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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kevin Garnett Returns, Signs 3-Year Extension With The Boston Celtics

Off the court, Kevin Garnett is a man of mystery. He's not on Twitter, he is rarely seen in public so when he's not playing basketball it's hard to know what he's doing or thinking. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I think we all respect his privacy.

I was confident that KG would return to the Celtics but I was more than pleasantly surprised that they have reportedly re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $34 million according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

This is wonderful news for the Celtics and their fans since it all but guarantees that Garnett will rightfully end his career in Boston and they will be a title contender the whole time. He is 36-years-old so obviously his health is the biggest issue but he proved last season (15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds) and even more so in the playoffs (19.2 points, 10.3 rebounds) that he is not washed up yet by any means.

Rajon Rondo is the best player on the C's these days but everybody recognizes that KG is still the heart and soul of the team. He's the main leader and the most consistent performer while Rondo can be very unpredictable in many ways. As it turned out, Boston might have been the second best team in the NBA last season since they went seven games with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals (after leading 3-2). Miami ended up beating Oklahoma City in five games in the NBA Finals so that makes you think that the Celtics were painfully close to Banner 18 if they just could have closed out the Heat.

With KG locked up, the next piece for the Celts is Ray Allen. Many have speculated that the Heat and Suns (what?) are also trying to sign him when free agency begins tonight at 12:01 a.m. (free agents can't officially sign until July 11). I can't take the Phoenix rumors seriously since they don't make any sense but Miami would be a logical spot for Allen. However, they wouldn't be able to offer him nearly as much money as Boston plus with Garnett back in the fold, would Ray really want to leave now?

It has already been an interesting summer with the Celtics selecting Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph in the 2012 NBA Draft on Thursday night. For the time being, this isn't a rebuilding project at all with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo not to mention Doc Rivers still employed by the C's.

The other free agents that played for Boston last season include Brandon Bass, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Jeff Green (who missed all the games with a heart ailment), Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic and Mickael Pietrus. Of that group, Bass and Green are clearly the most important. The rest are very replaceable and nobody will notice if they are gone. Also, the C's made a qualifying offer to center Greg Stiemsma (1-year, $1.05 million) last night so I expect him to take it and return.

The most attractive (and realistic) free agent target in my mind is Jamal Crawford. I've read that the Celtics are one of the teams trying to get the veteran guard who is a great scorer off the bench. He would seemingly be a perfect fit and give Boston something they've lacked in recent years: a guy that can put up double-digits routinely off the bench. He's never won a championship and barely played in the postseason during his long NBA career so I'm sure at this point, winning is even more important to him than ever.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Your Regular Old 2-Hitter By Aaron Cook, Wait What?

Short of a perfect game or no-hitter, you'll be hard pressed to see a better pitching performance than the one turned in by Red Sox starter Aaron Cook tonight in Seattle.

In only his third start for Boston (41-36, 20-15 away), the veteran sinkerballer threw a two-hitter as the Red Sox blanked the Mariners (33-46, 14-22 home) 5-0 at Safeco Field. It was the 12th complete game of Cook's career and third shutout.

Cook didn't walk anybody and only struck out two guys. He was super efficient and quick (the game took 2 hours and 18 minutes) since he needed just 81 pitches to get it all done. Of the 27 Seattle outs: 15 ground outs, 10 fly outs and two strikeouts.

This being the Mariners, who have one of the most wretched lineups in MLB history, we have to treat this is an anomaly. Still, it shows that Cook has something left in the tank if he can stay healthy.

In five innings, Hector Noesi (2-10) allowed all five earned runs on seven hits including four home runs.

After four scoreless innings, the Red Sox blasted a trio of solo homers in the fifth. Will Middlebrooks (10th of the season) and Cody Ross (12th of the season) went back-to-back before Daniel Nava (3rd of the season) also went deep.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (15th of the season) continued his late All-Star push (yes I know voting is already over) with a two-run shot in the sixth. The 2012 All-Star teams are announced on Sunday afternoon. David Ortiz is the only lock for the Red Sox which says something about how much their other "stars" have underachieved in the first half.

Boston's defense clearly enjoyed playing behind a pitcher that worked fast, a big issue with almost every other starter, as they turned two double plays.

Josh Beckett (4-7) returns from almost three weeks on the DL tomorrow night (10:10 p.m., NESN) to face Erasmo Ramirez (0-2), a converted rookie reliever making his fourth MLB start. Franklin Morales and Cook have both put up zeros in the first two games of this series so it's not too much to ask of the Texas Toughguy to shut out this awful opponent.

For Once, NESN Makes A Good Hire In Terms Of An Ex-Red Sox Player To Work In Studio

If we're being real, NESN's pre and post-game coverage of Red Sox games isn't exactly appointment viewing. There are two criteria I use to decide if I'll watch on a given day or night: 1) what ex-player is sitting in and 2) was it an exciting/interesting game?

I won't pat the Watertown cable channel too hard on the back, since these are the same bozos that have hired stiffs like Jim Rice and Matt Stairs, but I will give them credit for making a good decision for once: today, they announced ex-pitcher Tim Wakefield will join the network starting tomorrow night.

Wake's first appearance will take place before Boston's game against Seattle at Safeco Field (10:10 p.m.), the third game of a four-game series. This time at least, he'll be paired with Tom Caron (a pro) and Rice (haha oh God).

"Tim Wakefield has been an integral part of the fabric of the Red Sox and the New England community for the past 17 years," said Sean McGrail, NESN President and CEO. "We are extremely happy to add Tim to our all-star lineup of studio analysts and believe that he will bring a unique perspective to our coverage with his knowledge of the team and the rest of the league."

Wakefield retired at the end of last season after a 19-year MLB career, spending 17 years as a popular member of the Red Sox (1995-2012). He ended his career with 200 wins, 186 of them with the Red Sox, which ranks third behind only Cy Young and Roger Clemens on the Red Sox all-time career win list. He was the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 1995, an All-Star in 2009, and a two time World Series Champion.

He was also a champion off the field as one of the most charitable players in the league. He was nominated eight times for the Roberto Clemente Award, and honored as the 2010 recipient of this prestigious award. His partnership with the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston allowed him to spend time with patients. He has also been active with New England's Pitching in for Kids organization, the Touch 'Em All Foundation and the Space Coast Early Intervention Center in Melbourne, Fla.

Every time the knuckleballer talked to the media in his playing days, he was thoughtful, well spoken and he came across as a normal guy you'd like to have a beer with. That's a good sign although it's not a slam dunk that he'll be able to bring anything to the table when he gets paid simply to talk and give his opinions. What makes a good analyst (cough Dennis Eckersley) is pretty simple: don't protect any players, managers, front office, etc. Tell it like it is, that's all fans want to hear. Don't talk wistfully too much about your playing days and please don't use too many cliches because then you are useless (Rice).

I think I speak for everyone when I say goodluck Wake, we know (fingers crossed) that you'll be an upgrade on Rice and Matt Stairs. I'm also going to guess that he'll be better than Jim Corsi. Haha remember him?

Tell Me Again Why Felix Hernandez Is Still Wasting Away With The Mariners

There is nothing worse in life than wasted talent and that is precisely why I can't believe that Felix Hernandez is still employed by the Seattle Mariners.

