David Ross addition gives Red Sox plenty of flexibility

David Ross addition gives Red Sox plenty of flexibility

The Red Sox are likely keeping an open mind about trading Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their strikeout-prone starting catcher, after adding David Ross on a two-year, $6.2 million contract Saturday. Ross was briefly a member of the Red Sox back in 2008, going 1-for-8 for the club. He finished that season with Boston after the Reds cut…

Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

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Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

Will the Ravens’ increased speed at wide receiver force opponents to defend them differently?

The Ravens hope so.

They were without Breshad Perriman (knee injury) all of last season, and without Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles injury) the final two months.

That gave opponents license to put a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, and to crowd Ravens receivers with press coverage – unafraid that the Ravens could throw deep with success.

However, Perriman is healthy again, and the Ravens added two speed receivers by signing Mike Wallace during free agency and drafting Chris Moore in the fourth round.

The Ravens believe that speed will lead to more big plays, help their running game, and give Smith and other receivers more operating room.

“We’ve had years when we couldn’t back anybody up,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “The ability to back people up, it’s huge – to quote a famous politician not to be named here. It’s hard for me to see the speed all of the time in some of these drills. I’m like,`How fast are they really moving?’ Then I go ask the (defensive backs) and they say, ‘They’re moving really fast.’ And that makes me feel good about it.”

Perriman averaged 19.5 yards per catch at Central Florida, Moore averaged 19.3 yards per catch at Cincinnati, and Wallace has averaged 15.2 yards per catch over a seven-year NFL career.

The Ravens believe their speed will make opponents think twice about crowding the line of scrimmage. And when opponents do crowd the line of scrimmage, the Ravens plan to make them pay with big plays.

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Zimmerman heating up for Nats, Papelbon can't solve Philly

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Zimmerman heating up for Nats, Papelbon can't solve Philly

Here are a few leftover thoughts from Monday night's Nationals win over the Phillies…

Is Zimmerman finally starting to heat up?

Ryan Zimmerman missed his ninth homer of the season by a matter of inches on Monday night as he watched his long flyball in the seventh inning bounce off the railing in center field at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, it was his first triple since last April and the 20th of his career. A 12-year veteran, Zimmerman is usually good for one or two of them per season.

The triple was Zimmerman's fourth extra-base hit in his last three games and his 15th of the month of May. In April he only had four extra-base hits the entire month. Zimmerman's four XBHs are the most he's had in a three-game span all season. Over his last 19 games he has seven homers, 12 RBI, eight walks, a .355 OBP and a 1.007 OPS.

Zimmerman is still hitting just .244 this year through 46 games and .247/.309/.769 since the start of 2015 (141 G). But perhaps this recent stretch can get him going. All year it has been pointed out how highly he ranks in average exit velocity - currently 11th in MLB at 94.7 miles per hour - and it may now be starting to pay off. 

Papelbon keeps having trouble with the Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon earned his 14th save of the season on Monday night, but once again it was an eventful outing against his former team. Papelbon served up back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, the second by Ryan Howard. That brought home Maikel Franco and cut the Nationals' lead to 4-3 with no outs.

Papelbon escaped, but it wasn't easy. Since getting traded from Philadelphia to Washington, Papelbon has blown two saves and has allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings (9.53 ERA) against the Phillies. 

Compare those numbers to what he's done against the rest of the league since joining the Nats and it will make you scratch your head. Papelbon has a 2.09 ERA (9 ER in 38.2 IP) with the Nats against non-Phillies teams. The Phillies are 29th in baseball in runs scored this season, too. There doesn't seem to be a good reason for it, but Papelbon just can't solve his former team.

Roark goes seven strong innings

Tanner Roark continues to bounce back nicely from his May 14 disaster against the Marlins, his worst start of the season. In his three outings since, Roark has allowed just four earned runs in 20 2/3 total innings. In four of his last five starts Roark has gone at least six innings with two runs or less allowed. 

Roark now has a 2.70 ERA, which ranks just third on the Nats but 13th overall in the National League. He places sixth in slugging percentage against (.304) and 11th in the NL in OPS against (.607). One stat that really stands out for Roark is his groundball rate. His groundball/flyball ratio is 1.94, which ranks third in the NL and seventh in baseball.

As good as Roark has been, the Nats are just 4-7 in his starts this season and have lost five of his last seven outings. He's been killed by a lack of run support, ranking fifth from the bottom (100th among qualifying pitchers) with an average of 2.55 runs per game scored by his team. Stephen Strasburg, who is a perfect 9-0 and has seen the Nats win his last 15 starts dating back to last season, is second from the top with an average of seven runs scored per start.

Revere keeps searching for consistency

Ben Revere went 0-for-4 on Monday and is now hitless in three straight games and in five of his last six. He's still not striking out, which is good. Revere only has one strikeout in his last eight games, a span of 30 at-bats, and he has the best contact percentage on the Nats (88.6%). 

And when Revere gets hits, they tend to come in bunches. In each of the last five games he's notched a hit, he's landed at least two in those contests. That gives him a .282/.333/.436 slash-line over the last 11 games. That's not bad, but it has been feast or famine for the outfielder with six hitless outings during that stretch.

Layman responds to biggest criticism during time at Maryland

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Layman responds to biggest criticism during time at Maryland

If there was one overriding criticism of Jake Layman during his time at Maryland, it was that the 6-9 native of Massachusetts had a tendency to fade into the background when surrounded by other talented players.

Through his first two years at Maryland, Dez Wells was the focal point. His junior year, it was Wells and freshman Melo Trimble. As a senior, it was Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter, Jr., and Diamond Stone -- at least for the season’s first half.

As Layman prepares for the 2016 NBA Draft, he spoke with Matt McGann of DraftExpress.com to address that criticism.

“I think the second half of the year for me I was showing how much more aggressive I can be and that’s just carried over into this part of my training right now,” he said. “I think in pickup I’m being aggressive handling the ball, getting the ball off rebounds, going on the fastbreak, so I think all those things are kind of what teams are looking for from me.”

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In support of Layman, there was absolutely a difference in how he played to begin the season and how he finished it.

With Trimble struggling down the stretch over the final month, Layman helped the Terrapins to a win over Michigan, almost helped them steal one on the road at Purdue, and helped lock up a must-win game against Illinois at home.

He then dropped 26 points on Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament. Against Michigan State in the next round, he got in something of a scuffle, which included exchanging words with Spartans star Denzel Valentine. He dropped 27 on South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The aggressiveness is a nice asset, but in reality, Layman will likely be asked to do at the NBA level more or less what he did at Maryland -- defend multiple positions, hit open shots, and rebound the ball.

If he does all of those things, he can stick on a roster and contribute.