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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Match-ups, 7/17

07.17.09 at 12:53 pm ET
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RED SOX VS. RICKY ROMERO

The 44-46 Blue Jays, amidst rumors that they could be dealing their ace, apparently have a man who could anchor the rotation in the eventual absence of Roy Halladay. Just 24 years old, Ricky Romero has been stellar for the Blue Jays and could be AL Rookie of the Year despite battling a right oblique muscle strain.

In 13 starts this season, the left-handed Romero has gone 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA and has 69 strikeouts in 87 innings. One could say the young man has been dominant.

Just not against the Red Sox.

On May 31 at Fenway, Romero gave up five earned in his only start against Boston to date, an 8-2 loss. Dustin Pedroia did most of the damage, hitting a three-run dinger with two out in the fourth, which proved to be Romero’s last inning of the game. That loss dropped his record to 2-2, but he’s gone 5-1 and pitched at least 6 1/3 innings in all eight starts since then. He’s pitched at least seven in all but two of those and has gone eight in two of the last three.

Romero, drafted sixth overall by Toronto in 2005, uses a slider and a 12-6 curve to compliment a low-90’s fastball. Here’s how Red Sox hitters did against him back in May:

Jason Bay (3 career plate appearances vs. Romero): 1-for-1, double, 2 BB
J.D. Drew (3): 1-for-3, 2 SO
Dustin Pedroia (3): 1-for-3, homer, 3 RBI
Kevin Youkilis (3): 1-for-2, homer, RBI, BB
Jacoby Ellsbury (2): 1-for-1
Nick Green (2): 0-for-1, BB, SO
David Ortiz (2): 1-for-2, double
Jason Varitek (2): 0-for-1, BB

BLUE JAYS VS. CLAY BUCHHOLZ

If there’s a single baseball fan in the country (actually, make that Canada, too) who doesn’t know who is starting for the Red Sox tonight, I am astonished. After months of re-establishing himself as a pitcher in Pawtucket, Clay Buchholzis finally making his first start of the season for the Sox.

‘€œIt’€™s hard to sit here and try to do more than what I’€™ve been doing,’€ said Buchholz of his Pawtucket situation back in early June. ‘€œI don’€™t think I need to do any more. It’€™s just a matter of, when the time comes, for me to be ready whenever they do give me that call.’€

The time has finally come, though it won’t last long at all. Terry Francona indicated on Sunday that it would simply be a spot-start to give the rotation an extra day of rest.

Buchholz’ situation is an interesting one. Everyone knows about his no-no in his second start in ’07, but Buchholz himself believes that he should not have been in the big-league rotation in 2008 because he still wasn’t ready. Buchholz was proven right, and the results weren’t pretty:  a 2-9 record with a 6.75 ERA.

In 16 games for Pawtucket this season (including a relief appearance for John Smoltz), Buchholz has posted a 2.36 ERA to go with a 7-2 record. He has 85 strikeouts in 93 innings and a WHIP of 0.95. Here’s how Blue Jays hitters have fared against him.

Kevin Millar (7 career plate appearances vs. Buchholz): 0-for-5, 2 BB, 4 SO
Vernon Wells (6): 0-for-4, 2 BB
Alex Rios (5): 1-for-5, double, SO
Aaron Hill (4): 1-for-4, 2 SO
Lyle Overbay (4): 2-for-4, RBI, SO
Adam Lind (2): 1-for-2, SO
Marco Scutaro (2): 0-for-1, SO, BB
Rod Barajas (1): walk
John McDonald (1): 1-for-1, double, RBI

Here’s a Full Count “Did You Know?”: The Red Sox were the only team in the majors who planned on drafting Buchholz as a pitcher in 2005. They stuck to their guns and took him with a sandwich pick (Pedro Martinez) and the rest is history.

Read More: Buchholz, Halladay, Romero,

Amidst Rumors, Buchholz Unveiled

07.17.09 at 1:53 am ET
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PAWTUCKET ‘€“ With the sappy euphoria of All-Star week behind us, it’€™s time to get down to brass tacks.

The Red Sox are only three games up on the Yankees in a tight AL East race; Tampa Bay and their big bats are ready to pounce at only 6.5 games behind; and the Fenway faithful is hungry for another championship. The pressure is on Boston to win, and in the next 2½ months they’€™ll try everything they can to do just that ‘€“ perhaps including a shuffling around of players currently on the roster.

