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Red Sox lineup: Mike Napoli returns against Reds

After a day off on Sunday to give his dislocated finger an opportunity to heal, Mike Napoli is back in the Red Sox lineup in his customary cleanup spot as the Red Sox prepare to take on the Reds in the series opener of a brief two-game set at Fenway Park. Grady Sizemore will be batting fifth against a Reds team that he spurned in order to sign with the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have little experience against Reds starter Homer Bailey, and the same can be said about Cincinnati and Sox starter Felix Doubront. For a look at the limited matchup histories, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Shane Victorino, RF

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Grady Sizemore, LF

Xander Bogaerts, SS

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Felix Doubront, SP

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Dare to dream: Bruins hope to keep things five-on-five at Bell Centre

MONTREAL — The Bell Centre can be a tough place to play, especially in the postseason.

The fans are crazy and the pregame presentation is second to none, but home ice calls overshadow everything. The Canadiens get their power plays one way or another, and if their power play is anything like it’s been the last two games, they score.

Yet with nine power plays in the first two games of the series in Boston, the Canadiens proved something that was proven throughout the regular season: They get calls anywhere. Montreal had 140 power plays at home this season and 139 on the road.

As such, it’s safe to assume the Habs will get something like nine power plays over the next two games. Whether it’s the same way they got them in Boston — with some diving, some should-be matching minors that weren’t matching and the Bruins losing their cool — remains to be seen. Either way, the B’s have to know the power plays for Montreal are coming.

When they do, the Bruins have to look more like the group that held the Red Wings to two power play goals and less like the group that has allowed four goals to Montreal through two games.

The biggest issue has been stopping P.K. Subban, who has been able to get too many pucks to the net. Only one of the four goals he’s created (two scored, two assisted) has come off a one-timer, with the others being a normal slap shot, a wrist shot and a pass.

The solution there is getting in the shooting lanes and stopping those bids, which for whatever reason the B’s haven’t done. Zdeno Chara, Gregory Campbell and Brad Marchand have all been guilty parties in that regard.

‘€œThat’€™s one of the areas we have to be better at,” Chara said Tuesday morning. “He’€™s putting those shots really quickly through our players and we’€™ve got to make sure we do a better job.’€

It goes without saying, but if the Bruins can stay out of the box, they’ll be in tremendous shape. The B’s were the best five-on-five team in the NHL this season and have outscored the Canadiens, 7-2 in the second round.

“Five-on-five I thought we’ve played very well. Carey Price is a good goalie and he’s made some big saves, but I think that we’ve had enough chances that we can win games five-on-five,” Reilly Smith said. “We’ve been the stronger team five-on-five for sure.”

Perhaps the most notable penalty thus far wasn’t given to a player at all, but rather Claude Julien. The Bruins were given a bench minor late in the second period of Game 2 when Claude Julien cussed out an official.

The B’s don’t want that to happen again, but Julien said Tuesday that he isn’t ashamed of the penalty.

“I don’t regret doing what I did,” Julien said. “I thought I stood up for my team at the time. But the biggest thing there is is you turn around and you tell your team to turn the page and go out there in the third and play the way they can. That’s part of the message that our team has to take from the last game. When we focus on the things we can control, it’s a lot more beneficial than not.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Late-round quarterback prospects for Patriots fans to focus on

Logan Thomas could be a late-round possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

Logan Thomas could be a late-round possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

Despite the fact that the Patriots have the steadiest situation in the league with Tom Brady under center the last dozen-plus years, that hasn’t stopped New England from finding at least one quarterback every year in the draft. Since Brady took over, the Patriots have drafted six quarterbacks: Rohan Davey, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Cassel, Kevin O’€™Connell, Zac Robinson and Ryan Mallett. In addition, they’€™ve signed several undrafted free agents, including Brian Hoyer and Matt Gutierrez.

