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Beckett strikes out nine in five innings

03.24.10 at 2:48 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Josh Beckett turned in a solid outing against the Pirates Wednesday afternoon, allowing just one run on three hits over five innings. Beckett struck out nine and walked two while throwing 85 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. Beckett, who left the game with the Red Sox leading 6-1, was replaced by reliever Joe Nelson.

Embree uses veteran wiles to baffle minor leaguers

03.24.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Back in Fort Myers reliever Alan Embree befuddled the Baltimore minor leaguers at the Red Sox minor league training facility, turning in an 1-2-3 inning of work. Embree needed just 12 pitches, 11 of which were strikes, to get a strikeout, groundout, and pop-up.

Embree would appear to be slated to pitch in a major league spring training game for the first time this season when the Sox take on the Orioles Saturday in Sarasota.

In other news, Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer off of Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm in the first inning of the the Sox’ showdown at McKechnie Field. First baseman Mike Lowell also made a nice pick of a low throw from third baseman Jorge Jimenez in the first.

Why Joe Nelson is ‘LOST’ and some other Red Sox stuff

03.24.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — By now you’ve heard that Dustin Pedroia’s wrist is OK, he will take batting practice Thursday, and plans to play Friday against the Blue Jays at City of Palms Park. You also know that he was scheduled to hang back today, in part so that he could film a Dunkin Donuts commercial.

Here are some other news, notes and nonsensical ramblings while we await what figures to be Josh Beckett’s 85-90-pitch outing against the gritty, gutty Pirates (will send out old friend Brendan Donnelly as their third pitcher):

– Before the real newsy stuff, an explanation as to the blog’s title: On Joe Nelson’s glove, running down the outside where the pointer finger is placed, are the letters “LOST.” The explanation? While the reliever is a fan of the show (even though he fell asleep during the most recent episode) the word was placed there almost by accident. He had asked the glove manufacturer to put the first letters of each of his kids and his wife, which typically he wrote down as “TSOL.” Oh, and by the way, Nelson, who pitches second for the Sox Wednesday, feels his well-documented changeup is feeling a lot better than earlier in camp.

Mike Lowell will be playing first base again, Wednesday. He comes in having played five innings at both first and third, respectively. Red Sox manager Terry Francona praised the infielder’s actions at his new position, saying, “I think he feels pretty comfortable.” Here is some more Marlins/Lowell trade rumor linkage (courtesy MLB Trade Rumors).

– Francona noted that he would rather view Clay Buchholz through the prism of his starts last season rather than the pitcher’s rough outing Tuesday night.

– The Sox manager said that there was no timetable for the return of Jed Lowrie, who continues to recover from mono.

– Francona explained that Manny Delcarmen’s arm is sound, but he is still trying to work some kinks out regarding his delivery.

– Pitching for the Red Sox against the Pirates will be Beckett, Nelson, Brian Shouse, and Fernando Cabrera. The lineup will be as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury LF, Mke Cameron CF, Victor Martinez C, Lowell 1B, Jeremy Hermida DH, Bill Hall SS, Tug Hulett 2B, Josh Reddick RF, Jorge Jimenez 3B.

Francona: Pedroia’s wrist fine

03.24.10 at 11:24 am ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. ‘€” Red Sox manager Terry Francona, speaking before the Red Sox’ spring training game against the Pirates on Wednesday, said that X-rays on Dustin Pedroia’s wrist were negative and that the second baseman is expected to take batting practice Thursday and play in a game on Friday.

Pedroia stayed behind in Fort Myers on Wednesday as he previously had been scheduled to film a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial.

Pedroia sprained the wrist diving to corral a grounder in the first inning of Tuesday night’s game vs. the Twins. He left the game an inning later.

What Happened With the Red Sox: Tuesday

03.24.10 at 8:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — At least for a night, the beast was back.

One should never overreact to spring training games. March line scores are often the stuff of divine comedy for pitchers for any number of reasons: pitchers are simply working on emphasizing different pitches; the decreased adrenaline of a game that represents a punch-in, punch-out scenario leads to less impressive performances; zephyrs gusting towards fences can transform any ball hit in the air into a tape-measure shot. And so on.

Even so, on Tuesday night, Clay Buchholz encountered a problem that he had managed to confront and overcome last season. He started pitching as if panicking when runners were on base, bouncing a full complement of pitches — even fastballs — in front of home plate.

It may have been no more than an isolated incident. Buchholz insisted after the game that he would work past pitching in a state of distraction with runners aboard.

Even so, it is worth noting how significant an issue it is, based on the following:

2008

BASES EMPTY: .259/.326/.394/.720
RUNNERS ON: .348/.441/.546/.987
MAN ON FIRST: .403/.486/.790/1.276

2009

BASES EMPTY: .254/.321/.418/.738
RUNNERS ON: .259/.331/.385/.716
MAN ON FIRST: .238/.324/.302/.626

Buchholz was roughly the same pitcher in 2008 and 2009 with the bases empty. The difference was that he figured out how to retire opposing hitters with men on base last season, resulting in a season of immense promise rather than disappointment.

For more, click here.

— Buchholz may not have been the only one panicking last night. Some heart rates went up in New England when Dustin Pedroia was removed from the Twins game prior to the bottom of the second inning. But the injury appears not to be severe, pending an exam on Wednesday morning, with Pedroia getting diagnosed with a mild left wrist sprain incurred on a diving stop of a grounder. For more, click here.

— Who knew? When Daniel Nava went deep against John Lackey in a minor league camp game on Monday, it represented an act of unexpected revenge by one of the most improbable prospects in the Sox’ minor league system.

“We have a history,” Nava said of Lackey.

Find out more by clicking here.

— Speaking of improbable prospects, Jorge Jimenez is back in Red Sox camp after getting returned by the Marlins. He had been moved to Florida as a Rule 5 draftee, but the Marlins decided that they couldn’t keep him on the big league roster for a full season. Still, the 25-year-old (a 15th-round pick in 2006) opened some eyes with his play, and he’s now in big league camp with Boston. For Jimenez’ thoughts on his time with Florida and his return to the Sox, click here.

— The Marlins gave lots of love to Jimenez’ defense at third base. Everyone else is giving lots of love to the Sox’ major league defense in 2010. According to the projections of John Dewan, one of the gurus of defensive statistical analysis, the Sox will enjoy an 87-run improvement in their defense in the coming year.

— For a time, it appeared that Casey Kotchman would be a contributor to that defensive upgrade. Instead, a trade with the Mariners sent his supple leather to Seattle. That’s well and good, considering that Dewan projected the Mariners to be the best defensive club in the majors. At the same time, the news that Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is considering Kotchman for the third spot in the batting order is somewhat startling. Certainly, when the Sox envisioned a roster that would include the first baseman, it was not with an idea of using him in the middle of the order in mind.

— One final thought on defense: had Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Rays after being drafted by them in 2002, he and Carl Crawford would have made for one of the fastest outfield tandems in big league history. Ellsbury considers that possibility here.

— The Sox relievers were in focus during the team’s exhibition game. While most were locked in on the fact that Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity remains in the low-90s, it was also worth noting that Jonathan Papelbon threw some dirty splitters. For more, click here.

— Finally, if there is such a thing as a Boof Watch, and there is such a class of people who have committed themselves to such a dark art, then they can get their requisite fix here. Boof believes he’ll be healthy enough to resume baseball activities in the near future, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. Also in the same link is a suggestion that Jed Lowrie is on a very different pace of progress in his recovery from mononucleosis, and that four players — most notably Michael Bowden — were shipped to the minors.

Post-Game Notes: Twins 7, Red Sox 2

03.24.10 at 12:41 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a bad day of baseball for the Red Sox, but it could have been a lot worse.

The Red Sox lost to the Twins, 7-2, at Hammond Stadium, and have now lost nine of their last 10 Grapefruit League contests. The ugliness transpired early, when Clay Buchholz allowed six runs (five earned) in 1.2 innings. Buchholz noted afterwards that he had become uncomfortable on the mound once the Twins put runners on the bases, an old habit that was particularly prevalent for the pitcher during his struggles in 2008.

The Sox are hopeful that an opportunity to review the outing with pitching coach John Farrell will allow the pitcher to move forward and get on track in his final spring tuneups for the regular season.

While Buchholz’ performance was unsightly, the health of Dustin Pedroia was an even greater concern to the club after the second baseman left the game prior to the bottom of the second inning due to a mild left wrist sprain. But the threat level quickly subsided after Pedroia was examined briefly by a Twins doctor. Though Pedroia will get a precautionary X-ray on Wednesday, the problem was deemed relatively minor.

— The vigil related to Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity continued. The right-hander retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning, two on groundballs and one on a flyout. Even so, his velocity remained in the low-90s (hitting 92 mph on the Hammond Stadium scoreboard velocity readings).

“He got them out, which is good,” said Francona. “He’€™s still fighting to find that balance point where he feels like he can get his legs and get his body all at the same time over a balance point. He’€™s flying open. He did get them out but I don’€™t think you saw what you’€™re going to see.”

Before the game, Francona said that health is not a concern for Delcarmen, and that he shows plenty of arm strength in his long toss. That, in turn, has the club convinced that his velocity readings (down slightly from the 94-96 mph in which he typically operates) are the byproduct of a search for his mechanics, rather than anything health related.

Jonathan Papelbon turned in a scoreless inning as well. Though he allowed a double to Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer and walked a batter, Papelbon also punched out a pair of hitters in his inning of work, in the process throwing some swing-and-miss splitters.

— Buchholz’ short outing did give the Sox their first opportunity of the spring to give some of their relievers extended work. Ramon Ramirez (1.1 innings), Hideki Okajima (1.2 innings) and Daniel Bard (1.1 innings) all got a chance to pitch in multiple innings.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, manny delcarmen

Pedroia suffers mild wrist sprain

03.23.10 at 9:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left his team’s contest against the Twins prior to the start of the bottom of the second inning due to a mild left wrist sprain. Pedroia appeared to suffer the injury against the first Twins batter of the game, when he dove to his left to corral a Denard Span grounder. After his awkward landing, he jumped up but sailed his throw to first, getting charged with the error.

Teammate Clay Buchholz said that Pedroia was not too concerned about the injury, and that his removal from the game merely represented a conservative course of action.

“I knew that when he came in [to the dugout after the first inning] he was wincing a little bit,” said Buchholz. I asked him if he’€™d be alright. He said he’€™d be OK, but just precautionary I guess to get him out and take a look at it.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Pedroia had limited swelling on the back of his left wrist. He will have X-rays taken on Wednesday morning, but the manager believed that they were merely precautionary.

“It was the back of his wrist. He had mild effusion, which is limited swelling. We’€™re going to get him X-rayed in the morning just to make sure,” said Francona. “I don’€™t think there’€™s a problem. He might be a little sore tomorrow. Hopefully that’€™s all it is. He wasn’€™t going to play tomorrow anyway. But we’€™ll certainly get him checked up on.’€

Pedroia is being described as day-to-day.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, left wrist,

Buchholz continues uneven spring

03.23.10 at 9:00 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz suffered a dismal outing against the Twins on Tuesday night, getting tagged for six runs (five earned) in just 1.2 innings. He allowed four hits, walked three, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches. Of his 60 pitches, almost half (29) missed the strike zone.

Afterwards, he was stumped by the performance. He simply never got a feel for any of his pitches, bouncing both fastballs and changeups en route to the high wild pitch total.

“No explanation. I made some good pitches at certain times, but I just didn’€™t make as many good pitches as I needed to,” said Buchholz. I had to adjust for being down in the zone in the first inning. I felt like I did a good job with damage control in the first inning, only giving up the one (run). Went back out, got ahead of the first hitter, threw an alright pitch but it just caught too much plate and he hit it. In my head, I knew they were going to run because just about all of them are pretty quick on the bases. I started thinking too much about them running and making a certain pitch at a certain time. I paid for it.”

The problem of controlling opponents’ running games has been a common theme of Buchholz’ periods of struggle at the big league level. He has been prone in the past to distraction when thinking about base runners, thus diminishing his pitch-to-pitch focus. That appeared to be the case on Tuesday.

“It’€™s just sometimes when I know guys are on base who are fast, I either want to be too quick to home plate or I want to pick them off. In the past, the worst thing that could happen to me was to pick off a couple of people in a couple of games and then try to pick off everybody,” said Buchholz. “That’€™s one of the key things I need to work on. There’€™s always something, and that’€™s a big thing, because there’€™s always going to be runners on base. I feel there’€™s a couple more outings in the spring to get more comfortable with it in the season.”

Buchholz has been entirely inconsistent this spring. He has now pitched four times, struggling (two innings, five hits, three runs) in his first start against Baltimore, looking terrific against the Pirates (three shutout innings, one hit), dominating a group of Hi-A minor leaguers with four shutout innings and then, most recently, getting tagged by the Twins on Tuesday.

Buchholz now has a 10.80 ERA. That isn’t the sort of number that would be ideal on a team that features a surplus of proven major league starters. All the same, Buchholz didn’t seem to be fretting too much about whether he had put a rotation job in jeopardy through his performance.

“That’€™s not for me to decide. I definitely don’€™t want to go out and give up six runs in two innings,” he said. “There’€™s always going to be games where things don’€™t go well. I’€™ve done it in the past year but rebounded the next game, come out and had a quality start, forget about the game before.

“I think once the season gets underway and it starts, I’€™ll buckle down. I’€™ll do what I need to do to help this team win. No added pressure, no stress for the season, but I feel like I could have a good year if I do all the little things right,” he continued. “They haven’€™t said anything to me [about a role in 2010] since the first day I got here for spring training. Just basically go out, pitch like I can, throw the ball well and let the organization decide what they want to do.”

Here are a few other thoughts that Buchholz offered on his outing:

What explains your location struggles?

There were a couple pitches ‘€“ probably two or three ‘€“ that I thought were strikes that I didn’€™t get. But that’€™s definitely no excuse. I was trying to do too much. Whenever I thought I would make a good pitch, they’€™d hit it. Then I’€™d try to make it better, and that causes it to be out of the zone rather than just trusting the stuff down in the zone and getting some outs. I’€™ll get this one behind me. I’€™ve got these guys again in five days, I believe, so go back at them.

Could you tell Pedroia was injured?

I didn’€™t really look at him after the play. I was in the dugout. I knew that when he came in he was wincing a little bit. I asked him if he’€™d be alright. He said he’€™d be OK, but just precautionary I guess to get him out and take a look at it.

Were you working on anything today?

Just a good mix of pitches. I threw a lot of good changeups today. In certain situations, I needed to throw a fastball for a strike to get to a changeup and didn’€™t do that very well. But overall, the last couple of times I’€™ve been out, I felt good. Tonight was a little bit different, getting used to waiting all day to come in. I’€™m usually about going to sleep right now. It was a little bit of a change, but that’€™s how the season is ‘€“ you’€™ve got a day game and then a night game start the next time around. It’€™s just another game that I can definitely build off of. There’€™s a lot of things that I see that I can get better at.

On the balls in the dirt, what were those?

I spiked a couple fastballs and spiked a couple changeups in the first inning. It was like that in the bullpen before the game. Not really a good feel for either pitch. Trying to throw it harder, my body was trying to throw the ball harder instead of letting it go. It didn’€™t work out too well.

Read More: Clay Buchholz,

Report: Red Sox will be most improved defensive team in ’10

03.23.10 at 7:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to the John Dewan Stat of the Week, the Red Sox are expected to make the biggest defensive improvement in baseball in 2010. According to the analysis of Dewan, whose Plus/Minus Ratings to measure a player’s defensive performance have become one of the most widely used defensive metrics, the Sox will go from a team whose porous defense was 52 runs below average in 2009 to one whose offseason transformation projects to result in a defense that is 35 runs better than average.

While the Sox’ defense would still not place in the projected top five in the majors by Dewan’s projections, the team’s defensive improvement of 87 runs would be the largest of any of the 30 clubs in the majors. That projection reflects the offseason acquisitions of Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre, as well as the move from center to left by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Read More: defense, john dewan,

Pre-Game Notes: Tuesday Afternoon

03.23.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The ranks are thinning.

The Red Sox announced a few players who were shipped from big league camp to the minors. Most prominent among them was Michael Bowden, who was somewhat disappointed that he was not in the mix for one of the last bullpen spots. The Sox prefer to have the right-hander remain stretched out as a starter. Though Bowden was roughed up in his final outing of the spring, allowing four runs (three earned) in three innings to the Cardinals on Monday, the results were positive on his work to smooth out his delivery in an effort to improve his command.

Also optioned to Pawtucket were reliever Ramon A. Ramirez (thus leaving the Sox with just one Ramon Ramirez in big league camp) and first baseman Aaron Bates. Right-hander Jorge Sosa, who is with the Sox on a minor league deal, was reassigned to minor league camp.

— The Sox still have yet to make a decision on their Opening Day starter. The team is still trying to figure out how its rotation will be structured through the first week and a half of the season, during which time the team will have numerous off days with which to contend.

— Francona was asked about Rays skipper Joe Maddon‘s suggestion that Jacoby Ellsbury could emerge as a 20-home run hitter. Francona said that the team will not ever ask Ellsbury to change his approach at the plate, but that he does expect that with greater strength, knowledge of the league and maturity about his own game, he expects there to be some increase in power totals for the outfielder.

“He probably will hit some more home runs,” said Sox manager Terry Francona.

— Red Sox pitcher Boof Bonser said that the groin injury that he suffered in his outing on Monday was relatively minor. He reported that the team’s training staff felt that the injury was already showing some improvement and he hoped not to have to take more than a day off, although it remained unclear precisely when the 28-year-old will be able to resume throwing.

“It’s fine. Just a little tweak yesterday. Nothing major,” said Bonser, who recalled that the discomfort arrived on his fourth pitch to Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist, the final batter faced by the pitcher in his two-plus-inning outing. “They said it’s nothing to really worry about it.”

Bonser said that he was not doing any baseball activity on Tuesday, but that he hoped to resume such activity on Wednesday. He has yet to find out when he will next pitch in a game, but the Sox are hopeful that he won’t be significantly affected.

“I don’t think it would be an extended period [on the sidelines],” said Francona.

— The velocity of reliever Manny Delcarmen remains a work in progress. The Sox feel that he still has his usual power in the tank, thanks to his long toss sessions from up to 200 ft. But that has yet to translate, perhaps of mechanics that became a bit out of whack towards the end of last season when he tried to pitch through elbow soreness and, Francona suggested, when the team asked him to spend more time working out of the slide step.

“There’s a little bit left on his fastball that we haven’t seen,” said Delcarmen. “I think we’ll see that.”

— Delcarmen is viewed as one of the keys to the bullpen because of his versatility. In particular, his ability to attack left-handers with his changeup has been a key to the Sox’ ability to avoid overuse of left-hander Hideki Okajima, particularly at times when Okajima is the only left-hander on the roster. But Francona said that any spring struggles experienced by Delcarmen will not impact the team’s roster decisions at the back of the bullpen.

— Third baseman Jorge Jimenez, whom the Sox lost temporarily as a Rule 5 draftee, was excited that his return to the Red Sox was to big league camp, rather than the minors. The 2006 15th-round pick impressed Marlins officials during his time in camp. For more on him, click here.

Clay Buchholz is slated to throw about four innings in his outing against the Twins on Tuesday night.

— There are still no real updates to offer on Jed Lowrie, who has been able to engage in almost no physical activity since being diagnosed with mononucleosis. He’s been limited to walking and riding an exercise bike for short stretches. Francona worried that Lowrie will not only lose the time that he is out with the illness, but will also need to make up for the strength he is losing while out.

Jonathan Papelbon “feels fine,” Francona said, following his sluggishness due to anti-migraine medication on Sunday. He is scheduled to throw an inning on Tuesday night against the Twins.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a side session on Tuesday, and remains on schedule to pitch two innings in a major league game on Thursday.

Alan Embree threw a side session on Tuesday, and will pitch in a minor league game at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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