One of the best pitchers in MLB is reduced to playing for a perennially mediocre team in a division (AL West) that they'll never win anytime soon since the Texas Rangers are loaded and the Los Angeles Angels aren't that far behind. Oh and the stadium was less than half full tonight as Hernandez showed just what the big market teams are missing by throwing a five-hitter as the Mariners (33-45, 14-21 home) beat the Red Sox (40-36, 19-15 away) 1-0 at Safeco Field.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter and former Ray John Jaso singled to right. Casper Wells had doubled and ended up scoring the winning run on the play even though he should have been out. Red Sox right fielder Cody Ross had a good throw to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia who had time to brace himself for Wells. There wasn't a big collision yet Salty dropped the ball for some reason. The umpire called Wells out initially but once the ball popped loose, it was over. A truly awful way to lose this game and start a seven-game road trip in Seattle and Oakland.

King Felix (6-5) tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts in his fifth career shutout. He had one walk and threw a career-high 128 pitches (84 strikes including 22 swinging strikes which is silly).

The crazy part is that Boston starter Franklin Morales (7 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts) has been lights out since he entered the rotation and he nearly matched the former American League Cy Young winner.

Andrew Miller had a 1-2-3 eighth on seven pitches but Atchison (2-1) wasn't able to send it to extra innings after Wells got the only extra-base hit of the contest.

The Red Sox squandered their only real chance to score, in the top of the ninth. With one out, David Ortiz singled and Salty walked. Hernandez finally seemed to be tiring and after a good at bat, Adrian Gonzalez flew out to center where Michael Saunders made an outstanding running catch. Will Middlebrooks could have put Boston ahead but he popped out to let Felix off the hook.

Aaron Cook (1-1) faces Hector Noesi (2-9) tomorrow night (10:10 p.m., NESN) in a game that the Red Sox really need to win. Tonight's game is the only one that they should honestly lose to the Mariners, who are one of the worst hitting teams in the AL.

Boston missed a great opportunity to move up on everybody else in the AL East last night as the Yankees, Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays all lost. What's more, if you look at the other teams at the moment, they are all messes. The Yankees rotation is in shambles, the Rays and Orioles have lost seven of nine and the Blue Jays are 4-6 in their last 10 with few healthy starting pitchers left standing as well. This all means that the Red Sox need to take advantage; they're playing better and they have a favorable schedule while all their main rivals are scuffling to varying degrees.

2 Orange & 1 Buckeye Are The Newest Boston Celtics

After much speculation about Boston trading up in the 2012 NBA Draft, maybe even to select head coach Doc Rivers's son Austin, the Celtics ended up keeping all three of their original picks: No. 21 (Jared Sullinger, sophomore power forward, Ohio State), No. 22 (Fab Melo, sophomore center, Syracuse) and No. 51. (Kris Joseph, senior small forward, Syracuse).

All three players are particularly well known to college basketball fans since not only are they from two of the better programs and more prestigious conferences (Big Ten and Big East respectively) but the Buckeyes and Orange faced each other in the Elite 8 at TD Garden this past March. I'd say that Danny Ainge did all the scouting he needed then but Melo was suspended for the NCAA Tournament so there goes that half-ass lazy theory.

Of those guys, Sullinger (@Jared_Sully0) is by far the one that makes me most hopeful. The two-time All-American would have been a Top-10 pick if he left Ohio State in 2011 after his freshman year. It's not that he had a bad sophomore season (17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds) as the Buckeyes went to the Final Four but in his case two things worked against him: more exposure meant increased scrutiny and possible issues with his back raised a red flag the last few weeks at workouts.

He's a great low-post player that is also able to step out and hit jumpers consistently. He gets to the basket, draws fouls and hits free throws. Perhaps most importantly for the Celts, he knows how to rebound (one of their biggest issues last season). Sullinger is pretty slow and not particularly agile so it'll be interesting to see if he can be as effective against bigger and faster guys in the NBA. One thing's for sure: he knows how to play the game and he's a winner which is why I think this was a steal for the C's provided his back holds up.

Which leads me to Melo (@fabpmelo); I have already bashed the man in print (check out last week's Metro Boston boom/bust Draft preview) but I have to admit that he made sense in this spot. There weren't many other great options then and his potential upside is huge if he can just get focused. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year last season with 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks for the Orange. If nothing else, he can give Boston the defensive presence at center (he's a legit 7-feet) that they've lacked. I don't know if I'd call him a project (although his offensive game is very basic) but I certainly would be surprised if he gives the Celts much his rookie season. It'll probably be a big adjustment for him to the NBA but that's usually how it goes with big men.

One could argue that the Joseph (@Krisjo32) (13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds last season with Cuse) pick was a throwaway choice so it didn't really matter but I have to say that I didn't really understand it. I saw him a million times in college (since he was a senior) and he never impressed me despite the fact that he led Syracuse in scoring the last two seasons. He's just OK at everything: shooting, driving, passing and playing defense. He could have a hard time making this roster next season although that's not to say he couldn't hook on in a less intense environment.

I'll keep you updated to see if these players will be on the Summer League teams that begin play next week. I doubt the Celts' front office would let Sullinger suit up. Melo seems like he could and you know Joseph will be there from Day 1.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It Is Tuukka Time For The Boston Bruins, Well Kind Of

The Boston Bruins took an interesting approach this afternoon with goaltender Tuukka Rask: rather than sign him to a long-term deal, they inked the Finn to a one-year, $3.5 million deal for next season.

That was somewhat surprising since with Tim Thomas out of the picture (we think), it is Rask's job in 2012-13. There won't be any other real contender pushing him for the No. 1 spot so it's weird that the B's wouldn't reward him. I guess, their hope is that this will motivate him and then they can lock him up during the season (assuming he plays well) or next summer before he becomes a restricted free agent.

Rask only played in 22 games last season as Thomas's backup. Plus, he got hurt during the regular season and didn't appear in another game after that. He was 11-8 but his goals against average was 2.05 with a save percentage of .929.

At the ripe old age of 25, he has starting experience for an Eastern Conference contender since he was the man in 2009-10. You'll remember that season for the epic chokejob in the playoffs as the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead in the series and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Flyers. That wasn't all Rask's fault but he certainly could have done more at that time to change the outcome.

We all knew that Tuukka would be the starter again whenever Thomas left or retired but the way this all went down was unique to say the least. Still, I think Boston's players, coaches, front office and fans collectively have plenty of confidence that Rask will be one of the strengths of the Bruins for many seasons to come.

We'll Get Our Dose Of Doc Rivers During The London Olympics, Don't You Worry

It's one adventure to the next for Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers who never seems to take any time off. Tonight, he's in Newark, NJ to see his younger son Austin Rivers get drafted by the NBA. In a few weeks, he'll be a basketball analyst on NBC for the London Olympics.

The network announced an announcer lineup for the London Games full of familiar faces Thursday. Bob Costas will serve as prime-time host for the ninth time. Al Michaels and Dan Patrick will handle that role for NBC's live weekday and weekend daytime coverage.

Eight-time Winter Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno will work as a reporter.

