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Penny fires back at Girardi

06.14.09 at 1:49 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Speaking after the Red Sox‘ 11-6 win over Philadelphia, Red Sox starter Brad Penny addressed Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi’s assertion Friday that he threw at Alex Rodriguez on purpose in the Sox’ win over New York, Thursday. 

“Why is he bringing it up a day later? Why not talk about it Thursday?” Penny said. “The game’s over with. I think he’s just frustrated. They have a good team and a good lineup. It’s not like this (season’s) over. It’s far from over.”

Regarding the pitch that hit A-Rod, Penny responded, “I don’t care what [Giardi] thinks. I didn’t hit him intentionally. I’m just pitching. We don’t go back and say they hit us intentionally. We’ve got games to worry about, not that (stuff). I don’t give a (care) what he says. He needs to worry about managing and let the league and the umpires take care of their job and he an take care of his.”

The Sox starter said, unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox haven’t filed complaints to the league when similar situations have come up involving their hitters. “And they called the commissioner’s office. Come on. Let’s play baseball. What’s over’s over. It wasn’t intentional. Let’s move forward.”

Sunday, Girardi responded one more time.

‘€œHe’€™s got to do what he thinks is right and I’€™m OK with that,’€ Girardi told reporters before hit team’s game against the Mets. ‘€œIt’€™s not like I blasted Brad Penny – I just said I thought he hit Alex Rodriguez on purpose. I wasn’€™t 100 percent sure and only Brad Penny knows.

‘€œI shared a feeling that I had and didn’€™t mean to stir anything up. I just said what I thought.’€

Read More: Brad Penny, Joe Girardi,

Being J.D. Drew

06.13.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — J.D. Drew leaned back in his clubhouse chair, seemingly amused by the line of questioning. He was used to it. Every time he comes to Citizens Bank Park it’s the same thing. When you’re coming back to a place where you’ve had batteries thrown at you, the memories don’t typically dissolve too quickly.

“The people in the stands, they’ll never forget the Drew name,” he said. “There can be a Drew coming in the park 30 years from now that comes into the park that don’t have any relatioship to us and they’re going to get booed. I feel sorry if the Phillies ever get a kid with the last name Drew.”

In a city known for it’s booing, it is Drew who perhaps brings out the most robust line of jeering.

The venom started back when Drew would visit the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, just two years out from when the outfielder chose not to sign with the Phillies after being drafted by Philadelphia out of Florida State University.

Upon taking his place in center field back on Aug. 10, 1999, Drew was forced to dodge a few batteries thrown from the stands and onto the artificial turf of what was then the Phillies’ home park, Veterans Stadium. Even a large roll of tissue paper was yanked out of one of the bathrooms and whipped down just past the outfielder’s head. The game was halted, with a warning going out over the loudspeaker mandating that if anything else was tossed the game would be forfeited by Philly.

That day Drew would go 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI. It was a sign of things to come.

Drew has gone on to play 16 games in Citizens Bank Park, hitting .333 with five home runs (including one Friday night).

“I don’t think about it,” he said of the vitriol he encounters each time in Philly. “It just comes with the territory, I guess. I understand the environment and the situation, it happened so many years ago. One way or another … the boos are going to happen.

“You have a higher sense of focus, I don’t know. I feel fortunate I hit the ball well when I come here. I really don’t have an answer.”

While the boos haven’t subsided, Drew also understands that the more time passes, the less the majority of the fans will understand why they are shouting such insults.

“I’m sure guys are sitting next to somebody and turns to him, ‘what are we booing about’,” he said.

Another thing that doesn’t help Drew’s cause when it comes to endearing himself to Philly fans — and some in Boston, for that matter — is the lack of emotion he continues to display, no matter the situation. Folks in both cities simply want to see proof the player is as upset as the patrons sometimes are.

That, he said, should never be a concern.

“People think this kid, he’s laid back. Listen to be at this level and to perform and do it for years you’ve got to have an inner drive,” said Drew, taking a more serious tone. “I often said I battle more on the inside, which sometimes is tougher on you as a person if you go in there and explode and let it all go. I go home when I’m not going well and just wear myself out mentally trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that. You guys will never see that and the people in the stands will never see that. 

“It’s just my personality. I’m more of an introverted person by nature. Different people view it different ways. You’ve got guys running around here bouncing off the walls playing loud music, and you’ve got me sitting here watching the ballgame, chilling out. People all do it different ways. I’ve often said I would like to outwardly get it out, express it and be done with it, but that’s not how I operate. It’s just different.”

And, yes, Drew confirmed he has never been ejected from a game. It’s just who he is, whether Philadelphia likes it or not.

Read More: J.D Drew,

Smoltz to pitch Thursday… somewhere

06.13.09 at 6:22 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — After turning in another successful rehab outing, Friday night, John Smoltz showed up at Citizens Bank Park to meet with Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell to discover what his next step would be.

