on a tear for the PawSox, hitting .380/.446/.600 with eight extra-base hits, five walks and three strikeouts in 56 plate appearances. The Sox immediately put Holt in Friday’s lineup.

“We felt like we needed to try to create a little bit of a jump-start to the offense. With the designation of Ryan, we got another lefthanded hitter here in Brock Holt,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “We’ve come through a stretch with seven lefthanded starters against us out of the past 10, and we’re kind of reversing that right now, going against primarily righthanders. We felt like we needed to try a different combination to attempt to spark that bottom third of the order.

“[Holt has] clearly earned the promotion here,” added Farrell. “When he was sent out, even after just one day of being here with the big-league club, he was initially disappointed, but he’s channeled that the right way and gone down and played very well on the left side of the infield.”

As for Roberts, Farrell suggested that he didn’t appear to be in sync after spending about 10 days at home following his release from the Cubs at the end of spring training. The Sox hope that the versatile Roberts will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“We certainly want him to remain in the organization,” said Farrell. “We feel like he needs at-bats to get things going a little bit.”

As for Middlebrooks, he rejoined the Red Sox (he’d been sent home early from Chicago while struggling with the flu) and resumed baseball activities, including batting practice. Given the relatively limited time of his absence with the flu, the Sox are hopeful that Middlebrooks — who is eligible to come off the D.L. on Monday, but won’t be ready to do so at that point — will be ready to start a minor league rehab assignment in relatively short order.

“I don’t think [the flu] is going to delay Will in his eventual rehab assignment, which we’re still hopefully targeting sometime the middle of next week,” said Farrell.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Coming off their 2013 World Series title, the Red Sox are 7-9 after taking the final two games of a three-game set with the White Sox.

“It’€™s a whole different year, and there’s going to be a whole different identity,” Millar said. “You have a great nucleus of guys … but at some point the identity is going to have to figure out what are we as a group? Are we a power-hitting team? Are we a run-scoring [team]? Base-stealing? And right now, it’€™s just a little bit slow going for the Sox and deservedly so — we’re in the first two weeks of the season.”

The Red Sox have struggled at the plate and are ranked 23rd in the league with a .232 batting average.

“Early on everything’s a little bit magnified,” Millar said. “You’re trying to get your swing. You’re trying to get your numbers. You’re trying to get that scoreboard to not look at a .150, .200 average. You understand the team’s good right? The one thing I see is just figuring out who’s going to lead off consistently.

“The main thing is that [Dustin] Pedroia – the X-rays are negative, he got a cortisone shot in the wrist — that would have been a huge loss. [Mike] Napoli had the finger thing. So there’s a little nagging, a little injuries that they’€™re going to go through. They’re not clicking on all cylinders yet, but in the big leagues right now, there’s not one team clicking.”

Along with their struggles at the plate, the Red Sox also are dealing with the distraction of Jon Lester‘€™s contract negotiations. A report Saturday indicated that the team offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal.

“Let’s not fool anybody — it’s a negotiation,” Millar said. “It’s big money we’€™re talking about. You’re talking about Lester and the one time he gets a chance to go out there and pop financially. At the end of the day, it’s a time to set up your family, and Lester loves Boston — loves playing there. I know this guy has been a bona fide big horse for this team for many years. He’s pitched many big games. This is a great pedigree.

“You’ve just got to understand, you allow this guy to leave, you better have a replacement. … That market we all know is a little bit tougher to play in if you don’t have the makeup to deal with the media, to deal with the down times when your feelings are hurt. We’ve seen that happen over the years, but I think Jon Lester – at some point they’ll get closer, they’re just a little off right now, but it’s the business side from the Red Sox front office.

“There’s no doubt in my mind he’s been everything that they’ve wanted him since he’s been in this organization, and he’d be a tough one to let go.”

