|03.07.10 at 12:13 pm ET|
If you thought Michael Bowden’s delivery looked different this season, there’s a reason: It is. And Alex Speier points out in his column today exactly how the pitcher went about altering the execution. Here is a snippet from the piece:
That delivery has always made talent evaluators do a double take. Because it has appeared somewhat robotic, it has led to heightened skepticism about his skills.
One talent evaluator, for instance, suggested over the offseason that his mechanics would leave teams skeptical about his results until he proves that he can translate his minor league success to the big leagues. Certainly, the perception of Bowden took a step backwards last year. Evaluators described him as anything from a No. 4 starter to a likely bullpen candidate.
Even the Sox have had their concerns about his delivery in the past. The team sent Bowden to the American Sports Medicine Institute (headed by Dr. James Andrews) in Birmingham, Ala., after he entered their system to make sure that the pitcher’s unorthodox delivery wasn’t putting undue stress on his arm. They determined that he wasn’t, but even so, the way in which he got the ball to the plate was abnormal.
Of course, there is a reason for Bowden’s unorthodox delivery.
“My first pitching coach was in my first full season in Greenville,” said Bowden. “I never had money to work on mechanics growing up, my family didn’t have that money. So it was all natural, whatever felt natural for me.”
This offseason, Bowden worked with Farrell and minor league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel to make his delivery more fluid. The three watched video of other pitchers, with Bowden identifying elements that he can incorporate into his delivery. The pitcher then went to Boston during the offseason to work with Treuel and Farrell, who seemed pleased with the results.
Now, in games, the difference is apparent. Bowden has looked like a different pitcher in two spring outings of work, one against Boston College, and also in his two shutout innings against the Twins in which he fanned a couple.
The extra hitch in his leg lift is gone. His drop step has gotten better direction to the plate, the result of his upper and lower body working in greater concert. While he is using the same release point that has made it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball from his hand, his arm swing to get to that release point is now longer and less halting.
“There’s a lot more movement in my windup to get more rhythm and fluidity. That was my main goal this offseason. I just wanted to relax, look more fluid, be more natural,” Bowden explained. “Now it’s more one motion.”
|03.07.10 at 10:31 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A year ago at this time, the Red Sox were working to finalize a five-year, $30 million deal with pitcher Jon Lester. He joined Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis as players who had reached long-term deals with the club in a span of less than four months.
Lester and Pedroia both had a bit more than two years of service time before they reached deals that bought out all of their arbitration years as well as the first year of their eligibility for free agency. That made it natural to wonder whether the Sox might approach outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury — who, like Lester and Pedroia after the 2008 season, has accumulated just over two years of big-league service time, but is not yet arbitration-eligible — with a similar proposal.
But Ellsbury said that he had had no such conversations with the Sox to this point. Asked whether he and agent Scott Boras had any conversations with the Sox about a long-term deal, Ellsbury said that there had been no such talks.
The 26-year-old did not rule out a willingness to consider a long-term deal, but he also made clear that he will not be concerned about whether he goes year-to-year in his contract, or whether he might sign a long-term deal.
“I’m going to play this year. When the Red Sox talk with my agent, I guess that’s when that ball starts rolling. As a ballplayer, you don’t want to get caught up in the numbers right now,” said Ellsbury. “I think it’s fine [that there have been no long-term talks]. I’d like to get one more year under my belt, but if they come with something tomorrow, then it’s a totally different ballgame. But I’m not really worried about that right now.”
Ellsbury hit .301/.355/.415/.770 while stealing a major league leading 70 bases in 2009.
|03.07.10 at 3:16 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts.
Or at least mostly the facts, with no more than a bit of fancy.
–John Lackey, in his first exhibition game in a Red Sox uniform, was certainly a just-the-facts-and-no-fancy type of pitcher. He motored through an efficient 20-pitch outing, throwing 12 strikes and retiring all six batters whom he faced. He used primary four- and two-seam fastballs, mixing in a couple of curveballs. He also worked tremendously quickly, taking little time between pitches, a fact that was helped by the fact that he was able to work exclusively out of the windup without having to deal with any baserunners.
“Solid start. Commanded the baseball, had the ball down in the zone, mixed in his secondary pitch. I thought he was real good,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who was acting as the manager of the Sox’ split squad team against the Twins. “I think defensively when you’re playing behind a pitcher like that, that’s going to dictate the pace, it’s positive for your defense. You look to see it and most guys like to play behind pitchers like that.”
