PawSox hurler Weiland showing promise

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PawSox hurler Weiland showing promise

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PAWTUCKET, R.I. Entering his start Monday night at McCoy Stadium against the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, right-hander Kyle Weiland had given up more than two earned runs just once in his previous 11 starts. He entered the game second in the International League with 69 strikeouts in 63 innings, 12th with an ERA of 3.00, a WHIP of 1.23, and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2.46, holding opponents to a .217 average.

But, it was an inhospitable welcome to Triple A for Weiland. Beginning the season with Pawtucket, Weiland lasted just three innings in his first start, April 8 against Rochester, giving up four runs, throwing 68 pitches.

The Red Sox third-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Notre Dame was a closer in college, who became a full-time starter two seasons ago. He has made steady progress through the Sox system, never spending more than a season at any level. As it is for many players or pitchers making the jump to Triple A for the first time, it was a learning experience for Weiland.

The game speed is just a little quicker. The adjustments are made a little quicker. The base runners react quicker. The managers react quicker, said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, who also had Weiland at Double-A Portland last season. Instead of a guy taking two or three pitches to run on a guy when hes slow, they're going next pitch, things like that. The hitters know what these guys are throwing. They watch in the dugout. So when they go to hit theyre ready to go. And hes stepped up also. Hes doing a better job working ahead in the count and finishing hitters off, pitching to contact, being able to pitch to hitters weaknesses and things like that. So hes just getting better every time out. Hes fun to watch.

Weiland wasted little time setting things right after that initial rough outing. Although he was roughed up Monday night, giving up four runs in 5 13 innings for the loss, in his second start, on April 14 in Syracuse, he went 4 23 innings, giving up one run with 10 strikeouts. In his last five starts entering Mondays game, he had posted a record of 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, giving up five earned runs over a combined 28 innings, with 29 strikeouts.

Hes just learning how to pitch a little bit more, Beyeler said. Its just the reps. He went thru a stretch last year where he was really good for about six weeks. The stuff is there and now were seeing the stuff and hes starting to pitch and just learning how to pitch more effectively, more consistently, and really doing a good job at holding runners, just things like that. Hes starting to round those edges off, doing a real nice job.

For pitching coach Rich Sauveur, Weilands biggest step since last season has been his secondary pitches curveball, changeup, and now a slider.

His changeup has improved a lot, Sauveur said. And with his arm slot and the arm action he has on his fastball, if he can maintain a decent selling of the changeup with that arm slot and arm speed, its going to be a plus pitch. Ive seen some really good ones, and some not good ones. It can be a good pitch for him. It really can. His curveball, for me, is an out pitch. Its unbelievable. Lefties give up on it. Its a great pitch. So, were real proud of this guy. He just works real hard on what hes doing.

Weiland has added a cutter this season, which has served him well against left-handed hitters, who are hitting just .200 against him.

I was familiar with the cutter in college, said Weiland, who turns 25 in September. I didnt throw it much because I was a closer, and it wasnt necessary to have four pitches as a closer. So I rarely ever threw it. But I did know how to throw it and I would always mess around with it. So when I was starting I really thought that would be something I needed, something that would be a huge advantage, especially to lefties, because I didnt have anything going that way hard. Theyve seen enough sinkers and fastballs away. They can make adjustments. So it was a pitch I was familiar with but this year I got to put it into my everyday routine like every other pitch. Get out there and throw it a few times. Some days its there, some days its not. I dont try to beat myself up trying to find it because it is a work in progress. But its just like anything else. It takes constant work and effort to try to find consistency with it.

Sauveur likens Weilands ability to a former PawSox righty.

I believe this kid will pitch in the big leagues for a long time. I really do, Sauveur said. I know sometimes, to me, it sounds like maybe I say it a lot, but I remember saying it about right-hander Clay Buchholz. I remember saying, We know hes already pitched in the big leagues and we know hes going to have a great career. Its just a matter of when its going to start. Same thing with Weiland. Hes done a great job of progressing through the organization. He knows how to pitch. Hes a good listener. He studies what he does and he learns from his mistakes. Hes going to pitch in the big leagues and hes going to have a very successful career.

Those are the kind of words any minor leaguer longs to hear.

