Joe Kelly finishes 2014 with career-high 7.1 innings, picks up win

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — If there is any one pitcher in the Red Sox rotation the team can feel good about going into 2015 it’s Joe Kelly.

Acquired from St. Louis along with Allen Craig in exchange for John Lackey, Kelly has got better and better in each of his 10 starts with Boston and adjusting to life in the American League. He finished with a 4.12 ERA as a member of the Red Sox, but allowed more then three earned runs just once in his last seven starts.

His best start may have came Saturday against the Yankees when he went a career-high 7 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits, while walking two and striking out two. Two of the four runs he allowed were inherited as Tommy Layne allowed a double in the eighth — the only batter he faced.

Kelly wasn’t as pleased with the start as one might think.

“Rather average,” he said. “I’m glad we won and it is definitely good to go out with a win. It was an average start … I wanted to throw a complete game really, really bad. I’ve never had one in my career and it’s something that makes me frustrated and I let it get away in the eighth inning.”

Kelly joins Clay Buchholz as the two veterans returning to the rotation — although it’s likely the club adds one of two veteran starters via free agency or trade — and with that it was important Kelly had something to build on during the final month or so of the season. Manager John Farrell liked what he saw.

“I feel very good about Joe’s presence in our rotation,” Farrell said. “It’s premium stuff. I think he’s gained some consistency with the use of his fast ball, particularly to the glove side of the plate. When you single out each of the pitches in his repertoire, it’s premium stuff.”

The right-hander, too, is looking forward to next year, especially being able to get a full season with the Red Sox starting in spring training, rather than at the trade deadline.

“I’m looking forward to having a full year here – seeing all the guys we traded for – and playing for a full year,” Kelly said. “It’s definitely something I am looking forward to and it’s going to be fun.”

What do you think of Joe Kelly going into next season? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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Derek Jeter playing this weekend because of Fenway Park: ‘If it was anywhere else I don’t know if I’d play’

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — Fifteen years ago Derek Jeter was at Fenway Park for the 1999 All-Star Game where upon arriving at the park he was greeted with fans yelling and screaming obscenities at him. Fast forward to Friday night, fans were chanting “Derek-Jeter” from the first inning until the ninth inning, wanting to see a glimpse of the star who will play in his final major league games over the weekend after a memorable finale at Yankee Stadium Thursday night.

“When I was walking here through the stands, there were fans cheering, which was kind of different,” said Jeter. “I remember coming here in the All-Star Game in ’99 and the car that was dropping us off went to the wrong entrance. I was out of the car walking to the stadium and I thought they were going to kill me, they were all over me. So it’s funny how things have changed. … I think after they won, it sort of — I don’t want to say they softened up, so don’t say they softened up, but I think they’ve become a little bit kinder. And thank you for that.”

Following Thursday’s game, Jeter said he wouldn’t play shortstop again, he would just serve as a designated hitter — but that would be postponed a day, as for the first time in his 19 years in Major League Baseball, Jeter asked for a day off, following an exhausting — both mental and physical stretch — concluding with Thursday’s walk-off win.

Jeter could very easily retire without playing this weekend and no one would say a bad word, but because of who he is as as player and a person, he says the plan is for him to DH Saturday and Sunday.

“I’€™m playing here because I have respect for this rivalry, for Boston, and the fans. If it was anywhere else I don’€™t know if I’€™d play,” said Jeter. “My plan was always to play here. I wanted to take something from New York, that’€™s why I said it was my last time playing shortstop. I have the utmost respect for the Red Sox organization and their fans here. I would love to come and play here one last time.”

If not for the history of Fenway Park and the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry consisting of many memorable moments and playoff series’, Jeter could have already played his last game. But, because of the special meaning — second to Yankee Stadium — Jeter will suit up two more times. If he plays in the two games, he will become the Yankees all-time leader in games played against the Red Sox with 153, passing Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle, who have 152 apiece.

“If there’€™s anywhere to play besides New York, I guess it’€™s only fitting that it’€™s here in Boston because of all the games that I’€™ve played here, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees,” said Jeter. “If you can’€™t do it in New York, this is the next-best place, I guess.”

Do you think Derek Jeter is making the best decision? Voice your thoughts and opinions in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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Rusney Castillo hits first career homer, ‘special’ to do it at Fenway Park

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — In what will be likely the first of many, Rusney Castillo picked up his first career hit at Fenway Park, made even more special with it being his first career major league home run.

The Cuban outfielder ripped a Steve Geltz offering into the Monster seats in the third inning for a three-run homer. It was also his first extra-base hit of his career.

