|07.30.09 at 1:00 am ET|
It all started in the spring of 2005 with a chance to pitch for the country’s premier summer leaguge — the Cape Cod Baseball League. Justin Masterson was a relative nobody pitching at a tiny college in Indiana on the brink of baseball extinction until his coach made a phone call.
It was his size that caught the attention of Cooper Farris, head coach of the Wareham Gatemen. The six-foot-six inch, 250-pound Masterson looked more like a college quarterback than a Cape League pitcher. Farris wanted to see what Masterson had in his arsenal after hearing about a sinker, a slider and a changeup.
Needless to say that tryout went well, as did that summer, and Masterson was thrust into the major league scene when he was chosen by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2006 draft the following spring.
But what was it about that summer on the Cape that propelled him to the majors?
Farris had already made his Wareham roster that included North Carolina prospect Daniel Bard. The skipper was merely figuring out what roles his pitchers would fill when he received the phone call from Masterson’s Bethel College coach.
“The big thing with Justin was that when he came in nobody really knew who he was,” Farris said. “He came from a small school in Indiana, Bethel College. His coach had called me to tell me that he had a guy; he had never called me about a guy before so I said, ‘OK – we’ll take a shot at him,’ and then he told me how tall he was and that was the big thing.”
Masterson got his shot impressing Farris and Wareham pitching coach Ryan Beggs. Farris and Beggs were trying to fill in the team’s closer role and with Masterson’s dominating presence on the mound and unique delivery, they decided to give him a chance even though he had primarily been a starter throughout college.
But early on Masterson began to doubt himself. The Gatemen not only had top prospect Bard, who pitched for the 2004 Team USA, but Wade LeBlanc, Baseball America’s 2004 freshman of the year, and six other Division I pitchers.
“The biggest thing with him,” Farris said, “was as he got into the season and started competing, he had questions in his mind about whether he could compete against the best players in America. He’s just such a good kid, so humble, that he got in there, he battled and he worked hard.”
Masterson settled into the closer role nicely for Wareham. He soon became one of the top pitchers in the league approaching the second half of the summer with a 1.40 ERA, 32 strikeouts and eight saves. He was named to the 2005 Cape League All-Star game along with Bard, who started the game for the West Division. Bard entered the All-Star game with a 3-2 record, a 1.47 ERA and a league leading 62 strikeouts in 49 innings.
While Bard started that All-Star game at McKeon Park in Hyannis it was Masterson’s line that drew the most attention. With the game knotted at zero entering the ninth, Masterson stepped to the mound. He gave up two singles to Colin Curtis and Evan Longoria (yes, that Evan Longoria) before Scott Sizemore grounded into a double play allowing Curtis to score the winning run for the East Division.
While the loss was a blow to Masterson, he didn’t let it stop him on the field for Wareham, finishing the season with a 1.15 ERA and 10 saves, putting him in a third place tie for the Gatemen all-time saves list. His 22 appearances also tied him for third all time in appearances for the Gatemen. Meanwhile Bard notched his own records with a 1.25 ERA and 82 strikeouts, both top marks in Wareham history. When the Top 30 prospects of the Cape Cod Baseball League were announced at the end of the season, Bard was No. 2 and Masterson No. 11.
“Bard was just outstanding, we knew from day one that he was going to be the man,” Farris said. “Masterson was in there doing what he needed to do. He was getting early outs after he got his first taste, his first game and he did really well, he kept building and his confidence kept rising. When I got there in the middle of the summer he was a really confident kid.”
Farris had missed much of that summer to be with his sick wife but returned towards the end of the summer surprised to see Masterson so dominant.
Bard headed back to a baseball powerhouse at North Carolina, already widely known to scouts. Masterson, however, needed to make a change to gain similar prominence, agreed the pitcher and his Cape League manager. As much as he enjoyed his time at Bethel College, Masterson feared he would never be noticed by major-league scouts.
