Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

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Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

BOSTON Red Sox starting pitching has been dreadful lately. In the last 11 games they have put together a combined 8.88 ERA, going 1-10, averaging just over 4 23 innings. In their last 13 games, Sox pitchers have allowed opponents to score first in 11.

Daisuke Matsuzaka lowered that with his performance on Saturday, lasting just 1 13 innings, giving up five earned runs. It was the shortest outing by a starting pitcher since Matsuzaka lasted just one inning against the As on July 2.

Felix Doubront lasted just four innings, giving up five earned runs on Friday. In his first full major league season, the left-hander hast thrown 134 23 innings, an increase of more than 50 percent over the 87 23 he threw last season.

And Franklin Morales, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24 with left shoulder inflammation, is going to have his shoulder examined.

Leaving manager Bobby Valentine with no shortage of issues and questions:

Should Matsuzaka stay in the rotation?

Im not sure, Valentine said. Going to see. Have some meetings here with him, too. He was very disappointed yesterday. So was I.

"I was disappointed he didn't come out the second inning throwing the way he threw the first inning. Theres got to be a way of replicating."

Valentine said he does not think Matsuzakas struggles are related to the Tommy John surgery the right-hander underwent in June 2010.

Should Doubront be shut down or rested?

He feels really good, Valentine said. Says he feels healthy. Going to see what the bullpen session looks like on Monday.

Will Franklin Morales, who had some shoulder fatigue at the beginning of spring training, return?

Hes a little hesitant right now because he doesnt feel a hundred percent strengthwise, Valentine said. So hes on a real holding pattern.

At the beginning of spring training he didn't feel it but the training room felt there might have been a little weakness. I think right now he justtalking with him he just doesnt feel a hundred percent. He thinks he can pitch and he thinks he can throw and hes throwing long toss but this time of season if a guy has any qualms about his condition I out it on the backburner.

There really was never any red flags or deficiencies or a situation where he thought he had a situation.

The health is my first concern," Valentine said. If Felix is healthy, hell go back out there for sure, if theres no problem. And Daisuke we could replace with Alfredo Aceves, I would think, even if its onlyhe threw a hundred pitches over three or four days, which is a buildup, but he hasnt really pitched the consecutive innings.

The starting pitching has also been making it difficult on other aspects of the game. Allowing opponents to score first so frequently puts the offense in an early hole, from which it has had a difficult time climbing out.

Theyre elated of course, Valentine said. An offense plays best when theyre relaxed and they have a lead, and they are stressed when they have to come from behind. Right now, our offense without the power has a real problem coming back from behind because they get on the bases and theyre a little tentative and we have to move on the bases in order to score runs right now.

I think it begins with starting pitching, ends with relief pitching and you need the offense in the middle.

Without David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, the offense has been hamstrung be a lack of power.

Its hard to value that or weigh that but we are lacking the real threat of that home run guy, Valentine said. Most teams have a couple of them. Were lacking right now. We have guys who will hit home runs before the end of the year.

This season Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in the first, second, and third spots on the lineup. Sunday, he is batting sixth for the first time since 2009, with Ryan Kalish leading off.

Valentine is hoping the change might spark Ellsbury, who is hitting .257 this season and just .139 (5-for-36) with six strikeouts in his last nine games. But its not just about his spot in the lineup. Its also about those around him.

Im not dropping him, Valentine said. Im trying to mix the grouping up a little to see if we can get more runs on the board. Plus I want to see Kalish play a little early in the lineup.

Ellsbury is working real hard. Talking to him about hes feeling yesterday. Hes feeling good. At any time he can get hot as a firecracker. Hopefully today hell start getting hot.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who left Fridays game because of back spasms, was not in the lineup again today. With Mondays scheduled off-day, Valentine thought it would be wise to try to get Saltalamacchia, who has not taken batting practice, three consecutive days off.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.