Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

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Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

BOSTON Red Sox starting pitching has been dreadful lately. In the last 11 games they have put together a combined 8.88 ERA, going 1-10, averaging just over 4 23 innings. In their last 13 games, Sox pitchers have allowed opponents to score first in 11.

Daisuke Matsuzaka lowered that with his performance on Saturday, lasting just 1 13 innings, giving up five earned runs. It was the shortest outing by a starting pitcher since Matsuzaka lasted just one inning against the As on July 2.

Felix Doubront lasted just four innings, giving up five earned runs on Friday. In his first full major league season, the left-hander hast thrown 134 23 innings, an increase of more than 50 percent over the 87 23 he threw last season.

And Franklin Morales, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24 with left shoulder inflammation, is going to have his shoulder examined.

Leaving manager Bobby Valentine with no shortage of issues and questions:

Should Matsuzaka stay in the rotation?

Im not sure, Valentine said. Going to see. Have some meetings here with him, too. He was very disappointed yesterday. So was I.

"I was disappointed he didn't come out the second inning throwing the way he threw the first inning. Theres got to be a way of replicating."

Valentine said he does not think Matsuzakas struggles are related to the Tommy John surgery the right-hander underwent in June 2010.

Should Doubront be shut down or rested?

He feels really good, Valentine said. Says he feels healthy. Going to see what the bullpen session looks like on Monday.

Will Franklin Morales, who had some shoulder fatigue at the beginning of spring training, return?

Hes a little hesitant right now because he doesnt feel a hundred percent strengthwise, Valentine said. So hes on a real holding pattern.

At the beginning of spring training he didn't feel it but the training room felt there might have been a little weakness. I think right now he justtalking with him he just doesnt feel a hundred percent. He thinks he can pitch and he thinks he can throw and hes throwing long toss but this time of season if a guy has any qualms about his condition I out it on the backburner.

There really was never any red flags or deficiencies or a situation where he thought he had a situation.

The health is my first concern," Valentine said. If Felix is healthy, hell go back out there for sure, if theres no problem. And Daisuke we could replace with Alfredo Aceves, I would think, even if its onlyhe threw a hundred pitches over three or four days, which is a buildup, but he hasnt really pitched the consecutive innings.

The starting pitching has also been making it difficult on other aspects of the game. Allowing opponents to score first so frequently puts the offense in an early hole, from which it has had a difficult time climbing out.

Theyre elated of course, Valentine said. An offense plays best when theyre relaxed and they have a lead, and they are stressed when they have to come from behind. Right now, our offense without the power has a real problem coming back from behind because they get on the bases and theyre a little tentative and we have to move on the bases in order to score runs right now.

I think it begins with starting pitching, ends with relief pitching and you need the offense in the middle.

Without David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, the offense has been hamstrung be a lack of power.

Its hard to value that or weigh that but we are lacking the real threat of that home run guy, Valentine said. Most teams have a couple of them. Were lacking right now. We have guys who will hit home runs before the end of the year.

This season Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in the first, second, and third spots on the lineup. Sunday, he is batting sixth for the first time since 2009, with Ryan Kalish leading off.

Valentine is hoping the change might spark Ellsbury, who is hitting .257 this season and just .139 (5-for-36) with six strikeouts in his last nine games. But its not just about his spot in the lineup. Its also about those around him.

Im not dropping him, Valentine said. Im trying to mix the grouping up a little to see if we can get more runs on the board. Plus I want to see Kalish play a little early in the lineup.

Ellsbury is working real hard. Talking to him about hes feeling yesterday. Hes feeling good. At any time he can get hot as a firecracker. Hopefully today hell start getting hot.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who left Fridays game because of back spasms, was not in the lineup again today. With Mondays scheduled off-day, Valentine thought it would be wise to try to get Saltalamacchia, who has not taken batting practice, three consecutive days off.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.

Quotes, notes and stars: Price says season has been "terrible"

Quotes, notes and stars: Price says season has been "terrible"

Quotes, notes and stars from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES

* “It’s been terrible . . . Just awful.” Price on how his season has gone.

* “Tough night from the mound -- obviously.” John Farrell on Red Sox pitching in the loss.

* “Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those. It’s me going out there and making pitches. It’s what I’ve done for a long time now -- and I haven’t done this year. That’s why this year’s been the way it has been.” Price said when he was asked if he felt his problems boiled down to physical or mental issues.

* “Given that [we] had to stay away from [Matt] Barnes and [Junichi] Tazawa today, [Clay Buchholz] was a guy that was going to be needed to hopefully multiple inning to bridge us to where were able to match up a little bit more in the eighth inning to get to Ziegler. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.” Farrell said on why he turned to Buchholz -- not Barnes – despite having the lead.

* “It was crazy. When the fly ball [went] into the sky it turned into like a twister of some sort and you didn’t know where the ball was going to fall. I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Michael Martinez on dealing with the howling wind in right field.

* “It wasn’t much wind. I went and looked at it, definitely should have made the play. Just running at it full speed -- it was one of those things I didn’t know how close I was getting to the wall so I went into a slide. And it was an early slide, so it kind of threw me off a little bit . . . Just thought I was closer to the wall than I really was.” Brock Holt on the fly ball he misplayed.

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. knocked in two runs, becoming the fourth Red Sox hitter to reach the 60 RBI mark this season -- the most in the MLB. Bradley also had a double, marking is 46th extra-base hit of the season -- with 99 hits overall.

* Dustin Pedroia reached base for the 26th consecutive game with his double in the second inning. He has a .402 OBP during this stretch and a .311 average.

* The Red Sox have lost consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month (6/26-27). Both losses were comeback victories for Minnesota. Boston’s record drops to 3-3 against the 37-60 Twins this season.

STARS

1) Eddie Rosario

Rosario finished 4-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored, bumping his average from .244 to .262.

2) David Ortiz

Ortiz finished 3-for-3 with a walk, double, two RBI and two runs scored -- giving Boston just about as much offense as anyone can hope for.

3) Miguel Sano

The burly Twins third baseman finished 3-for-5 with a long ball, two runs scored, a walk and an RBI in Minnesota’s win.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar