Middlebrooks continues to rake

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Middlebrooks continues to rake

BOSTON The Will Middlebrooks express just keeps steaming along. The rookie went 3-for-4, with a run scored and two RBI, falling a triple shy of the cycle in Saturdays 8-4 win over the Braves.

His performance raised his average from .319 to .331.

He had a good game tonight and like all good hitters hes seeing the ball well right now. manager Bobby Valentine said. Hes taking the low breaking ball and spitting out most of the time or if he swings at it the first time, he takes it the next time he sees it. Hes getting the ball in the zone and hitting it hard. Good game tonight.

That has not been a novelty of late for Middlebrooks.

His solo home run, leading off the third, was his third in the last four games and ninth of the season. He has at least one RBI, with a total of 11, in six of his last seven games and has an extra-base hit in his of his last five games, going 10-for-14 (.714) with three doubles, three home runs, and nine RBI in that stretch.

I feel really comfortable seeing it early and seeing it long, said Middlebrooks, who wasnt aware he had just missed hitting for the cycle until informed of it after the game.

Just getting good pitches to hit and not missing them.

Middlebrooks was called up May 2, to take the spot of Kevin Youkilis, who was placed on the disabled list that day with a lower back strain. Since May 23, Middlebrooks has reached base safely in 20 of 21 games, batting .385 (25-for-65) with four walks, getting hit by pitches twice.

He is the first American League player with 33 RBI in his first 40 games since Californias Wally Joyner with 38 in 1986. It is the most RBI to start a Red Sox career since Walt Dropos 34 in his first 40 games from 1949-1950.

Middlebrooks nine home runs are the most by a Boston batter in his first 40 major league games in the last 25 years.

While each of those stats are impressive, just as impressive is the fact that hes been able to do this while being caught, if tangentially, in the controversy over third base playing time and the speculation over Youkilis being traded.

"I dont care, I really dont, he said. Im here to play baseball. Im not here to be an analyst. Ill let you the media do your job and Ill do mine.

Asked if he had envisioned performing this well in the big leagues, he replied:

"I wanted to get here that was my main goal. Im happy with it. Really didnt have any expectations."

Farrell: 'Strike-throwing is a priority' for Owens in Triple A

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Farrell: 'Strike-throwing is a priority' for Owens in Triple A

NEW YORK -- Following a six-walk effort Thursday in Chicago, Henry Owens found himself optioned back to Pawtucket Friday, removed from the Red Sox rotation after three sub-par starts.

Owens lasted just three-plus innings Thursday, and allowed two runs. In three starts since being promoted to replace Joe Kelly in the Red Sox rotation, Owens walked 13 in 12 1/3 innings while allowing 13 hits for a ghastly 2.108 WHIP and a 5.11 ERA.

"Henry needs to go back and learn to command his fastball with more consistency,'' said John Farrell. "He's got an outstanding changeup that can get him back in some counts and get him away from some damage. But the strike-throwing is a priority here.''

In addition to wildness, Owens saw his velocity dip, with his fastball topping out at 90 mph most times.

But Farrell insisted there isn't a physical issue with the lefty.

"One thing that we can for sure rule out is health,'' said Farrell. "There's no health issues at play here. I think when a pitcher's delivery is not in sync, he's not getting the most power out of it (in terms of velocity). And then, with the strike throwing, it becomes a confidence factor. I don't want to say he was tentative or it was a lack of aggressiveness, but I think when you're feeling for pitches to try to get them in the strike zone, there might be a tentativeness that takes over.''

Owens has a quality changeup that can throw off hitters' timing and get weak contact, as happened Thursday night. But that pitch is only effective when he can set it up more with his fastball.

"That creates a little more margin for error,'' said Farrell of the changeup as a weapon, "but you've got to be in the strike zone first.''

Owens seemed to regress some from last year, when he was 4-4 in 11 starts with a 4.57 ERA. He pitched into the eighth inning in three straight starts in September.

"It's the second time he's been in the big leagues with us,'' said Farrell. "When the opportunity presents, you take it and run with it. I felt last year, he pitched effectively. He pitched very good at times. There were a couple of starts where he didn't have his best stuff, but he found his way into the sixth or into the seventh inning. That was (what we were hoping for) last year. OK, he's battling but he's finding a way to get through it.

"As far as his opportunity, I'm sure he'll back to us at some point.''

Asked if the Red Sox had expected more from Owens, Farrell didn't mince words.

"Based on what he showed at this level last year, yes,'' said Farrell.

Owens was replaced on the roster by Sean O'Sullivan, who was with the club here Friday afternoon and in the bullpen, at least temporarily.

He could take Owens's spot in the rotation Tuesday.

"He's a candidates, yes,'' said Farrell.

O'Sullivan is with his fifth different organization, having pitched with the Angels, Royals, Padres and Phillies.

He signed with the Red Sox last winter as a free agent, in part attracted by the presence of pitching coordinator Brian Bannister, a one-time teammate of O'Sullivan with the Royals. Bannister has taken an innovative, analytical approach to pitching and has already helped O'Sullivan.

"When he was in (spring training) camp,'' said Farrell, "he showed more arm strength than anticipated. The strike-throwing has been above-average for him. A veteran guy who's pitched at this level for extended outings. We felt like that dependability and durability were also a factor in getting him here.''

Farrell credited an improved cutter and "more consistent location down in the strike one,'' accounting for O'Sullivan's improved results at Triple A.

O'Sullivan wasn't on the 40-man roster until Friday, when he was added. The Sox shifted third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the 60-day DL to make room.

 

Tonight's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

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Tonight's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

Rick Porcello attempts to increase his record to 6-0 as he starts tonight for the Red Sox against the Yankees in the opener of their three-game series in New York.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DB
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Rick Porcello P

YANKEES
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Starlin Castro 2B
Aaron Hicks RF
Didi Gregorius SS
Ronnie Torreyes 3B
---
Michael Pineda P

 

McAdam: It's early, but there's good signs with the Red Sox

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McAdam: It's early, but there's good signs with the Red Sox

Sean McAdam talks with Toucher & Rich about the good start the Red Sox have gotten off to this season, playing well on the road and for the most part taking care of business.