PawSox notes: Atchison shines in emergency start

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PawSox notes: Atchison shines in emergency start

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

PAWTUCKET, R.I. Right-hander Scott Atchison was a last-minute replacement for starter Alfredo Aceves in the Pawtucket Red Sox' season-opening game at McCoy Stadium Thursday night, and was more than up to the challenge.

Aceves was scratched moments before game time because he was being recalled to Boston as a replacement for the injured Matt Albers (strained lat muscle). In stepped Atchison, and the veteran reliever went 4 23 innings, allowing just three hits and one run with no walks and eight strikeouts. He left with the PawSox trailing, 1-0, and wasn't involved in the decision as Pawtucket rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings.

Outstanding job by Atchison . . . with the short notice and then giving us almost five innings like that, said first-year PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. You just never know what youre going to get when a pitcher is pressed into service on short notice. But he did an outstanding job. He was very efficient, allowed us to extend him and win, lose, or draw in that game, we pitched very well.

Atchison threw 68 pitches, 49 for strikes.

We kind of had a pitch count in mind, Beyeler said. We were just going to kind of see what we could get. He was just being so efficient and getting some outs that we just kept going.

It was not an unfamiliar situation for Atchison. Last June 12 with the Red Sox he was called upon to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was a game-time scratch. Atchison went three innings against the Phillies that day and the Red Sox went on to win the game. It was his only start of the season, in 54 combined appearances between Pawtucket and Boston.

Well, Ive been through it before, he said. To be honest, as a starter -- before, when I was doing it when I was younger -- I always thought about it all day long, and I probably drove myself crazy with that.

"Thursday there wasnt near as much time to think about it. Just go out and make your pitches. I tried to treat it as similar to a relief appearance as I can. Im not going to go throw 45 to 50 pitches in the pen, like some starters do before their start. I just kind of go with how I would warm up to come in in the middle of an inning and go with that from the first and give it everything I got till I run out of gas.

The PawSox went ahead in the sixth on Juan Carlos Linares double off the outfield wall, 400 feet away in straightaway center, scoring Lars Anderson and Drew Sutton.

Hes a dangerous hitter, said Beyeler, who also had Linares last season in Portland. Hes a guy thats going to swing the bat. Hes an aggressive hitter. He got into one there.

Rich Hill earned the win, going 2 13 scorelessinnings, giving up three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. HidekiOkajima followed Hill, going one scoreless inning with one strikeout.Michael Bowden earned the save with a perfect ninth inning.

Shortstop phenom Jose Iglesias had two of the PawSox' hits, both singles.

Iggy did a good job tonight jumping on some fastballs, getting some hits and getting on base, Beyeler said. Its always good for the young guys to get off and get some good hits to start with, put the ball in play and feel like they belong up here.

PawSox and Red Wings pitchers combined for 23 strikeouts, 13 and 10 respectively. It was the most strikeouts by Pawtucket pitching since recording the same number on May 5, 2009.

Reliever Jason Rice was one of the extra players who joined the Red Sox on their trip to Houston before the start of the season on Texas. It was a great experience to go out there, he said. I got to chat with Tim Wakefield near the bucket during BP. It was amazing. I never understood how it is to travel with the big-league club, but from the bus to the plane, to the snacks going up and down the aisle, it was awesome, it was a great experience. I hope there are many more to come."

Rice, who was acquired in the Triple-A phase of the 2008 Rule 5 draft from the White Sox, turns 25 next month. He has never pitched above the Double-A level. Making the trip was an honor, he said. He was a non-roster invitee to spring training, his first big-league camp. Being around the major-league players, he said, was helpful.

Oh, a tremendous amount, he said. Just being around those guys, Wakefield and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon, he said. I got to chat with all of them at some point, and just to talk to them and ask them little things that might help me be successful. Im going to try to incorporate a little bit into my game this year and hopefully end up this year with them and win a championship with them.

With his build and delivery, Rice evokes memories of Tom Gordon. Mention this to Rice, and its sure to draw a smile. Gordon is his pitching idol.

I watched him a lot when he was with the Yankees and he set up for Mariano Rivera, and when he was with the Phillies, Rice said. He was hurt when he was Arizona a little bit. But I got to watch some film on him during spring training when he was with the White Sox, when he was a closer. I just wanted to see his curveball and his fastball and everything. I want to meet him one day if possible. But I do like to watch Flash Gordon throw the baseball.

