Lavarnway 'focused' in his big league debut


Lavarnway 'focused' in his big league debut

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

KANSAS CITY Ryan Lavarnway knew this day was coming, given his strong minor-league season, but in words that Sox GM Theo Epstein must have loved to hear he also likes to keep his head out of the roster at the Major League level.

The 24-year-old catcherdesignated hitter was too busy putting up eye-popping power numbers at Triple-A to worry about the ifs, buts and when surrounding his big league debut, but he also admitted that the whirlwind day trip to Kansas City was a little nerve-wracking.

It was pretty bad on the plane . . . I had some knots in my stomach, said Lavarnway. Now that Im here its kinda back to business. Cage-work, batting practice and the routine is going to kind of help me get back into it.

It also sounds like the Yale-educated ballplayer is going to keep it simple, and thats likely what catcher Jason Varitek expressed to him in a lengthy meeting between all three catchers and Gary Tuck prior to the Thursdays series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

Lavarnway, serving as the designated hitter in David Ortiz' absence, batted seventh in his big-league debut and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. But his first game was a success anyway, as the Sox beat the Royals, 4-3.

Im trying to get focused and helping us to win the game tonight, Lavarnway said before the game. Trying to do what I do best. I have a middle-of-the-field approach and Im trying to drive the ball gap-to-gap.

Lavarnway was called up to Boston on Thursday morning when the Sox placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list with a strained or sprained lower back according to Sox manager Terry Francona. Randy Williams was designated for assignment to make room for Lavarnway on the 40-man roster. So the right-handed slugger, who swatted 30 home runs in 110 minor-league games this season and put up a .991 OPS in Pawtucket, is going to give a shot at injecting some punch into a Sox attack weakened without the dangerous bats of Ortiz and Youkilis.

Did the Sox skipper know Lavarnway would be knocking on the door after only a handful of at bats in spring training?

He went to Double-A and just mashed, and then did the same thing at Triple-A. Lavarnway just knocked the door down, said Francona.

It would be a welcomed sight if Lavarnway shows off some of the prodigious pop hes flashed all season in both Portland and Pawtucket. The scouting reports from the minor leagues have been off the charts this season for the rookie right-handed slugger, and its a big reason the Sox shut down all trade requests for Lavarnway prior to July 31.

Hes a tremendous hitter . . . especially for power. He started off in Double-A and continued up to Triple-A. Hes worked so hard on his catching, and I think at this point youd say he was an average catcher, said Francona. Thats where he has some work to do. He may not catch while hes here with us, but hopefully he hits a few home runs.

Sox officials expect Youkilis will be ready to rejoin the Sox once his 15 days on the disabled list are over, and perhaps the two weeks off will be beneficial for a player annoyed by nagging physical issues pretty much all season.

Structurally I think he came out of the testing pretty sound, and he had an injection, said Francona. Hell take some time to let that recover, and I think his body was so beat up anyway that the back was the last straw really put him over the edge. Were hoping this can allow him to be Kevin Youkilis again because I think after the game it was getting pretty obvious he needed to get it checked out.

So the Sox will be without both Youkilis and Ortiz heel for at least a week and perhaps longer Francona didnt rule out the DL for Ortiz if his heel doesnt improve and said that its up to the collective team to not let the injuries affect them.

Certainly players like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez will need to continue their MVP-level play, and a season underachiever like Carl Crawford would probably need to finally start carrying the team this season.

You lose one and its kind of a big deal, and you lose two and it doesnt help, said Francona. Our challenge is not let it affect us winning games. Thats what well do. Whether its having Pedroia batting cleanup or move Jed up to secondwhoever plays we need to win. Thats the idea.

The team effort to battle through some August adversity begins in Kansas City, and could be the difference between the A.L. East crown and the wild card.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles


First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles

BALTIMORE -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles:

* Steven Wright had six 1-2-3 innings among the nine he pitched.

For a brief time in the second, after two were out, Wright battled command. Then, in the fifth, he yielded three straight hits and a sacrifice fly, accounting for the only two runs he allowed.

