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Penny’s value climbs

06.11.09 at 9:16 pm ET
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At a time when Brad Penny is on the market, the Red Sox must be thrilled to see what he is doing tonight.

The right-hander’s stuff appears better than it has been at any point in his season with the Red Sox. His fastball – if one is to trust the radar gun readings at Fenway – is popping Jason Varitek‘s mitt from 94-98 mph. He’s also effectively mixing his curve and, more effectively than any other time this year, his change and splitter. He is sustaining the power of his fastball into the sixth inning, beyond the 100-pitch mark, without sacrificing command of the pitch. (He has been mostly on the corners.)

Penny’s numbers this year (5-2, 5.85 ERA, 6 quality starts in 11 outings entering tonight) have been less than eye-popping. But tonight’s four-pitch mix, combined with the fact that he has held the vaunted Yankees lineup scoreless through six innings and a season-high 117 pitches while holding his own in a pitcher’s duel with CC Sabathia, makes a reasonable case that the starter is inching ever closer to his 2006-07 peak form.

Tonight, he has allowed six hits – five singles (mostly of the seeing-eye and infield variety) and a double. As he mows through the lineup of a contending team, other teams must surely be considering the possibility that this is a pitcher capable of being a useful contributor in a pennant race — if not with the Sox, then somewhere.

Penny dropped a full-count splitter on Hideki Matsui to catch the Yankees‘ D.H. looking at a called third strike, the pitcher’s fifth strikeout of the game against just one walk. Presuming that all goes well for John Smoltz in his rehab start on Friday, the Red Sox are open for business.

Read More: Brad Penny,

Red Sox Draft Picks: Rounds 31-50

06.11.09 at 8:34 pm ET
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Round 31: Shaughn Webb, left handed pitcher, Palm Beach CC (FL), 20 years old

Round 32: Michael Clark, left handed pitcher, American Heritage HS (FL), 18 years old

Clark had a very impressive senior season at American Heritage HS in Florida. He finished the year with a 2.36 ERA and opposing hitters hit just .198 against him. In 56 innings, he only allowed 19 earned runs.

Round 33: William Tart, right handed pitcher, Pendleton HS (NC), 18 years old

Nicknamed “Blaze”, Tart made Baseball America’s list of best players left for Day 3.

Round 34: James Patterson, left handed pitcher, Central Arizona College, 20 years old

In 94 innings this year at Central Arizona College, Patterson went 12-2 with a 1.53 ERA and struck out 117 batters. At this point 3 out of the Sox first 4 picks of the day were left handed pitchers.

Round 35: Matthew Milroy, right handed pitcher, Marmion Academy HS (IL), 18 years old

The Midwest baseball season starts late, and typically in cold weather, and so the stuff that a pitcher exhibits in his high school season does not always reflect his potential. As such, in recent years, the Sox have taken high-school pitchers from the Midwest and then followed them for the summer to get a better gauge of their abilities. One example is Kyle Stroup, “Mr. Irrelevant” from the 2008 draft: the Sox took Stroup, an Illinois high schooler, with the last pick of the draft, in the 50th round (1,504th overall). They had him work out at Fenway after the draft, and watched him compete in summer ball where he touched the low-90s. The Sox paid him $150,000 — remember: 50th round, 1,504th pick in the draft — to sign.

Milroy, who struck out 178 in 104 innings over the last two seasons, represents a similar summer follow candidate. He has a committment to play in college for Illinois, but the pitcher told the Suburban Chicago News that the Sox will monitor him this summer to figure out what kind of offer they might make to convince him to turn pro.

Round 36: Michael Yastrzemski, right fielder, St. John’s Prep HS (MA), 18 years old

Yes, Mike is Yaz’s grandson. He was considered one of the top — if not the top — high-school bats from New England but fell in the draft because he was considered to have an all-but ironclad commitment to Vanderbilt. Still, a year ago, the Sox appealed to Ryan Westmoreland’s local sensibilities (and about $2 million) to get the Rhode Island native to walk away from a scholarship offer to Vandy.

However, it appears that the Sox will be unlikely to convince Yastrzemski to back away from Vanderbilt. The young outfielder told the Eagle Tribune that he has compelling reasons to go to college:

Before his dad died he told his only son to promise him one thing.

