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Beckett brings it (again)

06.09.09 at 9:28 pm ET
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Josh Beckett’s night is done, having given up just one hit and no runs over six innings. He struck out eight, walked two, and threw 93 pitches. The Yankees‘ lone hit came on a Robinson Cano fourth-inning single. Manny Delcarmen is on for the seventh, with the Red Sox carrying a 6-0 lead.

Rounding Out the First Round: Picks 29-32

06.09.09 at 8:51 pm ET
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The first round closed with a run on position players, as the final six picks of the round were all position guys. Following the selection of Reymond Fuentes by the Sox at No. 28, the Yankees took high school centerfielder Zach Heathcott, the Rays selected second baseman LeVon Washington, the Cubs took a dazzling athlete in Brett Jackson out of Berkeley, and the round was closed by the Rockies taking outfielder Tim Wheeler.

Even though the draft started with a big run on pitching, with nine of the first 12 selections being mound prospects, the first round finished with a far more balanced outcome. Overall, nine college pitchers (28 percent), seven high-school pitchers (22 percent), six college position players (19 percent) and 10 high-school position players (31 percent) were taken.

The Red Sox do not pick again until the 77th overall pick of the draft, so the team has quite a while to wait. Trying to predict who will be available at that point is an exercise in futility…

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Beckett besting Burnett

06.09.09 at 8:41 pm ET
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A.J. Burnett is already out of the game, having given up five runs on five hits with three walks in just 2 2/3 innings. He threw 84 pitches, only 40 for strikes. Prior to the outing, Burnett hadn’t had a start that lasted fewer than five inning this season. He has now allowed 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings in two Fenway Park starts this year.

Josh Beckett, on the other hand, is supplying a performance 180 degrees opposite of his former Marlins teammate. It wasn’t until there was two outs in the fourth inning that the Sox starter allowed a hit — giving up a single to Robinson Cano, which Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia dove for, gathered in, but lost the handle on when trying to make the throw.

Through four innings Beckett hasn’t allowed a run, striking out five and walking two. The only drawback for the hurler is that his pitch count (71) might not allow him to go as deep as he might like/warrant.

Beckett’s curveball has been pivotal for him, especially against the heart of the Yankees order. having thrown the pitch 23 times already.

UPDATED: Red Sox select outfielder Reymond Fuentes

06.09.09 at 8:26 pm ET
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With their first-round pick, the Red Sox selected outfielder Reymond Fuentes, a high schooler from Puerto Rico. Fuentes is the cousin of Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran, meaning that the Sox have taken a player with big-league bloodlines with their top pick for the second straight year, following Casey Kelly‘s selection in the first round last year. Fuentes is considered a player whose natural abilities — with tremendous speed and raw power — make him a high-upside selection.

The 18-year-old Fuentes – listed at 6-foot-1, and weighing 165 pounds – is described as raw in his offensive approach, with a need to improve his plate discipline. The Sox have not shied from such players with their top overall picks, most notably when they took Clay Buchholz in the sandwich round of the 2005 draft and Jason Place with their first pick in the 2006 draft.

Fuentes is drawing comparisons in many corners to Johnny Damon. So that would make two top Red Sox picks in the last five drafts — Fuentes and Jacoby Ellsbury — who have drawn that comparison.

This marks the third straight year that the Sox have taken a player in the draft out of Puerto Rico, following shortstop Kenneth Roque (20th round, 2007) and Christian Vazquez (9th round, 2008). Prior to Roque’s selection, the Sox hadn’t taken a player out of Puerto Rico since 1997. Fuentes is the first first-rounder out of Puerto Rico since 2000, when the Jays took Miguel Negron with the 18th overall selection.

Here is what Baseball America had to say about Fuentes:

“A relative of Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, Fuentes is an electric, game-changing player. The (5-foot-10), (165)-pound center fielder is slender, but has wiry strength and can put a change in a ball during batting practice. Like a ticking clock, he hits line drives from foul pole to foul pole with his lefthanded swing. He’s also an elite runner, clocking in at just under 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash at Puerto Rico’s annual Excellence Tournament in early May. In game situations, Fuentes stays within himself, goes with a contact-oriented approach and lets his plus speed play to his advantage. These tools make Fuentes an ideal leadoff hitter. Defensively, Fuentes’ range will allow him to stay in center field as a professional. Right down to his below-average arm, he’s a similar player to the Yankees‘ Johnny Damon.”

The Sox were true to their promised approach of selecting the best player available, rather than focusing on need. The Sox have a number of young athletic outfielders in the lower levels of the minors — including players such as Ryan Kalish, Ryan Westmoreland, Pete Hissey, Che-Hsuan Lin and Jason Place. Fuentes adds to that well-populated group.

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Red Sox Draft Pick Nears: Picks 21-27

06.09.09 at 8:05 pm ET
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With pick No. 21, the Astros go after Giovani Mier, while with the No. 22 overall pick, the Twins go after one of the more interesting picks of the first round, Kyle Gibson of the University of Missouri. Gibson was considered a top-of-the-first round pick, but suffered a forearm stress fracture late in his college season, and plummeted as a result. When healthy, his stuff was considered electric. Presumably, his injury may have delivered a hit not only to his draft number but also to his bonus demands – a likelihood, given that the Twins are typically tethered pretty much to slot bonuses.

