Red Sox notes: Dice-K, Byrd, Ellsbury, Crawford


Red Sox notes: Dice-K, Byrd, Ellsbury, Crawford

BOSTON One day short of a year since he had Tommy John surgery, Daisuke Matsuzaka is returning to a major league mound, starting against the Washington Nationals Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

It will be a first for manager Bobby Valentine.

Id like to get it over with actually because I have no idea what to expect, Valentine said. Ive seen him a little on film. Ive never seen him on the big stage. So this is something Id like to turn the page.

Matsuzaka has made eight starts on two separate 30-day rehab assignments with one start each for High-A Salem and Double-A Portland and six starts, posting a combined record of 0-3 with a 3.65 ERA.

In five seasons with the Sox, Matsuzaka, who is in the sixth and final season of his contract, has a record of 49-30 (4.25). He was 3-3 (5.30) in eight games, seven starts last season. This is the second season he began on the disabled, along with 2010 when he was sidelined by a neck strain.

To make room for Matsuzaka on the roster, outfielder Marlon Byrd was designated for assignment.

Marlon came here, kind of saved the day and now hell more than likely be with another team, Valentine said. Hopefully its not in our division and competing against us. He did a good job while he was here. We just needed room for a starting pitcher today.

The decision was between Byrd and Darnell McDonald, Valentine said.

When we got Marlon there was a real need for outfield depth and Daniel Nava has filled in very nicely there. Hes done a great job. And Darnell coming back, it was kind of a decision with Darnell and Marlon.

McDonalds tenure with the Sox was a factor in the decision. McDonald, the No. 1 pick of the Orioles in 1997, is in his third season with the Sox. Byrd was acquired in a trade with the Cubs on April 21.

McDonald has had a little more history here, Valentine said. Coaches and all were much more familiar with him and we feel that he might be able to give us a little more extra-base power when hitting against left-handers.

McDonald missed 22 games, from May 12 June 5, on the DL with a right oblique strain.

Been pretty good, Valentine said. Been about what I thought in spring training. He played a lot more in spring training obviously. He was hot.

Jacoby Ellsbury, on the DL since April 14 with a right shoulder subluxation, is making progress, but there is still no timetable on a return for him.

Yesterday was his fifth day in a row hitting off a tee and he felt great, Valentine said. Hes in very good physical condition and his baseball activities are going to progress in this progression that we have in mind. He has had no setbacks.

Carl Crawford threw for the second day and took batting practice before Saturdays game. But there is no timetable for his return.

Dont know anytime soon what that means, Valentine said. But he played catch today and threw the ball well, ran the bases. So hes progressing.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.