“He wanted me to go to college and get an education,” said Yastrzemski. “He knew I wanted to play baseball, but you never know. It’s always nice to have the education to fall back on.”

Round 37: Matthew Koch, right handed pitcher, Washington HS (IA), 18 years old

Koch is a 6’3” shortstop and pitcher who was ranked as the top player in Iowa by Baseball America. He has a scholarship commitment to Louisville.

Round 38: Ezekiel Devoss, center fielder, Astronaut HS (FL), 18 years old

Zeke Devoss from Astronaut High School: great name for player and high school alike, though it does come as some disappointment that the school decided to lame up the space shuttle as a mascot (they are “The War Eagles”).

Devoss has a commitment to play college ball at Miami. His father informed Florida Today that the Red Sox will make him a summer follow, and that Devoss will consider an offer from the Sox.

Round 39: Gavin McCourt, outfielder, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA), 18 years old

Gavin is the son of Frank McCourt, the current owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This may make one wonder why the Dodgers did not take him but maybe if they hadn’t by the 39th round, they weren’t going to.

McCourt is slated to attend Stanford in the fall, where he hopes to join the baseball team as a walk-on, according to the Los Angeles Times. As for the possibility of signing with the Red Sox, McCourt offered an interesting take on how negotiations might proceed:

“I don’t think Scott Boras would fit well into the family dynamics,” Gavin McCourt told the Times. “I think I’ll let my dad represent me.”

Round 40: James Dykstra, right handed pitcher, Rancho Bernardo HS (CA), 18 years old

Although he isn’t related to Lenny, he does have a pretty neat website where you can learn a lot more about him. He is committed to play at Yavapai College (Curt Schilling’s alma mater!), and is the brother of 2008 first-rounder Allan Dykstra — whom the Sox took in the 34th round of the 2005 draft but failed to sign.

Round 41: Kyle Rutter, right handed pitcher, NC State University, 22 years old

Round 42: Gera Sanchez, right handed pitcher, New Mexico JC, 20 years old

Originally hailing from New Mexico, Sanchez had good success at the junior college level. There’s a good writeup about him in this blog entry. Sanchez told the Leader-Telegram in Eau Claire, Wisc. (where he is pitching in a summer wood-bat league) that he would likely return to New Mexico Junior College.

Round 43: Luke Maile, catcher, Covington Catholic HS (KY), 18 years old

This is what Baseball America had to say about Maile in August of last year. “Maile has the type of arm strength from behind the plate that causes heads to whip around. His POP times, which currently sit in the 2.00 range, can be decreased with better footwork and a quicker release. Maile needs to improve with the bat, but he does flash a decent swing.”

Maile fell due to signability concerns. He has a commitment to play for Kentucky, but according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Sox will follow him this summer, and the young catcher is willing to sign regardless of the round he was drafted in so long as he receives the right bonus.

Round 44: Derrick Thomas, right fielder, Roswell HS (GA), 17 years old

Thomas, a tough, gritty player with speed, power and size, is committed to play for Memphis University next fall. Here’s the press release from Memphis.

Round 45: Kyle Arnsberg, catcher, Arlington Lamar HS (TX), 18 years old

Kyle is the son of Brad Arnsberg, pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. In an article in the Globe and Mail, his father states that he believes his kid will wind up as a pitcher but he suffered a shoulder injury playing football earlier in year so he has played primarily at first base this year. He also said that his son signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona State University next year. You can read the full article here.

Round 46: John Pivach, right handed pitcher, U New Orleans, 21 years old

Pivach, a sophomore, was 0-1 with a 7.16 ERA for UNO this year, but his fastball is a 90+ mph offering. He is currently pitching for the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers.

Round 47: Jordan Sallis, second base, U Arkansas Ft Smith, 20 years old

Sallis, a speedy 5-foot-8 infielder, played in 46 of the Lions’ 58 games this past spring and batted .280 with 10 doubles, one home run and 23 RBIs. Originally from Muskogee, Okla., Sallis has been a two-year starter for Arkansas. According to the Muskegee Phoenix, Sallis is deciding between signing with the Sox and transferring to either Southeastern, Arkansas State or Southern University.

