|03.21.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Terry Francona trusts his players will do the right thing to get reason for the season. He knows that if he shows trust in spring training, he and the team will reap the rewards when it matters.
Francona, of course, has always shown great loyalty to his players and none more than David Ortiz.
So when his slugger expressed a desire – along with Dustin Pedroia – to travel two hours north on a busy Monday to play the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game, Francona had no problem fulfilling the request.
“David wants to play pretty much every day. I don’t think enough to go to Jupiter [Thursday vs. Marlins].” Francona said Monday morning. “I think it’s been beat on him so much. Last year, after that first ‘oh-for,’ the whole world came to an end. I’m sure he’d like to shut everybody up. And from where I sit, I hope he does. It’ll make my life a lot easier.”
[Francona speaks about Ortiz wanting to silence the ‘April’ critics this spring.]
Ortiz went 0-for-7 in his first two games of 2010 against the Yankees and 1-for-11 in the season-opening series. He was asked about it after the second game and suggested fans and media “relax” about his slow start. Ortiz is hitting .263 this spring with one homer and five RBIs in 14 games. Ortiz had 62 at-bats with five walks and three homers in 2010 spring training but with 14 strikeouts and finished batting just .226.
This year, he has 42 plate appearances and has fanned eight times. Francona said he doesn’t have a figure in mind for the ideal number of plate appearances to get ready for the season.
“I don’t even know what the number is,” Francona said. “We keep track of plate appearances but he’s played enough. You just can’t bottle it or turn the switch on. Some guys get hurt, they get two games and they go 4-for-4 the first day, and then they feel good about themselves. It’s the [darnedest] thing.
“He has looked, for the most part, really good. I think there’s been days where he’s gotten a little out of sync. But saying that, everybody does because they don’t play every day. He’ll have one day where he swings the bat well then he sits for a day or he hits a bunch. That’s the way it is with everybody. There’s no way you’re going to keep your swing in tact when you’re not playing every day.”
“We try to check with them,” Francona said. “That’s the whole idea is to get guys feeling good about themselves as we leave [for the season]. There’s no magic formula. We don’t have to push these guys. They’re good about wanting to be ready. They all want to be ready. We all try to do what they think is in their best interest. Like Pedey wanted to come up here real bad. He wanted to play four out of five. He probably knows himself better than I do.”
Monday marks an important day for Opening Day starter Jon Lester. The starting pitcher had made four starts entering Monday’s contest against the Phillies. Francona said he will have his longest outing of the spring, throwing between 85-95 pitches.
“Hopefully, he gets good and stretched out and then back off a little bit on his last one,” Francona said. “We have a night game [Tuesday] and a day off [Wednesday] and then, except for that Jupiter trip [vs. Marlins], we’ll start trying to play guys a little bit longer or more consistently.
“I don’t think you have to play nine [innings] in spring training to be ready for a season. It just doesn’t translate but we will get them a lot of back-to-back of four at-bats.”
Ortiz and Pedroia aren’t the only regulars wanting to go the extra mile this spring to be ready for the season. Adrian Gonzalez will take part in a minor league game on Wednesday – an off day for the big league team. Francona will be on hand to watch.
“I told him if he doesn’t want to [play], he doesn’t have to,” Francona said. “But I’m planning on going down there with him, just to watch.”
|03.21.11 at 10:00 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The claim that Jacoby Ellsbury has been the most impressive hitter in spring training thus far stretches beyond just the fact he’s hitting .421 with a .463 on-base percentage. It’s how he’s doing it that truly stands out.
“He looks good,” said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “I know he missed a lot of time last year, but he looks ready. He looks ready to hit. When Ells gets in trouble he’s late, but he hasn’t shown that at all. He’s driving the ball. He look really good.”
The hope for the Red Sox all along was that Ellsbury would be able to shake off whatever rust there was from playing in just 18 games in 2010 and own the leadoff spot sooner than later. Thus far, the centerfielder has done about as much as he possibly can to put any fears to rest regarding his readiness to assume the lineup’s top spot.
Perhaps the only question is whether or not Ellsbury will kickoff his comeback by going head-to-head with Texas Opening Day starter C.J. Wilson, a lefty who held left-handed batters to a .143 batting average in ’10, along with a .224 on-base percentage.
