Tag:Alex Cora
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:43 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-12-08

The Red Sox offense jumped out early but the starting pitching put them in a deficit they would not recover from as they lost three out of four to the Twins. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz has a serious problem. He has been the classic “Jekyll and Hyde” example of a young pitcher who has no confidence pitching on the road. Buchholz’s numbers coming into the game were decent for a rookie starter in the A.L., but after tonight’s performance, there is a definite trend, and it is not a good one. While the rookie’s number are sparkling at home, 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA, his road numbers are ghastly, 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA. It is not unusual for a young starter, and all starters for that matter, to find better success at home, but rarely does any pitcher go from near perfect numbers at home to completely unreliable on the road. (And those road numbers include the eight inning, three hit performance in Tampa) Certainly, most players find it easier to perform at home (just ask the Celtics), but Buchholz needs to figure some thing out in his mechanics, because he looks like a completely different pitcher. It seemed like every change-up he threw tonight was above the belt, and since his change-up is his best pitch, he was in for trouble. He had to go to his fastball on more occasions, which was better tonight than in his last outing, but was still not something that he can put away opposing batters with like he can with his change-up. He did feature a good curveball, which he was forced to go to when the change was staying up. Buchholz has good enough secondary pitches, but since his fastball has been proven to be the weakest of his four pitches, he tends to throw the change-up in hitters counts. On most days, what makes him successful is his ability to throw those off-speed pitches for strikes when he gets behind hitters and that keeps them off-balance. But tonight, the Twins saw his change-up was off, and were able to lay off and simply go after his fastball. It will be interesting to see if he makes some adjustment the next time he starts on the road, because the Sox cannot afford this type of disaster every time he pitches away from Fenway.

In what seems like a somewhat unexpected move, Julian Tavarez was designated for assignment to make room for Sean Casey. The Sox made this move for a number of reasons. First, Tavarez has been struggling, but it was more likely do to the fact that he has not been used often. Terry Francona has shown before how he is uncomfortable to have a pitcher in the bullpen who is a “long”-reliever, and that he likely thinks that to have a pitcher who does not pitch well in one inning, back-to-back game type situations is somewhat of a waste. It is true that Tavarez does need at least two or three days to recover after pitching, no matter if he pitches one inning, or four. Simply, the Sox did not have a need for a long reliever. Secondly, the Sox are running out of players with options. Craig Hansen has some left, but the Sox felt like he deserved to be with the club and he had something to prove. Jed Lowrie was already sent down when Alex Cora was activated. Manny Delcarmen likely has a few, but the Sox seem intent on keeping him with the club. And lastly, the Sox have been involved with trade rumors for a few weeks regarding Tavarez, primarily with the Rockies. What has probably happened is that the Sox are close to a trade with some team, but the logistics have to still be worked out. By designating Tavarez, it gives the Sox ten days to trade him, or he can either accept an assignment to the minor leagues, or opt for free agency. The Sox are probably close to a trade, and Tavarez will probably be sent to another club within the next few days. Do not look for the Sox to get much in return, probably a player to be named later. Tavarez’s end in Boston comes as a disappointment to many, as he was one of the best personalities in the clubhouse. He was always willing to do whatever it took to win, and he was very valuable for the Sox last year, making 18 starts until returning to the bullpen when Jon Lester returned. At least Sox fans will have some great memories, like Tavarez petting Manny Ramirez’s head, or bowling a groundball to get a runner out at first base.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox begin a brief two game series against the Orioles for the end of this ten game road trip. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 10, 2008 12:06 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-9-08