Round 48: Brian Heere, right field, U Kansas, 21 years old

After only one season with Kansas, Heere seems to be making a big impact. He was the number three hitter in the lineup this season and helped lead the team to the NCAA tournament. An article about what he brings to the team from the Kansas City Star can be found here.

Round 49: Chris Constantino, third base, Bishop Hendricken School (RI), 17 years old

Another player from the New England area (more specifically, Rocco Baldelli’s high school), Constantino has a sweet swing. Check it out in this video. Constantino told the Providence Journal that the Sox planned to treat him as a summer follow.

Round 50: Andrew Hedman, first base, Pomona-Pitzer College (CA), 22 years old

Hedman hit 24 homers as a senior for Pomona-Pitzer on his way to being named Division III Player of the Year (and getting a plug in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd). His nerve-wracking wait through 50 rounds is chronicled here.

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

Read More: mike yastrzemski, mlb draft,

Ortiz goes deep – against Sabathia

06.11.09 at 8:02 pm ET
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David Ortiz‘ fourth homer of the year was his most impressive. The Red Sox slugger jumped on a 94 mph fastball from Yankees starter Carsten Charles Sabathia, and sent a rocket over the Green Monster.

It is rare enough to see Ortiz going deep this year (though it is worth noting that the occurrence is becoming increasingly frequent, as Ortiz now has three homers this month). But to see him do it against CC Sabathia qualifies as the sort of event that should lead to bold proclamations.

Here’s one: Ortiz is back.

Sabathia had gone 26 straight starts, from last July 2 to this May 24, WITHOUT PERMITTING A SINGLE EXTRA-BASE HIT TO LEFT-HANDERS. Since then, he has allowed a double to Raul Ibanez and a homer by Grady Sizemore. From last July 2 through yesterday, the left-hander was holding portsiders to a .186 average (16th lowest in the majors, min. 100 plate appearances) and .226 slugging mark (4th lowest).

So the homer by Ortiz qualifies as a major turn of events. So does the fact that Ortiz is now hitting .296 with a 1.033 OPS and a team-leading three homers in June.

Just last night, hitting coach Dave Magadan suggested that Ortiz appeared primed for a breakout:

‘€œHe’€™s looking like he’€™s got some confidence. He’€™s consistently hitting the ball hard. His outs tonight were loud outs,’€ hitting coach Dave Magadan said after last night’€™s 6-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. ‘€œHe’€™s getting his pitch and he’€™s exploding on it. He took (two walks).

‘€œHe’€™s just looking very hitter-ish up there,’€ said Magadan. ‘€œHe’€™s got a little bit of a swagger going. Hopefully sooner than later he’€™s going to start becoming his old self.’€

It now appears that time might have come.

Red Sox lead 1-0 after two innings.

(Footnote: not to be forgotten – J.D. Drew also stroked a liner off the base of the Green Monster in left-center for a double, so the Sox have become the first team to have left-handers record multiple extra-base hits against Sabathia since last May 31.)

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, David Ortiz,

Penny Drills A-Rod

06.11.09 at 7:27 pm ET
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If this is Brad Penny’s last start as a member of the Red Sox, chances are that his teammates will remember him fondly.

With two outs and a runner on third, Brad Penny fired a 96 mph fastball inside to Alex Rodriguez for a ball. Penny followed that with a 97 mph fastball for a called strike and then, with his third pitch, he drilled Rodriguez with another 97 mph fastball in the middle of the lower back.

The clearly intentional drilling was likely in response to the fact that the Yankees have twice drilled Jason Bay with pitches – first when Joba Chamberlain fired a fastball into Bay’s back in early May in New York, and again on Tuesday when Jose Veras pounded Bay (hitting .480 against the Yankees this year) with another mid-90s heater.

Both benches were warned.

There is an irony to any discipline that might be meted out by Major League Baseball: if Penny is suspended for intentionally drilling Rodriguez, the suspension could either a) be served with another team, if the pitcher does get traded to make room in the rotation for John Smoltz; or b) could buy some time with a quick-fix clearing of the log-jam in the rotation by forcing Penny to miss a turn.