This isn’t to say that they drafted/acquired these quarterbacks with the expressed idea of beating out Brady. Even if you’re not grooming the next Brady, you should always be mindful of trying to improve your roster at the backup quarterback spot. Even if it’s an undrafted camp body who can keep the rest of the quarterbacks on a pitch count, it just makes good sense from a team-building perspective to grab a quarterback every year.

With some help from our pal Rumford Johnny, here are five late-round/undrafted possibilities for the Patriots this spring. (For purposes of this story, we’re not going to include the high-level prospects like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater. Instead, our list is going to include guys who might be available from the fifth round on — Day 3 prospects, all the way down to undrafted free agent possibilities.)

Kenny Guiton, Ohio State: The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder, who started two games over the course of his career with the Buckeyes, has a huge arm, and even though there are some consistency questions, he has the capability of making some big throws. (He was 89-for-134 for 893 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions over the course of his career.) He’s almost certainly on New England’s radar for a few reasons, not the least of which Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer have remained pals over the years. As for the lack of game experience at a high level, Guiton invoked Cassel’s name as another college backup who found success at the NFL level, while adding that he’d love to join the Patriots.

Bryn Renner, North Carolina: Recently singled out by former NFL exec Bill Polian as “the quarterback sleeper” in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder saw his senior season end prematurely because of a shoulder injury. A former backup to T.J. Yates at UNC, he passed for more than 3,000 yards in 2011 and 2012, and ended his college career with 8,221 passing yards and 64 touchdowns. A graduate of the Manning Passing Academy, he figures to be Day 3 draft possibility, and the sort of quarterback who can start off as a solid backup and potentially grow from there.

Connor Shaw, South Carolina: Shaw isn’t flashy, but is a blue-collar grinder type who was the winningest quarterback in USC history, posting a 27-5 career mark as a starter. The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder completed 63.4 percent of his passes (180-for-284) in 2013 for 2,447 yards with 24 touchdowns and just one interception. For what it’s worth, Shaw had a recent workout with the Patriots, and could be another sixth- or seventh-round possibility for New England. (In terms of references, he’s got a certain No. 1 pick in his corner, as SC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has long been a supporter of Shaw, calling him a “great player.”)

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: The 6-foot-6, 248-pounder is a mobile presence with a big arm — he threw for 9,003 yards and 53 touchdowns over the course of his college career. (Last season he was 227-for-402 for 2,907 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 picks.) Considered one of the best prep tight ends in America before the went under center as a collegian, he could find a spot at the next level as a multiple offensive threat. Another Day 3 pick who could be there for New England in either the sixth or the seventh round, he had a March workout with the Patriots.

Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M: The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has big numbers with 8,124 yards and 70 touchdowns over the course of his career, including 5,401 yards and 53 touchdown last year. For what it’s worth, he also apparently has a pretty good sense of humor about himself, having put together this highlight video of him working out in a Christmas sweater. He currently projects as an undrafted fee agent who would need time to get acclimated to the NFL level.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Claude Juliens and Bruins trying to manage media spin machine

Claude Julien and the Bruins are no strangers to postseason wars of words.

In what looks a bit like the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, when Julien and Guy Boucher went back and forth with comments in the media, Julien and Habs coach Michel Therrien have had some things to say about one another in the second round.

After the Bruins won Game 2, Julien said that the B’s won the game despite putting up with “a lot of crap.” Therrien fired back Monday morning.

“[Claude]‘€™s not happy with all that ‘€˜crap,’€™’€ Therrien said. ‘€œThey try to influence referees. That’€™s the way they are. That’€™s not going to change. That’€™s the way that they like to do their things. ‘€¦ But we all know what they try to do.’€

Therrien’s words were similar to Julien’s comment in 2011 about Boucher lobbying for calls with his comments in the media. On Tuesday, Julien declined to take things any further with Therrien.

“You know what? Everybody’s entitled to their comments,” Julien said. “People are trying to make more out of this on-ice rivalry, trying to turn it into an off-ice rivalry. Everybody’s entitled to their comments. Some of it can be gamesmanship; whatever it is doesn’t really matter. Right now I’m focusing on my team and what we need to do. That’s what both teams are trying to do, I think.”

