|Terry Francona confronted by Grim Reaper||04.22.09 at 12:14 pm ET|
At about 9:30 this morning, Terry Francona was ushered into his office by a small cadre of Red Sox players and coaches. There, standing ominously, was the Grim Reaper, sickle in hand.
Francona and the members of the Red Sox erupted in this unique form of celebrating the skipper’s 50th birthday.
“It’s all gravy from here,” mused Francona. “Probably appropriate.”
Presumably, Francona meant that it was appropriate that he spend the entirety of his quinquagenary (also known as his semi-centennial, also known as his turning 50) at the ballpark trying to squeeze in a double-header. He had no plans for the day, aside from showing up at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. for the 7:10 p.m. scheduled start, so the day-night doubleheader did little to disrupt his festivities.
As for the Red Sox roster:
–Julio Lugo‘s return to rehab games was delayed by a day, thanks to Tuesday’s rainout in Pawtucket. He will play today, work out with the team on Thursday, then play Thursday through Sunday before the team re-evaluates him. Francona left open the possibility that Lugo could be activated for the series against the Indians at the start of next week.
–In order to create a 40-man roster spot for Jeff Bailey, the Sox placed Devern Hansack on unconditional release waivers. While the move seems cold-blooded (Hansack dislocated his shoulder while pitching on April 13), there is a decent likelihood that he will be re-signed in a deal that could favorable.
–While a doubleheader is typically a managerial nightmare, the Sox bullpen — coupled with days off on either side of today’s scheduled day-night affair — makes that less of a concern. The Sox can have pitchers work for more than three outs, bolstered by the knowledge that if there is a double-header, there will be a day to recuperate. Moreover, with a deep bullpen that has featured strong performances from the likes of Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Papelbon, the team is well-situated to deal with the demands of a pair of games.
–The Sox believe that they caught the signs of Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s shoulder fatigue earlier this year than they did last year, when he ended up on the disabled list for 3 1/2 weeks. Matsuzaka was scheduled to throw from 60 feet (“He’ll probably inch out to about 70,” said Francona) for the second straight day on Wednesday.
–The Sox are planning on wearing green uniforms for the night game in celebration of Earth Day.
–Boxes of MLB 2009: The Show, the video game whose advertisements feature Dustin Pedroia, sat in the Red Sox clubhouse, available to any player who wanted a copy of the game.
|Red Sox game postponed||04.21.09 at 8:07 pm ET|
The Red Sox have postponed tonight’s game, and will make it up as part of a day-night doubleheader Wednesday. Tickets for tonight’s game will be honored for a 12:35pm game on Wednesday.Tomorrow’s 7:10pm night game will proceed as planned.
|Red Sox game delayed||04.21.09 at 6:56 pm ET|
The start of tonight’s game at Fenway Park will be delayed. It’s currently pouring, and the tarps are on the field. No official word on how long the delay might last. We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.
|Pre-Game Notes||04.21.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
Word is that the Red Sox are “hopeful” that the game will get started in timely fashion. The tarp is still down, but it’s not raining at the moment (update!) and it’s raining hard at the moment. The dreaded “off-and-on” rain seems a decent bet for the evening.
In non-meteorological news, Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie underwent surgery on his left wrist. Manager Terry Francona said that the surgery, which repaired the S-L ligament and removed the fractured ulnar styloid, went as well as could have been hoped for. There was no damage to the TFCC cartilage, which would have required a more substantial surgery and rehab.
(Disclaimer: if you don’t understand what those terms mean, you’re not alone. Francona was reading about them from a sheet of paper, which he crumpled once he’d completed.)
Francona said that Lowrie is expected to wear a splint for the next 10 days, have the stitches removed and then being the long rehab process. If all goes well, he should we swinging again in six weeks, a timetable that will have him taking hacks around early June. Obviously, after a long period away from the diamond, there would be a still-lengthy rehab process, but the Sox remain hopeful that, as they suggested yesterday, he can return before the All-Star break.
“It was exactly what (the doctors) thought and hoped it would be,” said Francona.
–Julio Lugo is slated (weather permitted) to begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket tonight. He is scheduled to play on Tuesday and Wednesday, have an off-day on Thursday, and then play Friday through Sunday. At that point, he will be re-evaluated to determine whether he is ready for activation, or if not, where he is in his progress back to the major-league diamond for the first time since the final Saturday before last year’s All-Star break.
–The Red Sox have placed Rocco Baldelli on the disabled list, replacing him with first baseman/outfielder Jeff Bailey. Bailey had been one of the top hitters for the Sox this spring, when he hit .355 with a .456 OBP and .600 slugging mark. It was understandably disappointing for Bailey to receive the news that he would not break camp with the Sox, but he absorbed it quickly and performed well while back in Triple-A Pawtucket. Bailey hit .255 / .407 / .511 with four homers for the PawSox, and was the obvious choice for a call-up to replace Baldelli’s right-handed bat in the lineup.
“I told Bails, ‘This is a lot more fun than the last time I saw you,’” said Sox manager Terry Francona.
“It is what it is. There was a need. I didn’t fill that need. Now I do,” Bailey said of the shuttle. “It’s always nice (to get called up). It’s the big leagues.”
There seems a decent likelihood that Bailey could be in the lineup against Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on Wednesday. Bailey said that he’s faced Liriano several times in the minors, and recalled homering off of him once on a snowy day in Rochester.
