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Epstein’s drafts in review: A year-by-year look at how drafts shaped the Red Sox

06.03.11 at 2:27 pm ET
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Next week’s Major League Baseball draft will be Theo Epstein‘€™s ninth as the Red Sox general manager. He has worked alongside three directors of amateur scouting: David Chadd in 2003-2004, Jason McLeod 2005-2009 and Amiel Sawdaye in 2010. Epstein and his staffs have had very successful drafts in those eight years, with a number of players who are either still with the Red Sox today or who were used as trade chips to help improve the organization.

Epstein takes pride in his draft work and enjoys the challenge of the entire draft process.

‘€œIt’€™s one of my favorite aspects of the job and it is one of the most important things we do as an organization,’€ Epstein said.

‘€œIt is the ultimate challenge, really,’€ he added. ‘€œAnyone can go make a big league trade, based on a player’€™s track record and a major league scouting report. You see these guys play in perfect conditions, against the best players in the world and the best players rise to the top. Amateur scouting in baseball is much more difficult and much more complicated.’€

That makes it all the more impressive that the Sox have already been able to use each of the first seven drafts under Epstein to acquire All-Star caliber talent, whether a homegrown player who ended up performing at such a level or through a trade to net a player who was named to the Midsummer Classic for the Sox.

In 2003, the Sox’ early picks ended up being trade chips, as first-rounder David Murphy was part of the trade that landed Eric Gagne, while sandwich-round pick Matt Murton was involved in the four-team deal that landed Orlando Cabrera from Montreal and Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota while ending Nomar Garciaparra‘s Red Sox career at the 2004 trade deadline. But the most notable selection that year was closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was taken out of Mississippi State in the fourth round.

Chadd’s final draft was in 2004, and it, too, had a significant impact, as the Sox used their first pick (a second rounder — the team had given up its first-round pick to sign free-agent closer Keith Foulke) to take shortstop Dustin Pedroia out of Arizona State. Now a second baseman, Pedroia’s hardware — 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, 2008 AL MVP and a three-time All-Star — speaks for itself about his impact.

Also in 2004, the Sox drafted pitcher Cla Meredith, who was traded with Josh Bard in 2006 for catcher Doug Mirabelli. During his time in the Sox farm system Meredith was named the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the month in April of 2005.

McLeod and Epstein had an outstanding draft in 2005, selecting a number of players who remain on the big league roster in 2011. Jacoby Ellsbury (first round), Clay Buchholz (first round supplement) and Jed Lowrie (first round supplement) were all selected by the Sox, and are now major contributors to the team. Pitcher Michael Bowden was also drafted by the club in the sandwich round, and he has seen major league action with the club. While first rounder Craig Hansen didn’t live up to his billing as the most advanced college pitcher in the draft that year, he became a chip in the deal that landed Jason Bay.

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Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon

Peter Gammons on M&M: Daisuke Matsuzaka ‘doesn’t trust people’

06.03.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Hall of Fame baseball reporter Peter Gammons talked to Mut & Merloni Friday morning about the Red Sox and the state of baseball. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gammons called Daisuke Matsuzaka‘€™s injury ‘€œa very strange situation.’€

‘€œIf I were really cynical I would say he just made up his mind, he’€™s going to get his elbow cleared out, and then he’€™ll come back in 2013 in Japan,’€ Gammons said. He also said there have been communication issues and discrepancies.

‘€œThe findings in California from the doctors there, the findings in Boston, they haven’€™t gotten together on this yet,’€ Gammons said. ‘€œHe had put it out in Japan that he was going to have Tommy John surgery before he even got to Los Angeles. I find it very odd. Whatever it is, it’€™s going to be very difficult to reconcile all this.’€

Gammons said he didn’€™t think Matsuzaka would ever pitch for the Red Sox again.

‘€œThe player’€™s made up his mind he’€™s going to have Tommy John surgery,’€ Gammons said. ‘€œAnd if that’€™s the case, it’€™s a minimum of 15 months, so what are we talking about, August? He’€™s not coming back August to September next year. He’€™s going to go to Japan, his contract’€™s up at the end of next year, he can go back to Japan.’€

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On Matsuzaka’€™s legacy:

He did help get them the World Series and pitched well in Game 3 of the World Series in Colorado. There was a time when I think he certainly brought in revenue in terms of a fascination figure. I think at times he was a pretty good pitcher, his first two years. But in the end, in terms of a six-year deal, they got about one-third of it out of him. He never performed as well as the expectations surrounding him.