That feels good, Weiland said. To hear something like that when youve been working hard, and thats the ultimate goal, so that feels good. But at the same time, it doesnt change anything. I still got to get there, someway, somehow. The only way to do that is keep working hard, and go out there and see what happens. The only thing I can control is day five. I cant control anything else. So just do the best I can do.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

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Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

BOSTON — As has been well-documented, the Red Sox have tried any number of solutions at third base this season, with eight different players getting starts at the position.

Travis Shaw has the most starts of anyone, with 99. But with three games left in the season, it's become apparent that Brock Holt is being viewed as the likely starter in the post-season.

Holt started all three games in the recent series in New York and was the starter Friday night against Toronto, too.

"You look at the consistent quality to the at-bats," said John Farrell, "and they've been there for him. That's not to say the other guys aren't important to us. But this is the time of year where you're looking to put the best, current lineup on the field and his versatility has shown up a number of ways. He's a confident defender at third base and his skill set is a little bit different from the other guys.

"So against righthanded pitching, that could be the guy we're going with."

Holt came into Friday hitting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 24 games.

Shaw, meanwhile, has been streaky to a fault. In the second half of the season, Shaw has posted a slash line of .195/.260/.362.

"We've seen (the streakiness both ways) in short spurts," Farrell said. "He does have the ability to carry us. But we're trying to get there and we're at a point in the year where every game is meaningful. That's not to say you turn your back on what he did earlier in the season. But we're looking for sparks somewhere."

What's more, Farrell had Holt hitting second in the lineup, in an effort to produce more offense. The Sox were limited to just eight runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and over the last 11 games, scored more than five runs just once.

Holt hit second, with Xander Bogaerts dropped to sixth.

"This is to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively," explained Farrell. "We've been grinding a little bit. And also, (we want) to create a little more (left-right) balance up and down the lineup."

TIME TO PLAY

As the final few regular season games of his career wind down, David Ortiz acknowledged that it's becoming increasing difficult to focus on the games with all the tributes and ceremonies going on.

In the final 11 days of the season, Ortiz will have had five pre-game ceremonies held in his honor -- and it would have been six had not Ortiz asked the Tampa Bay Rays to cancel the ceremony they had planned in the aftermath of the death that morning of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

On Thursday night, Ortiz has his family on the field for a pre-game celebration hosted by the New York Yankees.

Minutes later, he had to step in to the batter's box against CC Sabathia. Sometimes, it's hard to flip that switch and be emotionally ready to compete.

"I'm not going to lie to you -- it has (gotten harder)," said Ortiz. "We're already in the playoffs, so for the next three days, I don't really have to worry about it. But the best thing about it is that once we get into the playoffs, there's not going to be all these distractions.

"I like to mentally focus when we play, especially when I'm playing for a reason. We work extremely hard during the regular season to get into the playoffs and once we get there, I don't want to blow that off. It's not easy to (do all the ceremonies) and play baseball at the same time. It can be a distraction."

Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

The A.L. East-champion Red Sox, still fighting for playoff position, field their usual lineup as they open David Ortiz's final regular-season series tonight (7:10) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (92-67) are two games behind the Texas Rangers (94-65) in the race for the best record in the A.L., with the Cleveland Indians (91-67) a half-game behind Boston.

Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA), the likely Game 1 starter in the ALDS, will try to add to his Cy Young Award resume tonight. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53).

The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (both 87-72) are tied for the A.L. wild-card lead with the Detroit Tigers (85-73) 1 1/2 games back.

It’s the final regular season series for Oritz, with ceremonies planned to honor the retiring Red Sox DH prior to each of the final three game this weekend. 

The lineups:

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Brock Holt 3B

Mookie Betts RF

David Ortiz DH

Hanely Ramirez 1B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Jackie Bradley CF

Sandy Leon C

Andrew Benintendi LF

Rick Porcello P

 

BLUE JAYS

Eziquiel Carrera LF

Josh Donaldson 3B

Edwin Encarnacion DH

Jose Bautista RF

Russell Martin C

Troy Tulowitzki SS

Justin Smoak 1B

Kevin Pillar CF

Devon Travis 2B

Marco Estrada RHP