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Rumor Mill: Indians giving up on ’10?

07.30.09 at 10:47 am ET
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By trading Cliff Lee, not only did the Indians give up an ace, but a cog who could have been retained for next season by picking up an $8mil option. Some may view it as throwing in the towel for the 2010. Included in that group is Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro. Because the team is trying to cut payroll, it would now seem as though the Indians are more willing than initially thought to move C/1B Victor Martinez, who has been rumored to be sought after by the Red Sox. Of any success in the next two years, Shapiro said that it would have to be a “Florida Marlins kind of story.”

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Red Sox Starting Lineup And Pre-Game Notes for Thursday

07.30.09 at 10:28 am ET
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The Boston Red Sox hope to return to their winning ways on Thursday afternoon. Jon Lester takes the ball for the Red Sox as rain threatens this 1:35pm afternoon start. For the complete preview, CLICK HERE. With that said, here is the starting lineup for the Boston Red Sox as they finish up their four game series with the Oakland Athletics:

Ellsbury – CF
Pedroia – 2B
Youkilis – 1B
Bay – LF
Ortiz – DH
Lowell – 3B
Drew – RF
Varitek – C
Green – SS

Here are some pre-game notes:

Tim Wakefield – It is not clear if he needs a rehab assignment; A simulated game might suffice.

John Smoltz – He is bouncing back well between starts and has been testing well from strength standpoint. There is no physical reason to skip starts.

Jason Bay and Kevin YoukilisTerry Francona said “they’re missing pitches – that will change”

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Rumor Mill: What’s the offer for Halladay?

07.30.09 at 10:25 am ET
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Talk about conflicting reports. The most recent word on Halladay comes from Tony Massarotti, who says the Red Sox have not improved their inital offer for Roy Halladay. Massarotti says there is still a chance that their offer will be increased by tomorrow, but doesn’t think a deal is likely. Stay tuned.

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Rumor Mill: Yankees look to patch up loss of Gardner

07.30.09 at 10:01 am ET
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UPDATE: Anderson has been traded to the Royals for cash considerations.

Amidst reports that the Yankees are seeking the services of Roy Halladay or Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn, Brian Cashman appears to be interested in softening the blow of losing Brett Gardner to a broken thumb. Joel Sherman reports that the team is exploring low-cost options such as Josh Anderson and free agent Corey Patterson. Anderson was recently DFA’d by the Tigers, while Patterson was released yesterday by Washington after spending most of the season at Triple-A Syracuse. He was 2-for-15 with the Nationals this season.

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Westmoreland Spins Around the Rumor Mill

07.30.09 at 2:29 am ET
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After the Lowell Spinners finished batting practice prior to Tuesday’s New York-Penn League game against Tri-City, Ryan Westmoreland’s cell phone stated had dozens of missed calls and text messages. The Red Sox prospect’s name emerged as part of a reported (and, as it turned out later, untrue) package that the Sox were using in an attempt to land Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

Welcome to the rumor mill.

“For sure, my cell phone was blowing up yesterday,” Westmoreland said. “I didn’t get to hear any of it or see any of it but I know it’s a part of the game.”

Interest in Westmoreland by other organizations comes as no surprise. The designated hitter (who has yet to play the outfield due to offseason surgery on his labrum) is enjoying a stellar first professional season at the plate. Westmoreland is tied for second in the NYPL with six home runs, and is leading the Spinners with a .899 OPS and 25 RBI.

“He’s a perfect player with regards to what the organization is looking for,” Spinners skipper Gary DiSarcina said. “He battles every at-bat, which we like to see.”

DiSarcina also pointed out that Westmoreland has a great deal of plate discipline and is selective when swinging. Westmoreland also has opposite-field power to dead left and left-center, and has recently shown flashes of being able to launch the ball out to right field.

Westmoreland has been an offensive force for the Spinners as of late. He credits his current hot streak to his vision at the dish.

“The last two weeks I feel like I’ve been hitting my stride and seeing pitches better,” said Westmoreland of his recent successes at the plate.

Even with his successful start to the 2009 campaign for the 20-19 Spinners, Westmoreland was somewhat surprised to hear his name thrown into the mix of such a high-profile deal.

“It’s cool to be mentioned in something like that at this stature, especially to be mentioned along with Roy Halladay,” Westmoreland said of the 2003 A.L. Cy Young winner. “He’s arguably the best pitcher around.”

