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Who’s on the mound? Red Sox announce pitching schedule

02.25.11 at 8:05 pm ET
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With spring training games set to get underway on Saturday with the Red Sox‘ day-night doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern University, the Sox released their anticipated pitchers for the first five games of the exhibition calendar. Of the 30 pitchers in big league camp (18 on the major league roster and 12 non-roster invitees), 23 are slated to appear in games. The exceptions are: John Lackey, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes (late to camp due to visa issues), Junichi Tazawa (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), Jason Bergmann (working his way back from a shoulder issue at the start of camp) and Felix Doubront (shut down for at least 10 days with an elbow issue).

Here is the schedule of pitchers as outlined in a team press release on Friday: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox announce seven front office promotions

02.25.11 at 7:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox promoted seven members of their front office, including four members of the baseball operations department.

–Craig Shipley, who had served as the Vice President of International Scouting for the past five years, was named Senior Vice President of Player Personnel and International Scouting. During Shipley’s time in charge of the Sox’ International Scouting efforts, the team has expanded its global operations, signing players from the Dominican (just from the 40-man roster, Stolmy Pimentel, Oscar Tejeda and Yamaico Navarro were all signed under Shipley), Cuba (Jose Iglesias), Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Japan (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa), Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and more.

Allard Baird, previously the Assistant to GM Theo Epstein, was named Vice President of Player Personnel and Professional Scouting. Baird, formerly the Royals GM, is involved in most player personnel decisions already. He was the one in charge of the Sox’ efforts to scout Carl Crawford, and his imprint has also been felt on anything from the Sox’ efforts to more aggressively scout and sign players from the independent leagues (such as Daniel Nava) to the teams’ discussions of players going in both directions in potential trade discussions.

Mike Hazen, who has been the Sox’ Director of Player Development since early-2006, was named Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting. Since he joined the Sox five years ago, players such as Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury have graduated from prospect status to regular big league roles.

Brian O’Halloran was promoted from Director of Baseball Operations to Vice President of Baseball Operations. He plays a key role in the organization’s contract negotiations and payroll management, as well as compliance with Major League rules. His imprint has been on a number of creative contracts that the Sox have reached, notably including that of Adrian Beltre before last season.

Here is the full announcement: Read the rest of this entry »

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Nuggetpalooza: Some Baseball Nuggets

02.25.11 at 12:13 pm ET
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Emptying out the old notebook with some odds and ends, just in case there aren’t any more good quotes from Pedroia today:

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* – THE HITTERS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO RETIRE – Over the last four years, players that ended the season with 200+ plate appearances and an OPS under .700 batted over 133,000 times in total.  Here are the pitchers that faced at least 100 such “light hitters” and allowed the lowest OPS over that span:

.290 – Neftali Feliz: .086 average (8-for-93) with 0 HR
.294 – Mariano Rivera: .110 average (15-for-136) with 0 HR
.375 – Carlos Marmol: .095 average (21-for-220) with 0 HR
.386 – Rafael Soriano: .145 average (22-for-152) with 0 HR

Who has been the best Red Sox pitcher at retiring these below average hitters over the last four seasons?

.519 – Jonathan Papelbon: .182 average, 4 HR (185 PA)
.560 – Daisuke Matsuzaka: .196 average, 9 HR (531 PA)
.564 – Clay Buchholz: .216 average, 2 HR (314 PA)
.599 – John Lackey: .228 average, 8 HR (614 PA)
.616 – Josh Beckett: .228 average, 8 HR (583 PA)
.636 – Jon Lester: .236 average, 10 HR (563 PA)

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* – WHO KEEPS POWER HITTERS FROM HITTING WITH POWER? – In 2010, Washington’s Livan Hernandez faced 110 batters that ended the season with 25 or more home runs and never allowed a homer. Here are the best and worst HR/PA rates against 25+ home run hitters last year (min. 100 such batters faced):

.000 – Livan Hernandez, WSN (0-of-110)
.006 – David Price, TB (1-of-163)
.008 – Josh Johnson, FLA (1-of-119)
.010 – Carlos Zambrano, CHC (1-of-104)

Here are the worst rates (same minimums):

.096 – Ian Kennedy, ARZ (11-of-114)
.096 – Kevin Millwood, BAL (13-of-136)
.091 – Josh Beckett, BOS (10-of-110)
.091 – AJ Burnett, NYY (10-of-110)

How about the best such rates over the last four seasons (min. 200 such batters faced)?