Therrien also asserted that the Bruins started this week’s popular storyline that the Bruins have “solved” Carey Price by shooting pucks high. That wasn’t the case, as both Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton were asked Sunday about scoring goals high on Price with him moving laterally across the net. Hamilton essentially said that goalies look low when you screen them, which was then spun into the Bruins saying that they’ve figured out Montreal’s goaltender.

“I don’t know if we’re really trying, but we’ve definitely noticed that,” Hamilton said Sunday. “I think when we can get our shots through past their defensemen — especially when they’re trying to block it — I think we have a good chance of getting it in.”

That somehow turned into a proclamation that the B’s have uncovered the secret to scoring.

“We hope that people will write the things that were actually said,” Julien said in French. “It’€™s that Carey Price, I had him for several weeks with Team Canada, he’€™s one of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. I don’€™t think we’€™re here talking about weaknesses or things like that. It’€™s pretty obvious that thanks to him his team is very good at the moment, he’€™s been playing some great hockey from the start. Some things said by a young player were taken out of context, and something bigger was made of it. As I said earlier, we’€™re looking after our own stuff and we’€™re keeping the focus on what we need to do on the ice, not off the ice.’€

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Claude Julien and Bruins trying to manage media spin machine vs. Michel Therrien, Canadiens

MONTREAL – Claude Julien and the Bruins are no strangers to postseason wars of words.

Claude Julien doesn't want things getting out of hand. (AP)

Claude Julien doesn’t want things getting out of hand. (AP)

In what looks a bit like the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, when Julien and Guy Boucher went back and forth with comments in the media, Julien and Habs coach Michel Therrien have had some things to say about one another in the second round.

After the Bruins won Game 2, Julien said that the B’s won the game despite putting up with “a lot of crap.” Therrien fired back Monday morning.

“[Claude]‘€™s not happy with all that ‘€˜crap,”€™’€ Therrien said. “They try to influence referees. That’€™s the way they are. That’€™s not going to change. That’€™s the way that they like to do their things. … But we all know what they try to do.”

Therrien’s words were similar to Julien’s comment in 2011 about Boucher lobbying for calls with his comments in the media. On Tuesday, Julien declined to take things any further with Therrien.

“You know what? Everybody’s entitled to their comments,” Julien said. “People are trying to make more out of this on-ice rivalry, trying to turn it into an off-ice rivalry. Everybody’s entitled to their comments. Some of it can be gamesmanship; whatever it is doesn’t really matter. Right now I’m focusing on my team and what we need to do. That’s what both teams are trying to do, I think.”

Therrien also asserted that the Bruins started this week’s popular storyline that the Bruins have “solved” Carey Price by shooting pucks high. That wasn’t the case, as both Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton were asked Sunday about scoring goals high on Price with him moving laterally across the net. Hamilton essentially said that goalies look low when you screen them, which was then spun into the Bruins saying that they’ve figured out Montreal’s goaltender.

“I don’t know if we’re really trying, but we’ve definitely noticed that,” Hamilton said Sunday. “I think when we can get our shots through past their defensemen — especially when they’re trying to block it — I think we have a good chance of getting it in.”

That somehow turned into a proclamation that the B’s have uncovered the secret to scoring on Price.

“We hope that people will write the things that were actually said,” Julien said in French. “It’€™s that Carey Price, I had him for several weeks with Team Canada, he’€™s one of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. I don’€™t think we’€™re here talking about weaknesses or things like that. It’€™s pretty obvious that thanks to him his team is very good at the moment, he’€™s been playing some great hockey from the start. Some things said by a young player were taken out of context, and something bigger was made of it. As I said earlier, we’€™re looking after our own stuff and we’€™re keeping the focus on what we need to do on the ice, not off the ice.”