Roy Halladay has been the focal point of trade rumors ever since Toronto G.M. J.P. Ricciardi publicly declared that he would be shopping the Blue Jays’ ace. The prospect of sporting a pitching staff that includes a top three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Halladay (not to mention Smoltz, Wakefield, Penny and perhaps Matsuzaka) would border on excessive. 

If the Sox were to trade for the Cy Young Award-winning Halladay, the package might have to include prized prospect Clay Buchholz. The 24-year-old righty has had a most unusual career with Boston thus far: in only his second game with the club, Buchholz threw a no-hitter against Baltimore before going 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA during the 2008 season.

This year Buchholz has pitched for Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’€™s been completely dominant, going 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA.

‘€œBuch’€™s an interesting guy because he burst onto the scene with a no-hitter, but he still had development left,’€ said Pawtucket Manager Ron Johnson. ‘€œI think the organization made a really good call with him last year by sending him to the Fall League, and we’€™re reaping the benefits of it right now because he’€™s put together a really fine season.’€

On Friday, Buchholz finally gets to make his first major league start of 2009 as the Sox head to Toronto. The call-up is described by Sox officials as likely being a one-and-done affair, with the pitcher expected to be sent back to the minors afterwards.

But the fact that the game will take place in Toronto certainly adds to the intrigue given the Halladay rumors. Blue Jays scouts were in attendance at his last start in Pawtucket on Sunday, but Buchholz hasn’€™t let the trade rumors affect him.

‘€œIt never really was an issue for me,’€ Buchholz said on Sunday. ‘€œEverything happens for a reason, so if something like that was to happen then you just have to take it for what it’€™s worth and you go on with your career. But I plan to be with the Red Sox for a long time.’€

Some wonder whether the call-up is simply an opportunity for Boston to showcase the young flamethrower to Toronto before a potential trade. But Buchholz said he completely disagrees and, above all else, he’€™s just excited to be back in the big leagues.

His teammates have adopted a similar attitude, choosing to mostly ignore the trade talk and instead focus on playing the game.

‘€œIt’€™s uncontrollable and there’€™s nothing I can do, so I don’€™t worry about it,’€ said Pawtucket pitcher Michael Bowden, another highly touted Sox prospect. ‘€œThere are so many other things that go into this game that you need to focus on, and you can’€™t let that stuff get in your head.’€

Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has played with Buchholz in Pawtucket while rehabbing this season, remembers when his name came up in trade talks for another big time pitcher in 2007: Johan Santana. Dealing with the rumors, Lowrie said, wasn’€™t too bad at all.

‘€œI found it relatively simply,’€ Lowrie said. ‘€œRumors are rumors, and getting traded is all part of the business. You just have to always prepare yourself for something like that, and if it happens you have to go into the situation with the best attitude you can.’€

While Buchholz certainly seems to have the right attitude, it’€™s the powers that be who will ultimately decide his fate.

Johnson knows this, and that’€™s why he’€™s not sweating about Buchholz’€™s future either.

‘€œI’€™m not going to play GM on this thing,’€ Johnson said. ‘€œClay Buchholz is going to prepare to pitch for the Red Sox and do the best he can. What happens after that, it’€™s up to the guys upstairs. We’€™ve got some smart guys up there.’€

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Michael Bowden, Pawtucket

Red Sox Aggressive in Signing International Shortstops

07.16.09 at 3:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox, who had been expected for months to sign shortstop Jose Vinicio out of the Dominican Republic, have now officially signed the shortstop for a $1.95 million bonus. Vinicio became eligible to sign once he turned 16 on July 10.

The Sox are also believed to be close to finalizing an agreement with Jose Iglesias, a 19-year-old out of Cuba. Multiple reports peg the agreement as being for four years in the vicinity of $8.2 million. (The Boston Herald was the first to confirm the agreement.)

Vinicio was widely regarded as one of the best talents available in the international amateur free-agent market this summer. The shortstop is described as having legitimate defensive skills that would allow him to stay at short, with the chance to develop into an above-average hitter (particularly given his position). Baseball America offered the following scouting report on him:

“(Miguel Angel Sano) is technically the No. 1 shortstop prospect this year, but Vinicio is the top prospect who projects to stay at shortstop in pro ball. Scouts say Sano and Vinicio are two of the best athletes in Latin America, and while Vinicio lacks Sano’s power stroke, he has very good bat speed and has shown the ability to drive the ball with some authority. Vinicio has a skinny, projectable frame, and scouts say the switch-hitter is better from the right side of the plate. In the field, Vinicio separates himself from his peers with good speed, range, arm strength and instincts.”

