As the Red Sox head into the rubber match of their series against the Yankees the team will take a step toward solidifying its lineup. In 23 games this season, including Thursday night’s contest, the Red Sox have had 21 different lineups as they dealt with injuries and an ongoing search for a player to take hold of the leadoff spot.

With the team finishing out the series against New York and getting on a plane to Toronto, though, some of its stability is returning.

Shane Victorino will return to the lineup Thursday night, making his regular-season debut after he suffered an injury to his right hamstring toward the end of spring training.

“This is something we’€™ve been waiting for for some time here,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Shane’€™s return we feel like will help solidify our outfield defense particularly, and, in addition to that, the top of the order for us. It’€™s good to have him back in the lineup, there’€™s no doubt about it.”

Victorino, who will hit second in Thursday’€™s order, went 1-for-11 during a three-game rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox have spent the first month of the season without Victorino and the past three weeks without Will Middlebrooks.

“You deal with what you have in the moment and knowing that players are going to come back to you, that’€™s always a positive outlook,” Farrell said. “We don’€™t make excuses because guys have been injured or there’€™s been some performance that’€™s been a little less than. We’€™re setting out to compete and win every single night and sometimes that hasn’€™t always been the case.”

Farrell added that with Victorino back in the lineup, he hopes to keep Dustin Pedroia in the leadoff spot with Victorino hitting second.

“Hopefully with [Pedroia] and [Victorino] at the top of the order the on-base will be there at a higher, and at a more consistent rate,” Farrell said. “I think stability is what this team is in need of right now.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– Middlebrooks has likely finished his own rehab assignment and will probably fly out to Toronto to join the team for its three-game series with the Blue Jays. Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list after suffering a Grade 1 calf strain on April 5, joined Pawtucket on April 21. While the 25-year-old was hitless in 10 at-bats over three games with the PawSox, Farrell said Thursday that Middlebrooks€™ was swinging the bat better in his final appearance.

– Since joining the Red Sox on April 18, Brock Holt has accumulated a .400 average with a .458 on-base percentage while driving in four runs over the course of six games. The team called Holt up to the majors after Ryan Roberts struggled to fill the gap left by Middlebrooks’€™ calf injury.

“When he came to us, we hoped he would spark the bottom third of the order,” Farrell said. “He’€™s done exactly that. He’€™s been fine defensively at third base, he’€™s given us quality at-bats — even in situations where he’€™s made an out, he’€™s been working the count deep and he’€™s gotten on base at a high rate.

“He’€™s given us a jolt in the arm, and we’€™ll see where things go from there.”

Farrell added that the team is having an on-going discussion of what to do with Holt, who went 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI during Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Yankees, once Middlebrooks returns. The team will only need one utility player, and so either Holt or Jonathan Herrera would appear to be the odd-man out. Both have options remaining, though Herrera is considered the superior defensive shortstop, and Farrell said that his preference to get the most capable glove at that position remains unchanged.

– Farrell said on Thursday that Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore could potentially platoon in left field. Farrell added that Sizemore may also get playing time in center, so his playing time won’t necessarily be restricted to days in which right-handed pitchers are on the mound.

“With [Victorino's] return there’s still going to be some managing of that playing time there,” Farrell said. “I can’t say he’s solely going to be in left field, particularly in Fenway where we might see Grady in center and Jackie [Bradley Jr.] in right on any given day. We’ve got to remain open to not only who’s available to us, but where we’re playing — home or on the road.”

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended for 10 games “for possessing a foreign substance on his person” in their 5-1 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday, the league announced.

The substance, believed to be pine tar, was discovered by umpire crew chief Gerry Davis at Red Sox manager John Farrell‘s behest in the second inning.

According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, Pineda’s suspension will be paid, and the 25-year-old right-hander will not be forced to pay a fine.

Both Pineda and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman admitted they expected a suspension immediately following the game, although New York manager Joe Girardi claimed he would “talk to MLB about” changing Rule 8.02(b) in the future.

