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Saito Set To Earn An Extra $500,000

09.11.09 at 1:38 am ET
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As noted by the Boston Herald, Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito — who has pitched in 49 games this year — will trigger a $500,000 bonus when he makes his next appearance of the season. The right-hander has pitched in 49 contests this year. His contract calls for bonuses of $500,000 when he reaches 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 appearances. Saito has already secured $5 million this season between his base contract and active roster bonuses.

Saito has seemed to grow stronger as the season has progressed. A year ago at this time, Saito was trying to return to the majors to see if he could avoid Tommy John surgery and continue to pitch. After two months on the sidelines last summer, Saito returned to Los Angeles and forged a 4.76 ERA in six appearances.

This year, nearly one year out from his Sept. 15 return to the majors, the Red Sox are benefiting from his best stretch of 2009. Saito is on a run of 11 straight scoreless appearances (spanning 10.2 innings), and has struck out 13 while allowing eight hits and three walks in that time. Opponents have a .545 OPS during the run, which dates to Aug. 6.

The Red Sox hold an option on Saito for the 2010 season that will be based on his earnings this year. The reliever told the Herald that he hopes to return to Boston next year.

“I’€™m really happy being in a Red Sox uniform. Not every team in baseball can be in our competitive situation,’€ Saito told the paper. ‘€œSo I’€™m really happy about it and proud of being here. I believe the best thing is to return to the team next year but that’€™s not something I can control.”

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The Daisuke Report

09.10.09 at 4:18 pm ET
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The Red Sox wanted to stretch out Daisuke Matsuzaka, and to give the right-hander a minor-league rehab outing in which he had the opportunity to build both his pitch count and his innings load. Mission accomplished.

On Wednesday, Matsuzaka delivered an impressive outing for Single-A Salem in the opener of its Carolina League playoff series against the Winston-Salem Dash. The pitcher threw 89 pitches in logging 6.2 innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven while walking one. According to Salem Red Sox manager Chad Epperson, the pitcher showed a fastball that sat at 91-92 mph and topped out at 93, which he mixed adeptly with a cutter, slider and changeup.

“He was impressive. Overall, it was a solid outing,” Epperson said by phone. “He got out there in the first two innings and was trying to get the mix of his pitches and get a feel for them. And then in the third inning, he found the feel for his cutter and fastball and it was fun to watch. It was like, ‘€˜Wow.’€™

“His two-seamer, on righties, kind of beat them to the spot, allowing for some weak contact and tardy swings. I thought he threw the cutter very well in to lefties. His secondary stuff was good. He threw some good sliders, some good changeups. I think (all his pitches) came into play in his strikeouts. His stuff moves so much. I do know his cutter was an effective pitch and his fastball, he got some tardy swings.”

Matsuzaka, who turns 29 on Sunday, was making his fourth and final rehab outing. He has been out since mid-June while building shoulder strength and working on his overall conditioning in what amounted to a second spring training. Now, after his most recent outing, it sounds like he is ready to return to the majors in hopes of contributing to the rotation down the stretch and perhaps into the postseason.

Whether he will actually be able to do so, and salvage a season in which he is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA, remains to be seen. Though expectations should be measured for a pitcher who last performed in the majors three months ago, Matsuzaka has now positioned himself to the point where he has an opportunity to help at the major-league level.

“Overall, it was just like the organization wanted to draw it up,” Epperson said. “Get the pitch count up there, (build) his innings, and they have a decision to make.”

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V-Mart: Mr. Everything to the Red Sox

09.10.09 at 7:38 am ET
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Victor Martinez was on strict orders from Red Sox skipper Terry Francona in the 24 hours leading up to his big moment in the seventh inning Wednesday night.

On Tuesday night, during a 10-0 laugher over the Baltimore Orioles, Francona told Martinez he would be getting a chance to watch the game from the bench as a reserve. And Martinez, a catcher who loves to play everyday, didn’t take to that very well.

“I told him I wasn’t going to answer my phone. I told him (Tuesday) night in about the eighth inning. I said, ‘Don’t even try.’ He fought a little bit. He fought a little bit, which I actually really like,” said Francona. “But I thought it was in his best interest not to play (Wednesday), and I think it’ll end up really helping him. He’s caught a lot of games.”

In fact, Martinez has already caught 19 games since his trade to Boston at the deadline on July 31. But of course, the flip side of not playing Martinez is expanding the quality depth on a bench that is already deep because of September call-ups.

“Victor’€™s sitting there (on the bench),” Francona said. “With this expanded roster, having Victor sitting there made our life a lot better. He can hit from both sides of the plate.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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Orioles-Red Sox Match-Ups, 9/9

09.09.09 at 6:27 pm ET
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It seems that the Red Sox can always count the Baltimore Orioles as a cure-all for their wounds.