Rice had 13 saves for Portland last season, finishing 44 games in his 48 appearances. He has not been told how hell be used this year, except out of the pen, and thats fine, he said.

Its not just the players who get pumped up for for Opening Day. Im really excited, said hitting coach Chili Davis before the game. Im as excited as these guys are. I went to bed last night thinking about it and I woke up this morning thinking about it.

This was Davis first season opener since 1999, when he was the Yankees designated hitter.

Davis had some words of optimism for those concerned about the Red Sox 0-6 start.

In 1991 the Twins started off 2-9, he said. We did all right that year.

Davis and the Twins won the World Series in 1991.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

David Price may have allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night during his second rehab start in Triple-A, but the Red Sox apparently liked what they saw.

MORE ON PRICE

Manager John Farrell announced moments ago that Price will rejoin the Red Sox Monday and start that day's game in Chicago against the White Sox. Farrell said the Sox were more concerned with how Price felt physically after his rehab start, not the results, and they're satisfied he's ready to return.

More to come . . . 

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design


BOSTON - The Red Sox aren’t hitting for power as much as they’re expected to and they’re striking out less than anyone. Far less.
 
So, maybe they should just swing harder? 
 
It’s not that simple, considering they have the second-best batting average in the majors, .271, and the third-best on-base percentage, .342.
 
Entering Thursday, the Sox had 300 strikeouts, 34 fewer than the 29th team on the list, the Mets. (The Mets have also played 34 games, while the Sox have already played 36.)
 
In April, when this trend was already evident, Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis was asked if the lack of strikeouts were by design.
 
“I don’t think it’s purposeful,” Davis said. “But that can be a good thing and it could be a bad thing. You know, to me striking out is never good, but it’s how you strike out that matters to me. 
 
“You chase pitches early and you put a guy in a two-strike count and allow him to use his strikeout pitch or his finish pitch, it’s not a good way to strike out. If you’er battling, if you’re taking good swings at pitches, or if the guy’s making pitches, different story. Not striking out because you understand you’re still getting to have a quality at-bat.
 
“To be honest with you, there are guys in certain situations I’d rather see 'em strike out, believe me. And it kind of sounds stupid.”
 
No, it doesn’t. Because in the Moneyball era people started to widely understand that with runners on, a strikeout can be a better outcome than simply putting the ball in play because of the double-play possibility. One out on a swing [or no swing] is a lot better than two.
 
“Exactly,” Davis said. “In a double-play situation, with a big slow guy running and two strikes on him, and he just put the ball in play, he’s done exactly what they wanted him to do.”
 
What a coincidence: the Sox have grounded into more double plays than all but two teams. They’re tied with the Blue Jays with 51, trailing the Astros’ 54.
 
Last year, the Sox had the eighth-most double plays and the fourth-fewest strikeouts. But they also led the majors in slugging percentage, whereas this year they’re in the bottom third. (They’ve perked up in May.)
 
“I don’t think they’re necessarily swinging to not strike out,” Davis said in April. “But, I think the home runs haven’t come because you know, I don’t think we’ve actually gotten on track yet as an offense the way we would like to.”
 
Davis cited the weather, which in Boston has continued to be chilly even into May. Hitters have noted the weather too, but that only goes so far.
 
Sox manager John Farrell on Wednesday noted the team’s draft philosophy.
 
“If you go back to the origin of the players that are here, a lot of them came through our draft and our system,” Farrell said. “So there was a conscious effort to get the more rounded athlete, not a one-dimensional player...Throughout their minor league career, there’s great emphasis on strike-zone discipline, understanding your limits within the zone. That’s not to suggest you’re going to forfeit the power that you have, but to be a more complete hitter, I think that’s going to win you championships rather than being one dimensional.”
 
But much of this year’s lineup is the same as last year’s.
 
In 2017, the Sox are swinging at 44.2 percent of pitches, fewer than all but four teams. Last year, they swung at 44.3 percent of pitches, second-to-last. So, that hasn’t changed.
 
Last year, their contact rate was 81.6 percent, highest in the majors. This year, it’s the second-highest, 80.1. That hasn’t really changed either.
 
Maybe the process hasn’t in fact changed much at all, in fact — but the outcomes are looking different because that’s how it goes sometimes. At the least, it’s something to keep an eye on as the year progresses.