Collins and Rivers have worked as TV commentators during stints between coaching jobs. Collins will call games alongside play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald, the voice of the Golden State Warriors for CSN Bay Area. One of his players with the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala, could make the U.S. team. Rivers, the Boston Celtics' coach, will be a studio analyst.

You'll remember that Doc was a very popular commentator on TNT between coaching gigs in Orlando and Boston. Clearly, he loves the game of basketball since I doubt that he really needs the money and neither does his family. That is assuming he doesn't pull a Mark Jackson and have a stripper on the side looking for cash.

Seriously though, it's a pleasure to hear Rivers speak with the media before, during and after games; with his experience both as a player in the NBA and coach, it's no wonder that he's one of the best analysts (that has taken a break from that very different life). You know that whenever he decides to retire from coaching that a great TV gig will be waiting for him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Boy I Can't Wait For The 2012 ESPYS (That's A Total Lie)

Sadly, I used to enjoy the ESPYS. They came at the deadest part of the sports year-during the MLB All-Star break-and they were a good excuse to see our favorite athletes dressed up and in the same room together while some C-list celebrity made weak attempts at jokes (except Jamie Foxx and Norm McDonald, they were great).

Now, I honestly didn't even know who the host is-Rob Riggle-so I had to look him up on Google. Apparently, he is a correspondent on The Daily Show but he was also the cop in The Hangover. I guess Andy Samberg wasn't available. This year's show takes place on July 11 at 9 p.m. EST, live from LA's Nokia Theatre.

I only mention ESPN's fake award because two of Boston's best athletes are nominated. Each award for a major sport (sorry Bowling) has five nominees. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is up for "Best Breakthrough Athlete" and "Best NFL Player." It's no use arguing why someone is or isn't included on these lists since some dopey ESPN intern was probably in charge of figuring it all out.

In addition, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is one of five choices for "Best NBA Player." Haha, hold your laughter please. You can vote here (until July 9).

You know Gronk will do something unintentionally funny while he's in the building so be sure to follow him on Twitter and flip over to see if he wins meaning that he has to make what undoubtedly would be one of the worst speeches in the history of the universe. Don't worry about Rondo since he has absolutely no chance to win his category but at least he gets a free trip to Los Angeles.

Red Sox Win 5th Straight Series, Punctuate 7-2 Homestand With 10-4 Thrashing Of Blue Jays

In terms of perfect scenarios, the Red Sox couldn't have asked for much more to happen this afternoon on getaway day at Fenway Park.

Boston (40-35, 21-21 home) got back to .500 at home and a season-high five games over .500 thanks to a 10-4 win against the Blue Jays (38-37, 19-22 away). The Red Sox took two of three from Toronto to end a wildly successful homestand at 7-2.

More importantly, the Red Sox have won five straight series and nine of their last 11 games overall to vault into a tie for third-place with the Tampa Bay Rays (who were swept in a three-game series by the Royals which ended this afternoon). Plus, Boston is now two games ahead of Toronto. It's the first time all season that the Red Sox haven't been fourth or fifth place in the ultra-competitive AL East.

The beauty of this game and what makes me wish I had attended is that it was over in a tidy 2 hours and 40 minutes even though there were a combined 14 runs, 17 hits and six different pitchers. Hell even the rain which looked imminent held off. I only wish that MLB and particularly the Red Sox' games were normally played at that pace, everyone would be so much happier.

Ricky Romero (8-2) beat the Red Sox a couple times last season but this was more typical of how he usually fares against Boston. A good pitcher vs. most teams, he can't do anything when he sees the Red Sox for whatever reason. This was over right away as Boston led 7-1 in the second inning. Romero went three innings, allowing nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits with six walks and one strikeout.

We can give Jon Lester (5-5) somewhat of a pass since he was simply trying to get outs once his teammates handed him such a big lead. He went seven innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts.

Colby Rasmus gave the Blue Jays a very brief 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first.

Romero couldn't find the plate in the first and Boston took advantage. Dustin Pedroia had an RBI double, a run scored on an error, Will Middlebrooks drove in a run with a groundout, Mike Aviles (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run, stolen base) had an RBI single and Darnell McDonald had an RBI single to put the Red Sox on top 6-1.

Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits, 3 RBIs, run) had an RBI single in the second before Jose Bautista (25th of the season, 13th in June) took Lester deep in the fourth but it was only a solo home run.

Gonzalez, who's quietly on a eight-game hit streak, added another RBI single in the fifth while Aviles notched an RBI double.

Fittingly, David Ortiz (4 runs, 3 walks) closed it out with a solo homer (his 21st of the season) in the fifth. It was the 399th of his career which ties him with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline for 49th in MLB history. Duke Snider is 48th with 407.

Edwin Encarnacion (22nd of the season) had a two-run blast in the sixth for the final margin.

Cody Ross was 2 for 3 with a double, walk and two runs scored in the lopsided win for the home team.

Boston plays four games in Seattle followed by three games in Oakland. It's their first visit to the West Coast this season and last road trip before the All-Star break (wild, I know). They need to take advantage of playing these mediocre AL West teams; the Red Sox beat the Mariners (32-45, 4th in AL West) both times they played at Fenway on May 14 and 15.

This time Boston doesn't miss Felix Hernandez (5-5) as he faces Franklin Morales (1-1) tomorrow night (10:10 p.m., NESN) in the series opener. Aaron Cook (1-1) gets Hector Noesi (2-9) on Friday night (10:10 p.m., NESN), Josh Beckett (4-7) returns from the DL on Saturday night against Erasmo Ramirez (0-2) and Felix Doubront (8-4) opposes Jason Vargas (7-7) in the series finale on Sunday afternoon (4:10 p.m., NESN).

Bigger picture: the Yankees put C.C. Sabathia on the DL today (he's expected to miss two starts) while Andy Pettitte broke his ankle pitching this afternoon so he'll be out 6-8 weeks. New York still won and they are up 6.5 games on Boston but now might be the time that the Red Sox get closer in the standings. Something to keep in mind. The Yankees also come to Fenway July 6-8 for the last series of the first half. If the Red Sox do well on this road trip, that could be a pretty meaningful weekend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Red Sox Rally For A 5-1 Win Vs. Blue Jays

For six innings tonight, Aaron Laffey completely shut down the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Luckily, Boston (39-35, 20-21 home) was able to hang around and pounce once the Blue Jays (38-36, 19-21 away) went to their bullpen and ended up with a 5-1 win for their troubles.

Shockingly, Daisuke Matsuzaka was the Red Sox starting pitcher that nearly matched Laffey 0 for 0 on the ancient scoreboard in left. Dice-K went 5.2 innings, allowing only one earned run on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Laffey went six scoreless innings, allowing three hits with two strikeouts and two walks. He left after 82 pitches since this was his first start of the season and first since 2010 when he was on the Indians.

Brent Lillibridge started in center field and batted ninth, he was 0-for-2 in his first at-bats as a Red Sox; he was lifted for pinch-hitter Daniel Nava in the seventh. Truly an unforgettable debut for a scrub that might not make it past the trade deadline.

Edwin Encarnacion provided Toronto's only run with an infield single in the first which scored Brett Lawrie. The Blue Jays had runners on second and third with one out but Matsuzaka wiggled out of it as Kelly Johnson flew out and Yunel Escobar lined to Dice-K.

