|08.10.09 at 1:51 pm ET|
The Sox bats should welcome the return to Fenway tonight after a horrendous offensive weekend in New York. With a .299 average against Jackson in eight career starts the Red Sox should be able to put something together at the plate. Jackson is 2-4 with a 5.44 ERA in his career against Boston but pitched a gem in his last start on August 5 against Baltimore going eight innings only giving up three hits and two runs. The Sox return to Fenway for the first time since the trading deadline meaning Victor Martinez will likely make his Fenway debut, if not tonight, then sometime during the four-game series. The Sox took all three games from the Tigers in early June when the two teams last met.
Mike Lowell (21 at bats against Jackson): .239 average/.227 OBP/.429 slugging, 1 homer, 4 SO
David Ortiz (14): .429/.600/.786, 1 homer, 6 RBI, 6 BB
Kevin Youkilis (16): .188/.350/.250, 4 BB, 6 SO
J.D. Drew (14): .429/.556/.714, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 4 SO
Dustin Pedroia (14): .286/.412/.357, 3 RBI, 2 BB,
Jason Varitek (16): .125/.176/.125, 1 BB, 8 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (14): .429/.467/.500, 4 RBI, 1 BB
Victor Martinez (14): .214/.267/.214, 1 BB, 1 RBI, 2 SO
Jason Bay (8): 3-for-8, 1BB, 1RBI, 3 SO
Casey Kotchman (8): 4-for-8, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Nick Green (2): 1-for-2
BRAD PENNY VS. TIGERS
With a career 0-2 record and a 7.59 ERA against Detroit and the Central Division leaders winning four of their last five games, Penny has his work cut out for him. Yet five of Penny’s seven wins this season have come at Fenway, where he will face the Tigers tonight. In his last start against Tampa ,Penny went six innings, only the second time he has done so in his last five outings. With rookie Junichi Tazawa set to start Tuesday night’s game, Penny must throw at least six to help out the tired Sox bullpen.
Placido Polanco (22 at bats against Penny): .364 average/. 417 OBP/.500 slugging, 1 homer, 2 BB, 4 RBI
Miguel Cabrera (11): .364/.364/1.182, 3 homers, 7 RBI
Adam Everett (7): 2-for-7, 1 RBI
Carlos Guillen (5): 1-for-5, 2 SO
Curtis Granderson (3): 2-for-3, 2 RBI
Magglio Ordonez (2): 1-for-2
Marcus Thames (1): 1-for-1, 1 homer, 2 RBI, 1 BB
|08.10.09 at 8:16 am ET|
BOSTON ‘ There’s something funny about top Red Sox prospect Lars Anderson.
At 6-foot-4, the 21-year-old first baseman certainly has an intimidating presence on the field. He hovers over home plate, instantly shrinking the catcher and umpire behind him, and any given pitch thrown his way could easily fall victim to his fluid swing and powerful slugging ability. Anderson’s size and frame have been compared to that of Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, but if anything he looks like Dirk Nowitzki up there (give or take about six inches). He takes a strictly business approach to the game as evident from his unyielding work ethic and the results it produces.
‘He’s a diligent worker who has impressed the organization with his intelligence and maturity,’ according to Baseball America, which ranked Anderson first among all Red Sox prospects entering the season.
Up close, however, the highly touted minor leaguer almost seems like a giddy teenager: cheerful, starry-eyed, and simply grateful to be doing what he loves most.
In an odd turn of events, Anderson has seemingly paradoxical character traits: a no-nonsense approach to the game coupled with a happy-go-lucky attitude. He’s youthful but serious, confident yet unassuming, powerful but personable ‘ a gentle giant, if you will. Sure, he could effortlessly launch a ball to right field with sheer force and velocity, but he could also flash you an ear-to-ear childish grin reminiscent of a little kid opening presents on his birthday.
‘As a player, that guy does some things that not a lot of people could do,’ says Ryan Kalish, the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs centerfielder and Anderson’s longtime teammate and friend. ‘As a person, he’s just different from everyone else in a great way. He’s got that California bro-dude attitude.’
Anderson typically spares the media from his ‘bros’ and ‘dudes,’ but he is almost always a pleasant subject for interviews.
