Full Count
A Furiously Updated Red Sox Blog
WEEI.com Blog Network

Smoltz: ‘It will be a success’

06.24.09 at 6:14 pm ET
By   |   Comments

WASHINGTON — Speaking prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Nationals, Wednesday, John Smoltz touched on his expectations heading into his first start of the season, Thursday, among other things:

(On expectations) ‘€œLet’€™s see, how about no runs, as many innings as they’€™ll let me pitch. Basically I want to go out there and do what I’€™ve done the last few starts and that’€™s command my pitches and see what else happens.’€

(On velocity) ‘€œThe biggest thing is I have enough pitches to get hitters out and the stuff that everyone is talking about might be different, so be it. But I think the ability to pitch and get guys out will be the same.’€

(On reinventing himself) “Absolutely. This is not the old or the new or the done. This is just a new chapter of which, when I have a baseball in my hand, I feel like I can make a pitch and do the things I have to do to hopefully take the sting out of the bat and if that’€™s the case, we’€™ll progress and keep getting better every time out. Tomorrow is just one rung on the ladder to try to climb as far as I can to see how good I can be and really, at the end of the day, be in a position to pitch in the playoffs.’€

Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox at Nationals Match-Ups, 6/24

06.24.09 at 3:52 pm ET
By   |   Comments

NATIONALS VS. JON LESTER

Jon Lester said hello to the baseball world in his third career start. On June 21, 2006, the left-hander flashed his immense potential. The Washington Nationals were the victims.

Lester struck out 10 and allowed three hits and one run in six innings that night. His manager glimpsed something that night that has now become a frequent phenomenon.

‘€œHe made them respect all of his pitches — the slow breaking ball, the cutter, his fastball, his four-seamer,’€ Terry Francona said that night. ‘€œAnd they couldn’t get a bead on any one of his pitches. He threw them all for strikes. It looks like his fastball’s got a little bit, whatever it registers on the gun, it’s got that last couple feet where it keeps going, and when it’s getting to the hitter and Tek, it’s got a little finish to it.’€

After he struck out 10 batters that night, it became natural to anticipate that there were more such nights to come. Remarkably, however, Lester went almost three years before he finally punched out 10 in a game again, accomplishing the feat this May 4 in Yankee Stadium.

Now, however, Lester is cementing his strikeout credentials. He has four games with double-digit whiff totals since the start of May. He will look to up that total against a Nationals lineup that is averaging 7.9 whiffs per game:

Alex Cintron (8 career plate appearances vs. Lester): 2-for-7, walk
Freddie Bynum (4): 0-for-4
Corey Patterson (3): 1-for-3, homer
Ryan Zimmerman (3): 0-for-3
Lastings Milledge (2): 0-for-1, HBP
Josh Willingham (2): 2 walks

RED SOX VS. CRAIG STAMMEN

You might guess that no members of the Red Sox have ever faced Craig Stammen. You would be correct.

Stammen is a product of the University of Dayton (go Fliers!). In his major-league debut, he pitched four no-hit innings before getting touched for a run and a hit in the fifth.

In six starts, he’€™s 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA. He earned his first big-league win in his last outing, pouring in 6.1 shutout innings against the Yankees.

Read More: craig stammen, Jon Lester,

Francona talks Matsuzaka on Dale & Holley

06.24.09 at 1:33 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that, contrary to reports, starter Daisuke Matsuzaka has been on the shoulder program of assistant trainer Mike Reinold since coming to the Red Sox. Francona suggested that the pitcher has been coachable.

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

On the Red Sox recent stretch of success:

‘€œSo much gets as if from week to week, I think we choose to go about things how we do,. When it’€™s all said and done things we’€™ll shake out. I know where we are, we just don’€™t really care.’€

On Dustin Pedroia hitting leadoff:

‘€œI actually asked him (whether he was comfortable there). If it was a case that it bothered him, I wouldn’€™t hit him there, I think it’€™s just a coincidence. ‘€¦ We just set up the lineup like we think it’€™s going to work, and then not move them everyday. If they’€™re good players, it will all shake out.’€

On Ellsbury returning to the leadoff spot:

‘€œAt some point in his career, that’€™s out best lineup. There’€™s no getting around that. For right now, Pedey’€™s going to get hot here. You can see that coming. J.D.’€™s been getting on base like crazy. I think it plays to more of the strengths of our lineup. Jacoby is swinging the bat so well that if you have him hitting behind Lowell or David or Tek, it gets those guys more pitches to see because they see Jake sitting back there and he’€™s swinging the bat well, and he has the ability to use his legs down at the bottom of the order to get himself in scoring position, I like the way it’€™s working right now.’€

On Daisuke Matsuzaka being on a different shoulder program than other pitchers:

‘€œThat’€™s actually not true. All our pitchers are on the shoulder program. That’€™s the one thing that’€™s not negotiable for any pitcher. They have to test out shoulder-wise. Otherwise we get concerned. Dice-K you have to explain it to him. He’€™s a guy who was raised in a different culture. We’€™ve had to explain it because it’€™s different from what he’€™s used to. But to say he hasn’t done the shoulder program I don’€™t think is correct.”