With no real history between the two — Ellsbury has faced Wilson just once — there is a case for the outfielder to get a crack at Wilson right out of the gate. While the drama of last season might have made some forget, but Ellsbury has actually been a very solid hitter against lefty pitching during his young career.
Ellsbury has actually hit lefties better (.307) than right-handers (.285),with an on-base percentage that is skewed 20 points higher when facing southpaws.
“Ells has always done pretty well against lefties,” said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. “I don’t have any issues with him against lefties. But C.J. Wilson is a different animal. The numbers, over his career, against lefties are pretty tilted toward righties. Everything he throws has late movement. He’s just got great stuff. He’s got a quick arm, so it’s tough to pick him up and for lefties his arm is on your side and is quick coming through the zone. He’s just tough to pick up.”
There aren’t any great alternatives, however, with the logical alternative, Marco Scutaro, managing just two hits in 16 at-bats against Wilson.
“I spent a lot of time this offseason swinging, and I haven’t really changed too much since I got here,” Ellsbury said. “The main thing to me is I want to be ready, early. I want to be ready to hit. I feel confident whether it’s lefty or righty, that’s the most important thing.”
|03.20.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective and efficient on Sunday but his two-out walk with none on in the 6th opened the door for a 10-run sixth as the Cardinals routed the Red Sox, 10-3, Sunday afternoon at City of Palms Park.
[Red Sox-Cardinals boxscore].
Matsuzaka allowed three hits and two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out four. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, in his longest outing of the spring. Matsuzaka, who is now 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA this spring, needed just 64 pitches to get through five innings.
“I thought he had good tempo, threw strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s two in a row now so he’s starting to get geared up. He probably could’ve gone a hitter or two more. I wanted to see Andrew face a lefty and it kind of fell apart from there.”
[Francona explains why he was happy with Matsuzaka’s outing Sunday vs. the Cardinals.]
Matsuzaka was coming off a start last Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers in which he allowed just two hits over five shutout innings, walking one and striking out five.
“I thought the last outing he had pretty good life too,” Francona said. “Again, you’re getting to that point in spring training where they’re probably gotten through the dead-arm period and they’re starting to get built up now where we’re getting pretty close to the start of the season.”
Francona pulled Matsuzaka for lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who struggled badly. The former No. 1 pick of the Tigers in 2006 faced six batters and didn’t retire a batter, allowing four hits and six runs while walking two.
“He walked the first hitter and that’s kind of a reminder when coming out of the bullpen of how important it is to attack the strike zone,” Francona said of Miller. “He had an infield single and a bloop and it kind of fell apart from there.”
Scott Atchison came in and allowed a bases-loaded double to Pujols to make it, 9-0, before Holiday followed with another run-scoring double. The Cardinals had 11 consecutive batters reach in the sixth with two outs.
|03.20.11 at 12:50 pm ET|
With the Cardinals’ first baseman in attendance, along with the Red Sox’ first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, it led to the question: Were the folks with ticket stubs seeing the best two hitters in baseball?
“The argument could be made,” said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan.
In his 10-year career nobody has approach Pujols’ body of work. He has hit 37 or more home runs in seven of those 10 campaigns, while never totaling a batting average of below .312. And while Gonzalez’ numbers don’t quite approach Pujols throughout the Sox’ first baseman’s initial five big-league seasons, it isn’t a great leap of faith to conclude that playing in the hitter-hurting Petco Park might have put a dent in the overall outcome.
But what is perhaps more interesting is the fact that both hitters, while playing the same position and anchoring similar spots in their respective lineups, have such different approaches when it comes to the art of hitting.
“They’re not really similar,” said Magdan, going beyond the obvious fact that Pujols is a right-handed hitter while Gonzalez hits lefty. “Adrian is a little more rhythmic, with movement fro pitch to pitch. He’s got a lot more going on. But I wouldn’t say the mechanics of their swing are similar.
