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Staging Stolmy: Right-hander gets ready for unveiling

02.26.11 at 11:15 am ET
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He’s not Casey Kelly. But as these things go, he’s not a bad alternative.

This year, with Stolmy Pimentel getting the ball to open the Red Sox‘ spring training calendar against Boston College, the fanfare is decidedly more muted than it was a year ago, when Casey Kelly took the mound against Northeastern. Kelly’s outing was greeted with breathless anticipation; the hype about the much-ballyhooed 20-year-old was far-reaching. He only threw one perfect inning that day, but each of his 10 pitches was, in its own way, worthy of intense scrutiny. (Guilty as charged.)

But while Pimentel’s reputation as a prospect does not carry the same weight as did Kelly’s a year ago, among Sox coaches and team officials, he has been turning heads this spring. When the Sox signed Pimentel out of the Dominican as an overlooked 16-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and what the team thought/hoped was a projectable body, he was a tall (6-foot-2), lanky kid who looked like he could get blown over by a stiff breeze. While Pimentel guessed that he weighed about 170 pounds when he signed for $25,000 in 2006, team officials believe that he was closer to 150 or so.

Now? Physically, he appears as robust as did Kelly a year ago. He has put in the hard work in the offseason to bulk up to 225 pounds, and he has also added a couple of inches to check in at 6-foot-4. When he has been on the mound for bullpen or live batting practice sessions, he has commanded the attention of members of the Red Sox.

“I don’€™t think any of us dreamed that he was going to grow and fill in and have quite that big a stature. He’€™s quite a figure in a uniform. There’€™s a presence about him because of his size,” said Goose Gregson, the Sox’ Latin American pitching coordinator. “He’€™s got something you can’€™t teach: he’€™s got a presence about him, a game awareness and savvy when he crosses that white line that you can’€™t teach.”

The Sox have long viewed Pimentel as a starter with enough talent that a future in the Red Sox rotation is a legitimate possibility. He shows good command of a low-90s fastball that touched 94-95 mph last year, an offering that Pimentel hopes will continue to play up as he adds more size and strength.

“When you can feel stronger and bigger, you have more power. You can throw harder,” said Pimentel. “Last year was my first time that I hit 95. This year, I feel stronger. I feel like I can throw harder than that. I was working really hard in the offseason to come in shape, come in ready for spring training.”

He has a swing-and-miss changeup that has long been his out pitch, dating to the days when, as a young boy watching his idol from the Dominican, he was inspired by Pedro Martinez to work on it. Now, he is concentrating his efforts on improving his curveball.

At times, he shows good spin on the pitch, resulting in an offering that dives towards the ground. But it remains an inconsistent offering whose improvement Pimentel has prioritized.

“Sometimes I hang it a little bit, but I’€™ve been working to keep it down,” he said. “It’€™s good when you can see what you need to work on. That helps a lot when you can see that by yourself. When I do something wrong, I feel it and I try to get better.”

Pimentel has consistently held his own at every level he’s pitched at, despite being young at each minor league stop he’s made. Last year, he was 9-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 26 starts for Hi-A Salem, solid numbers considering he was the fourth youngest pitcher in the Carolina League to make at least 10 starts. While those are impressive numbers, however, it is worth noting that his ERA and strikeouts per nine innings have slipped in each of his four professional seasons.

Even so, the Sox have seen steady progress in Pimentel’s stuff as he has grown. As was the case with Kelly last year after he added roughly 20 pounds of muscle, the team anticipates that Pimentel’s new-found strength could create some command challenges this year, which he will most likely start in Double-A Portland.

“For the last two years, we’€™ve seen the power increase year over year, a couple miles an hour on the fastball each year. As he continues to gain size and strength, hopefully that will continue to improve. He’€™s always had a pretty good feel for throwing strikes with his fastball,” said Sox farm director Mike Hazen. “With the added size, sometimes it gets a little bit more difficult to sync it up. But he’€™s doing a good job of it.”

The team hopes to see him maintain that fastball command, repeating his delivery and improving both the consistency of arm speed and power on his curveball. If he can do that in 2011, then Pimentel — who was added to the 40-man roster this winter and is in big league camp or the first time — could see his prospect status elevate in the coming year.

He will take the first step in that process on Saturday.

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Morning Red Sox notes: Dustin Pedroia, Dennys Reyes, and Terry Francona

02.26.11 at 10:26 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have made the next step toward Opening Day, moving two miles up the Edison Ave. to City of Palms Park. Saturday morning was the first time this season the team has started its day in the locker room best known for where most Dunkin Donuts commercials are shot.

