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Papelbon ready to party

09.28.09 at 11:45 pm ET
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With the Red Sox having a chance to clinch a playoff berth Tuesday, the poster boy for postseason-clinching celebrations, Jonathan Papelbon, was gearing up.

Papelbon, whose signature move in the playoff-induced celebrations has been the on-field dancing (along with an occasional beer case on the head), has been involved in eight postgame parties to commemorate either advancing into, or through, the postseason.

Now another one of those instances was on the horizon, a notion that didn’€™t escape the closer’€™s radar.

‘€œI just like to have fun,’€ Papelbon said. ‘€That’€™s the whole thing, you let loose because you go through so much throughout the season, so many ups and downs, the stress, and travel, to accomplish something, so when you do, it’€™s no holds barred.’€

While the Red Sox would have to wait one more game to clinch thanks to the rain-shortened loss to Toronto, it might have worked out better for the Sox anyway. If they had won, the belief was that most of the team would be watching the conclusion of the Angels-Rangers game ‘€” which didn’€™t start until after 10 p.m. ‘€” in the team’€™s clubhouse.

‘€œWe’€™re in a pretty good spot,’€ catcher Victor Martinez said. ‘€œWe’€™ll see what happens and we’€™ll go from there. We’€™ll have to wait, come back tomorrow and play a game. We’€™ll see what happens. ‘€¦ I’€™m pretty excited when that moment comes, I’€™m really excited about it.’€

Saturday start likely for Beckett

09.28.09 at 11:29 pm ET
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Following the Red Sox‘ rain-shortened, 11-5 loss to Toronto Monday night at Fenway Park, Sox manager Terry Francona insinuated that Josh Beckett is still probably going to make his next scheduled start, Saturday, against Cleveland.

Beckett was scratched from his start Monday after struggling with mild spasms in his upper left back.

“During the game isn’t the easiest time to discuss that stuff, but we talked a little bit,” Francona said. “We’ll see how he does. I think our thought right now is that we’ll probably keep him on his turn, which means he’ll pitch Saturday. We just want to make sure we do what is in his best interest, and that’s probably realistic. That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it works out.”

Richardson called up; Carter DFA’d

09.28.09 at 7:13 pm ET
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The Red Sox have called up left-handed pitcher Dustin Richardson from Triple A Pawtucket. To make room for Richardson, a 2006 fifth-round draft pick of the Sox, Boston designated outfielder Chris Carter for assignment.

Richardson, who will wear No. 54, went a combined 2-2 with four saves and a 2.55 ERA over 45 relief appearances between Double A Portland and Pawtucket. He compiled a 2.70 ERA in 38 games with Portland, earning Eastern League All-Star honors and holding opponents to a Double-A-best .186 average. Richardson had been promoted to Pawtucekt on Aug. 21, giving up two earned rusn over 10 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts in his final seven appearances.

Carter, who made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, hit .294 with 16 homers and 61 RBI in 116 games with Pawtucket this season.

Beckett sidelined with back spasms

09.28.09 at 6:29 pm ET
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Josh Beckett was scratched from his start Monday night after experiencing mild spasms on the upper left portion of his back. He was replaced by Michael Bowden.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that it is an ailment that had bothered Beckett for some time, but when the pitcher couldn’t get comfortable  on the team’s plane ride back from New York Sunday night, and then experienced discomfort Monday morning, it was determined that rest would be the preferred approach.

‘€œEvery time something happens we try to make it be beneficial,’€ said Francona. ‘€œRather than whine about something, we try to make something that was maybe a negative today and turn it into a positive. We’€™ll sit with him and the medical staff and figure out the best course of action for him and we’€™ll adjust to it.’€

Beckett had referenced the importance of getting extra rest while speaking in Baltimore, saying regarding getting the extra day of rest, “I’€™ve been basically on five days for five or six starts in a row, and it catches up to you. I think this was definitely what I needed. My body needed it. I’€™ve been dealing with something different almost every start. They’€™ve made it possible to build that [rest] in over the past four years and my body has become accustomed to it. I haven’€™t had many breathers other than those two extra days [after the All-Star break] there.’€

Pitching on an extra days rest, Wednesday in Kansas City, Beckett allowed two runs over six innings, giving up 12 hits while throwing 103 pitches.