‘He’s one of those guys who could strike out five times in a game and still have a huge smile on his face,’ says one Sea Dogs official.
The guy doesn’t assume a new persona simply because there’s a camera or microphone in his face. In fact, he answers reporters candidly, often giving off-the-cuff remarks that are both pithy and clever ‘ like something a charmingly wise-cracking teenager might say.
When asked what he thinks he could improve upon most in the minors, Anderson answered: ‘Everything.’
When asked what his ideal timetable was for getting to the majors, he said: ‘When I’m ready.’
This year marks the first year that Anderson would have been draft eligible had he gone to college rather than made the leap to the majors straight out of high school. But when he was asked whether he’s ever ‘missed’ the college experience, Anderson simply replied: ‘I don’t know how I’d miss it if I never did it.’
Kalish says Anderson is usually ‘pretty sarcastic,’ which is often reflected in his sometimes humorous and offbeat interviews.
‘The way he talks to the media, that’s just his style and he likes to have fun with it,’ Kalish says.
Baseball skills aside, Anderson transcends his fellow teammates and opponents with his off-field persona. Like Yogi Berra, Shaquille O’Neal, and Rickey Henderson before him, Anderson is a sportsman who entertains with both his athletic ability and his personality.
The young slugger is already widely known to Red Sox fans, and is a big hit at that. During Saturday’s annual ‘Futures at Fenway’ game, Anderson clearly received the loudest ovation of any player at Fenway, both before and during the game. (He subsequently left the game during the fifth inning with an apparent injury to his left hamstring.)
‘He’s a guy who’s getting a lot of attention this year, so he’s not just someone coming up that nobody knows anything about anymore,’ said Portland Manager Arnie Beyeler.
Anderson has struggled so far this season, hitting a mere .243 with eight homers and 49 RBIs. But it’s also his first full year in Double-A since being promoted mid-way through the 2008 season.
Mostly it’s inconsistency at the plate that has really dogged Anderson this season. In April and June the lefty hit .293 and .298 respectively, whereas his average dipped to .194 and .231 in May and July, respectively. Not to mention he failed to hit a single home run in the month of July ‘ a significant marker of a slump for a prospect known for his power.
‘In May I had some physical issues that were a little inhibiting, but in July I just kind of lost trust in my abilities and I got away from my strengths,’ Anderson says. ‘But it’s good to know that and make adjustments.’
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being the cream of the Red Sox minor league system’s crop. Not only does the team have high hopes for their oversized slugger, but he’s become a prominent name in the greater baseball community as well. Baseball America Executive Editor Jim Callis ‘ one of the more renowned voices when it comes to scouting prospects ‘ ranked Anderson thirteenth among all minor leaguers entering the year, while ESPN’s Keith Law put him at number seven.
In the words of Law: ‘Anderson is the best of a fairly deep class of first base prospects in the minors right now, separating himself by his relative youth and advanced approach.’
Not too shabby for a guy only three years removed from high school.
Still, the praise and hype doesn’t much faze Anderson. In typical fashion, he’s too nonchalant to get over-excited about a few good ratings and the distinguished honor of being named one of the best young players in the minors.
‘It’s a pretty arbitrary and subjective thing,’ he says. ‘I don’t know who’s making those lists but there are a lot of other guys who are pretty good, too.’
Although he’s still young, Anderson appears made for the big leagues. He has the skills to thrive on the field, but more importantly he has the attitude to succeed off of it. Though at times odd and quirky, Lars Anderson possesses qualities typical of a great athlete: a steadfast work ethic, fun-loving with everyone he meets, and humble about his much-heralded success. There is a star quality about Anderson that has convinced his teammates, coaches, and friends that he’s going to make it ‘ it’s just a matter of time.
|08.08.09 at 8:57 pm ET|
BOSTON — With names like Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, and Michael Bowden in town for Futures at Fenway, it wasn’t likely that an all-but-forgotten first-round pick would steal the limelight on Saturday. Fortunately for Red Sox fans, that’s exactly what Portland left fielder Jason Place did.
