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Rumor Mill: Cliff Lee talks are Heating Up

07.29.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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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.

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Highlights from Terry Francona’s appearance on Dale and Holley

07.29.09 at 1:11 pm ET
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Terry Francona appeared on Wednesday’s Dale and Holley show. Click here for the full audio.

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.”

Wilson deal much more than meets the eye

07.29.09 at 12:57 pm ET
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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.

Read More: jack wilson, Jarrod Washburn, mlbrumormill2009,

UPDATE: Westmoreland Not a Part of Halladay Offer

07.29.09 at 11:03 am ET
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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.

Read More: mlbrumormill2009,

If Defense Wins Championships…

07.29.09 at 10:41 am ET
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What if Roy Halladay can’€™t fix what ails the Red Sox? What if another lethal bat won’€™t address the team’€™s foremost weakness?

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.

‘€œThat,’€ said Green, ‘€œwas 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 ‘€œfinding 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 ‘€œfinding holes’€ or being turned into infield hits ‘€“ have been relatively commonplace this year.

‘€œSometimes you wish they’€™d hit the ball hard somewhere so you don’€™t feel like you’€™re getting cheated,’€ Sox starter Clay Buchholz said. ‘€œSometimes 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.

‘€œRest 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. ‘€œIt’€™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.

Read More: defense, Julio Lugo, mike lowell,

Rumor Mill: Yankees in on Halladay?

07.29.09 at 9:47 am ET
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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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Rice opens up: It can’t get any better than that

07.28.09 at 10:37 pm ET
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Jim Rice was the happiest and proudest man in Fenway Park on Tuesday night when his No. 14 was added to the Nos. 1, 4,6,8,9 and 27 and 42 on the right field facade.

He was also the most honest.

“I never thought I’d go to the Hall of Fame,” Rice said in a post-ceremony press conference. “I knew I had pretty good numbers but I didn’t think my numbers would be good enough for the Red Sox to retire my numbers. I think it’s up to the owners if they want to retire your number, isn’t so it’s up to them.”

With names like Yaz, Dewey Evans and Fred Lynn sitting in white folding chairs up the first base line, Rice also gave thanks to the organization, starting with owner John Henry.

“The Red Sox gave me the opportunity,” Rice said. “They drafted me and took a big chance with me. They could’ve drafted someone else. It took me four years to get to the big leagues. I to the big leagues and played 15 years. And by having your number retired with some of the greats up there, Hall of Famers, and you played for this organization and still working for this organization, it can’t get any better than that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cooperstown, HOF, Jim Rice, Red Sox

Report, account is a fake

07.28.09 at 6:58 pm ET
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Just an FYI: Somebody has made a fake Twitter account — http://twitter.com/WEEI850AM — and put up posts that state I am reporting things from the trade deadline. It is not real. I have not reported on any trade rumors today and would certainly not do so on this account. Please be advised that there are only two legitimate Twitter accounts which I post on — http://twitter.com/weeisports and http://twitter.com/bradfo

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A Look at Brian Anderson

07.28.09 at 6:50 pm ET
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As WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported earlier, the Red Sox traded outfielder Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Brian Anderson. Here’s a look at the newest member of the Boston Red Sox:

Anderson, 27, was considered a highly-touted White Sox prospect a few years ago and the team’s future center fielder. After trading popular outfielder Aaron Rowand in 2005, the White Sox received All-Star first baseman Jim Thome and effectively cleared the way for Anderson to start in centerfield. However, he struggled in his first full season in the majors, batting .225 with 8 homers and 33 RBI in 134 games.

What he lacks offensively, Anderson certainly makes up for with his defense. In 334 career games, the defensive whiz has only committed 5 errors.

In 2007, he lost his starting job to Darin Erstad, eventually earning a spot back on the major league roster the following season.

Anderson hit .238 in 65 games for Chicago this season before being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte in a couple weeks ago, where he was batting .279 with a .799 OPS. He will be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket before possibly coming up to the majors to play for Boston.

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Farrell Speaks Out on Daisuke

07.28.09 at 6:47 pm ET
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Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell met with a group of reporters before tonight’s game. He expressed disappointment at the pitcher’s comments to a Japanese reporter suggesting that the throwing program and shoulder regimen of the Red Sox is responsible for his current stint on the disabled list. Farrell, in fact, seemed to keep his temperature barely below a boil, even as he offered a series of thoughtful reponses about the apparent communication difficulties and philosophical differences with the pitcher.

Here is some of his reaction to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s outspoken criticism of the team’s pitching program:

“I think it’€™s important to note that as he came here his first year, there was very much the understanding of and respect for the baseball culture of Japan. We knew there was going to be some transition challenges that he faced, largely due in part to the change from a seven-day rotation to a five-day rotation’€¦

“And as there was freedom in the program for him, to accommodate what he had been accustomed to, we also recognized as he went through the course of the 2007 season, that fatigue set in in a severe way late into the season. Taking all that into account, we felt like there was going to be a natural cycle that he goes through to experience the challenges he faced, being more open minded to the changes or adjustments that might be required. They certainly were not mandated. That is to be clearly stated. The changes that he has gone through have not been mandated.

