|10.04.09 at 11:13 am ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said prior the Red Sox’ game, Sunday, with the Indians that Tim Wakefield will not be on the American League Division Series roster, but that the team is not ruling out the knuckleballer making an appearance in the postseason if the Sox advance. “I think it’s kind of obvious the situation he’s in … Talked to him about not shelving his season … he’s on board with that,” Francona said.
Francona noted that Manny Delcarmen, who was — as was first reported by WEEI.com — in a car accident prior to Saturday night’s game, was “pretty stiff last night”, and that the Red Sox would have like to see more of the reliever before the postseason but now can’t because of his availability.
As for Rocco Baldelli, who has been sidelined with a sore hip, there is no decision on his addition to the postseason roster with Francona saying, “We’ll treat him aggressively and see where this goes … He’s a big bat to have.” Nick Green, who is still struggling with a slipped disc in his back, is, according the Sox manager, “stuck in neutral”. The Red Sox pitchers will throw side sessions Monday in case their ALDS with the Angels starts Wednesday.
|10.04.09 at 4:06 am ET|
Dusty Brown was a 35th round draft pick out of Yavapai Junior College (Curt Schilling‘s alma mater) in 2000. The Red Sox made Yavapai’s catcher/closer a draft-and-follow, and signed him in 2001, when he made his pro debut in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, on the same team on which Manny Delcarmen started his pro career.
Brown showed early promise in his pro career, but in part due to a succession of injuries, his progress was up-and-down, and his movement up the ladder was thus deliberate. He saw one Sox prospect after another zoom past him on the way to the majors, playing with such talents as Delcarmen, Brandon Moss, Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon as they marched towards the majors.
There were times of frustration. But nine years into his career as a member of the Red Sox, Brown ‘ who had batted just once since making his big-league debut as a defensive replacement this year ‘ ensured achieved a milestone at the major-league level.
In the bottom of the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 11-6 win over the Indians on Saturday, Brown crushed a changeup from Indians reliever Mike Gosling. The ball sailed over the Wall and crashed in the last row of the Monster Seats for the 27-year-old’s first career hit and first career homer. The Fenway crowd of 37,562 chanted the catcher’s name ‘ Dus-ty, Dus-ty, Dus-ty ‘ until his teammates pushed him out of the dugout to accept a curtain call.
‘It’s unbelievable, man,’ said Brown. ‘Not many guys can say that: at Fenway Park, to get a curtain call from the fans, there’s nothing like it. I’ll remember it forever.’
It has been an unforgettable string of days for Brown, who on Wednesday night pitched an inning in Boston’s blowout loss to the Blue Jays. Though Brown said that the homer was hands-down the cooler moment, he has embraced his week of firsts.
“I’ve been hearing people outside the stadium talking about me pitching, and then to have tonight, get in there when I wasn’t really expecting to play, get my first hit and have it be a home run, a curtain call, it’s good stuff,” he said.
It took time for Brown to have his moment. In all likelihood, he will be the last Red Sox player drafted under former G.M. Dan Duquette to make his major-league debut with the Sox.
Brown’s minor-league career demanded a significant degree of patience. On Saturday, his persistence paid off, as he truly entered the company of his once and future teammates.
‘So many guys blew right by me, but some guys have different paths to the big leagues than others,’ said Brown. ‘It’s been weird being in the same organization for so long and watching all these other guys develop into what they are now, knowing that at one time I was right there with them. They’d keep going; I had a couple setbacks. Now that we’re finally here, all together, it’s great.’
|10.04.09 at 4:00 am ET|
Much to the relief of the Red Sox, the shortstop said after getting drilled in the hand that he was fine. On Saturday morning, X-rays confirmed the fact. Though the initial fluoroscope on Friday showed what Gonzalez called ‘a little line’ on the back of his hand, further tests ruled out a fracture.
Gonzalez, who sat out as scheduled on Saturday, had some swelling in his hand, but reported that he was pain-free. He did not swing on Saturday, and instead iced his hand before and after the game.