More on Matuszaka:

‘€œI think there’€™s been a lot of adjustments that needed to be made. Some we thought he would have to make and some have surprised us’€¦There are a lot of things that have come into play that he’€™s had to make adjustments since he’€™s been over here.

“For whatever has happened, he’s managed to win 33 regular season games and three postseason games, which is a lot. Now, this year has been a battle. From the start to now, the WBC has a lot…he ramped up too quick. Now, in any town, as a fan, especially in Boston, when a guy struggles, they want to get rid of him. I don’t think that makes sense. We have a huge investment in this guy. He’€™s already shown he can be a top-flight pitcher, we’ve got to get him back there. That’€™s our goal”

On whether he is coachable or headstrong:

‘€œVery, actually. Not very headstrong, but very coachable’€¦He’€™s a great kid. He has his own opinions. So do we’€¦He’€™s just not pitching well. When you’re not pitching well, everyone is looking for something’€¦He’€™s just not getting guys out.’€

On Matsuzaka’€™s arsenal of pitches:

‘€œI thought his best pitch would be his changeup…That hasn’t been the case. For whatever reason, hitters have seen the changeup out of his hand better than I thought they would so there hasn’t been the deception and he hasn’€™t thrown the split nearly as much because of the grip of the ball so that takes away from one of his weapons.’€

On Jason Varitek‘€™s playing time:

‘€œI’€™m not going to apologize for wanting to play him. He’€™s been a little beat up the last few weeks. We like him being on the field. We want him running the game for us. ‘€œ

On calling up Pawtucket catcher Dusty Brown:

‘€œWe had a basically a free roster spot, if we got into a game and something happened to a catcher, we’€™re just trying to protect ourselves’€

On John Smoltz‘€™s return tomorrow night:

‘€œIt’€™s exciting. We’€™re looking for him to keep us in the game. He’€™s done everything and more that we could’€™ve asked. We’€™re looking at 85-90 pitches, not bad for a first time out. We’€™ll have to use some judgment on that.’€

On Jason Bay:

‘€œHe’€™s tremendous. He’€™s a strong kid , he has some of the best hitter’€™s hands, doesn’€™t he? This kid is some kind of player. He’€™s a great player and he’€™s an even better teammate. Great kid. He’€™s funny, he’€™s not the loudest guy, he’€™s got some sneaky humor to him. He just shows up and plays. You ask him if he needs a day off, he says no, and then I write him back into the lineup.’€

On Mike Lowell getting time off due to his hip:

‘€œI think that’€™s me over doing it. I probably ran him out there when I shouldn’€™t have at times. We’€™ll play David tonight at first, Youk at third. I’€™ll keep a better eye on it going forward.’€

On if his player are mindful of playing NL-style baseball and if Smoltz was always going to come back against an NL opponent:

‘€œI don’€™t think they really care, if there’€™s anything different. We just wanted him to pitch when he was ready.’€

On the difference in pace of game between each league:

‘€œI think some nights in the NL, the closer you get to the dugout things just kind of happen, I’€™m used to the AL now, and how it works. When you have good player and pitchers I don’€™t care what league you’€™re in.’€

On how little turbulence there is in the Red Sox locker room:

‘€œHow many places can you sit a David Ortiz and you don’€™t hear a word? There’€™s a lot of selflessness and I love it. Sometimes things will go bad, but I think our club can go through it.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, john smoltz

Ken Rosenthal on the Dale & Holley Show

06.23.09 at 3:26 pm ET
By   |   Comments

In his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley Show, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports offered his usual insight into the rumor mill, while also weighing in on the legacy of retired Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr, reasonable expectations for John Smoltz, and several other topics.

Some of Rosenthal’s thoughts:

On Donald Fehr- ‘€œHe has a dour countenance, doesn’€™t speak much of his passion for the game, but his job wasn’€™t to please the fans. With the exception of steroid issue in which he failed his players, he’€™s been a successful guy.’€

On Fehr’€™s legacy as MLBPA head-‘€œThe sport has made such incredible gains under his watch’€

On the question whether or not baseball needs a salary cap- ‘€œWhat’€™s wrong with the sport in terms of competitive balance? Tampa Bay won last year, it’€™s not impossible for a small revenue team to win.’€

On Donald Fehr and any connection to high ticket prices- ‘€œTeams will charge what the market bears. The Yankees overcharged, for example. I don’€™t blame Donald Fehr for getting his people the most possible money. If you’€™re a player you want Fehr representing you, getting the most money possible.’€

On How Yankees built teams- ‘€œHaving a behemoth like the Yankees isn’€™t necessarily a bad thing. I don’€™t mind teams being percieved this way. I think it’€™s healthy. I’€™d rather have a little bit of this big team behavior, as long as it’€™s not ruining the sport’€™s competitive balance.’€

On Manny in the Minors- ‘€œI question that. If youre suspended 50 games, you should be suspended 50 games. Manny should go on that rehab assingment after the 50 games.’€

More on Manny’€™s Supsension- ‘€œThere is something in Congress about being suspended and then playing in the minor leagues. I just don’€™t like it. If you’€™re suspended from baseball you should be suspended.’€