After showing power unmatched by teammates in batting practice, Place proceeded to send a 90-mph fastball from Bowie BaySox starter Steve Johnson over the Monster for a two-run blast in the bottom of the second. The outfielder, is California-born but played his high school ball in Piedmont, S.C., added another RBI in the sixth on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in a 3-2 Sea Dogs win that served as a reminder as to why he was taken the pick before Daniel Bard back in 2006.
‘It was such a great feeling,’ Place said of what was also his first Double A homer after the game. ‘When I hit it I didn’t know if it was going to be high enough to get out. I was just praying, ‘Get up, get up! Oh please, God, get up!’’
The Sea Dogs win was followed by a 7-3 Pawtucket loss to the Norfolk Tides, but as the 32,251 shuffled out of the stadium at roughly quarter to six, it was Place who left the lasting impression.
It wasn’t his first time at Fenway, as he took part in pre-draft workouts in ‘06, but the 21-year-old said that starring in a win in front of Boston fans ‘[blew] that out of the water.’ Place is now hitting .191 in 14 games since being summoned from Single A Salem.
While Place provided the offense, those on hand for the matinee were treated to some stellar pitching by Portland lefty Felix Doubront. The 21-year-old Venezuelan struck out the first four batters he faced and K’d seven total over five innings of two-run ball. Doubront’s one slip-up came in his final inning of work in the form of a two-run homer from Bowie catcher Adam Donachie.
From a stuff standpoint, Doubront showcased a four-seam fastball that sat in the low-to-mid 90’s and touched 94 mph in addition to a low-80’s changeup and low-to-mid 70’s curveball that froze BaySox center fielder Daniel Figueroa in the first. Though his changeup was seen as being more established than his curve coming into the season, he threw the pitch minimally. Ryne Miller, who came away with the win, and Dustin Richardson each contributed two shutout innings apiece to extend the record of Red Sox affiliates to 7-0 in Futures at Fenway games prior to the Pawtucket loss.
While Junichi Tazawa (and then Enrique Gonzalez, who was called to the big club’s aid in New York) was expected to headline the Triple A matchup between the PawSox and Tides, 29-year-old knuckleballer Charlie Zink, who gave up eight earned in his lone Major League start last August 12 against the Rangers, had to suffice for those on hand at Fenway. Zink lasted five and a third, surrendering five runs, all of which were earned, while throwing a wild pitch and hitting two batters. All in all, five batters were hit in the game, with Norfolk starter Jake Arrieta hitting two and Pawtucket reliever T.J. Large hitting one.
The PawSox had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third thanks to a two-run single by Jeff Bailey, but the Norfolk tied it up the very next inning with two runs of their own. A two-run double in the sixth for Tide shortstop Blake Davis followed by a Robby Hammock groundout chased Zink from the game, but it wasn’t until after a Brandon Pinckney RBI single off of Large that the book was closed on Zink, who took the loss.
The Tide added two more in the eighth of Large, with the final PawSox run coming in the same inning off a throwing error to Bob McRory on what appeared to be a routine 1-4-3 double play. Two-out walks by Chris Carter and Sean Danielson in the bottom of the ninth went for naught when recently-acquired Chris Duncan flew to center to end the game.
‘I’m really disappointed that we’re the first [Sox affiliate] to lose here, but it was still very exciting to be out on the field,’ PawSox manager Ron Johnson said following the loss. “It’s always fun, I mean it’s beautiful.
‘It’s wonderful sitting in the dugout, it’s wonderful watching guys run out on the field, the fans [are] phenomenal, they just continually cheer. It’s great.’
The PawSox will travel to Charlotte for a series beginning Monday while the Sea Dogs return home Sunday against Bowie.
|08.08.09 at 3:41 pm ET|
What does a team wish for after a 15-inning loss that taxes their bullpen? Hint: it’s not a matchup of a guy who hasn’t had a six-inning major-league start in over a year against someone who’s tossed 155 innings on the season.
The last time Sabathia faced the Sox was on June 11 at Fenway, his lone appearance against Boston in a Yankee uniform. Sabathia pitched seven-plus innings (he faced three batters in the eighth but was unable to record an out) and left the game with the lead, though Alfredo Aceves allowed a single and sacrifice fly to Jason Bay and Mike Lowell, respectively. Both plays led to runs charged to Sabathia and the lefty took the loss in the 4-3 Sox victory.