Anyhoo, Penny’s featured his best fastball velocity of the season in the first inning, firing six fastballs at 97 mph, and sitting in the 95-97 mph range. Still, the Yankees are making him work: Penny threw 25 pitches in the first, and the Yankees swung and missed at none.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Brad Penny, jason bay, joba chamberlain

Lowell: Philly fans can be rude

06.11.09 at 5:12 pm ET
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Mike Lowell nearly signed with the Philadelphia Phillies following his 2007 MVP performance in the World Series.

On Thursday, on the eve of a return trip to the city with the Red Sox, he sounded like he was glad he stayed in Boston.

“They’re kind of rude there,” Lowell said of the Philadelphia fan base. “In New York you hear, ‘You (stink),’ a lot, which I think you can deal with. They’re a little more personal in Philadelphia. But I think that’s the nature of their fans and how they’ve been characterized through the years. They’re tough on their own players so I think it’s only normal to feel like if you’re a visiting guy it’s not really going to be that easy.”

The Red Sox resume the interleague portion of their schedule on Friday at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly when they open a three-game weekend series.

Read More: mike lowell, Philadelphia Phillies, Philly fans,

Smoltz pursues perfection

06.11.09 at 5:00 pm ET
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In a few minutes, John Smoltz will commence his fifth and likely last rehab outing in the first game of a double-header for Triple-A Pawtucket in Syracuse. His rehab assignment, which featured two outings for Single-A Greenville, one with Double-A Portland and, most recently, one last Friday with the Pawsox, has been just short of flawless to date: in four starts, he has a 1.56 ERA, has held opponents to a .148 average and has struck out 13 and walked just two in his 17.1 innings of work.

Yet Smoltz, while pleased, remains unsatisfied. On Sunday, he gave himself a Grade B for his most recent outing, and said that he is eager to take the necessary steps to improve on that mark.

That being the case, it seems fair to wonder what the difference is between an A and a B. (Worth noting: Smoltz is close friends with Tiger Woods, the man who popularized the term “A-Game.”) Smoltz offered the following clarification on Tuesday, following Josh Beckett’s one-hit, six-inning mastery:

“What Josh did (on Tuesday) was an A: key pitches when you have to, quality of the pitch needed to dominate a lineup like the Yankees,” Smoltz said. “You can still be very effective with B and C stuff, but your chances to dominate, to get to that level, you need the stuff to make your pitches. I have room for improvement on that. That’€™s got to come with time. It’€™s been a long time since I’€™ve been up on the mound. With that patience will hopefully come the stuff that I’€™m used to.

“The (split-finger fastball) was an A the other day. Fastball was close to an A. Slider was a C. Changeup was probably a B. It’€™s just cumulative ‘€“ what I know I can do. It might never get to an A-plus, but that’€™s the goal.”

Of course, the Sox are convinced that Smoltz – an extremely intelligent pitcher thanks in part to his professorial association with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in Atlanta – can win without his best stuff. Nonetheless, the team and the pitcher will both be eager to see whether he takes another step forward with the quality of his pitches on Thursday.

Read More: john smoltz,

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 6/11 – Can Sabathia Win 300?

06.11.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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Finally, in the third series of the year between the Red Sox and Yankees, CC Sabathia will make his debut in ‘€œThe Rivalry.’€ He’€™s had his fair share of big games against the Sox before ‘€“ most notably, when he lost a pair of games to Boston in the 2007 ALCS. But the scrutiny that will attend him here, now, will be immense, particularly after fellow Yankees free-agent signee A.J. Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang both got lit up in the first two games of this series, leaving after just 2.2 innings each.

The Yankees need Sabathia to step up, need him to absorb innings, and, one would likely say, need him to win. Of course, winning is a peculiar talent exhibited by the mountain of a moundsman.

Sabathia (5-3, 3.56 ERA) is still just 28 years old (he turns 29 on July 21). He has 122 wins in his career. And he is now with an organization that gives him an excellent likelihood of claiming lots of wins on an annual basis, so long as he remains healthy.

His 122 wins (and counting) through his age 28 season put him on a short list. He has the eighth highest wins total for a player of that age in the last 40 years. And so, amidst the talk that Randy Johnson might be the last 300-game winner, it is worth taking a moment to consider whether Sabathia might make a run at the milestone.

