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Beckett Struggles a Bit, But Gets Out of Second

05.28.09 at 1:55 pm ET
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Josh Beckett started today’s game by striking out the first 4 batters that he faced but then had some trouble in the second inning. Joe Crede hit his 9th homer of the season to put the Twins up 1-0 and then Beckett walked Brendan Harris and Delmon Young before getting former teammate Mike Redmond to ground into a double play.

Beckett and Redmond were teammates with the Marlins and won a championship together in 2003.

David Ortiz singled in his first plate appearence today so we will see if Big Papi can build off of that and maybe start to finally get going a little.

In their half of the third inning, the Sox struggled to get good wood on the ball as Ellsbury and Pedroia grounded out to second and third respectively. Drew then flied out to left to end the inning. Twins still lead 1-0 after two and a half.

The skinny on Anthony Swarzak

05.28.09 at 12:50 pm ET
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Thanks to D.J. Bean, here is the skinny on right-hander Anthony Swarzak who starts for the Twins. Today’s start will be just the second of the 23-year old’s career. His major-league career got off  to a start last week, as he hurled seven innings of five-hit shutout ball against the Brewers in a 6-2 Twins win. Swarzak got his opportunity with the Twins when lefty Glen Perkins went on the DL.

Fast facts:

-Heading into the season Swarzak was ranked as the Twins’ sixth-best prospect according to Baseball America.

-Scoutingbook.com describes Swarzak as a “powerful righthander with an excellent fastball-curve combination.”

-Prior to being called up he was 3-4 with a 2.25 ERA at AAA Rochester this season.

-An interesting tidbit: In 2007 Swarzak was suspended 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. The violation was rumored to be recreational drug use.

Transcript from Schilling chat

05.28.09 at 12:47 pm ET
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Here is the transcript from Curt Schilling’s live chat today on his blog, 38 Pitches:

Question: What should the red sox do with their abundance of starting pitching?

Schilling: As far as Penny, Smoltz and the gang, if they keep the two vets, there is no reason to think they can’t go 6 man later in the year to keep eveyrone fresh. I don’t trade ANY pitcher right now, too much can happen, too many days left to start thinking like that, plus if you float that now and don’t trade him, or can’t, you end up with a guy in your rotation that knows you tried to trade him.

Question: How close were the Sox to going with a six-man rotation last year? 

Schilling: It was much closer to reality than people think, I tihnk if I had not been hurt it might have happened a time or two.

Question: How do you explain Jon Lester’s early-season struggles?

Schilling: Inconsistent. Fastball command is again his main issue. Stuff looks fantastic, he looks very healthy and he’s getting that red ass you want your top of the rotation guys to have. he’s always had that, but it’s showing more now, which is a good thing. He’ll be ok, pencil him in for 15-16 by years end and a few more in October. 

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Red Sox/Twins Match-ups

05.28.09 at 11:34 am ET
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Although none of the Red Sox hitters have a major league history with Anthony Swarzak, the Twins’ batters are very familiar with Sox starter Josh Beckett. Thanks to intern D.J. Bean, we look at how they have fared against Beckett:

Delmon Young: 12 ABs, 5 hits, .417 BA, RBI, 2 SO, 0 BB

Justin Morneau: 9 ABs, 3 hits, .333 BA, HR, 2 RBI, SO, 0 BB

Nick Punto: 8 ABs, 3 hits, .375 BA, 2 SO, 0 BB

Michael Cuddyer: 6 ABs, hit, .167 BA, HR, RBI, 2 SO, 0 BB

Brendan Harris: 6 ABs, 2 hits, .333 BA, 2 RBI, SO, 0 BB

Jason Kubel: 6 ABs, 2 hits, .333 BA, HR, 2 RBI, SO, 0 BB

Joe Mauer: 5 ABs, 3 hits, .600 BA, RBI, SO, BB

Brian Buscher: 5 ABs, hit, .200 BA, 0 SO, 0 BB

Joe Crede: 4 ABs, hit, .250 BA, 2 SO, 0 BB

Alexi Casilla: 3 ABs, hit, .333 BA, 0 SO, 0 BB

Denard Span: 2 ABs, 0 hits, 0 SO, 0 BB

All-Star Early returns

05.27.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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Two Red Sox players lead at their positions and another, the reigning A.L. MVP is second at his position in the first American League All-Star balloting results released on Wednesday.