Scott Atchison had a scoreless inning before Andrew Miller (2-0) ended up with the win even though he only got one out: he struck out red-hot Colby Rasmus to end the seventh with Adam Lind (2 hits) on third base.

Jarrod Saltlamacchia (14th of the season) tied it at one in the seventh with a solo homer over the Monster against reliever Jason Fraser. Dustin Pedroia added a two-run single later in the inning, all three runs coming with two outs.

Boston was 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position while Toronto was 1-for-8.

Pedroia's heroics made up for the fact that he got gunned out at home to end the sixth. David Ortiz had hit his second double but left fielder Rajai Davis (2 hits) threw a perfect strike to catcher Jeff Mathis who tagged Pedroia on the way by.

Vicente Padilla had a 1-2-3 eighth for his 17th hold of the season. Amazingly enough, he struck out two but only required 12 pitches. He's been quite a pleasant surprise.

Boston tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth-their last at bat-as Adrian Gonzalez (2 doubles) doubled home Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks drove in Cody Ross with a sacrifice fly.

Alfredo Aceves got a clean ninth despite the fact that it wasn't a save situation. He only threw 12 pitches as well so he should be available tomorrow too (then again you can always say that about Mr. Rubber Arm himself).

The Red Sox have gone 6-2 on a highly successful homestand and they'll try to end it on a high note tomorrow afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) as Jon Lester (4-5) faces Ricky Romero (8-1). A win would make finally make them .500 at home this season something which they haven't been since the opening series vs. Tampa Bay in early April. Haha really.

After that, Boston heads out on its first West Coast road trip of the 2012 season. Four games in Seattle followed by three in Oakland, the last games away from Fenway before the All-Star break.

UPDATE 6/27: Josh Beckett is expected to come off the DL on Saturday and make a start in Seattle against the Mariners.

Former Bruins Center Adam Oates One Of Four Players Elected To NHL Hall Of Fame In 2012

One of my earliest memories of watching Boston Bruins games on Channel 38 with the legendary announcers Derek Sanderson and Fred Cusick was seeing center Adam Oates dish out ridiculous assists to Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and numerous other teammates.

Today, Oates was rewarded with a spot in the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto. He'll be inducted along with Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure on November 18. The crazy part was that Oates was also named head coach of the Washington Capitals this afternoon as well. I bet that's probably never happened before in NHL history, haha talk about winning the day. This comes after he was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils who lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals earlier this month.

He was only on the Bruins for parts of six seasons (1992-97) but he deserves his spot along hockey's elite after a 19-year career on seven different teams (Red Wings, Blues, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Mighty Ducks and Oilers). His 1079 assists are the sixth most in NHL history and he also added 341 goals.

Oates had by far his best season in the NHL while he wore the Black and Gold in 1992-93 which is why I hope and pray that he'll wear a Bruins sweater in the Hall of Fame. Get this, he put up 45 goals and 97 assists for an absurd 142 points including 24 points on the power-play. He followed that up with his second-best season in 1993-94: 32 goals and 80 assists. He missed some of 1994-95 but he bounced back with 25 goals and 67 assists in 1995-96. Clearly the NHL was much more wide open then, sadly nobody puts up those kinds of numbers nowadays.

Obtained by the B's on February 7, 1992 after they dealt Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal to the Blues, Oates was traded out of town on March 1, 1997; he went to Washington along with Rick Tocchet and Bill Ranford for Jim Carrey, Jason Allison and Anson Carter. A four-time NHL All-Star (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997) he performed well in the playoffs too: 42 goals and 114 assists in 163 games.

Another childhood staple was buying and then constantly playing the NHL video games for Sega Genesis and winning way more than the Bruins did in real life at that point in time. Oates was always on the first line and he usually had the puck on his stick; true to form, he couldn't score at all but he sure could feed Neely, Bourque, Al Iafrate, Dave Reid, Shawn McEachern, Joe Juneau, etc. for some sweet one-timers which was one of the easiest ways to get goals.

Congrats to Adam on his new gig and his long overdue reward for an outstanding professional career. Funny aside: as far as I know his will be the first and only autograph I have of a sports Hall of Famer. Haha he appeared at the now defunct Herman's Sporting Goods at the North Shore Mall in Peabody when I was in grade school. I remember getting him to sign a black and white photo. Also, he had one of the great mullets in Bruins history: Greasy, long and curly. Just like the ladies love it.

Beginning Of 2012 Patriots Training Camp Announced

Only one month left until we can stop focusing on the Red Sox' consistent mediocrity and turn our attention to the New England Patriots. It was announced this afternoon that their 2012 training camp begins in exactly a month from today: Thursday, July 26 from 1:30-4 p.m.

The first four days of open practices are:

Thursday, July 26 -- 1:30-4 p.m.*
Friday, July 27 -- 1:30-4 p.m.*
Saturday, July 28 -- 1:30-4 p.m.
Sunday, July 29 -- 1:30-4 p.m.

*cannot be held in pads according to CBA

Those planning to head to Gillette Stadium for training camp should be aware that when there is bad weather, the practices are usually moved inside to their indoor practice facility which is closed to the public. The training camp hotline (508-549-0001) will have the most updated information as the action gets underway in Foxborough.

Oritz Homers Twice But Doubront Has Nothing & Red Sox Fall 9-6 To Blue Jays In Series Opener

In the first game of the post-Kevin Youkilis era, the Red Sox scored some runs but Felix Doubront was a mess so they lost 9-6 to the Blue Jays in the series opener at damp Fenway Park.

Toronto (38-35, 19-20 away) scored four runs in the first and a run in the second to take a 5-2 lead. Boston (38-35, 19-21 home) tied it at five in the fourth inning but it's almost impossible to win when you allow a trio of two-run homers.

Doubront (8-4) was never himself. He gutted out six innings but it was ugly since he allowed seven runs (five earned) on a career-high 11 hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

Henderson Alvarez (4-6) left in the sixth with an elbow injury (yikes!) but he was in line for the win and the Blue Jays were able to hang on and survive an hour-and-56 minute rain delay in the top of the seventh.

Five players on Toronto had multiple hits, led by Colby Rasmus (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs). Ben Francisco (2 hits, 2 runs), Edwin Encarnacion (2 hits, RBI, run), Brett Lawrie (2 hits, run, stolen base) and Yunel Escobar (2 hits, stolen base) all had nice nights at the plate.

Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 4 with a triple, stolen base and two runs scored.

Rasmus (14th of the season) sneaked a two-run homer in the first around Pesky's pole in right field. Encarnacion had an RBI double and a run scored on Rajai Davis's groundout. It was 4-0 before most of the fans had settled into their seats.

David Ortiz (3 runs) hit a two-run homer to right center, his 19th of the season, in the bottom of the first.

Rasmus added an RBI single in the second before scored twice in the third and once in the fourth to draw even. A run came across on an error then Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI single in the third. Ryan Kalish's (2 hits, stolen base) RBI single tied it at five in the fourth.