He remained hopeful that he might be able to play on Sunday, in the regular-season finale. More significantly, all signs pointed to Gonzalez being available when the playoffs begin against the Angels.
‘We got the results back,’ said Sox manager Terry Francona. ‘We’re thrilled.’
The reason was obvious. Gonzalez, in less than two months since the Sox re-acquired him on Aug. 14, has become nearly indispensible.
Part of that is a commentary on the team’s limited depth behind him. Backup Nick Green remains hampered by a bulging disc that is pressing against a nerve and causing weakness in his leg. Jed Lowrie remains limited in his left-handed at-bats thanks to his ongoing recovery from surgery on his left wrist in April, and entered last night hitting just .145 with a .203 OBP and .226 slugging mark. Chris Woodward has the second-worst OPS in the majors (.564) since the start of the 2006 season.
‘Having a guy of Gonzo’s ability to write in every night makes it easier,’ said first-base and infield coach Tim Bogar. ‘That just gives you the consistency of having the same guy out there every night. You know what you’re going to get.
‘You don’t want to lose a guy of his quality. I also know that Nick’s not feeling good and Jed’s probably not at 100 percent yet. It would have been a detriment to us not to have him.’
But that is not only because of the limitations of Gonzalez’ shortstop brethren. There is little question that Gonzalez has contributed immensely to his team’s playoff drive. Though he missed all of last year with a knee injury, and had spent further time on the sidelines while with the Reds, he has been in the lineup nearly every game since rejoining Boston.
Gonzalez has been an everyday player in every sense of the word, playing in 43 games (tied for second most on the club) since joining the Sox on Aug. 15. In the 42 games he has started, the Sox are 26-16 (.619).
‘That’s the one thing he said when he came over. He goes, ‘I want to play,’’ said Francona. ‘I have no problem running him out. He prepares every day. He takes good care of himself. There’s no reason he can’t play everyday. He’s done a good job. You start getting some injuries like he had with the knee, those are pretty serious things.
‘It’s one thing for a guy to say I want to play and then go out there and limp. But he’s taken care of himself to the point that he can go out there and be a real good player.’
Indeed, Gonzalez has delivered better-than-expected production since virtually the day that he arrived. After hitting just .210/.258/.296/.554 for the Reds, Gonzalez has delivered a vastly improved offensive line of .285/.318/.438/.755.
His defense, meanwhile, has helped to stabilize the Sox infield. An area of at-times acute weakness has been solidified with Gonzalez’ return to Boston.
‘We were really well below the average, well below where we wanted to be at shortstop defense for a significant part of the season,’ said Sox G.M. Theo Epstein. ‘Bringing in Alex, who’s been really steady since he’s been here was a significant upgrade, in part because of how reliable he’s been, how good his hands are, how good his arm is, his instincts, but also in part because of the performance we had early. That’s been a steadying influence on our overall defense and our pitching staff since he’s been here.’
Now, Gonzalez will have the opportunity to continue to offer that influence to the Sox during the postseason. That fact came as a relief to the shortstop, who waived his no-trade clause to return to Boston.
‘To get hurt like that, be out for the season, it would be frustrating, especially since we’re going to the playoffs,’ said Gonzalez. ‘That’s what I live for: the team in the postseason, trying to win the World Series. Thank God it didn’t happen.’
|10.03.09 at 6:54 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona provided a number of updates about potential reserves for the postseason roster. The newest and likely most significant development was that outfielder Rocco Baldelli, after leaving Friday’s game with discomfort in his hip, is feeling “pretty tender” and “was hurting” when he arrived in the Fenway Park clubhouse today.
Baldelli will probably have to wait until Monday to undergo further tests, potentially including an MRI, but his availability for the start of the postseason could be in some question depending upon the results. Outfielders Joey Gathright and Brian Anderson will both be traveling with the Sox to Anaheim on Monday night for the start of the Division Series. Gathright seems all but certain to have a postseason roster spot regardless of Baldelli’s health; the right-handed Anderson, meanwhile, could become an option for the roster if Baldelli is limited.
