Hinske reflects on time with Red Sox

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Hinske reflects on time with Red Sox

BOSTON -- Eric Hinske left the Boston Red Sox in 2007 after capturing a World Series Championship. Five years later, returning to Fenway Park and the city where he won it all still feels familiar.

Especially when you won here, it feels it was a home and it was a family, he said. You've got 25 guys grinding it out together and you win the last game of the year, it's a special thing. Nobody can take it away from you and it's awesome.

Hinske came to the Red Sox in August of 2006. After leaving Boston following the 2007 title season, he signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, where he played one season. In 2009, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates and was traded to the New York Yankees that summer. This weekend Hinske, 34, is back in Boston as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, the team he has played for since 2010.

He enjoyed four straight postseason runs, including another title with the Yankees, before the Braves failed to make the playoffs last season. He says his time with the Red Sox during their championship hunt prepared him for the next stretch of postseason quests.

The experience, how to act, how to know what the bright lights look like (prepared me), said Hinske. It was fun. I got a lot of pinch hit appearances in the playoffs throughout those years and you can't tell anybody how to do it until you get there, so just preapres you for the next one and the next one and how to breathe.

He continued, Playing in Boston taught me how to play in a big market, how to go about your business the right way every day and not let the outside distractions in. It's hard to play in a big city like this and fans expect results. You've just got to do the best you can, work the right way, and take that out on the field every day.

Hinske still keeps in touch with many of the players from the 2007 Red Sox team. He lives near Dustin Pedroia in the offseason and speaks to Alex Cora on a regular basis.

My favorite was Alex Cora because it was my first year being a bench player, he remembered. I came over from Toronto in '06 and I got to play a lot in August and September because Trot (Nixon) was hurt, (Jason) Varitek went down. Then in 07 they told me I was going to be a bench player for the whole year. I was like, Ok, I have to learn how to do this. Alex helped me a lot because he was already doing it. I kind of followed him, got my routine from him, but all those guys -- David (Ortiz), Manny (Ramirez), Mike Lowell -- I loved Mike Lowell so much -- (Kevin) Youkilis, Pedroia, all those guys were great dudes, a great team, I still talk to all of them.

Whenever he returns to Boston, the fans reach out to him, too. Hinske still gets recognized, more so than any other city he has played in, and appreciates the outreach.

All the time, he said. They're the best fans in the game, for sure. Everybody knows you. Very respectful. It's a big city but it has such a small town feel. Everybody lives and dies baseball here.

Tuesday's Red Sox-Orioles lineups: E-Rod makes 2016 debut

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Tuesday's Red Sox-Orioles lineups: E-Rod makes 2016 debut

Eduardo Rodriguez makes his 2016 Red Sox debut tonight, and he'll have a different center fielder as he does so.

Jackie Bradley Jr. on paternity leave and Chris Young is taking his place in center. The rest of the lineup, however, remains intact as the Sox face the Orioles in their second game of their four-game series in Baltimore.

The lineups:

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young CF
Blake Swihart LF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Eduardo Rodriguez P

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Nolan Reimold LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Matt Wieters C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Joey Rickard RF
Paul Janish 3B
---
Kevin Gausman P

 

 

Bradley takes paternity leave; Red Sox recall Castillo

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Bradley takes paternity leave; Red Sox recall Castillo

BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox will be without center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for the next few days, as he is placed on the paternity-leave list to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

Rusney Castillo, who was sent to Pawtucket in the second week of the season, has been recalled to take his roster spot. Castillo has a slash line of .241/.302/.317 with the PawSox, with 1 home run and 13 RBI in 37 games. 

Bradley is in the midst of a breakout season with the Red Sox, hitting .331/.409/.601 in 50 games with 9 homers and 37 RBI.

Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

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Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- Near the start of his Red Sox career, Tim Wakefield -- who would wind up pitching 17 years for the club and would tie for the most number of wins in franchise history -- was largely on his own.

One of Wakefield's first pitching coaches in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, regarded knuckleballers as little more than freakish performers.

