Red Sox notes: Pedroia, Ross, Dice-K, Prior

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Red Sox notes: Pedroia, Ross, Dice-K, Prior

TORONTO Second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Mondays game after the fifth inning with a jammed right thumb and has not played since. For the first time since then, Pedroia took groundballs at second base before the start of Fridays game against the Blue Jays. Pedroia wore a modified splint on his right hand.

Before Pedroia went out to the field, manager Bobby Valentine said there was no timetable for Pedroias return to the lineup.

Just want to let nature takes its time, Valentine said.

While Pedroias on-field activities could be considered progress, it remains to be seen how his thumb responds to the work.

Outfielder Cody Ross, on the disabled list retroactive to May 19 with a fracture in his left navicular bone, will have his foot reexamined upon the teams return to Boston after the three-game series in Toronto.

He is eligible to be activated Sunday. Valentine said when Ross is activated he will probably need some rehab games.

Daisuke Matsuzaka took the loss Thursday as Triple-A Pawtucket fell to Norfolk, 2-0, Thursday. Matsuzaka went 5 13 innings, giving up a run on two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The lone run came on Lew Fords first-inning home run.

Still, Valentine said the reports on Matsuzaka were favorable.

Reports were much better, valentine said. First-inning home run, up to 94 mph, sat at 91, changeup, worked quick with men on base.

Matsuzaka will stay with the PawSox as they travel for a four-game series to Lehigh Valley to do his side work. He is scheduled to make his next rehab start Tuesday, when the team returns to McCoy Stadium to host Indianapolis.

Outfielder Darnell McDonald, on the DL retroactive to May 12 with a right oblique strain, has resumed his rehab assignment with Pawtucket. He is expected to play with the PawSox through the weekend, Valentine said.

Right-hander Mark Prior has joined the PawSox. Valentine said Prior, who has yet to make an appearance in a game after working out at the organizations training complex in Fort Myers, would work strictly out of the bullpen.

Hes made constant progress, Valentine said. People have liked his attitude and throwing ability.

Prior, who will be 32 in September, has not appeared in the major leagues since 2006 with the Cubs. He was the Cubs' first-round pick (second overall behind the Twins' Joe Mauer) in 2001.

Thursday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Braves

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Thursday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Braves

BOSTON -- The Red Sox and Braves play the finale of their home-and-home, four-game series tonight . . . to the Sox' dismay, no doubt.

Boston has won the first three games by a combined score of 21-8, extending its overall winning streak to four. The Sox have also won five of their last six, and six of their last eight, as they've closed to within a half-game of the first-place Orioles in the A.L. East. In addition, they now hold one of the two A.L. wild-card positions.

The lineups:

BRAVES:
Nick Markakis RF
Daniel Castro 3B
Adonis Garcia DH
Freddie Freeman 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Jeff Francoeur LF
Jace Peterson 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Mallex Smith CF
---
Jhoulys Chacin P

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

Hanigan on handling the knuckler: ‘It’s always a battle’

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Hanigan on handling the knuckler: ‘It’s always a battle’

BOSTON - Major league catchers take a beating behind the plate. It goes with the territory.
      
There are foul tips off fingers, jarring blows to facemasks and, even in the aftermath of new rules regarding slides, vicious collisions with baserunners.
      
Those are all well-known parts of the job. Goes with the territory, catchers will shrug and say.
      
But what happened to Ryan Hanigan Wednesday night -- and last Friday night in Houston, for that matter -- was a different sort of test.
      
It was Hanigan's job to coral Steven Wright's knuckleball, dipping and darting in most unpredictable ways. Even the Atlanta Braves hitters seemingly had an easier time hitting the pitch than Hanigan did catching it.
      
Forget 99-mph fastballs; the toughest pitch for a catcher to handle is a knuckler that may not top 75 mph. 
      
From the second through the fourth inning, Hanigan battled and boxed balls, almost blocking and tackling them -- when he wasn't chasing them to the backstop, that is.
      
"It was really dancing tonight,'' said Hanigan after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Atlanta. "I think the wind played a factor. It was going all over the place.''
      
And, so, at times, was Hanigan, scrambling to keep the ball in  front of him, and, occasionally, going to retrieve it.
      
In the fourth inning, Erick Aybar reached on a strikeout passed ball, took second base, and eventually third on two more passed balls. He was
one more floating, errant knuckler away from circling the bases despite never making contact with a pitch, or being advanced by a teammate making contact.
      
All Hanigan could do was hold on -- make that TRY to hold on -- for dear life.
      
"I was talking to the [home plate] umpire back there,'' chuckled Hanigan. "It was going up, down, left, right...It's always a battle. It's 
tough - every time I catch it, it's a small victory. Some days, it's more consistent in the way it moves. Some days, it's darting left and right and all over. It was one of those nights. I struggled a little bit with some of them back there.
      
"You're not going to catch all of them. That's just how it is. You have to try to stay positive, try working with him back there, keep him in his rhythm and [have him] throw as many strikes as he can.''
      
Problem is, even the strikes can be difficult to catch. At the last possible instant, the knuckleball can evade Hanigan's mitt, like a butterfly eluding capture. 
      
Wright can't help but have some sympathy for his batterymate.
      
"There's times where it can get frustrating [for him],’’ said Wright. "He does a great job. I can't give enough credit to him and what he's done.''
      
The paradox, of course, is that Wright wants the ball to move as much as possible to confound the hitters. Hanigan does too, but he has to deal with the consequences.
      
"The ones that stay high,'' he explained, "you expect a little drop. But they just don't. They tip off the top [of the catcher's mitt]. Those are tough. He had them really darting tonight. It just takes a  left turn on me. Those are tough. But that's what you want. So I just try to knock 'em down.
      
"You just can't really anticipate which way it's going to go. One will go right, one will go left, one will be flat, one will kind of  take off. And I think the wind [is a factor]. It helps [Wright].’’
      
While at the same time, hurting Hanigan.
      
Wright lasted seven innings, allowing just one unearned run.  Hanigan then went back to conventional pitchers Tommy Layne and Matt Barnes.
      
"Man, when I put the other glove on...it's all gravy after that,'' he said. "There's predictability as to which way the ball is going to move, at least to some extent. With the knuckleball, it does what it wants.''
      
And it's Hanigan's thankless task to catch it. Or chase after it.
      

Tom Glavine: Atlanta sports fans apathy was frustrating at times

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Tom Glavine: Atlanta sports fans apathy was frustrating at times

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and baseball Hall of Famer Tom Glavine talks with Toucher & Rich about the apathy of the Atlanta fan base, where playoff games in the early rounds would frequently not sellout.