For Lackey’s thoughts on the outing, click here.
–Two pitchers who are likely to give the Sox starting major-league depth in Pawtucket submitted sharp outings. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.07.10 at 2:52 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kevin Youkilis is making his Opening Day facial hair a matter of public choice. Fans who donate at least $1 to his “Hits for Kids” charitable foundation can weigh in on whether he should sport a goatee, mustache, fu manchu or clean shaven look on April 3. (Click here for details.)
“If I have to look like Magnum, P.I., to raise some money for kids, I’ll do it,” said Youkilis.
Youkilis has already posed for his official team photo this year, sporting a goatee. Thus, there will be no repeat of the “Youk-Fu” look that graced scoreboards across the majors in 2009. In retrospect, Youkilis harbors no regrets about his facial hair in that photo, but he was chagrined about the fact that the photo made it appear as if he was sleepwalking.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘Man, what were you doing?’” he chuckled. “I just said, ’7:30 in the morning.’ It looked like I was in a bad spot. I looked like I was a biker.”
|03.06.10 at 4:04 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey doesn’t mess around on the mound.
As much as anything, that was the message of his first spring training start as a member of the Red Sox. Lackey retired all six batters he faced, allowing him to work exclusively out of the windup and maintain a steady rhythm on the mound that was not too far off from what a bullpen session might look like.
Even so, his get-it-and-go approach was achieved against the backdrop of another step of a build-up in intensity, and so Lackey would take satisfaction in his outing — which resulted in a strikeout, three groundouts and two fly balls — while also identifying room for improvement.
“Today I really felt like my delivery was on time, and in between pitches I was moving pretty quickly. I like to work fast,” said Lackey. “I felt like the rhythm part of it was pretty good today. That second inning, I wasn’t locating quite as well as I did in the first inning, so there’s still a long way to go.”
Lackey needed just 20 pitches (12 strikes), working primarily with his four- and two-seam fastball while also mixing in a couple of curves. For more on Lackey’s first outing of the spring, click here.
Some other noteworthy developments in the game, that gave the Sox a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five Mayor’s Cup against Minnesota:
– The Twins suffered a bit of a scare when All-Star closer Joe Nathan left the game in the middle of his scheduled inning of work due to what he described as tightness and achiness in his right elbow. But Nathan said that he’d been told that such symptoms represented an expected “speed bump” following offseason surgery to remove a couple of bone spurs and some loose bodies in his right elbow.
“We didn’t want to push through anything. I think it’s more being careful than anything right now, taking things slow. We still have a lot of time. The good thing is that this is a norm for going through a surgery,” said Nathan. “Until tomorrow, until we get that evaluation, I don’t want to come to any assumptions that I’m going to be fine or not.”
Though Nathan said that he did not expect an MRI, he was not sure how the discomfort might impact his schedule this spring. Twins doctors and trainers planned to examine him after Saturday’s game to determine whether the injury is anything but minor. Nathan was escorted off the field by Twins trainers after pitching just one-third of an inning, walking two and striking out one.
–Michael Bowden submitted a solid outing, allowing just a single and striking out two Twins in two shutout innings.
–Brian Shouse struck out three while allowing a double and an unearned run in his inning of work. Shouse is in competition for one of the final jobs in the Red Sox’ bullpen.
–Tug Hulett, who was supposed to get a look as a utility infielder but who has been unable to play the field due to shoulder soreness, hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning. That resulted in an unexpected chant of “Tug … Tug … Tug” when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning. He is expecting to be able to return to the field tomorrow, much to the relief of the 5-foot-10 player with one homer in 67 big-league at-bats.
“I’m not really your typical DH kind of guy,” said Hulett. “They were giving me a hard time the other day, playing Boston College. I was DH-ing. They said, ‘Papi went deep in the first game.’”
–Hulett homered after Jeremy Hazelbaker, the Sox’ fourth-round pick in 2009, lined a single. Hazelbaker struggled in his pro debut at Greenville in 2009 (.167/.280/.233/.513), but he was named the Sox’ top player in Fall Instructional League.
