Blue Jays Starter Marcus Stroman Rehabs at McCoy Stadium

As the Red Sox focus on letting their young players get playing time down the stretch, the American League East leading Blue Jays are looking forward to getting back one of their key players for the stretch run. Starting Pitcher Marcus Stroman made a rehab appearance with the Buffalo Bisons on Monday at McCoy Stadium and said he is ready to return.

Stroman, 24, who is at the end of a crazy recovery after tearing his knee in Spring Marcus StromanTraining just fielding his position, seems to be done talking about his knee and ready to start for the Blue Jays. Stroman won 11 games for the Blue Jays last season in 20 starts and could take the rotation spot of Drew Hutchison, who has double digit wins but a very high ERA. Hutchison has already been demoted this season and would likely move to the bullpen if the Blue Jays decide Stroman is ready to return to the rotation.

If Stroman were to return to the rotation on regular rest, his first start of the season would come this Saturday against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

In 3 innings of work Stroman had a line of 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB and 5 K. Obviously not the line you look to get in 3 innings of work against a PawSox lineup that has been ripped apart due the Red Sox struggles and injuries but Stroman seemed upbeat and even remarked that Boston affiliates have hit him well before.

Stroman tore his knee on March 10th during fielding drills in Spring Training and began a long road to recovery. Knee injuries, most expect to take a full year but some have come back sooner, Adrian Peterson comes to mind of the Minnesota Vikings. Stroman even went back to class at Duke University to finish his degree while rehabbing.

The prolific Toronto offense is what comes to mind when most think of the Blue Jays but the pitching since the acquisition of David Price is what has been of note for the Jays. With all the moves the Blue Jays made this season it looks like they are going for it and Marcus Stroman will soon be back sooner than many thought.

David Ortiz Starting Slow In 2015

With the additions to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez it was expected the pressure would be taken off David Ortiz to be the main guy in the middle of the Red Sox order. Ortiz has performed up to and even above the standards many have expected the 39 year old to live up to in recent years but this season Ortiz has been struggling in the middle of the Sox order.

Ortiz has been a victim of the shift, obviously not much he can do about it unless he startsDavid Ortiz going the other way more, but easier said than done. With his average now just .221 Ortiz could be quietly having one of his worst seasons in a Red Sox uniform. Obviously no one expected him to hit 50 home runs again, or win a batting title. But, the offense of the Red Sox needs him to perform at a high level. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are battling injuries that don’t look to be going away any time soon.

Ortiz is not the only Red Sox hitter struggling, but I feel he is the most important right now. He is the identity of this Red Sox team and the offense will be most successful when he is on. The lineup changes manager John Farrell made over the weekend were small and he seemed to revert back to the usual lineup already after flip flopping Ortiz and Ramirez this weekend. They were back to their normal spots in the lineup Monday. I feel Farrell is too reliant on going right-left in the lineup and should just have the best hitters at the top of the lineup. A hot Xander Bogaerts should not be hitting 7th, and a struggling David Ortiz should not still be hitting 3rd.

Mike Napoli had been struggling with his average dipping as low as .171 last week but with a great weekend series against the Angels he raised it to .211. 40 points in a weekend is a lot to expect but it is time for Ortiz to get on a roll and carry this Red Sox offense like he has the past ten plus years.

If and hopefully when Ortiz comes around with the bat, the Red Sox offense will be what many expected it to be before the season. Expecting the team to score 900 runs and be one of the best offenses in the American League, while stepping up in an American League East that no ones seems to be grabbing a hold of.

Ortiz has been the guy for the Red Sox for so long, admitting that he is struggling at the plate is something many people will refuse to believe, but his stat line is down and so is the Red Sox offense.

Matt Barnes Recalled, Makes First Appearance in ’15 for Sox

Matt Barnes

The Boston Red Sox placed Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury on Saturday, then recalled right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket to join the Major League club in Baltimore for their series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

After being told on Saturday afternoon that he had been promoted, Barnes drove from Matt BarnesScranton, PA to Baltimore, MD and arrived approximately two hours before the start of the game.

He was called on to make his 2015 debut by replacing Justin Masterson in the bottom of the eighth, and responded by firing two scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out one.

Barnes was actually in line for his first big league win after Xander Bogaerts hit the first pitch he saw from Brad Brach for the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning, making the score 4-3, but had his hopes quickly dashed as Boston’s closer Koji Uehara blew the save opportunity by  giving up a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the frame, his first blown save of the season.

“It was a crazy day,” Barnes told Ian Browne of MLB.com. “It’s not how I envisioned [the day] when I woke up this morning, but I’m happy to be here … trying to do what I can to help the ball club win.”

Many thought the 24-year old native New Englander would make the Opening Day roster as a reliever after throwing in the high-90s for most of Spring Training, but he was sent down to Triple-A during the last round of roster cuts and subsequently reverted back to a starting role.