I don’€™t think he really made a great effort to adjust to this culture. I think that was one of the problems, the communication and the adjustment to the culture, which he didn’€™t really go in for. One of his agents said to me, he just, he doesn’€™t trust people. It’€™s very hard to build up a relationship with a franchise if a guy doesn’€™t trust them.

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Read More: Buster Posey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D Drew, peter gammons

Tommy Hottovy offers a glimpse to what might await Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rich Hill

06.03.11 at 12:23 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. ‘€“ Looking for a glimpse as to what might await Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill? Let us turn to Tommy Hottovy.

With many wondering what the future might hold for Matsuzaka and Hill ‘€“ two Red Sox pitchers who are at least considering Tommy John surgery after injuring their pitching elbows ‘€“ Hottovy offers a good example as to what both hurlers might expect if the procedure is executed.

The 29-year-old lefty, who is currently pitching out of the Pawtucket Red Sox bullpen, underwent Tommy John surgery on June 19, 2008, having injured his UCL while pitching for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

It would then be a year to the day when he would pitch in a real game again, throwing for the Single-A Lowell Spinners on June 19, 2009.

But before it is surmised that Matsuzaka and Hill would be potentially back contributing to the Red Sox by this time next season, Hottovy offers a reality check.

‘€œTo be honest, I felt pretty good right away. After taking the year off it’s not so much how you feel physically, it’s how you can handle the workload after taking the time off,’€ said the former Sox fourth-round pick in 2004. ‘€œSo immediately I felt really good, but then after throwing more and more my shoulder would get stiff and velocity went down. It just tests your endurance.

‘€œTo me it wasn’t until last year’s spring training that If felt 100 percent.’€

Hottovy didn’€™t start throwing to hitters until just after the team broke spring training in Fort Myers in ‘€™09. It was then the optimism buoyed by his overall help was tempered due to pitching inactivity.

The uneasiness led to the lefty changing his arm angle, which, while awkward at first (his fastball is four mph faster now than when he made the switch), it has paid off. In 18 2/3 innings with the PawSox this season, Hottovy has allowed just four runs while striking out 18 and walking four. Left-handers have yet to get a hit against him in Triple-A, and he has now positioned himself to be on the short list as a potential call-up in place of Hill.

‘€œFor me, the velocity came back right away, but the comfort level wasn’t there,’€ said Hottovy, who was operated on by Dr. James Andrews. ‘€œThat’s why I ended up dropping down. The biggest thing is getting that feel back. When you don’t throw off a mound for a good seven months you lose mechanics, you lose that feel you had. You almost have to re-teach yourself how to pitch.’€

Another benefit of the surgery, according to the former Wichita State hurler, is a new-and-improved body. Besides the healthy elbow, it is the strength that can be gained through the rehab which offers the most encouragement.

‘€œFor an elbow injury you can rehab your shoulder the whole time. I was three days after surgery doing shoulder exercises,’€ he said. ‘€œFrom Day 1, even though you can’t do anything with your elbow, you’re doing shoulder work and getting stronger. For me, also, I was a guy who was 190 pounds, maximum. I didn’t have the time to put on a lot of muscle or gain a lot of strength. What surgery allowed me to do was kill my lower body. So I went from being 190 pounds to now I’m consistently 204 every day. For me I could never have imagined being over 200 pounds, but with the surgery you have so much time.’€

Jerry Remy on D&C: Loss of Rich Hill ‘a terrible blow’

06.03.11 at 12:08 pm ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy called in to the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk baseball and a little hockey. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Remy said that Daisuke Matsuzaka‘€™s decision to have Tommy John surgery probably means Red Sox fans have seen the last of the Japanese starter, whose time with the Red Sox he called ‘€œa mixed bag.’€

‘€œIt’€™s always been a bumpy road,’€ Remy said. ‘€œCommunication-wise, pitching-wise, it’€™s just been a bumpy road all the way through. I think that once he’€™s gone for a couple of years, nobody will remember Daisuke.’€

Remy said that Matsuzaka’€™s biggest problem has always been his unwillingness to change his training and between-starts regimens to fit the MLB pitching schedule.

