|08.11.09 at 10:53 pm ET|
Here’s your chance to debate Alex Speier, WEEI.com Red Sox beat writer and former captain of the Harvard Debate Team (no kidding), in a baseball-related topic of your choice. Send in what you would like to argue about with Alex on our feature, Slugfest, we will choose a lucky emailer and then kick it off. Candidates must send what they want to debate to email@example.com.
At the end of 24 hours — with the clock starting once the first salvo is fired on Slugfest — whomever has more votes is the winner. If the guest participant is the victor than he/she will be allowed to voice their opinion on the Mut and Bradford Show, Sunday morning.
So send in those emails — again to firstname.lastname@example.org — and good luck… you’ll need it.
|08.11.09 at 8:27 pm ET|
The bad blood from two seemingly innocuous hit batsmen from Monday night apparently carried over to Tuesday night, as Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis and Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello were both ejected for fighting in the second inning of the Sox’ game with the Tigers.
Youkilis charged the mound after being hit by a Porcello fastball on the first pitch of the bottom second with the Tigers carrying a 3-0 lead. As Porcello drifted back off the mound Youkilis continued to chase him, finally lunging into the 6-foot-5 rookie, sending both players to the ground. Both benches and bullpens cleared, although no more confrontations among the players took place.
Once the players had been sent back to their respective benches, Detroit manager Jim Leyland appeared to have heated words with Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, with Sox pitching coach John Farrell also seemingly having an issue with Leyland. Francona would be ejected later in the second for arguing a call when J.D. Drew was caught stealing.
The animosity could be traced back to Monday night when Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera was hit by a Brad Penny pitch in the fourth inning, which was followed later in the frame by Tigers’ hurler Edwin Jackson plunking Youkilis.
The drama appeared to carry over into Tuesday when Cabrera was hit by a Junichi Tazawa pitch in the first inning. Later in the first Carlos Guillen slid late and wide on an attempted double play by Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Porcello came high and inside to Red Sox batter Victor Martinez in the bottom of the inning, prompting the Sox’ first baseman to yell out toward the Detroit hurler.
All of it paved the way for the first charging of the mound in Youkilis’ career. It was the first time a Red Sox player had charged the mound since June 5, 2008 when Coco Crisp took offense to a pitch from Tampa Bay’s James Shields.
After Youkilis was ejected, Mike Lowell came on to run at first base. After Lowell was moved up to second on a David Ortiz single, Jason Bay hit his 23rd homer of the season, far over the left field wall.
|08.11.09 at 7:10 pm ET|
A good dose of home cooking was what the doctor ordered for the Red Sox last night. The Sox will look to stretch their winning streak to two games with rookie Rick Porcello on the mound tonight.
The 20-year-old Porcello will face the Sox for the second time this season. His last start against the Sox on June 2 in Detroit resulted in a 5-1 loss for the Tigers with Porcello going 4.1 innings, giving up eight hits and three runs. Porcello had strung together five consecutive wins in the month of May before that loss. In his two starts this month, Porcello has gone eight innings and 5.2 innings, respectively, only giving up a total of eight hits on three runs in the two appearances.
Junichi Tazawa takes the mound for the Sox tonight in his first career MLB start. Tazawa was inserted into the rotation in place of John Smoltz, who was designated for assignment last week. The 23-year-old took one for the team in his major league debut last Friday in the 15-inning loss to the Yankees. Tazawa only threw about 35 pitches on Friday. He is looking to keep the spot warm until Tim Wakefield returns to the rotation.
RICK PORCELLO VS. RED SOX
J.D. Drew (3 plate appearances against Porcello): 2-for-3, 1 RBI
Victor Martinez (3): 0-for-2, 1 BB
Dustin Pedroia (3): 1-for-3
Kevin Youkilis (3): 0-for-2, 1 BB
Jason Bay (2): 1-for-2, 1 homer, 2 RBI, 1 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (2): 2-for-2
Nick Green (2): 0-for-2
Mike Lowell (2): 0-for-2, 1 SO
David Ortiz (2): 1-for-2
Jason Varitek (2): 1-for-2
JUNICHI TAZAWA VS. TIGERS
No Tigers player has faced Tazawa
|08.11.09 at 4:59 pm ET|
After throwing a successful simulated game Monday, Tim Wakefield was told Tuesday that he will be making a rehab start for Triple A Pawtucket Saturday at Gwinnett County.
The hope is that Wakefield will throw three or four innings for the PawSox with an eye on making a major league start after that.