The Red Sox had rallied back only to suffer their second ninth inning walk off defeat in three days. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester had a decent start, going five plus while yielding five runs, three earned, and only walking one. He threw an astonishing 57 pitches through the first two innings, and needed only 41 to record the next ten outs. Lester’s struggles have been oddly inconsistent this year. Last year, we saw a pitcher, much like Daisuke Matsuzaka, look great over the first three innings, and then completely fall apart when the hitters came around again. However, when Lester has struggled this year, some games he will have trouble in the first few innings, and others will be more like last year. It may seem troublesome, but the fact that he is not having the same problem hurt him on every start shows some level of improvement. However, he still has not figured out how to retire hitters effectively. He has taken good steps to attack hitters and force them into pitchers’ counts, and has limited the walks, but he has not developed enough confidence in his pitches to attack them with two strikes. Opposing hitters are staying around too long and running the count up. Lester’s bane will continue to be his ineffectiveness with his pitches until he can decide what his “out” pitch, or pitches, are and until then, we will be tantalized by the starts where he does seem to put the whole package together.

No Red Sox fans are allowed to panic because of Jonathan Papelbon’s two blown saves in the past three days. All great closers have one or two weeks during the season where they seem to have lost it (it happens regularly to Mariano Rivera around mid-August), but he will regain his form. One thing that can be cause for alarm is that because the Sox have had few blowout wins this season, and most of their 23 wins have come on the strength of out-bashing the other team or out-finessing the other team with great starting pitching, there have been a lot of save opportunities. After seeing Papelbon falter at the end of the 2006 season, the Sox made it one of their priorities to make sure he was healthy at the end of the 2007 season. Theo Epstein stressed that Papelbon would rarely be used on more than two consecutive days and will always have a day off after throwing more than one inning, or when he has a pitch count that reflects that he had to labor (usually upwards of 20-25). This season, he has appeared in 17 of the Sox 38 games: exactly half. He pitched in 59 games in both of his first two seasons as closer, and it is ludicrous to think that he would continue pitching at this rate because at this pace, he would finish the year with 81 appearances. However, it may be that he is working a bit too much. He has simply been called on more because of the tightness of the games this year and the struggles by much of the other relievers. Look for Terry Francona to ease off Papelbon a bit, and maybe give him the next two games off, so that he can rest his arm and get what little, if any, confidence he has lost.

Sean Casey and Alex Cora both were scheduled to play in their last rehab game with Pawtucket tonight, and come off of the disabled list this weekend. But due to bad weather on the east coast, the game was canceled. Since this series with the Twins goes for four games and wraps up on Monday, the Sox could decide to get them in another game this weekend in Pawtucket, and fly them out to Minnesota to arrive on Sunday, or wait and have them meet up with the Sox when they travel to Baltimore on Tuesday for a two game series. The weather does not look like it will improve Saturday, but it is unlikely that the Sox will bring both of them to Minnesota after such a short rehab. When they do return, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie will almost certainly be sent back to triple-A.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:39 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter’s and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up rookie Jed Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:38 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up the rookie Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 10, 2008 11:21 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-10-08

 The Red Sox salvaged the series against the Tigers, winning the rubber game of the three game series. Some thoughts on the game:

David Ortiz is really struggling. He looks extremely frustrated with every at-bat. He still managed to get on base today, and even with a .083 batting average, he has a much more decent on base percentage. But, Terry Francona really needs to give him a day off. He was seen walking around today in between batting practice sessions with a large ice pack on the knee that was surgically operated on this offseason. Even on the plate apperances that he draws a walk, he looks uncomfortable and frustrated that he is not given anything decent to hit. He has also been changing his batting stance. Last year, Ortiz was standing straighter in his stance than he had in previous years, probably because of the discomfort of the knee, but it lead to a higher batting average, but less power. Ortiz was standing almost straight up for the first few games of this season, before returning to a more crouched position for Wednesday's game. Nevertheless, Ortiz needs to sit down, get his stance in check, catch his breath, and try to get on track.