On the Matsuzaka situation- ‘€œI don’€™t know. I know that there is a lot of attention on the WBC, and understandably so. Dice-K is a guy who has thrown a ton of pitches since high school. If you listen to John Farrell, he thinks that the WBC affected his pitcher. Like any pitcher,he has a certain amount of bullets that are sure to run out. Maybe it’€™s reached that point. The Red Sox knew when they made that deal, that he was pitching in thw WBC.’€

‘€œIf he certainly shows that he’€™s not the pitcher he was in the first two years of the deal, it doesn’€™t look like he’€™d be worth it. At this moment we have some questions, I’€™m not yet going to say that it wasn’€™t worth it.’€

On the now ‘€œfatigued’€ Alex Rodriguez- ‘€œIn my mind this is related to his hip and how he wanted to play everyday. I believe that this whole issue is overblown to the extent of an argument with Giardi or the Yankees punishing him.’€

On Trade Rumors involving the Arizona Diamondbacks- ‘€œThey have some interesting parts. Teams won’€™t be jumping up and down for Doug Davis. Qualls is a guy who has value. I don’€™t expect the D-Backs to be a significant seller, like Baltimore and their relief pitcher.’€

On John Smoltz- He’€™s not the old John Smoltz, and no one should expect that. He’€™s a 4th or 5th starter now. He’€™s a different cat. His competitiveness is such that maybe he can do things that some people can’€™t. I can’€™t count out this guy. I’€™m anxious to see how this does not just for one start but for several.

On Brad Penny‘€™s trade value- ‘€œHis value might be peaking at this moment, but if you’€™re the Sox he’€™s shown you what he can do at this level of competition. The offers weren’€™t enticing enough for them to move him.

On the on-going Pedro Martinez saga- ‘€œNot if he wants a major league contract, that remains his principal desire. There are teams who see him more as a reliever than a starter. That’€™s the hold up. He wasn’€™t great in that workout, but he wasn’€™t horrible.’€

Read More: Brad Penny, donald fehr, john smoltz,

Red Sox at Nationals Match-Ups, 6/23

06.23.09 at 3:06 pm ET
By   |   Comments

NATIONALS VS. BRAD PENNY

It was hard to see this coming.

It is not merely that Brad Penny has been excellent of late, logging a 3.12 ERA in his last six starts. The most surprising element of his emergence has been the fact that he has suddenly emerged as a power pitcher. Over those outings, he is averaging a hefty 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings, in sharp contrast to the start of his year, in which he had two or fewer strikeouts in five of his first six outings.

By Penny’s own proclamation, his arm feels as good now as it did when he was 21 years old. Now, he is no longer in a position where he needs to look over his shoulder to wonder about his future in the Sox rotation with the return of John Smoltz. Instead, he is increasingly making a case that he should be a mainstay. He will try to continue that trend against a Nationals lineup that features a couple players – most notably, former Sox catcher Josh Bard and on-the-block first baseman Nick Johnson – who have hammered him over the years:

Adam Dunn (31 plate appearances vs. Penny): .179 AVG./.258 OBP/.393 SLG (2 HR 5 RBI, 14 SO)
Josh Bard (15) .538/.600/.692 (2 2B, 3 RBI)
Austin Kearns (12) .111/.333/.111
Ron Belliard (9) .333/.333/.667 (1 HR, RBI)
Nick Johnson (7) .600/.714/.800
Cristian Guzman (6) .167/.167/.167 (RBI)
Ryan Zimmerman (6) .250/.500/.250
Kip Wells (4) .500/.500/.500 (2 hits)
Willie Harris (3) .500/.667/.500
Josh Willingham .333/.333/.333
Julian Tavarez .000/.000/.000

RED SOX VS. JOHN LANNAN

Pity John Lannan, tonight’s starter for the Nats. The 24-year-old – who has never before faced a single member of the Red Sox – has a rock-solid 3.38 ERA, 15th best in the National League. But the Nats are averaging just 3.35 runs per game when he takes the mound, explaining his 4-5 record. Lannan has been the starter in games the Nats lost by that featured the following scores:

3-2 (April 17)
1-0 (April 22)
2-1 (May 20)
4-2 (May 31)

Nonetheless, the left-hander is enjoying a spectacular June, with a 2-0 record and 1.16 ERA this month. The Nats, who are now on a season-best four-game winning streak, have won all three of Lannan’s starts this month.

There seems an excellent chance that, sometime this year, one of the current Nats starters will lose his job to Stephen Strasburg. To date, there has been no reason to expect that Lannan will be that pitcher.

Read More: Brad Penny, john lannan,

The Portland Prospect Pool Runs Deep

06.23.09 at 12:36 pm ET
By   |   Comments

PORTLAND, Maine — The talent evident on the Red Sox‘ affiliate in Double-A Portland is far-reaching. Sox farm director Mike Hazen often notes that any player who is in Double-A should be prepared for the possibility of a call-up to the majors. In recent seasons, the team has gone to Double-A to seek help from Justin Masterson, Kason Gabbard (who, incidentally, happens to be a Sea Dog once again), and Craig Hansen.

This season is no different from any other as far as talent and hype goes. Here are some notes on three youngsters with promising futures.

