Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

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Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Jed Lowrie admitted that he was more stunned than angry when it first happened in the third inning, and he was still searching for answers postgame on a bizarre call that earned him his 12th fielding error of the season.

The play helped open the floodgates in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field that saddled the Sox with their first series loss during the regular season since dropping two-out-of-three to the Philadelphia Phillies from June 28-30.

Lowrie wasnt very excited about second base umpire Ed Hickoxs call that typified the tough luck weekend in Seattle for the Sox, and it all started with a leadoff walk and a pair of singles that forced one run in against Tim Wakefield.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, it appeared Lowrie executed the pivot on an Ichiro Suzuki groundball that ended with a force play on Kyle Seager at second base. The switch-hitting shortstop attempted to follow on with a throw to Wakefield covering first base for the double play, but the knuckleballer couldnt beat the motoring Suzuki to first base.

But Hickox ruled Lowrie was off the bag on the force, and the shortstop was charged with his 12th error of the season in the flurry of activity following the play.

The safe call on Seager loaded the bases with nobody out and helped lead to three Seattle runs crossing the plate, and touched off a peeved Lowrie after the game was all over.

After watching some of the replays and knowing I touched the base, I dont know. It sucks. Its bad. Its a bad situation, said Lowrie. It probably cost us a couple of runs, but theres nothing I can do about it now. Its the same thing I do every time: I kick the back of the base and then I step out of the way of the runner.

Sox manager Terry Francona freely admitted that his team didnt do enough to win on Sunday, but he also questioned how Hickox makes that kind of call when every TV replay showed it to be an extremely close play while the umpire relayed to the manager that it wasnt even close.

Francona protested the call a bit, but seemed to reel it in a little after his histrionics got the Sox skipper tossed from Saturday nights game after he protested a call at home plate that the umps ultimately got right.

I really thought he grazed the bag. But it doesnt matter what I think, said Terry Francona. I think you have to be pretty sure on that one if youre going to make a call like that. After you look at the replay, I dont know how he can be sure.

Either way the Sox had six innings to reclaim the lead and dig out from under the three run deficit caused by the third inning of errors and discontent, but they just werent able to do it against a Mariners team that seems to be gathering a little momentum.

Instead they were left with the losers lament of complaining about an umpires blown call once the game was decided.

Jonathan Papelbon ended the weekend having converted each of his last 22 save opportunities dating back to May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the American League behind Jose Valverde and his 35 straight saves.

Sox manager Terry Francona continues to employ Darnell McDonald against left-handed pitching in something of a strict right field platoon with lefty-swinging rookie Josh Reddick, but it may be time to see if Reddick can handle full-time duty against pitchers of either persuasion. Reddick is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with a home run in very limited at bats against southpaws while McDonald ending the weekend with a .176 batting average and is struggling in a major way offensively. Combine that with the difficulty Mike Aviles has shown attempting to track down fly balls in the outfield, and its an idea worth exploring.

Dustin Pedroia doesnt get to hit there very often, but the numbers are off the charts when the Sox second baseman bats in the cleanup spot throughout his career. Customarily the No. 2 hitter in Bostons lineup, Pedroia has hit safely in all 10 career starts in the cleanup position and is hitting .500 (22-for-44) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 11 RBI in those 10 games. More importantly the Red Sox are also 8-2 in those 10 games and are 5-1 in six games with Pedroia in the No. 4 hole this season.

Kevin Youkilis said that his lower back is still feeling tight after he returned to the Sox starting lineup on Sunday afternoon, and slammed his 17th home run of the season in the loss. Youkilis missed two games with a stiff back that first cropped up during the Minnesota series. The infielder indicated that his back felt better than it had the previous two games, but that he was also ready to get back into the lineup after watching his teammates fall on Saturday night. Youkilis said the day off on Monday should help things considerably and that hed be ready to play against the Rays at Fenway on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz is about half-way through the progression from a stress fracture in his back, and he said on Sunday morning that hes hoping to start throwing a baseball again in the first or second week of September.

The timetable means Buchholz wont be able to build up arm strength in minor league rehab assignments as their seasons end in early September. But that doesnt necessarily rule out a return in some form or fashion.

The right-hander said he still hasnt discussed a potential role in the bullpen for the postseason if time runs out to build up his arm up for a potential starting role. He said that should be something on the agenda for discussion once a throwing program has begun.

Ill do whatever they want me to do whether its starting or relieving, or whatever, said Buchholz. Im just glad the core strengthening exercises are working, and Im starting to feel like my back is healing.

Buchholz hasnt pitched since a five inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 16 that earned him his sixth win of the season, and any setbacks at all would likely spell the end of the season for the lithe righty.

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

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.