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Sox farm director Hazen: ‘Clay Buchholz wants to pitch for the Boston Red Sox’

06.15.09 at 3:19 pm ET
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Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen addressed Clay Buchholz‘ admission that he is frustrated about being stuck in the minors despite a performance that suggests that the pitcher is major-league ready. Hazen said that the pitcher was entitled to feel as if he is ready to graduate from the minors, and that in some respects, it is encouraging to hear Buchholz suggest as much, particularly given how his confidence sank last season.

“There should be an expectation of the player to feel like he’€™s ready to go to the big leagues…It’€™s a positive thing when somebody feels like they’€™ve put a lot of hard work in and they’€™re ready to make that leap,” said Hazen. “I think we’€™re reading into it more that he has that confidence, that swagger, to seize the opportunity when it comes. Ultimately, he’€™s just got to go out and continue to perform every five days. He’€™s held up his end of the bargain. He’€™s worked hard. We’€™ve seen nothing affect his five-day routine outside the white lines.”

Hazen applauded Buchholz’ professionalism throughout 2009. In a season in which he is caught in an organization that has tremendous pitching depth that can lead to even an elite pitching prospect remain in the minors, the pitcher has continued to do everything in his power to prepare between starts and to perform when it is his turn on the mound.

“He’€™s handled every situation that’€™s been thrown at him like a pro,” said Hazen. “He’€™s worked his butt off down in Triple-A. Those things are facts. And his performance has been unbelievable. He has taken care of every ounce of what he can. He needs to continue to do it. We’€™re proud of him.”

Buchholz, of course, is not the first player to be a victim of minor-league options. Sometimes, players who are major-league ready must simply endure a prolonged apprenticeship in the minors while they wait for an opening, simply because they have options remaining. (For the record, the Sox can option Buchholz throughout both this season and next before they would have to subject him to waivers while doing so.) In 2005, Kevin Youkilis was an example of just such a roster victim when he shuttled between Pawtucket and Boston.

While Buchholz is clearly chomping at the bit to reach the majors, Hazen suggested that the pitcher remains driven to do so in Boston, while suggesting that the right-hander will eventually do just that.

“I believe wholeheartedly that Clay Buchholz wants to pitch for the Boston Red Sox,” said Hazen. “I believe wholeheartedly that both (Buchholz and Michael Bowden) want to be Boston Red Sox and that both of them will be, and that they’€™ll help us win another World Series. It’€™s just a matter of the timing of the situation.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, mike hazen,

Buchholz and Bowden: A Tale of Two Pitchers

06.15.09 at 2:08 pm ET
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Mike Giardi of NECN conducted a pair of fascinating interviews with the top two Red Sox pitching prospects, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden. In the interviews, the two pitchers — who have been close friends since they were both selected by the Red Sox as sandwich picks in the 2005 draft — analyzed their predicament as pitchers who have done virtually everything they need to do to prove that they are ready for the majors, but who are in an organization whose remarkable pitching depth has both of them stuck in Triple-A.

Buchholz and Bowden offered a difference of opinions about the implications of their current minor-league status. Buchholz, who is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA entering his Monday night start, craves an opportunity to start in the majors, regardless of whether it is in Boston or elsewhere.

“There’s nowhere to go. There’€™s sort of a logjam up there (on the Boston pitching staff),” Buchholz said in the interview. “They’€™re doing what they feel is right up there for the team to win. Whenever they come to a problem, they seem to find a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is. It’€™s frustrating at times. I’€™m going out and every fifth day here, helping this team, trying to help this team win and trying to get better every time out.

“I feel like I’€™m more equipped with everything that I have right now as far as the pitches and the mental aspect. I’€™m physically healthy to be up there and be able to help that team,” the 24-year-old added. “If not that team, then I want be in the big leagues and I do want to go where I’€™ll be able to play and go and pitch every fifth day.”