TAZAWA’S LEARNING CURVE

Junichi Tazawa has continued to dazzle since choosing a shot at the majors over a career in Japan. As was reported to death at the time, Tazawa apparently left more money on the table from the Rangers to come to the Red Sox and have a chance to pitch with countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka.

While he has two breaking pitches, perhaps his best pitch is the slower of the two: a high-60s/low-70s curve that can freeze batters. There’€™s a catch though: the right-hander might not be completely capable of throwing the pitch for strikes.

In his last start Saturday against Akron, after being baffled by the pitch through the first three innings, hitters simply began taking the pitch. Tazawa ended up with four walks through five and a third, but a high walk total is not something that Tazawa watchers are accustomed to. If he can master throwing his curve for strikes and mixes it well with his other pitches, there’€™s a chance it could be an out pitch in the majors.

‘€œIt’€™s pretty much his go-to pitch,’€  said Beyeler of the curve. ‘€œIf anything, he throws it too much. It loses effect [as the game goes on].’€

In contrast with his 90-92mph fastball and low-80’€™s slider, the curve — which on Saturday was clocked as low as 67 miles an hour — can be used to set up batters for a two-strike fastball, which Tazawa did in striking out Beau Mills.

On the season Tazawa now stands at 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA. He has 71 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched to go with 25 walks. He was placed on the DL on Sunday with a calf strain, but is only expected to miss one start. Beyeler wouldn’€™t comment on whether he could soon be in line for a promotion to Pawtucket.

PROGRESS COMING FOR ANDERSON

When David Ortiz went through his early-season struggles, Alex Speier documented that he wasn’€™t the only slugger in the system that was slumping. Lars Anderson came into this season as Baseball America’€™s top-rated Red Sox prospect and, after a solid start, essentially fell on his face in the month of May.

The Sox’€™ hopeful slugger of the future hit a gentleman’€™s .293 in 18 games in April but plummeted to a .194 mark in May. While he admits that he hasn’€™t been a good May hitter in the minors — last month was a step down from the .246 he hit last May in Lancaster — it appears he’€™s starting to figure it out.

Anderson is hitting .311 in the month of June, including six multi-hit games. Though his production has improved, the left-handed-hitting first baseman feels that he’€™s done everything exactly the same from the beginning of his slump until now.

‘€œIt’€™s a combination of everything,’€ Anderson said over the weekend. ‘€œYour approach, your mental plan, your mechanics, what the pitcher throws at you, how your pitch selection is. If you hit the ball hard does it fall or do they catch it?’€

On the season Anderson is hitting .258 with an OBP of .345 and slugging percentage of .410. Assuming he is able to string together a full season of solid power (he projects to have plus power in the majors), average, and on-base skills (his OBP is 87 points higher than his average), one number that doesn’€™t appear to be going away is his strikeout rate, which currently stands at 22.6 percent. Unlike his average and OBP, Anderson’€™s poor strikeout percentage can’€™t be blamed on May (25.5 K% in May, 23.2 in June). His manager doesn’€™t feel the high rate is a problem for Anderson’€™s path to the majors.

‘€œHe’€™s seeing pitches, getting into counts and with that guys are going to strike out,’€ said Sea Dogs skipper Arnie Beyeler on Sunday. ‘€œHe’€™s being productive for what we need him to be and he’€™s being productive for his development.’€

Even given in his struggles, self-assurance is clearly something that doesn’€™t get lost with Anderson. The 21-year-old’€™s youthful-yet-focused demeanor exudes confidence that he can take a pitcher deep — as he has seven times this season — at any point.

‘€œEveryone goes through [slumps],’€ said Anderson. ‘€œI wouldn’€™t say I’€™m struggling, but I’€™m grinding through Double-A ball.’€

KALISH’€™S POST-CALL-UP STRUGGLES ARE IN THE PAST

Outfielder Ryan Kalish was a bigger prospect in the 2006 draft than his ninth-round status may suggest, but the Sox were able to select him and give him $600,000 to prevent him from going to the University of Virginia.

Kalish was putting together a terrific 2007 campaign in Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League (104 PA, .368 BA, .471 OBP, .540 SLG) before breaking his right hamate bone and requiring season-ending surgery. While he had mixed success in 2008 between Greenville and Lancaster in 2008, Kalish started the ‘€˜09 season in impressive fashion, hitting .307 with five homers and a .433 on-base percentage at high-A Salem. His performance earned him a mid-May promotion to Portland, but that’€™s where his season hit a speed bump.  In 66 plate appearances in May he hit .133 with a 24.2% strikeout rate.

‘€œIt was definitely a stressful time,’€ said Kalish of his post-callup slump. ‘€œI think it was more of a confidence thing.

‘€œThese pitchers are a lot better than [the pitchers in] High-A so that made it harder,’€ added Kalish. ‘€œBut at the same time I feel like you can build it up to be something [in your head] and I think that’€™s what I did as well.’€

Kalish has used the month of June to break out of his slump, as he’€™s hit .333 while only striking out 8.1 percent of the time.

‘€œ[I] feel ten times better than [I] did,’€ said Kalish of his turnaround. ‘€œObviously I feel like there’€™s still time to improve.’€

Beyeler cautions that reading too much into the May numbers may get in the way of seeing what promise the two prospects show.