It would have been interesting to see whether the Red Sox would have made a play for Gibson had he remained on the board. The team subjects its draft decisions to significant medical scrutiny (something that was believed by industry sources to have played into the decision not to pursue either Joba Chamberlain or Taylor Teagarden in the draft).

With Gibson off the board, the biggest signability drop now belongs to Tanner Scheppers, viewed as a top-10 talent, but also is surrounded by some health questions.

The White Sox took LSU centerfielder Jarrod Mitchell with the No. 23 pick. Sox scouting director Jason McLeod and area scout John Booher dropped on one of Mitchell’s games in February.

The Angels follow with a bit of a surprise, plucking high school outfielder Randal Grichuk with the No. 24 pick. In an unsurprising development for an Angels draftee, Grichuk has been described as a “gamer.”

Award for Most Awkward Interview on MLB Network goes to Mike Trout, a kid who was nice enough to head to the MLB draft broadcast but who is now sitting nervously, wondering when in the heck someone, anyone will take him.

“I’m nervous,” Trout — ranked the No. 25 talent in the draft — conceded.

Apparently, the Angels took pity on the kid, selecting the New Jersey native with the next pick at No. 25.

Right-hander Eric Arnett out of Indiana University goes No. 26 to the Brewers. We now know that the two best high school catchers in the draft will still be on the board for the Sox at No. 28, but there are interesting players who are still sitting on the board, including Tanner Scheppers and first baseman Rich Poythress out of the University of Georgia.

The Mariners just grabbed high school shortstop Nick Franklin at No. 27. The Sox are on the board, with options aplenty.

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Guess What? Papi went deep

06.09.09 at 8:01 pm ET
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David Ortiz has his third home run of the season in the books, hitting an A.J. Burnett 2-2, 95 mph fastball over the center field wall for a two-run homer. The blast scored Mike Lowell, who had led off the inning with a walk. 

J.D. Drew capped the inning’s scoring by launching an 0-2, 95 mph fastball off the top of the left field wall, scoring both Mark Kotsay and Nick Green.

Drew is typically a terrible 0-2 hitter, having struck out 12 times in 17 chances on the count, while hitting just .167 after going to 0-2.

Burnett finished the second having thrown 43 pitches in the frame, and has 61 after two. The Red Sox head to the third leading, 4-0.

Beckett’s strategy unveiled

06.09.09 at 7:28 pm ET
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Josh Beckett threw 18 pitches in the first inning. Would you believe nine of them were curveballs. Of course, six of the benders came during Mark Teixeira’s eight-pitch at-bat (which ultimately ended up in a walk). 

In case you missed it, our man Gary from Chapel Hill came out firing today with a report as to who is the most prevalent fastball throwers on the team and how effective they are with the heater.

As far as the Red Sox‘ offense goes, Dustin Pedroia hit a ball to the center field warning track that might have had more legs if not for the drizzly weather conditions, but died into Brett Gardner’s glove. Pedroia has two career homers off NY starter A.J. Burnett, including his second career long ball, which was the impetus for the classic line upon re-entering the dugout, “96 coming in, 196 going out”.

More MLB Draft Updates: Picks 11-20

06.09.09 at 7:11 pm ET
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As was the case in 2008, this year’s MLB draft seems to be proceeding more based on talent than on signability. Some of the players who were thought possibilities to drop, including Jacob Turner (No. 9 – Tigers), Tyler Matzek (No. 11 – Rockies) and Aaron Crow (No. 12 – Royals), have been snapped up relatively high.

According to Baseball America, Matzek had been seeking “precedent-setting money,” and Crowe failed to sign after the Nationals took him in the first round last year after demanding a $4 million bonus. The Nationals offered a $3.5 million major-league contract, but the Scott Boras client turned it down in order to play independent league baseball over the past year and try to take another crack at fulfilling his bonus demands.

The A’s popped Boras client Grant Green with the No. 13 overall pick. Interestingly, the A’s have been incredibly aggressive in the last couple years in paring back major-league payroll in order to pour money into both the draft and international amateur talent. That’s all part of the changing landscape of the game.

In 2006, the Sox selected player after player who represented a signability question, spending hundreds of thousands on picks like Ryan Kalish (9th round), Ty Weeden (16th round), Josh Reddick (17th round) and Lars Anderson (18th). Last year, while the Sox spent incredibly aggressively, dropping roughly $10 million on the draft, they recognized that the signability guys weren’t going to slip beyond the first few rounds of the draft. Teams like the A’s and Royals, who toed the line on finding guys who would sign for the MLB slot bonus recommendations, are now spending the necessary money to go after talent.