Certainly, he is close to or ahead of most of the recent members of the 300 wins club through age 28. Johnson had just 49 wins at that age. Roger Clemens had 134, Greg Maddux 131 ‘€“ marks that Sabathia will likely near by the end of the year if he remains healthy. Tom Glavine had just 108 wins by Sabathia’€™s age.

So, what does Sabathia think of the milestone?

‘€œIt would be awesome to do. It would definitely be a blessing to play that long and pitch that good,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œThree-hundred wins is unbelievable, though. I’€™d much rather focus on trying to win championships and trying to win some rings. If that comes, it comes. But it’€™s so far down the road that it’€™s something you can’€™t let yourself think about.’€

That said, Sabathia is signed to a seven-year contract right now. And he has no intention of walking away from the game when he concludes it at the age of 35. The left-hander, who won the Cy Young award in 2007, would embrace the possibility of pitching into his 40s.

‘€œYou play this game as long as you want. It’€™s a privilege,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œIf I’€™m healthy enough, I’€™ll play until my arm falls off.’€

Here is how Sabathia has fared against the team against whom he will target career win No. 123 tonight.

RED SOX VS. SABATHIA

Rocco Baldelli (19 career at-bats against Sabathia): .211 average/ .286 OBP/ .316 slugging, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (18): .278/ .286/ .316, homer, walk
Julio Lugo (18): .222/ .300/ .444, homer, 2 walks
Mark Kotsay (14): .286/ .333/ .357, walk
Jason Varitek (10): .100/ .250/ .400, homer, walk
Mike Lowell (7): 2-for-7
Kevin Youkilis (7): 3-for-7
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
Nick Green (3): 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3
Dustin Pedroia (3): 0-for-3

YANKEES VS. BRAD PENNY

Sabathia will oppose Boston’€™s Brad Penny, whose every start seems like an audition for scouts of other clubs. He is clearly a moveable piece for the Sox, given the imminence of John Smoltz‘€™ return and the depth provided in the minors by Clay Buchholz and Mike Bowden. Moreover, his stuff appears to be getting better as the season progresses. How that will translate into his first outing as a member of the Sox against the Yankees tonight remains to be seen. Here’€™s his history against the current New Yorkers:

Xavier Nady (10 career at-bats against Penny): .400 average/ .455 OBP/ .700 slugging, walk
Mark Texeira (6): 0-for-6, 3 strikeouts
Jose Molina (5): .1-for-5, homer
Angel Berroa (4): 1-for-4
Derek Jeter (3): 1-for-3
Alex Rodriguez (2): 0-for-2, walk
Johnny Damon (2): 0-for-2, walk
Jorge Posada (1 PA): walk

D.J. Bean contributed to this post.

Read More: Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia,

Sox and Yanks vs. “aces”: Quantity over quality?

06.11.09 at 2:17 pm ET
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Despite being 0-7 against the Red Sox thus far, Joe Girardi should have the utmost confidence in tonight’s matchup: his ace, CC Sabathia, against a has-been ace in Brad Penny. Sabathia currently stands at 5-3 with a 3.56 earned run average while Penny is 5-2 with an ERA of 5.85. Looking a bit deeper into the numbers, maybe the Sox shouldn’t be too worried.

In light of the Red Sox not being scheduled to face Cole Hamels in Philadelphia this weekend, I took a deeper look into exactly how many “number one” starters the Red Sox have faced over the course of the season. I use quotes because, as is evident by the following lists, not every “number one” starter is an ideal “ace.”

Obviously, what truly makes a pitcher an ace is an age-old argument. For the sake of this entry, here’s what I’m going on:

An ace should:

1. Be the team’s Opening Day starter.
2. Lead his team in wins.
3. Be a legitimate Cy Young candidate in any given year in recent memory. Has-beens don’t count.
4. Have an ERA under 4 (A pretty lenient benchmark).

Now, the tertiary factor can be more opinion-oriented than the other three, but luckily neither team has really faced any fringe-guys and I wasn’t very generous with the has-beens. Sorry Dontrelle, a pitcher with your name may have been the Cy Young runner-up in ’05, but we’re not letting you anywhere near this list.

If a pitcher meets three of the four criteria, they are, in one man’s opinion, the team’s “ace” this season (young starters have a bit of an advantage. If either team had faced Zack Greinke, he would be considered an ace because of the near certainty that he will receive Cy Young votes this season if he stays healthy):

Here is the list of “number one” starters that each team has faced.