Other relevant developments in the formulation of the playoff roster:
–Alex Gonzalez‘ X-rays today revealed that there was no fracture in his right hand. That came as a significant relief to both the shortstop and his club.
“To get hurt like that, be out for the season, it would be frustrating, especially since we’re going to the playoffs,” said Gonzalez. “That’s what I live for: the team in the postseason, trying to win the World Series. Thank God it didn’t happen.”
Gonzalez planned to take some swings on Saturday, and hopes to play on Sunday. That diminishes slightly the brief sense of panic that could have crept into the team’s calculations regarding its shortstop position.
–The backup role still seems a bit of an open question, however, with Nick Green seemingly unavailable, Jed Lowrie still somewhat limited (“We don’t want to see too much of Lowrie,” said Francona, suggesting that the team is still trying to measure his playing time) as he continues to rebuild strength following his April wrist surgery and Chris Woodward away from the club to be with his wife after she delivered the couple’s third child.
RIGHT FIELD / LEFT-HANDED OUTFIELDERS
–Sox manager Terry Francona said that J.D. Drew is fine, and will play tomorrow. Presuming he comes out of that game without a hitch, Josh Reddick will be sent to Fort Myers to stay fresh in case an injury requires the Sox to add him to the roster later in the postseason. If Drew has a setback, then Reddick would travel with the Sox to Anaheim as an insurance option.
–George Kottaras will travel with the club to Anaheim, but seemingly in a non-roster capacity. Unlike previous years, where the Sox were inclined to have three catchers to maximize their roster versatility, it appears that the team will have just two catchers this year. While Kottaras will travel with the team in the postseason, catcher Dusty Brown will head to Fort Myers to stay sharp.
–Paul Byrd said that he will be in the Red Sox bullpen both on Saturday and Sunday, but he did not think it necessary for him to gear up for a potential postseason bullpen role by making an appearance in the next couple of days.
–Michael Bowden will also head to Fort Myers to stay sharp. Pitchers Dustin Richardson, Hunter Jones and Fernando Cabrera will all head home.
–Junichi Tazawa will also travel with the Sox to Anaheim, spend the first two games with the club (“We want him to experience a little bit of what we’re doing,” said Sox manager Terry Francona, “and what he can hopefully be a part of”) and then fly back to Japan, his first professional season concluded.
|10.03.09 at 2:03 pm ET|
A Red Sox team spokesperson confirmed that additional X-rays taken this morning on the right hand of shortstop Alex Gonzalez came back negative, indicating that the stray pitch that hit him in the hand did not result in a fracture. Gonzalez had said that there was “a little line” on the back of his hand in the initial fluoroscope at the ballpark, leading to fears that his hand might be broken, something that would clearly impact his availability for the postseason. Based on this morning’s results, however, it would appear that worst-case scenario will not be visited.
Gonzalez had already been scheduled to sit out of Saturday’s game (assuming it is played), even before the injury. But it would appear that he will not be lost to the Sox when meaningful games resume with the start of the playoffs.
|10.03.09 at 11:57 am ET|
After eight seasons at the helm of the Blue Jays, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi was fired on Saturday morning. The decision was announced in a press release.
“This was a tough decision and a difficult one for me personally as I have enjoyed J.P.’s friendship and his perspective on the game,” said Paul Beeston, acting President, and CEO. “J.P. has put an incredible amount of effort into improving the team and he has brought along a number of great young players. However, I feel that it is time for a change and accordingly we have decided to move on.”
The Blue Jays were 642-651 under Ricciardi, finishing as high as second place in the American League East in 2006 and finishing in third place — behind the Yankees and Red Sox — on four separate occasions. Ricciardi freely admitted to the immense challenge of trying to compete against those two financial heavyweights in what is widely viewed as baseball’s toughest division.
In an interview with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford in August, Ricciardi discussed “the reality of the division,” which permits only elite teams to survive and enter the postseason.
