Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

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Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY It starts to get old after a while.

Daniel Bard comes into a hairy baseball situation with no discernible escape, and manages to make it look easy while wriggling out of the mess. The flame-throwing Bard did it again on Sunday when he waltzed into a sticky situation in the seventh inning with the tying run on base and nobody out in a 3-1 ballgame against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Getting out of that jam was the biggest part of that game, said catcher Jason Varitek, who had an excellent view of Bards nuclear stuff from behind the plate.

Jon Lester couldnt put out the fire, and instead Bard came in to retire Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, and Melky Cabrera in a row to escape the jam and preserve what became a 6-1 victory for the Sox. Escobar looked like he was trying to sacrifice the two runners over, but laying down a bunt on a 100-mph fastball motoring through the strike zone is a lot easier said than done.

It was the 48th scoreless outing out of 57 total games pitched for Bostons top reliever this year, and another shred of evidence that Bard is as close to automatic as it gets out of the bullpen these days.

It was another day for a 100-mph hurler thats allowed only 3 of 29 inherited runners to score this season, and ranks third in the American League with the 10 percent inherited runners allowed this season.

Im able to pitch for strikeouts in that situation until I get that first out, said Bard. That was big. Youre saving the game even though youre not necessarily saving the game. My job is maintaining the lead and the easiest way to do that is to strike a guy out and then get a ground ball.

Bard is no longer in the middle of a 26 13 inning scoreless streak like he was during the month of July, but he leads the Sox with 57 outings this season and is second among AL relievers with a .115 batting average against for right-handed hitters.

Thats not easy. But at that point in the game Lester had pitched so well and we wanted to stay away from Alfredo Aceves, said Francona. We figure well go with Bard, and if he has to work hard enough then well go with somebody else. It just depended on how it went. But Id rather leave somebody else with a clean inning. Hes our best getting out of those innings.

Bard proved why hes the best once again when things got tight against the Royals.

Jason Varitek smacked an RBI triple to the right field gap in Sundays win over the Royals a hit that was made notable because it had been four years and 406 games since his last triple on June 24, 2007 against the San Diego Padres.

I like to space them out, joked Varitek after the game was over. Maybe the next inning I needed some oxygen. With two outs I need to make sure its something I can get to third on, and I felt like it was something I shouldnt have a problem getting to.

Its not like Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford . . . trust me.

Carl Crawford rocketed a home run in the seventh inning and has now hit safely in 20 of his last 32 games since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 18. He is batting .287(58-for-202) in his last 53 games.

The Red Sox have hit 85 home runs on the road this season to lead the Major Leagues, and have a commanding lead over second-place St. Louis, who entered Sunday with 75 road homers this season.

Funny scene after the game with 24-year-old rookie Ryan Lavarnway readying for his first trip traveling with the Sox, and sporting a nice suit jacket that still had all of the tags on it as he walked around the visiting clubhouse.

Carl Crawford still found himself batting in the seventh spot over the weekend despite a plethora of injuries to many of Bostons best positional players, and some saw the situation as a reflection on Crawfords struggles this season.

While some of that may be true, it appears to be more about leaving the Sox left fielder in a lineup position thats become comfortable to him and getting the most out of Crawford. In 65 at bats this season in the top five spots in the Sox lineup, Crawford is hitting a scant .125 and has gathered up virtually no offensive momentum in whats been a lackluster season.

Sox Manager Terry Francona said that he had talked with bench coach DeMarlo Hale about moving Crawford up into the leadoff spot or the No. 2 hole given Jacoby Ellsburys absence in the lineup, but the big ticket free agent hasnt been a very good fit there all year.

Crawford has also stabilized at the plate a bit, and entered Sunday hitting .278 during the month of August. The last thing Francona wanted to do was change things around for his left fielder and potentially send him into another funk.

You just dont really want to bounce Crawford around too much, said Terry Francona of his outfielder that went into Sundays game hitting .251 on the season. "We just didnt think it made sense. But we did talk about it.

Some guys are creatures of habit, Francona explained. You get to like the four and five guys of your lineup, you can move other guys where youre keeping the essence of your batting order kind of the same, balance, things like that. But sometimes you cant. Just want to protect people.

Instead Marco Scutaro was given the leadoff spot over the last two games for the Sox a position where he filled in ably many times last season when Ellsbury was limited to 18 games due to fractured ribs.

Ellsbury was still sore on Sunday after getting drilled with an 88-mph fastball in the upper back on Friday night, and Francona indicated that the Sox centerfielder may miss the beginning of the Texas series as well.

David Ortiz hit for the second straight day in Kansas City, and was exuberantly running sprints through the Sox clubhouse in his flip-flops much to the amusement of Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz said that hes feeling good and was in high spirits watching the Little League World Series in the visiting clubhouse prior to Sundays series finale.

Ortiz is expected to be completely out of the protective boot on his right foot on Monday, but would still likely be a couple of days away from returning to the Sox lineup when they arrive in Texas.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Miller callup to Red Sox 'a dream come true' after remarkable journey

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Miller callup to Red Sox 'a dream come true' after remarkable journey

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For any player, reaching the big leagues is an accomplishment in its own right. For infielder Mike Miller, summoned by the Red Sox from Pawtucket Monday, the callup couldn't be more improbable.

