Sox notes: Middlebrooks, Pedroia out

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Sox notes: Middlebrooks, Pedroia out

BOSTON -- One day after going 2-for-4 with two RBI and a home run, Will Middlebrooks is getting the night off on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
Adrian Gonzalez is at first, hitting third, and Kevin Youkilis is at third, hitting fifth.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that his reasoning revolves around the upcoming trip to Toronto, and the days off he knows he's going to give Gonzalez and Youkilis on the astroturf.
"We're going to astroturf tomorrow" said Valentine. "There's going to be a limited number of days where I think Adrian should be out in that outfield on the astroturf."
So why not Middlebrooks at third instead of Youkilis?
"Because we're going to astroturf and Youk's not going to play all three games on astroturf," said Valentine. "So, he's going to get his day off there."
Dustin Pedroia (thumb) is out of the lineup for third straight game, and Valentine hinted beforehand that Middlebrooks could potentially play shortstop if Mike Aviles ever had to move over to second base in Pedroia's absence.
"Middlebrooks also was a good high school shortstop, so he can play another position," said Valentine. "If something happens, he's going to take a grounder at shortstop, because Mike Aviles has played second."
As for Pedroia's health, Valentine said it's "more of the same."
"The swelling is down more, and he's a little louder," said Valentine. "But he's better."
Valentine said that they asked Pedroia not to swing the bat. And as of Thursday afternoon, he hadn't seen Pedroia going against their wishes. Not at Fenway at least.
"I was on my bike today," said Valentine. "I saw three batting cages within three miles of here. But I had to go check and see where he was this morning. He hasn't hit here."
In Pedroia's absence, Nick Punto has taken over at second base, and will do so again on Thursday night against the Tigers, for the third-straight game.
Punto's gone 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in the last two games, and hits ninth on Thursday.
That's probably why Punto was taking early batting practice at Fenway before the game. But he was hitting against a batting machine, which Valentine said was probably done to get his timing back on breaking balls.
"What I see is a lack of timing, and, that's exactly what you should see," said Valentine. "The only way to really time this big-league stuff is by doing it. And obviously, he hasn't done it very much. I expect the more pitches he sees, the closer he's going to come to getting the timing he needs to make contact."
Valentine also said that the Red Sox don't have a plan to bring an extra infielder with them to Toronto after Thursday's game, but he "suspects" they will add another infielder before the weekend is over.

--Valentine gave several injury updates before Thursday's game ay Fenway Park against the Detroit Tigers:
Aaron Cook (knee laceration) threw in the bullpen on Thursday, and if he gets through that without any hiccups, then they'll place him on a pitching program to figure out when he'll begin pitching again. But they'll wait and see how the wound reacts to pitching off a mound.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbowneck) will pitch tonight for Triple-A Pawtucket and will then stay there to do his bullpen work.
Darnell McDonald (oblique) will play throughout the weekend in Triple-A "to make sure he's fit and sound," according to Valentine.
Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) is working out at Fenway, and according to Valentine, Ellsbury says he feels great.
Cody Ross (foot) has no pain in his fractured left foot, with or without the walking boot. He'll have another MRI soon, to determine the amount of healing.
Andrew Bailey (thumb) is now throwing up to 90 feet.
Chris Carpenter (elbow) is now throwing up to 120 feet.
Ryan Kalish (shoulder) is currently playing in Double-A Portland "with no ill effects of his medical woes," according to Valentine.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises, were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays

 

QUOTES:

"Rick has been the model of consistency.'' - John Farrell on starter Rick Porcello

"It means that we have a heck of a team, really. The runs we put up, and I don't think anybody talks about our defense.'' - Porcello, asked about the significance of being baseball's first 18-game winner.

"It's cool to be a part of that, but we're in a race right now and that's way more important.'' - Mookie Betts on the crowd chants of "MVP!" during his at-bat.

 

NOTES

* Hanley Ramirez has nine extra-base hit in the last 15 games.

* Opposing baserunners have stolen only 54 percent of the time when Sandy Leon is behind the plate, the lowest figure for any Red Sox catcher (minimum 20 games) since 1987

* Brock Holt tied a season high with three hits, including two with two outs and runners in scoring position.

* Mookie Betts set a career high with 72 extra-base hits.

* Betts became the third player in franchise history to have a 30-homer season before the age of 24. Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro are the others.

* Betts has five homers and 13 RBI in his last five home games.

* Rick Porcello is just the fifth major league pitcher since 1913 to begin a season 13-0 at home

* Porcello is the third Red Sox pitcher to win 18 of his first 21 decisions after Cy Young (1902) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2008)

* David Ortiz leads the majors in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS.

 

STARS:

1) Rick Porcello

The righthander became the first 18-game winner in the big leagues and he did it by supplying seven innings for the sixth straight start while improving to 13-0 at home.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts gave the Red Sox an early lead with his 30th homer of the year, becoming the third player in franchise history to reach that milestone before the age of 24.

3) Travis Shaw

Shaw broke out of a month-long slump with a three-hit game, including a double, to go along with two RBI.