Sox fans hope that the same can be said for Paul Byrd.

Byrd enters his third start of the season for the Sox as the living embodiment of The Tale of Two Pitchers. Well, that is what the results would seem to say. On his first start back in the Sox rotation he stymied the Blue Jays at Fenway, throwing 6 innings of shutout ball with 3 hits, 3 walks and strikeout. However, his last outing against the White Sox in Chicago did not go nearly so well to the tune of  2.1 innings, 7 runs on 10 hits and 3 strike outs.

Is this merely the tale of the pitcher with a split-personality?

Not so much. The answer for Byrd probably lays somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. In his first start he was the beneficiary of an outstanding game BABIP (batting average on balls put in play) of .150. Simply, when guys got on base Byrd was able to get the batter to hit the ball straight at somebody. It was no so much a quotient of quality stuff (as was evidenced by his one strikeout and 0.33 strikeout/walk ratio) but rather good fortune.

That good fortune ran out against the White Sox as they slugged him to the tune of a .692 BABIP and consequently gave up 7 sevens in 17 at bats. Sum the games and Byrd’s BABIP is .364 and with opposing hitters averaging .342 and slugging .553.

Though Baltimore has its woes (pitching mostly) the team can hit. Even with young star center fielder Adam Jones out of the line up Byrd will have to contend with Ty Wigginton (who hit two grand slams in a game earlier this year and has hit Byrd well in the past) as well as rising star Nick Markakis. There has been talk (from last year and this year) that Byrd has had a tendency to tip his pitches and has been working with pitching coach John Farrell on the issue. Otherwise, the key for Byrd is to keep the ball down in the zone and increase his strikeout ratio to get out of any jams.

Opposing Byrd will be Jason Berken, he of the 4-11 record and 6.07 ERA. This year he has faced the Red Sox twice, taking the loss both times, most recently on August 2nd in the 18-10 affair in Camden Yards. He lasted 1.1 innings that day, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits with 2 walks. His other start against the Sox came on June 29th. He faired a little better in that one, a 4-0 Sox victory, going 5 innings giving up 4 runs on 8 hits with 2 walks. The top of the Sox order, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, has faired well against Berken, going a cumulative 5-7 with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch.

Byrd v. Orioles

Melvin Mora (15 career plate appearances) .143 average/ .200 on-base percentage .571 slugging, 2 home runs, walk, 4 strikeouts

Brian Roberts (10) .286/ .375/ .286, walk, strikeout

Ty Wigginton (7) .714/ .714/ 1.429, home run, strikeout

Cesar Izturis (6) .167/ 1.67/ 1.67

Nick Markakis (6) .333/ .333/ .500

Chad Moeller (6) .167/ .167/ .167, 3 strikeouts

Luke Scott .333/ .333/ .333

Red Sox v. Jason Berken

Jacoby Ellsbury (5 career plate appearances) .667 average/ .800 on-base percentage/ 1.467 slugging, walk, hit-by-pitch

Dustin Pedroia (5) .750, .800, .750, walk

Kevin Youkilis (5) .250, .400, .650, walk, strikeout

J.D. Drew (4) .750/ .750/ 2.250, home run

David Ortiz (4) .333/ .500/ .333, walk

Jason Bay (3) .000/ .000/ .000, strikeout

Jason Varitek (3) .333/ .333 /.333, strikeout

Nick Green (2) .000/ .500/ .000, hit-by-pitch

Victor Martinez (2) .500/ .500/ .500

Mike Lowell (1) 1.000/ 1.000/ 1.000

Jed Lowrie (1) .000/ .000/ .000

Josh Reddick (1) .000/ .000/ .000

Clay, Drysdale, Spahn and Koufax

09.09.09 at 12:05 am ET
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There were two distinct memories running through the minds of many Red Sox fans on Tuesday night as they watched Clay Buchholz dominate the Baltimore Orioles in a 10-0 laugher at Fenway Park.

The first was a very good one. Two years and a week to the day, the right-hander mastered the Orioles unlike any Red Sox rookie pitcher ever had before, no-hitting the same Orioles team by the same 10-0 score on the same Fenway Park field.

Dreams of a repeat ended when Nick Markakis single sharply to center with two outs in the fourth. Still, Buchholz was on his game, retiring the first 10 batters he faced on Tuesday and needing fewer than 40 pitches to do so.

‘€œThe results were there,” Buchholz said. “Today, the steady mix of pitches that I was able to throw over the plate for strikes and as the game went on, they started chasing pitches a little bit off the plate and that always helps. There were still pitches that I threw that were middle, thigh high, but they just missed.’€

Add to the fact that he was given an 8-0 lead after three innings, and it was a great night to be Buchholz. Just ask the Orioles.

