Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch

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Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Its hard to believe that it took five seasons for Jacoby Ellsbury to collect his first walk-off hit as a member of the Boston Red Sox, but it seems awfully appropriate that it happened this season.

So much has been magical and blessed for the Sox center-fielder in a campaign thats gone from surprising to All-Star caliber to knocking on the MVP door in the span of five months. Ellsbury penned another chapter on Tuesday night by punching a single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth inning to score pinch-runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and lead the Sox to a rousing 3-2 victory at Fenway Park.

It was Ellsburys first walk-off win and the first time he was tackled at first base by his jubilant teammates after the rousing win was secured on a night that included a 1-hour, 35-minute rain delay.

Youre always looking for those opportunities to win a game especially when its late with the rain delay and everything else, said Ellsbury. I was just really happy I was able to square that ball up, and that we were able to get something going there in the ninth inning.

Ellsbury finished 1-for-5 on the evening and is hitting a robust .318 on the season for the Sox, but came alive along with the rest of the offense when it finally mattered against the Cleveland bullpen. The center-fielder has delivered all season long, and teammate Jason Varitek who singled to start the ninth inning rally before giving way to Saltalamacchia says whats been seen in flashes since 2007 has finally arrived in full force.

He was a good player when he first came up," Varitek said. "He was a huge reason we won that World Series in 2007. He was as hot as could be, and he had energy and speed. His swing has really developed. Hes always had backspin and good bat speed and athleticism, and now hes gone through some changes. He can top a ball and he can drive a ball. He can do both.

Ellsbury has enjoyed a series of big hits this season for the Sox with so much offensive damage coming from the leadoff man and No. 2 hitter Dustin Pedroia this season, and everyone involved is hoping the center-fielder will get a couple more walk-off knocks before the year is up.

Hes had a lot of big hits for us, said Francona. Hell have a lot more.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia served as a pinch-runner for Jason Varitek after the Sox captain singled in the bottom of the ninth inning to start Bostons game-winning rally, and believe it or not it wasnt the first pinch-running appearance for the younger Sox catcher. Saltalamacchia pinch-ran in a game for the Rangers on June 20, 2008 in a 14-inning loss to the Washington Nationals.

This stint was a lot more memorable for Saltalamacchia, somehow motoring all the way from second base and beating Ezequiel Carreras throw to home plate on a Jacoby Ellsbury smash up the middle. Saltalamacchia got the wave to score from third base coach Tim Bogar, the affable Sox catcher said it was time to turn on the burners.

The burst of speed combined with a nice slide around home plate away from the tag were both qualities not often seen in catchers stereotyped as base-clogging outs just waiting to happen on the basepaths.

Obviously it starts with Tek getting it all started, Josh Reddick getting one to drop in and then a clutch hit by Ellsbury; I let my speed do the rest, said Saltalamacchia. I was checking out the outfield playing at regular depth, so I knew on a line drive I was probably going to be scoring. Bogie didnt hold me up, and like I said before my speed just took over.

Josh Becketts 1.99 home ERA is the lowest for a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway with at least 9 starts since former Sox ace Pedro Martinezs 1.84 ERA with Boston during his prime in the 2000 baseball season.

Dustin Pedroia won the prize for most interesting props surrounding his locker on Tuesday. The Sox second baseman was surprised to find a red, autographed Nature Boy Ric Flair wrestling robe hanging high above his locker along with a WWE wrestling belt beside it. Pedroia has always been a big fan of the 21-time wrestling champion and celebrated the gift by donning his yellow Hulk Hogan Hulkamania tank top pregame in the Sox clubhouse.

Jed Lowrie went 0-for-2 on Monday night in first rehab game with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, and followed that up on Tuesday afternoon with a 1-for-3 performance in six innings of work for the PawSox. Positive progress reports followed both games and Terry Francona said the infielder had no complaints about the former shoulder injury. Lowrie will report to Boston on Wednesday to work out with the team at Fenway, and Francona said hell be ready for big league duty shortly after playing a full nine inning game in the minors.

The one thing we have to do before we can activate him is get him into a nine inning game, said Francona. It doesnt have to be Thursday. He wouldnt be playing every day because weve got Scutaro, but I still think its important to play nine innings in a drawn out game and make sure he doesnt have any repercussions the next day.

Tim Wakefield celebrated his 45th birthday on Tuesday, and is the oldest active player in the Major Leagues. Hes also the oldest to ever appear in a game for the Red Sox and is slated to start Wednesday night while going for his 200th career victory.

Marco Scutaro was available to play Tuesday night after coming out of Mondays loss with dizziness and a racing heart beat, and was cleared after a visit with doctors for a checkup. Scutaro said he was fine and attributed the symptoms to something he drank before the game started, and pointed to a clubhouse refrigerator filled with Gatorades and energy drinks as the culprit.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem for Yanks' Cashman

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem for Yanks' Cashman

The dearth of homegrown starting pitching for the Red Sox is talked about almost as much as every Tom Brady post on Instagram.

Red Sox fans may take some solace in knowing their team isn’t the only one dealing with this problem.

In an interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t talk about his team’s pitching problems in context of the Red Sox. But the explanation the longtime Yanks boss offered should sound familiar. 

In the biggest of markets, time to develop properly is scarce.

“Yeah. It's a fact,” Cashman said when asked if criticism of their pitching development was fair. “I think part of the process has been certainly where we draft. Because we've had a lot of success, we've not been allowed to tank and go off the board and therefore get access to some of the high-end stuff that plays out to be impactful. Part of it is we can't get out of our own way because we don't have the patience to let guys finish off their development, because if you possess some unique ability that stands out above everybody else -- whether it was Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, now [Luis] Severino and before that [Bryan] Mitchell and Shane Greene -- we're pulling them up before their development is finished.

“Teams like Tampa Bay, for instance, they're going to wait until they have their four pitches down and their innings limits are all exceeded at the minor-league level; they're very disciplined in that approach as they finish off their starters. For us, if I'm looking at my owner and he says, ‘What's our best team we can take north?’ 

“Well, ‘We could take this guy; he's not necessarily 100 percent finished off, but we can stick him in our 'pen. He can be in the back end of our rotation, because he's better than some of the guys we already have,’ and then you cut corners, so I think that probably plays a role in it.”

Not everything is circumstantial, though -- or a deflection. 

“And sometimes we don't make the right decisions, either, when we're making draft selections and signings and stuff like that,” Cashman continued. “On top of it all, playing in New York is a lot different than playing anywhere else.”

We’ve heard that last part about Boston too, here and there.

Cashman was complimentary of his current Sox counterpart, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose team Cashman has compared to the Golden State Warriors.

On his feelings when he first heard the Sox were getting Chris Sale:

“When that trade was consummated, that was the first thing I thought about, which was, 'Wow, look at what they've done,' ” Cashman said. “I know how it's going to play out for them. Listen, Steve Kerr does a great job managing that team -- oh, I mean John Farrell. It's a lot of talent and with talent comes pressure to perform. I think Dave Dombrowski has done everything he possibly can to provide that city with a world championship team. They've got 162 games to show it.”
 

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones was raised, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones was raised, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.