Farris helped him find a school that would fit his style and gain the attention he needed. Two of Masterson’s Wareham teammates – pitcher Bruce Billings and infielder Lance Zawadzki – played for San Diego State under the guidance of a Cooperstown-coronated head coach in Tony Gwynn. It was now or never. Masterson decided to make the switch to Aztec baseball for his junior season.
The right-hander returned to a starting role that following spring with San Diego State, going 6-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts. He had four complete games, one save and a whopping 108 strikeouts. Maybe it was the strikeouts, maybe it was the school or maybe it was his time in the Cape, but Masterson gained the attention of those major-league scouts.
The Red Sox chose Masterson as their fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft; Bard was the Sox’ second pick, going 9-4 with 3.64 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 18 games with the Tar Heels. The former Gatemen teammates parted ways before being linked anew in Lancaster the following summer.
While Bard was the higher and more impressive pick, he needed more work in the minors before he could appear in the big leagues. Masterson, on the other hand, flew through the Sox farm system in less than two years.
He made his Red Sox debut on April 24, 2008, going six innings, giving up one run and striking out four. No doubt Cooper Farris was watching.
Bard joined him earlier this season on May 13, going two innings giving up a hit, a walk and a strikeout in relief of Hunter Jones.
Farris’ job was done. Two more Cape Leaguers in the majors. He says he knew at the end of that summer in 2005 that Masterson and Bard had that special ingredient that would take them to the majors.
“It’s the passion,” Farris said. “All the guys that I’ve been around – the David Ecksteins, the Juan Pierres – those are two World Series MVPs. Those are two of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen. They want this so bad you can basically tell a lot with these guys. All these [Cape League] guys are probably going to be drafted but there is a little special thing about the guys who really make it and it gets to where you can see it.”
|07.29.09 at 3:34 pm ET|
Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that while it still remains unlikely the Sox will pull of a blockbuster for Roy Halladay they are focusing their efforts on the Toronto right-hander. Yet McAdam says two 2008 Sox draft picks that have been rumored in trade deals Ryan Westmoreland and Casey Kelly are off limits. Daniel Bard, the Sox potential closer of the future, is also a relative no-go according to McAdam.
|07.29.09 at 3:01 pm ET|
Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Red Sox are the forerunners for Indians catcher Victor Martinez. While Tampa Bay has shown interest the Sox may be able to put together a better package for Cleveland. The Tribe looks as if it is ready to rebuild after shipping starter Cliff Lee off to the Phillies and the Sox can offer them a few prospects for Martinez as a head start. Boston had been pursuing San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez but have since back down.
|07.29.09 at 2:43 pm ET|
According to FoxSports Ken Rosenthal the Indians will send left-hander Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies for Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco and Class A right-hander Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson and shorstop Jason Donald. The deal is pending physicals. The trade would help to bolster the Phillies rotation that already includes Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Rodrigo Lopez as well as making them the team to beat in the NL East.
Now that Lee is presumably off the market, that leaves the Red Sox with fewer options. As if the Sox-Halladay talk wasn’t hot enough it might just get hotter. While Michael Silverman and Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald report that the talks may have cooled down after the Sox baited Toronto yesterday with a package that may have included Clay Buchholz, minor league right-hander Michael Bowden and designated hitter Ryan Westmoreland, the Lee trade may once again intensify the talks. Stay tuned…
|07.29.09 at 1:12 pm ET|
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports that talks between the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies concerning LHP Cliff Lee are possibly heating up. Phillies Triple-A prospects Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald were scratched from a start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Stark also reports that the Phillies could also deal hard-throwing prospects Jason Knapp and Trevor May as a part of a deal for Cliff Lee. Members of the Indians brass have denied any trade being imminent today.
The Phillies turning their eyes to Lee, might be an indication that they would much rather pull off an impact deal for a front-line arm without trading away top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek and top outfield prospect Dominic Brown. Both prospects had been mentioned to be coveted by Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi in a possible deal for Roy Halladay.
|07.29.09 at 1:11 pm ET|
Here are some of the highlights:
Terry Francona on last night’s collapse: “I can’t figure out why our teams pick Tuesdays to have things fall apart.”
