Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shilling to DL

The Red Sox just announced the Curt Schilling will head to the 15-day disabled list.

More news on this matter coming soon.

MRI taken on Curt Schilling's right shoulder in Boston was normal yesterday, the day after Schilling endured perhaps his worst start of the season against the Braves at Turner Field.

Schilling did not have pain in his shoulder, according to a club source, supporting manager Terry Francona's contention that Schilling did not complain of pain after giving up six runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings Monday night, looking so out of sorts that Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones wondered after the game whether the righthander was hurt.

Schilling, who returned to Boston yesterday and was examined by team medical director Thomas Gill, was expected to undergo more tests today. Although the team source said shutting Schilling down is expected to be one option discussed, that may mean missing no more than one start. Schilling is scheduled to start Sunday afternoon in San Diego against Padres ace Jake Peavy.

The only information Francona divulged after last night's game was that Schilling would spend the next two days working with rehabilitation coordinator Scott Waugh, then would be reevaluated Friday.

"The ball didn't come out of his hand too well," Francona said. "Since he's not in a position of having to play today, Tom and all those guys familiar with him, let him get looked at. Just feel better about it. It seems like we wouldn't be doing our due diligence, and it just seems like it makes sense to do that."


In Monday's 9-4 loss, Schilling threw only one fastball that exceeded 90 miles per hour, a 91-m.p.h. pitch to Kelly Johnson with the bases loaded in the fourth. For much of the night, his velocity hovered in the mid-80s, with one veteran scout likening the outing to "throwing batting practice" and Jones speculating that Schilling had to be hurt to have such a dramatic drop in velocity.

Francona noted Schilling's age, 40, as a possible contributing cause.

"His shoulder, he was having trouble getting loose," Francona said. "With all the humidity last night, I thought it'd be easy. He didn't complain about pain or anything. The ball just wasn't coming out.

"When you're Schill's age, with those types of innings he's pitched, I don't think he's ever going to feel 18 years old again. I'll bet if you ask any pitcher, three or four parts of their body hurt. Ask Wake [Tim Wakefield, also 40]. These guys are old. That's the way it is.

"[But] that was a tough night. I was kind of squirming the whole game. It was uncomfortable for me."

Schilling threw a one-hitter against the Athletics in Oakland June 7. In the ninth inning of that game, he threw a 95-m.p.h. fastball to Shannon Stewart, the pitch that Stewart hit for a single to break up the no-no. He has lost both starts since then, allowing 19 hits and 12 runs (11 earned) in 9 1/3 innings, with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting .442 against him in those two starts.

Monday night, Schilling did not strike out a batter; he had gone 378 consecutive starts since July 1, 1993, with at least one strikeout.

"It's embarrassing," Schilling said after the game. "I never gave us a chance. I want to walk around the room and apologize to everybody -- the manager, teammates, fans. There's no excuse for a game like that to play out the way it did."

Schilling has been most dissatisfied with his inconsistency this season.

He has made five starts in which he has allowed five earned runs or more, for an ERA of 8.89. In his other 10 starts, he has allowed just 18 earned runs in 68 innings, an ERA of 2.38.

"My goal has always been to be consistent and give the team innings, and I've been as far from that as you can be, and that's frustrating," he said Monday. "What I'm doing is not working. I'm not executing. It's not just one thing. It's a combination of a lot of different things. To pinpoint one thing probably would be wrong."

Is the loss of velocity on his fastball affecting his confidence?

"I'm not pitching well," he said. "That's what chisels away at your confidence, when you suck. Especially with this team, you can go out and not throw well and still win games. I didn't give us a chance."

Becket Back on Track as Sox Topple Atlanta 4-0

ATLANTA--It was one of those just-between-slugger moments: David Ortiz huddling with Barry Bonds when the Giants visited Fenway Park last weekend.

"One of the things he told me," Ortiz said, "is that once you hit 50 home runs, forget about it. You're not going to see any pitches the next year."

On this date a year ago, Ortiz had 20 home runs. He would have six more by the end of the month, en route to breaking Jimmie Foxx's club record with 54, two more than Double-X.