The development did not seem a certainty this year. With the economy affecting some teams’ bottom lines (or anticipated future incomes), there had been some thought that more teams might shy from signability concerns. Certainly, MLB anticipates – and is trying to encourage – such an outcome. MLB’s slotting recommendations called for a 10 percent decrease in bonuses. Such a recommendation borders on inane – MLB recommended a 10 percent decline in slotting bonuses last year, resulting in nearly every MLB club (I believe that it was 26 or 27) breaking ranks with the slotting bonus recommendations.

Pitchers, pitchers and more pitchers are the order of the day in the early going. Matt Purke, considered a high school lefty who is considered a tough signee, went to the Rangers at No. 14, and UNC star pitcher Alex White went to the Indians at No. 15. The tally stands at pitchers – 11, position players – 4.

But the pendulum took a swing after the top 15, with the Diamondbacks (in back-to-back picks at 16 and 17) taking a high-school power bat in Bobby Borchering and an athletic college centerfielder in Notre Dame’s Allen Pollock.

The MLB Network is currently interviewing Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who is the baseball coach at San Diego State. Oddly, Gwynn has seen pitchers excel in his program, including not just Strasburg but also Justin Masterson, whom the Sox took in the second round of the 2006 draft. Masterson suggested that the experience of playing under Gwynn was quite helpful for his development – he was not awe-struck in the big-league environment in part because he’d become accustomed to hanging out with one of the top hitters in the majors in a generation.

The Marlins continued their longstanding obsession with high-school power pitchers with the No. 18 pick, going after Oklahoma left-hander Chad James.  Since taking Josh Beckett in the first round (second overall) of the 1999 draft, the team has now taken seven high-school pitchers with a first-round pick, though James was the team’s first since Chris Volstad in 2005.

The Cards also went after a high-school pitcher in Shelby Miller. There’s some top catching talent still on the board – an area of some strength in this year’s draft – including not only Max Stassi, but also Wil Myers, who is believed to be seeking top 10 money.

The Blue Jays closed out the first 20 picks by selecting college right-hander Stephen Jenkins out of Kennesaw State. Much to their chagrin, the Jays are one of the few teams in MLB that is not permitted to exceed slot recommendations with its signing bonuses. In a division in which they will not be able to keep up with the major-league payroll of either the Red Sox or Yankees, the fact that they are not permitted to remain close to a level playing field in the draft budget represents a massive, massive problem in their efforts to compete over the long haul.

Oh — and for those of you thinking about the major-league Red Sox, David Ortiz has crushed a homer to center on a 95 mph fastball from A.J. Burnett. That is his best swing of 2009.

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Lowell offered A-Rod guidance

06.09.09 at 7:06 pm ET
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Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said that he and Alex Rodriguez exchanged text messages while his Yankees counterpart was dealing with a similar torn hip labrum as the one Lowell suffered at the end of the 2008 season.

“I think he was already in Colorado and decided what he was going to do,” Lowell said, referring to Rodriguez’ stay with a hip specialist in the state prior to undergoing surgery. 

In case you forgot — or haven’t gotten to that part in “Deep Drive” — Lowell and Rodriguez were the double play combination for their junior varisty high school team at Westminster Academy, with A-Rod playing shortstop and Lowell manning second. The Sox third baseman went on to transfer to Coral Gables High.

MLB Draft Updates – First 10 Picks

06.09.09 at 6:49 pm ET
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Jason McLeod, the Red Sox director of amateur scouting, popped through the Red Sox clubhouse prior to today’s game, accompanied by John Booher. (Booher, who now covers Texas and Louisiana, was the area scout who was chiefly responsible for following 2005 first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury and 2007 top selection Nick Hagadone, who just returned to the mound this weekend following Tommy John surgery. Ellsbury and Booher briefly exchanged pleasantries in the clubhouse.) McLeod said that the Sox still have no idea who they will be taking with the 28th pick of the draft, since the Sox are in a position where they are at the mercy of the direction of 27 other clubs.

Stephen Strasburg went No. 1 overall to absolutely no one’s surprise.

Dustin Ackley, son of former Red Sox minor-leaguer John Ackley, was taken second by the Mariners, and B.C. catcher Tony Sanchez was selected fourth by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Red Sox have had a couple of kids come into Fenway Park for workouts in the last couple of days (including high school catcher Max Stassi). Manager Terry Francona said that he’s run into a couple of them, including one slightly awkward encounter in the manager’s office earlier today.

“One of the young kids saw me in my underwear today,” said Francona, who was coming out of a SwimEx machine. “I don’t imagine he’ll be signing with us. I don’t think he’s dying to be a Red Sox.”

The Tigers selected right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner with the ninth overall pick. Some mock drafts had suggested that the Sox would happily pounce on Turner if he fell due to signability concerns, but the Tigers — a team that spends aggressively in the draft — prevented that outcome from taking place. Turner is a Scott Boras client.

Of the top 10 picks this year, four were college pitchers, three were high-school pitchers, two were college position players (one catcher — Sanchez — and one outfielder — Ackley) and one was a high school outfielder (Donovan Tate).

Read More: Boston College, dustin ackley, jacob turner, mlb draft
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