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First things first for Lowell

03.19.10 at 6:03 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell admits it’s been a while since he played first base, but if things keep feeling the way they do now ‘€” both in the field and at the plate ‘€” he thinks he’ll be ready for a different role come the start of the season. And even if it means just backing up Kevin Youkilis.

“I can’€™t say I was totally confident,” Lowell admitted Friday. “I think I played three games in [1998 with the Yankees], and I think I took ground balls before the game and that’€™s it. I think Tino Martinez turned an ankle or something. It was really minimal, it was just in case he needed to go on the DL or something, I can’€™t really remember the circumstances. I can’€™t really even say that I had experience ‘€” I just asked the coach where I put my feet, I just don’€™t want someone to step on me. So that was really more getting thrown in the fire. Here, I feel I have big league instruction, and I tend to notice what other guys do at first, and I think that’€™s helped me.

“First is pretty comfortable. The responsibilities race through my mind ‘€” I know Nomar [Garciaparra] had a recurring dream, but I had a recurring dream that I wouldn’€™t cover first on a ground ball. It’€™s always cover first, cover first, cover first. But there’€™s little things, like backing up the throw on a sure double, or on a possible triple, being the trail guy, those are things that I’€™m not used to, so I think my responsibilities have gone through my head a lot. But still don’€™t need to make that throw. So it’€™s a position where you can actually move around maybe a little bit more. But at third, you don’€™t really have time to bobble it or what have you. I can literally block it like a catcher and still feel like I have a shot of it.”

What does he make of the challenges?

“I think you can play off the bag a little more on right handed hitters, but there’€™s a catch ‘€” I’€™ve got to be able to get back to first,” he said. “Youk’€™s actually very good at it, but I’€™ve played with some first basemen where you get a hard hit ball, and the first baseman’€™s still running there, and you don’€™t want to wait. You kind of want to go through your routine. So I think the thing I’€™ve been most self-conscious of was getting to first as fast as possible so I could give them a good target. I think that’€™s pretty minimal. Especially after I broke in my glove. There was a little bit of a difference. There were literally some balls that I didn’€™t think I caught, but the glove’€™s so big that it gets caught in the top. But overall, it’€™s not that big a deal.”

As far as the hitting goes, Lowell, following his homer and RBI single on Friday, feels he’s getting more and more comfortable.

“Things still feel kind of quick, to be honest with you,” Lowell said. “It’€™s just my third day seeing live pitching, and I think, In the beginning of spring, even though you don’€™t swing half the time, I didn’€™t want to get the urge to stand in with those guys ‘€” I didn’€™t even have the ability ‘€” well, not have the ability, I just chose not to.

“But I think it comes quick. I felt a little bit better each at bat. I was purposely taking a couple times, because I didn’€™t want to swing at the first pitch, because even if I hit well, I don’€™t really think I was doing anything productive. I viewed my first at-bat as productive even though I struck out. I saw a changeup, curveball, two-seamer, and that was my goal. So, under the circumstances, I thought it was pretty good.’€

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Beckett anticipates being fine for Opening Day

03.19.10 at 2:17 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, pitching for the first time in 11 days, was roughed up for four runs on six hits and two walks in 3.1 innings against the Pirates. He also struck out a batter and allowed a homer. Yet Beckett, who remained hoarse from the aftereffects of the flu, suggested that the most important number he posted on the day was positive.

“The numbers are obviously what they are. The most important number for me today was 70 pitches,” said Beckett. “Would it be nice to go out there and shut everyone out in spring training? Yes. But the most important thing is to get your innings in, especially for me right now.”

“I was bed ridden for four days. I couldn’€™t do anything else the other three days. We just pieced this week together,” he added. “I missed a lot of workouts. We just pieced this week together. That’€™s why I like to get my workouts in ‘€“ it makes me feel better about my start. I don’€™t really feel like I was completely prepared for this start. I went out there and did what I need to do.”

