|06.07.11 at 9:16 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Two days after making his first start since returning from the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain, John Lackey was mildly optimistic.
The starter finished his outing Sunday against the Athletics giving up three runs over 5 2/3 innings. It was deemed a step in the right direction, especially after Lackey had allowed 17 runs in his previous 10 2/3 innings. Yet the pitcher admits that he still lives with some trepidation.
“I know I have damage in there already, so you never know for sure. But every pitcher will find something. Some of us just got a little more than others,” said Lackey, who had elbow issues early in the 2009 season. It is a condition that led to a clause in his current deal which makes his option year at the major league minimum if significant time is missed due to the elbow ailment.
Asked if there was concern that the problem was going to be something more serious, Lackey said, “A little bit because you don’t want it to get too much worse than it already is. But the MRI was pretty close to what it was when I got here.”
It should be understood that virtually all major league pitchers live with some sort of wear and tear, much of which will show up negatively on examinations. The trick is, as Lackey has discovered, to manage it in order to prevent setbacks that might derail a career.
“It’s going to get worse eventually, but the shot got the swelling down so things aren’t hitting against each other. That didn’t feel so good,” he explained. “It’s probably going to be something I have to stay on top of. The guys did a great job of helping me come back, so hopefully we can keep it where it is.”
|06.07.11 at 6:40 pm ET|
|06.07.11 at 6:05 pm ET|
As the draft began to pick up steam, with picks flying, the Red Sox continued to acquire a diverse set of players in Rounds 5-10. The team nabbed a couple of position players from smaller schools in the Midwest, a pair of fast, toolsy high school position players and a pair of intriguing left-handed pitchers.
5th round (No. 172): Mookie Betts, SS, Overton HS
Betts has a commitment to the University of Tennessee, although that program is in a state of some chaos after their head coach (Todd Raleigh) was fired late in May.He was expected to play second base for the Volunteers, although his speed has created some suggestions that the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder could be an outfielder in the future. Betts is considered extremely athletic, and was a third-team All-State basketball player in Tennessee, as well as the state’s top bowler as a junior. His speed, plate approach and athleticism are all intriguing tools.
Betts told govolsxtra.com that he was undecided about whether to go to college or turn pro.
“I have no clue,” Betts said. “Even though (coach Todd Raleigh and athletic director Mike Hamilton) are gone, I wouldn’t mind one bit going to UT. I just have to find out what I actually want to do.
“I’ve always wanted to play pro ball, but it’s every kid’s dream to go to college and live the college life. I’m just living on a high right now, and when I come back down we can figure it all out and make a decision.”
6th round (No. 202): Miguel Pena, LHP, San Jacinto Junior College Read the rest of this entry »
|06.07.11 at 2:40 pm ET|
The Red Sox tabbed catcher Blake Swihart with their second pick of the first round (No. 26 overall) on Monday, and were elated to be able to select a switch-hitting catcher whose bat suggests the possibility of an impact player in the majors, at a position (catcher) where offense is at a premium. Yet while Swihart suggested that he was “excited” to be taken by an organization like the Sox, whom he referred to as “awesome” and “great,” he made clear that there’s no guarantee that he will be starting his pro career this summer.
Swihart, the top prep player from New Mexico, has a scholarship commitment to the University of Texas. And for now, his first choice remains playing for the Longhorns.
“Texas has always been my dream school. I’ve always wanted to go there,” said Swihart. “That’s Plan A right now. But I’m going to keep an open mind and everything.”
In recent weeks, Swihart said, he became aware of the degree of the Sox’ interest when area scout Matt Mahoney was calling on a near-daily basis. That alerted him to Boston’s interest in selecting him, but he was unsure whether the Sox would proceed with the pick based on his commitment to playing in college.
“I expected the Red Sox to be one of the picks for me,” said Swihart. “I kind of saw it coming, but I wasn’t sure at the same time. Just because of my commitment to Texas I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.”
The 19-year-old has been told that Texas would have him catch 75 percent of the time, and move around the field for the rest of the time in order to keep his bat in the lineup. He is hoping that Texas will advance past the Super Regionals to the College World Series; if they do so, he plans to meet with the Longhorns during the tournament. Given his interest in being with the Longhorns, Swihart acknowledged that he wouldn’t sign before the end of the summer.
“I’m still dedicated to Texas. I’m probably going to head out to Omaha after they beat [Arizona State] hopefully this weekend, go hang out with the team. I love the atmosphere out there,” said Swihart. “If I do end up signing, it will probably be at the end, just because I’m really dedicated to Texas.”
While he has dreamed of playing for the Longhorns, Swihart also praised the Sox. He did describe being selected by them as a thrill.