‘€œThey’€™re both young guys,’€ said Beyeler of Anderson and Kalish. ‘€œWith young guys comes inconsistency. A lot of people just look at numbers and don’€™t see [the big picture]. If you just look at the result, sometimes you miss a lot of what’€™s going on.’€

Kalish has endeared himself to fans with a dirt-dog playing style and energy. He’s also shown plenty of versatility in Portland, playing all three outfield positions.

Read More: junichi tazawa, lars anderson, mark wagner, Portland

Second-Rounder Wilson Looks to Fulfill Dream With Red Sox

06.23.09 at 6:47 am ET
By   |   Comments

LOWELL ‘€“Since Alex Wilson was three years old, he’€™s been dreaming of playing professional baseball, and on Monday his dream came true as he signed with the Boston Red Sox for a bonus of nearly half a million dollars ‘€“ not too shabby for a 22-year-old straight out of college.

But for the time being, he’€™ll be living his dream out in Donahue Hall, one of UMass-Lowell’€™s dormitories located right next to the Single-A Spinners’€™ LeLacheur Park. It has no TV, no Internet, and during the school year is home to 349 male and female undergraduates.

‘€œIt’€™s not living the luxurious life that everyone may think it is,’€ Wilson says. ‘€œI promise you that.’€

While it may not necessarily be the ‘€œluxurious’€ life of a professional baseball player, for now it’€™s a start to what looks like a promising career for the young pitcher. Wilson, who was drafted by the Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft (77th overall), features a low- to mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup that he says he’€™s still working on. Baseball America ranked Wilson the 52nd best prospect in the country, and he was second in the Big 12 in strikeouts with 120.

Originally from Saudi Arabia, Wilson was born there while his father was stationed in the region working as a geologist for Saudi Aramco. The family was only there for another year and a half before moving to West Virginia, which is where the Wilsons still reside to this day.

Wilson has always been a standout player. At Hurricane High School in Hurricane, W.Va., the right-hander was a three-time all-conference, all-county, and all-state honoree who was named West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year and threw a perfect game during his senior campaign.

In 2006, Wilson was a starter during his freshman year at Winthrop University, going 13-3 with a 3.78 ERA before being named Collegiate Baseball’€™s National Freshman Pitcher of the Year. He replicated his success during his sophomore year as he went 6-4 with a 2.51 ERA.

But after throwing over 249 innings in his first two years at Winthrop, Wilson injured his elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ligament.

‘€œFor a baseball player, hearing that news is like the end of world,’€ he says.

Not too long after, he decided to leave Winthrop to go play at Texas A&M.

‘€œI had a great start at Winthrop and I couldn’€™t argue with my numbers or what I was doing, it was just that I got used a little too much,’€ Wilson says. ‘€œI figured if I was going back to school, why leave myself in the same situation?’€

After successful surgery and a full recovery, Wilson began rehabbing for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League ‘€“ an experience that he says helped him get to the level he’€™s at today.

‘€œThey were throwing me out there every fifth day when I was supposed to be even if I had a rough outing because they were really concerned with just letting me progress as a player,’€ he says. ‘€œIt’€™s rare you come across a situation like this when you’€™re trying to rehab in one of the better leagues in the country.’€

Wilson’€™s recovery was advanced enough that he was able to work out for teams prior to the 2008 draft. The Red Sox, in fact, brought him to Fenway Park and seriously considered taking him last June, but instead, it was the Cubs who selected the pitcher in the 10th round with the 311th overall pick.

But Wilson decided not to sign with Chicago. He describes their offer ‘€“ believed to have been $600,000, or less than half of the first-round money that he was seeking last year ‘€“ as ‘€œsub-par.’€

He called Coach Rob Childress at A&M to let him know that he’€™d be returning to play the following season, and in 2009 ‘€“ his first full season since recovering from surgery ‘€“ was converted from a starter to a reliever. Wilson said that he was able to get his fastball to sit comfortably again at 94 mph, and started throwing his curveball and slider a lot more as his out-pitches.

The young flamethrower ‘€œfell right into place,’€ he says, and had no trouble adjusting to playing on a bigger stage as he went 6-6 with a 4.22 ERA in over 89 innings of work. Moreover, the decision to transfer allowed Wilson to fulfill a lifelong dream. Growing up Wilson idolized former Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, so when Boston selected him 77th overall in the 2009 draft, it was a more than ideal situation.

‘€œIt was just kind of a dream come true getting a phone call saying, ‘€˜Hey the Red Sox just picked you up,’€™’€ Wilson says. ‘€œI was pretty ecstatic about that.’€

Though it was difficult to leave A&M after such a short period of time, Wilson knew that playing for the Sox was a special opportunity he may never again get.

‘€œI’€™ll miss forgoing my senior year, but I think I’€™m where I’€™m supposed to be,’€ he says.

As a university studies major with minors in psychology and sports management, Wilson only has one semester left until he finishes his degree, and he plans to do so in the off-season.

For now though, the hard-throwing pitcher will start making his way toward the big leagues. He has fully recovered from injury and is ready to move back to his natural role as a starter ‘€“ something he will begin doing soon in Lowell as prepares to move to the five-day rotation. There, he plans to work on his changeup and adjust to a heavier workload.

