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Paul Byrd, living the dream

10.07.09 at 8:57 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — At 38-years-old, and after 14 seasons in the major leagues, Paul Byrd has a self-annointed new title. Two, in fact.

“I may be the ‘Comeback Postseason Roster Player of the Year’,” he said. “Is there a vote for that?”

Or …

“‘The Least Likely Player To Make the Postseason Roster’, Paul Byrd,” the pitcher added. “I would wear that with pride.”

However you want to classify the latest stop in Byrd’s 2009 journey, it has to be classified as certainly out of the ordinary. Wednesday afternoon Red Sox manager Terry Francona ventured out into the outfield during his team’s batting practice at Angels Stadium and told the hurler that he had made the postseason roster.

This after a year in which he didn’t even re-join the ranks of professional baseball player until August.

“People say I’m living the dream,” he said, “but I really am.”

Byrd was deemed to be the best fit for one of the final roster spots because of Manny Delcarment’s uncertain physical status following a car accident, Saturday afternoon, and the potential need for a long man to back up the Red Sox’ starters in the American League Division Series.

 

“It’s crazy,” Byrd said. “I know my ERA is higher than I want it to be. I had a game in Chicago that was a disaster, and Kansas City didn’t go like I wanted it to. But overall I feel like I’m throwing the ball well and I can bring something to the table at some point, whether it’s eight innings or whether we get in a jam and run out of pitchers. Or whether it’s a tie ballgame and you get somebody feeling like you’re feeling the ball well. Without trying to sound too much of a cliche, I want to help anyway I can.

“For me my whole goal was to come back and help the team. I’m playing for all the right reasons. I want a ring. I want to help the team. And that’s it. Without trying to sound like a preacher, I’ve prayed a lot about this and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to come back and do this. Who takes the amount of time off, is throwing to the kids and not necessarily training to come back and then gets the chance and is here.

“I’m very blessed right now. Who cares what my ERA is. I’m able to help somebody out, I have a chance to win a ring and I’m in a great situation. If called on I don’t know what I’ll give you, but I’ll give you everything I have and I’ll fight as hard as I can and I really believe I can do the job. The reason I say that is my stuff is there and I just feel like I had a bad game in Chicago but I felt my other ones were good. They may not have gone the way I would have liked them to go, but I feel like I’m throwing the ball well.”

Byrd, who finished with a 5.82 ERA in seven games, pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in eight years, last Saturday. He seemingly already ingratiated himself into the Sox’ bullpen’s community, engaging in a deep baseball discussion with Billy Wagner and Daniel Bard well after the Sox’ workout was complete.

Then there was the matter of calling his wife, Kym.

“She was really excited for me. It’s kind of neat,” he said. “Everybody keeps asking, people in my family, friends call, ‘Did you make it? Did you make it?’ I’m not going to say anything. I don’t think they knew because they had a lot of different options and a lot of different ways they could go, and there’s different ways they can go for the next series and the series after that. Right now I’m taking it one day at a time, one game at a time. I’m on the roster for this series, I’m having fun, and I’m extremely blessed.”

Red Sox Roster Decisions: Byrd In, Delcarmen Out, Baldelli In-Between

10.07.09 at 6:16 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that pitcher Paul Byrd will be available out of the bullpen for the Red Sox during their American League Division Series against the Angels. Reliever Manny Delcarmen, however, will not be a member of the roster. Byrd pitched three innings of relief on the final day of the season, allowing two runs to finish his year with a 5.82 ERA. Delcarmen struggled to an 8.59 ERA after July 28.

Francona also said that the Sox are still determining who will contribute off the bench. Among the group of outfielders Rocco Baldelli, Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright, two will be on the roster for the ALDS.

Read More: manny delcarmen, Paul Byrd, Rocco Baldelli,

Wagner on His Postseason Past: ‘I Sucked’

10.07.09 at 6:15 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Billy Wagner does not hide from the numbers or his history. He has pitched in 11 postseason contests, recording just 10.1 innings. In that time, the left-hander has allowed 18 hits (15.7 per 9 innings, more than double his career regular-season rate of 6.1), 11 runs and three homers. He has a 9.58 ERA in the postseason.