.020 – Ubaldo Jimenez (9-of-451)
.020 – Josh Johnson (7-of-349)
.022 – Chad Billingsley (12-of-534)
.024 – Aaron Laffey (5-of-206)
.024 – Tim Wakefield (8-of-328)

And the worst since the start of 2007:

.097 – Armando Gallaraga (23-of-238)
.089 – Adam Eaton (23-of-257)
.084 – David Bush (37-of-442)
.083 – Todd Wellemeyer (29-of-348)

Here’s the current Red Sox staff’s figures from 2007-2010:

.024 – Tim Wakefield (5-of-206)
.026 – Bobby Jenks (2-of-78)
.035 – Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-of-313)
.045 – Jon Lester (19-of-419)
.047 – Hideki Okajima (7-of-148)
.049 – Jonathan Papelbon (8-of-164)
.049 – Daniel Bard (5-of-102)
.057 – Josh Beckett (26-of-457)
.067 – John Lackey (28-of-451)

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* – YOU REALLY WANT TO RUN PAPS OUT OF TOWN?: Ever wonder which pitchers get results in REALLY TIGHT situations? Say, in the 7th inning or later, ahead by one or score tied, with two outs and runners in scoring position?  Here are the pitchers that have performed the best (i.e. lowest OPS allowed) in those spots over the last four seasons (min. 40 such batters faced):

.391 – Rafael Betancourt (6-for-45 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 6 walks)
.418 – Jonathan Papelbon (7-for-55 with 0 HR, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks)
.455 – Ryan Franklin (4-for-44 with 1 HR, 8 strikeouts and 9 walks)
.469 – Kerry Wood (3-for-29 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 10 walks)

Note this: Papelbon’s strikeout percentage (31.8 percent) ranks third, behind Jonathan Broxton (35.1 percent) and Heath Bell (32.1 percent).

And this: Papelbon’s OPS allowed with the game on the line, by year:

2007: .476 (1-for-7)
2008: .481 (3-for-14)
2009: .471 (2-for-18)
2010: .273 (1-for-16)

And the worst performers (same minimums):

1.175 – Octavio Dotel (9-for-32, 3 HR)
0.944 – Matt Capps (16-for-50, 3 HR)
0.875 – Kevin Gregg (13-for-53, 2 HR and 17 walks)
0.870 – Brian Fuentes (10-for-34, 1 HR)

I should give an honorable mention here to Kyle Farnsworth, who has only faced 14 batters with the “game on the line” over the last four seasons but has managed to allow a 1.896 OPS in those spots (7-for-11 with 3 walks and 2 HR). Actually, if there was an award for this, it should probably be NAMED after Farnsworth.

Another shout to new Red Sox’ Dan Wheeler, who has allowed a less-than-stellar .945 OPS to 35 “game on the line” batters since 2007, allowing them to go 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer. Silver lining? He held them to 0-for-2 last season.

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Have a great weekend!

Dustin Pedroia: ‘We’re going to kick BC’s (gluteus maximus)’

02.25.11 at 9:12 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clearly one Red Sox player is ready to start playing again.

“We’re going to kick BC’s (butt),” said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, exuding a healthy dose of fake intensity. (Note to Pedroia: It will be tough to top the 24-0 Sox win over Boston College in 2008.)

All kidding aside, the game is of some importance to Pedroia, who hasn’t seen real action since last Aug. 18.

“My biggest thing is to get out there and just get in the flow of the game and make sure I’€™m healthy and feel good. And just see pitches,” he said. “Just like any normal game the first game I’€™m out there. Just see pitches, get used to everything and that’€™s it. I just can’€™t wait. It’€™s going to be fun.’€

The enthusiasm regarding leaving the team’s minor-league training facility and heading two miles down Edison Ave. for real games at City of Palms Park wasn’t reserved just for Pedroia. The players were in particularly good moods as they ventured into a day which included a short workout and subsequent charity golf tournament.

After Friday, after all, real games begin, starting with the traditional doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern.

The lineups for the two games are as follows …

Against BC: Marco Scutaro SS, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Kevin Youkilis 1B, Darnell McDonald LF, Ryan Kalish CF, Lars Anderson 1B, Josh Reddick RF, Ryan Lavarnway C, and Stolmy Pimentel gets the start on the mound.

In the night-cap vs. the Huskies the batting order will be: Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Jed Lowrie SS, Mike Cameron DH, Daniel Nava LF, Luis Exposito C, Hector Luna 1B, Yamaico Navarro 3B, Omar Linares RF, Larry Sutton C. Getting the start will be Kyle Weiland.

Notable inactive: Carl Crawford, who will make his Red Sox debut Sunday night against the Twins.