After a lengthy discussion it was determined that Smoltz would still have to wait a little while longer to see exactly when his first start with the Red Sox would be, with certainty being that the 42-year-old will make his next start Thursday — either for the Pawtucket Red Sox or Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox take on the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park Thursday, while the PawSox are home that day against Charlotte. Smoltz’ 30-day minor league rehab stint runs out Friday.

The Red Sox did announce that Tim Wakefield will pitch Tuesday, with Brad Penny going Wednesday, both going against the Marlins at Fenway Park. Following that series against the Marlins, which ends Thursday, the Red Sox take on the Atlanta Braves for a weekend series. Smoltz has said he would prefer that his first start didn’t come against his old team, the Braves.

“We’re going to leave those options open for the next week and see what happens. There’s a lot of off days. I’m tickled to death to be at this point versus struggling having to figure out when I was going to return. When I return is irrelevant to me because I know I’m on the cusp of throwing the way I felt like I could throw when I had surgery.

“Everybody is on the same page. I just met with Terry and John. Again, when I signed with Boston in the offseason the reality of me coming back was up in the air. Then the reality of five guys dealing, which makes this whole process a whole lot easier. I’m the type of guy who wants to contribute really bad, but I also know I want to be at the right time and the right place and the stretch drive is so important to me I can’t do anything to mess that up for me personally. To get up here and throw a game is not good enough. The timing of it, when it happens is really irrelevant. That’s how good I feel about the process. So you’re looking at a stretch run now of a bunch of off days, a bunch options, some things yet to be determined. It could very well be another start in Pawtucket, or it could be another start here. Either way I’m preparing to start Thursday somewhere.”

On a side note, Smoltz said he threw out the option of pitching out of the bullpen, but the Red Sox pushed back on the idea. He also said that when he does start preparing for major league starts the only video he will watch is that of Josh Beckett’s outings.

More from Smoltz…

“I’m so confident with what they’ve got going on for me. I’m fine with what decision comes about. It’s really an ongoing plan. It could change tomorrow, it could change two days from now.”

“I’m very upbeat. You’ve got to understand is that when I’m pitching in the middle of the season I still think I can do better each time out. There are still things I want to grind out, still things I want to do better.”

“(The Red Sox) just in a rare, unique and great position, and I’m in a unique and great position. The way I’ve approached this and the way they’ve explained it to me has been so clear I don’t have any qualms about anything, and that has made it really, really easy for me.”

“I don’t think I can say I’m fully back. I don’t think ‘fully back’ will ever be something I ever say because that would just be wishful thinking. I think the fact that I’m commanding the baseball is more important to me than any radar gun or even really the results that come out because I know that if you command the baseball you command the game.”

Daisuke and match-ups

06.13.09 at 12:22 pm ET
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Back during this offseason I wrote a column stating how worth it was for the Red Sox to spend $103 million on Daisuke Matsuzaka. I meant it. He had just finished fourth in the Cy Young voting, with a cavalcade of stats to back up my premise. This is how I felt. 

How times have changed.

Coming into his start Saturday night, Matsuzaka has pitched in six games this season, carrying a 1-4 record with a 7.44 ERA, with opponents hitting .373 against him. (Remember that major league-best OBA last season?) Perhaps most importantly, Matsuzaka has yet to pitch more than 5 2/3 innings, and with every reliever but Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen having appeared Friday night, would seem to be a priority in terms of changing around.

Since Matsuzaka returned from the disabled list he has pitched four times, totaling a 1-3 record with a 5.66 ERA, with opponents batting .349 off the starter. He’s pitched his way. He has pitched the Red Sox’ way. (Remember, the “plain” reference after his latest outing?) So what will give? It is certainly making these starts interesting. Entertaining? No. Interesting. Yes.)

Matsuzaka has little experience against the current Phillies’ hitters, having only faced three of them. Here’s how it played out:

Raul Ibanez: 11 AB, 2 H, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K

Matt Stairs: 7 AB, 4 H, 2B, 2 BB, K

Pedro Feliz: 3 AB, H, 2B

The Phillies’ starter, Antonio Bastardo, has even less familiarity, not having faced any of the Sox’ hitters (at least in the majors). He has, after all, only made two major league starts, a five-inning, two-run outing against the Dodgers last time out, which followed up a six-inning, one-run major league debut vs. the Padres.

The ‘Tweet’ battle continues

06.12.09 at 8:04 pm ET
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First there was John Henry’s post-game post on Twitter:

‘the MT Curse?’

Followed by an explanatory email:

“Purely entertainment. Nothing more. I don’t believe in curses.”

Which was chased with another ‘Tweet':

‘At Stella finishing late dinner with friends. Journalists emailing about curses. Does anyone really believe in curses except Dan?’