But for a game in the 2006 NLCS when he entered a tie contest and gave up a pair of runs in a loss to the Cardinals, he might have had a World Series appearance; instead, the Mets ended up losing in seven games. Wagner is aware of this history. He does not pretend that it is something other than dismal.

He is asked about his personal postseason history.

‘€œPretty much sucks? You can say sucks. It does. It ain’€™t no secret,” Wagner admitted. “Most of my games have been in blowouts. I think I’€™ve only had five save opportunities in six postseasons. Your numbers get skewed in certain ways, but I still sucked.”

Wagner has no real explanation. He feels that his velocity and life have both been there in the postseason. He did notice that opponents went to the opposite field against him more, recalling an instance when Jim Leyritz, then of the Padres, went down and away on a 98 mph fastball and golfed it over the fence in right field.

Of course, the Red Sox acquired Wagner in part because of the postseason impact the team believes he can make. Boston always gives more weight to the track record of a full career than a small sample of a few postseason games.

To date, the left-hander has shown an ability to be an impact arm. Of all major-league hurlers to throw at least 10 innings this year, Wagner had the highest strikeout rate, having punched out 14.9 batters per nine innings. He produced a glimmering 1.72 ERA.

If he sustains that presence as a set-up man for Jonathan Papelbon this October, he will have a chance to achieve a measure of playoff redemption. That, of course, is the reason why Wagner agreed to waive his no-trade clause and come to the Sox. If he can reverse his history of postseason failure, then perhaps he will be better positioned to garner the World Series ring that he covets.

“I’€™d like to go out there and pitch better,” said Wagner. “There’€™s no doubt about that.”

Wagner also weighed in on a few other topics, among them:

WHETHER HE IS CONCERNED THAT THE ADRENALINE OF THE POSTSEASON MIGHT CREATE RISKS TO HIS RECOVERY FOLLOWING TOMMY JOHN SURGERY

This is all new. I never went through a surgery like this and came back and been on a playoff contender. So far I haven’€™t had any setbacks,” Wagner said, pausing to knock on wood. “Things are going smooth, but you never know.”

JONATHAN PAPELBON’S 0.00 ERA IN THE POSTSEASON

“That says I think he’€™s pretty darn good. That’€™s pretty self-explanatory. When you go out there and pitch as many playoff games as he’€™s been in and been that dominant, his legacy and stuff is being built,” said Wagner. “Pap, he’€™s taken advantage of his opportunities and done great things so far. I hope for my sake and my team’€™s sake, he continues to do it.”

“I’€™ve been thoroughly impressed with how he goes about his business. He is probably one of the most intense guys I’€™ve ever met as a closer. All the other guys I’€™ve met, the Francos and Hoffmans, you get more of a laid-back, not out of control. He’€™s heart on his sleeve. What he feels, he says. He backs it up. As long as you can back it up, he doesn’€™t have much to worry about.”

WHETHER THE RED SOX MIGHT BE IN THE ANGELS’ HEADS

“When I was in the National League [with the Astros] playing against the Braves all the time, there was an advantage that they showed up and we didn’€™t. I don’€™t know how that’€™s worked with this series. I haven’€™t been a part of it,” said Wagner. “They’€™re intense, tough games. It goes down to one bounce or one call in those games. Hopefully you’€™re on the right side of that call. I don’€™t think it’€™s anything to do with guys not doing well. It has to do with that one lucky bounce.”

ON DANIEL BARD’S CLAIMS THAT HE WAS INSPIRED WHILE GROWING UP BY WATCHING WAGNER THROW 100 MPH

“If he said it to my face, I’€™d probably tell him to shut up. But that’€™s a great compliment, to have been around long enough that somebody like him would say they watched me with the Astros,” said Wagner. “He hasn’€™t said it to me. He always makes fun of me being old, asks me about Babe Ruth and stuff like that.

“What a talent. Very laid-back kid. He doesn’€™t seem to get too caught up in anything. He just does what he does. He’€™s naïve to a lot of situations because he hasn’€™t been in them enough. That’€™s a good thing. He’€™s got all the makings to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. In time, he will be.”