On his philosophy regarding defensive indifference: “If we elect to hold him, the ball goes through, it’s different for every occasion. Theres a lot of time where we’re indifferent towards that.”
On the defensive adventures of Nick Green last night: “The first one he probably needed to eat it. the one that got by Pap, if he eats it we have a runner on first. It’s do or die you’ve gotta make a play.”
On his philosophy on inserting a defensive replacement: “Oh my goodness, if Youk makes an error tonight at third do you want me to take him out. He’s been very, very good, you can’t take a guy out once he makes an error.”
Putting a positive spin on Nick Green’s night: “Hes got so much range and is so athletic, he ran dowen the line and caught a pop up that nobody on our club makes.”
On Jonathan Papelbon’s outing last night: “That’s exactly what it is. There were a few things that happened. there was power to his fastball, tried to be a little to fine and lost Cust. He made a mistake to Everidge who hit it off the wall. When you walk people you’re asking for trouble.”
More on Papelbon: “I don’t think they’ve been an issue. I still don’t think he’s wild. We’ve been accustomed to a couple of years of double-digit walks. The less amount of walks he has the better.”
On the recent Daisuke Matsuzaka flap that was reported yesterday: “I listened to John talked to you guys, We’re dissapointed. Its not always hugs and giggles, and a lot of strong personalities. We think he’s betrayed out trust a little bit. I talked to him this morning about how this is all going to work. I told him it’s all about moving on from this mistake. He owns up to the fact that he made a mistake. I thhink he’s a in a pretty good place, it doesn’t sound like it from that interview.”
More on Matsuzaka: “It has been a give and take since hes gotten here. I don’t think we can expect a guy to come from a different culture and buy into everything. We want this guy to hold up throughtout the course of his career. When a shoulder gets weak as player plile up innings.”
On how he describes the conversations concerning the lineup with players like Mike Lowell: “I don’t if difficult is the right word, uncomfortable. A guy like Mikey Lowell hasn’t had to really look at the lineup card. We just have to communicate and make this work. make people understand how this is going to work. All the things we talk about guys putting themselves behind the team. It’s time to act like that.”
On the importance of having Kevin Youkilis on the team: “He makes our team a lot better because of his versatility, I appreciate it, I’ve told him.”
On the media involvement in trade rumors: “Every person in the media is throwing in trades. I can’t say I know what’s going to happen, but I can probably tell you what won’t happen. These guys are human and these rumors are dealing with their baseball lives.”
On what he knows with regards to current trade activity: “I could tell you 100 that arent going to happen. with today’s media it comes with the territory.”
On communcating with players if and when a transaction is made: “We try to do what we think is right, be honest and polite and curteous. You give news to guys that they won’t exactly like, but you’ve gotta do it the right way.”
On the clubhouse climate surrounding Friday’s Trading Deadline: “Its a little unsettleing, we’re the Red Sox and we’re players in a lot of things. My office door is open so much, to tryand ease things a bit.”
On last night’s atmosphere:“I think we do some things like no other place. These are some of the things I’ll soak in when I’m done. They do it better here an no other player. We don’t have the Mustard Race, we just ahve people who love baseball.”
On Jim Rice Night: “When Jim was in his hey day, I was a younger player, I never really played against him except maybe for Spring Training. I walways watched Fred Lynn, I was at an age that I wanted to play like Freddy Lynn. Jim Rice was a monster in his day, Lynn was a lefthander and smooth.”
On David Ortiz’s family issue last night and tonight’s lineup: “We actually weren’t going to play David tonight. What happened last night had nothing today with it. Anderson pitching tonight had everything to do with it. David needed to go to the hospital last night. I made him leave. We’ll play LaRoche at first, Youkie at third, DH Lowell tonight. Hopefully this will be a lineup that produces.”
|07.29.09 at 12:57 pm ET|
Two players that were rumored to be possible fits for the Red Sox, Jack Wilson and Jeff Clement, were traded for each other Wednesday in a seven-player deal between the Mariners and Pirates.
