Red Sox taking advantage of Podsednik's good health

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Red Sox taking advantage of Podsednik's good health

MIAMI -- A year ago, Scott Podsednik spent the entire season in the minor leagues. As recently as six weeks ago, he was stuck at Lehigh Valley of the International League, hitting just .197.

Now, however, Podsednik is frequently hitting leadoff for the Red Sox and since being promoted from Pawtucket on May 22. He had a season-high three hits Monday and is hitting .405 with the Sox.

"He's been great," enthused Bobby Valentine. "Top (of the lineup), bottom . . . wherever he's hitting, he's played a great brand of baseball for us. He's an aggressive guy whose confidence is something our team needs to see. And he's performing well. Heck, when you're hitting .400 and stealing bases (four in five attempts) when you get the opportunity and scoring runs, you're doing a pretty good job."

Valentine believes that Podsednik's recent resurgence is the result of better health. A series of nagging injuries dogged the outfielder for the better part of the last two seasons, but at 36, he's as healthy now as he's been in some time.

"He's feeling much better than he has in a while," said Valentine. "When you have 100-percent health, you can perform. It's the only chance you have to perform at a high level and he's doing that."

Having been successful in 80 percent of stolen base attempts, Podesednik doesn't possess the raw speed that once enabled him to average 53 steals from 2003-2006. But his baseball intelligence and instincts have made up for whatever speed he's lost.

"He takes the best lead of anyone on our team," said Valentine. "He takes it in the proper place, he has very good technique when he starts and understands how to slide. His start and his finish is what makes him good.

"I don't know what his speed was or is (now), other than it's functional."

First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

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First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

What was Jackie Bradley thinking in the fifth inning? He wasn't, apparently.

Trailing 4-0, the Red Sox had runners on first and second with two out and Christian Vazquez at the plate.

Inexplicably, Bradley broke from second base in an attempt to steal third. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore simply pivoted and threw the ball to third, where Bradley was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

Not only did it end the threat, it guaranteed the weak-hitting Vazquez would lead off the next inning.

It was the first time in his career that Bradley was thrown out trying to steal and one that he -- or the Red Sox -- won't soon forget.

David Price didn't like the strike zone.

On at least two occasions, Price made a detour from the mound to the dugout after innings to confer with home-plate umpire John Hirchbeck, presumably about the latter's strike zone.

It may be true that Price got squeezed on some pitches, but when you give up four runs to a light-hitting lineup that had lost 12 of its last 13, it's not a good look to be placing any of the blame on the umpiring.

The Red Sox aren't the worst team in baseball with the bases loaded; it just seems that way.

The Sox threatened in the sixth when Vazquez and Mookie Betts singled and, after a flyout by Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts singled, too.

But David Ortiz couldn't handle some fastballs in the strike zone, popping up in the infield, and Hanley Ramirez hit a ball off the end of the bat for an inning-ending flyout to right.

For the season, the Red Sox are 18-for-70 for a .257 batting average with the bases loaded, ranking them 17th -- or just below the middle of the pack -- in baseball.

Still, it seems that the Sox have been particularly inept in those situations of late, most memorably when they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth against Chicago two weeks ago and improably came away with nothing.

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Sean McAdam talks with Toucher & Rich about how aggressive Dave Dombrowski will be in trying to acquire pitching help. The fact they made calls on Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole says they will be very aggressive.

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Mike Felger and Dan Shaughnessy discuss the Boston Red Sox bouncing back from their slump with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.