Notes: Ortiz returns, makes immediate impact

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Notes: Ortiz returns, makes immediate impact

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- David Ortiz, after missing a week with heel bursitis, returned to the Red Sox lineup Wednesday night and didn't take long to make his impact felt.

Ortiz singled to right in the top of the first, driving in Adrian Gonzalez. He then scored all the way from first on a double by Carl Crawford, immediately putting his heel to the test.

"Everything went good," said Ortiz. "It didn't bother me at all. I was a little (hesitant). When I was running to the plate, I told myself to let it go and see how it felt. It felt fine."

"When you're in there, you're in there," cracked Francona of the first inning tour around the bases. "He was ready to go. That was a good test."

Ortiz later added a double to lead off the fifth inning and after moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, scored on a sacrifice fly.

Apart from running the bases well, Ortiz didn't look like he had missed any time at the plate, even though this was his first game back in the lineup since Aug. 14.

"It was one of those days when you come back and you haven't played in a while," said Ortiz. "I kept getting work in so I could stay as close to I where I wanted to be."

He did something with it, too. He didn't go out there and start getting lazy with the strike zone. He pumped strikes, used all his pitches and kept them off the scoreboard.

Before Wednesday night, Josh Beckett had been the recipient of some of the worst run support among American League starters, with hitters backing him with an average of 3.73 runs per game, a figure that translated to 10th worst in the league.

It was a nice change, then, when the Red Sox exploded for four runs in the top of the first, then added solo runs in the second and fourth to spot Beckett a 6-0 lead.

The 11 runs the Sox scored with Beckett in the game was the most he had to work with since May 18, 2008 against Milwaukee.

"He did something with it, too," said Francona. "He didn't go out there and start getting lazy with the strike zone. He pumped strikes, used all his pitches and kept them off the scoreboard."

"The guys had a pretty good approach against (Texas starter Matt Harrison)," said Beckett. "It was nice."

Beckett battled the elements in the bottom of the first, walking two hitters in part because strong gusts of winds were whipping through the ballpark, making it impossible for him to control his pitches.

"It was not only messing with my body," said Beckett, "but also, my ball was moving all over the place. It was just kind of hard to hone that it."

Carl Crawford tied a career high with five RBIs, accomplished twice before. Crawford doubled home two in the first, hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth and added a two-run line drive homer to right-center in the seventh.

Francona said he noticed Crawford doing a better job in getting his right foot planted, which the outfielder uses as a timing mechanism in his at-bats.

"He got his foot down on time," said Francona. "He got loaded and you can see what he does. It's exciting. When he hits, sometimes that foot doesn't get down. He knows it. All hitters know it.

"When it gets down (in time) -- and that's a lot easier said than done -- you can see what happens. He's on time instead of being late and having to take that (defensive) swing."

Crawford, who's hit safely in all seven games on the road trip, also credits better discipline at the plate.

"I'm just trying to swing at strikes," he said. "I've been focusing a little bit more and zoning in on the pitcher. I'm really just trying to swing at good pitches. I got into a (bad) habit of swinging at bad pitches. I'm just trying to get a pitch to hit."

Andrew Miller had to wait several weeks for his last start. His next one, in the series finale Thursday night, will come much sooner.

Miller is being inserted into the rotation for another spot start, in order to give Jon Lester an extra day of rest before his next start and to shift Tim Wakefield's next start at Fenway, rather than The Ballpark in Arlington.

Last Friday in Kansas City, Miller showed no ill effects of the long layoff, allowing just one run on three hits in 5 13 innings in a 7-1 Red Sox win over the Royals.

"Whenever I get the opportunity, I'll take it," said Miller. "I'm just here to help us win games. It doesn't matter when the opportunity comes.

"I obviously had a little bit of doubt going into that last one because it seemed like it had been so long, but I obviously got over that pretty quick. That's certainly not an aspect I have going into this one. I'm not worried about knocking any rust off in this one."

Miller, who has had difficulty with his command throughout his pro career, made some small corrections to his mechanics which seemed to pay immediate dividends.

"He's tried to make some adjustments with his stride," said Francona, "so the ball comes out of his arm crisp. But sometimes taking that into the game isn't the easiest thing to do in the middle of the year."

"I'm pretty comfortable with the way I threw the ball the other day," said Miller, "so I'm just trying to carry it over.
You try to get better every time out."

Miller hasn't faced the Rangers since throwing an inning in relief against them on Sept. 13, 2006.

Bobby Jenks, who has been in Fort Myers after making his third trip to the DL this season, will pitch for a minor league
affiliate Saturday.

Exactly where that is will likely be dictated by the weather and Hurricane Irene.

"We'll get it figured out," said Francona.

The plan is then to have Jenks make two more appearances for an affiliate before being activated Sept. 1 -- when rosters expand -- or soon thereafter.

Kevin Youkilis (back) continues to ramp up his cardio activity at Fenway, with an aim toward re-starting baseball activity when the Sox return to Boston.

Youkilis is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, Sept. 2. Francona said he thought the third baseman could be activated without a rehab stint, but that decision won't be made until next week.

J.D. Drew returned to Boston Wednesday and will take batting practice Thursday at Fenway before beginning a weekend assignment with Lowell on Friday

Tim Wakefield (Friday's starter) and Jon Lester (Saturday's starter) will fly back to Boston Thursday to avoid getting back to Boston at 5 a.m. with the team charter.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban visited the Red Sox clubhouse early Wednesday afternoon and met with Francona and some players.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

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Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.