First Pitch: Wednesday, September 7

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First Pitch: Wednesday, September 7

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Tuesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES: On Monday, the Red Sox were worried that Josh Beckett's season might be over. On Tuesday, they discovered his ankle injury shouldn't be a long-term concern and that he'll probably be back in the rotation soon.

On Monday, their recently sputtering offense completely shut down in a 1-0, 11-inning loss to the Blue Jays. On Tuesday, it roared back to life with a 20-hit attack in a 14-0 romp at Toronto.

(Both stories csnne.com.)

So things are a little brighter on this wet morning in Red Sox Nation; historic outbursts have a way of making the grayest days seem, well, not so bad. (ESPN Boston) But Tony Massarotti warns us that if Beckett's ankle is any kind of a problem, all postseason bets are off. (boston.com)

NO WORRIES HERE: At least Jon Lester is healthy. And dominant. (csnne.com)

NINE TO GO: Bill Chuck's Nation STATion looks at nine things to watch for in the season's final weeks. (csnne.com)

RAIN MEN: When it gets to this point in the season, MLB -- and not the individual teams -- decides whether or not to postpone games because of rain. (The fear is that teams will attempt to use postponements as a way to manipulate the schedule in their favor.) And thus the Yankees and Orioles waited nearly four hours, through monsoon-like conditions, to start their game last night, with the first pitch coming at 11:08 p.m. But the Yanks were happy when it was over, both because of a 5-3 win that enabled them to maintain their 2 12-game lead over the Red Sox (New York Daily News) and because they avoided a doubleheader today. (New York Post) "We want to play because the last thing we want is anotherdoubleheader," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said at 4 p.m., and 10 hours later he hadn't changed his tune. "Doubleheaders are hard on you, and now that's it'sover I'm glad it's done," said Girardi after the 2:15 a.m. ending.

The Yanks, to their credit, offered free tickets for a game next year to anyone holding tickets last night. (New York Daily News) But Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post spoke for all of us when he railed against the absurdity of it all.

LET'S NOT GO OVERBOARD, SHALL WE? Vaccaro also rained a little on the Jesus Montero parade.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: You generally don't consider Yankee fans to be rebels, but one of them is fighting to bring down Moammar Gadhafi. (thepostgame.com)

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: Apparently, news of the injuries to Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard brought great joy to the Rays -- who still think they can catch the Red Sox for the wild card -- but an 8-0 loss to the Rangers sent them crashing back to Earth (St. Petersburg Times) . . . The only question remaining in Baltimore is whether or not the Orioles can avoid a 100-loss season. (Baltimore Sun)

HOW CAN THIS BE? Anyone who's watched C.J. Wilson against the Red Sox will be astounded to learn that last night's blanking of the Rays was his first shutout of the season. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

GIANT DISAPPOINTMENT: San Francisco's reign as World Series champion is coming to an end with a whimper, not a bang, because of injuries and a punchless offense. (si.com) Cbssports.com's Scott Miller thinks it's amazing the Giants were in first place as long as they were with a hitting attack this bad.

WE'LL TAKE EXCITEMENT WHERE WE CAN GET IT: In the absence of any real pennant races, the eyes of the baseball world were focused on Steven Strasberg's return last night. He did well, too. (ESPN)

HELL, NO, I WON'T GO: What's holding up the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane? Apparently, Crane won't agree to move the team to the American League. (Fox Sports Houston)

OLD FRIENDS: Mike Cameron's moment of glory didn't last long. His ninth-inning double tied the Marlins' game against the Mets, but then he had to leave in the 11th because of a tight hamstring and Florida lost in 12 (Miami Herald) . . . David Murphy continued his hot hitting with a 4-for-4 performance in the Rangers' win over the Rays (ESPN Dallas) . . . This is a recording. Victor Martinez had three hits. This is a recording (Rotoworld) . . . Gil Velazquez, who had cups of coffee with the Red Sox in 2008 and '09 (and was actually on the Sox' playoff roster for their '08 ALDS meeting with the Angels), is back in the bigs with those same Angels (Los Angeles Times) . . . Jason Rice, traded by the Red Sox to the A's for Conor Jackson, was claimed on waivers by the Indians. (oakland.athletics.mlb.com)

AND FINALLY . . . You'd think Barry Bonds attempting to convince people he's a nice guy is the ultimate fantasy, but he's going to have his own reality show on the CW Network in which he'll attempt to do just that. (network.yardbarker.com)

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

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O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

BOSTON - Sean O'Sullivan -- and not Aaron Wilkerson -- is the Red Sox choice for Sunday's plug-in starter as the Sox search for a temporary replacement for Eduardo Rodriguez's spot in their starting rotation.
      
"That was the recommendation,'' said John Farrell of the choice to go with  O'Sullivan. "Granted, Wilkerson's been throwing the ball well there. But the recommendation was for Sean to come back here and pitch on Sunday.''
      
O'Sullivan made two starts earlier this season, allowing four runs in six innings to the New York Yankees on May 10 before being battered for six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings against Houston five days later.
      
Overall, O'Sullivan is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Pawsox this season.
      
Wilkerson, who was pitching in independent ball just two years ago, is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in eight appearances -- seven starts -- at Pawtucket.
      
O'Sullivan's stay with the Red Sox is expcted to be brief, since the Red Sox can through next week and first 10 days of the second half without a fifth starter.
      
"It's likely that spot will come up just once,'' confirmed Farrell. "With next Thursday's off-day, we've got a chance to make sure that [Rick] Porcello and [David] Price get on the mound before the break and that's the direction we're leaining in right now.''

Holt 'definitely happy' to be back with Red Sox

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Holt 'definitely happy' to be back with Red Sox

BOSTON -- After an absence of more than a month, Brock Holt was back in the Red Sox lineup Friday night, playing left field and batting sixth. Holt had been sidelined with a concussion he suffered in early May in a game against Oakland.

"It's good to see Brock back in the lineup,'' said John Farrell. "It will certainly allow for not only a left-handed bat in left field but also the ability to somewhat deepen our bench.''

"I feel good,' said Holt. "I've been working to get back here. Obviously, it took a lot longer than I had hoped, but I'm definitely happy to be back.''

This was the second concussion suffered by Holt, who also incurred one in September 2014. Holt was originally placed on the seven-day concussion DL on May 20 before later being transferred to the 15-day DL.

While on a rehab assignment in Pawtucket, Holt was still experiencing some slight post-concussion symptoms, but he and the club believe he's ready to return.

"There's still a little bit more to improve on,'' said Holt. "But I'm definitely feeling a lot better. In my rehab games down there, I was able to put together good at-bats and hit some balls hard, so that definitely gave me some confidence to take the next step.''

Holt said he occasionally feels "a little light-headedness. Sometimes it comes and goes; sometimes I don't feel it all. It's definitely a lot better than where it was and I feel confident in taking the next step and to come up here and contribute.''

Holt has been told the remaining symptoms will eventually dissipate.

"Then I'll be normal,'' he said. "It's just part of the process. Getting into rehab games was a big step. Now, getting back here is the next step. As long as I just keep doing what I'm doing, it should be normal.''

It's uncertain how regularly Holt can play, but the Red Sox will ease him back into an everyday routine.

"He'll be checked on daily,'' said Farrell, "The progression that he's come through, we know there's going to be diminshing symptoms as we go along. The plan right now is for him to play tonight and Sunday against two right-handers. Beyond that, we'll continue to monitor his availability and check on him every day.''