One the first players to re-introduce himself to the complex Saturday was Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman, who will be using the Boston College game as his first action since Aug. 18, arrived at 6:30 a.m. to get treatment done on his surgically-repaired left foot. The process takes just over an hour and he will be having to do it each and every day.

“I have to do it. That’€™s my job,” Pedroia said. “I’€™m ready. I get here and do my stuff. Every day is something new. Whatever is sore I work on that area. Every day is different.”

Speaking of Pedroia, his presence was also felt while Terry Francona was meeting with the media Saturday morning. It turns out that the ‘Tito’ embroidered on the Sox’ manager’s shoes wasn’t by Francona’s choice. With Francona having just signed a new deal with New Balance — the same company Pedroia is aligned with — the second baseman took the opportunity to tell the Brighton-based folks to put his skipper’s nickname on the first pair of shoes that were delivered.

As for what Francona said during his first update of the day:

- Reliever Dennys Reyes, who just arrived in camp at 2 a.m. Saturday after going through Visa issues, will simply play catch and then go home after traveling all day Friday. The lefty, who told reporters he has a March 26 opt-out, underwent a physical, including test on his shoulder. “I actually think he looks pretty good,” Francona said of the sometimes-portly pitcher.

Even though Reyes has thrown three simulated games to his amateur team in Mexico recently, there is no timetable as to when he will appear in a spring training game. “As soon as he gets ready, and not before, we’ll throw him right in the mix,” Francona said.

- Francona talked about the dynamic of having two lefties in the bullpen, saying it can help, but only if the second lefty is worthy of being identified as a good all-around pitcher.

“I would rather have good pitchers, but if he have two good lefties it can really help you,” Francona noted.

- Adrian Gonzalez progressed a bit Saturday, hitting 25 balls off the tee before taking 25 more via flips. He will get another vaunted “regen” day Sunday.

- Hector Luna was scratched from the Sox’ lineup against Northeastern due to a tight groin. Luna’s two positions will be first and third base.

- Carl Crawford, who went home to Houston to tend to a personal matter, is expected back Sunday, and will be in the lineup Monday. J.D. Drew will also get his first start Monday.

- Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be the nod behind the plate Sunday against the Twins. The plan is to alternate him with Jason Varitek in the starting lineup every other day for the first four games.

- John Lackey, Jon Lester, Alfredo Aceves and Bobby Jenks were all slated to pitch parts of simulated games later in the morning Saturday. Francona said his best guess as to when Jenks might make an appearance in a game is about a week into the spring training schedule.

- Regarding Michael Bowden, who is vying for a spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen, Francona said, “I think he probably looks at himself deep down as a starter, but he would like to pitch in the big leagues so he’ll do whatever. But I think he views himself as a starter.

Who’s on the mound? Red Sox announce pitching schedule

02.25.11 at 8:05 pm ET
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With spring training games set to get underway on Saturday with the Red Sox‘ day-night doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern University, the Sox released their anticipated pitchers for the first five games of the exhibition calendar. Of the 30 pitchers in big league camp (18 on the major league roster and 12 non-roster invitees), 23 are slated to appear in games. The exceptions are: John Lackey, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes (late to camp due to visa issues), Junichi Tazawa (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), Jason Bergmann (working his way back from a shoulder issue at the start of camp) and Felix Doubront (shut down for at least 10 days with an elbow issue).

Here is the schedule of pitchers as outlined in a team press release on Friday: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox announce seven front office promotions

02.25.11 at 7:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox promoted seven members of their front office, including four members of the baseball operations department.

–Craig Shipley, who had served as the Vice President of International Scouting for the past five years, was named Senior Vice President of Player Personnel and International Scouting. During Shipley’s time in charge of the Sox’ International Scouting efforts, the team has expanded its global operations, signing players from the Dominican (just from the 40-man roster, Stolmy Pimentel, Oscar Tejeda and Yamaico Navarro were all signed under Shipley), Cuba (Jose Iglesias), Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Japan (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa), Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and more.

Allard Baird, previously the Assistant to GM Theo Epstein, was named Vice President of Player Personnel and Professional Scouting. Baird, formerly the Royals GM, is involved in most player personnel decisions already. He was the one in charge of the Sox’ efforts to scout Carl Crawford, and his imprint has also been felt on anything from the Sox’ efforts to more aggressively scout and sign players from the independent leagues (such as Daniel Nava) to the teams’ discussions of players going in both directions in potential trade discussions.