Read More: billy wagner, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon,

Terry Francona on D&H, 10/7

10.07.09 at 4:22 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona checked in with Dale & Holley to talk about the upcoming ALDS against the Angels.

Following is a transcript of the interview. For the audio, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand section.

Did you get a chance to watch that [Tigers-Twins] game last night?

Yeah. You know what, we were on the field working out. They had it on the screen, so there wasn’t any volume. But you could just see the game, it was slowly getting everybody’s interest. When our workout was over, everybody ran into the clubhouse because we thought we were seeing the end of the game. Little did we know there was still an hour-and-a-half to go. What a game. That had to be good for baseball. I’m sure that was tough on [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] and [Tigers manager] Jim Leyland ‘€” their stomachs. But that was unbelievable. It was a shame somebody had to lose. Because so many things happened ‘€” not all of them good ‘€” but you could tell their hearts were in the right place. Everybody was trying to do something to help their team win a game.

Do you agree with [Joe Torre’s comment that the sixth inning is the toughest inning of the game for a manager]?

I sure do. If you look back at one of the biggest mistakes that I think ‘€” and I’ve owned up to this ‘€” when we brought Cla Meredith here. And remember, it didn’t work. And my big thing to Theo [Epstein] was, ‘Theo, we can’t get through the sixth inning.’ We didn’t have a bridge. We had a bunch of starters at that time that, we’d get to the sixth ‘€” it would be 5-2/3, 5-1/3, and I didn’t feel that some of them had enough to get pivotal outs. And we needed a bridge to our next guys because it was too early. It’s always a big inning. I can’t tell you how many times you get to the sixth inning and it seems like the leadoff hitter’s leading off and you’re going right through the heart of the order. It’s a huge inning.

Watching [Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn] play a single into a triple, I’m thinking [the Metrodome] must be a difficult ballpark to play in, with the roof. And the second thing is if you’ve got a lead late in the game, maybe that’s the mistake of a young player, trying to make a big play and then turning it into a huge mistake.

I’m sure that their defense was set up where that wasn’t supposed to happen. I have a feeling if you go back and slow it down, and I’d love to hear the interview, my guess is the last couple of feet, though, he lost the ball. Because if you look at his body, he actually got himself in position where it looks like he should have had a better chance to make that catch. And then the last two feet, he didn’t really make an effort to make the catch. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost that ball. Because the end was a little awkward. And I think he positioned himself better where he could have had a chance to make the catch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dale & Holley, David Ortiz

A Long One-Year Journey For Saito

10.07.09 at 3:00 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. ‘€“ Over the course of a year, Takashi Saito has traveled a distance far greater than the 30 miles that currently separates him from the team that could not use him in last year’€™s playoffs.

In 2008, Saito’€™s dominant emergence as a Dodgers closer was derailed by a strained elbow ligament. Faced with the prospect of either undergoing Tommy John surgery or undergoing a unique rehab process that included the injection of platelet-rich plasma, he opted for the latter in hopes of contributing.

Indeed, the 38-year-old viewed his career as being at a crossroads. He was prepared for the possibility that, if rehab didn’€™t work, he could walk away from the game.

‘€œInstead of taking one year to recover from the surgery, I thought it would be better to go through the rehab and try to pitch sooner. And also, at the same time, I was ready if that went a different way and I wasn’€™t able to pitch again without the surgery, I was ready for that as well,’€ Saito said recently through translator Mikio Yoshimura. ‘€œI wasn’€™t thinking about going through the surgery.’€

The strategy seemed to pay off. By the time last year’€™s playoffs arrived, Saito had recovered enough to pitch. Still, he was not to the point where Los Angeles could have enough confidence in him to restore him to the status of closer.

Though he had been one of the most dominant relievers in the game from 2006-08, forging a 1.95 ERA and recording 81 saves, he allowed three runs in 5.2 innings after his September comeback, walking four batters in that time while struggling with his mechanics.

He made the roster for the Division Series against the Cubs, but allowed two runs on three hits without recording an out while pitching in the ninth inning of a blowout win in Game 2. That was his last action of the playoffs.

Saito was usurped by Jonathan Broxton as Dodgers closer in the Division Series. When Los Angeles advanced to the NLCS against the Phillies, they opted to leave Saito off the roster.