Yet in an equally momentous event for the Rhode Island native, reports quickly surfaced on Tuesday that Westmoreland was considered untouchable in potential deals. The original report of an offer of Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden and Westmoreland for Halladay was quickly shot down. Though the Sox, according to several reports, were open to dealing either Buchholz or Bowden, Westmoreland was deemed off-limits. 

“It’s comforting to know now that I’m probably not going anywhere, but nothing is set in stone,” Westmoreland said. “It’ll be in the back of my mind a little bit, but I’ll be thinking more about Friday’s game.”

“If something happens, it happens,” the 19-year-old added. “But I know I’m going to be playing baseball either way.”

If Westmoreland gets dealt, he will have no ill will towards any organization. The Rhode Island product would just play his game if such a scenario arose.

“I’d be playing some place else for a different organization, but it’s still the same game,” Westmoreland said. “It wouldn’t be anything for or against any team, I’d just be going somewhere else playing the same game.”

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Bard and Masterson’s Shared Journey to the Majors

07.30.09 at 1:00 am ET
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It all started in the spring of 2005 with a chance to pitch for the country’s premier summer leaguge — the Cape Cod Baseball League. Justin Masterson was a relative nobody pitching at a tiny college in Indiana on the brink of baseball extinction until his coach made a phone call.

It was his size that caught the attention of Cooper Farris, head coach of the Wareham Gatemen. The six-foot-six inch, 250-pound Masterson looked more like a college quarterback than a Cape League pitcher. Farris wanted to see what Masterson had in his arsenal after hearing about a sinker, a slider and a changeup.

Needless to say that tryout went well, as did that summer, and Masterson was thrust into the major league scene when he was chosen by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2006 draft the following spring.

But what was it about that summer on the Cape that propelled him to the majors?

Farris had already made his Wareham roster that included North Carolina prospect Daniel Bard. The skipper was merely figuring out what roles his pitchers would fill when he received the phone call from Masterson’s Bethel College coach.

“The big thing with Justin was that when he came in nobody really knew who he was,” Farris said. “He came from a small school in Indiana, Bethel College. His coach had called me to tell me that he had a guy; he had never called me about a guy before so I said, ‘OK – we’ll take a shot at him,’ and then he told me how tall he was and that was the big thing.”

Masterson got his shot impressing Farris and Wareham pitching coach Ryan Beggs. Farris and Beggs were trying to fill in the team’s closer role and with Masterson’s dominating presence on the mound and unique delivery, they decided to give him a chance even though he had primarily been a starter throughout college.

But early on Masterson began to doubt himself. The Gatemen not only had top prospect Bard, who pitched for the 2004 Team USA, but Wade LeBlanc, Baseball America’s 2004 freshman of the year, and six other Division I pitchers.

“The biggest thing with him,” Farris said, “was as he got into the season and started competing, he had questions in his mind about whether he could compete against the best players in America. He’s just such a good kid, so humble, that he got in there, he battled and he worked hard.”

Masterson settled into the closer role nicely for Wareham. He soon became one of the top pitchers in the league approaching the second half of the summer with a 1.40 ERA, 32 strikeouts and eight saves. He was named to the 2005 Cape League All-Star game along with Bard, who started the game for the West Division. Bard entered the All-Star game with a 3-2 record, a 1.47 ERA and a league leading 62 strikeouts in 49 innings.

While Bard started that All-Star game at McKeon Park in Hyannis it was Masterson’s line that drew the most attention. With the game knotted at zero entering the ninth, Masterson stepped to the mound. He gave up two singles to Colin Curtis and Evan Longoria (yes, that Evan Longoria) before Scott Sizemore grounded into a double play allowing Curtis to score the winning run for the East Division.

While the loss was a blow to Masterson, he didn’t let it stop him on the field for Wareham, finishing the season with a 1.15 ERA and 10 saves, putting him in a third place tie for the Gatemen all-time saves list. His 22 appearances also tied him for third all time in appearances for the Gatemen. Meanwhile Bard notched his own records with a 1.25 ERA and 82 strikeouts, both top marks in Wareham history. When the Top 30 prospects of the Cape Cod Baseball League were announced at the end of the season, Bard was No. 2 and Masterson No. 11.

“Bard was just outstanding, we knew from day one that he was going to be the man,” Farris said. “Masterson was in there doing what he needed to do. He was getting early outs after he got his first taste, his first game and he did really well, he kept building and his confidence kept rising. When I got there in the middle of the summer he was a really confident kid.”

Farris had missed much of that summer to be with his sick wife but returned towards the end of the summer surprised to see Masterson so dominant.

