RED SOX NOTEBOOK
Changeup is needed
Rookie Malaska was in a rush
As much as Mark Malaska has impressed the Red Sox, the rookie lefthander gave a glimpse yesterday at a couple of areas he hopes to improve. Malaska allowed a decisive three-run double to Carlos Beltran in Kansas City's 8-4 victory as he was unable to retire the first batter he faced in relief for the sixth time in 10 attempts this season.
Malaska dug himself a hole against Beltran by throwing the first three pitches for balls. He said he knew by the second ball that he was working too fast.
"A lot of times I have a habit of rushing too much," he said. "I need to slow down my mechanics and calm myself and I find that I'm a lot more successful."
It's not easy for a rookie pitching amid the mayhem at Fenway Park with the game on the line. Malaska also has allowed five of the nine runners he has inherited this season to score.
"It's getting a little easier to deal with," he said of trying to calm himself. "There's a lot of intensity in this stadium every time you get on the mound. There's always going to be intensity because the fans are so passionate, but the more you're out there, the more you get used to it."
He took responsibility for misfiring on a number of pitches. "If you can't execute, you're not going to be here," he said. "It was a tough one today, and I wasn't able to execute. But I invite those situations. I want more of them."
Manager Terry Francona had the option of summoning lefthander Alan Embree, who has held opponents to a .128 batting average. Batters have hit .278 against Malaska, although Beltran was 2 for 4 in his career against Embree and never had faced Malaska. Francona believed it was too early in the game to call on Embree, and Embree concurred.
"I haven't pitched that early in a game since the season started," Embree said. "Are you going to waste it on one batter?"
Embree said Malaska has pitched well enough to warrant using him in such situations. And Malaska said he wants another chance to prove himself.
"In the best-case scenario, you want to get right back out there," he said, "and show [Francona] he was right for having that kind of confidence in me."
The cold corner
Sox first basemen have hit only .190 this season and had not gone deep until David McCarty's two-run homer in Saturday's 9-1 romp over the Royals. The group of McCarty, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, and Brian Daubach had gone homerless in 121 at-bats as first basemen before McCarty's shot. The position has accounted for just 10 RBIs; only the team's right fielders have combined to knock in fewer runs (eight), though they have mustered two homers.
Strangely, all four players who have seen action at first have hit better playing elsewhere. Ortiz has hit .299 as a DH and .186 as a first baseman. Millar's numbers were similar (.333 as a right fielder, .244 as a first baseman), as were McCarty's (.273 as a left fielder, .130 as a first baseman) and Daubach's (.500 as a right fielder, .158 as a first baseman). The Sox expect the numbers to balance out over the course of the season.
McCarty, who played first yesterday behind Derek Lowe for defensive purposes, went 1 for 4 with a double.
Movin' on up
Manny Ramirez's solo shot off Jaime Cerda was his 119th homer with the Sox, tying him with Joe Cronin for 20th place on the team's all-time list. It was the 355th homer of Ramirez's career, moving him past Lee May and tying him with Greg Vaughn for 63d place in the major league history . . . Bill Mueller, who cranked a two-run homer in the second off Darrell May, is batting .500 (5 for 10) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his career against the Royals lefthander . . . The Sox pen worked 14 straight scoreless innings before Beltran's run-scoring double off Lenny DiNardo in the eighth. The run was the first DiNardo has allowed in the majors . . . Of the 19 unearned runs the Sox have allowed this season, nine have come with Lowe on the mound . . . Mark Bellhorn (0 for 5 with three strikeouts) has not walked in five straight games but still shares the league lead (27) with Chicago's Frank Thomas . . . Royals catcher Benito Santiago was ejected by plate umpire Mike DiMuro after Bronson Arroyo fanned him on three pitches to end the seventh. Santiago was embarrassed when he bailed out on a curveball from Arroyo that DiMuro called a strike . . . The Sox, crediting David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research, said Pokey Reese Saturday became the 24th player in history to hit an inside-the-park home run and conventional homer in the same inning or consecutive innings. Reese was the first since Milwaukee's Robin Yount in 1982. The only other Sox player to achieve the feat was Bill Regan June 16, 1928, at Chicago. Francona praised the fans for not trying to snatch Reese's ball as it rolled around the right-field corner for the inside-the-parker. "Your reaction is probably to grab something, it's human nature," Francona said. "But it's pretty awesome they were smart enough to help us win a game."
On the rebound
Amid a chilly rain more than two hours before the game, Byung Hyun Kim was the only player on the field, throwing to bullpen coach Euclides Rojas as he prepared for his third start of the season tonight. After a solid debut April 29 against the Devil Rays (five scoreless innings), Kim got shelled for five runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings last Wednesday by the Indians. "He was a little flat," Francona said. "We're hoping he'll bounce back a little bit." . . . Francona said he cleared Curt Schilling to work the ninth Saturday and notch the 80th complete game of his career partly on pitching coach Dave Wallace's recommendation. Among active pitchers, only Roger Clemens (117), Greg Maddux (103), and Randy Johnson (89) have thrown more complete games, and no one has as many as Schilling (23) since the start of the 2000 season . . . Vice president of baseball operations Mike Port was released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center eight days after he suffered a serious heart attack . . . First base coach Lynn Jones was scheduled to undergo a second surgery today at the Cleveland Clinic's Cole Eye Institute as doctors try to save the vision in his right eye . . . Ramiro Mendoza remains stalled in Fort Myers, Fla., with right shoulder tendinitis nearly a month after tests showed his shoulder had suffered no structural damage. "When somebody's not responding like that, you just don't know what to do because you can't look inside somebody's arm," said Francona. "You try to with the MRI, but you can see only so much. It does make you worry a little bit."
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