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Papelbon: No need to hurry-up Red Sox-Yankees games

03.25.10 at 2:02 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Major League Baseball executed a preemptive strike regarding the Opening Night showdown between the Yankees and Red Sox. It told both teams to hurry up.

The Yankees (3:08) and Red Sox (3:04) were the two most deliberate teams in the majors last season, with all of big league baseball averaging 2 hours, 52 minutes. And with meetings between the two clubs often resulting in four-hour affairs, MLB has talked to both organizations about potentially trying to speed things up come Opening Day.

Jonathan Papelbon’s response: Why?

“Have you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended.’ That’s like a Red Sox-Yankees game,” Papelbon said. “Why would you want it to end?”

Asked about having to potentially watch a movie in 30-degree temperatures, the closer offered a solution, simply saying, “Bundle up and drink beer.”

Papelbon, of course, has been one of the targets of Major League Baseball, having been fined upwards of $5,000 last season for slow play. And while he said his case isn’t an issue anymore, the reliever also wonders why there is an issue.

“Not if it was an entertaining game,” Papelbon said when asked if he would mind sitting through a four-hour Red Sox-Yankees game. “An entertaining game I wouldn’t mind. If it was 13-0 I would get out there. I enjoy the games. They’re a little bit longer than most games, but what are you going to do. Like I said, you can do all the things they ask us to do, and we’re doing them and our games are still just as long.

“If you don’t want to be there, don’t be there. Go home. Why are you complaining. I’m not going to sit somewhere I don’t want to be. If you go to a movie or any entertainment event and you like it, you’re going to stay and watch and you’re not going to want it to end. If you don’t, then you won’t. Why is it such a big deal?”

The bottom line in the eyes of Papelbon is that Red Sox-Yankees games are long — and will continue to be long — but that shouldn’t take anything away from the event.

“You can’t change the issues of great hitters having great at-bats, and great teams playing other great teams with lots of pitching changes. You can’t change that,” Papelbon said. “It’s like walking a tightrope. What do you do? What don’t you do? It’s hard keeping everybody happy.”

Marlins manager talks Lowell

03.25.10 at 1:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez has known Mike Lowell for a long time.

“I think 1997 was the first time I’ve ever met him, and he was playing third base for the Norwich Navigators,” Gonzalez said prior to his team’s spring training with the Red Sox at City of Palms Park. “There was ‘Mike Lowell’ and they had a Spanish shortstop and I’m coaching third base and I see him turn around and say something in Spanish to the shortstop. I’m like, ‘Where did that come from?’ So the next time I said to him, ‘Mikey, you speak Spanish pretty good.’ He said, ‘I’m Cuban. I was born in Puerto Rico.’ Then in ’98 I saw him in Triple A because I was with Charlotte and he was with Columbus, and then in ’99 he was with us.”

So now, as rumors fly about Gonzalez’ team potentially being interested in acquiring Lowell, the manager has no problem evaluating the player. (Within major league guidelines, of course.)

“He would be great for any team, including the Red Sox. I can’t say anything more than that because it would be considered tampering, but this guy is a good player,” Gonzalez said. “I know they’ve got another good player in [Adrian] Beltre. The Red Sox are lucky to have him if he stays there, and if they trade him whomever gets him gets a good player … if they trade him.

Lowell, who isn’t playing against his former team but will man third base against Toronto Friday, was besieged by members of the Marlins media throughout the morning.

Read More: Fredi Gonzalez, Marlins, mike lowell, Red Sox

Video: Buchholz’ ESPN Red Sox-Yankees promo

03.25.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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Here’s the ESPN commercial promoting the Red Sox-Yankees Sunday night season-opener on April 4. It stars Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher and actor Adam Scott.

“My agent called and asked me if I wanted to do it,” Buchholz told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty earlier this month. “I don’t how they came up with me to do it. I think Victor [Martinez] was supposed to do it, but he couldn’t at the last minute. So they asked me to, and it was pretty fun. You see all those funny commercials they do, and it something you always want to be a part of.”

Buchholz said he enjoyed filming the commercial even though it took about six hours for the 30-second spot. He said he stuck to the script and let the professional handle the ad-libbing.

“I’m not much of the acting type,” Buchholz said. “I’ll leave that up to the actors. Adam Scott was pretty funny and was doing some stuff that made us laugh. It came out really good.”

Francona doesn’t name Opening Day starter … or does he?

03.25.10 at 10:54 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona still hasn’t named Josh Beckett as his team’s Opening Day starter, but he came pretty close Thursday morning.

When asked about who the team will be taking to play in Washington for the exhibition game against the Nationals the day before the season opener against the Yankees, Francona said, “Everybody will go with us. I think even Beckett.”