Barnes made two starts for the PawSox before being recalled on Saturday, posting a 0-0 record with a 5.63 ERA. He made five appearances for the Major League ball club last season, allowing four runs on eleven hits, over nine complete innings.

Daniel Nava Proving His Worth for the Red Sox

Daniel Nava

After much was made about which of Boston’s plethora of outfielders would make the Opening Day roster during Spring Training, Daniel Nava has wasted little time showing how much value he has for the Red Sox despite playing in a bench role.

The 32-year old Redwood City, CA native played a key role in the Red SDaniel Navaox victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night, going 2 for 3 with two runs batted in. Nava laced a 98-MPH Nathan Eovaldi fastball into right field for a single in the top of the fourth, then lined a change-up that ricocheted off Mark Teixeira’s glove, allowing Pablo Sandoval and Mike Napoli to score in the top of the sixth.

The 19-inning marathon contest lasted six hours and 49 minutes, and included a 16-minute delay to fix malfunctioning light towers near the foul poles caused by a power surge. The game was the longest in terms of time in Red Sox history, despite playing a 20-inning contest against the Yankees in August of 1967.

Nava continued his success against the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, not even 12 hours after the conclusion of Friday night’s contest, again going 2 for 3 with two runs batted in, a walk and a run scored.

With two outs and Mike Napoli on third base in the top of the second, Nava hit a ball into left field that was badly misplayed by Yankee’s outfielder Brett Gardner, which allowed Napoli to score and Nava to cruise into second base with a double. He added another RBI single in the top of the fourth, lining an Adam Warren fastball to center field scoring Pablo Sandoval.

In his career against the Yankees, Nava is hitting .308/.410/.523 with a .933 OPS and eight extra base hits, 15 runs batted in and 10 walks in 65 at-bats. Nava has home runs against three of the Yankee’s starting pitchers—C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Saturday’s starter, Adam Warren.

Will We See Brian Johnson in the Majors This Season?

Brian Johnson

After one of the more impressive seasons for a Red Sox minor league pitcher in recent memory, Brian Johnson has continued to impress many with his Spring Training performance.

Johnson added another effective start to his Grapefruit League resume last Sunday afternoon (March 29) at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FL, tossing four innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits and three strikeouts.

“I think this has been a very productive spring for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell toldBrian Johnson Sean McAdam of Comcast Sportsnet. “He has certainly helped his cause here. He’s has a very good mound presence, good poise. He’s attacked the strike zone and he works as a very quick pace. Sometimes that gets the better of him, where he might rush into some pitches. But he’s shown very well.”

The only glaring number for Johnson is his eight walks in just 15 1/3 innings, which equates to 4.7 walks per nine innings.

“He’s a guy who’s typically has good command of the strike zone,” Farrell said. “A couple of times during the course of his outings, there’s been some base-on balls that have lead off an inning that result in a run.”

Despite a lack of command at times, it has not wavered the 24-year old first round draft pick’s confidence.

“I’m confident with any pitch in any count,” Johnson told Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. “I threw a couple 2-2 changeups, 3-2 cutters and 3-2 curveballs today. Didn’t always work out, but I’m confident when I throw it.”

Johnson is coming off a season in which he was voted the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year, as well as earning a runner-up finish to fellow teammate, Henry Owens, in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Voting. Johnson finished 2014 with a 13-3 record with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket.

Former Sea Dogs Shine for Sox on Opening Day

Opening Day

The Boston Red Sox put on an impressive Opening Day show against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, with many former members of the Portland Sea Dogs contributing in big ways.

Dustin Pedroia, a 2005 alumni of the Sea Dogs, didn’t waste any time Opening Day getting the scoring started when he crushed a first inning, one-out pitch from Cole Hamels over the left field fence for a solo home run.

22-year old Mookie Betts, who was the starting second baseman for the Sea Dogs against the Reading Phillies to begin last season, started in center field and went 2-4 with a long solo home run off Hamels to lead off the third inning.

Pedroia launched another home run to left field with one out in the fifth, showing that for the first time in a few seasons, he may be completely healthy. He added a brilliant defensive play in the bottom of the seventh inning, scooping up a ball on a short hop and firing to second base to force out Grady Sizemore and save a run from scoring.

Sea Dogs Hall of Famer, Hanley Ramirez, who spent 2004-05 with the Double-A club, followed suit in the fifth with a long home run of his own to left field.

Ramirez added his second home run in the top of the ninth inning, a grand slam, giving him five RBI’s on the day to go with two hits, a walk and two runs scored.

Clay Buchholz, a 2007 Double-A All-Star for the Sea Dogs, took a huge step in the right direction in showing he is ready to take over as the ace of the staff. Buchholz fired seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine. The tall right-hander seemed in complete control of his full arsenal of pitches, throwing 66 of 95 of them for strikes.