–The other part of the split squad suffered a 6-4 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte. Justin Ruggiano hit a two-run, walkoff homer off of Kris Johnson in the bottom of the ninth. The Sox got solid pitching performances from starter Felix Doubront (2 shutout innings, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts) and reliever Kyle Weiland (six-up, six-down).
|03.06.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey was scheduled to throw 30 or 35 pitches in his first outing of the exhibition season, but the new Red Sox starter, in his first game with his new club, proved more efficient than anyone had anticipated. Lackey retired all six members of the Twins he faced in two innings. He worked quickly and needed to throw just 20 pitches (12 for strikes) to finish his day.
He struck out the first batter he faced, Ben Revere, on three pitches, the last a fastball up and away on which Revere could not check his swing. He also recorded three groundball outs in his outing. Yet he identified another pitch as the best sign for his stuff on the day.
In the second inning, he fell behind Delmon Young, reaching a 3-1 count. He then threw a fastball down the middle, which Young fouled off.
“That means I had a little life on my fastball,” he said.
Lackey threw four-seam and two-seam fastballs as well as a few curveballs, but didn’t incorporate any sliders or changeups. Despite his low pitch count, he didn’t feel the need to throw any extra pitches in a bullpen session after the fact, feeling that there is plenty of time left in the spring for him to build arm strength.
Lackey said that he didn’t find it as easy to get loose for his second inning of work as his first, but he was pleased with where he is in the build-up towards the regular season. He has been mindful this spring of the fact that he started the last two years on the disabled list, but seemed comfortable with where he is now in working towards the start of the season.
“I feel pretty good. It’s a good place to start from,” said Lackey. “It’s always different when you have to sit down, get back up for that second inning. It was a little bit harder to get loose that second inning as opposed to the first, but overall, I felt pretty good, and we’ll keep moving forward.”
A couple of additional items he addressed:
– Even though Lackey spent the last several years as the ace of the Angels staff, he suggested that he had no reservations about ceding Opening Day honors to Josh Beckett or Jon Lester.
“If the roles were reversed, and I would have stayed in Anaheim and those guys had come over there, I would expect to still be going first,” said Lackey. “I think those guys have earned the right. They’ve won a lot of games for Tito, and to go in front of me, I’m alright with that.”
– The right-hander welcomes the idea that he, Lester and Beckett might push each other to achieve sustained success.
“I can definitely see that happening,” said Lackey. “I’m going to be the first one on the top step, pulling for them to do great. When it comes your turn, as for those guys, you don’t want to let them down, just keep the line going.”
– On the ease of getting acclimated to a new team:
“Honestly, it’s been pretty easy. It’s been easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Lackey. “Guys have been great. It’s a great group of guys, easy to fit in with. I thought it was going to be more difficult than it actually has been.”
|03.06.10 at 11:21 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have a split squad day, with one set of players remaining in Fort Myers to take on the Twins (the third straight day of competition between the city’s cohabitants), and another set heading up the Gulf Coast to Port Charlotte to take on the Rays. The group at City of Palms Park is headlined by John Lackey, who will make his first game appearance for his new club. The group that will take on the Rays will feature the entire starting infield of third baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Marco Scutaro, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Pedroia, in particular, seemed alarmed that the Sox would be engaged in another day of the Mayor’s Cup competition of the Twins without benefit of a full squad.
“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said on his way to the team bus.
If it were a game with meaningful stakes (beyond, of course, the mayoral chalice), the Sox would consider it quite a thing to have Lackey on the hill. The five-year, $82.5 million deal to which they signed the big right-hander this offseason offers evidence of the high regard in which the team holds the 31-year-old. Of course, the team’s last impression of Lackey comes from Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels, when the pitcher shut out the Sox for 7.1 innings in which he allowed just four hits.
Suffice it to say that such performances made an impression.
“I’ve seen him over the last years. I know what he’s going to bring. That’s exciting,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who is in charge of the group in Fort Myers. “[Lackey is] very competitive. I can remember being there on third base where you saw him in the moment. The moment wasn’t too big for him. No doubt, he’s had some success and made some big pitches in those big moments. … I’m glad Lackey is on our side this year, for sure.”
Lackey will throw two innings and throw 30-35 pitches on Saturday, according to Hale.
Here are the two lineups that the Sox will field: Read the rest of this entry »
- Castellanos designated for assignment with Napoli signing official
- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- Michael Almanzar selected in Rule 5 draft
- Preliminary 'New Stars for Young Stars' lineup announced
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Big weeks for Acosta and Welch
- Gary DiSarcina named Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year
- Red Sox non-tender Ryan Kalish, Andrew Bailey
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Jesus Loya solid at the plate in Mexico
- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #48: The Slow Season