“There’s a lot of really good things happening [in Toronto],” Ricciardi said at the time. What I think we’ve realized is the reality of the division. We know it, but we’ve come to realize it even more so. This is not a division you can be good in, you have to be great in it to make the playoffs. We’ve been good the last three years. The ownership has been great to us. They’ve allowed us to spend some money over the last three years, and the last three years we were high 80’s in wins. We’re not good enough to win the division.
“What we have to do is take a step back and start looking at ways that we can start building to get great. I think with the [Brett] Cecils and the [Ricky] Romeros and all the young arms we have, along with the [Aaron] Hills and the [Adam] Linds and the players we have coming we have a really good foundation and nucleus to get there. But I think we have to be smart about the fact that right now we’re not great and you have to be great to win this division.
“We have a really good foundation here. Our ownership is great. Our ownership isn’t one that gives into pressure and understands that it’s a long haul and understands there’s a method to the madness. We’re pretty confident we’re going to be OK going forward. Every year brings different challenges and hopefully one of these years we’ll stay healthy to put the right players out there.”
Now, if that does happen, it will be someone other than Ricciardi who assembles that group of players.
This year, the Blue Jays got off to a terrific start, and owned a 27-19 record and resided in first place on May 23 despite a collection of injuries (to Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch and Casey Janssen, among others) that seemed likely to torpedo the Toronto pitching staff. But the team struggled over the next four months — with the offense serving as the primary culprit — leading to the team’s willingness to trade ace Roy Halladay at this year’s trade deadline. But the Blue Jays ended up not dealing their ace, deeming the offers that they received inadequate. The Jays recorded a 48-66 record after falling out of first place, resulting in a fourth-place standing in the A.L. East and leading to Ricciardi’s ouster.
Blue Jays assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been promoted to the position of interim G.M.
|10.03.09 at 11:40 am ET|
Turning in 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball on Thursday silenced all the doubters who questioned the physical shape of Jon Lester. Whiffing seven batters in six innings in last night’s 6-2 win quieted all the skeptics who were uncertain if Daisuke Matsuzaka could continue his consistency. Tonight, it’s Josh Beckett’s turn to reassure those concerned about his health as he squares off against the Cleveland Indians (65-95) in the third game of a four-game set.
After missing his last start due to mild back spasms, Beckett (16-6, 3.78) returns to the mound tonight ready to make his final start of the regular season. A late scratch on Monday, the right-hander threw a successful 62-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. Shortly after, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona reported that “everything went great,” suggesting that Beckett would be good-to-go for his postseason tune-up.
Though the ace struggled through a month-long slump for the Red Sox (93-67) during August, Beckett has since shown signs of regaining his dominant first half form, compiling a 2-1 record with a 3.66 ERA in five September outings. Needing only one strikeout to set a career-high, the Texas native prepares to face off against the Indians for the first time this season.
In his career, Beckett has had his troubles pitching against Cleveland, posting a 1-4 mark with a bloated 6.46 ERA in five outings. At Fenway this year, however, Beckett has been exceptionally efficient, going 9-1 and compiling a 3.42 ERA in 15 starts.
Tied with the Kansas City Royals for last place in the AL Central, the Indians call upon the left-handed Aaron Laffey (7-8, 3.91) as he attempts to pitch the Tribe out of the basement and end the season on a high note. Having lost five straight starts, Laffey has not won a decision since Aug. 6 against the Minnesota Twins, when he tossed 5 1/3 innings allowing three runs in the 7-4 victory.
Laffey is making his first career start against the Sox, though he did make an appearance against Boston earlier in the year in which he pitched three shutout innings in relief to record the lone save of his career. Though the Red Sox batters have seen little of Laffey, Casey Kotchman has enjoyed plenty of success facing the lefty. In five career plate appearances, Kotchman has yet to record an out against Laffey, going 5-for-5 with two doubles.
Here is how each pitcher has fared against their opponents batters in the past:
Josh Beckett vs. Indians batters.