Lowell gets shot, eyes return in three days

09.28.09 at 5:21 pm ET
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Mike Lowell approached Red Sox manager Terry Francona Thursday in Kansas City about potentially getting his second shot of the season in his surgically-repaired right hip. Monday the procedure was executed.

Lowell received a shot that included mostly the substance Synvisc (which was what he had injected in July), and some cortisone. The third baseman also had fluid removed from the hip — although just 14 ccs compared to the 15 ccs last time — and expects to be back in the Red Sox lineup after three days of rest.

“I don’t think this was a necessity, but why not do something that’s not going to hurt me and will make me feel better,” Lowell said.

The following is more of what Lowell had to say prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park:

“It was both. More Synvisc, with a cortisone chaser. We were talking about it a couple of weeks ago, more heading into the postseason I would rather have more ability than less. I spoke to the docs and everything and they said this would be a way to alleviate pain and it’s looking pretty good. This was a good time to take two or three days off to really get my hip hopefully feeling a lot better.”

(How did it feel after getting the shot) “I would say as good as right after the All-Star break, when I was running pretty good. There’s a little more adrenaline in the postseason so I think that’s going to help.”

“I was told it’s not like just a plain cortisone shot. It’s more like a gel that’s put in there so it’s something I can have more than once. I guess I’d rather do that than have anti-inflammatories. They took out a decent amount of fluid again and I feel that instant relief, but I feel the soreness of the needle being inside but I think after a couple of days I think it will feel really good.”

“I don’t think this was a necessity, but why not do something that’s not going to hurt me and will make me feel better.”

“I know I did two cortisone shots last year and speaking from a non-medical standpoint, from what I understand the cortisone makes your cartilage a little less sturdy and I’m not on board on doing that because I don’t want to enhance the arthritic condition. I love baseball and everything but I’m not in the mood for being 42 and needing a hip replacement. I think it’s two totally different things. I actually talked to Dr. [Bill] Palmer today and he said the big advantage I’m going to have this offseason is that I can work on strengthening all the muscles around the hip which is going to help me out because I think this offseason is obviously recovering from the surgery and then getting flexibility and stability and mobility, not so much strength. I think this is what’s going to be the biggest difference between this coming offseason and last offseason.”

“The doc told me to take two or three days, but if I could take the three I will absolutely take the three. I know we haven’t mathematically clinched but I’m hoping we will by that time so I think we can kind of play things out in an intelligent manner instead of trying to rush things.”

(Number how how much better you feel now compared to last year) “Yeah, 1,000 to 0. Last year was just ridiculous. It was basically going out there with nothing in the tank, from a hip standpoint.”

(As much fluid this time as last time) “Almost. It was 14 CCs compared to 15 CCs. I felt so much better going into this time. I don’t know if it was the hip coping, but I felt like I was really tight last time. I needed the pressure to be relieved. I didn’t feel like I needed that this time. I welcomed it, but I didn’t feel like I needed it.”

“It was a lot of the Synvisc, the whole syringe, and I think the cortisone was like a dot. It’s not a cortisone shot by any means.”

“I’m very confident. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”

In other injury news, Jon Lester threw a 55-pitch bullpen session without incident and plans on making his next start, Thursday.

‘€œI felt fine,” Lester said. “No problems. Just the normal long tossing and everything. Right around 55 pitches. Everything was good. I felt good this morning when I woke up and walking around and everything. But there’€™s that question in your mind, OK, when I get on the mound, is it going to bug me and it didn’€™t. everything was good. ‘€œ

Source: Clause Prevents Farrell From Managing In ’10

09.28.09 at 4:45 am ET
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NEW YORK ‘€“ A major-league source confirmed a report, which first appeared on FoxSports.com, that a clause in the contract of John Farrell prevents the Red Sox pitching coach from becoming a manager of another club for the 2010 season. Farrell had been rumored as a candidate to become the next Indians manager should Cleveland fire skipper Eric Wedge.

Farrell has longstanding ties to the Indians, both as a player in two separate stints from 1987-1990 and in 1995, and as the Indians Assistant GM and director of Player Development from 2001-2006. He and his family live in the Cleveland area during the offseason.

The Sox, of course, could choose to free Farrell from his contract restriction if the Indians request permission to talk to him, but with Wedge still serving as manager, neither Farrell nor the Sox have had to confront that dilemma.