As for Iglesias, he is considered a very athletic player with good speed who plays dazzling dazzling defense. Even so, there are questions about his ability to hit enough to justify an investment along the lines of the Sox’ rumored offer. He has shown little power in his Cuban career, though he was very young for the competition while playing in the Cuban National Series.

Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old power hitting third baseman whom the White Sox signed to a four-year, $11 million deal out of Cuba this offseason, played in several international tournaments with Iglesias. At the Futures Game in St. Louis, Viciedo offered the following scouting report on his former teammate and countryman:

“He’€™s a very good fielder in particular. You can put him anywhere,” said Viciedo. “He can play third, short and second. He’€™s a very good player.”

Asked about Iglesias’ hitting, Viciedo paused to consider his answer.

“He defends himself,” said Viciedo.

Iglesias defected while playing at a tournament in Canada last August.

Read More: dayan viciedo, jose iglesias, jose vinicio,

Distractions aside, Lowrie just wants to play

07.16.09 at 7:17 am ET
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LOWELL — Jed Lowrie didn’€™t pick up a ball and glove as a child in Salem, Ore., so he could one day be discussed in a deal for Johan Santana. He didn’€™t bust his hump to be named 2004 Pac-10 Player of the Year at Stanford so front offices everywhere could one day scramble to decide which position he projected to play in the majors. He didn’€™t make the 2007 Eastern League All-Star team so the scar tissue connecting a broken bone in his left wrist could one day tear. Jed Lowrie had none of these dreams when getting into baseball.

Now finally ready to return to the Sox after a wrist/scapholunate ligament cocktail spiked with a bruised right knee (he could be activated as soon as Saturday), Lowrie is anxious to do the other thing that comes with playing baseball: play baseball.

“I’m just looking forward to getting back and being a baseball player,” said Lowrie after his final rehab start in Lowell on Wednesday. For the switch-hitting shortstop, however, playing baseball hasn’t been as simple as fielding a position and taking swings at the plate, especially in his time as a professional.

Lowrie appeared in half of the Red Sox‘ games last season, playing 386 error-less innings at shortstop while also getting time in at third base and second base, his college position. All of this, of course, was done with a broken wrist.

The ’05 sandwich pick first injured the wrist last season on May 15 during a game in Buffalo. Due to inflammation the problem wasn’t initially as painfully obvious as it became down the stretch for the infielder.

“Throughout the year it continued to get worse,” said Lowrie, who felt discomfort as he went on to hit .222 from the left side of the plate for Boston. “By the end of the year, my grip strength was under 50 percent on my left hand.

‘€œIt’€™s hard enough to play your first season in the major leagues, but it made it that much harder when I was playing with a broken wrist and I had to convince myself everyday that I was okay,” added Lowrie. “Looking back on it, I think it will make me better.’€

While rehabbing the wrist for Pawtucket, Lowrie was plunked on the right knee on June 26 against Norfolk, further setting him back and requiring him to play two games for the PawSox as a designated hitter. He chalks it up to bad luck, but Lowrie is clearly excited to have the rehab over and done with after going 6-for-23 (.260) in his final six games since returning to short.

Lowrie said he followed the progress of the Red Sox while he recovered from surgery and got back into playing shape, even if it meant he could only check box scores because he himself was playing a game at the same time. One thing he did get to see, however, was the reception that former Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was given last Monday for his eight and a half years of service. Factor in the fact that Lowrie is one of 18 (!) men who have manned the position for the Sox since July 31, 2004, and you have a man with lofty goals.

“I would love to be that guy [that finally fills the long-term need at short]. It’s up to me to go out there and be the player that I know I can be,” said Lowrie, who added that Garciaparra’s ovation was “well-deserved for the work he put in there.”

Knowing that 2010 will have to be his next crack at his first full season in the majors, Lowrie says that his injuries and loss of a starting job that was seemingly his are both “in the past” and that he’s focused on doing whatever he can for Boston for the rest of the season. Make no mistake — there are plenty of things Lowrie can dwell on: a great spring training followed by a horrid 1-for-18 start this season, the fact that he could be the major-league-ready shortstop the Blue Jays might be seeking in a deal for Roy Halladay… the list goes on. While the distractions have been there for him (“I was thinking about so many things [last year] other than just playing the game”), nothing seems to be bigger to Lowrie than rejoining a team in the middle of yet another pennant race.