J.P. Arencibia (10th of the season) hit a two-run bomb over the Monster off Doubront in the sixth then Jose Bautista (24th of the season) did the same in the seventh except it was against Matt Albers. Toronto led 9-5 which was more than enough.

Ortiz hit a solo homer in the eighth off Darren Oliver to center, his 11th straight season with 20+ homers (second game with two this season; 37th with the Red Sox, 39th all-time in his career) but Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen struck out the side in a clean ninth for his eighth save of the season.

Tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) promises to be anything but an instant classic as Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) takes on journeyman Aaron Laffey (0-0), who is making his first start of the season due to all the injuries to Toronto starters. Get your bullpens ready!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Boston Celtics Take Their Talents To Europe In October; Orlando & Vegas This Summer

The Boston Celtics are still one of the most popular and marketable franchises in the NBA, as further proof of that (not that you needed it), they are scheduled to play two preseason games in Europe this October.

Along with the Dallas Mavericks, the C's are one of two NBA squads to travel to Europe for something the marketing geniuses have called NBA Europe Live 2012.

Oct. 5 - Celtics vs. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul - Ulker Sports Arena, Istanbul
Oct. 7 - Celtics vs. EA7 Emporio Armani - Mediolanum Forum, Milan

From the Euroleague website
The Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and top Euroleague Basketball teams Alba Berlin from Germany, EA7 Emporio Armani from Italy and Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul from Turkey will play a series of preseason games this October as part of NBA Europe Live 2012 presented by BBVA", the NBA, Euroleague Basketball and BBVA announced today.

The four-game tour tips off on Oct. 5 when the 17-time NBA Champion Boston Celtics play five-time Turkish Champions Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul at the newly opened, state-of-the-art Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

Way more interesting than those fake games to me is the Orlando Summer League and Las Vegas Summer League which both take place in a few weeks.

Monday, July 9 - Celtics vs. Thunder, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10 - Celtics vs. Nets, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11 - Celtics vs. Pacers, 11 a.m.
Thursday, July 12 - Celtics vs. Pistons, 11 a.m.
Friday, July 13 - Celtics vs. Magic, 10 a.m.

Monday July 16
• COX Pavilion
4 PM -- Atlanta vs. Boston
Tuesday July 17
• COX Pavilion
10 PM -- Chicago vs. Boston
Thursday July 19
• Thomas & Mack
6:30 PM -- Boston vs. Sacramento
Saturday July 21
• COX Pavilion
10:30 PM -- Milwaukee vs. Boston
Sunday July 22
• COX Pavilion
6 PM -- Boston vs. LA Clippers

The 2012 NBA Draft is Thursday night (7 p.m., ESPN) and Boston has the 21st and 22nd pick in the first round along with the 51st pick in the second round. Expect those players, some of the Celts younger guys (E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson) along with a smattering of undrafted rookies and veterans trying to get contracts to dot these rosters. All those games are shown on NBATV which is nice, it's fun to have some basketball to tide us over during the long summer months.

UPDATE 6/26: Boston gets Oklahoma City's 2013 second-round draft pick that it controls from Charlotte as compensation for the heart problems that Jeff Green suffered with the Celtics. That should be early in the second round since the Bobcats were historically bad last season and they probably won't do much better next season. As for Green, he's a free agent but he hopes to re-sign with the C's.

Might Have To Check Out My First Bruins Development Camp This Week/Weekend

Today the Bruins announced the roster for their development camp (June 28-July 2) which starts Thursday morning at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass.

Some of the B's most promising prospects will be there, namely defenseman Dougie Hamilton along with forwards Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner. In addition, the players drafted last weekend by Boston get their first taste of professional life here while some local college players are also expected to attend.

Forwards: Darik Angeli, Anthony Camara, Colin Campbell (not the NHL's former disciplinarian), Daniel Carr, Justin Courtnall, Brian Ferlin, Justin Florek, Seth Griffith (draft pick), Colton Hargrove (draft pick), Alex Khokhlachev, Jared Knight, Cody Payne (draft pick), Ben Sexton, Wayne Simpson, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Matt Benning (draft pick), Chris Casto, Tommy Cross (BC product), Matthew Grzelcyk (draft pick from Charlestown), Dougie Hamilton (could make the B's this season), Torey Krug (played in 2 games last season), Robbie O’Gara (went to Milton Academy), Zach Trotman

Goaltenders: Zane Gothberg, Parker Milner (went to BC), Adam Morrison (not the basketball player), Malcolm Subban (1st round draft pick), Niklas Svedberg, Lars Volden

Practice schedule (all at Ristuccia Arena, Wilmington, Mass.)

Thursday, June 28
-- On-ice practice, 10:30 a.m. ET

Friday, June 29
-- On-ice practice, 11:00 a.m. ET
-- On-ice power skating, 12:45 p.m. ET

Saturday, June 30
-- On-ice power skating, 10:30 a.m. ET
-- On-ice practice, 11:45 a.m. ET

Sunday, July 1
-- On-ice practice/scrimmage, 11:00 a.m. ET

Monday, July 2
-- On-ice power skating, 10:00 a.m. ET
-- On-ice scrimmage, 10:45 a.m. ET

The best part about this is that the practices and scrimmage are free and open to the public so it could be a fun thing to do if the weather is crappy or too hot. Maybe, you have the day off from work. Whatever the reason, if you really love the Bruins you would definitely enjoy seeing some of these guys who no doubt will be on the team in the near future.

One Last Kick In The Balls For Youk: Middlebrooks Named AL Player Of The Week

In what can only be called a stroke of perfectly ironic timing, Boston Red Sox rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks was named the American League player of the week today.

It's so fitting because former third baseman Kevin Youkilis was shipped to the Chicago White Sox yesterday afternoon, ending one era while another one just begins. For what it's worth, Youk is in the lineup tonight batting second and playing third base for Chicago as they face Cleveland.

To earn the award, sure to be the first of many for Middlebrooks, in six games last week against Miami and Atlanta, he went 10-for-16 for a batting average of .625, three home runs, 10 RBIs, three doubles and an insane 2.007 OPS.

His highlights for the week included a two-run bomb on Thursday against the Marlins that helped the Red Sox rally and he was a triple shy of a cycle in Saturday's win against the Braves.

In 2012, Middlebrooks is now hitting .326 with nine homers and a .949 OPS in 41 games. Prior to getting called up to the majors in early May, he was hitting .333 with nine homers in only 24 games for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Getting rid of Youk, letting Middlebrooks play third base everyday and shifting Adrian Gonzalez back to first base full-time and out of the outfield was one of the easiest decisions in recent Red Sox history. Let's see how the team responds to a more stable lineup and less negativity coming from Youk sitting on the bench, pouting and being a prick to the media.

Kevin Youkilis's Time In Boston Mercifully Comes To An End Before It Gets Any Worse

Our long national nightmare is finally over: third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox for utilityman Brent Lillibridge (he's played every position but catcher) and pitcher Zach Stewart. Personally, I'm psyched that I don't have to waste one more second of my life reading the endless rumors on Twitter about where Youk would end up. The Red Sox have to pay $5.5 million of what he's owed for the rest of the season, the White Sox are only on the hook for $2 million.