Beckett was scratched from a scheduled start last Sunday, remained completely bed-ridden for three of four days, could not follow his normal between-starts workout routine and admitted that he felt fatigued by the end of his outing. Despite the mid-spring disruption to his schedule, Beckett said that he did not anticipate any problems preparing for the start of the regular season on April 4.

Beckett had no insight to share about the status of negotiations with the Red Sox on an extension to his current deal, which is set to expire after the 2010 season. A report on SI.com suggested that there has been progress towards a deal, with Beckett seeking slightly more than the five-year, $82.5 million received by new teammate John Lackey, but Beckett had nothing to say on the matter.

“That’€™s not my deal. That’€™s the management and my agent’€™s deal,” said Beckett. “I just try to stay out of it. People get paid for those things.”

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Lowell: ‘You never know what’s going to happen’

03.19.10 at 2:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell was in a good mood on Friday. He is feeling stronger and more comfortable every day.

He agreed to speak with the assembled media following five plate appearances – including a homer in his final at-bat of the day – in two minor league exhibition games on one condition – no questions about his playing ‘situation’ with the Red Sox this season or whether he even expects to be with the team when the season starts April 4.

“I don’t worry about playing that one day,” Lowell said of his physical conditioning. “It’s the 100th game, although under my circumstances I might not see 100 games. I started that. No follow-ups.”

But halfway through, he acknowledged what he’s battling in the back of his mind.

“In a sense, I’ve been like, ‘Does it really matter?’ But I think it’s still my job to be ready because you never know what’s going to happen,” Lowell said. “You just don’t. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m just going to sulk because you never know. Crazy things happen.”

Lowell said he is feeling strong at the plate and more comfortable at first base but his only concern is running the bases and just how well his hip will hold up.

Asked if he could handle not getting regular at-bats because he has a history of picking up his offense quickly after time off, Lowell said this year is totally different.

“I think there’s a big difference when you get spring training at-bats, April, May at-bats, you take 20 days off and you come back,” Lowell said. “You start the season without getting at-bats, that’s why role guys don’t hit .320. I think if you get a guy who hits a solid .250, he’s viewed as an asset.

Lowell said he is hoping to have about 25 consistent at-bats this spring – with results – to feel ready for the season.

“Being in a role where I don’t start the season playing every day, I honestly have never been in that situation. I have no past experience to base it on,” he said.

Lowell did not play in the field on Friday, just his third time this spring against live pitching. He had a productive afternoon, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and an RBI single as he continues to get ready for the season.

Lowell, who faced four left-handed pitchers in his first four plate appearances before homering off a righty in his final appearance, said he wasn’t overly concerned about fanning in the first inning because he was interested in seeing pitches and reacting to them.

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Lowell, Ortiz go deep

03.19.10 at 1:13 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla., and FORT MYERS, Fla. — A pair of Red Sox hitters of note went deep in exhibition games on Friday.

David Ortiz, in Bradenton for a big league spring training game, went deep in his first at-bat of the game against Pirates starter Paul Maholm. The two-run homer was noteworthy on two counts. First, it continued Ortiz’ recent hot streak. After starting the exhibition season with one hit in 19 at-bats, he accumulated six hits in his next at-bats, including a pair of homers. It was also notable that the homer came against Maholm, a left-handed starter. In 2009, Ortiz hit five homers in 188 plate appearances against southpaws.

In Fort Myers, Mike Lowell shuttled between fields at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility to take part in two minor league games, one as a member of the lineup for Hi-A Salem, the other with Low-A Greenville. Lowell went 2-for-4, hitting a homer, drawing a walk and striking out, while serving as a designated hitter in the two games. The homer came in Lowell’s final at-bat (and only appearance against a right-hander) of the afternoon in the Greenville contest.

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Tom Verducci on D&C: Yanks have rotation edge on Sox

03.19.10 at 12:36 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’€™s Tom Verducci checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the state of the Red Sox and the state of the rest of MLB spring training.

