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Jonathan Papelbon believes he has the secret to future success

03.03.11 at 7:40 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Jonathan Papelbon can remember the exact moment he made the commitment to his new pitch.

‘€œI remember being in Yankee Stadium, throwing a few of them to [Mark] Teixeira and one to [Derek] Jeter,’€ the Red Sox closer said. ‘€œI remember throwing one to Jeter and he check-swung. He got the call ‘€“ even though it was a strike ‘€“ but I remember him specifically looking at me and looking like he was thinking, ‘€˜Where did that come from?’€™ From then on I said I am going to start using this pitch any time, all the time.’€

The pitch Papelbon refers to his is slider, and he insists it will be a difference-maker this season.

‘€œThis is the most confident I’€™ve felt about a breaking pitch,’€ he said. ‘€œIt’€™s right where I want it to be. I’€™m going to throw it as much as my split. I’€™ll have three pitches I can throw from 0-0, to 3-2.’€

Last season, Papelbon threw the pitch 111 times, compared to the 202 occasions he utilized his back-up plan pitch, the splitter. Against the slider, hitters managed a .154 batting average, compared to a .240 clip vs. the split.

The closer didn’€™t unleash any sliders in his first spring training outing, in which the reliever threw just six pitches. But he has been breaking it out on a regular basis during his bullpen sessions.

They have been practice pitches his fellow relievers have taken note of.

‘€œWe throw every day so I see a lot of it,’€ said Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard. ‘€œIt seemed at times he would get on the side of it and it would have that Frisbee action and it wasn’€™t an effective pitch for him. The one he’€™s throwing this year, I don’€™t know if he’€™s gripping it different, but it’€™s got depth, it’€™s late. It looks like a plus pitch the way he’€™s throwing it right now. It looks like something has changed a little bit. It’€™s a later and sharper pitch than it was last year.’€

It wasn’€™t as if Papelbon didn’€™t have a slider in his repertoire before. In ‘€™09 he threw the pitch 107 times, it was just that hitters managed a .273 batting average when facing it. And he also had integrated into his arsenal during his days as a starter, both in the minors and then briefly in spring training of ‘€™07.

But this time, according to Papelbon, it’€™s going to be different.

‘€œI had a good slider. I had an awesome slider,’€ he said. ‘€œI was throwing a slider, I was throwing it a lot, but then I stopped throwing it for four years. You lose the feel for it. I’€™m excited about it.’€

David Ortiz goes 3-for-3 and even steals a base but Braves beat Red Sox

03.02.11 at 4:03 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz went 3-for-3 and drove in Boston’s only run as the Red Sox fell to the Braves, 6-1, Wednesday afternoon at City of Palms Park.

Two of Ortiz’s hits were smashes through the teeth of the shift, line drives that landed in short right field. He drove in Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning as the Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

Following his line drive single in the fourth, he stole second base while the Braves played the infield back with one out. Ortiz is now 5-for-8 this spring with a homer and four RBIs.

[Recap and stats from Wednesday.]

Former Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez tagged starter John Lackey for a long homer to left field in the second inning as the Braves tied it.

Lackey threw 41 pitches, 25 strikes, over two innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out one in his 2011 spring debut.

Lackey faced an Atlanta lineup full of regulars, including Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Gonzalez, Dan Uggla, Eric Hinske, Freddie Freeman and David Ross.

The Red Sox lineup featured all regulars, except for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis and the rehabbing Adrian Gonzalez. They faced Tim Hudson in the righthander’s first spring start. Hudson allowed the one run in the first but retired the Red Sox in order in the second.

Atlanta scored once in the fifth to break the 1-1 tie and tacked on three more in the seventh to improve to 3-1 in Grapefruit play. The Red Sox fell to 2-2.

The Red Sox host Philadelphia on Thursday at City of Palms before heading up I-75 for a Friday night showdown with the Yankees at Legend Field.