All of which paved the way for a response from ‘MT’ (otherwise known as Mark Teixeira), who told reporters before today’s game that Henry’s post was “silly” and that he wasn’t going to “get in a war of words with a 70-something year-old man”. (For the record, Henry is 59.)

That of course led to these ‘Tweet’s from Henry:

‘I hope I didn’t hurt Mark’s feelings!’

And, 14 minutes later…

‘After reading his heartfelt quotes I turned to Shakespeare for a response, but was worried he, too, might take offense.’

Oh, and the Red Sox and Phillies are tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning after Kevin Youkilis hit another opposite field home run.

Read More: Henry, Twitter,

Red Sox at Phillies Match-Ups, 6/12

06.12.09 at 3:46 pm ET
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PHILLIES VS. JON LESTER

Tonight the Red Sox jump back into interleague play as they head to Citizens Bank Park to take on the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies, who have won 10 of their last 13, currently lead the Mets by four games in the NL East.

For the Red Sox it will be Jon Lester (5-5, 5.09), who looks to continue his impressive streak of recent dominance. Since May 21st the lefty has gone 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts. His most impressive outing of the season came last Saturday when he took a perfect game into the seventh in what resulted in a complete game, two-hit effort against the Rangers. In addition, Lester has 23 strikeouts in his last two starts (2-0).

To Lester’s advantage, the Phillies lineup as a whole is generally unfamiliar with him. Raul Ibanez is the only Philadelphia hitter who has faced Lester more than three times (six) and slugger Ryan Howard has struck out all three times he has faced the Sox starter.

Ibanez is putting together an MVP-caliber season in Philadelphia. He leads the NL (and majors) with 58 RBI, is second in homers with 21, and his .322 average is good for seventh-best in the Senior Circuit.

For what it’s worth, Lester’s first three career wins came against National League teams (Atlanta, Washington, New York Mets). All in all, Lester is 4-0 in seven career Interleague starts.

Raul Ibanez (6 career at-bats against Lester): 3-for-6, 2 doubles
Jayson Werth: (3): 2-for-3
Pedro Feliz (3): 2-for-3
Chase Utley (3): 0-for-3
Shane Victorino (3): 1-for-3
Ryan Howard (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
Carlos Ruiz (3): 0-for-3
Matt Stairs (2): 0-for-2, walk
Jimmy Rollins (2): 1-for-2, walk

RED SOX VS. JOE BLANTON

The Sox face their second overweight starting pitcher in as many days (much love, C.C.) in Joe Blanton (4-3, 5.46). Best known for being one of the objects of Billy Beane’s affection in Moneyball, Blanton went to Philadelphia last year in a mid-season deal and pitched the Phillies to victory in Game Four of the World Series.

The biggest dilemma Terry Francona will face will be finding at-bats for…that’s right! David Ortiz. With the Sox obviously losing the DH in a National League park, it’s likely that Mike Lowell will sit, Kevin Youkilis will slide to third, and Ortiz will dust off his glove. Though he just hopped over the Mendoza line last night (.203!), Ortiz has hit in eight of his last nine games and has shown signs of life power-wise with three homers in his last five games.

Between the resurgence of Ortiz, the fact that he has hit Blanton well over the course of his career, and the fact that Lowell has fared poorly against tonight’s Phillies starter, Ortiz seems a natural to play today, particularly with the Sox facing left-handers for each of the next two games.

Another thing factoring into the Sox’ lineup will be the return of Jacoby Ellsbury. After missing the entire Yankees series with right shoulder pain that stemmed from a diving catch Sunday, Ellsbury is expected to return to the lineup.

Red Sox hitters have seen plenty of Blanton from his days as an Athletic (an ironic team affiliation for Blanton). Here’s a look at the numbers:

Julio Lugo (26 career at-bats against Blanton): .269 average/ .321 OBP/ .346 slugging, 2 RBI, 2 walks
Jason Varitek (22): .227/ .261/ .318, RBI, walk, 6 strikeouts
David Ortiz (20): .300/ .375/ .600, 2 homers, 3 RBI, 3 walks
Mike Lowell (20): .200/ .238/ .200, 4 RBI, walk
Kevin Youkilis (18): .333/ .409/ .444, RBI, 3 walks
J.D. Drew (12): .333/ .308/ .333, RBI
Dustin Pedroia (12): .250/ .400/ .417, 3 walks
Jacoby Ellsbury (11): .182/ .182/ .182
Rocco Baldelli (8): 0-for-8
Nick Green (4): 0-for-4, RBI, walk
Mark Kotsay (1): 1-for-1, RBI

Read More: David Ortiz, joe blanton, Jon Lester,

Jeter: They deserved to sweep us

06.12.09 at 7:28 am ET
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As captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter knows full well he’s going to keep hearing the same question that the Red Sox heard all those years about the Yankees – Are they in your head?