Verducci said it was most important to have the top five guys make the most starts in the rotation, which is why he is giving a slight nod to the Yankees starting rotation over the Red Sox.

‘€œI think the Yankees have a clear edge. ‘€¦ I thought the biggest move was getting Javier Vazquez. He’€™s just as durable as CC Sabathia and Andy Pettite has been,’€ he said. ‘€œThose are three guys over the last five years in terms of going out, giving you innings, making starts and staying off the DL.’€

Verducci touched on the Mike Lowell situation, the Mike Cameron-Jacoby Ellsbury alignment and the big names that the Red Sox might target in free agency down the road. He also talked about the Ron Washington drug situation and some of the best young studs in Florida spring training.

To read the transcript, look below. To listen to the interview, click here.

Explain why your metrics man is Curt Schilling.

Curt pretty much simplifies things. Probably about four or five years ago he told me that the Yankees and the Red Sox are built so evenly when you think about it and look at the win totals the last seven years it’€™s pretty darn close. He said it all comes down to having your top five starting pitchers make all of their starts, at least the most. The team that gets the most starts out of the top five starting pitchers is going to win more games than the other team. It’€™s amazing how many times since 2003 that’€™s been true. The only year it hasn’€™t been true is 2004, when the Yankees won more games but the Red Sox got the big prize at the end. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

I think you need those other things to put your team in position to win 95-plus games, but once you put your roster together, it really comes down to how many times your top five pitchers take the ball. Last year, for the first time in Yankees franchise history, they had four guys start 31 times each. You are going to be good if your starters stay healthy and make their starts.

Who has the edge this year?

I think the Yankees have a clear edge. As much as people have talked about Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson, I thought the biggest move was getting Javier Vazquez. He’€™s just as durable as CC Sabathia and Andy Pettite has been. Those are three guys over the last five years in terms of going out, giving you innings, making starts and staying off the DL. I think they are givens those three guys and [A.J.] Burnett to me has turned the corner over the last two years with back-to-back 200 plus seasons. They have plenty of options for the five spot whoever that might be, whether its [Phillip] Hughes, [Joba] Chamberlain, [Alfredo] Aceves or [Chad] Gaudin, so I’€™d give them an edge. [John] Lackey has that history of being a workhorse, he certainly can be that pitcher, but he has not been that pitcher the last two years. Daisuke [Matsuzaka] you all know what’€™s happened to him the last couple of years as the innings total going down and the injuries continuing this spring, and Clay Buchholz, you got to love his stuff but he’€™s never thrown 100 innings in the big leagues. The potential is certainly there for a dynamic rotation, but if you are starting now and putting down on paper for who is going to pitch the most innings I would say it’€™s going to be the Yankees staff.

Especially with last year with the starts from Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Matsuzaka having an ERA over 6.5.

That’€™s way too many, obviously they hoped one of those guys would have stabilized things. If you get into a situation where, and nobody is going to have five pure starters the whole season it happened the Sox in ‘€™04 it was freakish, but you got to stay away as much as you can from getting down into that inventory where you are running out your No. 7, 8 or 9 starters. That’€™s going to catch up to you, especially in the American League East.

What do you hear and think will happen to Mike Lowell?

It’€™s a great question, obviously there is a lot of noise with the Marlins if he would be a fit there. I have a feeling he is going to be there. There is protection there for the Red Sox, coming off the bench if you want to switch the DH position with [David Ortiz]. I think it’€™s all about Mike accepting the role. If he’€™s going to fight this thing I don’€™t think he is going to be very valuable to you. If somehow the Red Sox and [Terry] Francona can convince him that, ‘€œRight now it may be hard to do where you are coming from, but we think you are an important part of this team, coming off the bench, filling in when somebody goes down.’€ He can play third, he can play first, he can play DH. If he buys into that I think they have a very valuable guy coming off their bench. I don’€™t know if he’€™s there mentally, it’€™s a very tough down shift for a guy who is used to being an every day player. Right now I think he’€™s still going to be there, whether he is going to be affective or not is going to be what is in the head of Mike Lowell.