Read More: 2011 Grapefruit League, 2011 Spring Training, Alex Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves

John Lackey ‘just tired of talking about last year’

03.02.11 at 3:06 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — After turning in his first spring training out of the season, John Lackey reiterated that he is solely focused on the 2011 season and not concerned what transpired in ’10.

“Honestly, I’m just tired of talking about last year,” said Lackey after pitching two innings against the Braves at City of Palms Park Wednesday, allowing a run on four hits. He threw 41 pitches (25 strikes), one of which former Red Sox Alex Gonzalez hit for a solo homer. “I’m ready to move forward and work on this year.”

Lackey explained that he threw all fastballs in the outing in an attempt to build up arm-strength. He did make an alteration in his approach compared to last spring training, when the righty didn’t walk a batter until his final outing of the spring.

“I threw a bunch of two-seamers last year during spring training, trying to pitch more to contact,” he explained. “I think I threw one two-seamer today and the rest were four-seamers. I’m trying to get my arm strength and I’m ahead of schedule for where I was last year.”

As for his assertion that he feels markedly better at this point in the exhibition season compared to a year ago, Lackey said, “Last year coming into spring training I basically wanted to make it through spring training healthy because I hadn’t done it for two years before. I think it will be a fine line of pushing it a little more this year and still making it through healthy.”

Lackey, who was followed up by reliever Scott Atchison, said his plan is to work on his cutter before his next start, which will most likely be Monday at City of Palms Park against the Orioles.

For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

Red Sox notes Wednesday: Adrian Gonzalez ‘doing great’ and ‘definitely ahead of schedule’

03.02.11 at 11:14 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that Adrian Gonzalez is getting much closer to playing in a spring training game than was first expected. Meanwhile, John Lackey starts the first Red Sox spring training game of 2011 that doesn’t feature the Twins or a college team in the other dugout.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Carl Crawford LF

David Ortiz DH

J.D. Drew RF

Jed Lowrie SS

Jason Varitek C

Lars Anderson 1B

Nate Spears 3B

John Lackey P

Meanwhile, Gonzalez took another 75 swings off a tee and soft toss on Wednesday and is much farther ahead of schedule to make his Red Sox game debut in spring training, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

[Click here to listen to Francona update Gonzalez's progress toward a first spring training game.]

“Adrian did a total of 75 today,” Francona said before the Red Sox game against the Braves at City of Palms. “He did a bunch. He’ll have a re-gen day [Thursday] and then he’ll get back at it the next day. [He will] probably incorporate a little bit of cage BP, where it’ll be tee, soft toss and then some BP in the cage. I think he’s definitely ahead of the schedule. He’s doing great.”

Gonzalez, who has been steadily building strength in his surgically repaired right shoulder and the team has reported no issues with his progression. Francona stopped short of commiting to a timetable for his first Grapefruit League game.

“Again, it’s completely up to how he’s feeling but it’s so early in camp and we’ve played three games and his progression is way farther along then I think we thought it would be,” Francona said when asked if he could play in a game by late next week.

Other Wednesday nuggets:

- Francona announced that regulars Jason Varitek, Darnell McDonald, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava will travel to Tampa for Friday night’s game against the Yankees, with Clay Buchholz making his second appearance of the spring, and first start.

- Francona will make the trip with the team up to Tampa but will not go to Sarasota for the game against the Orioles as he has a team community commitment on Saturday following the game with Florida at City of Palms.

- With Josh Beckett officially scratched for Thursday and continuing his rehab from Monday’s mild concussion, Stolmy Pimentel, who was originally scheduled for relief, will move up and take Beckett’s place against the Phillies.

[Click here to listen to Francona update Beckett's progress Wednesday morning.]

- There was a lot of love shown before the game between the two clubs. Jonathan Papelbon mugged Braves DH Eric Hinske with a bear hug. Francona was happy to see Tim Hudson starting the game as he called him “one of my buddies” from Francona’s days as scout and eventually bench coach of the 2003 A’s.