Start with the fact that Miller, listed officially five-foot-nine, is, in reality, five-foot-six - tops. Add in the fact that he was 11th round pick as a senior from Cal Poly Tech and you begin to understand how much of a longshot Miller is.

Then, add in the fact that injuries conspired to have him miss almost all of 2013 and half of 2014, and Miller's journey is truly a remarkable one.

All of which made it all the more difficult for Miller to keep his emotions under wraps late Sunday night. Miller was riding a bus outside Rochester, N.Y. with the rest of the Pawtucket Red Sox when manager Kevin Boles, sitting a few rows ahead of him on the bus, sent Miller an email informing him that he was going to the big leagues.

But the email contained a caveat from Boles.

"He didn't want to make a big commotion of it on the bus,'' said Miller, "so he told me to keep it quiet and don't show a lot of emotion, but congratulations. It was hard because you've got all your friends on the bus and you want to talk to them about it and share your excitement. But at the same time, you respect the manager's wishes, but there were (corresponding) moves to make and he didn't want it getting out because someone else might not know what's going on.

"It was hard (keep quiet), but you do what you're told.''

Between making phone calls to family members and friends and the natural excitement he felt, Miller got virtually no sleep before a 4:30 a.m. trip to the airport. But sleep could wait on a night like that.

"It's a dream come true,'' said Miller. "I wasn't expecting it -- at all. So to get the opportunity to come up here and play at the highest level is a dream come true. I started my Red Sox career with Mookie Betts in Lowell, so it's cool to catch up to some of those guys and see them a few years later. I'm just really happy and excited to be here.''

Miller's numbers aren't eye-popping at the minor league level. He was .256 with seven doubles in 46 games, and he's not likely to stay with the team past Friday, when the Sox are expecting Brock Holt to return.

But the Sox needed another infielder to get back to a four-man bench, and Miller was the consensus choice. For however long his callup lasts, he'll enjoy it, especially considering what he's overcome.

"You're not a bonus baby,'' he said. "But at the same time, you just go out and compete. When you're on the field, you don't think anybody is better than you. It doesn't matter what round they were (selected) or whether they're a high school guy or (drafted as a) junior or senior. So when you put the cleats on, you play to the best of your ability and see where that takes you.''

The injuries in 2013 (torn quad) and 2014 (broken hammate bone) only fueled his desire.

"There were some tough moments, some frustration over not being able to play,'' he said. "Not being able to control things (was tough). But it also teaches you some things about patience and there's that appreciation that when you are healthy, make sure you go out and play hard every day. If you take the right mindset, you learn from it and get better.''

Miller can play all over the infield. He played shortstop in college, but has mostly played third and second in the minors.

"I've been acclimated to all three,'' said Miller. "I work hard with our instructors to understand all the nuances of all the positions, so I'm comfortable at any of them. Wherever I get the chance to play, I just want to help the team win that night.''

For however long it lasts, Miller will savor it.

"I couldn't ask for a better feeling,'' said Miller. "There are some odds against you -- senior, smaller guy, not a big-time college program. So I've had kind of fight my whole career to keep moving, keep moving. To get here is a really good feeling.''

 

Holt (concussion) still not symptom-free, target weekend series vs. Angels

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Holt (concussion) still not symptom-free, target weekend series vs. Angels

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. - Brock Holt's return to the Red Sox is going to have to wait a little longer.

The Sox had held out some hope that Holt might be ready to rejoin the club here for the start of a three-game series. But Holt, who is recovering from a concussion suffered in early May, is still not symptom-free while on a rehab assignment at Triple A Pawtucket.

The target now is for Holt to return Friday when the Red Sox begin a homestand that will take them up to the All-Star break.

"He'll come off and hopefully join us for the weekend series with the Angels,'' said John Farrell. "(He had a) good day (Sunday), but just didn't feel like he's ready to take that next step, so we have to respect that. He'll get full number of at-bats (Tuesday) and Wednesday, before we get back home.''

Farrell said Holt is still experiencing some post-concussion symptoms as he plays in games.

"This is a very unique (case),'' said Farrell. "We've talked a lot about his form of a concussion and we felt like the best way for him to be capable of being back with us is to push forward and stress the intensity, the level of play. Because the symptoms aren't going to go away just by sitting around. This is a matter of being active and being aggressive with it, so hopefully everything calibrates within his system. That's the recommendation of the medical staff.''

Farrell said Holt continues to feel some imbalance and light dizziness.

"There are those slight, disoriented feelings that's we working through,'' Farrell said. ''We're talking about the inner ear speaking to the brain and that's only going to continue to improve but stressing it -- not by sitting back. The fact that he was set out on a rehab assignment with some of those symptoms was part of overall recommendation.

"I wish we could say this is a straight-line end result from a timing standpoint, but we're seeing that it's not.''

 

Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery

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Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery

The Red Sox may be stumbling through the month of June, but they're flying high compared to their opponent tonight.

The Sox are in St. Petersburg, Fla., to take on the free-falling Rays, losers of 11 straight. They'll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in hopes of continuing Tampa Bay's misery, at least for the next three games.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Sandy Leon C
Marco Hernandez 3B
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Eduardo Rodriguez P

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Tim Beckham SS
Evan Longoria 3B
Logan Morrison 1B
Desmond Jennings CF
Oswaldo Arcia RF
Taylor Motter LF
Nick Franklin DH
Curt Casali C
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Blake Snell P