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Red Sox await reports on Westmoreland surgery

03.16.10 at 6:49 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Red Sox outfielder Ryan Westmoreland underwent surgery on a cavernous malformation in his brain on Tuesday morning. According to a report on ESPN.com, which cited a team source, the surgery “went well,” but it will be a few days before a prognosis is offered for a procedure that carried brain damage and even death as a potential risk.

Sox officials and players both spent much of Tuesday anxiously awaiting news about the 19-year-old. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who considers Westmoreland a close friend, noted that even the months of chemotherapy that he underwent after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease paled in comparison to the uncertainty that Westmoreland faced entering his surgery.

“I knew, for me, with chemo, what to expect, especially for the first time with how it would react,” said Rizzo. “With him, no one knows any details on how he’€™s going to come out.’€

For more, click here.

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Smoltz to join TBS as an analyst

03.16.10 at 3:46 pm ET
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According to Turner Sports, former Red Sox pitcher John Smoltz has joined TBS as an analyst for the network’s MLB coverage. The 1996 Cy Young Award winner will also work in the booth for Peachtree TV, which is scheduled to cover 45 Braves games in 2010. Smoltz, who posted an ERA of 8.32 for the Red Sox in eight appearances before being released in August 2009, has yet to announce his retirement.

Source: Rule 5 pick back to Red Sox

03.16.10 at 2:26 pm ET
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According to an MLB source, Armando Zerpa has been returned to the Red Sox by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Zerpa was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays as the 13th pick in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft and was traded to the Dodgers for cash.

Zerpa recorded a 1.20 ERA and struck out 51 batters in 45 innings for Low-A Greenville before seeing his ERA climb to 4.85 in High-A Salem (while maintaining his strikeout-an-inning pace) last season.

At the time that he was selected, the Sox considered it unlikely that the Dodgers would elect to carry the left-hander all season, given the presence of southpaws Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill on the roster, as well as other lefties who were in the system. He recorded a pair of scoreless appearances for the Dodgers in spring training.

Zerpa’s fastball was 89-92 mph last year, and touched 94 mph in the past, and he also features an average breaking ball while also working to develop a changeup. He generates some deception, and so if he can maintain his delivery and throw his fastball for strikes, some Sox officials believe that he could be effective in the majors.

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Beckett a go for Friday

03.16.10 at 1:02 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett, who was a late scratch from his start on Sunday due to illness, said that he is feeling significantly better. He is working out with pitchers on a back field at City of Palms Park on Tuesday afternoon, taking part in PFP drills. He said that he will be fine to make his next scheduled start on Friday.

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No decision yet on where Iglesias will start season

03.15.10 at 10:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — While shortstop Jose Iglesias was optioned to Double A on Sunday, the Red Sox have yet to make a final decision about whether he will start the season in High-A Salem or Double-A Portland.

The 20-year-old, who signed a four-year, $8.25 million major league contract with the Sox last summer, was extremely impressive during his time in big league camp. He not only offering glimpses of his potentially spectacular defensive abilities but also performed well at the plate in collecting three hits (including a homer) in 11 at-bats for a .273/.333/545/.878 line.

At no point did he seem overwhelmed by either the setting or the level of competition that he faced. As such, it is certainly possible that he could start with the Sea Dogs — an assignment that would be aggressive for a player making his pro debut. (By way of comparison, only one Red Sox draftee ‘€” Craig Hansen ‘€” has started his pro career as high as Double A in the seven years GM Theo Epstein has run the team.)

But because of the Cuban’s limited professional experience, the Sox want to continue to evaluate Iglesias against minor league competition now that he has been optioned in order to determine what level will be best for his player development path. As such, while he has been optioned to the Double-A Sea Dogs at this time, the Sox are keeping open the possibility that the shortstop could start at a slightly lower rung of the player development ladder.

“There’s still a process that needs to take place,” farm director Mike Hazen said. “He can speed that process up by performing. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing, then he’s going to speed that process up naturally. There’s still a few things to learn. He’ll get them.”

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Ortiz after HR: ‘You guys are going to see some results’

03.15.10 at 3:52 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz meant it Saturday, and he reiterated it Monday.

“What I said the other day is totally true. This is my 14th spring training, and nobody talked to me about my numbers in spring training before,” Ortiz said after his Red Sox dropped an 8-4 decision to the Orioles at City of Palms Park, “so I can’t believe you guys are kind of getting encouraged into [doing] that.”

For Ortiz, Monday wasn’t a bad time to be checking the box score. After entering the game having gone 1-for-21 throughout spring training, the Sox DH went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer, single, and walk.

The home run came in the third inning off of Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen, who threw a 3-1 slider that Ortiz deposited into the right field seats. While the homer might have been somewhat wind-aided, the slugger’s ability to make the most of the circumstance left him with the kind of optimism that he has had a hard time finding throughout the Sox’ Grapefruit League schedule.