Today was his last game in Boston as he reached on an infield single in the second inning then hit an RBI triple in the seventh that scored Adrian Gonzalez. There were two particularly poignant moments involving Youk: he got a standing ovation before his first at bat then Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had Nick Punto pinch run for him in the seventh ensuring that he'd get one more proper send-off from the crowd and plenty of bro hugs from his teammates before departing for Chicago.

It's not very often that a professional athlete gets a last moment like that (not that he's retiring yet) but you have to admit it was pretty awesome. It was a great run for Youk in Boston after he was an eighth-round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2001. He progressed through the minor leagues and made it to the big leagues in 2004. He was a member of two World Series champions (2004, 2007), a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) and a Gold Glover in 2007.

The reason that this move was inevitable was because at 33-years-old, his body has really broken down. He has never played more than 147 games in a season and he hasn't played more than 136 since 2008. Due to a variety of injuries, he appeared in 102 games in 2010 and 120 in 2011. More importantly, he's already been replaced by rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks who is just starting out on what looks like it could be a very promising career. Youk is going to be a free agent this winter so it made the most sense to get some value in return for him since there was no way the Red Sox would sign his $13 million team option for 2013.

Listen, we all loved Kevin Youkilis at some point in time since he played the game the right way, hustled and was very versatile (playing first base and third base which was almost unheard of at that type of defensive level). However, in recent years his constant injuries and surly attitude made it harder to appreciate him. Once he started complaining about playing time this season, that more than sealed his fate. They had no choice but to get him out of here.

He ended his Red Sox career with impressive numbers: 594 runs, 959 hits, 239 doubles, 16 triples, 133 home runs, 563 RBIs and splits of .286 batting average/.388 OBP/.487 SLG. His two best seasons were 2008 (29 homers, 115 RBIs, 43 doubles; .312 batting average, .390 OBP, .569 SLG) and 2009 (27 homers, 94 RBIs, 36 doubles; .305 batting average, .413 OBP, .548 SLG) when he was an AL All-Star and finished third and sixth respectively for the AL MVP.

We'll always remember how much he sweats (more than any person in the world not named Shaq), his goofy batting stance and unathletic way he did things but above all, we have to be happy that we got to see almost the full spectrum of his career: rookie, veteran, All-Star to a guy nearing the end in MLB.

Red Sox fans actually won't have to wait long to see him return as the White Sox come to Fenway from July 16-18, the first home series after the 2012 All-Star Game. Expect all the frauds and pink hats to appear in full force for those games.

Don't expect much of anything for Lillibridge (a career .215 hitter that has never played in more than 97 games in a season) or Stewart who is 3-8 in his career with an ERA of 5.92 in 31 games (12 starts). Granted, he's only 25 and a former third-round pick of the Reds so I suppose he has some hope left. Lillibridge will join the Red Sox while Stewart jumps into the rotation at Pawtucket.

David Ortiz is now the only player left in Boston from the 2004 and 2007 World Series winners. I'm not saying that the Red Sox should have traded Youk last winter since who knew Middlebrooks would burst onto the scene like this but I'm totally in favor of a move to shake up the chemistry and get rid of some high-maintenance, underperforming and overpaid players. I only wish that Josh Beckett was long gone as well and then they could really get a whole new vibe for a team that has won nine of 11 and is playing its best baseball of the season.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Red Sox Beat Braves 9-4 To Take The Series 2-1 & Finish 11-7 During Interleague Play In 2012

Obviously Kevin Youkilis's trade to the White Sox overshadowed what happened at Fenway Park this afternoon but I'll get to that in a subsequent post.

For now, let's take a minute to recognize another interleague series win for the Red Sox (38-34, 19-20 home) who moved a season-high four games over .500 with a 9-4 over the Atlanta Braves (38-34, 23-17 away).

Boston enjoyed its interleague experience in 2012 since they finished 11-7 against mostly National League East teams and the Cubs who more closely resemble a Triple A squad if I'm being generous. They won five out of six series 2-1 (plus a three-game sweep in Miami) while the Nationals (three-game sweep at Fenway) were the only team to beat them decidedly. It was the eighth straight season that the Red Sox have been over .500 against NL teams so don't tell me the National League is better because it's not.

Today's stars were Aaron Cook and Cody Ross. Cook (1-1) subbed for Clay Buchholz and picked up his first win in a Red Sox uniform after five innings, three runs (two earned) and six hits with no strikeouts and no walks. Ross had a three-run homer and a two-run homer.

Braves starter Mike Minor (3-6) didn't have much and an error on shortstop Andrelton Simmons led to three unearned runs. Minor went 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs (four earned) on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks. He also served up three home runs which never helps your pitching numbers.

The Red Sox offense got off to an exciting start as Ross (10th of the season) and Adrian Gonzalez (6th of the season) hit back-to-back homers in the fourth to give Boston a 4-0 lead. Ross's came with two runners on base.

Tatted up old friend Eric Hinske (2 hits, run) had a two-run triple in the fifth and Juan Francisco's groundout cut it to 4-3.

Boston responded right away to push the lead back to a comfortable four-run advantage (7-3) after five. Will Middlebrooks scored a run with a sacrifice fly and Ross hit another homer over the Monster, this time a two-run blast.

Jason Heyward's (3 hits, 2 runs) career seems to be back on track as he crushed a solo homer to center (his 11th of the season) in the sixth to trim it to 7-4.

Daniel Nava (2 hits, run) came through with an RBI double in the sixth and in his last at bat as a member of the Red Sox, Youk drove in Gonzalez with a generously scored "triple."

With interleague over, the Red Sox get back to facing the boring old American League. The Toronto Blue Jays (37-35, 5th place in AL East) visit Fenway starting tomorrow night for a three-game series. The teams have already played two series in Toronto with Boston going 3-3 thus far.

Felix Doubront (8-3) faces Henderson Alvarez (3-6) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) gets Aaron Laffey (0-0) on Tuesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) and Jon Lester (4-5) opposes Ricky Romero (8-1) on Wednesday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) in the series finale and last game of a nine-game homestand for the Red Sox before they head to the west coast.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Franklin Morales Picks Up A Win, Will Middlebrooks Continues To Rake

The funny thing about trade rumors in any sport now with Twitter in our lives is that the rumor mill works 24/7. That means we read about Kevin Youkilis getting dealt from the Red Sox basically every waking moment for the past few weeks. Make it stop!

Youk's replacement Will Middlebrooks was 3-for-4 with a double, solo homer, two RBIs and a run as the Red Sox (37-34, 18-20 home) beat the Braves (38-33, 23-16 away) 8-4 tonight at Fenway Park.

To say the rookie third baseman is swinging a hot bat is an understatement. In his last five games, he's 10-for-14 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBIs. I think that'll do just fine.

The other two biggest storylines from the victory: Franklin Morales (1-1) picked up a win in his second start while Dustin Pedroia (3 for 4, double, two RBIs, run, walk) finally looked like himself at the plate after scuffling since he hurt his thumb the first time.

Morales went six innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. His impressive stuff in two outings illustrates the point about how some guys just aren't made to start (cough, Daniel Bard) while others can pick it up no problem.

Randall Delgado (4-8) lasted only 1.1 innings as he allowed four earned runs on six hits. Boston built an insurmountable 5-1 lead by the third inning.