[Format= Pitcher (multiple times faced)- team's result vs. pitcher. Pitcher's current stats (sub-4.00 ERA in bold), criteria met.]

Number 1 starters faced by Red Sox:

James Shields (ACE, 2)

2-0

5-5, 3.36 ERA

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Jeremy Guthrie

W

4-6, 5.52

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Jered Weaver (ACE, 2)

1-1

6-2, 2.31

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Kevin Slowey

L

8-2, 4.21

Leads team in wins

Kevin Millwood (ACE)

L

5-4, 2.96

Received Cy Young votes in ’05, Tied for team lead in wins

Johan Santana (ACE)

L

8-3, 2.39

Received Cy Young votes every year since ’03 (2x winner), Opening Day starter, Leads team in wins

Season record vs. no. 1 starters*: 4-4
*Scott Baker is excluded because he only meets the criteria of being Opening Day starter

Season record vs. aces: 3-3

Number 1 starters faced by Yankees:

Gil Meche

L

3-5, 3.70

Opening Day starter, Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.55 ERA) is team’s ace.

Cliff Lee (2)

1-1

3-6, 3.17

2008 AL Cy Young, Carl Pavano (6-5) leads team in wins

Justin Verlander (ACE)

L

7-2, 3.02

Received Cy Young votes in ’06 and ’07, Leads team in wins

Jered Weaver (ACE)

W

6-2, 2.31

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Josh Beckett (ACE, 2)

0-2

7-2, 3.77

2007 AL Cy Young runner-up, Opening Day starter, Tim Wakefield (8-3) leads team in wins

Jeremy Guthrie (2)

2-0

4-6, 5.52

Tied for team lead in wins

Roy Halladay (ACE)

L

10-1, 2.52

Finished top three in AL Cy Young voting four of last 6 seasons (2003 winner), Opening Day starter, Leads team in wins

Kevin Slowey

W/10

8-2, 4.21

Leads team in wins

Cole Hamels

L/11

4-2, 4.62

Received Cy Young votes in ‘€™07, Tied for team lead in wins

Kevin Millwood (ACE)

L

5-4, 2.96

Received Cy Young votes in ’05, Tied for team lead in wins

Season record vs. no. 1 starters: 5-8

Season record vs. aces: 1-5

All in all, the Yankees have faced more number one starters (ten) than the Sox (six), and while each team has faced four aces apiece, the numbers are on Boston’s side. Heading into tonight’s game, the Red Sox are 4-2 against Sabathia and famously beat him up twice in the 2007 ALCS. All eyes will be on the lefty tonight to see if Sabathia can be the ace he’s being paid to be.

Read More: Aces, Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia,

Magadan: Ortiz Looking ‘Hitter-ish’

06.11.09 at 1:11 pm ET
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The moment was almost uncomfortable, not for what happened, but for what followed.

Mike Lowell had just launched a homer to lead off the third inning. But the ovation for Lowell was not as enthusiastic or sustained as the one when David Ortiz followed by jumping on a 93 mph fastball from Chien-Ming Wang, and hammering it to the Triangle in centerfield at Fenway Park. The ball died short of the fence, traveling about 400 to 410 feet for a loud out. Yet the Red Sox fans, in a show of support for the Sox’ D.H., offered a rousing ovation for the simple act of a hard-hit ball.

The fact that there would be such a response to a well-struck ball underscores how deep Ortiz’ struggles have been to start this year. Nonetheless, the indications are now increasingly frequent that Ortiz is moving beyond his season-opening futility.

Through the first 10 days of June, Ortiz is hitting .269 with an .883 OPS and two homers. He’s also had several ringing outs. The difference — to Ortiz, and to those in the Red Sox dugout — is obvious.

“He’€™s looking like he’€™s got some confidence. He’€™s consistently hitting the ball hard. His outs tonight were loud outs,” hitting coach Dave Magadan said after last night’s 6-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. “He’€™s getting his pitch and he’€™s exploding on it. He took (two walks).

“He’€™s just looking very hitter-ish up there,” said Magadan. “He’€™s got a little bit of a swagger going. Hopefully sooner than later he’€™s going to start becoming his old self.”