‘€œHe had his own set way of doing things, and that’€™s what he had done his whole career over in Japan, and that’€™s what he probably expected to do here,’€ Remy said. ‘€œBut it’€™s a different game. Over in Japan, he was pitching what, once a week? That’€™s not the case here. They tried and tried and tried to change the way he did things, and he was stubborn about it.’€

Remy said that the loss of Rich Hill might impact the Red Sox far more than Matsuzaka.

‘€œThat’€™s a terrible blow to the Red Sox, because this kid was pitching great baseball for the Red Sox, and he was the only left-hander they had had out of the bullpen,’€ Remy said.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, J.D Drew

Nuggetpalooza: Friday Red Sox Nuggets

06.03.11 at 11:10 am ET
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Start your weekend with a big dose of Red Sox nuggets:


* – Dustin Pedroia currently leads the majors in on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers (min. 50 plate appearances):

.500 – Dustin Pedroia, BOS
.491 – Matt Kemp, LAD
.491 – Joey Votto, CIN

Can you guess the last Red Sox player to lead the majors in OBP vs. lefties (min. 125 PA vs LHP)? Answer at bottom.


* – The Red Sox have allowed seven or more runs in each of their last three games. It’s the first time that they’ve allowed that many in three straight at Fenway since September 28-30, 2009. They haven’t given up 7+ in four straight at the Fens since 2006 and the club record is six such games in a row. That happened in June of that World Series year, 1975.


* – In the next week or so, David Ortiz will likely break the Red Sox record for the longest streak of games with four or more at-bats without getting four hits in a game. From 1967-1970, Rico Petrocelli had 4+ AB in 298 games for the Red Sox and never collected four hits in any of them. Ortiz is currently at 294 (from September, 2007 through Wednesday).

Note this: The major league record for this (since ’50) is 558 games, set by Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson from 1965-1970. The longest streak post-2000 is 481 games, from May, 2003 through his retirement in May, 2010 by Ken Griffey, Jr.

——————————————————————————- Read the rest of this entry »

Friday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Josh Outman

06.03.11 at 8:59 am ET
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After winning 13 of 15 games, the Red Sox have lost four straight. Clay Buchholz will look to stop Boston’s skid Friday night as he takes the mound against the Athletics, who will pitch Josh Outman.

Buchholz (4-3, 3.41) has been churning out quality start after quality start. He has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last six outings, most recently in a 4-3 victory over the Tigers on Sunday. Buchholz pitched six strong innings, allowing three runs on three hits. In his last three starts, Buchholz has a 2.21 ERA and has struck out 14 batters. Opposing hitters have a .251 average against him this season.

One of the best fielding hurlers in baseball, Buchholz leads the American League in putouts as a pitcher (11) and range factor per game as a pitcher (2.18). However, he enters the game battling lower back stiffness and a blister on his right big toe.

Outman (1-0, 2.08) has started just two games this year, recovering from Tommy John surgery that caused him to sit out the entire 2010 season. Outman made his season debut May 23 in Anaheim, going seven innings while allowing one run on five hits. He picked up his lone victory in his second start, against the Orioles. In that appearance, Outman went six innings and allowed three runs on six hits. The left-hander has shown some control issues, walking five batters against Baltimore.

Current A’s hitters have had success against Buchholz, but mostly in limited action. Overall, they hold a .358 batting average (24-for-67) and seven extra-base hits. They only have six RBIs but have drawn 13 walks while striking out only five times. Former Yankee Hideki Matsui has faced Buchholz the most times (20) and is the only Athletic to have faced the Boston starter at least 10 times. Another familiar face in the Oakland dugout is Coco Crisp. Crisp played in Boston from 2006-08. His season got off to an ignominious start when he was arrested in spring training on DUI charges.

Boston batters, on the other hand, have a combined seven plate appearances against Outman and no hits. However, the Red Sox have had success in first appearances against pitchers. On Tuesday, the Red Sox faced the White Sox and Philip Humber, who no Boston starter had hit against before. The Red Sox recorded nine hits and four runs against Humber. They can only hope that they can have similar success against Outman. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Josh Outman,

Why the 2011 draft may represent an opportunity the Sox never have again

06.02.11 at 1:35 am ET
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The Major League Baseball amateur draft always represents a pivotal moment. The early-June process is always treated as a potentially franchise-changing moment, when teams lay the foundation of their future — for better or for worse.

That being the case, the 2011 draft could be particularly important for the Red Sox. The team has four of the first 40 picks in the draft — the first time the franchise has had four picks that high since 1982 — thanks to the departures of free agents Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre.