Last night, when he connected off Braves starter Tim Hudson with an opposite-field home run in the fourth inning, which gave Josh Beckett (10-1) a lead he would not relinquish in a 4-0 win over the Braves, it was Ortiz's 12th of the season. He has hit home runs in back-to-back games just once this season, back in April against the Angels. He has had only one two-homer game, April 8 in Texas.

"That's just the way it is going to be," Ortiz said. "The same thing happened with Barry. Barry doesn't miss pitches."

Box score

Ortiz, restored to the starting lineup after pinch hitting in Monday's 9-4 loss, has pretty much resigned himself to this new world order, though he still harbors hopes that when Manny Ramírez goes on a power tear, and the weather warms up, his selection of pitches to pound into oblivion will improve.

"I don't get to go deep much," he cracked after the game, before hustling to catch a bus that he claimed was about to leave him behind.

His was the only ball to leave the premises, on a night that Beckett became the American League's second 10-game winner by limiting the Braves to a double and three singles before the rains came, a 48-minute delay ending his outing after six innings. He did not leave before another how-can-I-top-myself-this-time catch by center fielder Coco Crisp, who took extra bases away from Hudson by going airborne after a long sprint in the fifth.

"Oh man," Beckett said. "I've told him this before, that that was the greatest catch I've ever had behind me. I told him that tonight. I think that's about three or four times I've told him that. I guess I've got to go back and look at all of 'em and figure out which one is the greatest catch.

"I try to explain it to some of the other guys. It's so much different, seeing that from my angle and with my adrenaline. Because I'm extremely into that play. Whenever you see somebody go after a ball like that, he's playing in the other gap -- right away you think there's no way, then he starts closing the distance and leaves his feet, it's an unbelievable catch.

The Sox picked up a game on the Yankees, 3-1 losers in Colorado, to widen their lead to nine games in the American League East. They also pinned another defeat on Hudson, maybe the best pitcher who can't figure out how to beat the Sox. Hudson, who used to pitch in Oakland, did better last night than in most of his starts against the Sox, but was hurt by an RBI double by his opposite number, Beckett, which came in a two-run fifth.

Alex Cora, playing shortstop in place of the benched Julio Lugo, tripled to center when Andruw Jones was unable to make a shoestring catch, and scored when Beckett lined a double into the gap in left-center. A single by Dustin Pedroia brought home Beckett to make it 3-0.

In the sixth, Jason Varitek doubled and Crisp singled him to third, knocking out Hudson. Cora's sacrifice fly made it 4-0.

Hudson has lost his last six starts to the Sox, his 0-6 record complemented by a 9.00 ERA. They roughed him up worse in Boston May 20 (8 H, 6 R, 4 2/3 IP), and his overall record against the Sox is now 3-9, with a 6.26 ERA. Go figure. Against the rest of the world, Hudson is 122-56, a winning percentage of .685.

"It's obviously a matchup where their hitters have done pretty well against me," Hudson said. "But check their record. They're not bad. That's a pretty good team."

NL Boxscore Boston vs. Atlanta

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston « 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 4 10 0
Atlanta 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:J.Beckett(10-1) L:T.Hudson(6-5)
HR: BOS- D.Ortiz (12) ATL- None

Boston AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR W K AVG
JD Drew RF 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .236
Dustin Pedroia 2B 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .320
David Ortiz 1B 3 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 .332
Eric Hinske PR-1B 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .175
Manny Ramirez LF 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .293
Kevin Youkilis 3B 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 .333
Jason Varitek C 3 1 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 .266
Coco Crisp CF 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .247
Alex Cora SS 2 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 .281
Josh Beckett P 3 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 .143
Kyle Snyder P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Hideki Okajima P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Wily Mo Pena PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .217
Jonathan Papelbon P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 33 4 10 4 3 1 1 2 3

Atlanta AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR W K AVG
Kelly Johnson 2B 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .285
Willie Harris LF 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 .385
Matt Diaz PH-LF 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .345
Edgar Renteria SS 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333
Yunel Escobar SS 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .302
Chipper Jones 3B 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .321
Brian McCann C 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .262
Andruw Jones CF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .202
Jeff Francoeur RF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .275
Scott Thorman 1B 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .239
Tim Hudson P 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200
Oscar Villarreal P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Pete Orr PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .196
Chad Paronto P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Macay McBride P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 31 0 5 0 1 0 0 3 4