Perhaps the most pronounced difference for Ortiz is that, when he misses, it seems that he’s missing by millimeters rather than feet. In recent days, his expressions of frustration have most typically occurred when he’s just missed (fouling off or hitting high pop-ups) a pitch that he was anticipating and whose arrival he had timed well. His balance on those swings has remained intact. That is a stark contrast to the uncertainty that he seemed to be offering in the batter’s box just a couple weeks ago, when he would be unable to pull the trigger on hittable pitches, or when he’d seem to misread badly what was being thrown to the plate.

“When you’€™re not  swinging the bat the way you want to swing it, you become a little unsure of the strike zone,” said Magadan. “What he’€™s looked like over the last week, he’€™s aggressive in his strike zone and he’€™s confident that he’€™s going to do some damage.”

Read More: Dave Magadan, David Ortiz,

Red Sox draft picks: Rounds 21-30

06.11.09 at 12:48 pm ET
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The Sox continued to pound pitching in their next 10 picks. Here’s the break down for rounds 21-30:

4 college pitchers

4 high school position players

2 high school pitchers

This stretch of the draft also featured the Sox’ first New England picks of the draft. The breakdown:

Round 21: Randall Fant, left-handed pitcher, Texas HS (TX), 18 years old

Another tall pitcher – the seventh straight pick by the Sox of a pitcher who is at least 6-foot-3. Fant has a commitment to go to school in Arkansas.

Round 22: Jordan Flasher, right-handed pitcher, George Mason University, 21 years old

Flasher is a year removed from Tommy John surgery. According to insidenova.com, he showed diminished velocity in his return to the hill this year. Even so, according to the story, the Sox were aggressive in their pursuit of him, and Flasher — the all-time saves leader for George Mason — suggested that he and the Sox have agreed to the basics of an agreement.

Round 23: Christopher Court, right-handed pitcher, Stephen F. Austin State University, 22 years old

Court is relatively new to pitching, having only been converted from catching after leaving high school. He pitched in relief for the Lumberjacks, holding left-handed hitters to a miniscule .133 average in his 28 appearances. (Profile here.)

Round 24: Daniel Kemp, shortstop, Daniel Kemp, Tantasqua Regional HS (MA), 17 years old

Kemp hit .472 with six homers and 14 steals. According to the Worcester Telegram, he had a particularly impressive workout in front of Sox G.M. Theo Epstein and the rest of the Sox brass at Fenway Park last week.

Round 25: Austin House, right-handed pitcher, La Cueva HS (NM), 18 years old

House’s La Cueva High School team was eliminated from their state tournament by the Carlsbad Cavemen.

Round 26: Miles Head, third baseman, Whitewater HS (GA), 18 years old

Head was a power-hitting prep player, slamming 14 homers this year in his Georgia high school league. Head also played some catcher in high school. He was a finalist in the Home Run Derby of the Perfect Game Showcase. He has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Georgia.

Round 27: Reed Gragnani, shortstop, Mills E Godwin HS (VA), 18 years old

Gragnani has a commitment to play at the University of Virginia. He fell due to signabililty concerns, and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that it would take a “pretty significant” bonus to convince him not to go to college. Gragnani will likely be a summer-follow, but he told the Times-Dispatch after getting selected that he believed the Red Sox might be willing to meet his asking price.

The Yankees and the Red Sox were the only ones who could match the figure I wanted,” Bragnani told the paper. “They know what it’s going to take to sign me. There’s a chance I could get what I want. [Boston] is such a big-market team. We’ll see.”

Round 28: Eric Curtis, right-handed pitcher, Miami Dade CC South, 19 years old

Curtis, who also caught in college, was a transfer to Miami Dade from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Round 29: Cody Stubbs, first baseman, Tuscola HS (NC), 18 years old

The power-hitting Stubbs has a commitment to play college ball at Tennessee, and told the Asheville Citizen-Times that he was up in the air about whether he might start his pro career.

Round 30: Jeremiah Bayer, right-handed pitcher, Trinity College, 23 years old

The Massachusetts native and former walk-on at the University of Vermont counts Rudy as his favorite film and professes a great enthusiasm for eating chicken parm. (Profile here.) He was also named the Division III pitcher of the year after going 12-1 with a 0.85 ERA.

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