“Obviously there are certain things that string through all good hitters. But as far as load, set-up, where they stand at the plate … Adrian strides, Pujols really doesn’t. He’s very still and just kind of cocks his hands. Adrian is more a center of a center-to-left field hitter, whereas Albert probably pulls his home runs. Obviously whatever they’re doing it works for them.”
|03.20.11 at 12:16 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A quick glance at the lineup posted in the Red Sox clubhouse Sunday morning and you could draw the natural conclusion that it very well could mirror the one that will be in the visitors clubhouse on April 1 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
But Terry Francona said the lineup consisting of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro wasn’t even his creation.
“We make them out three or four days ahead of time. DeMarlo [Hale] may have actually done it,” Francona said.
So, Sunday’s lineup against the Cardinals isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s going to be exactly the same on Opening Day?
“I don’t know,” Francona said. “Probably, no.”
One thing Francona did address is how important it will be to manage the speed at the top of the lineup with Ellsbury and Crawford likely to be somewhere in the top of the order to start the season and Dustin Pedroia in between.
While it might seem Francona would like to control when and how his speedsters run the bases, he realizes that he has to leave that up to the good judgment of his players.
“I don’t know if we really have to pick our spots,” Francona said Sunday. “What we care about is just not making outs. They’re going to get thrown out [stealing] and they’re going to get picked off. They have to but, again, they’re going to have the freedom to run.
“I’ve talked to Pedey because Pedey is going to be smack in the middle of those guys, I don’t want him to just sit there and take pitches, either. If Pedey is a little bit aggressive and they’re running, and Jacoby steals 65 instead of 70, what a weapon to have a guy that’s fast, a hole opening and a good hitter up. That’s a nice combination.”
Francona doesn’t want to hear about how a hitter is bothered by runners dancing off second base. That job is up to the hitter to communicate with his teammate.
“If you have a guy on second and it’s bugging the hitter, then they need to be still,” Francona said. “And that’s their responsibility to know each other. I get aggravated when somebody comes back in July and says [it’s bothering me], you should have talked about that two months ago because we encourage guys to be aggressive, they’re fast. We also encourage them to communicate with each other.”
|03.20.11 at 10:30 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nearly every Red Sox fan remembers how Daniel Nava broke into the majors last June.
With the bases loaded, he drilled the first pitch he saw in the big leagues – an offering from Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton – over the fence in right at Fenway.
On Sunday morning, he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket by the Red Sox as the team trimmed three more players off the major league squad. Also optioned was catcher Mark Wagner while righthander Matt Fox was reassigned.
Such is the life of a major leaguer on the fringes. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona offered perspective Sunday in assessing where the 28-year-old in his development.
“He didn’t swing the bat real well this spring, which in the grand scheme of things means nothing,” Francona said of Nava, who batted just .205 this spring in 19 games, with three RBIs.. “I think he was fighting it all spring. He got a little length in his swing. He knows he needs to shorten it up but he’s improved so much [defensively] in the outfield.”
“I mean, last year at this time, I’m willing to bet no one ever asked me a Daniel Nava question. He’s come a long way. He just needs to go play and then whatever happens, happens. Guys play themselves into the mix. The fact that we’re talking about Daniel Nava means he’s come so far.”
Francona added that the organization still projects Nava as primarily a left fielder.
Wagner hit .167 in nine games this spring while Fox was 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five relief appearances. But Francona was quick to point out that it’s Wagner’s defensive skills – especially game managing behind the plate – the organization really values. Last year, that was stunted when he missed nearly half the season with Triple-A Pawtucket because of a broken bone in his left hand. Surgery was eventually required and now, he begins 2011 with a fresh start. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.20.11 at 9:14 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A day after throwing 25 pitches off a mound for the first time since recovering from a sore left elbow, lefty pitcher Felix Doubront said his body felt a “good sore,” and was pleased with how the extra work during his two weeks off translated into pitching.
He admits, however, that the pain he felt in his elbow after throwing batting practice for the first time earlier in spring training left him with some uneasiness.
“I still have a little bit of nervousness. I feel a little tight in my forearm, but nothing like before,” Doubront explained. “Every time I throw the ball I remember that pain. But I threw yesterday and I felt good, and felt like I could throw harder. I feel like I don’t have to worry about my elbow.”
The plan is for Doubront to throw in a simulated game Monday, and then take a three or four days off before perhaps throwing in a spring training game.