E_E.Renteria. LOB_Boston 6, Atlanta 7. 2B_K.Youkilis, J.Varitek, J.Beckett, W.Harris. 3B_A.Cora. HR_D.Ortiz (12) off T.Hudson. SF_A.Cora. CS_J.Drew. GIDP_J.Drew, J.Varitek, C.Crisp, Y.Escobar. DP_Boston 1(K.Youkilis-D.Pedroia-E.Hinske) Atlanta 3(K.Johnson-Y.Escobar-S.Thorman 2), (E.Renteria-S.Thorman)

Josh Beckett (W 10-1) 6.0 4 0 0 2 3 0 88-52 3.14
Kyle Snyder 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 18-13 2.96
Hideki Okajima 1.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 14-6 1.01
Jonathan Papelbon 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10-6 1.78

Tim Hudson (L 6-5) 5.1 9 4 4 1 1 1 93-59 3.43
Oscar Villarreal 1.2 0 0 0 1 1 0 24-13 3.89
Chad Paronto 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 12-9 5.26
Macay McBride 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 8-5 3.60

IBB_off T.Hudson (J.Varitek).
HBP_by M.McBride (A.Cora).
T_2:57. A_47910.
Umpires_Home,Randy Marsh; First, Bob Davidson; Second, Sam Holbrook; Third, Hunter Wendelstedt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shilling Shellacked

Only 11 days have passed since Curt Schilling dabbled with immortality, coming within one out of a no-hitter.

Could he have gotten this old, this fast?

Or was Chipper Jones, Atlanta's All-Star third baseman, onto something when he wondered last night -- along with a veteran scout who said that was "the worst I've ever seen him throw" -- whether the 40-year-old Red Sox pitcher is injured?

"I think we all expected to see 92, 93 [miles per hour] when he gets in trouble, or even hike it up to 94, 95," Jones said after Schilling was carried out on his shield following a 9-4 beating in which he allowed the Braves six runs on 10 hits in just 4 1/3 innings and failed to strike out a batter for the first time in 14 years (348 starts).

Jones said Schilling, who departed after giving up a three-run home run to catcher Brian McCann, had less velocity than the scouting reports led the Braves to expect. It's no secret, of course, that Schilling doesn't have the fastball of his youth, but in his dotage he had shown the capacity to summon it when most needed.

"The fastball that I saw register the highest was 89, and that was with the bases loaded," Jones said. "Schill always had that innate ability to catch another gear when he needs it, and for me to only see 89 miles an hour tells me, you know, he might be hurt. I don't know."

Schilling didn't explicitly dismiss that suggestion. Asked about his health, he said, "Like I said, it's not any one thing. I struggled, at least the last two starts, it's terrible. I'm better than that. It's frustrating."

Last night, he was a shell of the Schill who has won so many huge games in the course of his career, departing after McCann, who was born just two years before Schilling threw his first pitch as a professional, crushed a pitch into the right-center-field seats for a 6-1 lead.

"It was supposed to be a slider, down and in," Schilling said. "It backed up right over the middle."

Schilling gave up a run in the third, two in the fourth, and was gone with one out in the fifth, while Mike Timlin was touched for a two-run home run by Scott Thorman in the seventh.

The Sox lost badly despite Coco Crisp's first two-homer game in the big leagues and first four-hit game with the Red Sox, and another home run by J.D. Drew in his return to Atlanta, where he put up the best numbers of his career in 2004 (.305, 31, 93). Crisp, who hit twice as many home runs in his first three at-bats last night as he had in his first 227 at-bats this season, informed Sox PR chief John Blake he would not be commenting on what manager Terry Francona hopes was a breakout game"You hope so," Francona said. "Those were good swings, really good swings. The ball came off the bat with authority. He's played such great defense, throw in some offense . . ."

Jones was not surprised that Schilling showed little inclination to discuss a possible injury.

"Schill's such a bulldog, man, he's not going to admit it unless it's to the point he just can't go anymore," Jones said. "He's always going to go out there and give you everything he's got. But when you drop your velocity into the 80s, it makes his split less effective, his cutter less effective. He's used to pitching and getting away with mistakes, all at 90-plus-miles an hour; at 89, you get away with less mistakes."