The biggest oddity regarding the “shoot high” narrative is that the Bruins have only scored three times this series from shooting the puck high on Price. The players themselves find the storyline something between amusing and silly.

“It’s just the press and the media trying to create arguments and create banter,” Reilly Smith said. “We stay away from that kind of stuff, and if that’s the way the media wants to portray the series and talk between the teams, that’s what they’ll do.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Pierre McGuire on M&M: Bruins ‘much more disciplined on the road’

Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning to discuss the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and Canadiens. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

The Bruins evened up the series in dramatic fashion on Saturday, as the team rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period en route to a 5-3 victory in Game 2 at TD Garden.

“€œIt was like Game 2 of Detroit and Boston, too, exactly what Boston had to do,” McGuire said. “Sometimes it takes a little while to warm up to a series, and it took the Bruins a little while to warm up to the Detroit series and they clearly did that in Game 2 and never lost another game in the series. I thought that Boston really warmed up to this series after losing in double overtime in Game 1. €œIt takes a little while.

“They’€™re into it, they’€™re fully engaged now, and they’€™ll have to be because that will be a raucous crowd in Montreal tonight and Thursday night won’€™t get any easier.”

The Bruins once again struggled with maintaining their composure in Game 2. The Canadiens made use of six power-play opportunities in the contest, with two goals coming on the man advantage.

“It’€™s easier to say and harder to do,”€ said McGuire, adding: “It’€™s really difficult to talk about it and you keep getting hit over the head all the time with it, and I think there was some frustration because they were getting chances. … It’€™s all difficult stuff, but I think they’€™ll find their way. The one thing I know about this team, when they’€™re home, it’€™s one thing, because they want to please their fans so badly. … But the other thing, when they go on the road, I find them to be much more disciplined on the road than they are at home.”

It was not just the Bruins skaters getting penalized by the referees in Game 2, as Bruins coach Claude Julien was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the final minutes of the second period.

“It started early on in the game and I can tell you, he was really upset with [official] Scott Cherrey on an offside that he thought wasn’t an offside,” McGuire said. “Then it carried over to the second period, he didn’t like some of the calls going against his team, but it was nothing out of this world. It was nothing crazy. Trust me, I hear it all. It wasn’t anything nuts. And then, I don’€™t know what happened.”

Added McGuire: “€œI did not hear him say anything derogatory. I thought it was something that happened on the ice. I don’€™t know how [official] Dave Jackson heard anything from where he was standing from the Bruins bench, because it was definitely loud at that point in the game and when you’€™re on the ice, you’€™re down low. Unless you’€™re really scrutinizing, there’s no possible way you can hear anything.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Bruins news, go to the team page at weei.com/bruins.

On the home-ice advantage of the Bell Centre: “€œListen, there’€™s no conspiracy against any team when they go to Montreal, but the building is an intimidating building, it always has been. You walk into that building and all you see are Stanley Cup banners hanging from the roof. … It’€™s intimidating, it really is. Whether you like it or not, that’€™s just a fact of life. Every team aspires to build that kind of legacy, that kind of an intimidating home element to their game, whether it’€™s with the officials or the opponents and the players that represent their opponents. … You’€™re usually good for at least one bad call against your team per game and sometimes it’€™s a little bit more than that, but its not a conspiracy, it’€™s just human nature.”

On P.K. Subban ducking from a Shawn Thornton hit in Game 2, resulting in Thornton hurting his right knee on the play: “I didn’t like him ducking at all. … I thought he could have spun out of it or he could have taken the hit, and it would’ve been a hard hit, but he could’ve taken it. … Later on in the game, Brendan Gallagher gets absolutely smushed by Milan Lucic into the Bruins bench, and it’€™s almost virtually the same kind of play. Gallagher didn’t turtle out of it, he knew it was coming.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: North Dakota State OT Billy Turner