The Sox got the Tigers’ No. 19 overall pick as well as a sandwich pick (No. 36 overall) when Martinez signed with Detroit. Beltre’s signing, meanwhile, netted the Sox the No. 26 overall pick in the first round that had belonged to the Rangers, along with the No. 40 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

‘€œIt’€™s always a great feeling to have extra picks,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œI think it energizes the scouting staff the whole year because they know going in and seeing players, there’€™s a much better chance you can actually get a guy. They see someone they like, and realize he’€™s going to go before we pick or if we only have one pick before we get to the second round, we’€™re unlikely to get that guy.

‘€œIt energizes the whole staff and when you get in the room and put them all together, it’€™s exciting. You know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you’€™re getting four of them. That’€™s a nice feeling. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order and see how things break.’€

This could be the last draft where the Sox, or any team, has this many picks. A new compensation system for the departure of free agents could be put in place with the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That being the case, the Sox know they have to make the most of the opportunity.

“There might be a day we wake up and we’€™re talking fondly about bygone days when we had four of the first 40 picks in the draft and no team will ever have that again,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œWho knows what the next system will be. We have to take advantage of this one.’€

Since the Sox have so many picks, it could permit them to be flexible and take risks on some players. That was the prevailing philosophy of the club in the 2005 draft, when it started making the transition from low-risk college picks from prominent programs to players with less certainty but higher upside. The team took college stars Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen and Jed Lowrie, while also plucking junior college standout Clay Buchholz and high schooler Michael Bowden when they had five of the first 47 selections.

‘€œYou want to get good players,” Epstein said. “You want to combine upside and probability but when you don’€™t have extra picks, it’€™s sometimes hard to take that extra risk with the very high upside. You can diversify your portfolio a little more when you have more picks and take that chance.”

Epstein is quick to point out that the organization does not want to focus solely on the first four picks, as there is much more to the draft.

‘€œThis year we are spending a lot of time on players 10-40 on the list because we will probably end up getting four of those players,’€ he said. ‘€œAt the same time, you don’€™t want to ignore the rest of the draft just because you are picking so often in the first round. You often make or break your draft later on.’€

According to Sawdaye, who is heading his second draft after replacing Jason McLeod, this year’s draft class is pretty solid, especially with an impressive crop of college pitching.

‘€œIt’€™s a pretty talented class ‘€¦ Nothing historically great, but a good draft,’€ he said. ‘€œYou see most of the depth probably in college pitching ‘€¦ there’€™s a good group of high school pitching. I’€™d say the top five to 10 picks in the draft [will be pitchers], guys that we probably aren’€™t going to get.’€

The importance of the draft is well known to Epstein and he enjoys being involved in the draft process.

‘€œIt’€™s one of my favorite aspects of the job and it is one of the most important things we do as an organization. I am here with [amateur scouting director] Amiel [Sawdaye] and supporting him any way that I can,’€ said Epstein.

‘€œI have seen a lot of the players for the first four picks, so I will give my input over the week to 10 days leading up to the draft,’€ he added. ‘€œI think our process is for everyone to speak their mind, have an opinion about the player and develop a consensus as we rank the players on the board and make sure we stay true to our principals in what we believe in a player.’€

‘€œIt’€™s been probably the biggest factor of this organization from a baseball operations standpoint over the past 10 years. We’€™ve built much of this team through the draft and also used the draft for prospects to trade for other important members of this team,’€ Epstein added.

How a team drafts one year can have a major affect on the organization four or five years down the road.

‘€œIf you have bad drafts two out of three, three out of four years, that is going to be reflected in a downturn of the success overall of the organization four or five years down the line so the work that our scouts are doing now will play an important role in how we feel about the Red Sox four or five years from now,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œIt is really hard, pretty fascinating and really important.”

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, Theo Epstein,

Sources: No decision yet on Matsuzaka surgery

06.02.11 at 12:14 am ET
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According to multiple industry sources, a final decision has not yet been made by the Red Sox and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka regarding the next course of treatment for what has been described as a sprained ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament and strained common flexor mass of his right elbow. Matsuzaka is scheduled to meet with Sox team officials on Thursday to discuss treatment options.