‘€œThey’€™re going to take it easy with me and mold me to where they want me to be,’€ he says.

Soon enough, Wilson hopes to completely fulfill his dream by pitching at Fenway for the team he grew up loving.

‘€œThat’€™s definitely the goal. I don’€™t think anybody comes in here not wanting to do that,’€ said Wilson. ‘€œI think I can do it, I’€™m confident enough in myself that I can pitch at that level. I just need to put my time in and work my way through the ranks to get there.’€

Read More: alex wilson,

UPDATED: Red Sox sign second-round pick Wilson, 10 other draftees

06.22.09 at 2:04 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Red Sox second-round draft pick Alex Wilson is set to sign today for a bonus of approximately $475,000. The right-handed pitcher, who was moved from the rotation to relief with Texas A&M this year, will begin his career with Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League. Wilson features a power fastball in the low- to mid-90s, which he complements with a hard curve and changeup. He was taken by the Cubs in the 10th round in 2008 (coming off of Tommy John surgery), and turned down a bonus of approximately $600,000.

The Sox have also signed fifth-round pick Seth Schwindenhammer out of Limestone High School in Illinois (which counts Jim Thome among its alumni) for $140,000.

Despite reports that the Sox had agreed to terms with 10th-round pick Brandon Jacobs — a 5-foot-10, 240-pound tank of an outfielder with significant power potential but who has a scholarship commitment to play football at Auburn — those reports were erroneous. There is no agreement between the Sox and Jacobs, though the team will follow him while he plays in a wood-bat league this summer to determine whether it is worth signing him to a bonus that would exceed his slot value significantly.

Other picks whose signings were announced:

Willie Holmes (14th round) – outfielder, Chaffey College
Mike Bugary (15th round) – right-handed pitcher, University of California-Berkeley
Tom Ebert (19th round) – right-handed pitcher, Florida International University
Jordan Flasher (22nd round) – right-handed pitcher, George Mason University
Chris Court (23rd round) – right-handed pitcher, Stephen F. Austin University
Jeremiah Bayer (30th round) – right-handed pitcher, Trinity College
Kyle Rutter (41st round) – right-handed pitcher, North Carolina State University
Jordan Sallis (47th round) – second baseman, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
Drew Hedman (50th round) – first baseman, Pomona-Pitzer, $1,000

Read More: alex wilson, mlb draft, seth schwindenhammer,

Farrell Outlines Matsuzaka’s Program on Dale & Holley

06.22.09 at 12:06 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who was interviewed on Monday morning on the Dale & Holley Show, analyzed the physical, mechanical and mental issues that have led to pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka’s poor performance this year, and that forced his placement this weekend on the disabled list. While Farrell did outline the program that Matsuzaka will follow for building his arm strength, he suggested that there was no set timetable for the pitcher’s return to the major leagues, though he did insist that the Sox expect the pitcher back in 2009.

“Our every intention will be to get him back this year,” Farrell said during the interview. “Now I say that with no end time frame that says on August 1, he’€™s going to be back in our rotation. There’€™s going to be objectives that he’€™s going to have to meet along the way here both in terms of strength and conditioning, both from a body standpoint and from a shoulder standpoint and then you can’€™t short circuit the throwing program that we outlined at the outset that he is going to have to go through to not only he feels confident but we feel confident that he’€™s going to go back out on the mound and have the type of performance that he’€™s proven to us over the last two years.

“I wouldn’€™t say there is going to be a full three months of a full off season and then a gradual build-up. He’€™s working from a better foundation now than if you were talking about January or February, that’€™s obvious with the amount of innings he’€™s thrown already. It’€™s clear there are needs that do exist. By his own admission he knows there’€™s the need to take a step back before taking steps forward and that’€™s what we’€™re in the process of constructing an overall plan physically and fundamentally to get him back to that level.”

Farrell clarified that Matsuzaka is not facing an acute injury so much as he is simply still trying to rebuild strength in his right shoulder after having been unable to do so prior to the World Baseball Classic.

“I think it’€™s important to clarify, there are reports out there that Daisuke is suffering from a sore shoulder; that is not true. That is far from the truth,” Farrell said. “He does have some deficiencies in strength that goes back to the preparation for a full season that in this case has not been afforded and when you ramp up too quick you fatigue it and then trying to come back you’€™re working it to get back in shape and there’€™s just not ample time or format to do that. Fortunately with (John) Smoltz coming to us (from the disabled list on Thursday) we have that time on our side and we’€™re going to take the time needed to get Daisuke right to the pitcher he was the past two years.”

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Here is a complete transcript of Farrell’s interview:

On the role of the WBC in Matsuzaka’s weakness and ineffectiveness:

You look back to Spring Training and this in not to point the finger at any one tournament or any one thing but when you take a pitcher and they are accustomed to a consistent progression year after year, outing after outing, and when you interrupt that and ramp up too quick, there are times when a pitcher will not have, and I’€™m using this word lightly, the foundation. Every pitcher has to get himself physically and fundamentally prepared to get himself through a 162-game season. When you try and short circuit that, whether it’€™s because of participation in the WBC or you can look back to the early ’90s when Spring Training was shortened because of the lockout or strike or any shortened Spring Training, it has an adverse affect on the pitcher. When Josh Beckett‘€™s Spring Training was interrupted because of a back injury, he ended up playing catch-up the entire year. This is very much what Daisuke is dealing with and what we are trying to rectify from today going forward.