“For me now,” said Lowrie, “it’s looking forward.”

Read More: Jed Lowrie, Roy Halladay, shortstop,

Transcript of Terry Francona on Dale & Holley

07.15.09 at 12:56 pm ET
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Thanks to Greg Cameron, here are the highlights from Sox manager Terry Francona’s weekly interview with “Dale & Holley” Wednesday afternoon (CLICK HERE to listen to the complete audio interview).

On if Francona is disappointed that Tim Wakefield did not appear in last night’€™s All-Star Game: ‘€œPersonally, sure. I thought Joe did a great job last night. The way that the game is constituted, it puts the manager in a tough spot. It looks to me like he did a good job. He held Wake back because he was rested and a knuckleball pitcher. I thought Joe did a great job. ‘€œ

On managing to win and get as many players in during the All-Star Game: ‘€œI think that the way they set this game up, it certainly makes the outcome more interesting. Different people probably feel different. We’€™re going to try to win the game and get as many guys in a possible, and we appreciate your co-operation. If the bottom line is winning the game, you can’€™t put yourself in a position to lose.’€

On how Joe Maddon managed the AL All-Stars last night: ‘€œIt’€™s not easy. It’€™s harder in a National League city. I thought he did a good job. As a fan of the Red Sox or Wakefield we probably want to see them, but I thought Joe pulled it off really well.’€

On how the team’€™s pitching lines up for the second half: ‘€œNot much, really. We set it up for our staff to not have to sit around. We’€™ll have a lot of other pitchers throw their side tomorrow night when we get to Toronto.’€

On Clay Buchholz‘€™s start on Friday night: ‘€œWe really wanted to line up our pitching after the break. It can give you a lot of rest. You’€™re feet can get a little heavy. What you can do is, Buchholz is going to be excited. Maybe he absolutely deals. This kid has gone down and done everything that we’€™ve asked of him. And there’€™s something to be said about that.’€

On the team being in first place: ‘€œI think we evaluate everyday where we are. If you’€™re in first place, it makes the three days that much better. When we get to the end of the year that’€™s when we care about being in first place. We’€™ve had some ups and downs, we have a good team effort. And things haven’€™t been perfect. But we like where we are.’€

On the teams’€™ slim three-game lead in the division:
‘€œNo, we can’€™t control that the Yankees won 15 out of 17. We went on a road trip and went 6-3 and didn’€™t make up ground on the team chasing us. Sometimes to you lose games, sometimes you get good pitching performances from your opponents.’€

On Mike Lowell‘€™s impending return to the team: ‘€œWe certainly have some decisions to make. Theo and I have talked a bundle. We’€™re either going to activate Lowell on Friday or Saturday and Lowrie on Saturday. Not having Lowell was tough for us. Kotsay has filled in great, Bates gave us a big day the other day. Youk filling in all over the place gives us our best team.’€

On Lowrie’€™s playing situation upon returning from his wrist injury: ‘€œIf he comes back Saturday, he’€™s not going to be in position to help us every day. We’€™ll try to give Jed a day in between starts.’€

On the impending roster moves that face the Sox with Lowell and Lowrie returning from the DL: ‘€œThose are things when we make the decision. We talk to players and tell them our thinking. I don’€™t want to say it in the media, that would be a mistake’€

On if the Sox bullpen is fatigued in any way, shape or form: ‘€œWe had a blip, a hiccup. If you look at our bullpen, we’€™re the only bullpen without any dl issues. Nobody’€™s hurting.  Nobody’€™s been under or over used. I think our bullpen has been outstanding.’€

On the bullpen’€™s success and having guys like Hunter Jones and Michael Bowden help in spots: ‘€œYou have to have good pitcher for it to work. We could’€™ve easily lost that game. We were fortunate that those kids pitched well.  As the season progresses, you’€™ll see our guys pitch well, nobody will be worn out.’€

On Dustin Pedroia‘€™s decision to stay home with his ailing wife and skip the All-Star Game: ‘€œI agree with that. When it came down to it, there wasn’€™t a decision. In the end he decided it wasn’€™t a decision, he showed the game of baseball a lot of respect.’€

On if Pedroia will be able to make the trip to Toronto despite his wife’€™s pregnancy issues: ‘€œI think so, they’€™ve got some things in place. I think it’€™s her 34th week, this baby’€™s in a lot better place that about 10 days ago. Petey will be okay.’€