Jamey Carroll (20 career plate appearances) .333 AVG, .400 OBP, .333 SLG, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Travis Hafner (15) .333, .467, .833, 1 home run, 1 double, 1 triple 3 walks, 1 strikeout
Jhonny Peralta (12) .400, .500, .500, 1 double, 2 walks
Shin-Soo Choo (6) 2-for-6, 1 home run
Asdrubal Cabrera (3) 2-for-2, 1 walk
Kelly Shoppach (3) 0-for-2, 2 strikeouts, 1 hit-by-pitch
Aaron Laffey vs. Red Sox batters
Brian Anderson (6 career plate appearances) 0-for-6
Joey Gathright (5) 1-for-5, 2 walks
Casey Kotchman (5) 5-for-5, 2 doubles
Chris Woodward (3) 0-for-3
Nick Green (2) 0-for-2
Jason Bay (1) 0-for-1
J.D. Drew (1) 0-for-1
Mike Lowell (1) 0-for-1
David Ortiz (1) 0-for-1
Dustin Pedroia (1) 0-for-1
Jason Varitek (1) 1-for-1
|10.03.09 at 12:09 am ET|
Gonzalez said an initial scan revealed a ‘little line’ on the back of his right hand. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the team’s medical staff indicated the line could be something as simple as a blood vessel. Gonzalez will go for further tests — which figure to include an X-ray — on Saturday morning.
“I’ve got a little line that they see, but I have to go to tomorrow to have an MRI,” said Gonzalez said, whose hand and wrist were encompassed by an ice bag.”We’ll see tomorrow. They can’t tell if it’s a fracture or something else. There’s not a lot of pain, but we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury said he’ll be fine after getting his left ankle stepped on early in the game. He went for treatment immediately after the game. Right fielder Rocco Baldelli came out of the game in the fourth with a left hip flexor strain. He is day-to-day.
|10.02.09 at 11:54 pm ET|
It was just 15 pitches over two days, but the end result offered some postseason optimism.
After throwing eight pitches to get through the eighth inning, Thursday night, Billy Wagner needed seven pitches Friday night to strike out both batters he faced in the Red Sox‘ 6-2 win over the Indians, at Fenway Park. The significance of the most recent outing was that it represented the first time this season Wagner has pitched in back-to-back days since coming back from Tommy John Surgery.
“I think it’s something you need to go through,” said Wagner, who hadn’t pitched on back-to-back days since July 23-24 2008. “I think it puts their mind at ease. I felt strong all along and they wanted to play it cautious. We have a deep bullpen and they didn’t want to sit there and feel like they needed to use me more than they needed to. This was just, I think, peace of mind.”
Did it offer the 38-year-old any sort of peace of mind?
“I’ve been doing it 15 years,” he said. “There isn’t nothing that gives me peace of mind when I’m out there.”
Wagner has had to go through some adjustments in his new role, but the reliever continues to fare well as a set-up man for closer Jonathan Papelbon. The lefty has registered at least one strikeout in each of his last six outings and has struck out 22 batters in 13 2/3 innings since coming to the Red Sox.
“It’s good to be able to go out there and pitch,” Wagner said. “When your able to go out there and do well it’s just icing on the cake.”
Wagner wasn’t alone in coming away with encouragement, with Red Sox manager Terry Francona also expressing his satisfaction with the outing.
“He felt good. It worked out really well, we were fortunate,” Francona said. “When I went out to take him out, I said something about any hesitancy, and I meant when he was warming up, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He had just struck out two guys and both were about 98 (mph). But, no, it was good. He was short last night and he was short again tonight, so we were pretty fortunate to be able to do it without forcing the issue or going too far.
“We really didn’t feel the need to have to do it, but I think he only threw eight or nine pitches last night, probably the same tonight. It was probably beneficial to everybody, himself included. I think we thought he was going to be OK anyway. And with days off, things like that, the playoffs, and adrenaline, I think it’s more we are just trying to live up to our end of it, where we don’t overdue all the things we told him before he came here, or why he was coming here. Just trying to live up to that. He’s been good about communicating to us about how he’s felt.”
There is also something else that has impressed Francona about Wagner — the time it takes him to warm-up (or lack thereof).