Saito understood and was fully supportive of the decision, even though it represented a disappointment. Now, however, the distance from that time to now, as he prepares to help the Red Sox against the Angels in the 2009 Division Series, seems vast.

‘€œRight now,’€ Saito said, ‘€œI feel totally switched from that moment.’€

Though his usage has been monitored and regulated, Saito has remained healthy for the entirety of the 2009 season with the Sox, and has handled virtually any responsibility with which he has been entrusted. As the year has progressed, he became an increasingly trusted member of the Sox bullpen based on his performance.

Saito pitched in 56 games for the Sox, forging a 2.43 ERA in the process while striking out nearly a batter an inning. More impressively, after some inconsistencies after the start of the season, he carved a 1.85 ERA over his last 44 games (starting on May 13), and a 1.08 mark in the second half of the season.

‘€œHe’€™s held up remarkably well all year,’€ said Sox manager Terry Francona.

Though right-handed, Saito became one of the team’€™s most overpowering options against left-handed hitters, who he held to a .195 average, .273 OBP and .570 OPS. That performance, in turn, could make him an important contributor in the postseason against hitters such as the Angels’€™ Bobby Abreu (a left-hander) or against switch-hitters Kendry Morales, Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar.

It would be easy to suggest that Saito’€™s presence as a trusted pitcher for such circumstances defies the odds. But the 39-year-old himself does not view it that way.

‘€œIt’€™s not surprising at all,’€ said Saito. ‘€œAt the same time, I’€™m pleased being healthy and being able to contribute to this team.’€

A strong performance could position Saito well for this offseason. Though he signed with the Sox this year for a base salary of just $1.5 million, his good health garnered him millions in incentives, pushing his total earnings for the season to $6 million.

Saito is a pitcher who has shown the ability to close on a playoff team in the past. In 2009, he has shown that he is capable of pitching at a high level and remaining healthy.

Moreover, while the Sox could retain his services by exercising a team option for the amount of his total earnings in 2009 (meaning $6 million), the team is not expected to pay the pitcher a closer’€™s salary for a set-up role, particularly given the emergence of Daniel Bard as a set-up man.

The right-hander has given every indication of comfort in Boston, and assuming that the Sox decline his option, it would not be shocking if he were open to negotiating a new contract with the Sox. Certainly, he plans on coming back to pitch again in the majors next season at the age of 40.

‘€œSince it’€™s something I can’€™t control, I can’€™t say much, but I’€™m hoping to come back to America and pitch again, and [would like] especially to come back to the Red Sox,’€ Saito said.

If that doesn’€™t happen, Saito is also likely to be an attractive option to other clubs on the free-agent market. The reliever has a contract clause that stipulates that the Sox must release him if they do not pick up his option. That means that the club cannot offer him arbitration, and so other teams would not have to sacrifice a draft pick in order to acquire his services as a free agent.

Those concerns, however, can wait for the offseason. For now, Saito is content to focus on what is immediately in front of his team, and on the opportunity that he now has to pitch, one year after he was not in a position to do so.

It is a position that the pitcher embraces.

‘€œI’€™m not satisfied [with the 2009 season],’€ said Saito. ‘€œThere’€™s still ups and downs during the season. I want to be as perfect as possible, so I believe from now on will be a very important time for me.’€

Read More: Dodgers, playoffs, Takashi Saito,

A bullpen health update

10.07.09 at 12:41 pm ET
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At the conclusion of the Red Sox‘ workout, Tuesday, pitching John Farrell updated the status of a couple of healthy concerns within the team’s bullpen, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen.

According to Farrell, Okajima, who has been battling an oblique ailment, appears ready for action.

“He threw flat ground [Tuesday], out to 120 feet and was very good. We’ll re-evaluate him [Wednesday],” Farrell said.” There’s a chance he could throw a light bullpen [Wednesday] and be ready to go for Thursday.”

Delcarmen participated in his first bullpen session since getting in a car accident Saturday afternoon, and came away exuding some optimism regarding the progress of his injuries.