Should Pineda accept the league’s ruling and begin his suspension without an appeal, he will be eligible to pitch again May 4 against the Rays, missing one start and delaying another.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Right-hander Allen Webster had his best outing of the 2014 season on Wednesday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster had his best outing of the 2014 season on Wednesday. (AP)

It would have been easy for the Red Sox to summon Allen Webster to the big leagues on Wednesday. They needed a pitcher capable of providing innings in case anything went off the rails with John Lackey, given that the team’s bullpen had been pushed to obscene (11 innings) lengths in the prior two days. Webster, whose day it was to start in Pawtucket, would have given the team the possibility of a significant workload if needed.

But the Sox resisted the temptation to do so, instead electing to bring up Alex Wilson for the day. The reason?

“Didn’t want to disrupt Webster’s starting rotation work there. We felt like a two-inning reliever is what we needed, which Alex has done,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. “Familiarity with the role. That’s why Alex is here.”

The Sox are mindful of what occurred a year ago, when Webster got off to a spectacular start in spring training and then April in Pawtucket, but started to see his dominant early performance get derailed once he started shuttling up and down between Pawtucket and the big leagues. He seemed to struggle with the transitions, lost confidence along the way and went from a pitcher who looked like he was on the cusp of being a big league-ready starter to one who looked lost.

And so, Webster remained in Pawtucket this time, under different circumstances than the ones that had the Sox looking for opportunities to bring him to the big leagues last year. He’s struggled through four starts, permitting more walks (12) than strikeouts (11) in 20 innings.

The decision to leave Webster in Triple-A was rewarded by his best outing of the year. For just the third time in his Triple-A career, he pitched more than six innings, logging 6 1/3 frames in which he attacked the strike zone in a fashion that stood out from his prior outings, walking just one, throwing 66 percent of his pitches (64 of 97) for strikes, punching out five, getting (by the count of Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal) 14 swings and misses and getting seven outs via groundball (including his first six of the game).

It was the sort of performance — mid-90s velocity with the ability to get grounders and swing-and-misses while throwing strikes — that points to the considerable potential the pitcher possesses. Now, he must start showing that he can achieve such results consistently. Leaving him in Pawtucket on Wednesday may have been a critical foundation for that pursuit.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX)

– For the second time in as many rehab games, third baseman Will Middlebrooks faced a top prospect with tremendous velocity and stuff and came away with a rough line to show for it. He went 0-for-3, striking out in all three plate appearances against giant Twins prospect (and former Red Sox draftee — whom the Sox wanted to sign so badly that they sent a front office cabal on owner John Henry‘s private jet to the pitcher’s doorstep in Indiana) Alex Meyer, who hit 99 mph on the McCoy Stadium gun.

“€œI asked a coach, ‘€˜Who’€™d he make mad? Why is he here? Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota?’€™’€ Middlebrooks told the Providence Journal. “I don’€™t know what his deal is. I just know that today he was nasty.”

Middlebrooks will get one more rehab game. He’s in the PawSox lineup on Thursday morning. He’s expected to be activated for the weekend series in Toronto.

– Middlebrooks was replaced for the top of the eighth by Garin Cecchini, who jumped on a 2-0 fastball away and up from left-hander Edgar Ibarra and drove it to left-center for a two-run double. Though Cecchini’s numbers to date this year against lefties (.273/.273/.364) have been modest, he’s had a consistently impressive approach throughout his minor league career against players of both handedness, contributing to the impression of him as a near-lock as a future big league everyday player.

Bryce Brentz went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk — the 11th free pass he’s now taken in 20 games, matching his total from his first 42 games of 2013 in Pawtucket. Brentz is hitting .316/.567/.474 when ahead in the count.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: POSTPONED AT BINGHAMTON (METS)

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-2 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Corey Littrell allowed one run in five innings, his fourth straight outing to open the year in which he’s permitted two or fewer runs. To date, the 22-year-old — who owns a 2.08 ERA — has punched out more than a batter an inning (22 in 21 2/3 innings) with eight walks. Interestingly, he’s been dominant to this stage against righties, who own a .204 average with 19 strikeouts and three walks against him; fellow lefties have hit him at a .360 clip with five walks and three strikeouts.