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Billy Turner

Billy Turner

BILLY TURNER

Position: Offensive tackle

School: North Dakota State

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 315 pounds

Achievements: 2013 FCS All-America first team (Associated Press, AFCA, Sports Network), 2013 FCS Athletic Directors Association Offensive Lineman of the Year, 2012 FCS All-America first team (Associated Press, Sports Network)

What he brings: Analysts have praised Turner for his NFL-ready size and athleticism, but concerns have been raised regarding his knack for overextending himself and for losing balance after contact. Playing in the FCS against sub-par talent has raised questions about how Turner will handle elite players in the NFL. While he has played exclusively at tackle during his collegiate career, there is speculation that he’ll end up at guard in the NFL.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Turner started 56 of 57 career games with North Dakota State, which won three straight FCS national championships. … As a senior, Turner was not responsible for any quarterback sacks. … At the NFL combine, Turner ran a 5.14 40-yard dash while benching 225 pounds 25 times. … Turner’€™s father, Maurice Turner, was a running back who played 27 games in the NFL from 1984-87 with the Vikings, Packers and Jets.

Related articles: 

NDNewsFeed.com: Buzz builds for NDSU’s Turner

The Jamestown Sun: NDSU tackle turning heads

Video: Here are Turner’€™s highlights against Kansas State in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Red Sox minor league roundup: Deven Marrero, champagne shortstop; Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw keep streaking; Wendell Rijo, precocious on-base machine; Anthony Ranaudo’s puzzling outing

Deven Marrero was making his way through the back fields during spring training, preparing for his second full minor league season. His first — in which he hit .252 with a .338 OBP and .317 slugging mark for High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 94 games — had offered little statistical distinction. And so, the words that followed about Marrero may have seemed surprising.

“There is a shortstop,” said an evaluator that morning, “who you can drink champagne with.”

It was high praise indeed for a 23-year-old, yet such accolades were a reflection of an appreciation of the all-around package that Marrero offers as a baseball player. His defensive work is tremendous, the steadiness of Stephen Drew with the athleticism to make some premium plays in the field. He’s got a swing geared for line drives and in both his amateur career at Arizona State and the early stages of his pro career, he’s shown an understanding of the strike zone to permit him to get on base. He’s a standout baserunner (Marrero was awarded the Red Sox minor league baserunner of the year distinction).

And now, Marrero is adding to that array of skills with a new one that wasn’t evident in 2013. So far this year in Double-A Portland, Marrero’s been driving the ball with an authority that was rarely on display last year. A player who did not amass a single extra-base hit last year in his year-ending 19-game, 85 plate appearance spell in Portland now has collected 10 in 21 games (96 plate appearances) in 2014.

On Tuesday, the 2012 first-rounder went 2-for-4 with his second homer of the year, a walk and he drove in four. While the homer — a low-flying rocket that barely cleared the fence in right — might not have gotten over the wall in many parks, the impact Marrero made while driving the ball to the opposite field commands notice.

He’s currently hitting .286 with a .375 OBP and .452 slugging mark. If those statistics are more of an indication of the kind of player he can be as he moves up, then given his defensive work, which mixes reliability — an error he made on Monday was his first of 2014 — with the occasional ability to make standout plays, then Marrero could emerge as a well above-average shortstop, one with well above-average on-base skills for his position who could profile in the second spot in the lineup or, perhaps more likely, make an impact by lengthening out the bottom of the order while playing a critical role in a team’s run prevention.

In short, he could resemble the type of shortstop who, even if not a star, would represent someone who could offer the basis for visions of autumn champagne.

Here’s Marrero’s home run on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 WIN VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS)

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– Starter Anthony Ranaudo earned his third win of the season with a rather inconsistent performance, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks through five-plus innings of work. Ranaudo cruised through the first four innings, allowing just one hit (a single) and one walk. Fastball command began to escape him in the fifth; at one point, according to the Providence Journal, he located only two of 15 fastballs in the strike zone. Ranaudo relied more heavily on his curve and allowed just one walk in the fifth. However, things fell apart in the sixth against the top of the Mud Hens’€™ order. Ranaudo allowed a four-pitch walk to the leadoff hitter followed by a single and ground rule double before walking his final batter of the game.

