Mullen on the Minors: Sea Dogs' Wright settling in after 'crazy' deadline deal

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Mullen on the Minors: Sea Dogs' Wright settling in after 'crazy' deadline deal

PAWTUCKET, R.I. This years trading deadline was unlike anything Steven Wright had experienced before.

After being taken by Cleveland in the second round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Wright had spent his career with the Indians until July 31. Just after the 4 p.m. trading deadline that day, though, it was announced that the Red Sox had acquired him, assigning him to Double-A Portland.

Wright was with Double-A Akron at Hadlock Field in Portland when he got the news.

It was nuts, Wright said. Because I was throwing my bullpen with Akron in Portland and then right when I got done Tony Arnold, our pitching coach, got a call. I saw his phone and it said Chris Tremie, which is our manager. And he talked to him for a couple of minutes and then told me I had to go to see the manager. He wouldnt let me do anything. I was supposed to run and condition and all that. He said, No, you cant. You got to go see him. So I walked in and he told me I got traded to Boston.

I talked to Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett and he told me they were sending me to Portland. So I packed my stuff up and walked across to their clubhouse. It was crazy because we still had to play the game that night. So I was sitting in the stands, charting for Portland against Akron. It was fun but it didnt hit me until Akron got on the bus and went to another city.

Then we went back to Akron the next week and I was in the other clubhouse. That was weird. I was still going through the same entrance that I always went through but just kept walking to the other clubhouse. I stayed in my apartment. So it was kind of crazy.

But now, Wright figures hes in the right organization for a knuckleball pitcher, a place where he could continue the legacy left after Tim Wakefields retirement. Although hes only been a full-time knuckleball pitcher for just two seasons, its a pitch hes been throwing since he was a kid.

I started throwing it when I was nine, he said. Frank Pastore, my old pitching coach, threw one back to me and I was just kind of intrigued with it, and I was watching Wakefield on TV. In 2010 I was struggling a little bit. I started in Triple-A, got sent back down to Double-A, and I needed an outpitch. And one day I jumped up on the mound, messing around, not even thinking anything of it, and just having fun. The coaches saw it, and were like you might want to start throwing that as an outpitch. So thats kind of where it started. I went into 2011, the same thing: fastball, slider, with my knuckleball as my outpitch. I had a good spring, they brought in former knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti to work with me.

He also had a chance to talk with Wakefield earlier this season. Former Red Sox coach Rob Leary, now the Indians minor league field coordinator, arranged a brief phone call between the two knuckleball pitchers.

After one start with Portland, Wright, who turns 28 on Aug. 30, was promoted on Aug. 8 to Triple-A Pawtucket, where Rich Sauveur, a former left-handed knuckleballer, is his pitching coach.

His is better than mine, Sauveur said. Even though mine was my main pitch, too. But Ill concede.

Wright has made just one start for the PawSox, going five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and walk with three strikeouts Aug. 11 at Rochester. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Aug.16 with right shoulder tightness, but is expected to be activated to start Friday at Charlotte.

He did a great job the first night, Sauveur said. Throws it somewhere between R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield velocity-wise. But its a good knuckleball, something to look for, because I think hes got some room to grow. Hes 27 but its pretty good stuff.

He gave up a couple runs early the other night and then he threw some zeros up, said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. He did a nice job. He throws strikes with it and guys swing at it. Typical knuckleball outing: five inns, deep counts, some crazy swings, a few hard hit balls when you get behind.

Sauveur has worked with other knuckleball pitchers in the organization, including Charlie Zink, when he was the International League pitcher of the year in 2008. Sauveur said Wrights knuckleball is better than Zinks.

Charlie had a decent knuckleball when he was here, Sauveur said. But looking at Wrights, its got a lot of movement. Im not saying hes a Tim Wakefield but you never know. And I can tell you hes got a chance.

A chance to help the big league team, Sauveur means.

Tonight's lineups: Red Sox at White Sox

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Tonight's lineups: Red Sox at White Sox

The Red Sox face a left-hander -- Carlos Rondon, in this case -- for the second night in a row as they play the middle game of their three-night series in Chicago against the White Sox.

The lineups:

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Chris Young LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
---
Clay Buchholz P

WHITE SOX:
Adam Eaton RF
Jimmy Rollins SS
Jose Abreu 1B
Todd Frazier 3B
Melky Cabrera LF
Brett Lawrie 2B
Jerry Sands DH
Dioner Navarro C
Austin Jackson CF
---
Carlos Rondon P

Jeter: Sox fans 'softer' and 'treat me better' after winning three titles

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Jeter: Sox fans 'softer' and 'treat me better' after winning three titles

There was a time not too long ago when the New York Yankees would fear for their lives when they came into Boston.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious.

But go back to the early 2000s and the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees was about as heated as could be.

On one side was the Evil Empire: George Steinbrenner, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens,etc. On the other was the Red Sox: Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, etc.

Those were the days.

Then the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS, beat the Yankees, and went on to win the World Series. Then they won the World Series again in 2007. And again in 2013.

All that winning changed the narrative around here. The frustration and anger of  years of disappointment was replaced by joy.

Welcome to Friendly Fenway.

Suddenly, players like Jeter could come to town and even go out to dinner without being heckled by diehard Sox fans.

On Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jeter told Meyers -- a Red Sox fan -- about how Sox fans have gone soft since their team started winning.
    
“It doesn’t happen anymore,” he said about being heckled outside Fenway. “I can say this now because I’m retired. Boston fans have softened up since you guys have won. It pains me to say it, but . . . I won’t say it. I’m not happy you won. But you treat me a lot better since you won.”

Time for Red Sox to clear away Clay

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Time for Red Sox to clear away Clay

In our Early Edition production meeting, someone said Clay Buchholz was pitching for his job tonight.

Sorry, not anymore.

As soon as Steven Wright pitched well for the fifth straight time last night, Buchholz's train left the station. It’s time to do with Clay what the Sox did to Panda: Make up an injury, fake a surgery (okay, that’s all a bit of an overstatement with Sandoval) and get him out of the way.

As soon as the White Sox said goodbye to John Danks, we all said the same thing: If Chicago can do it, why can’t Boston? Danks was to start tonight against Buchholz, but the Chisox said "No more" and paid off the final year of his $65 million contract. The Bosox -- haven’t heard that term in a while, have you? -- could do the same with Clay and the $13 million he's owed for this season, plus a $500,000 buyout at the end of the year. 

David Price is the No. 1 starter and eventually he'll be fine. Eduardo Rodriquez gave up three runs in six innings last night for Pawtucket and will soon be ready to take his spot in the No. 2 slot. Then there's my pick to click, Rick Porcello (with a 2.76 ERA), and the previously mentioned Wright with his 1.76 ERA. Wright was supposed to be the odd man out when E-Rod returned, but that’s not happening. So there are your top four starters. And what about Joe Kelly when he comes back? I would rather see Kelly and anyone from Pawtucket pitch in the fifth spot instead of Buchholz and his 6.51 ERA.

Is there any reason to keep Buchholz?  Not that I can see. Clay can throw his second career no-hitter tonight and my feelings won't change.

It’s time to move on from Clay Buchholz.