On being involved with his players and their issues: ‘€œI think it’€™s my responsibility to do those things. Lugie [Julio Lugo] and I have had some really tough conversations. But I think that we need to have a relationship where we can talk about things. ‘€œ

On managing in the All-Star Game and getting as many guys in as possible: ‘€œA lot of preparation, a lot of conversations, everybody who watched last year’€™s All-Star Game, knows how tough it was with pitching. I looked at Leyland, and thought this kid [Guillen] deserved to be in the game. I was willing to take the chance because I thought he deserved to be in the game. You do what you think is right’€

On how the Red Sox skipper spent the All-Star Break:
‘€œI took the girls to dinner, other than that I did nothing. I sat out in the backyard did a crossword puzzle. I’€™m going to buy a watch.’€

On if Francona has read Dustin Pedroia‘€™s new biography: ‘€œI did not but I told him to leave a copy in my bathroom at the ballpark.’€

Read More: Terry Francona,

Two days I’ll never forget

07.15.09 at 2:53 am ET
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ST. LOUIS — So I become an American citizen and a week later I meet the President. That’s how it works for everybody, isn’t it?

Getting a chance to shake President Barack Obama’s hand prior to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game was undoubtedly the moment I’ll most remember when looking back at my third trip to the Midsummer Classic, but there was so much more than that. There always is.

Sure, I won’t forget the fact that we won the game, 4-3, especially if we find ourselves playing at home for the first game of the World Series. And I will always recall getting the chance to make the trip with my Red Sox teammates, especially first-timer Tim Wakefield. Yet, what separates these games are the little memories, such as having to catch my daughter from running on the field during the Home Run Derby. (Fortunately they were in a commercial break.)

Workout day. I run back in from the field to get sunglasses. Locker room completely empty except Ichiro stretching on the floor and his translator sitting on the chair beside him. Sow we make small talk, and I ask him where he lives in Seattle because I lived in the suburbs.

Well, I had barely got the last word out when Ichiro says something in Japanse. Then his translator turns to me, deadpanned and straight-faced and says, “I’m going to mess with your house.” The way he said it was malicious, and Ichiro is on the floor dying laughing like it was the funniest thing ever. I was just like, “OK, I’ll see you guys out there.” I didn’t know what to say. It was weird.

There was plenty more to come away with.

For example, from the time we went on the field one thing I couldn’t take my eyes off were the snipers on top of the stadium. Even in the fourth inning, I couldn’t stop looking at them because from where I was it looked like a video game, with the dark silhouette and with the sun setting. I’m thinking, “These are snipers! That’s so cool!”

Or coming to realize that they just played a recording of the Canadian National Anthem instead of having somebody come in and sing it. That seemed strange, that they couldn’t find anybody in St. Louis who knew “Oh Canada.” Morneau and I could have done it if they really needed somebody.

And then there was playing in the actual game (which was just 2 hours and 31 minutes, which is truly unbelievable). On the third pitch of my first at-bat I hit a single to center. Then I lined out to right on the first pitch I saw, in the fourth. Put it this way — you know you’re probably going to get fastballs from the best pitchers around, so you aren’t preaching patience. There’s no “Moneyballing” it in this game.

On my way out of the clubhouse at the end of the day — which I punctuated by pulling from my pocket a plastic grass ornament that my daughter hijacked from the lunch buffet — it was a great time with plenty of memories. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to do it all again next time around … even if it doesn’t mean meeting up with the President.

Read More: All Star, Barack Obama,

President Obama: ‘Any of these teams need a lefty?’

07.14.09 at 10:29 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — President Barack Obama fielded some questions after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 80th All-Star Game. He stepped into the Fox broadcast booth and offered some spirited rhetoric about baseball. He could not avoid partisan rhetoric, as Obama made no secret of his rooting interest in the Chicago White Sox. Here is a transcript of the appearance:

On being at the Game:

First of all, it’s as close to home as I’ve been in a while, and this is the national pastime. To go down there and meet Stan Musial and Bob Gibson and those guys, it’s such a reminder about what’s great in this country. You can’t beat that and it’s a real treat.

You have reached the highest office in the land. Your heart must have been pounding underneath that Sox jacket to throw out the ceremonial first pitch:

This is the second time. I threw it out during the American League Championship Series (in 2005). The (White) Sox ended up winning the World Series. And when you’re a senator, they show you no respect, so they just hand you the ball. You don’t get a chance to warm up. Now here, I was with Albert Pujols in teh batting cage practicing before.