“That’s why you play in spring training, so I can figure things out,” he said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right?”

After the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona surmised that Ortiz’ best swing of the spring came in his third and final at-bat, when he rifled a Chris Tillman fastball into right field for his third hit of spring training. The slugger had a slightly different view.

“I think my good swing was hitting a slider on 3-1, a hitter’s count, out of the park,” Ortiz explained. “That’s not a pitch you’re expecting, so you have to put a good swing on it, otherwise you’re out. It was more compact, I guess, my base hit.” (When later asked what pitch he hit for a single, he responded, “A bullet. You’ve got your earplugs on, that’s why you didn’t notice?”)

Ortiz, who has been making slight adjustments to his swing from the outset of camp, felt like he wasn’t jumping at the ball as much as he has been of late, letting the ball come to him.

So, at the end of the day, was he happy to see results?

“Oh, you guys are going to see some results,” Ortiz insisted, “believe me.”

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Wakefield on Lowell: ‘Not fun to be in his situation’

03.15.10 at 2:44 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — On the mound, it was a day that Tim Wakefield could describe as productive because of the setting. The right-hander allowed nine hits and five runs in 3.2 innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone, but he did hit a pair of batters and allowed a homer into the gale-force winds blowing out to right.

That said, the 43-year-old was pleased that he continued to get his spring work in: he pitched in four different innings, his longest outing of the spring, and built his pitch count to 57. He had the opportunity to pitch extensively out of the stretch and to work on controlling the running game. Though he felt he was rushing through his delivery on occasion, he threw a couple of sharp curveballs for strikes. Overall, he had no problem assessing the day as another steady step towards the regular season.

“Physically, I felt great. I was able to get up and down four times without a problem,” said Wakefield. “Obviously, the results weren’€™t what I wanted them to be, but it’€™s spring training.”

Yet there was one element of Wakefield’s day that represented a departure from his spring routine. That was the identity of the first baseman. For the first time as a member of the Red Sox, Mike Lowell was playing first, on the opposite side of his customary station of the diamond.

The pitcher said that it was a bit strange to see Lowell at first. Yet he also made clear that Lowell looked comfortable at the position (“He’s very athletic; I think if you put him anywhere, he’d look normal,” said Wakefield) and that it was, more importantly, exciting to see his teammate of the last four seasons back on the field for the first time since undergoing offseason surgery on a right thumb ligament.

“He’€™s been as professional as anyone I’€™ve ever played with. He’€™s been a great leader in the clubhouse. He’€™s been a great friend off the field with me. He’€™s just a tremendous guy,” Wakefield gushed. “To see him battle injuries the last couple years has been difficult to watch. But he’€™s a gamer. He’€™s going to go out there and give you 125 percent every single night. Knowing that, having him out there, whether it’€™s at first base or whatever his role might be this year, I’€™m glad that he’€™s still with us.”

Of course, that relief reflected the fact that Lowell had been traded to the Rangers this offseason, a deal that was voided only after the Texas physical revealed the need for surgery. Wakefield could empathize with his teammate’s uncomfortable position this spring — with Lowell trying to learn a new position and faced with the possibility of a bench role on a team that tried to deal him away this winter — but still suggested that, on a personal level, it was exciting to have Lowell still with the Sox.

“It’€™s not fun to be in his situation. On the other hand, you look at it as a business deal. It sucks sometimes. It really does. But we don’€™t make those decisions around the club, and we have to live by what decisions are made and make the best of it,” said Wakefield. “From a personal standpoint, for me, I’€™m glad he didn’€™t get traded to Texas this offseason because by far he’€™s the most professional guy I’€™ve played with and he’€™s been a tremendous teammate and a leader in this clubhouse. That’€™s something that would have been sorely missed if he had gotten traded to Texas.”

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Appearing in Fort Myers: Ortiz, Lowell

03.15.10 at 1:11 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A couple of (sort of) familiar sights were on display for the first time this spring.

Mike Lowell played in his first game since undergoing offseason surgery on his right thumb. He started at first base (his first game activity at the position since playing four games at first as a minor leaguer in 1998) and went 1-for-2, dumping a single over Orioles first baseman Brandon Snyder in the bottom of the first inning and flying out to right-center in the third. No grounders were hit in Lowell’s direction, though he did record a couple of put-outs on throws from shortstop Bill Hall and pitcher Tim Wakefield. He was replaced at first base by Aaron Bates for the top of the fourth inning.

David Ortiz , who entered Monday having gotten one hit in 21 at-bats this spring, walked in his first at-bat againt Orioles starter Brad Bergeson and then, in the third inning, lifted a 3-1 pitch into a stiff wind blowing out to right field. The ball carried into the bleachers over the right-field fence for Ortiz’ first Grapefruit League homer of the spring (though it is worth noting that Ortiz had also gone deep in the Sox’ first exhibition game of the spring against Northeastern University).

For more on Ortiz, see Rob Bradford’s story.