Atlanta scored first as Brian McCann's infield single plated Michael Bourn (3 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 stolen bases) in the first inning.

The Red Sox went ahead in their first at bat and never looked back. Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits, run) tied it with an RBI single then Middlebrooks' RBI double made it 2-1.

Pedroia had a two-run double in the second then Middlebrooks hit a solo homer to left (his 9th of the season) in the third for the 5-1 advantage.

Bourn's RBI single in the fifth cut it to 5-2 for Atlanta but Cody Ross (2 doubles, run) drove in Gonzalez with an RBI double in the home half of that frame.

Atlanta continued to hang around as old man Chipper Jones produced an RBI double in the sixth and Bourn knocked in another run, this time with a groundout in the seventh.

Daniel Nava gave Boston some breathing room with a two-run single in the seventh.

After Scott Atchison allowed a run (something which has very rarely happened this season), the Red Sox bullpen picked him up as Andrew Miller induced a double play, Vicente Padilla pitched a scoreless eighth and Alfredo Aceves had a 1-2-3 ninth in a non-save situation.

Mike Aviles was 2-for-4 with a double and run. Boston was 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position while Atlanta was 2-for-11.

Apparently Clay Buchholz picked up the plague or something since he was sent home from the ballpark today and his start tomorrow was cancelled. Instead, Aaron Cook (0-1) was called up from Pawtucket and he'll make his second start of the season against Mike Minor (3-5) tomorrow afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN).

It is the rubber game of the series and the final installment of interleague play. Cook has nothing to lose after his first start on May 5 was a complete disaster: 2.2 innings, six earned runs, eight hits and he had to leave early after getting a nasty gash on his leg.

UPDATE 6/24: Buchholz went on the DL (intestinal bleeding, ahhhhh!) with Cook taking his spot.

Bruins Ship Benoit Pouliot To Lightning For Essentially A Bag Of Pucks

I hate to break the bad news folks but we've seen the last of Benoit Pouliot in a Boston Bruins uniform.

Haha the underachieving former first-round pick had a pretty forgettable 2011-12 (16 goals, 16 assists in 74 games) so he's been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Michel Ouelett and a fifth-round draft pick, 131st overall (which turned into forward Seth Griffith).

There was hope last summer when the B's signed Pouliot that he would suddenly become the player he has only shown brief glimpses of. Instead, he was exactly that up and down guy. It seems like the few goals he scored were almost all highlight-reel tallies. Yet there weren't nearly enough of those and he was buried on the third line for the most part. Finally, he was a restricted free agent and would have been eligible for salary arbitration (double what he made in 2011-12) so this made the most sense.

Like Pouliot, Ouelett will be a free agent on July 1 and looking at his career numbers, I feel like it's a long shot that he'll be signed by the B's let alone make any type of dent on the roster. He's played in 190 career NHL games with Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Vancouver but his last NHL appearance was three games in 2008-09 with the Canucks.

For his career, Ouelett has 52 goals and 64 assists for 116 career points. He's 30-years-old and he was a fourth-round draft pick, 124th overall by the Penguins in 2000. All I can say is that he would look great in a Providence Bruins uniform.

Jair Jurrjens Stifles Red Sox, Braves Snap Boston's 5-Game Win Streak

Jair Jurrjens returned from the DL to throw a gem and snap Boston's five-game win streak while he was at it.

Atlanta (38-32, 23-15 away) opened its last interleague series at Fenway Park with a 4-1 win tonight against Boston (36-34, 17-20) after a one hour and 28 minute rain delay.

Jurrjens (1-2) went 7.2 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Will Middlebrooks (starting for the second consecutive game thank you very much) doubled and scored on Daniel Nava's double in the eighth for the Red Sox' only run. Chad Durbin came in for Jurrjens and retired Dustin Pedroia (the potential tying run) to end the inning.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel got a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout to record his 21st save of the season.

In what has been a poor first half for him, Jon Lester (4-5) couldn't get the job done yet again. He went seven innings but allowed three earned runs on 10 hits with five strikeouts and a walk.

Atlanta scored twice in the fourth on Matt Diaz's groundout and Andrelton Simmons' RBI double.

Simmons added a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Freddie Freeman (2 hits) provided an insurance run with an RBI single in the ninth.

Martin Prado and Jason Heyward (2 runs) each had three hits for the Braves while Brian McCann had two.

Franklin Morales (0-1) gets his second start for Boston tomorrow night (7:15 p.m., Fox), against Randall Delgado (4-7).

Never Thought I'd See A Subban On The Bruins

The only reason many people noticed who the Bruins drafted tonight with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft is because of his last name: Subban.

That's right, Montreal Canadiens villian P.K. Subban's little brother Malcolm is the newest member of Boston's organization. Malcolm is an 18-year-old goaltender that played for Bellville (OHL) last season. He was 25-14-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .923 save percentage in 2011-12.

If he ever plays for the B's and P.K. is still on the Canadiens, it will add a whole other juicy subplot to the best rivalry for the Bruins. Hopefully it happens at some point since that would be pretty hilarious.

In other Bruins goaltender news, Tim Thomas waived his no-trade clause (which expired July 1). Thomas is intriguing to teams looking for financial relief because under the rules, he would count $5 million against the salary cap, yet the team would not need to pay his $3 million salary if he didn't play.

B's GM Peter Chiarelli said more than a couple teams have expressed interest in trading for Thomas, who made it clear that he intends to sit out next season.

Pats Re-Sign James Ihedigbo, Immediately Place Him On Injury Report For Week 1

On Friday afternoon, the Patriots re-signed safety James Ihedigbo, who had a solid first season in New England.

The UMass-Amherst product and Northampton, MA native was signed fairly late in training camp last season but ended up playing way more than expected due to the surprising releases of Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders.

He started in 12 of 16 regular season games and all three postseason games. Ihedigbo put up a career-high 72 tackles with one pass defensed and four special teams tackles. He added 20 tackles and one sack in the playoffs.

It was easy to laugh about his weekly shoulder injuries, he went down in almost every game but to his credit, he usually returned to the field. If nothing else he provides depth to a position that finally has some talent: Patrick Chung, free-agent Steve Gregory and second-round draft choice Tavon Wilson. Other safeties include Josh Barrett, Will Allen, Sergio Brown and rookie Nate Ebner.

As I said last season when they picked him up, it's always cool to see a local guy make it on the Patriots since lord knows Massachusetts (and UMass for that matter) doesn't produce many NFL players.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Kids Are Alright: Red Sox Edition Starring Will Middlebrooks

The Red Sox might be onto something: the youthful energy and enthusiasm of Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Will Middlebrooks not to mention Felix Doubront and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is starting to carry them. Boston (36-33, 17-19 home) rallied twice to ultimately defeat Miami (33-36, 16-18 away) 6-5 tonight at sticky Fenway Park for a three-game sweep.

Don't look now but the Red Sox have won five straight and seven of their last eight games as they've tied a season-high at three games over the .500 mark.

Middlebrooks carried Boston's offense, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Down 3-0, his RBI single started the Red Sox' first rally, tied it at three with another RBI single then punctuated it with a two-run homer (his 8th of the season) to knot it at five. At this point, Kevin Youkilis might as well start looking into another career outside of baseball (only half kidding). It doesn't even matter what Boston gets in return for him, it's time to send Youk on his way out of town before the trade deadline (July 31).