Buchholz, meanwhile, is coming off a start in Baltimore in which all the runs in the world couldn’t help him. The Sox won the game, 18-10, but the 24-year-old righty lasted only four innings and allowed seven earned, failing to get a victory when his team put up a series’ worth of runs.
RED SOX VS. CC SABATHIA
David Ortiz (22 plate appearances vs. Sabathia): .333 average / .364 on-base / .667 slugging, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 3 SO
Jason Varitek (15): .077 / .200 / .308, homer, 3 RBI, BB, 3 SO, HBP
Mike Lowell (10): .200 / .200 / .200, RBI, 4 SO
Kevin Youkilis (10): .333 / .400 / .333, BB, 2 SO
J.D. Drew (7): 2-for-7, RBI, 4 SO
Nick Green (7): 1-for-6, 3 SO
Dustin Pedroia (7): 0-for-6, BB, SO
Jason Bay (6): 0-for-6
Casey Kotchman (4): 1-for-4, RBI
Victor Martinez (4): 1-for-4, SO
YANKEES VS. CLAY BUCHHOLZ
Melky Cabrera (6): 0-for-5, BB, SO
Robinson Cano (5): 0-for-5, SO
Eric Hinske (5): 0-for-4, BB
Hideki Matsui (5): 3-for-4, BB
Jorge Posada (5): 0-for-4, BB
Alex Rodriguez (5): 2-for-5, homer, RBI, SO
Derek Jeter (3): 2-for-3, 2 RBI
Jose Molina (2): 1-for-2, RBI
Nick Swisher (2): 0-for-1, BB
|08.08.09 at 2:22 pm ET|
The following is a statement from the Red Sox following David Ortiz’ press conference:
The Players Association made clear in its public statement today that there are substantial uncertainties and ambiguity surrounding the list of 104 names from the 2003 survey test. Indeed, there is even uncertainty about the number of players on this 2003 government list, whether it is 104, 96, 83, or less. Many of those uncertainties apparently relate to the use of then-legal nutritional supplements that were not banned by Baseball.
David vigorously denied ever buying or using steroids. As important, Major League Baseball has informed us that David has been tested every year since the implementation of the MLB/MLBPA program in 2004 and, under the program, he has been tested 15 or more different times. We have been informed that, during this entire 6-year period (2004-2009), David has never tested positive for a steroid. Also during this period, David voluntarily submitted himself to the Olympic standard of drug tests administered in connection with the World Baseball Classics in 2006 and in 2009. We are informed he did not test positive for steroids under those tests either, and he participated actively in both international tournaments.
Last week, David said he would keep people informed after he personally looked into reports of his inclusion on the 2003 survey test. He has done so. David Ortiz is a team leader, and his contributions on the field and in the community have earned him respect and a special place in the hearts of Red Sox Nation.
We appreciate the attention given to this specific matter by the Players Association and the Office of the Commissioner. The Boston Red Sox continue to support all efforts to rid the game of steroids. We again salute Commissioner Selig for his staunch and continuing leadership in eradicating the use of steroids in Major League Baseball.
|08.08.09 at 12:56 pm ET|
Speaking alongside the Major League Baseball Players Association general counsel Michael Weiner, Red Sox DH David Ortiz said he was ‘a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements and vitamins over the counter’ but insists he never bought or used steroids. Ortiz said he did meet with Weiner in 2004 for a short meeting but was never told he tested positive for steroids.
– Ortiz said that once he found out that one of the supplements he was taking was banned he stopped taking it.
“I consider myself one of the guys that I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplments and vitamins over hte counter, legal supplments or legal vitaments over the conter,” he said. “But I never used steroids.”
– Asked why he didn’t say he never bought or took steroids when initially confronted with the news, Ortiz said he wanted to get all the facts soon. Weiner said, “If it was simply up to David he would have been up there a lot sooner than he was today”, pointing out that the union encouraged the Sox slugger to wait.
– Ortiz said he was tested 15 or more times since the 2003 test, plus two more times for the World Baseball Classic, and never came up positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
– He said he obtained the supplements and vitamins in both the United States and Dominican Republic.