- Another AGon made trip for the Braves as former Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez greeted fans behind home plate. 2B Dan Uggla, LF Martin Prado made the trip from Disney, as did Budding superstar RF Jason Heyward and fellow Sports Illustrated coverboy 1B Freddie Freeman.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, adrian gonzalez, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox

Josh Beckett passes concussion test, but will miss scheduled start

03.02.11 at 10:14 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett, who suffered a mild concussion when hit in the head with a ball during batting practice Monday, passed his physical examination Wednesday morning, but will still miss his scheduled start against the Phillies Thursday. Minor-leaguer Stolmy Pimentel will replace Beckett as the Red Sox‘ starter against the Phillies.

“He passed his test, which means he’s allowed to do some activity. Now again, they have to monitor his activity,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “He’ll do some biking and some light throwing and then we’ll see how he progresses from there.”

Beckett told WEEI.com before taking the medical staff’s examination that he felt better than Tuesday, although the pitcher did feel progressively worse as the day went on. Beckett explained he had still battled feeling uneasy when doing physical activity the day after experiencing the concussion.

Francona explained that if all goes well the plan is for Beckett to make his next start with the usual four days of rest from the time of his scheduled Thursday start.

“How he gets to that start is up to how he feels and how he and [pitching coach] Curt [Young] decide to do it,” the Red Sox manager said.

“The No. 1 thing is to make sure he’s OK and he tolerates his activity. He’s only missed one day of throwing. We’ll see where he’s at.”

Beckett suffered the injury when batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero hit a ball back into the infield from the outfield during practice, hitting the righty on left/front side of his head. The pitcher immediately went to one knee before being guided off the City of Palms Park field by Red Sox medical personnel.

For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

A reminder the Red Sox might not be perfect after all

03.01.11 at 11:30 pm ET
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John Henry on Big Show: MLB fined him $500K for revenue sharing comments

03.01.11 at 4:51 pm ET
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Red Sox principal owner John Henry, in an interview on The Big Show, said that he was fined $500,000 by Major League Baseball for comments that he made about the sport’s current financial system. In late-2009, Henry told the Boston Globe that “seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’€™s highest operating profits,” had received over $1 billion in revenue sharing money.

Major League Baseball took objection to the public comments — which, Henry noted, were subsequently validated by leaked documents about team profits — and fined the Sox owner. As such, he was relucant to discuss the state of baseball’s economics.

“There’€™s not much I can say, because the last time I made a comment, I was fined $500,000. The large markets aren’€™t allowed to give their opinions,” said Henry. “Did you know I was fined $500,000? … I made statements which turned out to be true, or at least there were various documents that were leaked after that. But anyway, the large clubs are not allowed to talk about it.”

Henry said that the Sox received a letter from MLB following recent comments by Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner that voiced similar criticism of the revenue sharing system. He also noted that small-market teams are allowed to comment on baseball’s economic system.

Some other highlights from the interview:

–Henry said that the long-term deal for Carl Crawford did not represent a change of business model, noting that the team has made long-term commitments in the past to Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew, and tried to sign Mark Teixeira to a long-term deal.

–Asked about the Teixeira deal, Henry repeated his stance of the past two years that the slugger — as he said in his introductory press conference — wanted to sign with the Yankees from the outset.

–He said that, had there been massive public funding for a new ballpark, the Sox might have found it more economically compelling to have moved into a new park than to renovate Fenway. However, since there was none available, the team has spent $285 million on renovations with an eye towards remaining in Fenway for decades to come.

–Henry said that while there will be some money for the club to make moves at the trade deadline, it will be limited given where current payroll expenditures are for the 2011 Sox.

–Henry expressed his hope that both manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein would remain with the Sox for years to come, but noted that both perform exhausting jobs that make it uncertain whether they are sustainable. Towards that end, Henry also noted that he and CEO Tom Werner have discussed that they can’t remain owners forever, but that they still love their roles with the Sox, and have no idea to see those roles change anytime soon.

A complete transcript is below. To listen to the complete interview, visit the Big Show’s Audio on Demand page.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Hank Steinbrenner, John Henry
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