“Manny threw a pen [Tuesday] and there were no lingering affects from the car accident,” Farrell said. “The stiffness he was feeling in the upper back and the neck were not there. Now, it wasn’t full bore but it was by design to give him a 35-pitch pen and just be sure he threw all of his pitches. We’ll get him a chance to see him tomorrow to make a final decision.”

From the Angels side, Jason Bulger said he doesn’t think his sore right shoulder will keep him out of the ALDS. The reliever, who went 6-1 with a 3.56 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings this season, had received a cortisone shot in his shoulder Sunday

Things working out better for Lowell

10.07.09 at 12:12 pm ET
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Last year Mike Lowell was fighting to make it onto the Red Sox‘ starting lineup for Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

With his injured right hip hindering his every move, Lowell was put in the spotlight on the first day of workouts at Angels Stadium, leading up the series’ opener. But after taking approximately 15 ground balls, he had shown enough that his name would ultimately be penciled onto the lineup card for Game 1.

Tuesday’s workout offered a different focus for Lowell.

“Last year I’m hoping the drugs take affect so that I can move around. It was totally different,” he said. “I think I’m trying to be ready to be a contributor, where there I was just trying to get to just stay on the field and if something worked out than it was major icing on the cake.

“The workout was OK, but I think my hip was in a situation where every time I got set it just reached a point where it just couldn’t go anymore. You’re battling a situation that needs immediate surgery.”

There were still some questions for Lowell Tuesday regarding his health, with many of them centered around a sore right thumb. And, of course, there as the  update regarding his hip, which had been feeling more mobile since getting a shot of Synvisc and coritsone 1 1/2 weeks ago.

All of queries, however, were easily answered by the third baseman.

‘€œI’€™m a primetime, lean machine right now,’€ said Lowell. ‘€œEverything is fine. We’€™re ready to go. ‘€¦ I figure if I missed 19 [games] going into the All-Star break, and came of that alright, I’€™ll be ready to go.’€

Lowell finished his regular season having played in 119 games, hitting .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBI. After the All-Star break — and his first shot of Synvisc — the 35-year-old totaled a .302 batting average.

One-Game Playoff Lets Anderson Remember ‘The Catch’

10.07.09 at 6:13 am ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — For the second straight year, the Twins found themselves in a one-game playoff to determine the fate of the American League Central. Minnesota made the most of its second chance in a winner-take-all contest, claiming a walkoff, 6-5 victory in 12 innings on Alexi Casilla’s game-winning single. That allowed both the Twins and Casilla to leave behind a bitter defeat of one year ago in which a current member of the Red Sox played a prominent part.

Red Sox outfielder Brian Anderson was a member of the White Sox until this summer, when he was acquired by Boston for Mark Kotsay. A year ago, he was a role player for Chicago who delivered a moment similar to the one that Tom Brunansky offered the Red Sox in 1990.

Anderson entered the one-game playoff in 2008 with the White Sox leading the Twins, 1-0, on the strength of a Jim Thome solo homer. He came on as a pinch-runner for Ken Griffey Jr., but the purpose of the move was driven as much by a need to replace Griffey in the outfield as to pinch-run for the future Hall of Famer.

“I went in for defense. I was like, ‘€˜Great ‘€“ I have to replace a legend,’€™” Anderson chuckled. “That was very cool. I played in only a couple of playoff games, but that one, it was the most intense. It wasn’€™t ever really a playoff game because the margin for error was so small.”

In the bottom of the ninth inning, White Sox closer Bobby Jenks quickly recorded two outs. But the speedy Casilla dumped a flare into shallow right-center that seemed like a decent bet to fall and commence a rally.

But Anderson got a great jump on the ball, and made a diving catch to record the final out of the game. (Video here.) He was filled with so much adrenaline, however, that he quickly sacrificed his souvenir.

“I just remember being so caught up in the moment that when I got up, I chucked the ball in to Dewayne [Wise]. He had to go get it,” said Anderson. “I was like, ‘€˜What was I thinking? I need to hold on to that.’€™”

Over the past few days, Anderson and his acquaintances have been confronted with that image repeatedly. As the one-game playoff between the Twins and Tigers neared, Anderson’s catch from his team’s 163rd game in 2008 was invariably replayed as one of the signature highlights of the game that sent the White Sox to the playoffs (where they were dispatched tidily by the Twins in four games).