(WEEI.com’s D.J. Bean also recently touched base with Buchholz, a pitcher who was described by PawSox manager Ron Johnson as perhaps “overdue” in his path to the majors. It is worth mentioning that while Buchholz suggested that being in the majors right now is more important than being a member of the Red Sox, he said in the interview that, all things being equal, he would refer to remain in Boston. Moreover, Buchholz has accepted his position in the Sox organization completely in dozens of interviews since the beginning of spring training, suggesting that he is willing to bide behind a group whose abilities are obvious.)

Bowden, 22, is two years younger than Buchholz, and so perhaps that explains part of the reason why he seems to be in less of a hurry to get to the majors. The right-hander, who is 3-3 with a 2.48 ERA, suggested that his priority is to pitch in Boston, even if he will need another year or more to break into the Sox pitching staff on a full-time basis.

“I’€™ve been in this organization five years. That’€™s what I’€™m working towards…That’€™s my goal and that’€™s where I want to be,” Bowden told Giardi. “(Being traded is) out of my control. If it’€™s out of my control, why worry about it. If it happens, it happens. I understand it’€™s  a business, and that there are opportunities elsewhere. But like I said, I love this organization and I’€™d hate to leave…I’€™d rather stay in the minors an extra year or so to play with Boston, and to play in Boston at Fenway, with that group of guys.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden,

Smoltz talks about beyond this year

06.15.09 at 1:17 pm ET
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John Smoltz has executed his plan.

The 42-year-old is on the precipice of doing something some believed wasn’t a reality, coming all the way back to the major leagues after torn labrum surgery. And it is for this reason there was an excitement in Smoltz’ voice every time he spoke in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Thursday, he will either be returning to the majors as a member of the Red Sox, or will be pitching one more time for Triple A Pawtucket, residing just days away form his momentous return to the bigs.

“I’m in a total new place in my life and my career,” he said. “And you know what? The unknown is so intriguing. It’s vast.”

Evidently, it’s vastness could be growing exponentially thanks to the success of Smoltz’ comeback.

While the pitcher says he won’t allow himself to think too hard and long about life after this season with the Red Sox, clearly the road map he set out prior to having his surgery a year ago is continued to be followed. And, according to Smoltz, that path doesn’t stop at the end of  the 2009 season.

“The reason I had surgery was not to just come back for one year,” he said before Sunday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. “Having surgery certainly quality of life was part of it, but I could have waited to have that. To have surgery at this point, when I did, and not try to milk anymore of the rest of that  season, the reason I did that was to pitch well beyond. I figured if I was going to have surgery and I can pitch one year, what prevents me from pitching two years. Something will have to really go wrong to say, ‘OK I did everything I could and it wasn’t working,’ Hey, I can totally sleep with that. If I was going to resign to the feeling everybody had that this was it, as an athlete it’s not even so much to prove  people wrong but saying, ‘Hey I’ve done this before.’ You know how many things I wasn’t supposed to come back from? People take it for granted now that it’s old hat. Oh, he did it again. People underestimated my ability to think beyond what conceptionatl opinion was. I’m just not one of those guys. I would never do anything I didn’t think I could do beyond a reasonable doubt.”

While Smoltz knows how the plan is trending, he also emphasizes that the here and the now remain the priority.

“Sometimes I sit there and go, at this current moment there isn’t going to be a next year, and then the next week there might be a next year and a year after. I just stop right there,” he explained. “I stop thinking about things like that because I used to do that all the time. I used to have things planned out three or four years in advance. There’s just no good in it anymore.”

Smoltz is bracing himself for both the praise and the criticism that will come with his return. It would be inevitable for anyone having the kind of career success as the 20-year veteran. But throw in the fact that the Red Sox have starters at the ready to replace anyone in the rotation who may falter, and it the magnifying glass becomes even more prevalent.

“If you’re looking at things, you can find whatever fault you want, and I’m sure that will exist with me,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of nitpicking stuff. They wanted me to go away so it was just a magical end and surgery ended my career. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

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Why didn’t Ortiz bunt?

06.15.09 at 12:31 pm ET
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David Ortiz only started one game in Philly, going 1-for-4, but did get into Sunday’s Sox’ loss as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and walked. It capped a week that saw the DH hit .308 with two homers, four walks, and just two strikeouts.