What does this mean to the AL East? A heck of a lot. For starters, there were rumors of the Red Sox’ interest in potentially acquiring Wilson, a dazzling defensive shortstop, either independently or as part of the Adam LaRoche deal. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it means that the Mariners, currently 7.5 games behind the Angels in the AL West, have decided to make the push to contend rather than being sellers this week. That means that Jarrod Washburn, who the Yankees had been rumored to have interest in, might now be off the table.
|07.29.09 at 11:03 am ET|
According to a Yahoo! Sports follow-up, the Red Sox offer for Roy Halladay was soundly different than originally reported. The original report stated that the Red Sox had offered pitchers Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden and top OF prospect Ryan Westmoreland for Halladay.
The new report states the Sox actually offered Toronto Buchholz, a choice of Bowden, reliever/starter Justin Masterson, and minor league 1B Lars Anderson, and additional “lesser prospects”. The Red Sox also proclaimed pitcher Daniel Bard and pitcher/one-time shortstop Casey Kelly as strictly off-limits.
The earlier report also stated that the Red Sox were looking to get to a third team involved to provide the Blue Jays with a shortstop, who have been vigorously shopping Marco Scutaro. Now, any deal with between the Red Sox and Jays appears to be between just the two principal teams.
|07.29.09 at 10:41 am ET|
With just days until the trading deadline, the greatest issue facing the Sox may not be their pitching or their lineup. Instead, it could be that the team’s Achilles heel is the same one that altered the shape of the franchise on July 31, 2004.
That year, the Red Sox made the dramatic decision to trade Nomar Garciaparra as part of a four-team blockbuster that brought Orlando Cabrera to Boston with the hope of improving a porous defense. This year, on the whole, the Sox’ defense has shown signs of similar weakness.
By several measures, the Red Sox’ defense has been among the worst in baseball this year. And last night, it played a huge role in a crushing 9-7 loss to the A’s in 11 innings.
The most noteworthy miscues came as Oakland pushed across three runs in the ninth to tie the game against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. On consecutive two-out plays, the Sox failed to convert infield grounders into outs, with shortstop Nick Green compounding those issues by committing throwing errors.
On the first, a ball skidded off the mound past Papelbon. Green rushed in, fielded off balance and winged a ball into the dugout.
‘That,’ said Green, ‘was a play nobody makes, it was just not the right decision, I should have just held onto it.’
The next play was a grounder into the hole between third and short by Rajai Davis of the A’s. In past years, third baseman Mike Lowell ‘ who was playing in ‘ might have made the play. On Tuesday, he did not, and so Green was left to field the ball at deep short. He unleashed a hurried throw to first that Davis beat; the A’s speedster then raced to third as the ball bounded down the right-field line.
Though the errors were glaring, it is worth noting that from May 18 through July 27, Green had committed just one error, and was playing defense at an above-average level. Even so, those ninth-inning dribblers highlighted a problem that may be more significant than a couple of errors.
The Red Sox gave up a colossal 21 hits in their loss to the A’s. The natural conclusion would be to say that the pitching was atrocious. But while it wasn’t a brilliant night for Sox pitchers, their performance was likely better than the unbelievable 9-21-0 on the scoreboard might suggest.
Sox pitchers didn’t allow any homers, fanned nine batters and walked a modest total of three in 11 innings. These should all translate to strong outcomes.
But their performance was made considerably harder by the fact that balls kept ‘finding holes.’ Oakland had eight ground-ball hits, four of which never left the infield. The problem for the Sox is that such events ‘ softly hit balls ‘finding holes’ or being turned into infield hits ‘ have been relatively commonplace this year.
‘Sometimes you wish they’d hit the ball hard somewhere so you don’t feel like you’re getting cheated,’ Sox starter Clay Buchholz said. ‘Sometimes mis-hits find holes. It’s baseball. You win some, you lose some. Tonight was just a tough night.’