For more team news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri
Rubby De La Rosa now has a 1.08 ERA in three starts this year. (AP)

Rubby De La Rosa now has a 1.08 ERA in three starts this year. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN (11 INNINGS), 2-0 LOSS (7 INNINGS) AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– A case can be made that no one in the Red Sox minor league system has been more impressive to date than Rubby De La Rosa this season. The right-hander submitted his third straight dominant outing, permitting one run on four hits (two doubles, two singles) and one walk in six innings. He punched out five and walked just one, recorded seven outs on the ground (two on a double play) and threw 55 of 82 (67 percent) pitches for strikes.

While the stadium gun had him at 95-97 mph and touching 99, an evaluator had the right-hander at 90-96 mph, averaging 93, but with very good command. He also showed a good feel for his changeup in shutting down his opponents.

On the one hand, it’s only been a three-start stretch. On the other hand, the consistency that De La Rosa has shown from start to start is unlike anything that he’s shown since joining the Red Sox organization in the wake of the blockbuster trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers in August 2012.

While he was often the forgotten man among Red Sox pitching prospects this spring, with questions routinely asked about whether he was destined for the bullpen (a possibility treated almost as an inevitability in some quarters), De La Rosa has emerged as clearly the most impressive starter for Pawtucket in the early going. He’s completely shut down his opponents in each of his outings. Meanwhile, Anthony Ranaudo has been inconsistent in both results and velocity (topping out recently in the low-90s, below the 94 mph range where he often sat last year); Allen Webster has continued his battle with his control; Brandon Workman is still in the process of getting stretched out; and Matt Barnes has yet to make the trip north from Fort Myers. 

Meanwhile, De La Rosa has been a groundball machine, recording 41 of his 50 outs via strikeout or groundball. He’s attacked the strike zone, punching out 14 and walking just three in 16 2/3 innings of work. He’s allowed no more than four hits in any of his outings, holding opponents to a line of .148/.190/.204; right-handers have a line of just .071/.100/.107 this season. He’s been pitch efficient, averaging 14.3 pitches per inning.

– Catcher Christian Vazquez had one of his best games in weeks, going 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk while also gunning down both runners who tried to steal in Game 1 of the double header. He’s now hitting .262 with a .304 OBP and .381 slugging mark, having bashed five doubles in 11 games. (His season-high for extra-base hits in a month in Double-A Portland last year was seven.) Defensively, he continues to be a force, having gunned down six of the 11 runners attempting to steal on him (55 percent).

Garin Cecchini went 3-for-5 in the first game, recording his second three-hit game of the year in the first game, before going 0-for-3 in the second half of the double header. The 22-year-old is hitting .320/.370/.360.

– Left-hander Chris Hernandez scattered nine hits over a six-inning complete game in the nightcap, permitting two runs while walking one and striking out two. Last year, the 25-year-old issued 4.5 walks per nine innings in 102 1/3 innings in Triple-A; so far this year, in his first three outings, he’s trimmed that rate to just 2.2 walks per nine innings. Lefties are 3-for-17 against him, with a line of .176/.263/.176.

– The Red Sox have yet to set a date for right-hander Matt Barnes — in extended spring training building arm strength after shoulder discomfort slowed him at the start of the spring — to join the PawSox, but that time could come as soon as next week. Barnes is slated to make his next start (and potentially his last) in extended spring training on Saturday.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT AT NEW BRITAIN

The rainout was the third straight for the Sea Dogs.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-2 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)

(BOX)

– Catcher Carson Blair went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double and two walks. He’s been hitting the ball hard — with five of his seven hits going for extra bases — and taking plenty of walks (10 in 50 plate appearances) though the 24-year-old has also been striking out in bunches. He whiffed twice on Thursday, his fourth straight game with two strikeouts, and has 18 strikeouts in those 50 plate appearances.

– Left-hander Corey Littrell tossed six innings in which he showed good control (one walk, 49 of 72 pitches — 68 percent — for strikes) and elicited a number of groundball outs (10), but in which he also gave up his hardest contact of the young season. Littrell gave up a pair of homers, the first two he’s permitted in a pro career that now spans 47 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one, and now has 18 punchouts and six walks in 16 2/3 innings of work.