Mike Hazen, who has been the Sox’ Director of Player Development since early-2006, was named Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting. Since he joined the Sox five years ago, players such as Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury have graduated from prospect status to regular big league roles.

Brian O’Halloran was promoted from Director of Baseball Operations to Vice President of Baseball Operations. He plays a key role in the organization’s contract negotiations and payroll management, as well as compliance with Major League rules. His imprint has been on a number of creative contracts that the Sox have reached, notably including that of Adrian Beltre before last season.

Here is the full announcement: Read the rest of this entry »

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Nuggetpalooza: Some Baseball Nuggets

02.25.11 at 12:13 pm ET
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Emptying out the old notebook with some odds and ends, just in case there aren’t any more good quotes from Pedroia today:

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* - THE HITTERS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO RETIRE - Over the last four years, players that ended the season with 200+ plate appearances and an OPS under .700 batted over 133,000 times in total.  Here are the pitchers that faced at least 100 such “light hitters” and allowed the lowest OPS over that span:

.290 – Neftali Feliz: .086 average (8-for-93) with 0 HR
.294 – Mariano Rivera: .110 average (15-for-136) with 0 HR
.375 – Carlos Marmol: .095 average (21-for-220) with 0 HR
.386 – Rafael Soriano: .145 average (22-for-152) with 0 HR

Who has been the best Red Sox pitcher at retiring these below average hitters over the last four seasons?

.519 – Jonathan Papelbon: .182 average, 4 HR (185 PA)
.560 – Daisuke Matsuzaka: .196 average, 9 HR (531 PA)
.564 – Clay Buchholz: .216 average, 2 HR (314 PA)
.599 – John Lackey: .228 average, 8 HR (614 PA)
.616 – Josh Beckett: .228 average, 8 HR (583 PA)
.636 – Jon Lester: .236 average, 10 HR (563 PA)

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* – WHO KEEPS POWER HITTERS FROM HITTING WITH POWER? – In 2010, Washington’s Livan Hernandez faced 110 batters that ended the season with 25 or more home runs and never allowed a homer. Here are the best and worst HR/PA rates against 25+ home run hitters last year (min. 100 such batters faced):

.000 – Livan Hernandez, WSN (0-of-110)
.006 – David Price, TB (1-of-163)
.008 – Josh Johnson, FLA (1-of-119)
.010 – Carlos Zambrano, CHC (1-of-104)

Here are the worst rates (same minimums):

.096 – Ian Kennedy, ARZ (11-of-114)
.096 – Kevin Millwood, BAL (13-of-136)
.091 – Josh Beckett, BOS (10-of-110)
.091 – AJ Burnett, NYY (10-of-110)

How about the best such rates over the last four seasons (min. 200 such batters faced)?

.020 – Ubaldo Jimenez (9-of-451)
.020 – Josh Johnson (7-of-349)
.022 – Chad Billingsley (12-of-534)
.024 – Aaron Laffey (5-of-206)
.024 – Tim Wakefield (8-of-328)

And the worst since the start of 2007:

.097 – Armando Gallaraga (23-of-238)
.089 – Adam Eaton (23-of-257)
.084 – David Bush (37-of-442)
.083 – Todd Wellemeyer (29-of-348)

Here’s the current Red Sox staff’s figures from 2007-2010:

.024 – Tim Wakefield (5-of-206)
.026 – Bobby Jenks (2-of-78)
.035 – Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-of-313)
.045 – Jon Lester (19-of-419)
.047 – Hideki Okajima (7-of-148)
.049 – Jonathan Papelbon (8-of-164)
.049 – Daniel Bard (5-of-102)
.057 – Josh Beckett (26-of-457)
.067 – John Lackey (28-of-451)

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* – YOU REALLY WANT TO RUN PAPS OUT OF TOWN?: Ever wonder which pitchers get results in REALLY TIGHT situations? Say, in the 7th inning or later, ahead by one or score tied, with two outs and runners in scoring position?  Here are the pitchers that have performed the best (i.e. lowest OPS allowed) in those spots over the last four seasons (min. 40 such batters faced):

.391 – Rafael Betancourt (6-for-45 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 6 walks)
.418 – Jonathan Papelbon (7-for-55 with 0 HR, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks)
.455 – Ryan Franklin (4-for-44 with 1 HR, 8 strikeouts and 9 walks)
.469 – Kerry Wood (3-for-29 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 10 walks)

Note this: Papelbon’s strikeout percentage (31.8 percent) ranks third, behind Jonathan Broxton (35.1 percent) and Heath Bell (32.1 percent).