The Daisuke Matsuzaka experience was in full effect as he has now started three games in 2012 without recording a win. As is his custom, he handed the Marlins three runs in the first inning then proceeded to retire 14 batters in a row. Like Youk and Josh Beckett, I wish the Red Sox could trade Dice-K but I've heard the key to trades is that other teams have to want the player in return. After 5.1 innings and 101 pitches, Matsuzaka was done. He allowed four earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Carlos Zambrano also didn't factor into the decision which is fitting because he was neither good nor bad. In five innings, he allowed three earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks.

Greg Dobbs (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, stolen base) had a two-run single and Omar Infante (2 hits, 2 RBIs, stolen base) produced an RBI single in the long top of the first inning.

Middlebrooks' first RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Mike Aviles cut it to 3-2 in the fourth inning. Even though he got jammed, Middlebrooks managed to dump another RBI single to right field in the fifth to tie it at three.

Dice-K's last pitch was a spicy wasabi ball (Japan's equivalent to a meatball) to Giancarlo Stanton (2 hits, 2 runs) that made it over the Monster in about 1.5 seconds. Infante added an RBI double later in the sixth against Andrew Miller.

Middlebrooks' two-run bomb (449 feet to center) against Edward Mujica tied it at five in the eighth and Daniel Nava (2 hits) had what turned out to be the deciding run on an RBI single in the same frame.

Scott Atchison continued his incredible season with a scoreless seventh and eighth. After 22 pitches, his ERA is 1.17 with a WHIP of 0.89 and 29 strikeouts. He honestly deserves to be an All-Star if he keeps this up. Too bad he'll probably get three total votes (from his extended family).

Alfredo Aceves had a 1-2-3 ninth (haha on seven pitches!) to collect his 18th save of the season. You think Ozzie Guillen and Co. were eager to get out of here?

Interleague play ends this weekend with the Atlanta Braves (37-32, 3rd in NL East) at Fenway for three games. Jon Lester (4-4) faces Jair Jurrjens (0-2) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Franklin Morales (0-1) takes on Randall Delgado (4-7) Saturday night (7:15 p.m., Fox) and Clay Buchholz (8-3) opposes Mike Minor (3-5) on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN).

In 2012, the Red Sox are 9-3 during interleague and they've won all four series thus far. Taking at least two out of three against the Braves would be a nice cap to their dominance of the National League.

I Can't Wait For The 2012-13 Bruins Regular Season To Start

With the NBA postseason concluding tonight (I forget who won), there's nothing but MLB from now until September when the NFL regular season starts. Of course, there are welcome diversions like Euro 2012, the College World Series, Wimbledon, London Olympics, Little League World Series etc. but today the Boston Bruins gave us something else to savor this summer: their 2012-13 regular season schedule.

At first glance, it's a very appealing start to the season for the B's as they open with three games on the road against Eastern Conference foes. The season starts on October 11 against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center, from there Boston visits the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils two nights later before taking on the Montreal Canadiens October 16 at the Bell Centre.

The NHL didn't wait long to get its money's worth out of the superb Bruins-Canadiens rivalry as the teams actually play a home-and-home series in the first week of the 2012-13 season. TD Garden will be electric for the home opener on October 18 with the Habs in town.

Boston will get its first crack at the Washington Capitals-the team that unceremoniously knocked them out of the 2012 playoffs-on November 2 as the B's visit the Caps. Too bad Tim Thomas will miss that one, no word on if his bunker gets NESN.

Other highlights include the Rangers visiting the afternoon following Thanksgiving (November 23) then the Penguins coming to Boston the next night and the Devils will be here two nights after that.

The Original 6 meetings with the Red Wings (December 10 in Detroit) and Blackhawks (January 12 in Boston; February 17 in Chicago) are always superb, I always wish they played them more often. Those games are 10 times more interesting and exciting than the usual Northeast Division games vs. the Maple Leafs, Senators or Sabres that seemingly take up half of the schedule.

The Stanley Cup champs-the LA Kings-only play the Bruins once, December 17 at TD Garden. Ditto for the Canucks although Boston will have to go there on December 29. The Blues visit on January 29 and Boston goes to Nashville on February 18.

For my money, Bruins-Flyers (March 9 in Boston, March 30 in Boston and March 31 in Philly) and Bruins-Canadiens (January 19 in Montreal, February 28 in Montreal, March 4 in Boston and March 27 in Boston) are usually your best bets for most intense regular season matchups involving the B's.

Boston's schedule is front-loaded with long homestands early in the season: six games in October and November/early December plus seven games in December. That means they will be paying for it in the second half on a long road trip: seven games in February (which feels like an annual occurrence before the trade deadline).

Three of the Bruins last four regular season games are on the road and they wrap it up April 12 in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Stay tuned for the NHL draft which begins tomorrow night in Pittsburgh then free agency officially starts on July 1. After that, it will be a very slow couple of months for hockey.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Red Sox Pound Marlins 15-5, Get Out Of Last Place & Gain A Game On Everyone In AL East

There have been very few nights like this lately where basically everything goes right for the Boston Red Sox. When that happens, you remember why you started watching baseball in the first place.

Boston (35-33, 16-19 home) rolled to its fourth straight win as they blew out Miami (33-35, 16-17 away) 15-5 tonight at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have now won six of their last seven games as they slowly try to make people pay attention since summer is truly here.

The only negative part for fans was that it was an absurd 96 degrees when the game started at a place that is naturally a sweat box to begin with. Still, there was plenty to be happy about as the Red Sox climbed out of last-place for the first time since June 3 and also gained a game on every other AL East team since they all lost.

The Marlins are reeling (no pun intended) as they've lost 12 of their last 14 games. Starter Ricky Nolasco (6-6) was shelled as he allowed nine earned runs in only 3.1 innings.

Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (8-3) beat Miami for the second time in a week thanks to six innings of work. He was not nearly as good as last time out but with a big lead, he did more than enough.

The home team gave its sweaty fans plenty to cheer about as they posted a season-high in runs including 16 hits, 14 RBIs and five walks. In a cool thing that you'll very rarely see, Boston hit every variety of home run in the lopsided victory: grand slam (David Ortiz), three-run (Mike Aviles), two-run (Will Middlebrooks) and solo (Jarrod Saltalamacchia).

Every starter in the lineup-except of course for Nick Punto-had a hit led by Daniel Nava (4 hits, 2 runs), Aviles (2 runs, 2 hits, 3 RBIs), Salty (3 runs, 2 hits), Ryan Kalish (2 runs, 2 hits) and Kevin Youkilis (2 hits). Not to be forgotten, Cody Ross added a bases-clearing double.

Logan Morrison and John Buck had solo homers for the Marlins while Omar Infante (3 hits), Justin Ruggiano (2 runs, 2 hits) and Jose Reyes (2 hits) all had multiple hits.

Boston was 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position and Miami was 2-for-14 in that same spot.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) will look for his first win of the season tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) as he faces Carlos Zambrano (4-5) and the Red Sox try to sweep the Marlins.