There may still be times, Jones said, when Schilling still locates all his pitches and keeps the mistakes to a minimum. But that becomes harder to do when you can't reach back for something extra when you need it.

"He's never thrown me in much," Jones said. "He's always stayed with the hard heater away. If I get ahead in the count, he'll back door that cutter, then be able to put you away with a devastating split. Now, you're talking about all his pitches being somewhere in the 80s, and that's a little bit easier for hitters to handle."

The splitter was something less than devastating last night.

"It would have been," Jones said, "if his fastball had been 93, 94. You have to respect that. Hitters have egos. They hate to be beat with a fastball. He capitalizes on that, throwing off-speed 81, 82 with movement."

Schilling was unsparing in his self-criticism.

"It's embarrassing," he said. "I never gave us a chance. I want to walk around the room and apologize to everybody -- the manager, teammates, fans. There's no excuse for a game like that to play out the way it did."

Schilling has found his inconsistency maddening. He had nothing on Opening Day in Kansas City, lasting just four innings, then gave up one run, total, in 15 innings over his next two starts. That pattern has recurred. On May 28, he struck out 10 in seven innings against the Indians, then lasted just five innings against the Yankees the next time out.

In his last start, he was knocked around by Colorado for nine hits and six runs (five earned) in five innings, though his defense contributed to his undoing. Last night, he had no defense for his own performance.

"My goal has always been to be consistent and give the team innings," he said, "and I've been as far from that as you can be, and that's frustrating.

"What I'm doing is not working. I'm not executing. It's not just one thing. It's a combination of a lot of different things. To pinpoint one thing probably would be wrong."

Is the loss of velocity on his fastball chiseling away at his confidence?

"I'm not pitching well," he said. "That's what chisels away at your confidence. Especially with this team, you can go out and not throw well and still win games. I didn't give us a chance."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Boone Bianco Agree to Contract Extension

Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone and head baseball coach Mike Bianco have agreed to a contract extension running through the 2011 season, Boone announced on Thursday.

The one-year rollover extension extends Bianco’s current contract to four years. The four-year contract is the maximum allowed by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning, and the extension recommendation from Boone is pending the approval of the Board

The contract extension comes on the heels of a 40-25 season in 2007 as Bianco led the Rebels to a third-consecutive Super Regional appearance and three-straight 40-win seasons for the first time in school history. Ole Miss is one of only four schools to have advanced to baseball’s round of 16 each of the last three years. The Rebels also hosted an NCAA Regional for the fourth-consecutive year, making Ole Miss one of only two schools in the country to host an NCAA Regional each of the last four seasons.

“Ole Miss baseball has become one of the NCAA’s elite programs under the guidance of Mike Bianco,” Boone said. “Extending his contract will enable Ole Miss fans to watch some of the nation’s best collegiate baseball for many years to come.”

“I am very appreciative to Pete Boone and Chancellor Robert Khayat for their continued confidence in our baseball program here at Ole Miss,” Bianco said. “We have accomplished a lot over the past few years. We are excited about building on that success as we continue to bring championships home to Ole Miss and work towards our goal of the College World Series and a national championship.”

In seven years under Bianco, Ole Miss has posted some of the most successful seasons ever in the history of the program. The Rebels are 282-157-1 under Bianco for a .642 winning percentage. Ole Miss has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in six of his seven seasons at the helm of the Rebel program and claimed the 2005 Western Division Championship and 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship.

In that time, Bianco has produced six All-Americans, 11 Freshman All-America selections, 19 All-SEC selections, three SEC Freshman of the Year selections, an SEC Player of the Year selection and a national Freshman of the Year selection. This season Ole Miss saw seven players earn All-SEC honors on either the first, second or freshman team and Jordan Henry was named SEC Freshman of the Year.

Rebels have also seen success in international competition during Bianco’s tenure as five players have been selected to compete with USA Baseball’s National Team. In 2007, sophomore right-handers Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite will both travel overseas to represent Ole Miss and the United States in international play.