Did you forget the baseline moves? Did you put the basketball down?

We did all practicing in the Rose Garden. But what is true, I’m a great baseball fan. I did not play organized baseball when I was a kid, so I think some of these natural moves are not so natural to me.

The White Sox winning the World Series back in 2005, being a fan for so long, that had to be a thrill for you.

It was just wonderful. I was just talking to Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox owner, about this, after I threw out my pitch, they won eight straight after losing the first game (of the ALCS). Any of these teams need a lefty?

Who wins it all in 2009?

It’s a little early for that. You know, I tend to try to get a little more information. I tell you what, though, what’s been interesting about baseball this year, other than the Dodgers, who have been (playing) great baseball, there’s a lot of parity, which I think is terrific, because it means everybody around the country has a little bit of hope for the team. One may be the exception, the Nationals, who are still young and have a new ballpark.

You honored the Phillies in the White House:

Wonderful people, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, the whole crew there was just a class act and I like the way they play. They are a scrappy team, and (had a) real team bond, so very impressive. My campaign manager, he was from Delaware, so he was a crazy Phillies fan, and them winning kept him in a good mood.

Right on cue, as Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino gets a base hit to right.

Since I grew up in Hawaai, this kid, while we were down in the clubhouse, he actually gave me some macadamia nuts from back home.

He is the first position player to come out of Hawaii. There have been three pitchers, but he’s the first position player. The National League has Molina at the plate; as you know the N.L. hasn’t won the All-Star Game since 1996.

This is a problem.

Read More: All Star, Barack Obama,

Wakefield: All-Star Experience ‘Overwhelming’

07.14.09 at 6:20 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — Tim Wakefield might not get to pitch in the 80th All-Star Game. After waiting for 17 seasons to reach the showcase event, it is entirely possible that the 42-year-old will not have the opportunity to pitch in it. 

A.L. manager Joe Maddon, who selected Wakefield for the All-Star roster, told the knuckleballer that he is being held back should the game reach extra innings, since the right-hander is rested and can provide multiple insurance innings. As has been the case throughout his career, Wakefield has no problems with the manner in which the manager would like to proceed. 

“I am the extra-inning guy. (Maddon) had to project at least 16 innings out. Based on my availability today ‘€“ because I was scheduled to pitch yesterday (on a normal rotation turn, since he last started on Thursday) ‘€“ I think I’€™m the only guy who has the multiple inning insurance policy for us,” said Wakefield. “I’€™m just happy to be here. If I pitch, great. If not, it’€™s not a big deal. It doesn’€™t matter. I’€™m not going to be upset either way.”

Wakefield’s perspective is in part drawn from the fact that his experience at the All-Star Game has been nothing short of spectacular. Players from both sides have come up to the knuckleballer to offer their enthusiasm for his first selection to the contest.

“It’€™s been overwhelming. Very much so. I’€™m trying to soak it all in. It will probably hit me after we leave, when I fly home tomorrow. It’€™s been so chaotic the last two days. I’€™m just trying to slow things down and enjoy it as much as I can,” Wakefield beamed. “Tomorrow, after the game is over tonight, hopefully I get in the game and can reflect on it a little better.”

Players have sought out Wakefield in order to exchange pleasantries or pose for pictures. Yesterday, Wakefield said cheese with a group that included flamethrower Felix Hernandez, Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria and Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. He also talked at some length with longtime Yankee rivals Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, both of whom debuted for New York in the same year (1995) that Wakefield first appeared with the Red Sox.

“I know the two guys from playing against them all these years,” said Wakefield. “We’€™ve built an across-the-lines friendship where we say hi to each other. But it’€™s pretty cool to be in the same clubhouse as the Yankee greats, those two.”

The mere fact of Wakefield’s selection to the game has given some prominence not only to his career — the 189 career wins, 175 of which have come with the Red Sox; the longevity, durability and reliability that have been hallmarks of his tenure — but also to his pitch.

The knuckleball ranks have been sparse in recent years. There have been times when Wakefield has been the pitch’s only practitioner in the majors; right now, Twins reliever R.A. Dickey also employs the pitch. Wakefield and Dickey stay in frequent contact, as the Sox starter is more than happy to offer pointers whenever his Minnesota counterpart can use them. 