Thursday night, the Yankees lost a game they thought they had in control with their ace on the mound. They led 3-1 in the eighth inning and C.C. Sabathia was in control.

But manager Joe Girardi showed more faith in his pitcher approaching 120 pitches than he did his bullpen and the Red Sox rallied for three runs in the eighth for a 4-3 win and a sweep of the three-game series. The Yankees have lost ALL eight meetings this year with Boston.

So now, after losing three times to Boston in April at Fenway, twice in May and now three times in June, are the Red Sox in their heads?

“Nah, I wouldn’t say that,” Jeter said in a tone acknowledging that he was prepared for that very question. “Like I’ve said before, we weren’t thinking what happened in the first five games when we came in here. I mean, yeah, if you want to talk about these three, it’s disappointing that we lost all three. You really try not to group things together. Yeah, we haven’t beaten them but we weren’t thinking about what happened in April when we came in here.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter, Red Sox, Yankees

Papelbon, Sox close it out

06.11.09 at 10:52 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth inning and retired the Yankees in order, aided by a pair of spectacular plays, to complete the Sox’ 4-3 win over the Yankees. Boston has now won all eight contests against New York this year. It was Papelbon’s 16th save of the season, and just his fourth appearance in which he did not allow a baserunner.

Nick Green made a spectacular defensive play to start the ninth, ranging far up the middle and doing a pirouette as he crossed the second base bag and delivered a rocket throw to first to get Derek Jeter by a step. It seems safe to say that Julio Lugo — who has been on the bench for each of the last five games — will see little playing time going forward.

After Johnny Damon flied to left for the second out, Mark Teixeira hit a rocket down the first-base line. But Kevin Youkilis, positioned perfectly, speared the rocket for the game’s final out.

Sox fight back, reclaim lead in the eighth

06.11.09 at 10:41 pm ET
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On Wednesday, Yankees starter CC Sabathia said that he wanted to pitch until his arm dropped off, and on Thursday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to accommodate that request.

Sabathia was already well over 100 pitches through seven innings, but with a bullpen in which Girardi has little faith, the pitcher — one of the most durable in the game, and someone who had permitted opponents just a .588 OPS after his 100th pitch this year — returned to the hill for the eighth.

The strategy backfired spectacularly, as the Sox immediately mounted a rally against Sabathia and reliever Alfredo Aceves.

Nick Green led off by lining a 2-2 single to left. Dustin Pedroia then followed by fouling off pitch after pitch in an eventual 10-pitch walk. J.D. Drew then followed by grounding a run-scoring single to center.

That was it for Sabathia (after a season-high 123 pitches), but not for the Sox rally. Against Aceves, Kevin Youkilis (1-for-3 with a homer against the reliever entering tonight) singled to right to load the bases. Jason Bay (2-for-3 with a homer and two walks) followed with a run-scoring single to left that tied the game. Finally, Mike Lowell lofted a sac fly to center that gave the Sox a 4-3 lead.

All four of the runs were charged to Sabathia, who likely deserved a better fate on a night when he mastered the Sox through seven innings. But the perceived weakness of the Yankees bullpen came to fruition, and it proved costly for New York.

The Sox, who were 3-20 when trailing after seven innings prior to tonight, lead 4-3, and are now three outs from their eighth straight win to start the season against the Yankees. Jonathan Papelbon is on for the ninth.

‘Pen Blows It for Penny

06.11.09 at 9:59 pm ET
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The markers of excellence for the Red Sox bullpen have been everywhere. Entering tonight, the team’s relievers:

  • Led the majors with a 2.77 ERA.
  • Led the A.L. with a .232 opponents batting average.
  • Had allowed the fewest hits in the A.L. (151)
  • Were tied for the fewest blown saves (3) in the A.L.

All that went out the window in the seventh. Manny Delcarmen came on in relief of Brad Penny, and was promptly tagged by the bottom of the order. Melky Cabrera led off with a single, and Francisco Cervelli (!) doubled on a hit-and-run down the left-field line to score Cabrera and tie the game, 1-1. After Derek Jeter grounded out and Johnny Damon walked to put runners on first and second, Mark Teixeira flied out to the warning track in center.

That put runners on the corners with two outs for Alex Rodriguez, the superstar who is much-maligned for his supposed inability to hit in the clutch. That did not seem an issue tonight, when Rodriguez ran the count full and then sent a 94 mph fastball screaming off the wall in centerfield for a two-run double. The shot gave the Yankees, who had trailed all game, a 3-1 lead, and ended Delcarmen’s night.

In late and close situations this year (7th inning or later, Yankees up by no more than one or with the tying run at least on deck), Rodriguez is now 5-for-16 (.313) with a .522 OBP, .938 slugging mark, 1.460 OPS and eight runs batted in.

Seems like he’s doing adequately in “clutch” situations.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez,
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