“It’s amazing. It’s awesome. They have a great organization. I’m just excited. It’s pretty cool,” said Swihart. “I was pretty anxious sitting there watching the TV, but it’s a great organization. It’s an honor to be drafted by them.”
Whether his next career step is in college or as a professional (should he sign with the Sox), Swihart said that he had made the decision as a sophomore to become a catcher in hopes of advancing his career on the advice of an academy coach, Ryan Kellner.
“My sophomore year he came up to me and said, ‘Hey, to get to that next step, that next career path, either college or professional baseball, you’ve got to become a catcher.’ He said I could get there at another position, but he thinks that would put me over the top if I started catching,” said Swihart. “A switch-hitting catcher sounded pretty good. It was his idea. Ever since then, I trusted his word, and it’s working out so far.”
Indeed, Swihart put up huge numbers for both Cleveland High School as well as for Team USA last summer (for whom he was the best hitter) while developing his defense. Swihart continued to play in the field as well, and suggests that he is comfortable at any position on the diamond, but that catching now feels like a vocation.
“Every position feels natural. But catcher I actually feel pretty good at right now,” said Swihart. “I worked a lot on my arm slot, a lot on the quickness of my feet. If I keep working, I think I can develop a lot more there.”
Both Texas and the Sox — who would have him start his pro career as a catcher — agree. Other clubs considered him for a position in the field.
“A lot of scouts talked about me playing a corner outfield position, or third base, second base position, but I’m happy to keep catching. I think Boston is looking at me as a catcher. And at Texas, I’ll definitely catch there 75 percent of the time they said,” said Swihart. “I can play any position. Wherever I need to play, I’ll play. If it’s at catcher, I’ll work my butt off and succeed there to get where I need to be.”
For more on Swihart and his prospect status, click here.
|06.07.11 at 1:58 pm ET|
With their fourth-round selection, the Red Sox grabbed right-hander Noe Ramirez from Cal State-Fullerton. Ramirez has enjoyed a very strong career at the prominent Division 1 program, going 29-5 in his three years. Most impressively, he was 8-4 with a 1.69 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 20 walks in 90 2/3 innings as a junior this year. The 21-year-old also pitched last summer for Team USA, forging a 2.70 ERA while striking out 17 and walking four in 13 1/3 innings.
Fellow Cal State-Fullerton product Ricky Romero taught him the grip on his changeup, which is viewed as an above-average pitch. He also features a fastball that is reportedly in the high-80s to low-90s and a slider. He is considered one of the higher probability pitchers in this year’s draft given his college success and feel for his craft.
A product of East Los Angeles, Ramirez is viewed as someone with tremendous makeup and the determination to maximize his potential. For more on his background and how he projects, check out this ESPN.com story.
|06.07.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
The Red Sox took Jordan Weems, a catcher out of Columbus (Ga.) High School, with their third-round selection. Weems’ father (Rick Weems, 15th round, 1980) and brother (Chase Weems, 6th round, 2007) were also drafted.
Weems is tall and lanky at a listed 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, and lacks present strength. Scouts have to project his hitting ability and power because of his lack of physicality. His arm gets easy above-average grades, and he posts sub-2.0-second pop times. He’s a decent receiver now who projects to be average with more strength.
|06.07.11 at 12:55 pm ET|
The impact of the Major League draft is not limited to the first round. Two of the core members of the Red Sox (Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester) were second rounders; Jonathan Papelbon went in the fourth round; Kevin Youkilis remained on the board into the eighth round.
Certainly, the chances of finding an impact talent are highest at the earliest stages of the draft, but whether because of signability questions, the depth of a draft or simple luck, an organization can make or break its draft with what transpires after the first round. Whether the Sox are able to gain comparable impact this year remains to be seen. It is, after all, worth noting that the Sox have had plenty of second-round (and later) misses as well, as in 2005, when they ended their streak of five straight future big leaguers by taking catcher Jon Egan in the second round. He was out of baseball within three years.
With their second round selection (No. 72 overall) this year, the Sox selected outfielder Williams Jerez, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound, left-handed hitting outfielder, who had been projected as a pick in the first two rounds. The Brooklyn resident worked out recently for the Mets at CitiField, and he’d also been connected to the Yankees and Blue Jays in reports. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about him:
“He has a wiry strong build and should add bulk as he matures. He has average raw power, with loft and leverage in his swing, which has a tendency to get long. Some scouts worry how he will fare against premium velocity, but his bat speed has improved even since March. Jerez has a plus arm and plus speed, but it doesn’t play down the line because he’s slow out of the batter’s box. There’s no consensus on Jerez: Some scouts question his background and age and don’t like his bat, while others project on his raw tools and athleticism.”