Then asked if he wanted to make an announcement since it the tabbing of Beckett to open the season had just been insinuated, the manager still declined.

Francona’s reason for holding off on publicly announcing an Opening Day starter is that he wants to present the entire schedule of starters to begin the season, and, according to the manager, the team isn’t ready make that call yet.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “When we announce them we want our guys to know and understand why when this happens this could happen. We just don’t know yet. We’ll get there. It doesn’t have to be a big secret, I just feel more comfortable talking to our guys and letting them understand how and why things work.

“The longer we can watch guys pitch and see how they do and where we think they slot, it just makes more sense rather than tell you guys something and tell them something and go back and say, ‘You know what, we changed our mind.’ That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Other morning news from The Fort:

Boof Bonser will long toss Thursday and then execute some agility drills. “I think he’s coming along pretty well,” Francona said. If Bonser comes through the activities OK he will throw a bullpen session Friday.

– Reliever Alan Embree will pitch in his first big league game of the spring, Saturday against the Orioles.

Dustin Pedroia could have played Thursday, having hit in the batting cage, and is expected to play Friday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is slated to pitch Thursday after starter Tim Wakefield, will have his two innings of work in a minor league game count toward the mandatory 25 innings the Red Sox like to have their starters break camp. “Pitching’s pitching,” Francona said.

Mike Lowell will play third base Friday and serve as a designated hitter Saturday.

– The team will hold a Players Association meeting Friday.

Lowell: No pressure to impress

03.25.10 at 10:06 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With a flurry of analysis coming from scouts each time Mike Lowell takes the field for a spring training game, most everybody is waiting and wondering as to what will be the perception of Lowell’s game by the time the regular season comes around.

Will he show enough for some team to swing a deal with the Red Sox? Is he mobile enough to be an everyday player at third or first base, and if is his bat strong enough to make up for whatever troubles his surgically-repaired right hip might be giving him? Or is Lowell’s skill-set in such a state that his best spot is to help the Sox in some capacity?

The scouts clearly have had their opinions. So does Lowell feel an obligation to impress?

“It depends to who,” Lowell said. “To myself, absolutely not. To the Red Sox, they might think so, I don’t. To other teams? I guess if they’re trying to do something they might want to see it but I don’t focus on that. In ’07 we went to Philadelphia for the exhibition game and I think I was hitting .060. Francona was actually laughing at me when they put the stats up and I had the best year of my career.

“If the scouts are watching and they say ‘X’ it’s in one ear and out the other. If I was a rookie it would be totally different. There was a different mentality in my first big league camp. Then I wanted to hit for my first six weeks because I felt if I could impress I could open some eyes. But that was a totally different mind-set.”

Lowell, who has one hit in 10 at-bats this spring, views the next week or so as the most important in terms of getting in a good place for the beginning of the regular season.

“I can’t say I’m disappointed where I am health-wise. I can’t say I’m disappointed at all,” Lowell said. “I was never really expecting from the hip standpoint to be flying around the bases, and I was expecting my thumb to heel, and both things worked out. Those were my two biggest concerns. I thought I would be playing in games earlier, but I understand the progression of why because I did feel fatigued in that first week. I’m not upset where I am.

“I always believed the last eight to 10 days is the most important. You kind of go through the motions in the first week when games start. You’re kind of feeling things out, getting your balance and working on things. Then I think the last week to 10 days it’s time to get in gear for the season. I think we’re starting that now. This is a much more important time, not from a health standpoint, but from mechanics, seeing pitches and discipline-wise. What’s hard to quantify is that it’s a totally different approach in the spring than it is during the season. I honestly would rather go 0-for-4 and hit the ball hard four times in the spring and during the season I would honestly rather hit four bloopers and have four hits because that helps you win. The emphasis is are you swinging at the pitches you want to and making good contact. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is trying to make the team it looks a lot better if you’re hitting the ball well. But guys who have a track record that they’re going to be playing and have a job, then it’s different. I always said I would rather hit a real hard .220 in spring training. The emphasis is totally different.”

Lowell will next play at third base when the Red Sox take on the Blue Jays Friday.

Thursday Morning Notes: Daisuke’s Debut

03.25.10 at 8:53 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka is set to face major league hitters for the first time this spring. He will come on in relief of Tim Wakefield in Thursday’s game against the Marlins. Matsuzaka’s progress has been slowed this spring by a mild back strain and then neck stiffness, but by all indications, he is now fully healthy for today’s outing.