– Weiner clarified that a maximum of 96 players could have tested positive for the 2003 test for performance-enhancing drugs, not the 104 as was previously reported. Weiner went on to say that as few as 83 could be the number of positive tests, with as many as 13 of the tests being classified as inconclusive by the union, but because the 83 would be enough to trigger the new testing policy the exact number wasn’t further pursued.
– Weiner pointed out that Ortiz is not aware of anything regarding the 2003 test results.
– Ortiz wouldn’t like to see any of the other names on the list come out, pointing out his frustration of the lack of information he could get from the union and not wishing that frustration on anybody else.
|08.08.09 at 12:23 pm ET|
The following is a statement released by the MLBPA regarding the well-publicized testing for performance-enhancing drugs:
Major League Baseball Players Association General Counsel, Michael Weiner, today issued the following statement regarding 2003 testing.
‘The New York Times recently reported that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez “are among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.” The reported sources for this statement were “lawyers with knowledge of the [test] results” who “spoke anonymously because the testing information is under seal by a court order.” The Association has previously offered its views regarding this patent violation of court orders by attorneys, and The New York Times’ active pursuit and publication of what it openly acknowledges to be information that may not be legally disclosed.
‘In light of the Times’ report, and all the other newspaper reports it has spurred, the Association feels compelled to offer the following additional comments:
‘The sealing orders, which were appropriately issued by the various courts to maintain the collectively-bargained confidentiality of the testing, prevent the Association from supplying a player with specifics regarding his 2003 test results, or from discussing those specifics publicly. The practical effect of the sealing orders, if that confidentiality is to be maintained, is to further preclude the Players Association from confirming or denying whether a player’s name appears on any list which purportedly discloses the 2003 test results. The result is that any union member alleged to have tested positive in 2003 because his name supposedly appears on some list — most recently David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez — finds himself in an extremely unfair position; his reputation has been threatened by a violation of the court’s orders, but respect for those orders now leaves him without access to the information that might permit him to restore his good name.
‘Unlike those anonymous lawyers who have violated the court orders — and The New York Times, which has authorized an active and willful pursuit of those violations — the Association will respect the courts’ rulings. But we can legally say the following, each of which we suggest must be considered in assessing any and all newspaper reports stating a player has “tested positive for steroids in 2003.’
‘First, the number of players on the so-called “government list” meaningfully exceeds the number of players agreed by the bargaining parties to have tested positive in 2003. Accordingly, the presence of a player’s name on any such list does not necessarily mean that the player used a prohibited substance or that the player tested positive under our collectively bargained program.
‘Second, substantial scientific questions exist as to the interpretation of some of the 2003 test results. The more definitive methods that are utilized by the lab that administers the current Drug Agreement were not utilized by the lab responsible for the anonymous testing program in 2003. The collective bargaining parties did not pursue definitive answers regarding these inconclusive results, since those answers were unnecessary to the administration of the 2003 program.
‘Third, in 2003, legally available nutritional supplements could trigger an initial “positive” test under our program. To account for this, each “test” conducted in 2003 actually consisted of a pair of collections: the first was unannounced and random, the second was approximately 7 days later, with the player advised to cease taking supplements during the interim. Under the 2003 program, a test could be initially reported as “positive”, but not treated as such by the bargaining parties on account of the second test. ‘
|08.07.09 at 8:01 pm ET|
NEW YORK — So, here is what happened Friday (before the epic, 15-inning, 2-0 Red Sox‘ loss):
– Toronto outfielder Alex Rios was claimed off waivers, as was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney, leading some to suspect that the Red Sox might be the team making a claim on the Blue Jays outfielder (who is owed more than $60 million). But late Friday afternoon a source told WEEI.com that the Sox were not the team that made the claim.
– Junichi Tazawa was called up from Triple A Pawtucket. Friday night his role will be out of the bullpen, with the Red Sox making a determination after that as to what the pitcher will do. It was not announced who will take John Smoltz‘ spot in the rotation. (More on that in a bit.) For a great breakdown on Tazawa’s unlikely path to the big leagues, check out Alex Speier’s blog entry.