I can’€™t speak to the outcome of (Daisuke rejecting the offer to participate in the WBC for Japan). I do know whether it’€™s Daisuke and his native country in Japan or guys that play for the United States, there’€™s a tremendous amount of pride that goes along with the involvement with that tournament. Some players feel more closely obligated to fulfilling that request but in the case of Daisuke it’€™s clear this is a very important participation and tournament for not only he but their entire country. But on the downside I think it’€™s clear now that there have been two of these tournaments that the season performance of the pitchers participating in that tournament takes a step backwards. That’€™s not just Daisuke. We’€™ve researched pitchers in Japan that have participated in their WBC and the same situation of sub-par performances is taking place. This is a well-intended tournament yet there are some drawbacks to it.

Is Matsuzaka stubborn? Is he open to adjustments, or does he loathe to listen to advice?

I wouldn’€™t say he loathes to listen, that’€™s not the case. But every elite performer, and let’€™s face it — Daisuke who has won 33 games in regular season baseball in the last two years, (and) should be considered an elite performer — they are very strong in their mindset on what their individual strengths are. They rely heavily on those and when it comes times for adjustment sometimes adversity as he’€™s facing now that is needed to make necessary adjustments. We’€™re not talking about wholesale adjustments with Daisuke, this is centering around physical strength and conditioning, core strength, overall shoulder strength.

I think it’€™s important to clarify, there are reports out there that Dice K is suffering from a sore shoulder; that is not true. That is far from the truth. He does have some deficiencies in strength that goes back to the preparation for a full season that in this case has not been afforded and when you ramp up too quick you fatigue it and then trying to come back you’€™re working it to get back in shape and there’€™s just not ample time or format to do that. Fortunately with Smoltz coming to us we have that time on our side and we’€™re going to take the time needed to get Dice-K right to the pitcher he was the past two years.

On Matsuzaka’s deep pitch counts and style on the mound:

I think the one thing that Daisuke has been very accustomed to and we were well aware of this with our scouting reports and video review of him coming over that this is very customary to the Japanese style of pitching. It’€™s not uncommon to go 3-2. That’€™s why you see elevated pitch count, that’€™s why you see pitcher’€™s, that are very accustomed to particularly starting pitchers, go deep in counts with high pitch counts. Because of the style that they use or the style they are somewhat groomed to pitch to. Here where he’€™s pitching to a smaller strike zone and a deeper lineup in terms of strength, he’€™s not doing anything different than he’€™s done before. It may look to us as being uncustomary but to him it’€™s very much the approach he has used his entire pro career.

On comparing Matsuzaka to Greg Maddux when he came to the Red Sox:

I think it’€™s common in baseball to draw comparisons, particularly if we’€™re not familiar with a guy, within the baseball world. You try to align them or draw comparisons with another pitcher who might be fresh or another player, fresh in minds of people of people who have a direct interest in the game but also who follow it as a strong fan. The one thing that people look, they can hear that report now that Greg Maddux is coming over to us and compare that to what he’€™s doing now and say that couldn’€™t be farther from the truth. What we’€™re dealing with right now is someone who’€™s not in his top physical condition. And I say that not because he’€™s not working out but he’€™s having to work extra hard to generate the type of velocity we’€™ve seen from him and when a pitcher does that, either by over throwing trying to get the intended results, he’€™s feeling the wait of not carrying the load in our rotation and when pitcher does that they can try to hard and overthrow and when they do that they sacrifice command and location and that’€™s clearly what has taken place here.

On the timetable for Matsuzaka’s return:

Our every intention will be to get him back this year. Now I say that with no end time frame that says on August 1, he’€™s going to be back in our rotation. There’€™s going to be objectives that he’€™s going to have to meet along the way here both in terms of strength and conditioning, both from a body standpoint and from a shoulder standpoint and then you can’€™t short circuit the throwing program that we outlined at the outset that he is going to have to go through to not only he feels confident but we feel confident that he’€™s going to go back out on the mound and have the type of performance that he’€™s proven to us over the last two years.

I wouldn’€™t say there is going to be a full three months of a full off season and then a gradual build up. He’€™s working from a better foundation now than if you were talking about January or February, that’€™s obvious with the amount of innings he’€™s thrown already. It’€™s clear there are needs that do exist. By his own admission he knows there’€™s the need to take a step back before taking steps forward and that’€™s what we’€™re in the process of constructing an overall plan physically and fundamentally to get him back to that level.

What are the biggest adjustments he’s faced in the U.S.?

