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Morales earns another start for Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  June 24, 2012 12:34 AM

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So, Bobby Valentine, is Franklin Morales going to get another start?

"Yes," said the manager of the Red Sox. "Most assuredly."

Of course he is. Morales allowed two earned runs in six innings against the Atlanta Braves in a game the Sox won, 8-4. In his two starts, Morales has given up four earned runs over 11 innings and struck out 17 with one walk.

Since 1985, only two other Red Sox pitchers have struck out at least eight batters in their first two starts of a season. You probably have heard of them. Roger Clemens did it in 1988 and Pedro Martinez for three straight years starting in 1998.

“Franklin has always had one of the best arms on the team,” Mike Aviles said. “I think he has always wanted to start here and now he’s running with it. He’s blowing guys away.”

Morales has shown a fastball in the mid-90s that doesn’t fade as his pitch count builds. He also used a splitter as a change of pace and mixes in an occasional breaking pitch. His fastball works to both sides of the plate, too. It's an effective arsenal.

“For him to maintain velocity now twice, 80 pitches last time, 86 this time, is very impressive. That’s more than I expected,” Valentine said.

Morales said he has worked hard between starts, improving his stamina and maintaining the strength of his shoulder.

“Every inning when I pitch, I try and do the best that I can. I feel very good and I feel very excited,” he said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for me to be a starter.”

Also:

• That no-good bum Will Middlebrooks made an out in his last time up. But at least he doubled, homered and singled the first three times. He is a ridiculous 10 of his last 14 with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

“No one is this hot,” Valentine said. “The last thing you want to do is get him out of the lineup.”

Middlebrooks is hitting .331/368/.592 in 40 games with nine homers and 33 RBIs. Vaunted Mike Trout of the Angels is hitting .337/.399/.535 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 50 games. The AL Rookie of the Year race could be fascinating.

• Dustin Pedroia, clean shaven and feeling good, was 3 for 4 with a walk. His last three-hit game was May 11.

• Adrian Gonzalez (2 for 5) twice raced speedy Braves leadoff hitter Michael Bourn to the bag. He lost in the third inning but beat him in the ninth to end the game. Gonzalez, who doesn't run very well, was quite pleased with himself.

"I had to get him the second time," he said. "I'm not that slow."

• Vicrente Padilla threw a 52-mph looping curveball to Jason Heyward in the eighth inning. It was grounded back to the mound and Padilla took it himself to first base. Now there's something you don't see all the time.

• No update on Kevin Youkilis beyond what you probably know. The Sox are holding him out to avoid injury at this point. The White Sox, Indians and Dodgers appear to be the primary suitors.

With Aaron Cook coming off the DL to start on Sunday, a trade would open up a roster spot. We shall see. Just a guess, but a deal comes down within the next 24 hours.

Youkilis, much to his credit, seems to be handling the whole thing well. He wants to play and it's not going to happen with the Sox. A trade benefits all parties at this point.

• Thanks to everybody who followed along today. It speaks to the passion of Red Sox fans that we had 700+ comments in the blog on a summer Saturday.

Awesome job by Alex on the updates, too.

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