Jerez has become something of a flashpoint in New York. He arrived in New York from the Dominican two years ago, and some suspected that he was lying about his age. His birth certificate says that he was born in May 1992, but some have questioned its authenticity. That, in turn, has made Jerez a somewhat fascinating subject, as documented by this terrific feature in the New York Daily News.
Jerez hit .692 with five homers in 52 at-bats, according to Baseball America. He attended Grand Street High School, the same school that talented Yankees left-hander Dellin Betances went to.
|06.07.11 at 11:43 am ET|
Get ready for tonight’s Sox-Yanks tilt with some stats you probably haven’t seen from the rivalry and a breakdown of Yankees’ starting pitcher Freddy Garcia’s arsenal.
* – The Red Sox pitching staff heads into Yankee Stadium having struck out at least eight in each of their last nine games there. It’s the longest streak of 8+ strikeouts in road games against the Yankees by any team ever:
9 – Red Sox (Aug. 7, 2010 – May 15, 2011)
5 – Rays (Sept. 8, 2009 – July 16, 2010)
4 – Three times (Last: Red Sox, April 22, 2001 – June 4, 2001)
Note this: Prior to the last two games in New York, where Red Sox hitters fanned eight and nine times, they had struck out six times or fewer in the previous 11 straight at Yankee Stadium, the longest such streak by the Red Sox at New York since a 12-gamer in 1977.
* – The Red Sox have 27 stolen bases and have not been caught in their last 24 games against the Yankees regardless of site. At New York, they’ve stolen 16 without being caught over their last 17 games. Yankees baserunners, meanwhile, have 35 steals in 40 attempts over the last 27 games against the Red Sox (home and away) and 20 steals in 23 attempts over the last 15 against Boston at Yankee Stadium.
* – In the Red Sox’ last 25 games at Yankee Stadium (since July 6, 2008), the Yankees have hit 40 home runs. That’s a pace for 259 homers over a 162 game season. The Red Sox have hit 29 in that same stretch.
* – Since the start of last season (12 games in New York), Red Sox relievers have inherited 12 runners and none of them have scored. Over the previous 10 games at the Stadium, Sox relievers allowed 11-of-23 inherited runners to score.
———————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »
|06.07.11 at 11:37 am ET|
On February 24, I broke down the Yankees and Red Sox position-by-position and found that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference. Some people — the 100-win crowd, mostly — were outraged by this, literally could not understand how this could be possible. That, of course, is how it almost always goes in spring training, when most are convinced that everything is going to go right for their team and wrong for the other guys.
Well, we are now 59 games into the season (the Yankees have played 57) and the teams are separated by one game and a total of three runs scored. There have been surprises — a show of hands for those who had David Ortiz hitting .325 and Curtis Granderson with 17 home runs on June 7 — but there always are.
So as the teams prepare to start a three-game set in the House That Maas Didn’t Build, let’s take one more look at the lineups and see what has changed and what has stayed the same …
Advantage: Adrian Gonzalez. Two of the, what, 10-12 best hitters in the American League so far this season? Mark Teixeira is having a terrific year — ranked in the top 10 in slugging, OPS, RBI and is second with 18 home runs — but falls short when compared to Gonzalez, who leads the AL in hits (83), RBI (50) and has higher slugging and OPS numbers.
Advantage: Robinson Cano. Look, I think Dustin Pedroia is playing hurt. He just is not the same hitter that we saw before he broke his foot in San Francisco last June. Fifty-nine games into the season — sample size enough, I think, to pass some judgement — and Pedroia is hitting .244 (55 points below his career average) and has an OPS of .688 (129 points below his career mark). He’s tied with Ryan Raburn for 77th place in AL slugging percentage. Pedroia has basically been Julio Lugo with nifty soundbites for the first third of the season. Cano’s numbers are down from 2010 but we are still talking about a guy with a .514 slugging percentage (Pedroia has never had a season with a slugging percentage higher than .493) and superior defensive numbers to Pedroia’s (Cano is second to Mark Ellis among AL 2B in Range Factor per nine innings).
Advantage: Jed Lowrie. After that eye-opening April (.368/.389/.574), Lowrie was just below OK in May, putting up a line of .261/.330./.359. Here’s the thing, though: That mediocre May was still better than Derek Jeter’s numbers for the season (.260/.327/.325). Lowrie still has a way to go to match El Capitano in the steely eyes and intangibles categories, though, and good luck getting close to Jeter in the fist-pumping department.
|06.07.11 at 12:44 am ET|
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye just took part in a conference call to discuss the first day of the Major League draft. The Sox selected a diverse group of players:
–A college right-handed pitcher in Matt Barnes of the University of Connecticut (1st round, No. 19)
–A high school left-hander in Henry Owens (sandwich round, No. 36)
–A high school catcher in Blake Swihart (1st round, No. 26)
–A college center fielder in Jackie Bradley of the University of South Carolina
Certainly, the Sox were pleased to emerge with four players whom they think can have a strong impact on their organization. They view both Barnes and Owens as future big league starters, and Swihart and Bradley as potential middle-of-the-field lineup members. That said, the team tempered its enthusiasm with the notion that it will require many years before the impact of the draft will be known.
