Red Sox-Twins Preview

Although Boston manager Bobby Valentine appears to have found a

remedy for his battered bullpen, he maintains it’s not a long-term


The Red Sox look to build on their first victory in a week and

hand the Minnesota Twins a fourth straight defeat Tuesday night at

Target Field.

With Daniel Bard’s outing Sunday canceled because of a rainout,

Valentine decided to move that day’s scheduled starter into a

relief role for Monday’s opener in Minnesota to shore up a

beleaguered bullpen. Boston’s bullpen was responsible for all 15

runs in Saturday’s embarrassing six-run loss to the New York

Yankees, and the relief corps’ 8.06 ERA is the worst in the


Moving Bard to the bullpen seemed to be a good move, as the

temporary reliever got two critical outs in the eighth inning of

Monday’s 6-5 victory.

Cody Ross powered the offense, tying the score with a two-run

homer in the seventh inning and putting the Red Sox (5-10) ahead

with a two-out, solo shot in the ninth to help Boston snap a

five-game losing streak.

“It’s been a tough go,” said Ross, who leads the team with five

homers and 13 RBIs. “Everybody knows how tough it’s been on us, but

nobody feels sorry for us. We’re going to keep having to go out

there and grind it out.”

There have been calls for the highly criticized Valentine to

permanently move Bard into the bullpen to replace struggling closer

Alfredo Aceves, who did end up nailing down the save Monday after

getting shelled Saturday. But the skipper has insisted Bard is

still on track to make his next start Friday.

There’s no question about the role of Josh Beckett (1-2, 5.03

ERA), who is slated to take the ball Tuesday.

Beckett allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings of

Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Texas. The right-hander struck out seven,

walked one and retired the final 12 batters he faced.

Beckett, who has never pitched at Target Field, has been

hit-or-miss in his five career starts against the Twins, posting an

8.18 ERA in two games but a 0.41 ERA in the other three. In his

lone outing against them last season, the three-time All-Star

allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1, 11-inning win

May 9.

Minnesota (5-12) counters with Nick Blackburn (0-1, 5.56), who

is set to return to the rotation against one of his favorite


Blackburn was removed with one out in the sixth inning against

Texas on April 14 because he felt a cramp in the back of his right

shoulder. An MRI revealed no damage, but the Twins decided to give

extra rest to the right-hander, who missed the final six weeks of

last season with a right forearm injury.

Blackburn allowed two runs and seven hits against the Rangers

before Minnesota’s bullpen struggled in a 6-2 loss. He has now made

10 starts since picking up his last win against the Chicago White

Sox on July 8.

He didn’t get a decision in either of his two starts against the

Red Sox last season, but certainly pitched well enough to win with

a 0.69 ERA. He is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last four starts

versus Boston.

Kelly Shoppach, who has been behind the plate for Beckett’s last

two starts, is 8 for 16 with three homers off Blackburn.

Blackburn’s batterymate, meanwhile, has fared well lately

against the Red Sox. Joe Mauer is batting .429 in his last four

games in the series and is 3 for 8 with two doubles lifetime

against Beckett.

The Twins have lost eight of the last 10 meetings with