Replays of the play became unavoidable. That resulted in some good-natured needling for Anderson from his friends.

“My family and friends have seen that highlight enough. They probably don’€™t care,” he mused. “I was out at dinner [Monday] night and they kept showing that highlight. My friends were like, ‘€˜Jeez ‘€“ turn the page.’€™”

Now, Anderson may have the opportunity to do just that. Rocco Baldelli’s status for the ALDS is in doubt thanks to a strained hip flexor that he incurred on Friday. If Baldelli is unable to go, Anderson — who spent a couple months in Triple A this year, with both the White and Red Sox — could have the opportunity to join the Boston roster for this postseason. He relishes being a part of an organization that still has something at stake.

“It’€™s cool because Chicago didn’€™t have the year they wanted to have, and they’€™re at home. It’€™s kind of cool that I had the opportunity to come to the playoffs,” said Anderson.

Read More: Brian Anderson, Playoff, Rocco Baldelli, Twins

Beckett: ‘It really wasn’t that big a deal

10.07.09 at 5:19 am ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The last time Josh Beckett threw a bullpen in preparation for an American League Division Series at Angels Stadium, all eyes were on the righty, from general manager Theo Epstein, to pitching coach John Farrell, to a foul-line full of cameras catching his every move.

Tuesday, Beckett was back in the visitors’ bullpen, getting ready for his ALDS start against the Angels, Friday night, but this time few took notice. And that’s the way he likes it.

“It feels good,” said Beckett throwing his first side session in which Victor Martinez served as the catcher. “As good as it is supposed to feel this time of year.”

Farrell agreed that the session was a productive — and healthy — one.

“It was good,” the Sox’ pitching coach said. “The one thing we continuously stress is the consistency of his curveball, especially out of the stretch. But it was very consistent today of the bullpens of late. There’s no issues, no lingering affects, of the upper back muscles, the spasms. He’s primed and ready to go for Friday.”

If there was a reason for onlookers to take notice of Beckett’s performance it was because of those back spasms Farrell references. He had gotten three cortisone shots after experiencing the ailment 1 1/2 weeks ago, forcing him to miss a start. But, according to Beckett, the whole situation shouldn’t have warranted the kind of attention it ultimately received.

“I just had those two days where I had the back spasms. I don’t think I even needed the shots, I just wanted the pain to go away that day,” the pitcher said. “All they were where back spasms. I don’t know who ended up blowing it up into this big situation. It really wasn’t that big a deal. It was trigger point injection with cortisone and all it was was tight muscles. It really wasn’t anything. I really didn’t do anything to my back. I just woke up that day and my back was stiff.”

Beckett said that he came away from his final regular season start, Saturday, feeling ready to head into the postseason with the kind of comfort which was nowhere to be found throughout last season’s run through the playoffs. 

“I felt find. There were no problems,” said Beckett of the days following his five-inning, four-run outing against Cleveland, Saturday at Fenway Park. “I’m ready to go. I don’t how this thing was blow all out of proportion.”

Judging by his latest test, Tuesday’s bullpen session, Farrell has no reason to doubt his hurler.

“He’s throwing the ball with the freedom that he has for the majority of this year, compared to a year ago where we were trying to nurse him through the latter part of the season into the post-season,” the Sox’ pitching coach said. “That’s not even close to where he feels right now.”

Red Sox Updates: Lowrie on the Roster, Baldelli Uncertain

10.06.09 at 7:05 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — A number of updates from the Red Sox on workout day:

Jed Lowrie will be on the postseason roster as the backup middle infielder. Nick Green said that he is feeling better, but entering today, had not felt physically ready for game activity.

–Utility infielder Gil Velazquez, meanwhile, after spending most of the year in Triple-A, is with the team but not on the roster. He was summoned from the Mexican Winter League in case something happens that would require the Sox to have another infielder available. Velazquez confessed that “it was a shock” when the Sox summoned him to join the club. Even so, this is the second straight year when he has been part of a playoff taxi squad. In 2008, he actually ended up replacing Mike Lowell on the active roster prior to Game 4 of the ALDS against the Angels.