“I was worried about Tommy John [surgery], or more time rehabbing. But thank God it was only two weeks,” Doubront said. “I want to say it’s completely normal, but it’s not. You have to give it time and I have to start throwing again. But I didn’t feel anything yesterday. I love pitching. I love throwing. I’ve got a lot of confidence since last year. I just don’t want to take a step back.”
The 23-year-old, who came out of the bullpen in nine of his 12 big-league appearances in ’10, said he enjoyed his first go-round as a reliever, last year, and would relish the opportunity to execute a similar role in ’11. Doubront does believe, however, that his future is that of a starter.
“I got used to it. It’s different, but I like it,” said Doubront regarding relieving. “I like starting more, but I like it. In my future I see myself as a starter. You have to have confidence to pitch, and that’s what I want to keep. I know I can pitch in the big leagues. But the thing is you have to believe in yourself. It’s not easy.”
|03.19.11 at 1:35 pm ET|
According to this piece by Richard Griffin in the Toronto Star, the Blue Jays’ roundabout acquisition of one-time Sox prospect Cesar Cabral can be explained by a handshake agreement between Theo Epstein and Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos when the Blue Jays were interviewing for their managerial position.
With Anthopoulos seeking permission to speak to John Farrell (the eventual hire), DeMarlo Hale and Tim Bogar, Epstein gave his blessing on the condition that Anthopoulous not go after Boston players in the Rule 5 draft.
This is why, Griffen writes, when the Blue Jays wanted to get their hands on Cabral, a left-handed pitcher, they had to wait for the Rays to take him in the Rule 5 draft, and then put in a waiver claim him upon Tampa Bay waiving him. Cabral was returned to the Rays less than 48 hours later.
|03.18.11 at 5:38 pm ET|
Doubront was shut down for approximately two weeks when he felt tightness in his left elbow in late February while throwing a side session at the club’s minor league complex.
Manager Terry Francona said the team wasn’t overly concerned since Doubront has complained of the tightness in the past. On Friday, the lefty who made his Red Sox debut last year, threw for Francona and other Red Sox staff.
“I watched him. He was 25 [pitches],” Francona reported. “He felt real good, he looked real good. His next [work] will be a simulated game. We’ll take the [protective L] screen away and it’ll be just a step closer to him pitching in a game. It’ll be at least two days, maybe three days off. We’ll see.”
The highly-touted 23-year-old lefty went 2-2 in 2010 with a 4.32 ERA in 12 appearances, including three starts.
Meanwhile, relievers Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard are expected to get their work in Sunday in a minor league game. Papelbon, who got only two outs on Thursday, will go two innings according to Francona while Bard is expected to go at least one inning.
|03.18.11 at 4:27 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz allowed his first run of the spring and the Red Sox allowed five unearned runs in an 8-3 loss to the Tigers Friday afternoon in a split-squad contest at City of Palms Park.
[Red Sox-Tigers boxscore].
Buchholz was hit hard but managed to get through the first four innings, allowing a long solo homer to right by Brennan Boesch in the second. It was the first run Buchholz allowed 11 innings this spring. Buchholz, who allowed just five hits in three previous appearances, allowed his fifth hit of the day to open the fifth.
Buchholz threw 76 pitches (41 strikes) on the day, his longest outing of the spring.
“I thought he fought his command a little today, right from the beginning,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “But he increased his workload by about 20 pitches, which was good. He’s got two more starts. I just didn’t think he commanded as he normally will.”
Adrian Gonzalez also committed his first error of the spring on the second batter Okajima faced. Okajima allowed a three-run homer to Ryan Raburn to cap off the fifth for Detroit.
“If a guy gives up a home run on March , I don’t think that means we’re not going to bring him into a game,” Francona said of Okajima. “When the season starts and guys get into the their roles, whatever happened in March doesn’t really matter. I’d love for everybody to go out and never give up runs but I don’t think you penalize guys. We’re just trying to get our team ready.”
All four Detroit runs in the fifth were unearned.
Dustin Pedroia drilled his first homer of the spring to left in the first inning off Tigers starter Max Scherzer to put the Red Sox up, 1-0. The Red Sox fell to 12-10-1 in Grapefruit play, with a nightcap to follow in Port Charlotte against the Rays.
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