Would the Red Sox pause and be upset if they let Mike Lowell go and David Ortiz struggles like he did last year?

I think there is a little bit of hesitation there. I think it’€™s going to be a test to the manager if Mike is here, with Ortiz and Jason Varitek. Varitek seems to be buying in to his reduced role. You are talking about three guys who have been such an important part of this franchise as everyday players, as important influences in that clubhouse. These are alpha males in that clubhouse and on this team in the roster construction for years. You are talking about all three guys facing the possibility of being almost complementary type players. I think if David Ortiz starts this year the way he did last year, then I think he is going to lose a lot of at-bats. It’€™s a very hard thing with one player to manager, and it’€™s a very difficult thing for a manager to manage three of those players.

Will the short-term deals of Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre work this year?

I’€™m not sure about it. I like what they did here, but I think people have to remember that this was Plan B. They went to this because they had to go to this. A couple of years ago they thought Lars Anderson was on track to be a big bat in the middle of the lineup. They didn’€™t see the downfall of David Ortiz as quickly as it did last year. They are still a team, like most teams, that prefer to have a lot of meat in the middle of their lineup.

I think what happened is they woke up and looked at this lineup, especially the way they hit last year on the road, that this was a poor team hitting on the road last year. I think they didn’€™t have a choice. I don’€™t think they sat down and said, ‘€œWell let’€™s switch gears here, guys. Now we think that defense wins games.’€ I think that they had to do it, and in that sense it was a very smart thing to do.

The downside to this, and they are going to be a very good defensive team there is no doubt about that it will help them a lot, but the downside to this is they are very vulnerable to right-handed pitching. I don’€™t think they are going to be much better as a team that hits on the road. They are a middle-of-the-pack offensive team, which could be good if their pitching holds up and the defense is as good as they think. Any right-hand power pitching ‘€” sinker, slider-type pitchers ‘€” I think it’€™s a problem for the Red Sox. If you look at Tampa Bay especially, you look at [Matt] Garza, [James] Shields, [Wade] Davis, [Jeff] Niemann that’€™s a bad, bad matchup for the Red Sox. We spend a lot of times talking about the Yankees and the Red Sox, but I can tell you that the best team down here in Florida right now, at least they way they look on the field is the Tampa Bay Rays. Do not discount them from this discussion, either.

It will be a track meet when the Rays play the Red Sox, with the Sox’ inability to throw runners out.

That is a bad, bad matchup. You mentioned the stolen bases, and they are going to run on anybody. You talk to scouts who watch the Rays this spring, and when the starters come out after two or three innings and they start running out the other players, most teams are running out players you’€™ll see in A ball and AA ball, the Rays in the sixth or ninth inning are running out guys that have major league ability. They just come at you in barrages, they have guys who could start anywhere else. Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, Fernando Perez, Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, they just keep coming at you with player after player after player with athleticism. They are young. They can run really well. They are going to be a very good offensive team this year, and they are going to be a pain in the neck. I think they are right there with the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Is the Cameron in center and Jacoby Ellsbury in left a good thing, bad thing or it really doesn’€™t matter?

It’€™s a good thing, because I think Cameron is a better center fielder. I never thought the Red Sox, knowing what they know about all these metrics would every sit down and give out a two year contract to a 37-year-old center fielder. I think that speaks to what an outlier Mike Cameron is, being able to keep himself healthy and being able to play that position at a high level into his late 30s is amazing. I think it is the right thing to do. You can always move Ellsbury back there in a couple of years. I just think Cameron throws much better. His defense is better. To me, I admire the fact that he checked ego aside, because Jacoby Ellsbury, you take his offense and put it in center field with his stolen bases would make a lot of money in arbitration. In left field it doesn’€™t look quite as good but it’€™s the right thing to do because the better center fielder is Mike Camerson.