“He’s actually been as quick as seven pitches. That’s incredible,” the Sox manager said. “That’s Mike Myer-esque. That amazes me. For him to do that still, I know he always used to do it, for him to do that still is a great sign that he’s OK. That phone rings in a hurry (to let Francona know Wagner is ready). The first time it did,m I called back because I didn’t believe it.”
|10.02.09 at 3:01 pm ET|
In 2004, it was Derek Lowe who resurrected the Boston Red Sox pitching staff in the ALCS to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to New York Yankees. In 2007, it was Jon Lester who walked off the mound a World Series winner in Game 4 against the Colorado Rockies a year after battling cancer. Now, in 2009, the Red Sox need Daisuke Matsuzaka to be the next X-factor in the playoff rotation behind the daunting trio of Josh Beckett, Lester, and Clay Buchholz.
When Daisuke (3-6, 6.08) took the mound on Sept. 15 to make his first start since landing on the disabled list back in June, dozens of questions surfaced as to what role the Japanese right-hander would play — if any — on the Red Sox’ (92-67) postseason roster. Even the Sox had their doubts about his potential contribution. Three starts later, Matsuzaka has proven that he has regained the dominant form that made him an 18-game winner a year ago.
Posting an abysmal 1-5 record with an exorbitant 8.23 ERA before his DL stint, Matsuzaka has since recovered and impressed in his return going 2-1 with a minuscule 1.96 ERA. His lone defeat came last Saturday when he was outdueled by Yankees ace CC Sabathia in a 3-0 loss. Though his only mistake was a Robinson Cano solo home run, Matsuzaka was still tagged with the loss despite hurling seven strong innings of one-run ball.
Last night, the Red Sox snapped a six-game losing skid by defeating the Cleveland Indians, 3-0, thanks to the brilliant outing of Lester and his 6 1/3 shutout innings. Tonight, the Sox entrust the ball to Matsuzaka as he makes his final regular season start.
In his two career starts against the Indians, Matsuzaka owns a 1-1 record with a 4.26 ERA. He has yet to oppose the Tribe this season. At home this year, Matsuzaka has struggled to a 1-4 mark and an appalling 6.58 ERA, though he did win in his Sept. 15 return by turning in six shutout innings with five strikeouts against the Los Angeles Angels.
With nothing left to play for except to escape the shame of finishing last in the Central division, the Indians (65-94) send left-handed pitcher Jeremy Sowers (6-10, 5.09) to square off against the Sox. A former 2006 first-round draft, Sowers has yet to fulfill expectations with Cleveland. In 70 career starts (71 appearances), the Vanderbilt product has compiled an 18-29 record and a less-than-mediocre 5.12 ERA.
Not having won since Sept. 4, Sowers looks to end the season on a positive note, especially after suffering the shortest outing of his career on Sept. 19. That day, he was pounded for six runs in one-plus innings of work.
Here is how the two pitchers have fared in their careers against their opponent’s batters:
Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Indians batters
Travis Hafner (6 career plate appearances) 2-for-6, 1 double
Jhonny Peralta (6) 0-for-6, 2 strikeouts
Kelly Shoppach (3) 2-for-3
Jeremy Sowers vs. Red Sox batters
Brian Anderson (12 career plate appearances) 1-for-11, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Kevin Youkilis (9) 5-for-8, 2 doubles, 1 home run
Mike Lowell (8) 1-for-7, 1 double, 1 walk
Dustin Pedroia (8) 3-for-6, 1 walk
Alex Gonzalez (7) 1-for-6, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Nick Green (7) 2-for-7, 2 doubles, 1 strikeout
Rocco Baldelli (6) 1-for-5, 1 double, 1 walk
Jason Bay (6) 1-for-4, 1 double, 2 walks
J.D. Drew (6) 0-for-5, 1 walk, 1 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (5) 1-for-4, 1 home run
Jacoby Ellsbury (4) 2-for-4, 1 double
Casey Kotchman (3) 0-for-3
Jed Lowrie (3) 2-for-3, 1 double
David Ortiz (3) 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
George Kottaras (2) 0-for-2
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