And this: Papelbon’s OPS allowed with the game on the line, by year:

2007: .476 (1-for-7)
2008: .481 (3-for-14)
2009: .471 (2-for-18)
2010: .273 (1-for-16)

And the worst performers (same minimums):

1.175 – Octavio Dotel (9-for-32, 3 HR)
0.944 – Matt Capps (16-for-50, 3 HR)
0.875 – Kevin Gregg (13-for-53, 2 HR and 17 walks)
0.870 – Brian Fuentes (10-for-34, 1 HR)

I should give an honorable mention here to Kyle Farnsworth, who has only faced 14 batters with the “game on the line” over the last four seasons but has managed to allow a 1.896 OPS in those spots (7-for-11 with 3 walks and 2 HR). Actually, if there was an award for this, it should probably be NAMED after Farnsworth.

Another shout to new Red Sox’ Dan Wheeler, who has allowed a less-than-stellar .945 OPS to 35 “game on the line” batters since 2007, allowing them to go 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer. Silver lining? He held them to 0-for-2 last season.

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Have a great weekend!

Dustin Pedroia: ‘We’re going to kick BC’s (gluteus maximus)’

02.25.11 at 9:12 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clearly one Red Sox player is ready to start playing again.

“We’re going to kick BC’s (butt),” said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, exuding a healthy dose of fake intensity. (Note to Pedroia: It will be tough to top the 24-0 Sox win over Boston College in 2008.)

All kidding aside, the game is of some importance to Pedroia, who hasn’t seen real action since last Aug. 18.

“My biggest thing is to get out there and just get in the flow of the game and make sure I’€™m healthy and feel good. And just see pitches,” he said. “Just like any normal game the first game I’€™m out there. Just see pitches, get used to everything and that’€™s it. I just can’€™t wait. It’€™s going to be fun.’€

The enthusiasm regarding leaving the team’s minor-league training facility and heading two miles down Edison Ave. for real games at City of Palms Park wasn’t reserved just for Pedroia. The players were in particularly good moods as they ventured into a day which included a short workout and subsequent charity golf tournament.

After Friday, after all, real games begin, starting with the traditional doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern.

The lineups for the two games are as follows …

Against BC: Marco Scutaro SS, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Kevin Youkilis 1B, Darnell McDonald LF, Ryan Kalish CF, Lars Anderson 1B, Josh Reddick RF, Ryan Lavarnway C, and Stolmy Pimentel gets the start on the mound.

In the night-cap vs. the Huskies the batting order will be: Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Jed Lowrie SS, Mike Cameron DH, Daniel Nava LF, Luis Exposito C, Hector Luna 1B, Yamaico Navarro 3B, Omar Linares RF, Larry Sutton C. Getting the start will be Kyle Weiland.

Notable inactive: Carl Crawford, who will make his Red Sox debut Sunday night against the Twins.

Lenny DiNardo confident he is on the right path with the Red Sox

02.24.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The participants in the Red Sox‘ major league camp are long gone. It is now late afternoon, and the bus load of minor-leaguers have been dropped off at the Sox’ minor-league training facility two miles down the road from City of Palms Park.

Mingling among the group is Lenny DiNardo.

The lefty pitcher has not only accepted a minor-league deal with the Red Sox heading into the 2011 season, but he is making his return to the organization without an invitation to major-league camp. Thus, the image of DiNardo doing wind sprints with players 10 years his junior.

It is a road the 31-year-old is willing to take thanks in part to the confidence he feels after struggling through an injury-plagued ’10 season in the Oakland minor-league system. The last time DiNardo was in the major leagues was ’09 with the Royals, and until this month he hadn’t worn a Red Sox cap since ’06.

But now — three seasons removed from his best big-league campaign, in which he went 8-10 with a 4.11 EA in 20 starts with the A’s — DiNardo is confident that he can find a spot with the Red Sox sometime in the near future, perhaps as a lefty reliever. The first step was to prove his health while working out with the minor leaguers. (He had bone spurs removed from his left elbow midway through the ’10 season.) Step two will be potentially pitching in relief in the Sox’ first Grapefruit League game, Sunday night against Minnesota.

After that is when DiNardo hopes some real momentum is gathered, and the days of proving himself among the organization’s young guns are firmly in the rear-view mirror.

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