“Now as a result of two years of pitching here’€¦ there was very much different lineups, a different strike zone, a different intensity to every pitch that he threw that has a greater taxing effect on the shoulder. And as a result over time, there has been a decrease in shoulder strength. That can’€™t be attributed to any one thing. There’€™s a lot of contributing factors here, some of which are just mentioned. The fact remains though that while there’€™s been a lot of freedom provided, particularly in the off-season in preparation for Spring Training, there falls a lot of probability on the individual pitcher. Much like Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, any other starter that we have here. There’€™s a program outlined for them that takes into account the specific needs.

“Also, you can’€™t just look at the shoulder’€¦ when the overall body is not in the top condition it needs to be to support that, there has to be some responsibility taken and not just finger pointing. I strongly believe that.

“Others feel that the program that they’€™re on is providing the benefits that they’€™re seeing and the rewards that they’€™re reaping in between the lines.

“I think there have been noticeable changes, both good and bad. He’€™s making very positive strides with the work he’€™s doing in Florida right now’€¦ this year the same freedom was provided during the off-season and yet he had a shortened off-season because of the WBC. This is not to point the finger at the WBC, but because we had six total players in the WBC, all but one reported to Spring Training to tell us what they needed conditioning wise, and what was needed as our Opening Day approach. That freedom was provided and reasonably so. We didn’€™t feel like for Daisuke to report back to the States for what would be five or seven days and then report back to the team in Japan, that would be a lot of unnecessary travel. So we did assign someone to monitor the work. If that is perceived as being restrictive, we have a responsibility for the size of investment that is in him, and it’€™s out of care and monitoring, not restriction or keeping him back in any way. And it’€™s unfortunate that he feels that way. The fact that it comes out in the way it does’€¦ There were many opportunities, team opportunities, to express the things that caused him stress, and yet when some of those things were brought out in those meetings’€¦ I think we’€™re all disappointed it came out the way it did’€¦

“There have been repeated and very consistent attempts to address any issue that not only Daisuke has, but that any one of our pitchers might encounter. And we worked diligently in combination with the player to achieve this’€¦

“We’€™ve talked earlier today. And I think out of respect to him, it stays between us’€¦

“The shoulder program is one thing. The amount of throwing and his training routine or what is common as Japan as we’€™ve come to know from Daisuke, is a high volume of throwing to get the shoulder in shape. We are not opposed to what would be considered a high volume of throwing, provided everything is in shape to support it’€¦

“When any pitcher falls into what we would call a ‘€˜red category’€™ we’€™ve got to take a time out and say there are some strengthening issues that need to be addressed’€¦We’€™d like to think we’€™re doing our best to put him in the best situation, and yet this is where the two baseball worlds collide’€¦

“We don’€™t have a date on a calendar saying this is when he’€™s going to be back in Boston pitching for us. Typically what you try to do is you build up a plan with that end date in mind and work backwards from that. But the way we’€™re approaching this is week-to-week with his input, as we’€™ve taken the input from him in the past, to build volume and intensity’€¦

“There has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player, and that’€™s not just in this situation’€¦

“There has been a lot of conversation, a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of trying to understand his perspective, which again, we have the utmost respect for what he’€™s accomplished in the past and what he’€™s accomplished here and how he likes to train. And as these situations have arose, there have been many sit-down meetings where thoughts have been exchanged back and forth. So the disappointment comes from basically airing his laundry’€¦

“All we can point to is the rigors that this schedule presents. You take two less days of rest, you take a much deeper and a much stronger lineup that they have to pitch against, so the intensity and the taxation of every pitch thrown is greater. You have to account for that. Regardless of where you’€™re from, the body has to have some recuperation and some rejuvenation, period, inside a five day cycle. At some point, there’s a level of diminishing returns. The more throwing, while that may be what gives some confidence, there’s a drop-off in physical stamina. That’s why I say there’s a point of diminishing returns when you pile on volume.

[His shoulder strength was described as testing well following the WBC. Was there a disparity between his shoulder and the rest of his physical condition?]

“When he reported back after the WBC, yes, there was an adequate level (of shoulder strength). Whether there was an overall foundation built underneath that, that is part of the gray area we’re trying to work through now, and we’re trying to backfill, in a sense.

“Do I think he’s more open? I think it couldn’t be any further from that, based on what he’s stated. If anything, he feels – he stated what he feels like. So I would say no – there’s no openness. We felt like there was a lot of information, a lot of observations exchanged. There have been plenty of conversations. Whether or not he buys into it or believes in it, I think that’s been made pretty clear in this article.

“We had felt all along that one of the main elements that he deals with is watching the pitch count flash on the board, knowing basically that the clock was ticking, to use an analogy. Knowing he is on a 100- to 120-pitch count, depending on the inning, depending on the game situation, he felt like that was adding stress to his mindset in games. And yet we can empathize with that. At the same time, it’s not (pitching) every seven days. The ability to throw 130, 145 pitches just doesn’t exist here. That’s not by our design. That’s just being prudent to the physical challenges a pitcher will face.

“We felt like we were on the same page. This adjustment to the throwing program as we were building it forward took a lot of these factors into account. For this to come out as it’s done probably changes our view of that a little bit.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Farrell,
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