Otherwise? Wright carved through the Baltimore lineup, facing the minimum number of hitters in six of the nine other innings and one over the minimum in another.

He got a number of weak squibbers - including a couple he fielded himself and of the four hits he allowed, only three left the infield.

* Mookie Betts stole the first Red Sox run with some alert baserunning.

Betts was on second when Xander Bogaerts hit a tapped in front of the mound.

Catcher Caleb Joseph pounced on the ball about 15 feet from home plate, but then stood there after throwing out Bogaerts at first. With home plate unguarded, Betts got to third and alertly kept going, beating the throw home from first baseman Chris Davis.

Betts is the probably the Red Sox' fastest baserunner, but in instances like that one, he showed he's also one of their smartest.

* David Ortiz is a menace at Camden Yards.

There's a reason John Farrell waited to make out the lineup card, hoping that David Ortiz was available after missing Sunday's game with a sore foot. Ortiz usually makes his presence felt here and Monday was no different.

He homered to right to lead off the eighth, giving him seven homers in his last 10 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 28 games.

If Ortiz played for the Orioles, it's frightening to think what sort of power numbers he could put up playing half the time in a ballpark with an inviting right field porch.

* The Sox have gotten plenty of contributions from bench players.

Josh Rutledge (.830 OPS) has helped out in the infield, with Brock Holt relegated to LF, and more recently, the DL. On Monday, it was Marco Hernandez's turn. Hernandez supplied a three-run homer from the ninth spot in the eighth inning, turning a two-run lead into a five-run advantage.

Their contributions have allowed Farrell to make some moves around the infield, such as Monday's decision to give Hanley Ramirez a day off while shifting Travis Shaw to first.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter @Sean_McAdam.

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot


Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

David Ortiz makes his return to the Red Sox lineup after being a late scratch on Sunday due to a sore left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. However, Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off, with Travis Shaw getting the start at first.

The lineups:

Adam Jones CF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nolan Reimold RF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
Tyler Wilson P

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 1B
Blake Swihart LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Marco Hernandez 3B
Steven Wright P

Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms


Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

Through the first sixteen series of the season, the Red Sox are 9-5-3 (two ties coming from two-game sets) en route to their AL East leading 30-20 record.

Boston’s only mustered up two series sweeps -- taking two in Atlanta and three from the Yankees at Fenway -- but they’ve avoided the dreaded broom in each of their five series losses.

In fact, in four of their five series losses the Red Sox earned their lone victory in the final game, with Sunday being the most recent instance.

None of the series finale, sweep-defying wins were cakewalks either. Three of the four were decided by three runs or less -- the other being decided by four.

Boston’s MLB-leading 5.9 runs per game offense scored below its average each time -- so Red Sox pitching didn’t have the same gigantic cushion it’s used to.

Prior to his injury, Joe Kelly was the first savior, chucking five innings allowing two earned runs against a Baltimore Orioles team that was undefeated at that point in the season’s youth. Fast forward to the series at Yankee Stadium and Steven Wright nearly through a shutout, holding the Yankees to one run through nine innings.

In the two most recent cases, David Price’s turn came in the lineup -- and he’s answered the call. Boston’s ace held down both the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays -- on the road -- limiting both offenses to two runs each. Both starts have come the day after one-run losses, too.

So while Price’s “stuff” hasn’t been at its best, admitting Sunday it usually isn’t against the Blue Jays, he’s displayed the intangible aces are supposed to have – guts.

Now on any other team, they might be in trouble given Boston’s offense is the best in baseball. Because a bad scoring day for the Red Sox is better than almost half the league’s average day. But they aren’t on any other team, so that’s not the issue.

For all the struggles the Red Sox’ starting pitchers have dealt with, they’ve managed to get the job done when they’ve needed it.

Those wins add up, too.

If the Red Sox are swept in these four series, they sit at 26-24 right in the middle of the AL East -- and this season has an entirely different feel to it.

In an age where numbers have become the central focus of the game, Boston’s starting pitchers have managed to lock-in when the club needs it most -- and must continue to do so.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.