The All-Star selection for Wakefield, of course, could serve to raise the profile of his pitch, a development that the pitcher would clearly celebrate.

“I’€™d like to see that happen. I don’€™t know if it will,” said Wakefield. “I like to see the fact that the knuckleball is on the map again. Hopefully it will spark some interest in some organizations and other pitchers.”

At the least, it has sparked a great deal of interest in St. Louis in Wakefield. For that fact alone, the pitcher has not been able to stop smiling since landing in St. Louis.

Read More: All Star, Tim Wakefield,

Halladay: Winning, not negotiating, the priorty

07.14.09 at 5:29 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — Speaking before his All-Star Game start — which is scheduled to last two innings — Roy Halladay touched on the importance of being able to negotiate a new deal with any team that agrees to a deal involving the ace.

“I really haven’t got that point. I think I’ve been fortunate that early in my career I was able to take care of my family and get in the situation to start putting the emphasis on what I would like and I think at this point it’s trying to win,” Halladay said. “For me I don’t see it forsee it being hugely important, and if something is worked out afterward… I think you’re just looking for a chance to win.”

Halladay, whose contract is up after next season, said that he has had conversations with Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi regarding what is important to him when visiting any potential deal. The pitcher did say, however, that the subject of having the opportunity to negotiate a deal hasn’t been a major talking point.

“I think at this point, one, it’s so early, and two, he’s aware that what I’m looking for is a chance to play in the playoffs. Whether something changes in Toronto and they change their mind and they work things out, then that’s great,” Halladay said. “But I think he’s always been aware of that and always done his best to be accommodating.”

Victor Martinez on catching knuckleballs and rumors

07.13.09 at 4:09 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — Indians catcher Victor Martinez can summarize his experience with the knuckleball quite simply.

“Never (caught a knuckleball) in my life,” he said. “Never.”

That said, he would not shy from being the man behind the plate should 42-year-old Tim Wakefield get his first opportunity to pitch in an All-Star game.

“It will be fun. This game is all about fun. I’ve never caught a knuckleball before, so it will be interesting,” said Martinez. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Martinez is back in the All-Star game on the strength of a bounce-back season in 2009. He averaged 21 homers from 2004-07, hitting .302 with a .376 OBP and .860 OPS to establish himself as one of the top offensive catchers in the majors. In 2008, however, his performance plummeted. He went deep just two times, hitting .278 with a .337 OBP and .701 OPS while dealing with “loose bodies” in his right elbow that ultimately required arthroscopic surgery in the middle of last year.

This spring, Martinez arrived to spring training with the Indians healthy. His power has returned, as he is hitting .294 with 14 homers, a .374 OBP and .859 OPS.

“When I got to spring training, I knew I was healthy. That was a big difference between this year and last year,” said Martinez. “It makes me feel pretty good. All the trouble that I went through last year, it’s a big difference when you’re playing healthy…It was the first time for me in my career, having a lot of pain and stuff in my body. I went and got my elbow surgery, and then finally this year, I came back healthy. It’s a big difference when you play healthy.”

While that has earned Martinez his third All-Star spot, it has not been enough to sustain the Indians in the standings. With the Indians in possession of a 35-54 record and in last place in the A.L. Central, Cleveland has become a hotbed of rumors.

Already, the Indians dealt Mark DeRosa, and Martinez’ name has surfaced as a potential trade target of other clubs, including the Red Sox. According to league sources, Cleveland would likely seek such an extraordinary prospect haul in exchange for Martinez that the Sox – and most clubs, for that matter – would be disinclined to try to acquire the switch-hitting catcher/first baseman, who is in currently playing in the fifth season of a five-year, $15.5 million contract that has a team option for 2010 at a very reasonable pricetag of $7 million.

Martinez suggests that he is able to ignore the rumor mill and to focus on what he does on the field.

“You’ve got enough to worry about playing baseball…I think I do a pretty good job on that, keeping away from that distraction. I don’t really pay attention to that. We’ll see. Whatever happens, happens. The only thing I need to make sure of is show up to the field and play hard every day,” said Martinez. “I would like to stay and hopefully retire as an Indian.”

Martinez insists that he will do whatever it takes to win, whether with the Indians or, presumably, elsewhere. He will catch, play first, D.H., so long as it leaves his team positioned to succeed.

“I’m all about winning. I just want to win. As soon as I cross those lines, I want to win. Whatever my team needs to win, I’ll be there,” said Martinez.

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