“I’m excited. I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Wakefield, talking in the Red Sox dugout prior to the team’s batting practice. “Let’s test it out in a live situation. I think I’m ready to pitch now, but if something happens it screws the whole team. I just think this is the right thing to do as far as going down there and making sure I’m absolutely ready to pitch at this level.”
Wakefield said his left calf, which has been hampered due to a nerve problem spawned by the back injury which originally put the pitcher on the disabled list, is getting better every day, and is appreciably better than it was a week ago when he threw his first bullpen since the injury, in St. Petersburg.
“It’s improved a lot,” Wakefield said. “I still don’t have full strength there. The doctors tell me it may take a while to get full strength back but I think I have enough strength to pitch.”
As for fielding his position, which has been the only thing preventing Wakefield from returning to action with the Red Sox, the 43-year-old said that the simulated game offered some peace of mind.
“I was able to do that yesterday,” Wakefield said when asked if he would be able to field his position. “It’s a little slower, but there’s no pain and I don’t think there’s a chance of me re-injuring myself and that’s why I think it’s smart for me to go down and make a rehab start… It was a big step. I new I could do it. I just wanted to prove to myself, and prove to Theo (Epsteing) and Tito (Francona) and John (Farrell) that it could be done. Actually it helped out getting my pitch count up to 50 after doing all my pre-game stuff. It was a lot of work yesterday.”
Wakefield last pitched for the PawSox in 1995, remembering only that he met the team in Charlotte and current Cleveland manager Eric Wedge served as his catcher.
The hope for the knuckleballer is that the stay with Pawtucket will be short and sweet, as the need for his services with the Red Sox haven’t gone unnoticed.
“It stinks, it’s really bad,” he said of having to wait and watch from the disabled list. “I’ve been trying and doing the best I can do to get back on the field quickly but this injury has not allowed me to do that. The doctors tell me it’s more of time issue. I got the cortisone shot which relieved a lot of the pain. Now it’s just a matter of healing itself and getting stronger.”
|08.11.09 at 12:33 am ET|
“Yeah, that was nice,” Pedroia said of his ninth homer of the year. “We’ve been having a tough time scoring runs. Our biggest thing is we’re back home and just play the rest of the season as hard as we can and whatever happens, happens. We’re going to remain positive. I know we had a tough road trip but there’s a lot of games left, a third of the season to play so we’re still focused and feel we can still accomplish our goals.”
Then near-disaster struck when the Bengals came all the way back to tie the game, 5-5, in the seventh. But Nick Green came to the rescue with a sac fly in the bottom of the seventh to score J.D. Drew with the eventual winning run.
“They played well and we played well and it was a good game and we’re just obviously glad to break that losing streak,” Pedroia said of the six-game losing streak that ended on Monday.
Pedroia’s manager Terry Francona was greeted not so warmly at a red light on Monday before the game. Francona’s window was down and he heard the concern expressed by fans. Pedroia said he draws the line at taking grief from fans.
“I’ll fire back on people,” Pedroia said tongue-in-cheek. “I don’t care. Everybody calm down, calm down. It’s a long year.”
“We got in pretty late,” Pedroia said of the 3:30 arrival back in Boston. “We slept until 1:30 and got to the yard so I don’t think anybody much of a chance to hear what people were saying. We understand it’s a tough environment to play in and you have to win here. We all know that. We’ve all been through tough times before.”
Pedroia led the way on Monday, connecting for his fifth first-inning homer of the season. He has also now hit safely in 13 of 15 home games since July 5. He has four homers with 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored in that span at Fenway.
“We’re out playing,” Pedroia said. “No one cares that we didn’t score for (31) innings. We’re baseball players and we understand there’s a lot of numbers to this game and that can mess you up. We’re just out playing and trying have fun,” Pedroia said.
|08.11.09 at 12:24 am ET|
It takes a special mindset or temperment to be a major league baseball player, or to be a major league manager. When you play 162 games you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. If you’re in a slump you have to believe that hard work and determination will get you out of that slump. If your team has lost six or seven straight you have to believe in what you’re doing, and that it will get you out of that bad stretch.
For a team that had lost six straight, the Red Sox didn’t seem all that panicked in the clubhouse before their game Monday night. And that’s because they know they weren’t playing good baseball, they realize that they’re a better team than they had played and that things would turn around.
Monday night they did.
The same confidence could be found in Terry Francona, who could look around that clubhouse and see character guys, proven major league baseball players, adn knows that this team will not continue to play baseball like they had the last few days.