Farrell has been the Red Sox’€™ pitching coach since 2007. During his three-year tenure, the Sox have been among the league leaders in ERA, with a 4.24 ERA (2nd n the A.L.) this year, a 4.01 ERA (4th in the A.L.) in 2008 and a 3.87 ERA (best in the A.L.) en route to a World Series title in 2007.

Exact terms of Farrell’s current deal are unknown. According to baseball sources, Farrell initially signed a three-year deal with the Sox when he came to Boston from Cleveland for the ‘€™07 season. Since then, however, Farrell has declined the opportunity to interview with both the Pirates (after the 2007 season) and Mariners (after last year).

“While I do have aspirations to manage in the major leagues in the future, my commitment to [principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Larry Lucchino, GM Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona] and the Red Sox needs to greater than one year for their faith in hiring me as their pitching coach,” Farrell said in a statement in 2007 in turning down the chance to discuss the Pirates’€™ opening. “Therefore I have declined the opportunity to interview for the position of Pittsburgh Pirates manger. I look forward to contributing to and competing for another World Series title here in Boston.”

“I have withdrawn my name for consideration by the Seattle Mariners as they search for a new manager. I wish them well as they move forward,’€ Farrell said in a statement after declining the chance to interview with Seattle in 2008. ‘€œMy decision is based on family reasons and being committed to the Red Sox Organization. The working relationship shared with Theo and Tito and the resources provided by John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino create a situation that is both challenging and rewarding.”

Because the Sox thought there was a very good possibility that Farrell would be hired if he interviewed for a managerial position with either of those two organizations, the team is believed to have added both dollars and years to his original deal, but included the contract clause preventing him from managing elsewhere as part of the modification.

Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein declined to comment on Farrell’€™s contract status, but he did make clear that the Sox view him as a critical part of their success.

‘€œHe’€™s a valuable part of the organization,’€ Epstein said on Sunday. ‘€œWe see him as a core part of our foundation going forward.’€

Read More: Indians, John Farrell, pitching coach,

Byrd Feels He Can ‘Absolutely’ Contribute in Playoffs

09.28.09 at 2:01 am ET
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NEW YORK — Paul Byrd absorbed the loss for the Red Sox in Sunday’s 4-2 setback in New York, and so his record after six starts stands at 1-3 with a 5.81 ERA. Yet those numbers may be at least somewhat misleading. 

On Sunday, for instance, Byrd left the game with the Sox leading, 2-1, two runners on base and two outs. But reliever Takashi Saito allowed both inherited runners to score, resulting in a loss for Byrd and Boston. 

Byrd may have made his last start of the regular season on Sunday. The Sox are 3-3 in his six starts. The right-hander said that he was extremely pleased with the way he was throwing the ball, even if disappointed in his results.

‘€œ[Sox pitching coach] John Farrell has got me twisting, rotating a little bit more. It’€™s been phenomenal for me,’€ said Byrd. ‘€œI’€™m throwing the ball upper 80s. I threw 90 two times the last game (a start last Tuesday against the Royals) in the sixth inning. On teams past, I hit 90 and we throw a team party. My velocity is up. My location is up. I feel like no one is squaring the ball up too often.’€

Byrd started a game in which the Sox beat the Angels at Fenway Park. He also pitched well enough for the Sox to beat the Yankees in their home park. 

Based on his performance, Byrd is hopeful that he might have an opportunity to continue to contribute for Boston in the postseason, most likely as a long man in the bullpen (a role that Byrd served for the Sox in the ALCS last year). He acknowledges that the Sox have a deep and talented staff, but the 38-year-old ‘€“ who is 3-1 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career playoff appearances ‘€“ believes he would be a useful arm.

‘€œCan I help the team in the postseason? Absolutely. Do I have the experience? Absolutely. Am I throwing the ball well right now? Yes, I believe so, despite giving up a few runs,’€ said Byrd. ‘€œI’€™m here to help out in any way I can. If that means I cheerlead the first series and get ready for the second series, or if it means vice versa, I’€™m here to help this team win in any way I can and get a ring. That’€™s just the bottom line.’€

Read More: Paul Byrd, playoff roster,

Red Sox Watch the Yankees Celebrate

09.27.09 at 7:04 pm ET
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NEW YORK — As the Yankees streamed onto the field from the clubhouse, the bullpen and the dugout to celebrate their first division title since 2006, several members of the Red Sox remained behind in the dugout to take stock of the festivities. They did not seethe. They did not mourn.