As for Baldelli, the hamstring discomfort was sufficient that Baldelli agreed that being shut down for a couple of weeks was the right course of action. There didn’t seem to be much concern that he would be out for longer.
–Baldelli was serving as the backup centerfielder, a position that Bailey cannot play. For now, J.D. Drew is the alternative to Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield, though it is conceivable that the Sox could make another roster move in the coming days to have a true backup centerfielder.
–Daisuke Matsuzaka began his throwing progression, tossing the ball from 60 feet on flat ground. He emerged from the WBC measuring well in his strength tests, but the Sox did not feel that he was able to sustain his strength over the course of his outings, the byproduct of ramping up too quickly.
–Francona lauded the work and approach of George Kottaras, who has done well thus far as Tim Wakefield‘s catcher. Kottaras, Francona said, has been following Jason Varitek all over the place, and Francona noted with some appreciation that Varitek has been letting the rookie do so. Francona also said that while Kottaras has some pop in his bat, that may not be evident this year, as performance tends to be hurt by irregular playing time.
–John Smoltz, still at the Sox’ extended spring training facility in Fort Myers, will throw a bullpen session. Depending on how that goes, he will either face hitters for live batting practice on Saturday, or throw two innings in an extended spring training game that day.
–The Sox will need to make a 40-man roster move to free a spot for Bailey. That will be announced at game time.
|Rainy day at Fenway||04.21.09 at 3:26 pm ET|
We’re still awaiting word on whether tonight’s game will indeed be playable. Right now, a tarp is covering the Fenway Park infield. A bizarre bullpen scene was unfolding for a while, with Jon Lester throwing a side session and Chris Carter braving the raindrops to stand at the plate and track pitches. The group just gave up on the undertaking, with Lester and pitching coach John Farrell seeking shelter in the bullpen dugout, and Carter perambulating back across the soggy outfield towards the clubhouse.
|Red Sox vs. Twins Match-Ups, 4/21||04.21.09 at 1:49 pm ET|
This time, it counts…Again!
The Red Sox and Twins engaged in their annual rite, the fight for the soul of Fort Myers. This year, it was the Red Sox who won the Mayor’s Cup in dramatic fashion, winning the fifth and final contest of the intra-city scrum by a 9-4 count to took home the trophy as well as the adoration of Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey.
Now, the teams do battle under slightly less heated circumstances, albeit circumstances that will actually impact whether or not they play in October. The Sox and Twins are scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. start, with a scheduled pitching match-up of Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield against young Twins hurler Scott Baker.
Some roster turnover for the Sox seems possible, perhaps even likely. With Rocco Baldelli having left Monday’s game with a tweaked hamstring, the Sox may call up an outfielder from Triple-A Pawtucket. Jeff Bailey, whom the Providence Journal reported was pulled late in his game on Monday, would seem a likely candidate as a potential supplier of right-handed thumb, a role usually assumed by Baldelli. Read the rest of this entry »
|The Machine Migrated North||04.21.09 at 12:49 pm ET|
Tim Wakefield takes the mound tonight for the first time since his dazzling — and mightily important — gem last Wednesday. The 42-year-old’s outing against Oakland has been well-chronicled, but it bears some further mention. He went 7.1 innings before permitting a hit, and delivered a complete game, just his sixth since 1998.
Wakefield, paired with rookie catcher George Kottaras, carried a no-hitter deeper into a game than he had with either Doug Mirabelli or Kevin Cash. Clearly, Kottaras and Wakefield are working well together. Kottaras has one passed ball, but it came on Sunday when Jon Lester was on the mound. The catcher has gone two starts without whiffing on a Wakefield offering.
Perhaps more importantly, he’s done an excellent job of allowing the pitcher to maintain his rhythm. Wakefield likes to avoid wasting time with pitches, preferring an almost seamless progression: pitch-catch-return, pitch-catch-return. If a catcher fumbles his pitches, even with the bases empty, the tempo can be disrupted. Kottaras caught the pitcher so well on Wednesday that Wakefield was able to maintain that drumbeat without any compromises.
“We always try to get a rhythm with a pitcher,” said Kottaras. “You want to keep the guy going, go with the flow of the game.”
Kottaras continues to work with the knuckleball machine, which broke camp with the Red Sox and now sits in the batting cage tucked behind the Sox dugout. The piece of equipment produces alternately frustrating, hilarious and challenging results for those who try to tame it, but clearly, it has served a useful function as well. Kottaras has gotten plenty of work with some of the nastiest knuckleballs that physics can concoct, and Wakefield doesn’t have to spend all of his free time sacrificing his shoulder by hucking flutterballs in the direction of the rookie.
Both through that work in between the days when he catches, and because of his work with Wakefield both during spring training and the regular season, Kottaras is becoming increasingly comfortable as Wakefield’s batterymate. He describes himself as “a little bit” more confident now than at the beginning of spring training, feeling that he can now do a better job of detecting when something gets out of whack in the knuckleballer’s delivery, and understanding the action on the unique pitches.
“I’ve been able to see things with his delivery a little better, getting a little more familiar, but it’s still not easy,” said Kottaras. “The more I’m around him, the more I can pick up little things here or there to help him.”
Kottaras makes his fourth start of the season, and third with Wakefield, against the Twins today. He will be ready. After all, prior to yesterday’s game, he worked with the knuckleball machine.
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