– Right-fielder Aneury Tavarez, a hyperaggressive hitter with the ability to put a charge into the ball, launched his second homer of the year, and now has four homers among his six hits in seven games. He’s hitting .231/.310/.577 in the early going.

– Right-hander Pat Light has been promoted to High-A Salem from Single-A Greenville.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-0 WIN VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Jamie Callahan, given seven days of rest between starts instead of the typical five after getting shelled for five runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings in his prior outing, rebounded with five shutout innings. The 19-year-old worked out of the stretch and around trouble for much of the game, as he permitted four hits (two doubles, two singles), walked three and uncorked a wild pitch while throwing just 48 of 90 pitches (53 percent) for strikes, but he also showed an ability to pitch out of jams, with four strikeouts and six groundball outs.

– Though Carlos Asuaje has played second, third and left field thus far this year, the 22-year-old has taken up unofficial residence at third base. He continued his outstanding start on Wednesday by going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple. His five triples this year are second most in all of minor league baseball. The development comes as somewhat surprising given that he had 12 doubles and one triple (along with one homer) in his pro debut with Lowell last year, but Asuaje insisted that his cluster of three-baggers is not accidental.

“I took a long time getting out of the box before,’€ Asuaje told the Greenville News. ‘€œThis year, in spring training, I worked to speed that up. Last year, I hit a lot of doubles. This year, I’€™m getting more triples because of that. It was definitely an adjustment I had to make.’€

Asuaje has 11 extra-base hits in his first 15 games this year, and owns a robust line of .396/.492/.698 with an equal number of walks (9) and strikeouts (9).

– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-4 and stole his second base in as many games and his fourth (in four attempts) this year.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Hazen joins Dino, Gerry and Kirk for the Front Office Report to give us the latest on all things Red Sox. He also gives his take on the Michael Pineda pine tar controversy.

[0:00:03] ... turf care and by two -- business solutions. Mike -- assistant manager Boston Red Sox joins us on the AT&T -- -- Michael how are you -- played very well up procedural question here -- yeah I'm ...
[0:01:05] ... so I think it's more you know. Had a baby gone on Ramon Ortiz maybe aren't looked -- but I don't that's the first thing you're looking out as an. Well maybe -- -- it may ...
[0:04:53] ... in October and is trying to gut it out there through the World Series is are concerned there's something else going on here. Now. No short answer that I just don't think you got to finish ...
[0:07:46] ... you know start that we put together root ball. Pointed question watching Derek Jeter Mike how diminished is he. On April of 2003 -- fourteen. Then Jeter in his prime in your estimation. Yeah I don't ...






Left-hander Trey Ball was taken by the Red Sox with the No. 7 overall pick (New Castle High School)

Left-hander Trey Ball was taken by the Red Sox with the No. 7 overall pick (New Castle High School)

Left-handed pitcher Trey Ball, the Red Sox’ top draft pick (No. 7 overall) in the 2013 draft, will join Single-A Greenville today after opening the year in extended spring training, according to an industry source. The 19-year-old, who allowed five runs in seven innings in his five-game pro debut late last summer (before turning in a very impressive outing in the GCL playoffs), had been kept in extended in deference to the fact that the Greenville pitching staff is crowded with prospects, resulting in a paucity of innings to go around (Ball, Daniel McGrath and Ty Buttrey all opened the year in extended in part due to that bottleneck), and because the Sox wanted to do some work with Ball in extended on repeating his delivery and the angle and command of his fastball, as well focus on improving the consistency of his curveball and changeup, in extended before sending him out to compete for an affiliate.

He showed some solid raw materials this spring training, including a fastball that was up to 92 mph, aggressiveness in throwing that pitch for strikes, and gradual improvement during spring training in his secondary stuff. Still, given that he was a two-way player (center fielder and pitcher) in high school, Ball was far less experienced than other candidates for the Greenville rotation, resulting in the decision to let him acclimate to the five-day pitchers’ routine and work on his pitch development in extended to start the year.