“We’re real happy with how today went. I think 30 clubs feel that way coming out of the draft room,” said Epstein. “There’s a little bit of anxiety to see if the guys you like are going to be there. More often than not, you end up getting the guys you like because the reality is that all 30 clubs have these guys evaluated differently. We do our high fiving and feeling good coming out of the room, but I feel like 29 other clubs were doing it the exact same way. Then you circle back in five or 10 years and see how you did. Certainly we felt like some things broke our way and we were able to get four players we feel really good about.”
–Barnes had been scouted extensively by the Sox not just at the University of Connecticut, but also while pitching in the Cape League and for Team USA last summer. This draft season, he had been projected as high as a top five pick before slipping a bit among a strong class of college pitchers. Still, the Sox were elated that he remained on the board when they were picking.
Sawdaye said that the Sox view him as a “middle of the rotation guy” with “three plus pitches” (a fastball, curve and change).
“We were excited to get him,” said Sawdaye. “Given the fact that he was at 19, we got really excited. I’ll leave it at that.”
–Swihart represents the sort of player whom the Sox have rarely had the opportunity to draft, a powerful, athletic catcher who has a proven ability to perform against advanced competition as a young amateur. Swihart was a force for Team USA in 2010, hitting .448 with a .492 OBP and .845 slugging mark.
Swihart played many doubleheaders as a senior in New Mexico, catching for one game and playing in the field for the next. That schedule permitted the Sox to conclude that he has the attributes needed to remain at catcher.
“We got a really good chance to see him behind the plate but also to see his athleticism in the field, so a guy that we were really excited to get because the tool set and athleticism really fit behind the plate,” said Sawdaye.
Epstein, meanwhile, suggested that Swihart’s bat would have drawn the Sox to him regardless of his position. The fact that he does play a premium position made him even more appealing.
“Yes, he’s a catcher, but he’s also a very legitimate bat, a switch-hitting bat at that, and an excellent athlete with great baseball instincts as well. It was the whole package. It wasn’t so much what position he played. We certainly never draft for need,” said Epstein. “But he stood out for his bat, for his athleticism and the fact that he projects to be able to stay behind the plate and be a solid receiver back there, thrower back there only added to the attraction.’
–Owens is a high school lefty who competed against advanced competition in Southern California, for Team USA’s 18-and-under group and on the showcase circuit. The Sox, said Epstein, saw him throw up to 94 with good feel for three pitches (fastball, curve, change). Couple that with his 6-foot-6 frame, and the Sox saw a package that they didn’t want to overlook.
“He throws three pitches for strikes,” said Sawdaye. “For a high-school kid, that’s unique and certainly something that we covet.’
The Sox have drafted few high school lefties under Epstein, and none as high as Owens. But the team hasn’t simply dismissed a class of players — after all, without an openness to selecting high school lefties, the team wouldn’t have taken Jon Lester with a second-round pick in 2002, when Epstein was part of the draft room as Assistant GM. The right lefty simply hadn’t been available.
“We always take the best player available on the board,” said Epstein. “He’s always performed well against the best competition. Lefthanded or righthanded, he stood out as somebody we liked, and the fact that he’s lefthanded was an added bonus.”
–Finally, Bradley represents a player whom the Sox got with their fourth pick of the day in no small part because — after standout performances as a freshman and sophomore — he struggled this year as a junior, and then had to undergo surgery to repair an injured left wrist. When healthy, Bradley was a dynamic player for South Carolina, capable of impacting a game offensively and defensively. The Sox are confident that his long-term health is not an issue.
“He had the wrist injury. Jackie’s not officially part of the organization yet, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment in detail. But obviously we reviewed the medical file,” said Epstein. “It’s something our medical staff was really comfortable with, that he’ll be able to come back at 100 percent.”
–Epstein declined to address the question of signability. Swihart is viewed as someone who may seek a significant signing bonus in order to pass on a scholarship at Texas. He would be draft-eligible at the end of his sophomore year, thus meaning that he has greater leverage than some high school players in that he can return to the draft two, three and four years from now, with more leverage than most college players possess.
“We hope to sign all these guys and obviously every player has options,” said Epstein. “We always feel like the more we get to know the player, the more we get to present what the Boston Red Sox are all about, and the better chance we have of signing these guys. that’s the whole point.’
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