Valentine pleased with youngsters' progress

799408.jpg

Valentine pleased with youngsters' progress

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said before Friday night's game at Fenway Park against the Atlanta Braves that he was going with the hot hand and keeping Will Middlebrooks in the lineup at third base.

In reality, he's going with three hot hands on Friday night.

Middlebrooks starts at third and hits seventh, but also, Ryan Kalish starts in center field and hits eighth, while Daniel Nava starts in left field and hits leadoff.

It wasn't long ago that all three were in the minors. Now, they're in Boston. And they're not just on the team. They're major contributors.

"I think each guy on the team knows that when the game starts, they have a responsibility, that, they have to do their job," said Valentine before Friday's game. And the young guys, to the man, and the older guys, to the man, have done what it's taken to win some games.

"The rookies' contributions, if you will -- and I don't know who really qualifies -- but the guys that I think of as rookies have really stepped up to the plate. And I look forward to watching them play."

All three played major roles in leading the Red Sox to their fifth straight win on Thursday night, against the Miami Marlins at Fenway.

Middlebrooks went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI in Boston's 6-5 win on Thursday.

"Today I'm riding the hot hand," said Valentine on his decision to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup after a big night on Thursday. "Tomorrow might not be the case. And I always reserve the right to change my mind."

Kalish went 1-for-3 with a walk on Thursday and scored the winning run. It was his fourth run scored in four games since returning from an injury. Nava went 2-for-4 with a walk on Thursday, and drove in that winning run.

Valentine says he had no expectations from Nava because Nava wasn't even on his radar to begin the season. But Kalish? Valentine knew the report on him, and now that he gets to see it on the field, he's enjoying what he sees.

"I'm still watching Kalish, but every day I see a little something different," said Valentine. "What's there not to like? He hasn't given away an at-bat yet."

Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

red_sox_brock_holt_040616.jpg

Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

BOSTON -- The return dates for both Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt remain uncertain.

Holt visited with concussion specialist Micky Collins in Pittsburgh the last two days and is returning to Boston Tuesday night.

The Red Sox placed him on the seven-day DL last week when he began experiencing symptoms associated with a mild concussion, following an incident on the last homestand when he went to dive for a ball at second and felt some whiplash in the neck.

"He went through a battery of tests in Pittsburgh,'' said John Farrell. "After a full workup with Micky there, we feel like there's a very detailed plan in place. He'll begin some general conditioning when he gets back. He's still dealing with some symptoms, minor as they might be, and in the coming days, baseball activity will start. [But] we're going to miss him for a little bit.''

Holt clearly won't be ready to return this week.

"He's going to need some time to get back to game speed for us,'' confirmed Farrell. "But we don't feel like this is a real long-term type of scenario.''

As for Rodriguez, the question of a return date to the major-league rotation remains something of an open question.

"He came out of last night's start in pretty good shape,'' reported Farrell of Rodriguez's seven-inning, one-run performance for Pawtucket on Tuesday. "He's set to throw his bullpen [Thursday] and right now tentatively set (to pitch) for Pawtucket on Sunday, but we obviously have the ability to adjust if needed or if we choose to do so.

"I don't know that we're there to say where it's definitively going to be next. Over the coming few days, we'll certainly map them out with Eduardo first and foremost. If it's (with the big-league club), it obviously won't be until early next week at the [earliest]. We're still working through some things on that.''

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

hanley-ramirez-red-so.jpg

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

BOSTON -- Hanley Ramirez had to come out of Tuesday night's game after getting hit in the foot with a pitch, but fears that he'd be sidelined for a while were unfounded.

Ramirez is back in the lineup tonight, at first base and batting fifth as always, as the Red Sox host the Rockies in the second game of a three-game series. In addition, Travis Shaw -- who was held out of Tuesday's starting lineup because of a minor hand injury but who came in as Ramirez's replacement after the HBP -- is back at third base, hitting seventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been moved up to sixth as John Farrell continues to search for ways to make sure Bradley isn't pitched around. Bradley will be attempting to extend his hitting streak to 29 tonight.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Gerardo Parra LF
Ryan Raburn DH
Tony Wolters C
Cristhian Adames SS
---
Chat Bettis P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Ryan Hanigan C
Blake Swihart LF
---
Steven Wright P

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

mcadamsoxwin524_1280x720_692244547963.jpg

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.