– To make room for Tazawa the Red Sox designated Billy Traber for assignment, and Woodward’s spot was made possible by the DFA’ing of John Smoltz. The Red Sox aren’t ruling out a return by Smoltz, who Sox GM Theo Epstein met with Friday morning to inform the pitcher of the news. It would seem as though the opening for such a return would see Smoltz go the minors to see if relieving might be an option going forward. As Red Sox manager Terry Francona pointed out, the team wouldn’t ask the surgically-repaired shoulder of Smoltz to simply dive into the relief pitching lifestyle that encompasses quick warm-up periods.
|08.07.09 at 5:15 pm ET|
BOSTON, MA — The Red Sox today claimed infielder Chris Woodward off waivers from the Seattle Mariners and recalled right-handed pitcher Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket. Both players will be available for tonight’s game against the Yankees. Woodward will wear No. 3 and Tazawa will wear No. 63. To make room on the active Major League roster, right-handed pitchers John Smoltz and Billy Traber were designated for assignment.
The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
Woodward, 33, hit .239 (16-for-67) with five RBI in 20 games for Seattle before being designated for assignment on August 4. He made 15 appearances (14 starts) at third base, five (four starts) at second base and one (one start) at shortstop and has played at least three different positions in seven of his 10 Major League seasons. Woodward began 2009 with Triple-A Tacoma where he batted .299 (52-for-174) with one home run and 15 RBI in 51 games.
In 2005, the right-handed hitter played at least five games at every defensive position except pitcher and catcher, joining Denny Hocking (2000-01) and Clay Bellinger (2000) as the only Major Leaguers ever to accomplish the feat. He has the most experience at shortstop, where he owns a .966 career fielding percentage in 316 games (279 starts).
Originally selected by Toronto in the 54th round of the 1994 First-Year Player Draft, Woodward has a career .243 batting average with 33 home runs and 191 RBI over 627 games with the Blue Jays (1999-2004), Mets (2005-06), Braves (2007) and Mariners (2009).
Tazawa, 23, is 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 20 starts this season split between Double-A Portland and Pawtucket. The right-hander was named an Eastern League All-Star after going 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA in 18 starts for the Sea Dogs. He also represented Team World in the 2009 All-Star Futures Game in St. Louis but did not play.
Promoted to Pawtucket on July 26, the native of Yokohama, Japan is 0-2 despite a 2.38 ERA in two International League starts, last allowing two runs in 5.1 innings in a loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. He is currently in his first professional season after signing with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent following a four-year career with the Nippon Oil ENEOS of the Japan Industrial League.
Smoltz, 42, went 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox this season. The 1996 N.L. Cy Young Award has a 212-152 career record with 154 saves and a 3.32 ERA in 716 games (474 starts) with the Braves (1988-2008) and Red Sox (2009). He ranks 16th in baseball history with 3,044 strikeouts and is the only pitcher ever to record at least 200 wins and 150 saves in his career.
Traber, 29, made season debut for the Red Sox last night, allowing five runs over 3.2 relief innings. He was selected to Boston’s active roster on August 5 after going 7-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 32 games (four starts) for Pawtucket.
— RED SOX —
|08.07.09 at 4:22 pm ET|
A couple of Japanese terms became popular on Boston’s Double-A affiliate this year. Portland players took to saying, ‘saiko,’ or good job, following pitcher Junichi Tazawa’s outings, and ‘egui’ to describe a particularly ‘sick’ pitch.
Tazawa gave plenty of opportunities to use both terms. With Double-A Portland, he went 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA, earning a role as the starting pitcher for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game. Shortly thereafter, the Sox further recognized his excellent work by giving him a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he made two starts and, despite going 0-2, forged a 2.38 ERA.
That further reinforced a perception that Tazawa has been creating since he arrived in Red Sox spring training camp, namely that he entered his first professional season with the polish of someone ready to pitch in the majors. That notion gained its ultimate confirmation on Friday, when the Sox called up Tazawa from Pawtucket to join the major-league club in New York.
Tazawa will be available in the bullpen in New York on Friday. His role beyond that, manager Terry Francona said, has not yet been determined.
