Beckett's early struggles put pregame routine into question

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Beckett's early struggles put pregame routine into question

BOSTON After giving up two runs to the Blue Jays in the first inning Friday night, Josh Becketts already bloated first-inning ERA rose to 10.69, while his already robust opponents batting average also went up, to .343.

Those numbers are well above his career stats in the first inning: 4.62 ERA and .251 opponents average. They are also well above his numbers for all subsequent innings this season: 3.38 and 2.41.

Begging the question: What can be done about Becketts first-inning struggles? Change his pregame routine? Start his warm-ups earlier? What?

Josh warms up earlier than anybody in the history of baseball I think, said manager bobby Valentine before Saturdays game against the Jays. Earlier. Now the question would be, should he warm up later? Maybe. But this is a dog that is hard to teach a new trick to. Hes been very successful warming up as early as he warms up. But Ive never seen anybody have the break that he has in between the time he warms up and the time he goes out there.

I never put a clock on it. But sometimes the other pitcher is just playing catch when hes throwing on the mound in the bullpen.

Im not saying thats wrong. Hes been that way. Catchers dont mind it because they come in and get a big break before the game.

Pitching coach Bob McClure and he have had a lot of conversations about itor enough conversations that I would only add to the chatter, to the noise. I dont think hes any more upset with the first inning than I am or anybody else is. Hes trying to figure it out, too. And yesterday there was a groundball to third. Will Middlebrooks threw it home to take the guy out. Thats not a first-inning problem. And a heck of a pitch. Pretty good pitch on the triple by Colby Rasmus, who scored the first run.

Valentine also acknowledged a change in Becketts pregame routine wouldnt necessary guarantee different first-inning results:

I dont know that change in habits going to do anything other than to give an answer to the question Is he doing anything different? Valentine said. Oh, yeah, hes doing something different. Big deal. That means all of a sudden somethings going to change? I was confident he was going to go out yesterday and put up a zero. Im confident next time he goes out there hes going to put up a zero in the first inning.

Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

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Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

The Red Sox made another pitcher-for-infielder roster swap today, sending William Cuevas back to Pawtucket and bringing up Mike Miller as his replacement.

The Sox had summoned Cuevas from the PawSox over the weekend when they ran through their bullpen in Friday night's come-from-behind victory over Texas and he pitched twice against the Rangers, holding them to two hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday. Deven Marrero had been shipped out when Cuevas arrived, leaving the Sox with only one backup infielder (Marco Hernandez).

Now they have two again, with Miller making his first trip to the major leagues. He's been primarily a second baseman for Pawtucket, though he's also seen action at short and third. Miller -- the team's ninth-round selection in the 2012 draft -- had a combined .251 average in 46 games for the PawSox and six games for Double-A Portland.

However, his stay with the Red Sox will likely be as short as Cuevas'. Brock Holt may soon be ready for reactivation, after having missed more than a month because of a concussion, and he could take Miller's roster spot when he returns.

Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

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Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.