Here is the Red Sox lineup that will face the Fish:

Ellsbury, CF
Scutaro, SS
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Hall, 2B

Pitchers: Wakefield, Matsuzaka, Atchison, Castro.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

What Happened With the Red Sox: Wednesday

03.25.10 at 8:47 am ET
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Ordinarily, the Pirates’ spring training ballpark in Bradenton is a wind tunnel that threatens to carry every fly ball over the fences. McKechnie Field usually plays as if it has the dimensions of  a Little League park. The foremost weapon for a pitcher to counteract those wind currents is thus fairly obvious: the strikeout.

That was a point that Josh Beckett made in dramatic fashion. His previous start had come last Friday, also against the Pirates in Bradenton, when he performed like a pitcher who’d been peeled off a sick bed. Beckett allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings that day, and admitted that he was running on fumes.

That was not the case on Wednesday, as the likely Opening Day starter allowed just one run on three hits in five innings while punching out nine. Even in an exhibition game, it appeared that Beckett was sending a message that he will not suffer mound embarrassment lightly. He built his pitch count to 85, then added 10 more pitches in the bullpen in an outing that represented a solid foundation for the start of the regular season.

— The Red Sox got the news that they had anticipated, with X-rays showing that Dustin Pedroia had not done any real damage to his left wrist while making a diving play on Tuesday. Pedroia is expected to take batting practice on Thursday and return to game activity on Friday.

Mike Lowell suggests that his right hip is in better shape this year than it was in 2009, when he was still in the early stages of recovering from the surgery he underwent to repair a torn labrum. That said, he was fairly blunt when asked whether his hip was as healthy as it was before the surgery.

“No, and it probably never will be,” he said.

Lowell explained that he has been able to make significant strength gains in his hip, but that the “significant” cartilage damage in his right hip will never be repaired. He didn’t understand that would be the case at the time of the surgery, making his current condition “disappointing.” He said that he will likely never be able to run as well as he did in 2007.

— Lowell did say that he’s adapting to the novelty of the social dynamic of being a first baseman.

“I feel like I know (Pittsburgh first base coach Carlos) Garcia, he’€™s almost like family after just five innings. No wonder everybody loves Sean Casey so much. He knows your whole family history. A lot more talk, a lot more talk. More bantering.”

For more on Lowell’s acclimation to first, click here.

— Reliever Joe Nelson has been building a solid case for a bullpen spot. He punched out a pair of Pirates on Wednesday, and now has struck out 12 batters in his nine spring innings. Nelson has a June 1 opt-out in the minor league deal he signed with the Sox. But if he continues to pitch as he has, that likely won’t come into play.

Another reliever also showed promise in his first outing of the spring. Alan Embree, facing a Double-A Orioles team in Fort Myers, needed just 12 pitches (11 strikes) to sail through an inning of work with a strikeout, groundout and flyout. He is slated to pitch in a big league spring training game on Saturday.

Mike Cameron homered on Wednesday, continuing some ridiculous offensive performances by Sox outfielders. Cameron is hitting .400/.474/.733, Jeremy Hermida is hitting .400/.447/.571 and Josh Reddick is at .400/.429/.700 after clubbing his seventh double of the spring on Wednesday.

— Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell watched his son, Pirates minor leaguer Jeremy Farrell, go deep to straightaway center field on Wednesday. Jeremy Farrell is now 2-for-2 with a homer in games against his father’s club this spring.

Read More: Alan Embree, Dustin Pedroia, jeremy farrell, joe nelson

The conspiracy theories start circulating

03.24.10 at 11:08 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Earlier this week Chris Johnson, the son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, went deep in a game against the Sox, and Wednesday Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell’s son Jeremy notched a home run off of his dad’s team in the Sox’ 6-4 win over the Pirates.

Are the Red Sox catchers calling for the vaunted Monty Burns Straight Ball every time a relative steps to the plate? No, but it does offer for a healthy dose of coincidence.

“I look over and Sue Farrell is almost standing on top of our dugout, which I thought was cool,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “OK, here’€™s a family home run, good. After the second one, I was like, OK, that’€™s enough.’€

In other news …

Mike Lowell, who will next play third base for the Sox Friday, talked at length about a variety of subjects, including the state of his surgically-repaired hip. (Click here for his comments on the hip.) He also touched on the challenges that have come with playing first base, which he manned Wednesday.

“Trailing the runners, stuff like that, I’m just not used to doing. Like when runners go on second I have to remind myself that I’m the cut-off to center field and first base,” Lowell said. “When you’re doing a new position you go through that checklist a lot more until it becomes habit, but like I’m saying it’s not a position that I’m totally foreign too in the sense of I kind of know when I’m playing third the first baseman is the cutoff man for the guy in center so you have to put yourself in that spot.”

He also touched on the dynamic that comes with socializing at first base.

