Red Sox notes: Pedroia back in MVP form

191542.jpg

Red Sox notes: Pedroia back in MVP form

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Returning from the season-opening six-game road trip, Dustin Pedroia was hitting just .227 (5-for-22) with no walks, five strikeouts, and no extra-base hits. In two games against the Yankees he is 6-for-9 with three doubles, a home run, three runs scored, and five RBI in the series, raising his average 128 points to .355.

On Saturday he went 3-for-4, with three doubles, a run scored, two RBI and a walk.

Manager Terry Francona figured it would just be a matter of time before Pedroia got hot.

Well, I dont think theres ever day where I feel like hes not going to get hot, Francona said. Today was impressive. The out he made a flyball to end the sixth, he hit hard to center field. I think I feel like that every day.

"I was expecting it," said Adrian Gonzalez of Pedroias outburst. "He's an MVP. He's as good as they come."

It was the ninth time in his career Pedroia has three or more hits in consecutive games. The last time was July 8 and 9, 2009, against Oakland and Kansas City. His three doubles Saturday tie his career high, with April 22, 2008, against the Angels.

Left-hander Felix Doubront, activated from the disabled list Friday (elbow tightness), made his season debut, going 1 13 innings, giving up two runs on three hits with one strikeout. He also gave up a two-run home run to Curtis Granderson in the fifth.

He let Granderson get his arms extended, Francona said. I thought the ball came out of his hand pretty well. I think, again, I think this kids future is bright as can be. There may be a little bit of rust there. I just think we still really like this kid. Were going to keep an eye on him and not try to abuse him we dont want to abuse anybody. But were going to try to use him appropriately. But as he settles in hell really help us like he did last year.

Doubront did not pitch in a game in spring training because of his elbow.

Jed Lowrie started at shortstop and went 3-for-4. It was just his second start of the season. In just 11 at-bats, he has four hits, for a .364 average.

Youve got to take a lot of swings and stay sharp, he said. Even sitting on the bench I take swings off a tee. Try to stay sharp so when Im out there Ill be as ready as can be.

J.D. Drew has a five-game hitting streak, going 6-for-16 in that stretch. He is hitting .316.

Kevin Youkilis snapped an 0-for-17 slide with a fifth-inning single. He is hitting .125, but has reached base in six of eight games this season.

Carl Crawford went 1-for-5, getting his first hit at his new home park.

Red Sox pitchers have allowed a combined 19 home runs in eight games this season.

UConn mens basketball coach Jim Calhoun threw out the first pitch before Saturdays game, with Francona doing the catching.

"To come back home is really nice, and to come back home under these circumstances is even nicer," said Calhoun, who grew up in Braintree and coached for Braintree High and Dedham High before moving on to the college ranks. "I can't believe the number of people I saw. Just coming down from the stands and just flowing, people I haven't seen in 30 or 40 years."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz’s first start in a Boston uniform of at least six innings and three hits or fewer came Wednesday night, 364 days after his first start with the Red Sox following a trade with the Padres last July.

The lefty’s consistency this season has been one of the most pleasant surprises, and ultimately a stabilizing force in the Boston rotation. The Red Sox are 9-2 in his last 11 starts and he’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven now. His ERA in that span is 2.13.

"I had a good year last year, but I feel really good this year with all my pitches," Pomeranz said. "I feel really good with all my pitches on both sides of the plate, which is something I've never really had before. I've made some adjustments mechanically, where I am on the rubber and things. Just really tried to focus on pitching arm-side with everything, which I was always good on glove side. I think that has helped me put this string together."

The rotation is deep. Deep enough that the Sox are slotting in seven pitchers in a seven-game stretch. Somehow, there were eight starting pitchers on the Red Sox roster Tuesday. One of them, Brian Johnson, started in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays that took 15 innings, and another, Hector Velazquez, finished it out in extras.

Both Johnson and Velazquez went to the minors on Wednesday when the Sox added Ben Taylor and Kyle Martin to the bullpen, the latter getting to the big leagues for the first time. 

But the contributions of Johnson and Velazquez on Tuesday, followed up by Pomeranz’s work on Wednesday, are indicative of an increasing strength for the 2017 Sox: not just the very top of the rotation, but its depth.

That depth, you’ll recall, was never assured. Far, far from it. 

David Price was injured at year’s start. Pomeranz’s health was in question to begin the year. 

Steven Wright was lost for the season. Velazquez’s first big league start looked bad. Kyle Kendrick’s time in the majors did not go well. Eduardo Rodriguez was lost for a month and a half because of a knee injury.

Yet the Red Sox entered Wednesday with the third-best rotation ERA in the American League, 4.09. Chris Sale and Price are as frightening a potential playoff one-two punch as you can find. 

There's a lot more going on.

“There’s always the adage you never have enough pitching and certainly when you start Brian Johnson, what’s he had, four major league starts in his career?” Pitching coach Carl Willis said before Johnson’s start Tuesday. “So, while there’s still a certain amount of inexperience there, we’ve seen the ability play out. We’ve seen him go out and throw a nine inning shutout here in Fenway Park. Hector Velazquez has stepped in a couple of situations and pitched very well his second time back with the club and Doug Fister is a guy who has had some very very good years. 

“And while he’s maybe not exactly the same guy he was six, seven years ago, he’s still a guy with four pitches and he understands how to pitch, how to change speeds. So you know, when you look at the front end with Sale, with Price throwing as he is, with Pomeranz throwing as he is now, getting Eddy back, it’s a very very talented group of guys that we feel very confident in.”

Price, somehow, is throwing harder this year than last.

“You know, I can’t tell you 100 percent the reason why,” Willis said. “I think some of it is his possibly attributed to when you have an injury, the rehab process and how the throwing is monitored and the strengthening factor of that rehab process is, I think, so much more intensified or detailed because you’re dealing with certain specific areas. 

“I really think, you know, it’s a byproduct of those things, and it’s been a pleasure to watch. Obviously, he was dominating on Sunday night in a game that we really needed a performance like that. It gives you. A lot of optimism going forward to see him throw the baseball like that.”

Porcello seems to have righted the ship, with a 3.31 ERA in his last five starts.

“I do [think he’s turned a corner],” Willis said. “I felt for a while that he was close, that he was making small steps getting there. We’re seeing much better command now at the bottom of the strike zone, and that allows him to at times then elevate. But it starts with the bottom of the zone, and I think he’s in a place right now, we’re starting to see that consistency of that.

"And when he does that, hey, he’s still a contact-oriented pitcher and there are going to be ground balls and there are going to be some hits. But that’s who he is, and he can be successful that way, as we’ve seen. And I think he’s at that point right now."

Throw in the healthy return of Rodriguez and the continued success of Pomeranz and extras like Fister, Johnson and Velazquez, the Red Sox have choices. Options.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski arguably took a risk when he dealt away, of all people, Clay Buchholz. Buchholz, of course, wound up needing surgery once he got to the Phillies.

But the Sox pitching situation felt far from comfortable to begin the year, for one reason or another. It's comfy now — about as comfy as can be, anyway. And Dombrowski and the Red Sox, from the medical staff to the coaching staff to the pitchers themselves, deserve credit for getting to this point.