What do you see on the horizon for the Red Sox? Who is the big player they are targeting for the future?

I think everybody in New York and Boston is looking at [Joe] Mauer, but I don’€™t think he’€™s going to get out there. There’€™s going to be a way for the Twins to get this thing done, but clearly if he does get on the market I think he’€™s going to be a Yankee or a Red Sox. Short term, I think you are looking at Carl Crawford. Both teams love the guy. They are waiting for this guy to come on the market and I don’€™t think there is anyway the Rays are going to keep him. That being said, I don’€™t know how he’€™s not a Yankee, because the Yankees tend to get what they want. Nobody is going to outbid them. Beyond that you are looking at two years when you have that incredible class of free agent first basemen if they get there [Albert] Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. That’€™s a pretty good tree to pick from as you are talking about four great first basemen, if you are looking for a bat you might wind up with one of them. Those are the biggest names that probably wind up on the radar for the Red Sox right now.

What was your immediate reaction to the Howard for Pujols trade rumor?

My immediate reaction was the same the possibility of a trade is preposterous. I’€™m not saying the idea of the Phillies talking about it is preposterous, but you wouldn’€™t make that trade in a rotisserie league. Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball. He’€™s a far better defender than Ryan Howard. Ryan strikes out a ton and he has trouble against left-handed pitching. Albert hits anybody and everybody. They are both signed for the next two years and Ryan Howard makes $7 million more than Albert Pujols, so it didn’€™t make any sense to me.

It would be like the Twins last year, with two years left to go on Joe Mauer’€™s contract, throwing up their hands and saying, ‘€œWe won’€™t be able to sign this guy, so let’€™s trade him for an inferior player who makes more money.’€ It just doesn’€™t make any sense. The idea that because Ryan Howard grew up in St. Louis makes him attractive to the Cardinals, I mean, come on. They’€™d be lighting their torches and manning their pitchforks if they ever tried to trade Albert Pujols without trying to sign him. I think he’€™s the most popular Cardinal since Stan Musial. I don’€™t care where Ryan Howard grew up. Albert Pujols to me is a Cardinal and should be a longtime Cardinal. They are way to far away from throwing up their hands and saying, ‘€œWe can’€™t sign this guy, let’€™s go ahead and move him.’€ I don’€™t blame the Phillies for looking at it.

What is your reaction to Ron Washington and his drug usage?

I was just shocked. It doesn’€™t make any sense, I don’€™t know who is buying that it was the first time that he tried it. Think about this, if you are gullible enough to believe that, he’€™s 57 years old, he’€™s never tried it, he’€™s in the middle of the season and his team is fighting for first place. He just signed a contract extension with the Texas Rangers. You are a major league manager and you are 57 years old and now you are going to make the decision, knowing that you are subject to drug testing by the way, but now you are going to try it? You talk about bad decision-making, but this is the guy who is the face of the franchise. That’€™s what managers are. No one in your franchise is out in front of the media more than your manager, and that’€™s the kind of decision-making skills that he has.

If you believe it, and I don’€™t think anybody does, I don’€™t think that gets him off the hook. In some ways it makes it worse. There’€™s a problem somewhere with this guy, either a problem in the past drug use or problem in decision-making, I said it was a fireable offense and I would have not have blamed the Texas Rangers if they did fire him. But I think it speaks to the fact how much they trust and like this guy no matter what kind of a bad decision that he made. Clearly they like the guy, they trust the guy, he is on a short rope anyway. Nolan Ryan came out and said that they should win 92 games, if they don’€™t get off to good start there is no doubt that the seat he is on right now is a lot hotter than it was four days ago.

Could Nolan Ryan change his mind if more comes out?