It is one thing to watch champagne corks fly in late October, quite another to see a team enjoy itself in late-September after winning the American League East on the strength of a remarkable 100-win season. The Red Sox considered it anything but a devastating development to watch the Yankees celebrate on their home turf, given the likelihood that Boston will enjoy its own festivities back at Fenway Park in the coming days.

“We’€™re going to be celebrating something sooner rather than later,” said outfielder Jason Bay. “It wasn’€™t like it was a stunning revelation that just happened. They just played a better series than we did and it resulted in them clinching the division. Now we have to take care of our business and get ourselves a playoff spot and do the same. I don’€™t think it was more insult to injury. You get swept, and that was the result.”

The Red Sox did suffer the ignominy of a three-game sweep in New York, as well as losses in nine of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. The Yankees were relieved by the turn of events, which was largely responsible for the team’s separation from the Sox.

“They were very difficult on us the first half of the season. It was frustrating.  We had to answer questions about it and our guys got frustrated about answering questions about it,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. ‘€œThe way we were able to turn that around was important for this club.’€

Though the Yankees — after losing each of the first eight games this year to the Red Sox — manhandled Boston down the stretch, the Sox insist that the one-sided conclusion of the regular-season series is hardly cause for alarm should the two teams meet in October.

“The playoffs are a different beast,” said Mike Lowell. “There’€™s too many swings [in a playoff series] to worry about, ‘€˜Hey, they beat us nine out of the last 10.’€™ I don’€™t think that’€™s a factor at all.”

Moreover, because the Sox have the experience of winning the World Series as both a wild card and division winning team, they have the luxury of perspective. Four teams have won the World Series as the wild card during the 14 years of the current playoff format. The team — which has spent much of the last week beginning to rest players to keep them fresh and strong come the start of the playoffs — hardly dwells on how it gets into the playoffs, so long as it gets there.

The A.L. East title was viewed as a point of pride, but with only limited practical benefit, foremost in a home field advantage. Certainly, the Sox — whose magic number is at two following the Rangers’ 7-6 loss to the Rays — will not apologize for how they punch a ticket to October.

“I was a Wild Card once and got a Series. That means I don’€™t care,” said David Ortiz. ‘€œThe Wild Card has been dangerous the last [14] years I guess.”

That being the case, the Sox were by and large willing to tip their collective caps to the Yankees for a spectacular regular season. In a division that was considered unbelievably deep with talent, the fact that New York has already claimed 100 victories is somewhat remarkable. Certainly, it was a profound mode of separation from the disappointment of having missed the 2008 playoffs. New York has gone 85-39 in its last 124 games, establishing itself clearly as the most dominating team in baseball during the regular season.

“I think I actually made the comment that they probably got aggravated and that they’d spend a billion. I was only half right,” mused Sox manager Terry Francona. “They’€™ve got a good team. It’€™s an unbelievable regular season.”

Now, the Sox look forward to securing their own berth in the playoffs. If that happens, then the team hopes that Sunday marked the last time this year that it will have to watch the Yankees celebrate. Some members of the Sox — among them, Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia — lingered in the dugout and observed the Yankees’ joy.

“I was just thinking about the game, how the game went and some situations we should have executed better and we never did and that made the difference. Watching the season they had last year and watching the way they played this year, they deserved to celebrate,” said Ortiz. “Hopefully we’€™ll get back here sometime because I know the way they’€™re playing is great. We might have the chance to face them again, you know?’€

Read More: division, playoffs, Wild Card, Yankees

The Tireless Victor Martinez Gets a Day Off

09.27.09 at 2:59 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Victor Martinez took no time to make himself a mainstay of the Red Sox lineup. Since joining his new club in Baltimore on Aug. 1, Martinez has played in 50 of the Sox’ 52 games, tied with Dustin Pedroia for second most on the team prior to Sunday. Of those contests, Martinez has spent more than half (28) while squatting and handling the game’s most demanding position.

Indeed, among players who have spent at least half their games behind the plate this year, Martinez has played far and away the most in the majors (148). While some of his workload has been at the less taxing position of first base, his constancy in the lineup is nonetheless remarkable.