He’€™s gone through a number of changes, both through a natural progression and getting accustomed but probably the biggest thing is the strike zone and what he’€™s pitching to here. When he came to us, we all saw the first half of the first season he was with us, there was  five pitch mix he was trying to incorporate during the game and because of the need to throw pitches that probably have smaller shape to them, in other words not as big a curveball, he has not used his split finger as he did early on in his career here. All that has been large in part because he has been pitching to the strike zone. He has added a two seam fastball to his mix a little bit more frequently over the past year. Those are natural changes he’€™s gone through as a result of a five-man rotation and the pitching on shorter rest, his bullpens in between starts have been reduced in terms of total number of pitches thrown and that’€™s because he goes on feel and he understands what our pitchers go through. He sees a living example of their work and he’€™s made some sizable changes in the time he’€™s been here.

On John Smoltz:

I think were going to have a guy that’€™s very excited to be back on the mound. I’€™m sure people in the Boston area view John Smoltz from afar. Yes we’€™ve seen him pitch here against us but what he’€™s accomplished and what he’€™s gone through in his own career both in terms of on field performance, regular season, post season, coming back from injury and surgery multiple times, there’€™s always and innate ability to be successful because his numbers year in and year out have been extremely consistent even despite the injuries he has had. Pretty significant surgery last June, has done all the necessary work to get back to this point. I mean we have a pitch count on him, expect 85-90 pitch count limit going in but not only is he a guy that’€™s going to be excited to get back on the mound but I think he is going to have a game that he’€™ll keep in check and give us an opportunity to win and this is just in his first outing. Where he grows from this point in terms of performance, we all feel confident he’€™s going to be a successful pitcher for us.

I was looking at the current situation with a potential of six starters, obviously with Daisuke’€™s transaction bringing us back to five, but we were also in a stretch of the season where we have four consecutive off day’€™s on Monday and then when you get into the addition of six men you’€™re into seven and possibility eight days on occasion for a starting pitcher on the rotation. When you get into that amount of time in between starts it has, well the positive effects are that you are controlling the innings and giving ample rest and recover time but the downside of that is that when you get past the sixth day, when you’€™re pitching on the seventh, eighth or beyond I think it begins to affect the touch and the feel of secondary pitches that are important to each guy when they take the mound. it’€™s overwhelmingly, from a physical standpoint a good thing, but from a performance standpoint you look to put in two bullpens if it’€™s an eight-day rotation, a guy’€™s probably got to get to the mound twice in between starts to keep that touch and feel , so there’€™s a view that this is good for the protection of the pitchers but still we’€™re out to win every night and you try to optimize both in this case.

On Jonathan Papelbon’s season:

I think he’€™s doing an excellent job. The one thing Jonathon has done is set an extremely high standard of performance. There have been reports that when he doesn’€™t have the same amount of swing and miss to his fastball the questions start to come up about what is wrong and here is a guy who has executed and been successful in all his save opportunities except one and yet what he’€™s incorporating is his delivery of 2007 which allows him to use his body and his legs more consistently in generating his velocity. What we’€™ve seen is his velocity is at the higher end of the normal range for him so he’€™s bringing in 95-96 to the mound much more frequently than he did a year ago. Some of these adjustments are natural over time. He made the adjustment in 2008 to respond to some tipping of pitches, particularly one pitch. So to combat that we developed a little bit of a different delivery to allow his hands to ride up with his knee a little bit more consistently. That has been taken away this  year going back to the 2007 delivery with his hands pretty much preset with his hands right next to his shoulder, his leg up to his glove now. We’€™re fortunate to have Jonathan not only because of his competitiveness but because of his ability to save games the way he does.

From our angle in the dugout for a right handed pitcher we’€™re seeing their pitches back when they’€™re in the stretch position so it can be a little difficult in real time as the game is going on to detect this. What begins to emerge is that you watch the hitter’€™s reaction. If certain pitches are thrown it’€™s the secondary pitches particularly in most pitcher’€™s cases the breaking ball, the split finger. When a hitter takes it without any kind of offering or they don’€™t even flinch it begins to pique your interest. Something was detected even before that pitch was thrown if they don’€™t even offer for it. Particularly in the case of Jonathan if he’€™s throwing in the mid-nineties a hitter has got to start his swing much earlier than with a guy that is throwing in the mid-eighties. When they don’€™t even offer at a secondary type pitch then we begin to look a little deeper into it. It can be a fanning of the glove, hand position on the body that pitchers will subconsciously get into and its just habit. We look for ways to disguise that habit and look for ways to make every pitch look the same coming out of the hand.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Farrell, john smoltz, Jonathan Papelbon

Jones, Cox not-so chipper about umpiring

06.21.09 at 7:14 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and third baseman Chipper Jones were both ejected along with reliever Eric O’Flaherty for questioning a non-strike three call to J.D. Drew in the seventh inning of Boston’s 6-5 win over the Braves.

Drew singled in a run on the next pitch.

Afterward, Jones ripped home plate ump Bill Hohn, who ejected all three. “I don’t know why umpires have to be confrontational,” Jones said.”When he goes back and looks at the replay of the pitch, hopefully he can admit he missed the call.”

Jones stepped in to try and protect O’Flaherty, who was being relieved by Cox when he asked about the pitch to Drew. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bobby Cox, Braves, Chipper Jones, Red Sox
Ace Ticket
Red Sox Headlines
Red Sox Minor League News
Red Sox Team Leaders
MLB Headlines
Tips & Feedback

Verify