Rocco Baldelli remains “pretty tender,” according to Sox manager Terry Francona. The team would like to have him on the roster because of the power threat he represents off the bench, but his strained left hip flexor has made it unclear whether that will be possible.

“He’s still pretty tender,” said Francona. “I think we plan on taking the full allotment of time just to see if he’s okay because of the threat he presents from the right side. I don’t know if it will work or not. We’re not going to put him on if he can’t play, but if he can, we’d like to have him.”

Manny Delcarmen will throw in the bullpen today, and is feeling better than he has at any time since his car accident on Saturday. Even so, Francona said that the Sox have not yet finished making out their roster, and so he was not able to divulge whether the Sox would go with 10 or 11 pitchers, or who might be on or off the bubble.

Mike Lowell said that his sore right thumb is fine. He expects no limitations when games begin. That stands in sharp contrast to how he felt a year ago, when he felt that he was “not even anywhere near” the point where he could help the Sox.

“I’€™m a primetime, lean machine right now,” said Lowell. “Everything is fine. We’€™re ready to go. … I figure if I missed 19 [games] going into the All-Star break, and came of that alright, I’ll be ready to go.”

–Francona also praised the Angels lineup, and suggested that it represented a different sort of animal than it had in years past. The presence of Bobby Abreu has played into that, as has the emergence of Kendry Morales as a switch-hitting power hitter.

[Abreu] is one of the more professional hitters in the game. I think that beyond Bobby, Morales has given them an unbelievable power dimension to their team that ‘€‘’€‘ they go 1 through 9, and they have the ability to switch hit, run the bases, hit for average, and hit the ball out of the ballpark. There’s a lot of ways. There’s a reason they’re good.”

On the other hand, ALDS Game 1 starter Jon Lester said that while Abreu has changed the dynamic of the Los Angeles lineup to a degree, the team’s ability to assert pressure through its running game remains its key to success.

“Obviously, having Bobby Abreu in the lineup helps out. He sees a lot of pitches. He’s a very patient hitter. He’s a guy that’s definitely not afraid to hit with two strikes. You know, I think that helped trickle down into some other spots in their lineup.

“But they’re still aggressive. They still go up there with a plan, and they try to execute their plan. I think what makes the Angels so difficult is the way they run the bases. They’re always pushing the envelope. They’re always trying to get that extra base and put the pressure on us or the team that they’re playing to, you know, to push the envelope, like I said.

“I don’t think they’re any different as far as attacking them. I still have to pitch to my strengths and my game plan. But knowing that, you go in there hopefully with the same approach, and hopefully, you can get some guys out early, swing at some of your pitches instead of letting them dictate the count and dictate the plan.”

–Lester admitted that he was “surprised” to be selected as the Game 1 starter for the series, over right-hander Josh Beckett.

“I was surprised to be in this position. But I’m thankful to be considered for Game 1. You know, obviously, Josh has had a lot of success in the past, and hopefully, he’ll continue to do that. Hopefully, I won’t let him down or the team down as far as taking the ball in Game 1, and going out and pitching well,” said Lester. “[I’m] just excited for the game to get here, more or less. We get out here early and have a couple of days to get acclimated with the time change and the travel. So now it’s just kind of a waiting game, and getting my work done and getting ready for Thursday.”

Though Beckett has forged a reputation as one of the best big-game performers in the majors thanks to his dominant 2003 and 2007 playoff runs, Lester has also benefited from prior experience, both in winning the World Series clincher in 2007 and in amassing a 2.36 ERA in four starts (which included 14 innings without allowing an earned run against the Angels) in 2008.

“It just goes back to that comfort level. You know, once you experience it, it’s something that never goes away. It’s not something that you’re going to forget or just put in the storage department and never remember again about it. So I think once you get one game under your belt, it makes every other game easier.

“It’s going to be crazy here just like it was last year and when we went to Tampa last year. But that’s what makes it fun. You’ve got a bunch of screaming people in the stands, and it makes it hard for you to focus. But you just draw from those past experiences like I said before, and you learn how to handle those situations and hopefully you can stay focused enough to execute the pitch and get some guys out.”

Read More: Bobby Abreu, Jed Lowrie, manny delcarmen, Rocco Baldelli
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