Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

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Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Jed Lowrie admitted that he was more stunned than angry when it first happened in the third inning, and he was still searching for answers postgame on a bizarre call that earned him his 12th fielding error of the season.

The play helped open the floodgates in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field that saddled the Sox with their first series loss during the regular season since dropping two-out-of-three to the Philadelphia Phillies from June 28-30.

Lowrie wasnt very excited about second base umpire Ed Hickoxs call that typified the tough luck weekend in Seattle for the Sox, and it all started with a leadoff walk and a pair of singles that forced one run in against Tim Wakefield.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, it appeared Lowrie executed the pivot on an Ichiro Suzuki groundball that ended with a force play on Kyle Seager at second base. The switch-hitting shortstop attempted to follow on with a throw to Wakefield covering first base for the double play, but the knuckleballer couldnt beat the motoring Suzuki to first base.

But Hickox ruled Lowrie was off the bag on the force, and the shortstop was charged with his 12th error of the season in the flurry of activity following the play.

The safe call on Seager loaded the bases with nobody out and helped lead to three Seattle runs crossing the plate, and touched off a peeved Lowrie after the game was all over.

After watching some of the replays and knowing I touched the base, I dont know. It sucks. Its bad. Its a bad situation, said Lowrie. It probably cost us a couple of runs, but theres nothing I can do about it now. Its the same thing I do every time: I kick the back of the base and then I step out of the way of the runner.

Sox manager Terry Francona freely admitted that his team didnt do enough to win on Sunday, but he also questioned how Hickox makes that kind of call when every TV replay showed it to be an extremely close play while the umpire relayed to the manager that it wasnt even close.

Francona protested the call a bit, but seemed to reel it in a little after his histrionics got the Sox skipper tossed from Saturday nights game after he protested a call at home plate that the umps ultimately got right.

I really thought he grazed the bag. But it doesnt matter what I think, said Terry Francona. I think you have to be pretty sure on that one if youre going to make a call like that. After you look at the replay, I dont know how he can be sure.

Either way the Sox had six innings to reclaim the lead and dig out from under the three run deficit caused by the third inning of errors and discontent, but they just werent able to do it against a Mariners team that seems to be gathering a little momentum.

Instead they were left with the losers lament of complaining about an umpires blown call once the game was decided.

Jonathan Papelbon ended the weekend having converted each of his last 22 save opportunities dating back to May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the American League behind Jose Valverde and his 35 straight saves.

Sox manager Terry Francona continues to employ Darnell McDonald against left-handed pitching in something of a strict right field platoon with lefty-swinging rookie Josh Reddick, but it may be time to see if Reddick can handle full-time duty against pitchers of either persuasion. Reddick is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with a home run in very limited at bats against southpaws while McDonald ending the weekend with a .176 batting average and is struggling in a major way offensively. Combine that with the difficulty Mike Aviles has shown attempting to track down fly balls in the outfield, and its an idea worth exploring.

Dustin Pedroia doesnt get to hit there very often, but the numbers are off the charts when the Sox second baseman bats in the cleanup spot throughout his career. Customarily the No. 2 hitter in Bostons lineup, Pedroia has hit safely in all 10 career starts in the cleanup position and is hitting .500 (22-for-44) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 11 RBI in those 10 games. More importantly the Red Sox are also 8-2 in those 10 games and are 5-1 in six games with Pedroia in the No. 4 hole this season.

Kevin Youkilis said that his lower back is still feeling tight after he returned to the Sox starting lineup on Sunday afternoon, and slammed his 17th home run of the season in the loss. Youkilis missed two games with a stiff back that first cropped up during the Minnesota series. The infielder indicated that his back felt better than it had the previous two games, but that he was also ready to get back into the lineup after watching his teammates fall on Saturday night. Youkilis said the day off on Monday should help things considerably and that hed be ready to play against the Rays at Fenway on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz is about half-way through the progression from a stress fracture in his back, and he said on Sunday morning that hes hoping to start throwing a baseball again in the first or second week of September.

The timetable means Buchholz wont be able to build up arm strength in minor league rehab assignments as their seasons end in early September. But that doesnt necessarily rule out a return in some form or fashion.

The right-hander said he still hasnt discussed a potential role in the bullpen for the postseason if time runs out to build up his arm up for a potential starting role. He said that should be something on the agenda for discussion once a throwing program has begun.

Ill do whatever they want me to do whether its starting or relieving, or whatever, said Buchholz. Im just glad the core strengthening exercises are working, and Im starting to feel like my back is healing.

Buchholz hasnt pitched since a five inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 16 that earned him his sixth win of the season, and any setbacks at all would likely spell the end of the season for the lithe righty.

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

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, citing "six people who witnessed . . . the incident", provided details Sunday of the confrontation between current Red Sox pitcher David Price and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, now a part-time member of the Sox broadcast team, on a recent team flight from Boston to Toronto.

As earlier reported, Price berated Eckersley over innocuous on-air comments by Eck regarding a rehab start by Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. From Shaughnessy:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

When Price was asked about it the next day, he said only, “Some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.’’

Price later said he was merely standing up for his teammates and "[whatever] crap I catch for that, I’m fine with it.’’

Shaughnessy, citing "three people close to Eckersley," reported that neither Price nor manager John Farrell has apologized to Eckersley.

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

WATCH: Did Sox make right move? / BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: On Devers

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.