Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances
September 9, 2012, 6:49 pm
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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.