Bottom line: Ortiz has entered the second-half of June looking like a much more confident hitter.

So, now that Ortiz has seemingly figured some things out, one question could be asked — with the shift still applied (albeit with slightly diminished frequency) by opponents, why didn’t he try to bunt his way on during his horrific hitting spell?

“I stink at bunting,” Ortiz said. “I have thought about it, but when I get to the plate, then I get thinking about how I don’t want to lose an at-bat. Sometimes I’ll bunt and I miss a pitch right down the middle and I get mad. I feel like I could have hit that ball out of the park. It happens all the time. But I’m not going to say I won’t do it.”

A big league lesson for Bard

06.14.09 at 6:49 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Daniel Bard struggled through his worst relief appearance as a big leaguer, allowing four runs on two hits and three runs in just 2/3 innings during what turned into a six-run seventh inning, in the Phillies’ 11-6 win over the Red Sox, Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

It was an appearance that harkened Bard back to last season, when he was pitching for Double A Portland.

“Last year in Portland I gave up two home runs in a relief outing. I think I followed it up with like eight or nine scoreless ones after that,” Bard said. “Just stick with what gets you to that point, and one bad outing, whether it’s getting hit or walking a couple of guys, I’m not going to change the way I go about things.”

So what did Bard do to deal with it?

“I talked to the pitching coach at the time, and he said, ‘Hey, they hit some good pitches. You’re doing what you need to do.'” the rookie said. “In this case I was around the zone, wasn’t hitting my spots and could have located better, there’s no doubt about it. It’s nothing to throw the red flag out about, or anything. I’m looking forward to getting back out there again.”

The outing for Bard, who came on for Josh Beckett with no outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning, could have been a lot less painful if he was able to hold on to a wide throw from shortstop Julio Lugo which could have potentially translated into an inning-ending double play.

But, with Bard covering first on the throw back on a potential 3-6-1 double play, the ball bounced off the pitcher’s glove as he sprawled out to haul in the throw. With the ball trickling away, Shane Victorino scored from second base with Philly’s seventh run.

“It hit my glove,” Bard said. “It wasn’t an easy play, but it hit my glove and I had a chance at it, but I didn’t make the play.”

Doubles from Jason Werth and Pedro Feliz, sandwiched around a Greg Dobbs strikeout, led to an intentional walk from Bard to Chris Coste, loading the bases. That would end Bard’s day, as Takashi Saito came on and proceeded to force in a pair of runs by hitting Jimmy Rollins and walking Victorino, finishing the scoring in the Phillies’ six-run seventh.

“I had trouble repeating my delivery, it was nothing much more to it than that. I could have made it a lot easier on myself if I caught that ball and finished that double play, but I wasn’t able to,” Bard said.  “I learn from everything. I’ll just stick with what has made me successful to this point. I’m not going to totally re-tool my pitches or anything. I’m just going to go out there next time and pound the zone like I have been. 

“It’s a bump in the road. I think everybody in this locker room has had at least one tough one and that’s the same for me. I’m not going to let it be any more than that and I’ll stick with the process that got me to this point and go from there.”

Beckett: ‘All I did was help us lose the game’

06.14.09 at 5:56 pm ET
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Josh Beckett struggled through one of his roughest outings of the season after going through one of his best runs of his career. In the Red Sox’ 11-6 loss to the Phillies, Sunday, at Citizens Bank Park, Beckett allowed seven runs (6 earned) on 11 hits, striking out five and not walking a batter over six innings.

It was the most hits as Beckett had given up in his last four outings, and as many earned runs as the starter had surrendered in his previous six starts.

Beckett did hit a solo home run in the fifth after allowing the Phillies to tie the game in the fourth with four runs, a blast which served as the impetus for the pitcher’s most telling post-game quote:

“I don’t want to talk about that,” said Beckett, who had supplied the last home run hit by a Red Sox pitcher, coming also at Citizens Bank Park, back on May 20, 2006. “All I did was help us lose the game. I’d like to talk about the other stuff I did to help us lose the game.”

