Big Papi ejected after striking out in sixth
Red Sox slugger has just two hits in 14 at-bats this season
KANSAS CITY -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, in the midst of an early-season slump, was ejected in the top of the sixth inning by home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook for arguing a called third strike on Friday night vs. the Royals.
In a game where the Red Sox lost 4-3 and didn't score after notching a three-spot in the fourth, Ortiz's bat could have been of use in the late innings. His replacement, Jeremy Hermida, did produce a single in his lone at-bat.
How did Ortiz manage to get ejected for the eighth time in his career?
"Frustration," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We try not to have that happen very often. When guys come out of the game, it doesn't help you. Obviously, he had said something. It's kind of cut and dry."
It appeared the pitch from Royals right-hander Kyle Davies was low. Ortiz was 1-for-3 on the night with a double and two strikeouts. He is hitting .143 in the first four games of the season with no homers and one RBI.
Red Sox's offense looks to get on track
KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox, in possession of a three-game losing streak, have suffered all three defeats in the late innings. All three losses have been charged to the bullpen.
But an underlying problem is the offense, which hasn't been able to tack on to leads in the mid to late innings. Boston has a daunting task on Saturday night, trying to get the bats in gear against Zack Greinke, the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they have their ace on the mound in Josh Beckett.
On Friday, the Sox had a 3-0 lead after four, and led 3-2 in the eighth, but it slipped away in a 4-3 loss to the Royals.
The Red Sox were a big hit away from tying it up in the ninth, but Dustin Pedroia, after working a nine-pitch at-bat, flied out to end the game.
"We'll do a better job," said Pedroia. "I'll do a better job. We've got to get on base more. We have to score more runs, and we will. I promise you that."
Six of Boston's nine starters are hitting .250 or lower through the first four games.
"We've been getting a few opportunities to score some runs and we haven't capitalized like we want," said Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez. "Like I say, we just keep grinding it and keep coming here and taking good at-bats, and that's the only thing we can control. We can't control anything after that. Just keep focusing and playing hard."
Red Sox disagree with West's comments
KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox aren't going to get into a war of words with veteran umpire Joe West, who ripped both Boston and the Yankees for their methodical pace in the season-opening three-game series at Fenway Park.
However, it is clear that the Red Sox don't agree with West, and were a little surprised that he would say such biting things on the record.
"Obviously, I think I need to be somewhat selective or careful," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I think it kind of surprised all of us. When you have someone in charge of running the game without bias, and then you hear those comments coming out pretty strong, it probably worries you a little bit. Looking back at the series, I can't say I was sitting there in the second inning and going, 'Oh, God. Let's play quicker.' That's just the way it is. I think there were 411 pitches thrown in one game. That's going to be a lot of baseball."
The time of game for the three games: 3:46, 3:48, 3:21.
"They're the two clubs that don't try to pick up the pace," West told the Bergen Record of New Jersey. "They're two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest? It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play."
"Obviously, I don't agree with [West]," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "The Yankees and the Red Sox, we play the game hard, we play the game right. A lot of fans like to watch us, we're always on TV. Two pretty high payroll teams that care about winning. When you have situations like that, you want to make everything right before you go out there and execute your game-plan, so it takes some time. I thought it was pretty disappointing what he said."
The way Francona and Boston players look at it, the lengthy games have much to do with the way hitters on both sides work counts, not to mention the fact that the commercial breaks are two minutes and 25 seconds for national television games, which is 20 seconds longer than a game that is only on local television outlets. The first and third game of the Yankees series were both televised by ESPN and the middle game was on the MLB Network.
"Leading off a game, I don't know how many times I've had to wait," said Sox left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said. "The pitcher is ready, I'm ready."
Though the Red Sox take pride in the way they grind out at-bats, they don't see anything they'd have to gain by purposefully trying to make games last longer.
"I think the one thing that I hope never gets lost is that we respect the game and the league," Francona said. "It's not an arrogance. Evidently, there's some perception out there, but that's not how we feel. At the same time, I don't agree with Joe coming out and doing what he did. I thought he was wrong."
Varitek set to catch Beckett on Saturday
KANSAS CITY -- With the Red Sox finally set to play more than two days in a row without an off-day, manager Terry Francona is ready to get his bench involved in the action. All four subs (Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida) should get a start either Saturday or Sunday in Kansas City. For Friday's game, Francona went with his starting nine for the fourth consecutive game.
Though Francona isn't big on making his lineups out ahead of time, he did indicate that catcher and captain Jason Varitek is likely to make his first start of the season on Saturday night. Josh Beckett is making that start for Boston, and Varitek has always worked well with the Boston ace.
In 105 games with Varitek behind the plate, Beckett has a 3.77 ERA and a .239 opponents' batting average. Victor Martinez has caught the righty only four times, and in those games, Beckett has a 7.71 ERA and a .375 opponents' batting average.
Conversely, by resting on Saturday night, Martinez is in position to be fresh for the Sunday afternoon game, when Clay Buchholz pitches. In 13 starts with Martinez, Buchholz has a 4.34 ERA and a .247 opponents' batting average. In 18 games with Varitek, the righty has a 5.59 ERA and a .285 batting average.
The one challenge Varitek will have on Saturday is that he'll have to shake off his offensive rust against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
"Somebody draws the short end of the stick," Francona said. "The challenge for me right now is that our bench right now is guys who have been everyday players. On one hand, I want guys to have some consistency, and we've had the same lineup four straight games. And I think that's good, but at the same time, we've got to start getting guys in there. And you'll start seeing that tomorrow. It needs to happen."
Bonser, Embree taking steps in Minors
KANSAS CITY -- The results of Boof Bonser's first rehab start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday night weren't exactly dominant (4 1/3 innings, six hits, two homers and three runs), but the Red Sox are more concerned with the righty getting his innings in at this point.
"Boof felt good though, which was good," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The more he can pitch, the better."
How soon can Bonser join the Red Sox?
"One thing is need, and the other is how he's throwing the ball," Francona said. "For [the sake of] his career -- when he had that groin [injury], the last thing we want to do, especially with an arm, so the more he can pitch, the better off he is. But he needed some innings. It's good for him."
Alan Embree also pitched at Pawtucket on Thursday, working around a walk to throw a scoreless inning. The lefty reliever has an out-clause in his contract on Thursday, which means he can be a free agent by then if the Red Sox haven't placed him on the Major League roster.
"Depending on his innings, he probably tries to go somewhat every other day [until Thursday]," Francona said. "It probably depends if he has a long inning. They'll use good judgment. I know what his contract says and everything -- you just do the best you can."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.