A spot for Ball was created by the Sox’ decision to move right-hander Pat Light, a 2012 supplemental first rounder, to Salem from Greenville. Light, 23, dominated in his first two starts with Greenville (where he spent last year, in an injury-riddled 2013 campaign), allowing three runs in 12 innings while punching out 15 and walking none. While he struggled in his most recent start, giving up six runs and walking four in 5 1/3 innings, his age and experience suggested a pitcher who was ready to move up.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda‘€™s use of pine tar and other updates about the Red Sox.

Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda‘€™s use of pine tar and other updates about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Home plate umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis said after Wednesday night’€™s game that he had not seen the substance on Pineda‘€™s neck until Red Sox manager John Farrell alerted him to it.

“The manager doesn’€™t have to [alert the umpires],” Hazen said. “The umpire can certainly go out there and initiate it. I don’€™t think the umpires are staring at the starting pitcher on those types of situations.”

Wednesday’€™s incident marked the second time Pineda was caught with a foreign substance on his skin while playing the Red Sox this month.

“I don’€™t know if that crew was made aware of the situation that happened last time,” Hazen said. “Maybe they weren’€™t, maybe they hadn’€™t. Obviously, our coaching staff was more aware of it after what had happened the first time. I’€™m sure they were watching for it a little more closely, so I think it’s more — had it maybe gone on for multiple innings, maybe the umpires would have looked at it, but I don’€™t think it’€™s the first thing you look at if I’€™m an umpire or whoever’€™s standing on the field. I’€™m watching the game.”

After Tuesday night’€™s 9-2 loss to the Yankees, the Red Sox optioned Daniel Nava to Triple-A Pawtucket. Nava was hitting .149 with a .240 OBP and a .269 slugging percentage at the time of the demotion.

“Unfortunately, I think it became more of an obvious thing as we went into it,” Hazen said. “Certainly what Daniel had done for us last year — this guy was one of the best hitters in baseball last year, and I don’€™t think that’€™s an overstatement given the skills he had at getting on base.

“Daniel’€™s been through this before. We took him off the roster last time, and he resurrected himself again. He’€™s too good of a hitter unless he’€™s hurt, which he’€™s not, or he’€™s forgotten how to hit, which he hasn’€™t. Daniel Nava’€™s going to be back here hitting again.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On finding a leadoff hitter like Jacoby Ellsbury: “We didn’€™t set up to really replace Jacoby Ellsbury. I think when we look at the lineup, we’€™re trying to get as many of the best hitters that get on base as much as possible at the top of the lineup. Do we have a 50-stolen-base guy at the top of the lineup? No, and we didn’€™t replace a 50-stolen-base guy at the top of the lineup, so that element of what Jacoby did at the top of the lineup is missing.

“We look at the lineup in different ways, though. There are different ways to skin a cat on this, and, really, what you’€™re trying to do, like I said before, is put as many guys at the top of the lineup that are going to get on base for [David] Ortiz and [Mike] Napoli because those are the guys that are going to score the runs. The way our ballpark plays and the amount of power we have in the middle of our lineup, there are more ways than just stealing a base and hitting a single. When we start knocking balls around — which we haven’€™t done with any regularity yet — once we start knocking balls around the field a little bit more, those are two- and three-run homers as long as those guys get on base. And that’€™s the biggest key, is getting guys at the top of the lineup who are going to get on base.”

On Clay Buchholz: “I just don’€™t think he’€™s gotten the finish yet on his fastball. Yeah, I mean, look, the velocity’€™s always played for him up and down. Some days he’€™s good when he’€™s 89-92, and there’€™s been days where he’€™s stepped on it a little more and he’€™s been 92, 93, 94. He has never really been a big velocity guy ever since he got up from the minors into the big leagues. He’€™s really started to manipulate the ball, the fastball, and that’€™s really what makes him what he is. … I don’€™t think it’€™s a physical issue from an injury standpoint, but he hasn’€™t gotten that last couple of inches on the fastball to beat hitters — to sink a little quicker or a little later when it gets to the plate — causing guys to roll over and hit a lot of ground balls. We haven’€™t seen that yet. We think that’€™s going to come.”

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

The Red Sox will finish off their home series against the Yankees on Thursday, sending Felix Doubront to the mound against fellow southpaw CC Sabathia.