“I was asked how the kids and family are doing. ‘Is this guy making the team?’ When the first base coach is up with a runner on first … You almost can’t help but talk,” Lowell said. “When I got to first I would say hi to the first baseman and all of that but you’re almost gone in three or four pitches. I feel like I know (Pittsburugh first base coach Carlos) Garcia, he’s almost like family after just five innings. No wonder everybody loves Sean Casey so much. He knows your whole family history. A lot more talk, a lot more talk. More bantering. I will say this, you’re involved in a lot more plays, which is better. I would say it’s a more comfortable position to play because you just don’t have to make that throw. That throw from third is what sets it apart.

“I’ll converse, but I’m just not there yet because I’m still scared that I’ll be looking at Garcia and Josh will turn around and put one in my forehead. I’m getting more comfortable, but I’m still not there yet.

“I’ll never get to the [Kevin] Millar level.”

Alan Embree, who dominated the Orioles’ Triple A hitters, will pitch in his first big league spring training game of the year Saturday.

– Both Mike Cameron and Billy Hall hit home runs. It was Cameron’s second home run, with his average now at .400. It was Hall’s first homer of the spring as the utility man now hitting .182.

Nelson not worried about opt-out date

03.24.10 at 5:02 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Joe Nelson’s agent, Doug Schaer, confirmed that his client does indeed has an opt-out date where the pitcher can become a free agent if he is not on the Red Sox‘ major league roster: June 1.

Nelson, who has never had such a clause in any of his previous contracts, isn’t concerning himself with such formalities.

“I never had one because whomever I signed with the chances were that I wasn’t going to be on the big league team so I wasn’t trying to go somewhere else right away. This year, since I was in the big leagues last year and I had a guaranteed deal, my agent said, ‘You want to ask for that?’ I just said, ‘Sure, I guess.’ I know the people in this front office and they’re not going to bury me,” said Nelson, who is currently signed to a minor-league deal with the Sox.

“If they think I’m part of their plans on Opening Day or down the road their going to keep me. The second I’m not a guy where I’ve lost favor, or something like that, they would come to me and tell me that and let me go somewhere else to pitch in the big leagues. I have a relationship with them and they respect me as much as I respect them. It’s a two-way street. I trust them. If they have no plans for me tomorrow, they’ll let me know. They’re not going to hold on to me and say, ‘Maybe.’ If they don’t have plans for me they will let me know.”

Nelson took a step in the right direction in terms of making the team Wednesday, pitching one inning against the Pirates, striking out two and inducing a grounder. The 35-year-old’s spring training ERA now stands at 3.00, having made nine appearances.

‘€œI think he’€™s feeling a lot more confidence in his changeup, which is certainly putting it in hitters’€™ heads that he can elevate that fastball and they have to respect the changeup,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after his team’s 6-4 spring training win over Pittsburgh. “The last couple, three outings, I think he’€™s felt a lot better.’€

Lowell discusses progress of ‘the’ hip

03.24.10 at 3:42 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — After going hitless in three at-bats in the Red Sox spring training game against the Pirates, Mike Lowell spoke in detail regarding the progress of his surgically-repaired hip.

Lowell said that strength-wise the hip is back to where it was prior to the torn labrum he suffered in 2008, but there was some disappointment as to how the distance put between the surgery and his current state has left him running-wise.

“With X-rays and what I’ve done, I think what I was not aware of was best case scenario was status quo post-surgery. Meaning whatever cartilage damage I had, which was technically was pretty signficant on the hip side, it wasn’t going to get better. I don’t know if it was my optimism. I do believe it was what I was told, that it was going to get better,” Lowell said.

“In that sense, would I compare to like I am running like in ’07, I would say no. So in that sense it was a little disappointing. I still stick to that I really felt like every stride I took, especially at the beginning of the year last year, was very delicate and I don’t think I’m there. I still stand that I am better than last year. There’s a certain condition in the hip that I don’t think will ever allow me to get the point where I was in ’07 or prior. In that sense, of course that’s disappointing but I think once I got more educated in what happened with the surgery, and I have more range of motion now that can cause more friction, it makes more sense.

“Yeah, I think I was anticipating a little more going in … not strength-wise. It’s all the impact of the running because I can jump, I can push hard, and weights-wise I would say I am ’07 and prior, but you just can’t simulate running, unless you can run in a pool and that would be a different story.”

Lowell said he had been experimenting with a few different kinds of wraps over the past few games, but has decided not to use any after “fighting through” some of the previous treatments.

Finally, asked if overall his hip was better than last season, Lowell’s answer was, “absolutely.” But not as good as before the surgery?  “No, and it probably won’t be.”

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