– Outfielder Kevin Heller went 1-for-5 with a double, bringing his line for the season to .400/.500/.686.

– Third baseman Mario Martinez went 4-for-5. It was his eighth professional four-hit game, four of which have come since he joined the Red Sox in the middle of last season.

– Right-hander Austin Maddox earned the win with three shutout innings of relief. In 10 innings, he has a 3.60 ERA with nine strikeouts and just one walk, continuing to display some of the strike-throwing aggressiveness that characterized him at the end of 2013 in Single-A Greenville after he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen. The 2012 third-rounder closed the year by allowing two walks in his final 22 innings, and didn’t give up an earned run in his last 15 1/3 innings of last year.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 WIN AT SAVANNAH (METS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz had his best pro outing, firing six shutout innings in which he scattered three hits (all singles), walked none and struck out three while throwing 49 of 75 offerings for strikes (65 percent). It was the second straight scoreless start for the 20-year-old, who has permitted six hits in 11 innings over those two outings. The 6-foot-4 Stankiewicz displays good athleticism and excellent body control on the mound, something that allows him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes, evidenced by the fact that he’s walked just six in his first 34 2/3 pro innings (1.6 per nine innings). The Sox scouted him as a pitcher who possesses the ability to throw strikes right now with four average pitches (fastball, curveball, slider, change) — offering the projection of at least a durable back-end starter, with the possibility that if one of those offerings develops into an above-average pitch, he could emerge as something more than that.

– Right-hander Joe Gunkel punched out four and walked none in two scoreless innings, pounding the strike zone with 19 of his 25 pitches (76 percent). The 22-year-old now has 13 punchouts, two walks and a 1.80 ERA in 10 frames out of the bullpen this year.

– Second baseman Carlos Asuaje went 2-for-3 with a triple (his third already this year), a walk and a stolen base. The 22-year-old now has a line of .357/.438/.595 with seven extra-base hits in 11 games this year. Against righties, the left-handed hitting Asuaje — an 11th rounder last year out of Nova Southeastern University — is hitting .382/.462/.676.

– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a career-high three walks, matching another career-high (previously achieved twice) by reaching base four times. The diminutive 20-year-old is hitting .300/.412/.350 with nine walks and nine strikeouts through 11 games, showing the ability to hit for average and get on base that, in combination with his blazing speed and defense at short, led the Sox to sign him for $2.05 million in 2012. Given his speed and that he has been getting on base (he’s reached 19 times to date), however, it is somewhat surprising that Lin has attempted just two steals thus far this year (both of which resulted in success).

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox kick off a seven-game homestand Friday when they send John Lackey to the mound against the Orioles and Chris Tillman.

Lackey will come into his fourth start of the season after picking up his first loss in his last outing, a weekend tilt against the Yankees. The veteran righty failed to make it through the sixth inning after he allowed six earned runs and 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. Despite a two-run seventh, Boston could not overcome the deficit, eventually losing the game 7-4

“He paid for some pitches that were up in the strike zone,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, (via MLB.com). “Warmer weather, the ball was really carrying here today, but still, it was the mistakes up in the strike zone today.”

Lackey last faced off against the Orioles during Boston’s first win of the season. Over six innings on the mound, Lackey gave up two earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts en route to a 6-2 Sox win. The two runs came on a home run by Nelson Cruz during the fourth inning. Overall, Lackey holds a 14-5 record with a 3.33 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19 in 24 starts against Baltimore.

Like Lackey, Tillman enters Friday’€™s game after picking up his first loss of the season. Tillman gave up two runs, neither of which was earned, on three hits over eight innings against the Blue Jays on April 11. Baltimore ultimately lost the game 2-0.

Tillman last took on the Red Sox during the Orioles’ Opening Day win on March 31. Tillman received a no-decision after he gave up one earned run on seven hits over five innings. The lone run came on a solo home run by Grady Sizemore. The 26-year-old righty, who has a 1-1 record with a 0.84 ERA this season, has a career 4-2 record against the Red Sox with a 2.67 ERA and a WHIP of 1.26.