Through four starts in 2014, Doubront has struggled, going 1-2 with an ERA of 5.48 and a WHIP of 1.55, second worst among Red Sox starters and only better than Clay Buchholz. Doubront’€™s 15 strikeouts are the lowest among the team’€™s starting rotation.

The 26-year-old last played on April 19 against the Orioles, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs on five hits, striking out a season-high seven batters and walking two. Doubront pitched well, throwing 70 of his 107 pitches for strikes and allowing one extra-base hit. While Doubront got a no-decision, the Red Sox won the game 4-2, despite his rough first inning.

“I don’t really know what happened [in the first],” Doubront said after the game. “I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much, and I calmed down and I was trying to throw strikes and get quick innings, and I did.

“Just throw down in the zone [after the first], throw more breaking balls, just throw strikes. And they swing. They’re a team, if you’re throwing a strike, they’re going to swing. I went with that, just throwing my cutters down in the zone. Tried to get quick outs and that worked.”

Doubront’€™s last start against the Yankees came on April 13 in New York. The southpaw went 6 2/3 innings, throwing 101 pitches and allowing three runs on a season-high seven hits. The Red Sox lost, 3-2.

The Red Sox’€™ third starter has faced the Yankees 13 times, starting nine games and going 3-3 against them. In 2010 and 2011, Doubront came out of the bullpen in four appearances, giving up no runs in 2010 and two runs in 2011.

He wouldn’t get his first start against New York until 2012. Doubront started four games against the Yankees that year, going 1-1 with a 2.52 ERA and a WHIP of 1.200 while striking out 26. 2013 was a mixed bag for Doubront, as he went 2-1 against the Yanks with an ERA of 6.30.

Sabathia has struggled out of the gate, going 2-2 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.269 WHIP. While the lefty has struck out six or more, walked two or fewer and pitched in six or more innings in all four of his starts, he also has given up at least one home run and allowed six or more hits in every game.

The 33-year-old last pitched last Thursday against the Rays, arguably his best game. Sabathia lasted seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned), while striking out six and walking two. The southpaw picked up the win after the Yankees won 10-2.

Sabathia’€™s first game against the Red Sox in 2014 was his only home start of the season. He pitched seven innings during the April 11 game, allowing four runs on six hits, striking out nine. It wasn’t enough, however, as the Red Sox won 4-2, giving Sabathia his second loss of the season.

Historically, Sabathia has been average against the Red Sox, going 10-12 in 28 starts with a 4.74 ERA. His best year against the team came in 2009 when he went 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA, and his worst year came in 2011 when he went 1-4 with a 6.39 ERA.

Yankees vs. Doubront (LHP)

Brett Gardner (19 plate appearances): .250 AVG, .368 OBP, .375 SLG, 1 triple, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Kelly Johnson (18): .267/.389/.267, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Derek Jeter (15): .143/.200/.143, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Ichiro Suzuki (15): .143/.133/.143, 1 RBI

Mark Teixeira (12): .250/.250/.750, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 4 strikeouts

Alfonso Soriano (8): .375/.375/1.125, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

Carlos Beltran (4): .750/.750/1.750, 1 double, 1 home run, 2 RBIs

Brian Roberts (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Dean Anna has no hits in three plate appearances vs. Doubront.

Jacoby Ellsbury has a double in three plate appearances.

Brian McCann has a double and a walk in three plate appearances.

Yangervis Solarte has a walk in three plate appearances.

J.R. Murphy has not faced Doubront.

Red Sox vs. Sabathia (LHP)

David Ortiz (69): .238/.305/.381, 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (62): .281/.339/.333, 3 doubles, 3 RBIs, 4 walks, 14 strikeouts

Jonny Gomes (48): .275/.375/.475, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (37): .281/.378/.531, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts

A.J. Pierzynski (27): .222/.222/.407, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 6 strikeouts

David Ross (25): .333/.400/.714, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 3 RBIs, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (16): .167/.214/.417, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Grady Sizemore (12): .300/.417/1.000, 1 double, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jackie Bradley (9): .000/.222/.000, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Xander Bogaerts (6): .000/.333/.000, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Mike Carp (6): .000/.167/.000, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Chris Capuano has three strikeouts in three plate appearances vs. Sabathia.