On the right side of the infield, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis (414,693 votes) and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (514,645) are ahead at their positions. Kinsler leads Dustin Pedroia, who is second with 426,127 votes.

Both Youkilis and Kinsler made their Midsummer Classic debuts in 2008, with Youkilis (.379, 7 HR, 28 RBI, .486 OBP) earning a start via fan balloting and Kinsler (.283, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB) becoming an All-Star via the Player Ballot.

Behind the plate, two-time A.L. All-Star Joe Mauer (.429, 11 HR, 31 RBI) of the Minnesota Twins leads a crowded field with 381,443 votes, while his four nearest competitors all have more than 272,000 votes.

In the outfield, Jason Bay (.282, 13 HR, 47 RBI), a two-time National League All-Star looking to make his A.L. All-Star debut, is setting the pace with 446,183 votes. Less than 4,000 votes behind Bay with 442,553 is 2008 A.L. All-Star Josh Hamilton (.250, 6 HR, 21 RBI) of the Texas Rangers.

Other Red Sox players include Mike Lowell, currently fifth among A.L. third basemen, Jason Varitek, third among catchers and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (9th) and J.D. Drew (13th).

Read More: A.L. All-Stars, balloting, Red Sox,

Terry Francona on Dale and Holley

05.27.09 at 3:10 pm ET
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Terry Francona interview 5-27-09 Dale and Holley show

(Courtesy Greg Cameron)

Francona said that the decision to drop Ortiz down in the lineup was not just cut and dry. Francona had been thinking about this for awhile now, and when Ortiz was struggling mightily against the New York Mets, he didn’€™t feel as if dropping him down in the lineup during the homestand was a case of a manager helping his player.

Francona also said that if, ‘€œDavid swings the bat like David, we’€™re a lot better off.’€ He also commented that Francona certainly didn’€™t enjoy the ‘€œuncomfortable conversation’€ (a phrase that came up in the interview multiple times) with Ortiz. ‘€œI talk to David so much,’€ Francona said.  ‘€œI told him how I felt and he said, ‘€˜Okay.’€™’€

Francona also mentioned how he dealt with Julio Lugo‘€™s missed double play during the Mets series. He had to have an ‘€œuncomfortable conversation’€ with him about the play.’€œHe [Lugo] wants to know that I have his back.  I told him that it’€™s a quick game, and things happen.’€

Last night’€™s loss also came up in conversation. Francona called centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury‘€™s catch during the fifth inning, ‘€œunbelievable’€.

Francona also commented on that very same inning as it was fateful for Jon Lester.  Francona believes that Lester pitched Joe Mauer, a constant threat at the plate, very carefully, a decision Francona was fine with. The Sox manager also said that Lester tried to duplicate that same strategy to the next hitter, former AL MVP Justin Morneau. Morneau then hit a decisive three-run home run off of Lester.

Francona also commented on Boston’€™s man at the hot corner, Mike Lowell. Francona reinforced Lowell’€™s reputation as a top-notch clubhouse presence and consummate professional and commended the third baseman on how hard he has worked after overcoming labrum surgery on his hip.

Talk shifted to the recent woes of closer Jonathan Papelbon.  Francona believes that the closer’€™s outings have been strong, but he has been caught throwing mistakes. ‘€œIt needs to be put into perspective,’€ Francona said of Papelbon’€™s recent struggles. According to Francona, Papelbon entered to weekend with an ERA in the vicinity of 1.00, to which Francona described as ‘€œnot too shabby.’€ Francona also pointed out that if a pitcher like Papelbon ‘€œmislocates’€ and the ball gets fouled off, or misses outside, it doesn’€™t become such a big deal.

Even after tough outings, Papelbon goes ahead with his normal routine. Francona believes that the man at the back of his bullpen has ‘€œselective amnesia’€ after outings like he’€™s had. The recent woes haven’€™t shaken Francona’€™s confidence in Papelbon. ‘€œWhen I hand him the ball, I think we’€™re going to win,’€ Francona said.

Francona also commented on Jason Bay, saying that the left fielder is a great teammate and is the type of player who’€™s willing to play everyday.

