Daily Dose: Bossman Junior back on track

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B.J. Upton spent the first week of the season on the disabled list
following winter shoulder surgery and hit just .204 with two homers, 60
strikeouts, and a measly .587 OPS in 45 games through the end of May.
Everything changed for him once the calendar flipped to June and
Upton’s hot stretch continued Sunday as he tied career-highs with four
hits and four RBIs in a win over the Mets.

Upton is now hitting .330 with three homers, six doubles, 13 runs,
and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month while going 11-for-13 swiping bases.
He’s also struck out in 22 percent of his plate appearances after
whiffing 28 percent of the time through two months and as usual Upton
has drawn walks in bunches. He’s still sporting a sub-.700 OPS, but the
time to buy low is clearly disappearing in a hurry.

While the Rays score double-digit runs for the 11th time in 71 games
to increase their MLB-best total to 401, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* CC Sabathia was yanked from Sunday’s start against the Marlins in
the second inning with left biceps tendinitis. Sabathia wanted to
remain in the game and said afterward that he plans to make his
scheduled start Friday against the Mets, but manager Joe Girardi
expressed less optimism about his status. For now at least no MRI exam
is planned and he’s slated for a bullpen session Wednesday.

Sabathia has just 70 strikeouts in 102 innings after racking up 251
in 253 innings last season, but his fastball velocity is actually up
slightly compared to 2008 and prior to Sunday’s abbreviated start he
was 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 45/15 K/BB in his previous eight outings.
Phil Hughes would likely get the nod to replace him if needed, but
Sabathia will no doubt try to pitch through the injury if possible.

* Barry Zito had a season-high with eight strikeouts Sunday against
the Rangers, missing that many bats for just the fifth time in 79
starts with the Giants. Zito had 205 strikeouts during his first full
season in 2001 and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings through the
age of 24, but has failed to reach 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings in
any of seven seasons since then.

However, after eight strikeouts in seven innings Sunday his
strikeout rate is up to 6.8/9 for his highest mark since 2004. Zito’s
average fastball was under 85 miles per hour in 2007 and 2008, but his
velocity has improved to a 86.5 mph this year and he’s again having
tons of success with his amazing curveball. Since two bad outings to
begin the season Zito has a 3.85 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 74 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau’s league-high streak of 319
straight games ended Sunday because of “general soreness” … David Ortiz
homered Sunday for the fifth time this month after going deep just once
through 46 games … Mike Lowell missed his second straight game Sunday
because of soreness in his surgically repaired hip … Kevin Millwood had
a season-high 10 strikeouts Sunday, but took a loss while allowing
three runs … Gil Meche came into Sunday with 16 straight scoreless
innings and a 3.31 ERA, but was rocked for nine runs … Mark Buehrle
tossed seven shutout innings Sunday, improving to 7-2 … Denard Span
(ear) is expected to come off the disabled list when eligible Thursday
… Evan Longoria broke out his June slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair
of doubles Sunday … Ricky Romero hurled his fourth straight Quality
Start on Sunday … Dallas Braden cut his ERA to 3.26 with seven innings
of two-run ball Sunday.

NL Quick Hits: Albert Pujols homered twice and drove in six runs
Sunday, giving him an MLB-leading 26 long balls and 68 RBIs … Ryan
Howard homered as a pinch-hitter Saturday, but returned to the hospital
Sunday and saw his MLB-high streak of 343 straight games snapped
because of the flu … Cole Hamels struck out 10 and allowed just two
runs in eight innings Sunday, but took a loss … After giving up 25 runs
in his previous five outings, Wandy Rodriguez allowed one run on two
hits over seven innings Sunday … General manager Dan O’Dowd denied
Saturday that Brad Hawpe is being shopped … Geovany Soto homered Sunday
for the fourth time in June after going deep just once through 40 games
… Khalil Greene homered Sunday for the third straight game, but left
with a bruised leg after being hit by a pitch … Troy Tulowitzki notched
his first three-hit game of the season Sunday and also added a walk.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.