“€œIt looked like he was guiding the ball a bit,”€ manager Kevin Boles told Tim Britton of The Providence Journal. “He wasn’€™t aggressive as we saw early on. He tried to quicken up his arm, but he just lost a little bit of his command at the end.”

Ranaudo had thrown just 71 pitches through five, but ended up tossing 89 pitches (49 strikes) on the evening. The righty has not gone more than six innings in any start, and has only completed six once. Ranaudo tied his season-high in walks with four (which he’€™s done two other times) and struck out only two; prior to Monday he hadn’€™t struck out fewer than four batters in any start.

– Reliever Dalier Hinojosa closed out the game with two spotless innings of work, striking out one and using just 24 pitches. The impressive performance comes after three straight rough outings for Hinojosa, who allowed a total of seven earned runs on six hits and three walks over his previous three innings. Though the Cuban right-hander has held opponents to a .170 batting average, he’€™s walked (12) almost as many batters as he’€™s fanned (13).

Christian Vazquez added two RBIs with a pair of two-out singles. With the two hits, Vazquez is now 8-for-19 with eight RBI when runners are in scoring position. The catcher has been hitting righties well; both RBI singles came off Toledo’€™s starter, a right-hander, and he’€™s hitting .321/.350/.429 against righties compared to a .192/.323/.308 line versus southpaws. Vazquez had been hitless in his last two games, but has reached base in seven straight. He’€™s batting .280/.341/.390 on the season.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-1 WIN AT READING (PHILLIES)

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– Feats of Mookie: <Insert superlative here.>

Other members of the Sea Dogs are trying to figure out how best to describe the remarkable performance of their teammate. Left-hander Henry Owens took to twitter on Monday night, after Mookie Betts went 2-for-3 with two walks and a steal to improve to .412/.469/.623 with 14 walks, nine strikeouts, four homers, 15 extra-base hits and 14 steals — along with 35 runs in 27 games — this year.

Marrero joined the chorus, telling the Portland Press-Herald, “People need to come watch this. It’€™s fun to watch.”

Betts has reached in all 27 games this year for Portland, and he’s gotten on base in 57 straight regular-season contests dating to last August in High-A Salem. He has hits in 25 of his last 27 games. In the 131 games since he broke through in Greenville last May 5 following a mechanical adjustment, Betts has had just 10 games in which he’s failed to reach base at least once. In other words, he’s emerged as the sort of reliable on-base machine — with the ability to make an impact on the bases — who represents an ideal top-of-the-order fit.

– Not to be lost in the shuffle in Portland’s infield, Travis Shaw continued his torrid stretch. The first baseman went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. The homer was his fifth of the year and improved his line for the year to .313/.414/.525 with five homers and 11 extra-base hits in 26 games. Yet perhaps the most striking thing about his recent excellence following a slow start — Shaw is 10-for-17 with a homer, five doubles and three walks in his last five games, good for a .588/.650/1.059 line — is the fact that he’s hammering the ball but not striking out.

A player who struck out in roughly nine out of 10 games in his first two full pro seasons has simply stopped whiffing. In 13 games since April 22, he’s hitting .392/.475/.686 with eight walks and two strikeouts in 59 plate appearances. That sort of infrequency of strikeouts would be a surprise if it came from smaller hitters with a compact stroke. But the fact that Shaw — an imposing 6-foot-4 hitter who is driving the ball — is now eliminating strikeouts is striking.

Shaw is one of four players in the minors with more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) and at least five home runs.

– Right-hander Michael Olmsted fired a season-high 2 1/3 innings without permitting a run, allowing just one hit. He struck out two and walked one. On the year, Olmsted — who turned 27 last week — has allowed just one run in 12 innings with 15 strikeouts and six walks.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN VS. WILMINGTON (ROYALS)

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– Left-hander Corey Littrell threw five scoreless innings, allowing five hits (four singles and a double) and three walks while punching out five. The 22-year-old has been a solid early-season performer in his first full season of pro ball, forging a 2.20 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 13 walks in 32 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .235 average.