Jonathan Herrera has a strikeout in one plate appearance.

Brock Holt has not faced Sabathia.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal

Michael Pineda couldn't hide the pine tar on the side of his neck Wednesday night. (AP)David Ortiz dubbed it "way too obvious."

A.J. Pierzynski said, "It's bad for the game, it's bad for everything."

Jake Peavy dubbed it "offensive."

All true.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


John Lackey knew what he needed to do tonight against the Yankees.

Following two sticky starts against the Yankees and Orioles where he allowed six runs over 5 2/3 and 5 1/3 innings, respectively, Lackey needed to turn in a strong performance to help save a taxed bullpen. Lackey needed to be the pitcher he was in his first two starts of the season, when he allowed a total of two earned runs over 13 innings pitched.

But Lackey wasn’t focused on turning around his own individual performance. Instead, Lackey focused in on putting forth a performance that would give the bullpen a rest and set up the rest of the pitching staff moving forward over the next couple of days.

Lackey did just that.

“I really wasn’t thinking about [turning things around],” Lackey said. “I was thinking about trying to give the bullpen rest, for sure. We’ve got some guys down there that have been worked pretty good the last week or so and we’re trying to give those guys a little bit of a breather and win a ballgame.”

Through his eight-inning outing, Lackey tarred the corners pitch after pitch with strikes, befuddling the Yankee lineup at the plate all night. The hurler struck out a season-high 11 hitters for his third win of the season. The outing marked his highest strikeout output since July 26, 2013 versus Colorado when he punched 12 Rockies.

Lackey turned around his performance through a slight adjustment in the game plan. Through the early innings of the game, Lackey mixed his pitches more, throwing his curveball in the early innings instead of pounding away with high fastball.

“The one in New York, I definitely missed some locations and I didn’t pitch very well,” Lackey said. “I thought that my last one could’ve been a lot better considering a few little things. I didn’t make too crazy adjustments. I just tried to a little bit more of a mix with my pitches a little bit earlier on.”

“The usage of a sharp breaking ball.,” said Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves. “He defined his breaking ball a lot more, from curveball to cutter. He threw some changeups. He threw some more two-seamers to left-handed hitters. He kept the ball on the ground a lot more. A little plan we had after the outing in New York. He’s such a strong competitor that sometimes going away from familiarity (is tough). It was great disposition from him, and it showed he could open his repertoire and use more pitches.”

All night, Lackey located his pitches at will all night, throwing 76 percent of his 111 pitches for strikes. The dominant command led Lackey to his success against the Yankee lineup, highlighted by his four punch outs of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.

“The biggest things was that he was putting the ball where he wanted it to,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “He was able to throw multiple pitches and he had put away pitches. The last couple of outings, he’s been a little bit off and I know him and Juan had talked and made a couple of adjustments, but tonight, he was spot on.”

The balance between a sharp breaking ball and Lackey’s usual strong fastball keyed the righty into a successful outing.

“He’s always been trustworthy on his fastball,” Nieves said. “I thought overall, using four-seamers and two-seamers is very important for him. Also, defining his breaking ball and keeping the gap between the curveball and the cutter. Sometimes when pitchers have both pitches they make a hybrid pitch and throw some slurries. I thought defining his breaking ball was important, with him throwing his hard breaking ball and then changing speed to his other breaking ball, his curveball”

Throughout the outing, Lackey balanced pounding the strike zone with catching too much of the plate.

“There is such thing as too many strikes if you’re hitting the white part of the plate too much,” Lackey said. “I was fortunate enough tonight to be hitting the corners more times than not and AJ called a good game. We had a good mix going. It wasn’t like I was throwing one pitch for a strike. I was able to mix it up a little bit and that helped.”

Knowing the predicament with the bullpen, Lackey put it upon his shoulders to go out and stick around  deep into the game to give the worn down relievers some rest.

“It was a challenge and a motivation, for sure,” Lackey said. “It’s not something I haven’t done before. I’ve been the guy to go Opening Day a few times so it’s something that I’m capable of and expect out of myself.”

Blog Author: 
Joon Lee