Recently, there has been talk of the Red Sox trading for oft-injured Washington Nationals first baseman, Nick Johnson. In return the Red Sox would reportedly deal Manny Delcarmen. Francona tells players whose names have come up in very public trade rumors, not to pay attention to it, even if such rumors appear in print. ‘€œPlayers here know that it comes with the territory,’€ Francona said.

Francona’€™s lineup in the coming days will be written in pencil, and not ink. ‘€œWe may mix and match over the next two nights,’€ alluded Francona. The team is looking for Rocco Baldelli to be available, as the Sox head to Toronto and will face two tough lefthanders.

Finally, Francona talked about John Smoltz‘€™s rehab start for the Portland Sea Dogs last night. Smoltz went threw innings, firing 60 pitches for the AA club. Francona said that Smoltz is on track to do what the team hopes to do later this season.

Read More: Terry Francona,

Boston is on Smoltz’s radar

05.26.09 at 10:16 pm ET
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MANCHESTER, N.H. – With eight TV cameras and approximately 20 reporters jammed into a corner annex of Merchantsauto.com Stadium, John Smoltz said he can almost taste his first start in a Red Sox uniform.

The 42-year-old right-hander allowed three hits and one run, earned, over his 3 1/3 innings for Double-A Portland against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, his second major league rehab start. He left with one out in the fourth and the Sea Dogs leading 3-1 in a game won by Portland, 5-1.

“I’ve done this before, maybe not to this length of time,” Smoltz said. “My radar screen has Boston on it and as long as that’s the carrot dancing in front of you, you just keep doing what you have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: john smoltz, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs, Red Sox

Smoltz fourth inning vs. New Hampshire

05.26.09 at 8:15 pm ET
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MANCHESTER, N.H. – In a bit of a surprise, John Smoltz took the mound in the fourth inning to throw exactly one pitch, a fastball that Brian Dopriak drove to right for a routine fly ball.

Portland manager Arnie Beyeler came out to get Smoltz, who came off the mound, tipped his cap to the record crowd of 8,903 at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.

Smoltz finished his night with a pitching line of 3 1/3 innings, 3 hits, one run – earned, two strikeouts and no walks. He threw 60 pitches, 36 strikes.

Smoltz will ice down and then address the media. We’ll have his complete transcript when he speaks.

Read More: john smoltz, Red Sox,

Smoltz third inning vs. New Hampshire

05.26.09 at 8:04 pm ET
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MANCHESTER, N.H. – John Smoltz entered what was expected to be his final inning, facing the 8-9-1  hitters of the New Hampshire order.

Sean Shoffit and Luis Sanchez both grounded out weakly to second base to start the inning.

And Todd Donovan, who lined a 2-1 pitch back up the box for a clean single in the first, continued his mastery of the veteran hurler with a sharp opposite-field single down the right field line. Donovan advanced to second when right fielder Ryan Kalish bobbled the ball.

Adam Calderone nearly drove home Donovan with a liner down the left field line but it fell just foul. Calderone did eventually drive in the run with a deep drive to right-center that resulted in an RBI triple. Pitching coach Mike Cather went out for a visit with Smoltz.

Smoltz eventually got out of the inning when Brad Emaus flew out to left field. He was greeted by a standing ovation by the standing room-only crowd of 8,903, a new Merchantsauto.com Stadium record.

Smoltz threw 24 pitches in the third and had thrown 59 pitches on the night, 35 for strikes.

Smoltz’s line was three innings, three hits, one run, two strikeouts and no walks.

Read More: john smoltz, Red Sox,

Smoltz second inning vs. New Hampshire

05.26.09 at 7:43 pm ET
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MANCHESTER, N.H. – Smoltz took to the mound in the second inning staked to a 3-0 lead thanks, in part, to an RBI single by Ryan Kalish and an RBI double from Ryan Khoury.

Smoltz began the second inning by getting David Cooper to fly out to left on seven pitches. Brian Jeroloman grounded out lazily to second on seven pitches.

Smoltz ended his 1-2-3 inning by getting Al Quintana to fly out to right on the second pitch. So far, 35 pitches, 21 for strikes, through two innings.

He has two strikeouts and has allowed only the leadoff single to Todd Donovan in the first.

Smoltz has faced seven batters, getting first-pitch strikes on four of them.

Read More: john smoltz, Red Sox,
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