“It feels good to not only to hit my first home run, but to have it here at home at Fenway it’s that much more special,” Castillo said through a translator following the game.

Castillo finished the game going 2-for-4, which was his first career multi-hit game in the majors. In seven major league games, he’s reached base in six of them. It’s important to keep in mind, Castillo didn’t play in live baseball games for over a year before coming to America this summer and playing in minor league games up the Red Sox system. He says he’s not quite where he would like to be, but he’s getting close.

“I have been feeling more comfortable,” he said. “I am feeling closer to where I want to be. It’s like anything else with some more time and more repetitions you feel more comfortable and confident. I am on my way there.”

Along with Castillo, Christian Vazquez hit his first major league home run in Thursday’s game, becoming the seventh and eighth rookies to homer for the Red Sox this season, setting a new franchise record. According to Elias, the pair is the second Red Sox players to hit their first career homers in the same game. Garry Hancock and Chico Walker did it back in 1980.

Castillo is known for his tremendous power and has put it on display during batting practice. With the Green Monster in his vision in left field, it could entice him to swing for the fences, but Castillo says he is at his best when hitting the ball up the middle or going to the opposite field.

“I am not looking to yank one just because the Monster is there,” said Castillo. “I am just trying to make hard contact usually up the middle or to right field.”

Castillo is just one of the seven rookies starting for a second straight game. The group has gave the club a glimpse into the future as over the two games they have hit .435 with four doubles, three home runs and 16 RBI.

With how poor the season has gone, seeing the youth produce, especially Castillo gives plenty of optimism for 2015.

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John Farrell: ‘A play that we’ve seen [Cespedes] make a number of times’

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — Clay Buchholz was cruising in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Rays, shutting them out and having command of all his pitches.

That was until he walked the lead-off batter in the inning and hit a batter two batters later. Even with the mistakes, Buchholz was primed to get out of the inning without any damage as Ben Zobrist hit a ball to deep left against the wall, but Yoenis Cespedes misjudged it, allowing it to hit off the wall and two runs to score giving the Rays a 2-1 lead.

The rest of the inning fell apart for the Red Sox as they allowed five runs in all, and fell to the Rays 6-2.

“A play that we’ve seen [Cespedes] make a number of times,” manager John Farrell said of the Zobrist liner. “I think he jumped a little premature and the ball carries over his head for the two-run double.”

Buchholz acknowledged it was a tough play for Cespedes to make, but without admitting it, knew it was a ball that probably should have been caught.

“I’ve been out there during BP, it’s tough to make yourself go all the wall back to it,” Buchholz said. “It is what it is. Balls are hits, happens a lot. I would have liked it to have been caught, but I’m not going to say it should have been caught. Tough play.”

The runs in the inning moved Buchholz’s ERA, which was at 5.09 going into the inning, to balloon up to 5.31. The mark is the second-worst ERA in all of baseball with a minimum of 160 innings thrown.

All in all, it was another tough night for the Red Sox in what has been a forgetful 2014 season.

What did you think of the play? Should it have been caught? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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John Farrell addresses Major League Baseball pace of play issue

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — On Monday Major League Baseball announced a new committee to address the pace of play within the game. Two current members of the Red Sox organization are on the committee in Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and Red Sox partner Michael Gordon.

“We have the greatest game in the world, but we are always looking for ways to improve it,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a press release. “The game is at its highest levels of popularity and we will continue to strive to identify ways that can build on its stature well into the future. With the cooperation of all appropriate parties, we can make progress on improving the pace of play, and we will have recommendations in the very near future for the 2015 season. I believe that this group has the experience and the perspective to be mindful of our game’s traditions while being creative about our approach in the future.”

On Tuesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell gave his thoughts on the matter saying as the game is going on, the pace of play isn’t something he is thinking about in the dugout as he is focused on winning each game.

“I don’t know that our strategy from the dugout takes into account the length of the game,” Farrell said. “We’re about making the right decisions and hopefully executing consistently to win a game.”

The Red Sox manager did acknowledge his team is one of the leaders in the league in longest games, because of the way they are built. Last year was the Red Sox’ fourth straight season as the slowest team in baseball as its average game took three hours and 15 minutes.

“I do know this, the Red Sox are notoriously the team who has played the longer games and that is in large part because of a lineup that has been deep and it’s one that sees a lot of pitches,” Farrell said. “I hope that would not change our view of evaluating players that we value.”

As for a quick fix to the pace of play issue, Farrell did have one suggestion.

“To me it is to shorten the time in between half innings,” he said. I think there is probably eight minutes you could shave off a game inside the time elapsed in between innings.”

What are some ways you would like to see the pace of play addressed? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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