Sox get Millwood, Morales in flurry of moves

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Sox get Millwood, Morales in flurry of moves

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The game itself -- featuring a blown two-run lead in the top of the eighth, followed in short order by a walkoffrally in the bottom of the ninth -- was crazy enough.

But in the aftermath the 4-3 Red Sox' victory, their sixth straight -- and third straight secured in their final at-bat -- things got really chaotic.

It was then that the Red Sox:

Confirmed the signing of veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood to a minor-league deal.

Announced the acquisition of lefty reliever Franklin Morales from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.

Designated left-hander Hideki Okajima for assignment to clear space for Morales on the 40-man roster.

Prepared to make two more roster moves Friday before the start of a weekend interleague series with the Chicago Cubs, one of which will involve sending shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias back to Pawtucket.

Millwood will report to the team's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., with an eye toward providing additional starting depth for a team which earlier this week placed two starters -- John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- on the disabled list.

Last month, Millwood pitched in the New York Yankees' system with mixed results (a 4.50 ERA in three minor league starts), but opted out of his deal May 1 when the Yankees didn't promote him to the big-league roster.

Should he join the Red Sox, Millwood is scheduled to make 500,000 plus additional performance bonuses.

Millwood last pitched in the big leagues in 2010, when he went 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA.

Of more long-term interest to the Red Sox is Morales, who only a few seasons ago was regarded as one of the top young pitching prospects in the game.

As a 21-year old, Morales was tagged by the Sox for seven runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. He later tossed 2 13 innings of scoreless relief in Game 3.

In 102 games -- mostly as a reliever -- over five seasons, Morales is 7-11 with a 4.83 ERA. He's averaged more than a strikeout per inning in 2009, but has also had difficulty commanding his pitches, resulting in a 5.3 walks-per-nine-innings ratio.

"The key is to get him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes," said general manager Theo Epstein. "He's tough to hit. He's a very hard thrower. When he throws strikes, he's hard to hit. He's been a little erratic with his strike-throwing, but I think there's a chance to capture some upside there. He makes some sense for us."

Morales will team with Rich Hill to give the Sox two lefties in the bullpen.

The Sox have 10 days to trade, release or place Okajima on waivers.

His salary of 1.75 million may make him difficult to move, as teams generally prefer more inexpensive costs at the set-up and middle-inning roles.

Should the Sox not find a deal for him, it's possible that Okajima's salary would preclude him from being claimed on waivers. If Okajima clears waivers, he could remain in the organization. He began the year at Pawtucket before being recalled in mid-April.

Okajima, 35, was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in seven games with the Sox this season, his fifth in Boston. In his first three years with the Sox, he averaged 66 appearances and was a key member of the bullpen.

But injuries and ineffectiveness reduced his role in 2010 and it was a surprise to many when, after non-tendering him last fall, the Sox chose to re-sign him in January.

Okajima was warming in the bullpen in the ninth inning and would have pitched the 10th inning Thursday night had not the Sox won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

"It's my first time in this situation," said Okajima through a club interpreter, "so I'm not sure of what happens next . . . Having re-signed with Boston during the offseason, it is disappointing that this is happening, but signing here was not a mistake. I am very grateful to the opportunity the Red Sox have given me over five years."

Finally, the Sox will make two most roster moves Friday: shortstop Jose Iglesias will be optioned to Pawtucket and replaced on the Boston roster by utility man Drew Sutton; also, Dan Wheeler will end his minor-league rehab assignment and be activated, with Michael Bowden, promoted from Pawtucket Tuesday, being returned to Triple A.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

First impressions: Ortiz moves past pregame ceremonies, hits game winner for Sox

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First impressions: Ortiz moves past pregame ceremonies, hits game winner for Sox

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

* What's left to say about David Ortiz?

Ortiz acknowledged before Friday's game that the pre-game ceremonies and the attendant fuss over his pending retirement have created a challenge for him. Sometimes, it's hard to go from being feted to trying to win a game.

Not that you would know it by Friday night.

In his first at-bat, he singled home the first run of the game. Two at-bats later, he lined a bullet that was right at Jose Bautista.

But he saved his best for the seventh when, after the Red Sox tied the game at 3-3, Ortiz promptly untied it with a laser down the line, landing in the right field seats.

One more clutch hit from Ortiz in a career full of them.

* Brock Holt's defense at third has stood out.

John Farrell is looking for someone to step up with the third base job, given that Travis Shaw is hitting under .200 since the All-Star break and Aaron Hill has had difficulty hitting righties.

Holt, meanwhile, has seized the job somewhat by default, with a .319 average in the last 24 games.

But since starting the last four games at third, Holt has also contributed with his glove.

On Friday night, Holt made a fine stop with his backhand, on the third base line, and fired to nail Devon Travis on a close play at first.

Later, he came on a slow roller to gun down Josh Donaldson out at first.

* The Red Sox have done a better job of late capitalizing on opponents' mistakes.

Last week in Baltimore, the Red Sox were handed a gift by the Orioles when a throwing error by Chris Davis resulted in five runs being scored -- all of them unearned. It took exactly two pitches for the Red Sox to pounce on the opportunity.

On Friday night, it happened again.

Trailing 3-1, the Red Sox used a throwing error by Russell Martin to score one run and put another runner in scoring position. A groundout and single by Mookie Betts tied things, and Ortiz's homer broke the tie and gave the Red Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Good teams take advantage of mistakes. Two of the last six Red Sox wins are prime examples of that maxim.

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."