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An ‘encouraging day’ for Daisuke

03.15.10 at 11:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, after being sidelined the last two days by a sore neck, threw long toss from 200 feet and then had a 25-pitch bullpen session during which he threw his fastball, slider and changeup. While the Sox had suggested that Matsuzaka might throw his first live batting practice session of the spring, the team instead decided to have the 29-year-old go straight into a bullpen session, rather than risking a recurrence of the neck issue as a result of sitting idly.

“Just because of the location of where it is on my body, I know that it’€™s in a fairly critical area, so I didn’€™t want to do anything that could potentially set me back,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “I think I could have gone forward [to throw batting practice] today, but I think we’€™re still trying to play things conservatively.”

Even so, Sox pitching coach John Farrell and Matsuzaka both made clear that Monday represented a positive step. The back issue that held Matsuzaka back for the first couple weeks of spring training has long been resolved, and the pitcher did not feel impaired by the neck injury on Monday. Assuming that he reports no problems when he checks in with team trainers on Tuesday, Matsuzaka will now be scheduled for his live B.P. session on Wednesday.

“Today was encouraging. He felt much better than he did yesterday, evident by the fact that he went through his long toss and got on the mound. There were no restrictions. His intensity was good. It was improved over his two bullpen sessions that he threw prior to his scheduled batting practice,” said Farrell. “I think he comes away encouraged, feeling good about himself. But we didn’€™t want to let him throw too long after the stiffness that he felt yesterday.”

Matsuzaka said that the neck stiffness that he experienced on Saturday — a “fairly intense pain” that occurred on the first pitch of his bullpen session — was not atypical. He said that he suffers from similar discomfort two or three times a season. Though he suggested that the stop-and-go pace of his spring has been “a little stressful and frustrating,” he seemed to think that the neck issues was a fairly minor one, and that he would have been able to pitch through it during the regular season.

Farrell did not want to outline a timetable beyond the live batting practice session in two days, but he did suggest that when Matsuzaka is ready for game activity, he will likely start pitching in a minor league spring training game in order to ensure that he is pitching in a controlled environment.

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Reasons to not be alarmed by David Ortiz

03.15.10 at 9:16 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The questions have already come David Ortiz‘ way.

“Are you concerned about your slow start?”

His answer, while brief, did offer a dose of reality.

“I’ve never seen my spring training numbers on the back of a baseball card,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz’ current slump (1-for-21) may very well stretch in the season, but if you’re looking for some optimism here are three reasons why the alarms shouldn’t be sounded quite yet. (Update: Ortiz notched his second hit of the spring in the third inning of the Red Sox‘ game with the Orioles, sending a two-run homer over the right field fence off righty Brad Bergeson):

HE HAS BEEN TINKERING

Listen to hitting coach Dave Magadan and you can get a clearer picture as to why the slugger might seem out of sorts.

“Obviously in his mind he would like to have some more base hits than he has, and I think he’s still trying to find the timing with the new stuff that he’s doing,” Magadan explained. “He’s been behind on a few pitches that when he’s going good he normally drives. I’m still really confident in the way he’s been looking. Batting practice, he’s stayed with the adjustments that he’s made. It’s just a matter of getting the timing in the games. Once he gets a few at-bats under his belt, gets his body adjusted to game speed, he’ll be fine.”

As to what kind of tweaks Ortiz has been experimenting with, the hitting coach said…

“Adjustments that he started to make the last couple of months of last season. Things that we talked about that I wanted to see him do in spring training. Stuff that we looked at last year. He looked at other players, he did that on his own. Just small things that he did. Stuff that he kind of scratched the surface on last year that when he showed up to spring training he was right where I wanted him to be. He’s been a little bit different over the last couple of years, so the timing of what he’s doing now he’s got to get used to the game timing. He’s putting on a show in batting practice, driving the ball the other way and in a real good balance. Now he’s just got to take it to the next step of taking to the game speed.”

A LOT OF LEFTIES

Last season Ortiz had 439 plate appearances against right-handers compared to 188 vs. lefties. Thus far this spring Ortiz has been subjected to 10 left-handers in 21 plate appearances. (His only hit has come against a righty.)

While facing left-handers is obviously inevitable for the designated hitter, it has led to some additional discomfort when trying to fine-tune his mechanics.

For what it’s worth, if the projected pitching rotations hold up the Red Sox will be facing two lefties out of their first nine games (against the Yankees, Royals, and Twins).

HE’S GETTING GOOD ADVICE

Who was that player Magadan was referencing when talking about other hitters he has been trying to emulate? Albert Pujols.

The two have known each other for a few years now and continue to be in constant communication, even through the offseason. Asked what Pujols does well that Ortiz attempts to bottle for himself, the slugger said, “Everything.”

“I can’t even explain Pujols,” Ortiz said. “I don’t look at his swing so much as I just try to get to know what he’s thinking. His eyes are really good. We talk about approach a lot. His mind-set is perfectly perfect.”

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