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

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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.

Red Sox will re-assess Rodriguez's progress after rehab start

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Red Sox will re-assess Rodriguez's progress after rehab start

CHICAGO -- Eduardo Rodriguez's return to the Red Sox rotation is going to take a little while longer.

Rodriguez will make at least one more rehab start for Pawtucket Sunday before the Red Sox re-assess his progress.

There had been some thought that Rodriguez would need only two outings on his rehab assignment. But the decision was made Wednesday to give him at least one more.

Rodriguez had a good outing for Pawtucket Tuesday night, allowing three runs on five hits in six innings of work.

All three runs came in the first inning, after which he showed improvement. "From the second to the sixth innings,'' said Farrell, "they were probably more crisp, more sharp. Looking for that to continue to advance."

Rodriguez, too, said he felt better than he did the first time out, when he allowed three runs in just 3 2/3 innings.

"I feel more control of the ball,'' he said. "I feel more comfortable throwing the ball in the game. Physically, I feel fine. I just see how everything goes every day like bullpens, running and everything. I just want to get back as fast as I can. But I want to get back 100 percent, I don't want to get back at 70 percent and go out there and don't do like I normally do."

Rodriguez, of course, has missed the first month of the season after tweaking his knee at the beginning of spring training.

"The first start I made in Pawtucket,'' recalled Rodriguez, ''I was thinking too much on my knee. Every pitch I'm throwing, I'm thinking like 'Don't push too much,' but (Tuesday) night it was every pitch I'm throwing just thinking of the game and not my knee."

After throwing 84 pitches Tuesday night, the Red Sox want him to get his pitch count over 90 in his next outing.

''I think with each outing he's getting, he's gaining more confidence and feeling more maybe natural and free on the mound," Farrell said.

 

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
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Chris Young LF
Travis Shaw 1B
Josh Rutledge 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.”