Boston Red Sox

Notes: Sox again cross paths with Wily Mo

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Notes: Sox again cross paths with Wily Mo

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Wily Mo Pena will always be the hulking reminder of a Theo Epstein trade that never quite panned out.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound right-handed slugger was always something of a tease, given that his athletic combination of physical strength and speed were unrivaled in the big leagues when he first came up with the Cincinnati Reds system.

Epstein was intrigued by the prospects of Pena turning into a home-run hitting monster at Fenway Park, and dealt crooning right-hander Bronson Arroyo to the Reds in exchange for the pile of baseball potential.

Unfortunately, Pena never fully developed offensively -- he had, and has, exploitable weaknesses at the plate -- and his outfield defense wasis a disaster, making him a natural for the designated-hitter role. The problem in Boston, of course, is that David Ortiz is the DH.

So, after nearly two full seasons and just about 500 at-bats, Epstein admitted his mistake and sent Pena to the Washington Nationals in August 2007. Wily Mo has kicked around the big leagues ever sunce, getting playing time with the Nationals and Diamondbacks, and he popped up with Seattle on Saturday night after Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a fractured nose suffered on a bad-hop ground ball Friday.

While Pena will be remembered more for untapped potential than anything else during his time in Boston, manager Terry Francona clearly remembers Pena's prodigious power.

Its silly . . . Wily Mos power is off the charts, said Francona. Oh, boy . . . some of the home runs he hit. He hit a ball in Baltimore . . . it won the game for us . . . It was a day when the wind was blowing and I couldn't imagine someone hitting a home run that day.

As always, Pena, now 29, put on a display during batting practice, and he exchanged hugs with Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and other members of the Sox that were around during his time in Boston.

But during the game he also looked like his normal self, showing an inability to consistently hit the breaking stuff while going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in Seattles 5-4 win at Safeco Field.

Josh Beckett has recorded at least one strikeout in each of his 272 career games, the longest active streak in the majors.

Red Sox 1986 postseason hero Dave Henderson made the rounds in the Safeco Field press box during Saturday nights game with his trademark smile and sense of humor. Henderson does television and radio for the Mariners, the team that traded him to Boston in the summer of '86.

Francona was ejected by home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger in the top of the fourth inning after the umpiring crew overturned a Jacoby Ellsbury play at the plate they originally called safe. A run was put on the board when Ripperger ruled that catcher Josh Bard didnt hang on to Ichiro Suzukis throw from right field as Ellsbury attempted to score, but, after a conference among the crew, they called Ellsbury out and took the run away.

Replays showed that Bard -- who caught a knee to the face in the collision with Ellsbury -- didn't drop the ball, but was transfering it from the glove to his bare hand to show he had possession. Ellsbury said after the game he thought he was out.

Francona, who said he knew hed be ejected the minute he stormed onto the field, never got an explanation as to why the call was changed.

I wasnt even really listening, said Francona, who seemed to know that replays showed Ellsbury was out. I think the umpire thought he was looking in the glove and the ball was in his hand. I just couldnt understand why the home-plate ump couldnt explain it to me. It was his call. Theyre so protective of the young guys. If the ump has an ability to make the call, then explain the call to me.

It was Franconas 33rd career ejection and his fourth this season.

It looked like Bard held onto the ball during the tag and he pulled out his bare hand to show it, said Ellsbury. From my angle it looked like the ump got the call right, you know?

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

Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

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Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

BALTIMORE — If you suspected Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee created a residual effect with his mechanics as he struggled in the second half, you were correct. 

It was here in Baltimore on June 1 that Eduardo Rodriguez hurt his right knee, suffering another subluxation, which he’s prone to. Once he came back — a month and a half later, after the All-Star Break — his performances didn’t match the competency he’d shown pre-injury.

Through the first nine starts back, Rodriguez had a 5.47 ERA. He appeared clearly outside of the playoff rotation picture.

The last three outings have left a different impression, and are a product of improved mechanics. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez is lifting  right leg, his lead leg, higher now.