By one measure, in fact, the Sox may be the worst team in baseball at turning a ball in play (anything except a walk, a strikeout or a homer) into an out. The Sox’ have turned just 67.4 percent of balls in play into outs, the worst mark in the majors.
Some of that can be luck, in which case, a turnaround could be just around the corner. And some of that is a byproduct of playing in Fenway, though even if accounting for park effects, the Sox would still be one of the worst defensive teams in baseball.
While it’s easy to suggest that the Sox have their issues in the field, it’s also possible to take the argument too far. It would be too easy to exaggerate the defensive struggles on the basis of one brutal night against the A’s, especially since the Sox have basis to say their defense is improving.
Since the team made the decision to stop having Julio Lugo play short, its defense became better. On nights when Kevin Youkilis is at first and Dustin Pedroia at second, the Sox have a pair of Gold Glovers patrolling the right side of their infield. The left side is another story, particularly given the limitations in the field of Lowell as he recovers from surgery.
‘Rest and time will allow him to get closer to 100 percent,’ Sox G.M. Theo Epstein said of Lowell at the time of the deal for Adam LaRoche last week. ‘It’s clear to those watching the games that he’s not moving around as well as he would like’¦He might not be 100 percent till 2010.’
The problem for the Sox is that Lowell is nowhere near his defensive norm in 2009. According to John Dewan’s Fielding Bible Plus/Minus ‘ which measures the number of plays above or below the number an average defender would make ‘ Lowell entered Tuesday having made 20 fewer plays than the average third baseman.
That is a far cry from his steady excellence of the last few years, when Lowell made six, seven and seven more plays than the average third baseman. The Sox believe that his range will continue to improve the further that he gets from surgery, and it bears mention that Lowell’s excellent defensive instincts remain undiminished.
On Tuesday, he made a fine running play on a foul pop in the Oakland dugout, reaching over the rail on the run to snag the ball. Even so, the Sox are simply struggling to turn balls in play into outs, and there is little doubt that Lowell’s range is a part of that.
The being the case, it will be interesting to see how the Sox lineup changes on Wednesday, with David Ortiz out of the lineup and a left-handed starter on the mound for the A’s. Lowell is starting, as are Youkilis and LaRoche. Will Lowell be the starting third baseman or designated hitter? The answer could be revealing about the Sox’ defensive concerns.
Lowell’s not the only one who has had his defensive struggles this year, at least as measured by Dewan’s Plus/Minus system. Jason Bay‘s defense registers a -11, although some of that is a byproduct of playing in Fenway, where the Wall does very strange things to left-field defensive measures. Surprisingly, Jacoby Ellsbury is a -9 defensive player this year, a pretty startling change from 2008, when he made eight more plays than the average centerfielder.
All of that said, the Sox are once again exploring every possible avenue for improvement. And so while the attention has focused on discussions about Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Adrian Gonzalez (a Gold Glove first baseman), it would not be a surprise to see the Sox make another move to further reinforce a defense that has been a weakness this year.
This offseason, when the Sox pursued Mark Teixeira, they noted that he was a player who could impact them both offensively and defensively. Now, as the trade deadline approaches, the team would once again appear to have a desire to improve in both of those areas.
|07.29.09 at 9:47 am ET|
According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, Yankees GM Brian Cashman called his Toronto counterpart, JP Ricciardi yesterday as it became clear that the Red Sox had become front-runners in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes.
The Yankees interest in Halladay is unknown, as the team claims that they were merely “touching base” with Toronto on Halladay. One rival GM joked that touching base means the Pinstriper’s are “all in” on acquiring Halladay.
One of Rosenthal’s sources report that the Yankees compensation for Halladay would be mighty steep. The Jays have asked for both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes as part of any Halladay deal. The Yankees would also have to part with minor league catcher Jesus Montero in a package for the Blue Jays ace.
Rosenthal also states that the Blue Jays like other Yankees prospects including catcher Austin Romine, outfielder Austin Jackson, and left-hander Jeremy Bleich.
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