When Wakefield encountered mechanical issues, Kerrigan could offer little assistance. The pitch was unpredictable, and in Kerrigan's mind, so was the pitcher. The same rules that helped Kerigan dissect and analyze a conventional pitcher's issues wouldn't work with Wakefield.

That frustrated both coach and pitcher, as Wakefield was left to fend for himself.

More than once, as Wakefield foundered, Kerrigan essentially told him: "There's nothing I can do to help you; you're on your own.''

Steven Wright has far more at his disposal, and it's one of the reasons Wright has enjoyed a run of consistency that often eluded Wakefield. There's help available, assistance that Wright readily takes full advantage of.

If throwing a knuckleball hasn't exactly developed into a science, it's certainly far more advanced than it was in 1995, when Wakefield arrived in Boston.

In the middle of a season that has seen him post an ERA of 2.45 and toss a league-best three complete games, Wright has has developed his game fully.

He regularly changes speeds with the knuckler, adding one more complicating factor to an already mystifying pitch.

Depending on the conditions, the hitter, and the score, Wright can either add or subtract to the velocity of his signature pitch. On Monday, when he limited the Orioles to two runs on four hits in a 7-2 Memorial Day victory, he offered knuckleballs as slow as 59 mph and fastballs as fast as 83 mph.

"I like it,'' said Wright, "especially against a lineup like [the Orioles]. They're a very aggressive team. In that inning they scored the two runs (the fifth), I kind of got caught up in the same speed. So I kind of went out there after that and concentrated on not throwing too many at the same speed. It kind of throws them off, because I'm hoping that if I leave one up, the difference in the speed will get them out front.''

But perhaps Wright's biggest step forward this season -- the first in which he began the season as a full-time starter in the rotation -- is the ability to detect and correct flaws within a game, sometimes within an inning. Again, this stands in stark contrast to Wakefield, who was notoriously streaky. When Wakefield was trending in a positive fashion, both he and the club could only hope that it continued. When he hit a rut, however, there was telling how long he would scuffle, unable to reverse his downhill slide.

Wright has no such issues. He can often tell -- and if he doesn't, pitching coach Carl Willis can help -- when his delivery has gone askew. Better yet, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it.

"Absolutely,'' agreed Wright. "It's my fifth year doing it and I've worked tirelessly with Wake and [bullpen coach Dana Levangie] and Carl and that's one thing we've concentrated on, is staying within that delivery. Because it's all about staying relaxed and repeating my delivery -- especially for me, but really, any pitcher. Because I'm getting more years, more reps, it's become a little more easier to make an adjustment pitch-to-pitch.''

"He's shown that [ability] in a number of starts this year,'' said manager John Farrell. "That's a testament to someone who knows more about himself, to have those checkpoints.''

Ironically, it was Wakefield himself -- who got so little help for periods of his own career -- who offered Wright a key checkpoint last season.

"He had me move my hands back,'' recalled Wright. "What it does is, it helps me lock my shoulders in a place so I don't get rotational. That's one of the biggest things because if I started feeling that I'm getting rotational, then there's something off.

"It could be a number of things, but I feel like that's the biggest adjustment that I made. It's a small one, but it's huge in keeping everything within reason. Because I'm not a power pitcher, I don't need to reach back and get something (extea in terms of velocity) so when I do throw a fastball, it's the same mechanical look.''

Wright seemed on the verge of becoming undone in the second inning Monday. With two outs, he walked two hitters, allowed an infield single and loaded the bases.

But from the dugout, Willis noticed that Wright was rushing with his delivery.

''I had a hard time [noticing] it,'' said Wright, "but he could definitely see it. We work tirelessly, especially when Wake is around, to try to find some mechanical things so Carl can help me out if I need it. Same thing with [catchers Ryan] Hanigan and [Christian] Vazquez -- they see it too, because I'm throwing to them all the time.''

All of which has Wright among the game's ERA leaders and tied in the complete game category with the likes of Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw.

"I definitely sometimes pinch myself," he said, "like, 'Man, is this real?' "