Reed Gragnani, 23, went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, to improve his season line to .403/.489/.545 with 14 walks and just eight strikeouts in 21 games.

– Outfielder Matty Johnson‘s 2-for-5 day included a walkoff double to right. The hit came against right-hander Zeb Sneed, with Johnson’s line against righties improving to .322/.404/.391.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 13-3 WIN AT AUGUSTA (GIANTS)

(BOX)

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo, who recently graduated from the bottom of the order (he’d been hitting eighth) to the middle of it (he hit fifth for the sixth time on Monday), continued to perform at a level that suggests an advancement well beyond his years. The 18-year-old went 2-for-3 with a triple and a pair of walks to elevate his line to .321 with a .461 OBP and .494 slugging mark.

Rijo’s on-base percentage is 16th in all of the minors. No other prospect who is in the top 25 in the minors in that category is younger than 21. Among players 18 and younger with at least 50 plate appearances so far this year, no one else is within 100 points of Rijo’s OBP (the next best mark for an 18-year-old is .353).

– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz, who had punched out no more than four batters in any of his prior five outings, struck out a season-high seven and walked none in six innings. He permitted three runs on 10 hits, but eight of the 10 hits were singles (many of the groundball or infield variety). While the 2013 second-rounder hasn’t been getting a ton of swings and misses — even with his seven punchouts on Monday, four were looking — Stankiewicz is attacking the strike zone and forcing his opponents to swing. In 32 innings, he’s walked just six (1.7 per nine innings) and he’s issued one or no free passes in five of his six starts. That aggressive approach has permitted him to deliver innings with unusual consistency for a 20-year-old.

– First baseman Jantzen Witte continued his hot streak, going 3-for-4 with three doubles and a walk while driving in three. In his last four games, the 24-year-old has eight hits — seven doubles and a triple. For the year, the TCU product is hitting .354/.438/.576 with 14 doubles and 17 extra-base hits. He ranks second in all of minor league baseball in doubles (14) and is tied for ninth in extra-base hits (17).

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘Not a great draft for tight ends’

Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NFL draft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots are predicted by many to take a defensive end or tight end with the 29th pick of the first round.

“I don’t think they know right now,” Schefter said of the Patriots’ plan. “I think a defensive lineman certainly makes sense. … I don’t know that there’s going to be a tight end in that spot that makes sense for them.

“There aren’t a lot of tight ends, so if you don’t have a lot of tight end choices, there’s not a lot you can do, so they’re kind of limited with that position right now. It’s not a great draft for tight ends. I think in a perfect world, they might get one — Eric Ebron never will make it to them and then there is a group of those guys — [Austin Seferian-Jenkins] I don’t think would be for them. I think that you look at the other guy, Jace Amaro. I could see that maybe. … There just doesn’t seem to be a great tight end in this draft, and maybe they come back and revisit the Dustin Keller thing if the draft does not yield a tight end.”

Schefter also added that regardless of Tom Brady‘s age, the Patriots should invest in a quarterback if they have a solid option when they pick.

“We all know they have the quarterbacks ranked, and Johnny Manziel will not make it to them,” Schefter said. “If Johnny Manziel somehow did, which there’s zero chance of that, I think they’d be happy to take Johnny Manziel. I don’t think you just pick a quarterback to pick a quarterback. … I think it’s true any year — last year, this year, next year — regardless of Tom Brady‘s age, if there’s a quarterback that you have a high grade on when you pick, and he’s the best player on the board … you go take him, period, regardless of whether Tom Brady‘s 37, 27, 17. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t think there’s any difference this year.