Myself, now being in the media and now really just being a fan of the game, I tend to fall into that emotional side of it, simply judging this team by what we’ve just seen. I have to think back to the mindset of a player to truly realize how the last four days have changed my mind about this team, starting with the pitching staff.
Jon Lester and Josh Beckett continue to be their dominant self even through this losing streak. But it was Clay Buchholz on Saturday, going up against C.C. Sabathia, who turned my opinion around about this rotation in just one start. What I saw from him was a young kid who took a giant step forward in his development process. I saw a two-seam fastball which I hadn’t seen from Buchholz in any of his starts in the big leagues, a pitch that made right-handed hitters seem very uncomfortable. Even Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. It’s a pitch that is going to help him throughout his career. When you rely on a four-seam fastball, even though it’s 95 or 96 mph, you still have to locate it and be fine with that pitch. When you have a two-seam fastball you can get some quick and easy outs, some ground balls, which is exactly what he’s got. He also started showing the sldier more, which, talking to some Red Sox officials, was sometimes rated above his highly-touted curveball in the minor leagues. I thgink the two-seamer and the slider are the two pitches that will turn this kid into the pitcher he can be.
Another positive sign was Brad Penny, Monday night. After seeing him struggle in three of the last four outings he got back to the Brad Penny we saw midseason — six innings, three runs. A bounce or two and it could have gone even better than that. Before he went on theroad trip we had talked in the clubhouse about his pitch count, about how deep in countes he woudl challenge hitters with his fastball, causing a lot of foul balls. He told me he was working on a cutter, but he didn’t want me to say anything because he hand’t broke it out yet. But then he broke it out in Tampa Bay, and even though he gave up runs in that game I thought it was a very effective pitch for him and he knew moving forward it would be a very good pitch for him.
Monday night he showed it. He threw some good sliders. At the time he told me he was working on it I told him that it didn’t seem like a slider, but more of a cutter. He explained that because of his hand was so bit when he tried to cut it it would turn into a slider and liked the way it looked. Well, I liked the way it looked too. I think that slider is a pitch which gives Brad Penny another option to go to if his fastball or curveball isn’t working.
That leads us to the youngster, Junichi Tazawa, who is throwing Tuesday. I was very impressed with his first major league appearance, in extra innings in Yankee Stadium — with all the hype — the way the threw the baseball. He didn’t look nervous, although I’m sure he was. He made some good pitches. That Alex Rodriguez home run was at the shins. I thought it was a good curveball that caught just a little too much of the plate. He’s a guy the Red Sox feel good about because he can throw four quality pitches for strikes.
Overall, the last four pitching performances makes you feel good about what’s going on. I don’t worry about this lineup, it will turn, and started to Monday night. It’s the starters, the rotation, which I was more concerned about. But now we’ve seen four straight and I feel a lot better about this team.
Sitting in that Tigers clubhosue Monday before the game, they were asking what was wrong with the Red Sox. I told them that they were just not swing the bats. Some of them pointed to the lineup card and said, “Those guys can swing the bats.” I agreed 100 percent but explained that right now they just weren’t. It showed that the Detroit Tigers don’t know this team is slumping, they just know this team has good hitters. They know the Red Sox are a dangerous team, just like everybody else in baseball understands.
Now it’s time for this lineup to realize it’s potential. Monday night they started to. It made you feel a lot better about this team.
|08.10.09 at 7:44 pm ET|
Junichi Tazawa will make his first big league start on Tuesday against the Tigers, taking John Smoltz’s place in the rotation.
The last pitch Tazawa threw was that hanging breaking ball to Alex Rodriguez early Saturday morning that was hit over the wall in left for a game-ending two-run homer, ending the 15-inning marathon at Yankee Stadium.
But Terry Francona, prior to Monday’s game, said that shouldn’t have a lasting impact on the 22-year-old Japanese right-hander.
“The one thing he should do is he should throw strikes,” Francona said. “He should manage the running game very well and his stuff is good enough where if he throws strikes, he should be fine. He doesn’t seem to be overly nervous or out of sorts with where he is so we’re looking forward to it.” Read the rest of this entry »
|08.10.09 at 5:40 pm ET|
The knuckleballer threw a simulated game on Monday, testing his back and calf, one that landed him on the disabled list and the other that extended his stay there.
Wakefield threw 51 pitches at Fenway on Monday, got up and down three times and threw 40 warm-up pitches in the bullpen to get loose before taking to the real mound.