I would think so. You guys know that we have gone through this with public profile stories in the last four or five years, a lot of times it’€™s not the crime it’€™s the cover up of the crime and how you handle it. I would have to imagine that they sat him down and said, ‘€œThere better not be anything else here that we are going to be surprised about.’€ I’€™m guessing he said that there is not. That would be a job killer if there is.

Where have you been, and where are you going?

I’€™m in Orlando. I’€™ve been in Florida for spring training. I’€™m heading out to Arizona. I can tell you that it’€™s pretty cool being in Florida this year, not just weather wise, but being able to watch Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward I think you are talking about young superstars in the game who may be superstars this year. One is 20, one is 21, and those two guys have been the talk of Florida.

At the end of the season who will have made a bigger impact with their respective teams?

I’€™m going to say Heward. I’€™ll take Heyward as the Rookie of the Year and I’€™ll give you the field in the National League and I’€™ll like my chances. He’€™s 20 years old and I’€™ll be surprised if he doesn’€™t hit at least 20 homeruns. I go back to Pujols in 2001 spring training when he was just too good for the Cardinals to send him back to the minors. And in 1989 with [Ken Griffey Jr.], he was 19 in the Mariners camp and they had no intention of keeping the guy but the more he played they said we have to keep this guy. That’€™s what I see with Jason Heyward. There would be revolt in the clubhouse with Chipper Jones leading if they didn’€™t keep this guy on the Opening Day roster.

Red Sox Friday Notes: A bench with bling

03.19.10 at 12:17 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Payroll disparity comes front and center in the Red Sox exhibition contest against the Pirates.

As of late-January, MLB.com reported that the Pirates were projecting to have a season-opening payroll of $36 million. As such, some major league sources anticipated that the team would come under some scrutiny (much as the Marlins did this winter, when they issued a joint press release with Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association to say that they were committed to spending money on players) to show that they are investing the money that they are receiving through revenue sharing into players, rather than plowing it into debt service.

Pirates CEO Frank Coonelly adamantly disputed that characterization.

“We are, have been and will continue to be transparent with both the commissioner’s office and the players union in respect to how we utilize our resources,” Coonelly told reporters. “I’m confident the Pittsburgh Pirates have acted consistently within the framework of the collective bargaining agreement our plan to build a winning team here.”

That said, the Pirates are all but certain to feature the lowest payroll in the majors this year. The cost of their major league roster can be put in sharp relief when one contrasts it with a quartet of Red Sox reserves who will see playing time today. Read the rest of this entry »

Tough break for Velazquez

03.19.10 at 8:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox infielder Gil Velazquez chipped a bone in his left thumb diving for a ball on Tuesday in an exhibition game against the Astros and is expected to miss six weeks.

Velazquez appeared Friday morning in the Red Sox clubhouse at City of Palms Park with a cast on his left thumb and said he will be evaluated every two weeks.

Jacoby Ellsbury reported that he felt much better and took part in the team’s workout on Friday morning after taking the last two days to recover from flu-like symptoms. Ellsbury, who was still nursing a raspy voice, said he expects to be ready to play on Saturday when the Red Sox host Baltimore at City of Palms.

As the Red Sox headed north on I-75 to play the Pirates in Bradenton on Friday, several other regulars stayed behind to get their work in at City of Palms, including position players Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Ellsbury and Mike Lowell.

Lowell will play in a minor league spring training game at 12:30 at the Red Sox minor league complex down Edison Avenue.

Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard were among the pitchers getting side work in on Friday. Daisuke Matsuzaka was expected to throw a side later Friday, determining whether he will be cleared to pitch in a game on Sunday.

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Report: Positive signs on Westmoreland

03.18.10 at 11:37 pm ET
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The Providence Journal reported that Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland, who underwent a five-hour surgical procedure to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain on Tuesday, “continues to progress well following brain surgery and so far all the signs are positive.”