As for the rest of Beckett’s comments following the game…

“I haven’t looked at any pitches but obviously they must have been up if they were getting them over the infield.”

(On the fourth inning) “They scored four runs that inning I think that’s where the game got away. Bad pitches, apparently.”

(On location) “I think it was more up and down. Just a god damn shame when your team scores you six runs and you can’t hold them to less than that.”

(On his warm-up session) “Everything felt fine.

(On his location being up in the zone) “I think it was pretty much the whole time. They hit some balls hard at guys. They blooped some balls in there.”

(On Jimmy Rollins’ seventh inning home run which gave Philly the lead for good) “Sinker down and away and it was right down the middle.”

(On having George Kottaras catch) “George did a great job. I don’t think anybody should blame the catcher, personally. You’re the one throwing the pitches, and you have to execute the pitches. I thought George did a really good job. Tek needed a day off and he did a really good job.”

Read More: Josh Beckett, Phillies,

Beckett goes deep

06.14.09 at 3:22 pm ET
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Josh Beckett hit the first pitch of the sixth inning over the left field wall, off Philadelphia starter J.A. Happ, for the first home run by a Red Sox pitcher since Beckett’s May 20, 2006 blast, also at Citizens Bank Park, against Brett Myers. The homer tied the game at 5-5 after Philly had taken the lead with a four-run fifth. It was Beckett’s third career homer.

Decision on rotation to come Tuesday

06.14.09 at 2:56 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Sunday’s game that a decision regarding how the Sox’ plan on next using John Smoltz will be made after the team sees what transpires during the Sox’ series finale in Philadelphia. Francona said that an announcement regarding his club’s starting rotation will most likely come Tuesday. 

‘€œWe talked to Smoltzy last night. We just want to get through the off-day and then we’€™ll ‘€¦ I think we can lay out the whole week. We just want to get through the off-day,” Francona said. “Part of it is, we just don’€™t know how we’€™re going to get through today. We’€™ve got Wake again out in the bullpen as a reserve. We don’€™t want to use him, but we just want to protect ourselves. Until we get through it without using him, there’€™s no sense saying it and then undoing it. Get through today and we’€™ll kind of map it out. We have mapped out various possibilities. There’€™s no sense in [doing it ahead of time], especially when it’€™s going to require a roster move. Those things come at their own pace.’€ 

Pedroia, Drew out of lineup

06.14.09 at 2:20 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup Sunday, with Nick Green playing second base and Julio Lugo starting at shorstop.

“I’m sure I’ll be there in a a National League game — you’re always in there. I’m just beat up a little bit. My legs feel heavy. Tito, he always seems like he makes it the right time. I’ll be ready to pinch-hit or do whatever to help us win.”

Pedroia enters Sunday 4 for his last 38. “I’ve just hit one of those things where I’m not getting a lot of hits. Guys go through that. I’m not worried about it. I’ll figure it out. I’m just trying to find that consistency. I’m hitting around .300, that’s pretty consistent, but I haven’t found that swing to maintain it throughout the year like I did last year but it will come. I’m not panicking or anything like that. I’ll be fine.”
 
Also out of the lineup is J.D. Drew, who aggravated his right shoulder after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning Saturday night. The rest of the Sox’ lineup is as follows: Lugo SS, Ellsbury CF, Youkilis 1B, Bay LF, Lowell 3B, Baldelli RF, Green 2B, Kottaras C, Beckett P. The Phillies will send out: Rollins SS, Victorino CF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Dobbs LF, Feliz 3B, Coste C, Happ P.

Sunday Lineups

06.14.09 at 11:28 am ET
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REDSOX

Lugo         SS

Ellsbury   CF

Youkilis   1B

Bay            LF

Lowell      3B

Baldelli     RF

N.Green   2B

Kottaras    C

Beckett      p

 

PHILLIES

Rollins       SS

Victorino   CF

Utley            2B

Howard       1B

Werth           RF

Dobbs          LF

Feliz              3B

Coste             C

Happ              p

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