“(He) threw the ball great,” Francona said. “We made him cover first a lot of times, his calf is not 100 percent, that’s fairly obvious, it doesn’t affect him when he pitches. I think it’s going to be important to see how he bounces back after running around out there. We’ve got to keep that strength going in the right direction. We don’t want to make a mistake and pitch him too quickly. We definitely think he can get outs.
“We’ll wait until (Tuesday) and see how he responds and then try to come up with a little more of a game plan as to what we do next. (He) looks great throwing the ball.”
|08.10.09 at 4:27 pm ET|
One week remains until the Aug. 17 deadline to sign 2009 draft picks, and the Red Sox are working the phones to determine who will join a farm system that has proven remarkably productive in recent years. Here are updates on some of the most prominent of the players who were characterized as “signability questions” when they were drafted by the Sox.
3rd round pick: David Renfroe, South Panola HS (committed to Ole Miss)
Renfroe was a two-way star in high school, showing early-round talent as both a pitcher and a shortstop. The Sox drafted him with the idea of developing him as a position player. There were reports before the draft of extremely high bonus demands by Renfroe, who was said to be seeking something in the neighborhood of $3 million. The Sox are still talking to Renfroe’s representative. If he does agree to terms with the club, it would likely be just before the Aug. 17 deadline.
6th round pick: Brandon Kline, Gov. Thomas Johnson HS (committed to the University of Virginia)
Kline will not sign, and instead plans on honoring his academic and athletic scholarship at UVA. The Sox were very high on Kline, believing that his intelligence, athleticism and frame offered a vast array of projectable tools. But Kline, an excellent student, felt strongly that he wanted to become the first person in his family to attend college. Moreover, he did not pitch in a summer league, and so the Red Sox did not have the opportunity to evaluate him fully in hopes of making an offer to convince him to begin his professional career. Kline will become the second-highest draft pick (after 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris) not to sign with the Sox under the current baseball operations department.
7th round pick: Madison Younginer, Mauldin HS (committed to Clemson)
Younginer is described as roughly a 50/50 proposition as to whether he might sign with the Sox. The right-hander featured high-90s velocity and an advanced breaking ball as a high school closer. But with a commitment to play college ball near his hometown, it remains to be seen whether he can be convinced to begin his professional career.
9th round pick: Kendal Volz, Baylor University
After showing electric stuff while pitching for Team USA last summer, Volz had a disappointing junior year at Baylor. The Sox drafted him with the intention of monitoring his work over the summer to see what kind of offer to make, and whether they should offer a bonus commensurate with the elite potential he demonstrated a year ago, or more in line with his 2009 college season. Volz pitched just nine innings for Brewster on the Cape this summer, allowing two runs and striking out nine while walking two. The Sox continue to talk with the right-hander’s representatives, but it can often prove tricky to reach an agreement with a player whose past performance suggested upper-round talent but whose recent performances have created grounds for more limited expectations.
10th round pick: Brandon Jacobs, Parkview HS (committed to Auburn)
A two-sport high-school star, Jacobs was recruited to Auburn to play both running back and baseball. Auburn anticipates that he is virtually certain to begin his baseball career in the coming days – the powerful outfielder is not listed in the newcomers section of the football media guide, and he has not been a participant in the first week of Auburn’s football practices. It seems safe to assume that Jacobs’ signing will be announced in the next week, likely for second-round money.
11th round pick: Jason Thompson, Germantown HS (committed to Louisville)
Thompson, a switch-hitting shortstop, has signed with the Sox for $300,000. He played in his first Gulf Coast League game on Sunday, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance.
16th round pick: Luke Bard, Westminster Christian Academy (committed to Georgia Tech)
Daniel Bard said recently that his brother was open to discussing turning pro, but the younger brother of the Red Sox reliever seems likely to follow his sibling’s career path and head to college.
20th round pick: Alex Hassan, Duke University
Hassan, a native of Milton, Mass., signed for a shade under $100,000 after the Sox watched him play in the Cape League to start the summer. Hassan’s career took a rather unexpected turn with Orleans.
The Sox drafted the two-way player (he was both an outfielder and closer for Duke) as a pitcher, but were more impressed this summer by his performance as a position player. And so, the team signed him as an outfielder, and the early returns in Lowell have been extremely impressive. The 21-year-old is hitting .444 with a 1.001 OPS, and has struck out just once in 38 plate appearances.
|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
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