The report said that the first few days following the procedure will help with a a determination of what impact the condition had on the 19-year-old’s brain stem, which helps to control motor functions and vision, but that it could take weeks or months to determine whether Westmoreland suffered damage that will impact his quality of life.

The report suggested that it is possible that Westmoreland could recover fully and resume his professional baseball career, but that any such determination “will come much later.”

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A look at new Sox minor leaguer Celestino

03.18.10 at 4:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Truth be told, there wasn’t a great deal of information available on Miguel Celestino, the minor league pitcher whom the Red Sox acquired as the player to be named to complete the deal that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall and cash.

The 20-year-old right-hander went 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts (against 23 walks) in 66.1 innings in Rookie Ball in 2009. Sox scout Matt Dorey was able to get a look at the pitcher during the Mariners’ Instructional League.

The Sox scouted Celestino further over the winter in the Dominican, and saw him throw in a simulated game in Mariners camp on Wednesday. The pitcher has shown a fastball at 90-91 mph that he throws at a good, downward angle because of his size (he is listed at 6-foot-5) and has shown some feel for his changeup, while also including a curve in his mix.

Based on the assessments of Dorey and Sox assistant to the GM Allard Baird, the Sox felt like they had a better feel for Celestino than the other players whom they could have selected from the Mariners’ list. And so, the team decided to take the pitcher, in hopes of having some time to begin to work with him in spring training.

“[Dorey] did a good job of digging in [Instructional League]. He had a report on him that was interesting enough that we wanted to include him in list of players,” said Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington. “We decided that he was the guy, and wanted to get him into camp a little bit sooner so we could work with him this spring.

“He’€™s a big, strong kid, good body,” Cherington added. “He has a pretty good angle, pretty good sink, good feel for a changeup. We’€™ll see him tomorrow and get a chance to know him.”

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Bigger Clay shows he can shoulder the load

03.18.10 at 3:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A bigger Clay Buchholz might just mean a more confident Clay Buchholz in 2010.

So far, so good.

Buchholz arrived in camp at 200 pounds, about 14 pounds heavier than he said he ended 2009. And in his latest stint against Minnesota High-A minor leaguers on a windy, chilly Thursday afternoon at the Red Sox player development complex, the right-hander looked very comfortable, retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced in four scoreless innings.

With pitching coach John Farrell, general manager Theo Epstein and Esptein assistants Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen watching from behind home plate, Buchholz threw his whole repertoire in a 46-pitch stint, throwing 32 strikes, allowing just a double to the No. 9 hitter, striking out four.

He felt so strong that he threw another 15 pitches on the side in the bullpen after his work in the game to finish his work on his fifth day to pitch.

“I feel a little bit bigger in the shoulders and a little bit in the back, too,” Buchholz said, adding he’s already lost three pounds off his spring training weigh in. “So, it’s places where I can definitely use the extra weight. And I can afford to lose it if I have to.

“I don’t feel like it’s given me any velocity on my fastball. I feel it’s going to make it better for me throughout the season instead of being frail and looking like I’m going to die.”

He also joked that he gets offers from his pregnant wife to share some of the extra weight with his first child on the way.

And he knows that with Daisuke Matsuzaka being slowed this spring by back and neck ailments, he will likely be assured of starting the season in the rotation.

“Dice, whenever he’s ready to go he’s going to be good,” Buchholz said. “Obviously, he’s going to be ready within the next month or so. So I can’t put that in my mind as far as, ‘I should get the start in the first month up and then I don’t know what’s going to happen.’

“I’m just going to go out and pitch every day or every day they give me the ball and try to do what I have to do to succeed and get better every time I go out. That’s the way I have to look at it.”

Nor is Buchholz looking at this as a chance to replace Matsuzaka as the club’s No. 4 starter behind the big three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

“Dice being set back a little bit shouldn’t affect me a whole lot just because he’s going to be a guy in the rotation when he’s healthy,” Buchholz said.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, MLB, Red Sox,
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