There have been reports that Matsuzaka has already decided to undergo Tommy John surgery — first from Nikkan Sports, and then from Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports (who declared via twitter that Matsuzaka was “leaning towards” surgery) and Gordon Edes of ESPN.com, who reported that the pitcher has made the decision to have surgery and will inform the club of that choice on Thursday.  If Matsuzaka undergoes the operation, it would prevent him from pitching until at least 2012.

However, one source suggested that no decision has been made at this point about how the injury will be treated. Another source indicated that the decision will be made by Matsuzaka and his family after his meeting with the team to discuss treatment options.

Matsuzaka, 30, is 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA in eight games (seven starts) this year. He experienced tightness in his right elbow in a start against the Mariners on April 29, then after returning to the rotation, suffered a sharp drop in his velocity in a 4 1/3 inning outing against the Orioles on May 16 in which he walked seven. When he was placed on the DL on May 17, the Sox suggested that they were hopeful that Matsuzaka’s injury was manageable through rehab, and that they were relieved to have avoided a more significant injury.

However, Matsuzaka received a second opinion from Dr. Lew Yocum on Tuesday. In the aftermath of it, while no one ruled out the possibility of the right-hander undergoing surgery, Sox manager Terry Francona suggested that there were no immediate plans to operate on the pitcher. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, lew yocum, tommy john,

After 20 games in 20 days, Sox hope to rest, regroup

06.01.11 at 5:58 pm ET
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How to explain it? How does a team go from the hottest team in baseball into a four-game nosedive without warning? The Red Sox have a theory.

On Wednesday, the Sox concluded a stretch of 20 games in as many days with a 7-4 loss to the White Sox, their fourth straight loss and a contest that turned their tremendous 13-2 stretch into a seemingly distant memory. While their level of play during their four defeats — a 3-0 loss to the Tigers on Sunday night in the second half of a day-night doubleheader, and a three-game sweep at the hands of Chicago — was relatively poor, the Red Sox feel as if their struggles could be explained in part by sheer exhaustion.

After a Saturday rainout in Detroit, the Sox were forced to play that doubleheader against the Tigers, then fly back east. They landed in Boston at roughly 4 a.m., and then, at the end of their 20-day run, seemed flat against the White Sox.

“It’€™s a lot of games in a row ‘€“20 games in a row. I think Detroit kind of killed us, for real, as far as that’€™s concerned,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “But we have an off day [Thursday] and we’€™re going to come back strong. … I think everyone is just tired and needed a day to relax.”

After the contest, the Sox were dressing to attend a Kids Kick-Off Celebration/Poker Party being co-hosted by Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Then, finally, on Thursday, for the first time in three weeks, the players will have a chance to catch their collective breath away from the ballpark before returning to action on Friday against the A’s.

The rest, the Sox hope, will permit them to return to the form that had vaulted them to the top of the division before they were outscored 24-14 in the home sweep at the hands of the White Sox.

“I think playing the doubleheader on Sunday, getting home at 4 in the morning tired us out. I’€™m not going to make excuses for how we played the last three games, but that could have factored into it,” said Wakefield. “I think a day off [Thursday] is well-needed for us.”

Rich Hill may have dodged a bullet, based on what he told Daniel Bard

06.01.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Red Sox are holding hope that lefty reliever Rich Hill escaped serious structural damage to his left forearm and elbow after leaving the game injured during the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the White Sox at Fenway Park. Hill was sent for an MRI on his left arm after grabbing his left elbow following a walk to Adam Dunn. Initial physical tests at Fenway indicated the left-hander might have avoided serious structural damage, including a major injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (also known as the Tommy John ligament) in the elbow.

“I think Rich is OK, from what I heard … He passed all the testing for [the ulnar collateral ligament],” said Daniel Bard, the Red Sox reliever who came on immediately after Hill left the game in the seventh. “They think it was just scar tissue that popped. Hopefully, that’s the case and hopefully, he’s OK.”They did all the tests and he said it was no structural damage is all I know. It’s terrible. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone, our team or another team. It’s the pitcher’s worst nightmare. Hopefully, he’ll be OK.”

During the game, the team initially announced a left forearm injury for Hill before sending the pitcher for further tests.

“He felt some obvious discomfort in his forearm,” added Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Just on his cursory examination, he actually looked OK, which is good. But certainly when somebody comes off the mound like that, we have to get him checked thoroughly, and we will. Hopefully, we’ll know a little more tonight.”

Read More: Adam Dunn, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Daniel Bard
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