Lenny DiNardo confident he is on the right path with the Red Sox

02.24.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The participants in the Red Sox‘ major league camp are long gone. It is now late afternoon, and the bus load of minor-leaguers have been dropped off at the Sox’ minor-league training facility two miles down the road from City of Palms Park.

Mingling among the group is Lenny DiNardo.

The lefty pitcher has not only accepted a minor-league deal with the Red Sox heading into the 2011 season, but he is making his return to the organization without an invitation to major-league camp. Thus, the image of DiNardo doing wind sprints with players 10 years his junior.

It is a road the 31-year-old is willing to take thanks in part to the confidence he feels after struggling through an injury-plagued ’10 season in the Oakland minor-league system. The last time DiNardo was in the major leagues was ’09 with the Royals, and until this month he hadn’t worn a Red Sox cap since ’06.

But now — three seasons removed from his best big-league campaign, in which he went 8-10 with a 4.11 EA in 20 starts with the A’s — DiNardo is confident that he can find a spot with the Red Sox sometime in the near future, perhaps as a lefty reliever. The first step was to prove his health while working out with the minor leaguers. (He had bone spurs removed from his left elbow midway through the ’10 season.) Step two will be potentially pitching in relief in the Sox’ first Grapefruit League game, Sunday night against Minnesota.

After that is when DiNardo hopes some real momentum is gathered, and the days of proving himself among the organization’s young guns are firmly in the rear-view mirror.

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Will Kevin Youkilis be cleaning up for the 2011 Red Sox? That’s a definite maybe

02.24.11 at 4:43 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — No, Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn’t announce his Opening Day lineup for April 1 in Texas on Thursday.

Nor did he announce who will be the first Red Sox pitcher of the 2011 regular season against the defending American League champions.

But in raving about Kevin Youkilis, Francona did provide perhaps a clue as to which way he might be leaning as it pertains to the middle of the order.

“He’s really taken it to another level,” Francona said. “I don’t know if I could sit here and tell you that in 2004, that spring training, that we’d see him be our clean-up hitter, and be thrilled.”

The Red Sox were certainly thrilled when Youkilis, who has batted in every spot in the order since breaking in during the 2004 season, embraced the cleanup role in 2008 and broke out with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. He followed that up in ’09 by belted 27 homers and driving in 94 runs. Then, in his injury-shortened season last year, he still batted .307 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 102 games.

He has been the cleanup hitter in 242 of his 730 career starts, accounting for almost exactly one-third of his starts.

Francona acknowledged that if Youkilis does this year what he did last year as the club’s cleanup hitter, he’ll have no problem letting him do so again in 2011.

“He never gives an at-bat away, ever,” Francona said. “He grinds out every at-bat, which not only leads to him being a productive hitter but how many times have you seen Youk have a long at-bat and the next guy come up and gets a pitch to handle because the [pitcher] is just frustrated. That happens repeatedly.

“He just never gives an at-bat away. He grinds and he grinds and he grinds and he swings at strikes, plus he’s a really good hitter. It’s a combination of a lot of things that makes him, in my opinion, one of the premier hitters in the league.” Read the rest of this entry »

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How Hideki Okajima found his way in Australia

02.24.11 at 1:49 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hideki Okajima knew he needed a change, so the 35-year-old took action.

A few days ago, Okajima told Japanese reporters that he thought he had found something while working out in Australia in the offseason that could potentially change his fortunes around. What was it?

“It’s coming along well but you never know until you face live batters,” he said. “But up until this point it’s going well.

“I started pitching against batters in January. I tried it out then and it seemed to be working well so it really felt like something I could use when I came over here.”

In other words, he’s not going to get specific (yet).

But after talking in vague terms in regard to his new weapon, Okajima did get specific regarding how he fine-tuned his new approach. For the inaugural time in his professional career, the reliever brought in a professional hitter to face him during his Australian workouts.

“This was the first time I brought along a player from the independent league in Japan, so he’s a professional player who also played at the university level. He’s a very good batter, so that’s different than previous years when I only faced amateur players,” Okajima explained. “I was able to face a batter at the level where I could figure things out, so that was different this year.”

The reason for Okajima’s alteration was more than just looking for a higher caliber of hitter. He understood that perhaps his biggest problem throughout 2010 was an inability to get right-handed hitters out. Righties hit .340 against the southpaws, despite allowing just a .238 clip in Sept.

“Japanese batters, righties, are good at hitting the inside pitching,” he explained. “That was an area I had to work on, so that was an area I was able to test things out and see what could happen in the major leagues.”

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