Martinez has always been an everyday player in every sense of the word, having averaged 149 games a season with the Indians from 2005-07. He is currently in sniffing distance of his career high of 153 games, set in 2006. With all of that being the case, the Sox opted to give Martinez a rare breather on Sunday, leaving him out of the starting lineup after 10 straight days in it. When Sox manager Terry Francona broached the subject with his catcher, it immediately became clear that the idea was worth pursuing.

“When he accepts a day off, I know he needs it, because he’s fought me the last couple of times,” said Francona. “Last night, he didn’€™t fight me so I think it’€™s probably a good idea.’€

Of course, Martinez’ break will be short-lived. On Monday, Francona plans to have him back behind the dish to catch Josh Beckett for the right-hander’s second straight start. The No. 3 hitter in the Red Sox lineup has become too important to his club’s success to remain sidelined for too long. That said, the Sox are trying to balance the catcher’s impact on the lineup with a desire to keep him rested and productive. Indeed, it is in many ways remarkable that Martinez has been so strong down the stretch despite his workload.

Martinez is currently amidst a career-long 25-game hitting streak. He is hitting .358 with a .425 OBP and .909 OPS during that run. Ordinarily, the fatigue of catching can manifest itself with more swings and misses at this stage of the season, but during his current hitting streak, Martinez has the same number of walks and strikeouts (10 of each) in 106 plate appearances.

Across the board, in fact, Martinez’ numbers in September rank second for any month of this season, with his average (.373), OBP (.441), slugging (.506) and OPS (.947) all his best since April. As it turns out, the development is par for the course for Martinez, who is a career .318 hitter with a .398 OBP and .864 OPS in September.

That suggests a hitter who manages to figure out a way to adapt his game when the grind of a season is at its weightiest.

“He’€™s a good hitter. I thought I saw a couple of days where he was wearing down. But he’€™d either manage late in the game, because he’€™s a smart, good hitter, to put a good swing on the ball and get a hit — a big hit,” said Francona. “Some guys just have an ability to get the bat head to the ball, even when they know they’€™re getting a little long or a little tired. He has that ability. He’€™s done a good job, because he expends a lot of energy during the game. He’€™s a pretty vocal, pretty emotional player.’€

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Wagner Still Searching For Command

09.27.09 at 2:00 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Prior to the start of the series between the Red Sox and Yankees, the subject had seemed an amusing one to Boston reliever Billy Wagner. The pitcher was asked how, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, he was feeling on the mound.

‘€œI don’€™t know where [the ball] is going all the time,’€ said Wagner. ‘€œThat’€™s not always a bad thing.’€

On Saturday, it was. Wagner kept missing low and in to right-handers, throwing fastball after fastball to their ankles. He walked two batters and hit another to cram the bases with one out. Though he struck out Derek Jeter, Wagner gave up a bloop two-run single to Johnny Damon, who hit a ball just over the heads of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis into shallow right field. (The runs were unearned, thanks to Chris Woodward’s error during a rundown.)

Francona maintained that it was a good pitch. Wagner didn’€™t buy it.

‘€œYou ever heard of a good pitch getting hit?’€ he wondered. ‘€œIt wasn’€™t that good.’€

Even so, the single by Damon (which resulted in two unearned runs, a byproduct of Chris Woodward dropping a throw during a rundown) was less of an issue than Wagner’€™s command. He has now walked six batters and hit another in five innings since coming to the Sox. He admitted after Saturday’€™s game that his mechanics remain a work in progress one year after Tommy John surgery.

‘€œI had chances to get out of the inning, but pretty much deserved what I got,’€ said Wagner. ‘€œThe fastball, a lot of it has to do with mechanics, trying to do too much. I was pulling off, and the ball was just sailing out of the strike zone just enough. That’€™s the most frustrating thing. It’€™s just, the walks are one thing. But it’€™s close. The mechanics are getting close, but not close enough.’€

Wagner won’t be available to pitch on Sunday. He threw a season-high 35 pitches, blowing away his previous standard of 25, and of course the Sox have not used him in back-to-back games yet as he continues his return from Tommy John surgery.

That said, though Wagner’s control was lacking on Sunday, it was noteworthy that his pitches maintained life and movement through the full course of his longest outing of the season. He has a 2.08 ERA, and his swing-and-miss inventory of a mid-90s fastball and slider remains undeniable.

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