First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

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First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

SEATTLE -- On Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball will reveal the rosters for the All-Star Game, to be played on July 10 in Kansas City.

David Ortiz, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting when the last totals were released, will undoubtedly be the starting DH for the American League.

Beyond that, however, the Red Sox aren't guaranteed any other All-Star representatives. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted his 15th homer of the season Friday night, could be selected as a reserve, but that's far from assured.

Saltalamacchia must battle Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli at the position.

The Sox, then, for the first time in more than 10 years, face the very real possibility that they will have only one representative (Ortiz) in the All-Star Game, quite a dropoff from recent seasons.

Only last year in Phoenix, the Red Sox had five representatives -- Ortiz, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. The year before that, 2009 in Anaheim, the Sox had no fewer than six players selected to the squad: Ortiz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.

Indeed, for the better part of the last decade, the Red Sox have almost always sent a multitude of players to the mid-summer classic. To find a year in which only one Red Sox player was chosen, you have to go back to 2001: Manny Ramirez.

(That season, both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, perennial All-Stars at that point in their careers, were injured.)

This summer, it isn't injuries so much as underperformance. Lester has been healthy all year, but has just five wins. Beckett, who is coming back from a brief DL stint, has four wins. Both Beckett and Lester, nominally the top two starters on the staff, have ERAs over 4.00.

It's the same around the infield: Gonzalez is hitting under .270 with just a half-dozen homers as the season reaches the midway point and Pedroia, though undoubtedly hampered by a thumb injury for nearly two months, entered Friday's game hitting .267.

What does the lack of All-Stars say about the current edition of the Red Sox?

It's too simple to suggest that a lack of All-Stars signifies a poor team, or, conversely, that an abundance of Stars guarantees success. The last two years, in which the Sox placed five (2011) and six players (2010) on the squad, they failed to make the playoffs either season.

Then again, the fact that only Ortiz is assured of being on the A.L. team does seem to say something about the current Red Sox and explain some of the apathy toward the team.

Some of the ill-will felt by fans toward the team is undoubtedly the result of last September's bitter aftertaste. But there's also a distinct lack of star power, especially with Ellsury and Carl Crawford missing almost the entire first half of the season, and Pedroia and Gonzalez underachieving.

Beyond the likes of rookie Will Middlebrooks and persevering journeyman Daniel Nava, there's not a lot of individual appeal to this edition. For a team which so carefully markets itself and presents itself as much an ongoing TV show as a baseball team, that's a curious end result.

Perhaps this lack of star power is temporary. Perhaps, by next summer, Middlebrooks and others will be more established and the veterans will have rebounded and the Sox will again pack the American League All-Star roster.

But in two weeks, for this season anyway, the team with the third-biggest payroll in the game might not have any more representatives than cellar-dwelling non-contenders like San Diego and Houston.

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

BOSTON -- David Price made it clear following the Red Sox' 11-9 loss that he wasn’t just upset with his five-run, 11-hit, 5 2/3-inning outing Saturday night, he’s upset with his whole season, calling his performance “terrible” and “just awful.”

Furthermore, when he was asked if his problems were more mental or physical, he tried to explain how it was neither.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said. “It’s me going out there and making pitches.”

That’s a phrase he’s leaning on quite a bit this year -- going out there and making pitches.

And a day after the rough start, he’s still sticking with that story.

“That’s what it is,” Price said. “What does my velocity say up there? Velocity’s just fine, right? Okay. Then that’s just what it is, I gotta go out there and make pitches. I’m not doing that -- that’s the bottom line.”

Price (9-7, 4.51 ERA) addressed that physically he feels good by noting that his velocity is back to normal, topping out at 95 mph Saturday.

So then his mental game comes into question -- but he’s taken steps to block out anything that might inhibit that.

“I don’t even remember the last time I’ve been on Twitter,” Price said.

Well, his last tweet was three days ago, but he hasn’t tweeted about his pitching in nine days.

So, he’s made adjustments to what he does on and off the field.

But in the end, Price said social media doesn’t even cross his mind when he toes up the rubber.

“Yeah, it’s completely different, but I don’t think about that whenever I’m out there,” Price said. “[I’m thinking about] making that next pitch and getting that next out.”

So, there could be a gray area Price is in right now where he can’t find consistent success. It may not boil down to just mental or physical.

Regardless if that’s the case or not, Price still wants Red Sox fans to know this is not what to expect from him.

“What I have been. That’s what they should expect,” he said.

 

Sunday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: No Ortiz, Betts

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Sunday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: No Ortiz, Betts

David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup on Sunday, as is Mookie Betts, as the Red Sox conclude their four-game series with the Twins at Fenway Park looking for a split with last-place Minnesota.

It's a scheduled day off for Ortiz and Betts is still bothered by right knee swelling and soreness that led him to miss the game Saturday (an 11-9 Red Sox loss) and come out of the game in the fifth inning Friday.

Hanley Ramirez takes Ortiz's spot a DH and Travis Shaw moves to first base. Rick Porcello (12-2, 3.47 ERA) looks to extend his Fenway winning streak to 10 (he's 9-0 with a 2.98 ERA in 10 home starts this season). Left-hander Tommy Millone (3-2, 4.71) starts for the Twins.

The lineups:

TWINS
Eduardo Nunez SS
Joe Mauer 1B
Miguel Sano 3B
Brian Dozier 2B
Max Kepler RF
Kennys Vargas DH
Eddie Rosario LF
Juan Centeno C
Byron Buxton CF
---
Tommy Millone LHP
 
RED SOX
Brock Holt LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Bryce Brentz RF
Ryan Hanigan C
---
Rick Porcello, SP

Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

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Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

The Red Sox have recalled right-hander Joe Kelly from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had been working out of the bullpen, and optioned right-handed reliever Heath Hembree back to the PawSox.

Kelly, originally in the Red Sox starting rotation this season, was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness as a starter (8.46 ERA) but has rebounded as a reliever in Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts).

Hembree (4-0, 2.41) has been hit hard since the All-Star break, including giving up a run on three hits and allowing two inherited runners to score in a five-run seventh inning of an 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.