Under Bianco’s tutelage, several Rebels have gone on to rise through the professional ranks as right-handed pitcher T.J. Beam has gone on to pitch for the New York Yankees and three former Rebels are currently playing triple A ball in Barry Gunther, Seth Smith and Matt Tolbert. All told, Bianco has seen 31 players drafted or sign free-agent contracts to play professional ball in his seven years at Ole Miss.

Sox Sweep Giants

The situation was delicate. Seventh inning, three-run lead, bases loaded and, though Barry Bonds had already been dispatched on a four-pitch unintentional (but careful) walk, Bengie Molina was at the plate.

Not quite the same as Bonds, who had already lofted home run No. 748 into the record books, but a hitter near .300 on the season nevertheless. And he would be facing righthanded reliever Joel Piñeiro, the $4 million man whose effectiveness in tight situations has not been often tested in his first season in Boston.

Molina's numbers, 5 for 28 (.179) with one home run, against Piñeiro clearly played a role in manager Terry Francona's decision to bring in the reliever after Javier Lopez had issued four not-so-close balls in an effort to make Bonds swing at junk or not at all. But so did the unavailability of Brendan Donnelly, likely the first choice in that situation, who had before the game been put on the 15-day disabled list.

Still, the statistics were in the Sox' favor.

"Inevitably it comes down to the pitcher making the pitch," said Doug Mirabelli after the Sox had dispatched the Giants, 9-5, yesterday at Fenway Park. "They know that. It's a huge situation, we really need a pitch out of you right now. You can't just come in here and throw a meaty fastball or a hanging breaking ball here. We really need you to concentrate on getting a ball down and away."

The strategy paid off with an inning-ending double-play roller to shortstop, finishing all serious threats for the afternoon in front of 36,137 Father's Day fans, and giving the Red Sox a sweep before heading out on a nine-game trip.

"It was a key situation, so it felt good," said Piñeiro, who added a 1-2-3 eighth before giving up a single to lead off the ninth that brought on Hideki Okajima. "I knew I had to come in there and do the right job. I know I've got the stuff. It's just a matter of going out there and putting it together on a consistent basis."

After a stretch in which the Red Sox scored two or fewer runs in eight of 11 games, the offense finally broke out. Seven of the nine starters got a hit, including five hits in the pivotal five-run third inning.

"The ballpark played small today," Francona said. "You could see it. The ball is going to fly. You don't know how many runs is enough. We kept at it. They'd score, but we'd come back and score.

"You don't really ever feel safe."

But nine runs helped. And so did J.D. Drew.

After going 0 for 5 in his first chance in the leadoff spot, he has gone 5 for 11 atop the order in the next three games. Yesterday, the rest of the lineup followed suit. Drew started the third with a walk, followed by a bunt single by Dustin Pedroia and a ground-rule double by David Ortiz. After Manny Ramírez was thrown out on a grounder bobbled by second baseman Ray Durham, Kevin Youkilis singled home Ortiz and Mike Lowell doubled off the Wall to score Youkilis. After Wily Mo Peña lined out to left, Mirabelli singled in Lowell, giving five players (Ortiz, Ramírez, Youkilis, Lowell, and Mirabelli) RBIs in the inning.

Balance? Absolutely.

The Sox added another run in the next inning for an 8-3 lead, pushing Giants starter Matt Morris -- coming off two consecutive complete games -- out of the game after four innings. Ramírez added his second solo shot in as many games in the seventh inning off Jonathan Sanchez.

Tim Wakefield (7-7) earned the win, giving up five runs on eight hits and two home runs over 5 2/3 innings.

But for baseball historians, the drama had already taken place by the time Wakefield left the mound.

With the Sox holding an 8-3 lead, Bonds's solo home run to lead off the sixth inning against the knuckleballer was little more than another step on his controversial path to breaking Hank Aaron's record. He homered into the bullpen in right field, just beyond the glove of Drew, a home run that didn't look close to going out as it popped up off the bat.

"I didn't move right at first," Drew said. "I thought it was a high fly ball, and the way the wind was blowing, I was under it about 10 different times at some point. I just couldn't go any further with it."

And it landed in the bullpen, followed predictably by a chorus of boos.

So the names to know yesterday were Barry Bonds and Joel Pineiro. Could have called that one, right?