Tazawa has more than delivered on the promise that convinced the Sox to sign him to a three-year, $3.3 million major-league contract in December. He features a sophisticated four-pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, splitter) that makes it hard to believe, at times, that he is dealing with the transition to professional baseball, as well as a new culture on and off the field.
‘It’s a great combination,’ Portland pitching coach Mike Cather said recently. ‘(His performance) has been steady, but I think that the progress of the plan that he’s taking out there from game-to-game has gotten much more defined: setting up hitters, usage of his stuff, execution of his fastball and fastball command, how he attacks the hitter.’
After a dominant spring training (1.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 9 innings), Tazawa was assigned to Double-A Portland, where he showed constant growth on the mound, something that continued as he moved up to Triple-A. For now, Tazawa typically works with an 88-92 mph fastball, but sometimes he touches 93 and 94 mph, and over the long term, the Sox believe that he might be able to hold that velocity as he benefits from a strengthening program.
“In the future, yes, I think there’s definitely a chance this guy’s going to throw a bit harder,” Sox farm director Mike Hazen said last month. “Whatever his future holds at the major league level, there’s a chance that he throws hard but now that’s what we’ve seen, 88-92 up to 93 or 94.”
Because Tazawa is in his first pro season, and is coming from a league that hasn’t offered a clear precedent for a transition to professional ball in the U.S., mapping out the duration of his season is a bit tricky. He assumed a significant workload (described as anywhere from 150-180 innings) while pitching for Eneos of a Japanese amateur industrial league last year, and so the Sox have long considered the possibility of using him as a reliever later this year (likely in a September call-up) to manage his innings. Some of the decision will be based on how he performs in strength tests.
For now, however, he is at 110 innings, and so the Sox feel comfortable with having him continue to add innings either in the rotation (where he has spent the entire season, and where the organization believes he has a long-term future) or the bullpen for the short term.
‘He may get some innings as a reliever, but we’ll see. Right now, nothing’s really been mapped out,’ Hazen said a few weeks ago, before Tazawa was promoted to Pawtucket. ‘We do feel pretty comfortable that he’s worked to a certain threshold and can hold a starter’s log for the season’¦I think we certainly see him as a starting pitcher but in the short term he may end up pitching out of the bullpen at some point in September or thereabouts.’
Though Tazawa’s strikeout numbers are down in Triple-A (he has struck out 4.8 per nine innings in his two starts, down from 8.1 per nine innings with Portland), he has held opponents to a .184 average in his two starts. Particularly noteworthy has been Tazawa’s success against right-handers, who are 1-for-18 (.056) against him in two starts for Pawtucket.
Pawtucket has been just the latest evidence that Tazawa seems unphased by any transition. He was very popular among his teammates in Portland (with whom he made a concerted effort to connect even though he still requires a translator to do so), he has adopted in full the Red Sox’ shoulder and strengthening programs as well as the organization’s outline for between-starts routines, and after having pitched exclusively out of the stretch while with Eneos, it took the pitcher just a couple of starts at the beginning of the season to become comfortable pitching out of the windup, thereby reducing the stress on his shoulder in his delivery. He became accustomed, too, to an American baseball that Tazawa described as “more slippery” than the ball used in Japan.
Asked at the Futures Game whether anything about his success in his first professional season had surprised him, Tazawa’s answer was blunt.
“No,” he said. “I just want to learn everything about American-style baseball.”
Now, he will have a new opportunity to learn, this time at the major-league level. Tazawa said at Yankee Stadium that his biggest concern is the difference in the baseball between the minors (which is manufactured in China) and the majors (Costa Rica). The next phase of the pitcher’s apprenticeship will be closely watched on two continents.
Rob Bradford contributed from New York.
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- System Restart 2015, Pt. 7: Low Minors Pitchers
- Cup of Coffee: Brentz walks off for PawSox home opener
- Cup of Coffee: Jackie Bradley Jr. continues hot start, Pawtucket falls in doubleheader
- System Restart 2015, Pt. 6: Mid-Minors Pitchers
- Cup of Coffee: Margot, Longhi, and Cecchini provide the power
- Podcast Ep. 73: Scout Talk and Season's Start
- Cup of Coffee: Abbreviated 2015 debuts for Kopech, Barnes
- Weekly Notes: Let the games begin