Bard headed back to a baseball powerhouse at North Carolina, already widely known to scouts. Masterson, however, needed to make a change to gain similar prominence, agreed the pitcher and his Cape League manager. As much as he enjoyed his time at Bethel College, Masterson feared he would never be noticed by major-league scouts.

Farris helped him find a school that would fit his style and gain the attention he needed. Two of Masterson’s Wareham teammates – pitcher Bruce Billings and infielder Lance Zawadzki – played for San Diego State under the guidance of a Cooperstown-coronated head coach in Tony Gwynn. It was now or never. Masterson decided to make the switch to Aztec baseball for his junior season.

The right-hander returned to a starting role that following spring with San Diego State, going 6-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts. He had four complete games, one save and a whopping 108 strikeouts. Maybe it was the strikeouts, maybe it was the school or maybe it was his time in the Cape, but Masterson gained the attention of those major-league scouts.

The Red Sox chose Masterson as their fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft; Bard was the Sox’ second pick, going 9-4 with 3.64 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 18 games with the Tar Heels. The former Gatemen teammates parted ways before being linked anew in Lancaster the following summer.

While Bard was the higher and more impressive pick, he needed more work in the minors before he could appear in the big leagues. Masterson, on the other hand, flew through the Sox farm system in less than two years.

He made his Red Sox debut on April 24, 2008, going six innings, giving up one run and striking out four. No doubt Cooper Farris was watching.

Bard joined him earlier this season on May 13, going two innings giving up a hit, a walk and a strikeout in relief of Hunter Jones.

Farris’ job was done. Two more Cape Leaguers in the majors. He says he knew at the end of that summer in 2005 that Masterson and Bard had that special ingredient that would take them to the majors.

“It’s the passion,” Farris said. “All the guys that I’ve been around – the David Ecksteins, the Juan Pierres – those are two World Series MVPs. Those are two of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen. They want this so bad you can basically tell a lot with these guys. All these [Cape League] guys are probably going to be drafted but there is a little special thing about the guys who really make it and it gets to where you can see it.”

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Rumor Mill: Sox Westmoreland and Kelly off limits

07.29.09 at 3:34 pm ET
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Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that while it still remains unlikely the Sox will pull of a blockbuster for Roy Halladay they are focusing their efforts on the Toronto right-hander. Yet McAdam says two 2008 Sox draft picks that have been rumored in trade deals Ryan Westmoreland and Casey Kelly are off limits. Daniel Bard, the Sox potential closer of the future, is also a relative no-go according to McAdam.

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Rumor Mill: Sox frontrunner for Indians’ Martinez

07.29.09 at 3:01 pm ET
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Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Red Sox are the forerunners for Indians catcher Victor Martinez. While Tampa Bay has shown interest the Sox may be able to put together a better package for Cleveland. The Tribe looks as if it is ready to rebuild after shipping starter Cliff Lee off to the Phillies and the Sox can offer them a few prospects for Martinez as a head start. Boston had been pursuing San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez but have since back down.

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Rumor Mill: Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to Phillies pending physicals

07.29.09 at 2:43 pm ET
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According to FoxSports Ken Rosenthal  the Indians will send left-hander Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies for Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco and Class A right-hander Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson and shorstop Jason Donald. The deal is pending physicals. The trade would help to bolster the Phillies rotation that already includes Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Rodrigo Lopez as well as making them the team to beat in the NL East.

Now that Lee is presumably off the market, that leaves the Red Sox with fewer options. As if the Sox-Halladay talk wasn’t hot enough it might just get hotter. While Michael Silverman and Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald report that the talks may have cooled down after the Sox baited Toronto yesterday with a package that may have included Clay Buchholz, minor league right-hander Michael Bowden and designated hitter Ryan Westmoreland, the Lee trade may once again intensify the talks. Stay tuned…

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Rumor Mill: Cliff Lee talks are Heating Up

07.29.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports that talks between the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies concerning LHP Cliff Lee are possibly heating up. Phillies Triple-A prospects Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald were scratched from a start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Stark also reports that the Phillies could also deal hard-throwing prospects Jason Knapp and Trevor May as a part of a deal for Cliff Lee. Members of the Indians brass have denied any trade being imminent today.

The Phillies turning their eyes to Lee, might be an indication that they would much rather pull off an impact deal for a front-line arm without trading away top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek and top outfield prospect Dominic Brown. Both prospects had been mentioned to be coveted by Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi in a possible deal for Roy Halladay.

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