Mike Lowell was placed on the 15 day disabled list with a sprained right thumb. It wasn't thought that the injury, which he sustained Wednesday night, was severe enough to go on the DL. But a significant amount of swelling and pain in the area led the Sox to the move. They called up prospect infielder Jed Lowrie, the next in the line of recent Sox farmhands that is supposed to make a nice splash into the big leagues. It is probably too early for Lowrie to be brought up, but Alex Cora also injured his elbow taking grounders at third, so the Sox felt the need to have another middle infielder. Lowrie's main position is shortstop, but he has experience at second as well. It is unlikely he will get many at bats and will be used only for emergencies, and possibly a day game after a night game situation.

Sean Casey and J.D. Drew are doing an excellent job on offense for the Sox. Nothing spectacular was expected at the beginning of the year, as Drew struggled so much of last year, and Casey was supposed to be a bit player this year, filling in only on occasion. But both have provided steady offensive production. Casey is a lifetime .300 hitter and had a BA over .360 against lefties last year. Drew is leading the team with a .440 BA over this young season, and his swing is much improved from last year. He is not getting on top of pitches as much as he was last year, which lead to the innumerable ground balls to the second baseman. Although people felt that Drew should not try to pull everything so much, he really has corrected the problems but simply getting udner balls a little more and getting more line drives than grounders.

Look for this recap after tomorrow's game, the first of the season against the New York Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 9, 2008 11:22 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-9-08

 The Red Sox lost to the Tigers tonight, giving the Tigers the first win of the season, and the first loss for the Sox on U.S. soil. Some thoughts on today’s game:

Jon Lester was moving through the Tiger’s lineup with few bumps until the fourth inning. He had only given up one hit and two walks through the first three frames. He was getting ahead of batters early, and attacking the strike zone with his two seam fastball that set up a very effective cut fastball and curveball. His fastball was consistently at 93 MPH, even as he approached 100 pitches. He got in trouble when he tried to assert the fastball too often before going to his off-speed stuff. His cutter is probably his best pitch, but he tried to aim pitches to Jose Guillen and Miguel Cabrera but walked both in the fourth, and likewise with Marcus Thames, who connected on an inside fastball for a two run home run. Lester didn’t pitch that poorly; he just needs to mix up his pitches more on the second time around the lineup otherwise hitters will pick up on his stuff.

Mike Lowell left the game after making a diving stop on a ground ball in the first inning. Lowell landed awkwardly and jammed his glove hand into the ground before firing the ball to first to put out Ivan Rodriguez. He had x-Rays taken and they were negative. Because Sean Casey has done such a nice job filling in at the plate so far this season, collecting two hits today, the Sox will not rush Lowell back. He had injury problems with his hand in the past, and the injury is on his left hand, which applies most of the pressure with his swing. Look for Kevin Youkilis and Alex Cora to get some playing time at third until Lowell gets back, probably around this weekend.

It does seem like it is a reoccurring topic on this recap, but it is the last roster spot not yet determined. Both Bryan Corey and Javier Lopez did nothing to enhance their résumés to stay with the team, while David Aardsma looked sharper than he has in recent performances. Mike Timlin has pitched very successfully in Pawtucket and he is ready to come back, so the decision will be made soon. The Sox are convinced that they need another left hander in the bullpen because Hideki Okajima has a determined role as the set-up guy and can not be used for situational spots. The balance seems slightly in Corey’s favor, but the series with the Yankees’ will likely decide the spot.

Jacoby Ellsbury was on base twice tonight with two walks, one coming with the bases loaded to drive in a run. He has started off slow, and is batting under .200, but it is clear that the Sox have no intention of sitting him down for longer than one game at a time, and that he will continue to be the Sox starting center fielder. They will continue to shop Coco Crisp, who is very unhappy to be platooning with Ellsbury right now, and until they can get a deal with him, it will likely be that Ellsbury will play about 60 percent of the games, and never start against left handed pitchers. He does not have his timing down at the plate, and is trying too hard to provide the offensive spark he did for the club last year. It may take him until the end of April to get his swing together, but it will be worth the wait.

Look for this recap tomorrow as the Sox take on the Tigers in the rubber game of this series. (To view previous recaps, follow this link). 
Keep the Faith

 
 
 
 
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