“I know that, yes, we’re getting closer to the end of Tom Brady’s career, and yes, you’re keeping in mind that you’re looking for his successor, but it’s not the kind of thing that you force. It happens. It comes to you. The guy that you have a high grade on all of a sudden is there in Round 1 or Round 2 or Round 3, and you say, ‘Hey, we have a first-round guy in this quarterback who’s now here in Round 3. We’ve got to take him.’ I don’t think you’re going into a draft thinking now or next year we’ve got to find a successor for Tom Brady. It just happens.”

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is not expected to go until very late, and Schefter said it’s not because he is set to become the first openly gay NFL player.

“I will say, he will get drafted. I think it will be Round 6 or 7. I don’t believe it’ll be any earlier,” Schefter said. “I’ve spoken to some teams who told me flat out they wouldn’t draft him and it had nothing to do with him coming out and saying that he’s gay. They told me that they had him basically as an undrafted free agent before he made his public declaration. So, believe what you want. I think he becomes a late guy who becomes drafted. It wouldn’t surprise me if the NFL office weighed in and asked a couple of teams, ‘Hey, can you do us a favor and take this guy later on? It would help out everybody.’ But it’s not like teams are clamoring for him. I’ll tell you that — that is certain.”

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘Not a great draft for tight ends’

Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NFL draft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots are predicted by many to take a defensive end or tight end with the 29th pick of the first round.

“I don’t think they know right now,” Schefter said of the Patriots’ plan. “I think a defensive lineman certainly makes sense. … I don’t know that there’s going to be a tight end in that spot that makes sense for them.

“There aren’t a lot of tight ends, so if you don’t have a lot of tight end choices, there’s not a lot you can do, so they’re kind of limited with that position right now. It’s not a great draft for tight ends. I think in a perfect world, they might get one — Eric Ebron never will make it to them and then there is a group of those guys — [Austin Seferian-Jenkins] I don’t think would be for them. I think that you look at the other guy, Jace Amaro. I could see that maybe. … There just doesn’t seem to be a great tight end in this draft, and maybe they come back and revisit the Dustin Keller thing if the draft does not yield a tight end.”

Schefter also added that regardless of Tom Brady‘s age, the Patriots should invest in a quarterback if they have a solid option when they pick.

“We all know they have the quarterbacks ranked, and Johnny Manziel will not make it to them,” Schefter said. “If Johnny Manziel somehow did, which there’s zero chance of that, I think they’d be happy to take Johnny Manziel. I don’t think you just pick a quarterback to pick a quarterback. … I think it’s true any year — last year, this year, next year — regardless of Tom Brady‘s age, if there’s a quarterback that you have a high grade on when you pick, and he’s the best player on the board … you go take him, period, regardless of whether Tom Brady‘s 37, 27, 17. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t think there’s any difference this year.

“I know that, yes, we’re getting closer to the end of Tom Brady’s career, and yes, you’re keeping in mind that you’re looking for his successor, but it’s not the kind of thing that you force. It happens. It comes to you. The guy that you have a high grade on all of a sudden is there in Round 1 or Round 2 or Round 3, and you say, ‘Hey, we have a first-round guy in this quarterback who’s now here in Round 3. We’ve got to take him.’ I don’t think you’re going into a draft thinking now or next year we’ve got to find a successor for Tom Brady. It just happens.”

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is not expected to go until very late, and Schefter said it’s not because he is set to become the first openly gay NFL player.

“I will say, he will get drafted. I think it will be Round 6 or 7. I don’t believe it’ll be any earlier,” Schefter said. “I’ve spoken to some teams who told me flat out they wouldn’t draft him and it had nothing to do with him coming out and saying that he’s gay. They told me that they had him basically as an undrafted free agent before he made his public declaration. So, believe what you want. I think he becomes a late guy who becomes drafted. It wouldn’t surprise me if the NFL office weighed in and asked a couple of teams, ‘Hey, can you do us a favor and take this guy later on? It would help out everybody.’ But it’s not like teams are clamoring for him. I’ll tell you that — that is certain.”

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri