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Maddon talks about Wakefield and the possibility of pitching alternates

07.08.09 at 3:43 pm ET
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Joe Maddon touched on a variety of points today in addressing the media about the All Star Game with  Charlie Manuel. Among the things discussed were pitchers, the omission of a catcher, and whether having some alternates could pay off.

Tim Wakefield has gotten a great deal of attention in the past few days, both for this being his first selection and for him getting the nod despite a 4.30 ERA. To Maddon, the biggest thing that surrounds Wakefield is the fact that there is no catcher on the roster prepared to catch a knuckleballer.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Maddon of the challenge that either Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez could face in St. Louis. “If you have not caught a knuckleball pitcher before, it’s no fun, obviously.”

No fun is what Jason Varitek had in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS in the top of the 13th inning. Like Mauer and Martinez, Varitek didn’t have experience caddying a knuckleballer and it was apparent three passed balls later.

Wakefield’s lack of batterymate could be a shame if his skills are wasted, as Maddon views him as someone who could be used in a longer relief role.

“He is the kind of guy that you know can pitch multiple innings very easily,” said Maddon. “Probably the more difficult side of that would be who’s going to catch him. We’ll discuss that with him when I get the chance to visit with him in person.”

Maddon said he elected to only go with just two catchers rather than bringing aboard Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki as Oakland’s representative. Closer Andrew Bailey was instead chosen despite blowing four of his 14 save opportunities. Maddon said he made the decision based on the rule that allows the starting catcher to re-enter the game in the event of an injury to the starter.

“Two catchers equals three catchers in the All Star Game,” said Maddon. “Whoever starts is really the third catcher once he comes out of the game.”

Coming off an impressive outing last night against Oakland, Josh Beckett is in line to make one more start on Sunday against Kansas City, which will give him only one day of rest for Tuesday’s game.  Fearing the worst in another 15-inning fiasco like last year’s game (a game in which, in case you forgot, JD Drew was going to pitch the 16th), Maddon talked about the possibility of MLB allowing pitching alternates who would serve more of a purpose than starters who would be risking their health.

“If you’re going to try to play this game to its conclusion and you’re trying to win the actual game, you definitely have to have enough pitching,” said Maddon. “You don’t want to hurt anybody during the course of this game. One of the major things you do on a daily basis as a Major League manager is monitor your arms, whether [they’re] starters or relievers, and you really take care of these guys.

“We may have a couple of [pitchers who are starting Sunday] that I’ve already spoken to at least one of the managers [about],” added Maddon. “We really want to utilize those pitchers in the briefest of moments, but nevertheless I’ve been told that they can pitch.”

It is doubtful that anyone would want Beckett to go on just one day of rest, which is understandable, and the idea of having some alternates on hand is intriguing. While it’s obviously a change that won’t come this year, it seems like a win-win down the road: Beckett would still get the distinction and the AL doesn’t waste a roster spot.

“When it comes right down to it,” said Maddon, “it might be wise eventually to add some alternates just in case that scenario were to arise.”

Read More: All Star, Beckett, Maddon, Wakefield

Red Sox make two international signings

07.08.09 at 1:09 pm ET
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Multiple major-league sources have confirmed that the Red Sox have signed two international amateur free agents, Mario Alcantara and Raul Alcantara. (The two are not related, nor are they related to former Red Sox player Izzy Alcantera.) Both were signed out of the Dominican. 

Right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara is considered one of the better international amateur pitchers available during this signing period, which runs from July 2 through the end of August. Alcantara demonstrates advanced command of a mid- to high-80s fastball, and his frame (he is roughly 6-foot-3) suggests the potential for a future increase in velocity. He also shows good feel of a breaking ball. He is believed to have signed for approximately $500,000.

Mario Alcantara is also a tall (approximately 6-foot-3) right-handed pitcher. Reports indicate that he has a high-80s fastball and curve. According to one baseball source, he signed for approximately $350,000.

Transcript of Terry Francona on D&H, 7/8/09

07.08.09 at 1:05 pm ET
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Thanks to Greg Cameron, here’s the transcript of Sox manager Terry Francona’s weekly appearance with “Dale & Holley” Wednesday afternoon.

On Beckett after taking him out: ‘€œNo, I was shocked when somebody asked me that. I don’€™t even really remember thinking anything like that.’€

On Beckett’€™s demeanor and behavior on the mound: ‘€œHe’€™s a lunatic. He gets amped up, and I don’€™t want to get in the way of that. As long as it’€™s aimed in the right direction, I don’€™t care.’€

On Bay effectively snapping his slump with a home run last night: ‘€œIt was great. We haven’€™t been swinging the bats as a whole the last little while. That’€™ll happen to teams’€™. Youk probably won’€™t hit .400. If the hitting is struggling, the pitching hopefully will pick you up.’€

On Nomar: ‘€œI thought the ovation was wonderful. He got a little emotional, and that was great. I’€™ve known him for a longer time than the Red Sox. I had him in the Arizona league when he was a young kid. I think he just got all Boston’€™d out. It doesn’€™t make him a bad kid.’€

On having Nomar in the Arizona Fall League years ago and if he was destined to become a star: ‘€œIt was as obvious than anybody. He hand-delivered Christmas cards to all of the staff’€¦what 20-year old kid does that?’€

On fans cheering ex-Red Sox when the come back to Fenway: ‘€œI think down deep that anybody who cheers for the Red Sox loves Johnny Damon, but can’€™t cheer for him in a Yankee uniform. They’€™re good fans, they’€™re the only fans I know who when we call someone up they know who they are.’€

On Pedroia’€™s family issue the other night and being a mentor to players : ‘€œIt wasn’€™t that easy. He’€™s got that part of him that won’€™t tell me he needs an off-day. He’€™s gonna do everything he’€™s told and he’€™s going to do it. The more I watched him, this isn’€™t good, I had Kotsay talk to him and he told him you need to get out of here. He feels a crazy amount of responsibility to our team, but we all have families. We feel the need to be here. I hope we don’€™t jhjave our priorities mixed up. I didn’€™t see my daughter Elizabeth be born. I didn’€™t have a choice. If I had my druthers I would’€™ve been there. I remember going to the minors and helping kids move, and buy cars. It’€™s more than just putting a hit and run on and more about helping these kids grow.’€

On the recent lineup: ‘€œI’€™m actually really happy with J.D. leading off. He’€™s been getting on-base, it allows Petey to drop back into the second spot. The only problem we’€™ve been having is that we’€™ve been beat up. We’€™ve had to shuffle some guys around.’€

On if he could answer the questions that left fielder Jason Bay had to answer as a part of the US Citizenship requirements: ‘€œNo, I don’€™t think so. We were teasing Kottaras and telling him he will get deported. He was telling us some of the questions. I don’€™t think I would’€™ve become a citizen.’€

On players taking pitches on 3-0, 3-1 counts: ‘€œFirst of all, when a hitter has a green light that doesn’€™t mean he has to swing. We’€™re certainly not going put a must swing on in that situation, If we’€™re down three and you can’€™t change the game with one swing. We generally let them hit if they can. Our guys make good decisions. What you don’€™t want to do is have a guy swinging at a pitch he shouldn’€™t swing at.’€

On what Toronto GM JP Ricciardi should do with the currently on the block Roy Halladay: ‘€œWhat I think should happen, they should trade him to the NL, and they should do it by next week.’€

On telling Tim Wakefield of his selection to the AL All-Star team: ‘€œOne of the funner things I’€™ve gotten to do here. When we got the news on Wake it was pretty special. The other guys got a little extra pride in being able to twll Wake. When they introduce him, he’€™s going to be proud, and he deserves it. It’€™s the one minute of that game I wont miss.’€

On the ins and outs of the All-Star Game: ‘€œThe fan’€™s probably don’€™t understand is how conscientious and cooperative these players are. What can I do to help is what these guys ask. It’€™s an honor and these guys treat it like that. Just the fact that I got to be there was special. I hope to go back for obvious reasons.’€

On tonight’€™s lineup: ‘€œWe’€™re gonna try to get Kotsay back in there. Make sure he feels okay. If he’€™s not ready we’€™ll go with Bates again tonight.’€

Will Papelbon Be Shipping Up To St. Louis as All-Star Closer?

07.08.09 at 3:12 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon has never read ‘€œMoneyball,’€ and so he has never taken much time to think about what the Athletics did in the 2002 draft. But the Red Sox closer is aware of part of Oakland’€™s activities that year, since he was taken out of Mississippi State by the A’€™s in the 40th round that summer.

Papelbon, then the Bulldogs’€™ closer, was a draft-eligible sophomore. The A’€™s liked his makeup and were impressed by his fastball, but Papelbon admitted that he was raw and had no intention of turning pro ‘€œunless I had been a first or second rounder.’€

‘€œI wasn’€™t ready to go, man,’€ said Papelbon.

Now, of course, he is ready to go to St. Louis for his fourth straight year as an All-Star game, solidifying his credentials as one of the best closers in the game. Last year, Papelbon became ensnared in controversy when the game was hosted at Yankee Stadium because of his statement that he’€™d like to close in Mariano Rivera‘€™s home park.

(Papelbon later clarified that he was merely suggesting that he always wanted to close, but that he planned to defer any game-ending lead to Rivera. The matter became moot when the game went 15 innings, and the A.L. won in walk-off fashion.)

This year, Papelbon says that he would love to be the man on the mound in the ninth inning, with the opportunity to close out a victory and guarantee his league home-field advantage in the World Series.

‘€œOf course I want to close (the All-Star game). Every closer there is going to want to close. There’€™s no difference (among them),’€ said Papelbon. ‘€œBut (Rays manager Joe Maddon, the A.L. All-Star Game manager) is going to make the decision there.’€

Papelbon, who struck out the side in the ninth inning on Tuesday, is now 21 of 23 in save opportunities this year, with a 1.70 ERA.

Read More: All Star, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera,

Beckett: Definition of an ace

07.08.09 at 12:56 am ET
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He uses his words as economically as he uses his devastating pitches when he’s on.

And while he wasn’t lights out on Tuesday night in earning his 10th win of the season in a 5-2 Red Sox win over Oakland, Josh Beckett was still at his very best afterward in summing up his performance.

‘€œI felt good,” Beckett said. “I made some mistakes. I got away with a few mistakes. We played pretty good defense. Nick Green made some pretty nice plays.’€

“I think anybody wants to go out there and have a quality start and I think that’s the objective our our staff and he’s at the head of our staff and you’d expect that out of your ace,” his catcher Jason Varitek added.

His manager, Terry Francona, doesn’t hand out praise lightly. But Francona feels Beckett has earned it and then some.

‘€œI think he’€™s one of the best,” Francona said. “He’€™s fearless. Our guys look up to him. I think he enjoys that responsibility. I think he’€™s really grown into it and he’€™ll be out here tomorrow on day one working as hard, or harder, than anybody. That’€™s kind of a given.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh Beckett, Red Sox, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield

Papelbon, Red Sox Close Out A’s

07.07.09 at 10:24 pm ET
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Josh Beckett became the Red Sox‘ second 10-game winner, joining Tim Wakefield, after the Red Sox bullpen blitzed through 2.1 shutout innings to close out a 5-2 victory over the Athletics. Hideki Okajima (0.1 innings), Justin Masterson (1 perfect inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (a shutout ninth) handled the relief relay, with Papelbon earning his 21st save of the season. Papelbon gave up a hit, but struck out the side in victory.

The Sox received two hits each from Jason Bay (who homered for the 20th time this year), Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury en route to their victory.

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon,

Beckett done, and he’s not happy about it

07.07.09 at 9:46 pm ET
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Most pitchers would be fairly pleased to leave a game after 6.2 innings, having allowed just two runs on six hits. Josh Beckett is not among them.

Beckett seemed disgusted after Mark Ellis‘ infield single – a high chopper that Beckett fielded half-way up the third-base line and fired to first, a shade too late to get the A’s batter as he sprinted down the line. Beckett shouted words that would not be permitted in a PG setting as he saw Sox manager Terry Francona emerged from the dugout to take him out of the game after 107 pitches, with two outs and two runners on base, skulking off the mound and into the dugout for his inability to pitch seven full innings.

Nonetheless, he is in good shape for his 10th win of the year. After Hideki Okajima came on to retire Adam Kennedy via groundout, the Sox lead, 5-2, after seven innings.

For what it’s worth, Beckett has gone at least seven innings in eight of his starts this year, tied for 22nd most in the majors. Clearly, he wanted to move up in that ranking. He now has a 1.68 ERA in his last nine starts (dating to May 23), a mark exceeded by only Felix Hernandez (1.20) in the American League during that time.

Beckett’s evening was notable for the fact that he made the A’s ground one pitch after another into an out. Of the 20 outs he recorded, four were by strikeout, 11 by groundout and five by fly ball. He threw 107 pitches.

Read More: Josh Beckett,

Beckett unlocks…

07.07.09 at 8:58 pm ET
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Naturally, after a post about Beckett’s dominance through four innings, the A’s touched him for a pair of doubles – both with two outs – and a run in the fifth. The development was at least slightly surprising, since Beckett has been at his best this year with two outs, holding opponents to a .213 average and .546 OPS with two outs. He had previously allowed just four extra-base hits in 127 at-bats.

The Sox now lead, 4-2, after five innings.

Read More: Josh Beckett,

Beckett locks in

07.07.09 at 8:37 pm ET
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Josh Beckett gave up a solo homer – an absolute bomb – to new A’s outfielder Scott Hairston in the top of the first. Hairston banged a 96 mph fastball off the light stanchion down the left-field line for his first hit – and homer – since Oakland acquired him from the Padres two days ago.

But since then, Beckett has been little short of spectacular. He has retired 10 of the last 11 hitters he’s faced, allowing just an infield hit. Of the 10 outs, five have been on grounders and three have been by strikeouts.

Through four innings, the Sox lead 4-1.

Read More: Josh Beckett,

Sox locked in against lefties?

07.07.09 at 8:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox have been completely handcuffed by a couple of impressive young left-handed starters lately. Most notably, it was A’s starter Brett Anderson who fired a complete-game two-hit shutout against the Sox on Monday. That came just five days after the team had been dazzled by Brad Bergeson of the Orioles, who limited Boston to one run on four hits over eight innings.

Those games notwithstanding, however, the Sox have actually been quite good this year against left-handed pitchers. On the year, the Sox are 18-11 in games started against left-handers, good for a .621 winning percentage that is better than the team’s record (31-22, .585) in games started by right-handers.

The Sox entered tonight hitting .271 (7th in the A.L.) with a .360 OBP (3rd), .467 slugging (3rd) and .827 OPS against southpaws this year. (For the league numbers against lefties, click here.) But it appears that the absence of Mike Lowell has done the team few favors offensively, and that has been no different with left-handed starters on the mound.

Lowell played in 65 of the Sox’ first 67 games before he was relegated to the bench and then the D.L. by his hip soreness.With him as an everyday player (through June 19), the Sox were hitting .275/.365/.481 against lefties. Since he was sidelined, the Sox were hitting .248/.335/.400 against left-handers entering Tuesday.

But, of course, that has been in a very limited sample (164 plate appearances, to be exact), and tonight, the Sox are showing signs of breaking out against left-hander Dana Eveland of the A’s in the early going.

Jason Bay absolutely crushed a homer to left-center in the bottom of the second, reaching the first row of the Monster Seats for his first homer in two weeks and his 20th of the season. David Ortiz followed by smashing a double to left-center, and eventually scored.

J.D. Drew, meanwhile, doubled to lead off the third inning, and the Sox took a pair of walks against Eveland to load the bases for a second straight inning. Jason Varitek hit a two-run single back up the middle and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a check-swing single to load the bases.

That was it for Eveland, who left after 2.2 innings, four runs, six hits and three walks (worth stating: 8 outs, 9 baserunners). The Sox’ numbers against left-handers in the era without Mike Lowell just spiked.

Sox lead the A’s, 4-1, after three.

Read More: dana eveland, jason bay, mike lowell,
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