Boston Red Sox

Sox get Millwood, Morales in flurry of moves

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Sox get Millwood, Morales in flurry of moves

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The game itself -- featuring a blown two-run lead in the top of the eighth, followed in short order by a walkoffrally in the bottom of the ninth -- was crazy enough.

But in the aftermath the 4-3 Red Sox' victory, their sixth straight -- and third straight secured in their final at-bat -- things got really chaotic.

It was then that the Red Sox:

Confirmed the signing of veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood to a minor-league deal.

Announced the acquisition of lefty reliever Franklin Morales from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.

Designated left-hander Hideki Okajima for assignment to clear space for Morales on the 40-man roster.

Prepared to make two more roster moves Friday before the start of a weekend interleague series with the Chicago Cubs, one of which will involve sending shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias back to Pawtucket.

Millwood will report to the team's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., with an eye toward providing additional starting depth for a team which earlier this week placed two starters -- John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- on the disabled list.

Last month, Millwood pitched in the New York Yankees' system with mixed results (a 4.50 ERA in three minor league starts), but opted out of his deal May 1 when the Yankees didn't promote him to the big-league roster.

Should he join the Red Sox, Millwood is scheduled to make 500,000 plus additional performance bonuses.

Millwood last pitched in the big leagues in 2010, when he went 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA.

Of more long-term interest to the Red Sox is Morales, who only a few seasons ago was regarded as one of the top young pitching prospects in the game.

As a 21-year old, Morales was tagged by the Sox for seven runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. He later tossed 2 13 innings of scoreless relief in Game 3.

In 102 games -- mostly as a reliever -- over five seasons, Morales is 7-11 with a 4.83 ERA. He's averaged more than a strikeout per inning in 2009, but has also had difficulty commanding his pitches, resulting in a 5.3 walks-per-nine-innings ratio.

"The key is to get him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes," said general manager Theo Epstein. "He's tough to hit. He's a very hard thrower. When he throws strikes, he's hard to hit. He's been a little erratic with his strike-throwing, but I think there's a chance to capture some upside there. He makes some sense for us."

Morales will team with Rich Hill to give the Sox two lefties in the bullpen.

The Sox have 10 days to trade, release or place Okajima on waivers.

His salary of 1.75 million may make him difficult to move, as teams generally prefer more inexpensive costs at the set-up and middle-inning roles.

Should the Sox not find a deal for him, it's possible that Okajima's salary would preclude him from being claimed on waivers. If Okajima clears waivers, he could remain in the organization. He began the year at Pawtucket before being recalled in mid-April.

Okajima, 35, was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in seven games with the Sox this season, his fifth in Boston. In his first three years with the Sox, he averaged 66 appearances and was a key member of the bullpen.

But injuries and ineffectiveness reduced his role in 2010 and it was a surprise to many when, after non-tendering him last fall, the Sox chose to re-sign him in January.

Okajima was warming in the bullpen in the ninth inning and would have pitched the 10th inning Thursday night had not the Sox won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

"It's my first time in this situation," said Okajima through a club interpreter, "so I'm not sure of what happens next . . . Having re-signed with Boston during the offseason, it is disappointing that this is happening, but signing here was not a mistake. I am very grateful to the opportunity the Red Sox have given me over five years."

Finally, the Sox will make two most roster moves Friday: shortstop Jose Iglesias will be optioned to Pawtucket and replaced on the Boston roster by utility man Drew Sutton; also, Dan Wheeler will end his minor-league rehab assignment and be activated, with Michael Bowden, promoted from Pawtucket Tuesday, being returned to Triple A.

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

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

MORE:

The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.