Sox notes: Francona shuffles starters

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Sox notes: Francona shuffles starters

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Because of the 13-inning game that took almost eight hours to complete over Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is shuffling his starting rotation.

Tim Wakefield started Friday against the Twins on what would have been Daisuke Matsuzaka's regular day, Clay Buchholz starts Saturday, with Matsuzaka starting Sunday, and Josh Beckett pitching the finale of the four-game set. Jon Lester and John Lackey will start the two games in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The Sox have an off-day on May 12, their first since April 25. The rotation tweaking allows Francona to give his starters some rest before then.

"We have a chance to maybe give Lester an extra day or two and also align the rotation going forward. So it kind of kills all the birds with one stone," Francona said. "It was just a chance to give us a couple of days."

Lester's last start was May 3, giving him two extra days of rest.

"Not really that he needs a break. I think it's good for him," Francona said. "I think we do try to listen to him and talk to him and find out how we can help or when we can help because I think sometimes we think we're helping and we get in the way. We don't want to do that. When we talked to him about this I think he was on board with it so it seems like it makes sense."

Matsuzaka's regular day would have been Friday. But after pitching an inning of relief in the marathon game, and taking the loss, Francona decided to push him back. Matsuzaka left after facing one batter in the fifth inning of his last start, on April 29, said he expects to be 100 percent by Sunday.

"My elbow is getting better, gradually getting better," he said through a team interpreter. "So, as the game is scheduled, I will be ready for the game."

Matsuzaka was not surprised that he was pressed into duty on Thursday morning. He said he expected at some point in his career he would have to make a relief appearance. But it was a somewhat difficult experience for him.

"It's actually difficult to get ready as a relief pitcher, and I knew that they wouldn't have enough time, I wouldn't have enough time to get ready," he said. "So that was difficult. But all I did was just try to get focused on getting ready and throw just like regular outings.

"At the same time," he said through another team interpreter, "just because there was no extra room to think about it which is why he could at least a little bit focus to do things he needed to do to get ready for the game."

The Sox lost their fourth straight game, falling to 3-6 over the first
eight games of the 11-game homestand. In their three losses, they have been
outscored 34-7.

Boston pitchers balked in two runs in the game. The Sox had not balked twice in a game since Casey Fossum and Willie Banks did so on Oct. 2, 2001. It is the first time since 1949 they balked in two runs. It is the first time since 1992 any team has balked in two runs in a game.

Alfredo Aceves went 4 23 innings, his longest outing since going six innings on Sept. 20, 2008, against the Orioles while with the Yankees.

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 15 games. He is batting .359, 23-for-64 in that span. It is the longest current streak in the American League and longest by a Sox batter this season.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

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

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.