Orioles vs. Lackey (RHP)

Nick Markakis (63 plate appearances): .333/.397/.439, 4 doubles, 1 triple. 4 RBIs, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts

Adam Jones (47): .222/.234/.467, 1 triple, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts

Chris Davis (35): .344/.400/.625, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts

Nelson Cruz (33): .258/.303/.387, 1 double, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts

Matt Wieters (32): .188/.188/.188, 2 RBIs, 6 strikeouts

J.J. Hardy (23): .150/.261/.150, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

Delmon Young (18): .353/.389/.412, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

David Lough (7): .167/.286/.167, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Ryan Flaherty has two strikeouts in five plate appearances vs. Lackey.

Ubaldo Jimenez (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 RBI

Steve Lombardozzi has one strikeout in two plate appearances vs. Lackey.

Red Sox vs. Tillman (RHP)

Dustin Pedroia (33): .300/.333/.367, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs. 2 walks. 2 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (24): .200/.333/.300, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

David Ortiz (23): .105/.261/.105, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (18): .333/.444/.467, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts

Mike Carp (15): .143/.200/.143, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

A.J. Pierzynski (12): .167/.167/.250, 1 double, 1 RBI

Ryan Roberts (7): .200/.429/.800, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Xander Bogaerts has two strikeouts in five plate appearances vs. Tillman.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (5): .400/.400/.600, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Grady Sizemore (5): .400/.400/1.000, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Jonny Gomes has one strikeout in three plate appearances vs. Tillman.

David Ross has one strikeout in two plate appearances vs. Tillman.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

Jon Lester has seemingly found a next level of pitching over his last 20 starts. (AP)"What next level is there?" -- Jon Lester to WEEI.com, 2013 spring training

Jon Lester has officially answered his own question.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


Dave O'Brien and Joe Castiglione talk with Red Sox catcher, David Ross, who had the go-ahead RBI tonight as the Red Sox beat the White Sox behind a brilliant pitching performance from Jon Lester.

[0:00:06] ... down. Throw that would put the they had been -- Course catching Jon Lester Koji you we have our work most of her current regulations. Yet that was great great outing by pitching staff I -- you get to horses. And the American League going at it between now Lester and sale and you know I think people got their money's worth tonight -- him how is. Pitching duel for the ages those guys are really thought the ball well Jon -- really really. -- the ball well pretty tired out a little bit there at the end but you know I think I think. You know we owe a lot to him our bullpen to a banged up long night last night and he goes out and how we use use him coach he so credit Jon Jon Lester was that -- Rios if they want. Did a great game to anyone and I mean you're you're right -- a -- you've you've had great defense tonight is timely hitting -- pitching was off the charts I mean look I'll start off with them -- a home run to David Ortiz you have like. I mean if your baseball fan at that that's instant classic these guys battled. Seau was on the ball ...



Dave O'Brien and Joe Castiglione talk with Red Sox catcher, David Ross, who had the go-ahead RBI tonight as the Red Sox beat the White Sox behind a brilliant pitching performance from Jon Lester.

[0:00:06] ... down. Throw that would put the they had been dead. Course catching Jon Lester Koji you we have our work most of her her congratulations. -- that was great great outing by pitching staff I mean ...
[0:00:39] ... goes out knowing that you accused him coach he so credit Jon Jon Lester was that -- -- they want. Did a great game to anyone and I mean you're you're right profane U if you had great defense tonight is timely hitting to pitching was off the charts I mean look I'll start off with them -- a home run -- David Ortiz you have like. I mean if your baseball fan -- that that's it's a classic these guys battled. Sale was on the ...
[0:01:46] ... spot -- right through quorum of the best part about that was Dustin Pedroia is throw gave -- a one hop. Right there to me so I could make it tag in my blind spot it ...