“I think Eddy’s regained more confidence physically over his last three starts,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “We’ve seen a better delivery. Really since he had come back the injury here, a little bit of abbreviated leg lift. He finally got a little more confidence in picking that knee up and getting a little more drive from his lower half. I think that’s made a huge difference. He’s using his changeup more which is also a huge difference, but I think that lower half has allowed him to do that.”

Rodriguez has a 2.55 September ERA. He has strikeout ability that could be appealing in a postseason setting, but he’s young and inexperienced compared to Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The fact he’s had confidence issues with his delivery could factor into how the Sox decide their playoff rotation, but his upside and strikeout potential are undeniable.

Rodriguez had a knee subluxation in 2016 that affected his mechanics for a time as well.

How often Carson Smith, David Price can throw could make or break Red Sox

How often Carson Smith, David Price can throw could make or break Red Sox

BOSTON — If we accept that pitching is to carry the Red Sox and that bullpens now dominate postseason pitching, a lot for the Sox could boil down to two pitchers, Carson Smith and David Price, and one word: frequency.

Make no mistake, the Red Sox do want Price to pitch like Andrew Miller. Sox manager John Farrell has been trying to soft peddle that idea, which makes some sense. Because what the team doesn’t know, as Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted to the Eagle Tribune, is how often Price can throw.

Price himself has described his physical situation as trial-and-error. The lefty could close on Wednesday night against the Orioles, potentially pitching with two days of rest after a very encouraging outing Sunday. (Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel were both unavailable Wednesday because of workload.)

When would Price next pitch? Can he get to a point where he can pitch in both Games 1 and 2 of an assumed American League Division Series? The same question looms for Smith, who’s making a late but tantalizing run at a bullpen spot.

(The Sox bullpen has been remarkably strong all year with different people cycling through, but its postseason look and usage are different matters.)

Smith, maybe more than Price, may be the biggest surprise as the postseason roster shapes up. For most of the season, it was easy to say, at some point, Smith will contribute. He was targeted for a June activation on the way back from Tommy John surgery. But after several delays, he had to be looked at as a bonus, if something works out. The trade for Reed underscored that.

But he’s back, and his last two outings have been hitless. 

Smith on Wednesday said he wasn’t thinking about the possibility of a postseason roster spot.

“We got a solid group of bullpen arms down there,” Smith said. “It may be a tough group to crack. … I know what I’m capable of, I know the pitcher I was prior to surgery, I know if I got to where I was, I know I can make a push. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on every day.”

Smith’s velocity on Monday was the best it’s been since his return, and velocity was what he was searching for in August while pitching with Triple-A Pawtucket. He earned a save for the Red Sox in Monday’s 11-inning, 10-8 win over the Orioles, with his sinker sitting at 93 mph, per BrooksBaseball.net.

What finally brought the velocity back?

“I’m sure there’s a little bit of extra adrenaline of being in a save opportunity,” Smith said. “That’s something that really hit home with me being a closer at one point in my career. I think with a day’s rest as well, I was beyond fresh after taking six days off. But I think mechanically, I’m sure there’s things that just clicked in that outing and I’m just going to try to focus on that and continue to do that.

“I knew [the velocity] was going to come back. I’ve pitched with 91, 92 mph … sometimes throughout my career. It’s not like I’m always a 94, 95 guy. So I know how to pitch 91, 92. That’s what I’m trying to do if 93, 94 isn’t there.”

Asked to record two outs on Tuesday, Smith wasn’t throwing quite as hard. But merely going back to back was an accomplishment considering his long road.

“I felt good,” Smith said. “I got a situation that [was] something I’ve been able to handle in my previous seasons. But I mean, it was a pretty comfortable situation with the two right-handed hitters and only two outs to get. It was a nice way to ease into back-to-back [games].”

Pitching coach Carl Willis feels like the Sox were smart not to push Smith too far or hard throughout his rehab process. 

In a way, that’s the approach the Sox are taking with Price: a conservative one, by not asking him to build up as a starter.

How often both pitchers can throw could be the key to October.

“It’s been a long haul and there have been times he’s gotten right up to the door of being ready to be active and we’ve had to take a step back,” Willis said of Smith. “As frustrating as that was for him particularly, I think, we’re seeing the benefits of that now. And just doing right and doing what's right by him and not pushing him.”