‘€œHe probably looked like a combination of Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax when he got an 8-0 lead,” Baltimore skipper Dave Trembley said. “He kept pitching.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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Wakefield to get another cortisone shot

09.08.09 at 11:12 pm ET
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After being examined by team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill prior to the Red Sox‘ 10-0 win over Baltimore, Tuesday night, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield was told he will receive another epidural cortisone shot, Thursday. Red Sox manager Terry Francona officially announced the procedure prior to Wednesday night’s game.

“The plan is for Wake to get a shot [Thursday], which will probably limit his activity for a couple of days,” Francona said. “Then he’ll do as much throwing and side work as he can, trying to balance that to where he can pitch effectively and not throw the physical part of it backwards.”

It will be Wakefield’s third cortisone shot, with his previous one coming Aug. 31. If the shot helps alleviate the pressure of the pitcher’s herniated disc, which is pushing on a nerve in his back and causing weakness in his left leg, the plan is to start the knuckleballer in either Sept. 18 or 19 against the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore. 

Wakefield last pitched Saturday, in Chicago, allowing four runs on six hits over six innings. Prior to that start the 43-year-old appeared in an Aug. 26 win over the White Sox, his first outing since going on the disabled list July 18. In that game Wakefield gave up just a run over seven innings.

Lowell eyeing even bigger strides in offseason

09.08.09 at 8:15 pm ET
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Mike Lowell isn’t complaining about how his surgically-repaired right hip feels.

All things considered, the comeback from his ailment has to be viewed a success. Lowell is hitting .325 since coming back from the 15-day disabled list, and says at least offensively he doesn’t feel the slightest affects of the surgery.

“I don’t feel anything hitting now,” the third baseman said prior to the Red Sox‘ game with the Orioles, Tuesday night at Fenway Park. “I feel fine. I don’t feel any pain. I’m right where I want to be. I’m back on my back foot, and I don’t feel tiredness and stability or tightness. So it’s good.”

There is still work to be done, however.

Defensively Lowell admits to not being as explosive as he was before the injury, going in both directions. (“I would say it’s equally non-explosive,” he explained.) And the strength in the hip has only been able to be maintained, and not be built upon like it will be in the offseason.

“I just think from a strength standpoint we’ve kind of winged it from spring training on,” Lowell said. “I just think the fact you have to do something actively every day… you don’t really gain strength during the season, you hope to maintain it. I think going into the season in a weakened state compared to this hip I think you’re going to stay weakened on that one side.”

And then there is the matter of how much Lowell will be improving upon arriving in Fort Myers next season. According to doctors, said the 35-year-old, you should be seeing a different kind of mobility, the kind last seen from Lowell in the first half of the ’08 season.

“I’m expecting to, absolutely,” said Lowell when asked if he was going to show marked improvement physically by next February. “I’ll be flying, like Jacoby [Ellsbury].”

Red Sox announce signing of defensive whiz Iglesias

09.08.09 at 7:15 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced the signing of Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias to a four-year Major-League contract that is to begin in 2010, and added the shortstop to the 40-man roster. The deal was for $8.25 million, with the shortstop receiving a $6.25 million bonus (spread over four years) and annual salaries, starting in 2010, of $500,000 per season.

Iglesias is considered an elite defender, having drawn some scouting comparisons to Ozzie Smith and other Gold Glove-caliber shortstops. There are, however, questions about his offensive ability. This is from a Full Count post on the Red Sox’ international amateur shortstop signees in July:

(Iglesias) is considered a very athletic player with good speed who plays dazzling dazzling defense. Even so, there are questions about his ability to hit enough to justify an investment along the lines of the Sox’€™ rumored offer. He has shown little power in his Cuban career, though he was very young for the competition while playing in the Cuban National Series.

Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old power hitting third baseman whom the White Sox signed to a four-year, $11 million deal out of Cuba this offseason, played in several international tournaments with Iglesias. At the Futures Game in St. Louis, Viciedo offered the following scouting report on his former teammate and countryman:

‘€œHe’€™s a very good fielder in particular. You can put him anywhere,’€ said Viciedo. ‘€œHe can play third, short and second. He’€™s a very good player.’€

Asked about Iglesias’€™ hitting, Viciedo paused to consider his answer.

‘€œHe defends himself,’€ said Viciedo.

Iglesias defected while playing at a tournament in Canada last August.

That said, one international scout for an American League club suggested that his team, like the Sox, believed that Iglesias might have legitimate offensive ability. The scout suggested that Iglesias has the hand-eye coordination that could project to make him a viable No. 2 hitter.

Iglesias, 19, is slated to play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.  He played 75 games for los Vaqueros de La Habana of Cuba’€™s major league Serie Nacional during the 2007-08 season, batting .322 (101-for-314) with 11 doubles, four triples, 39 RBI, 51 runs scored and 17 walks.  The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Iglesias was 17 years old when that season began.  A right-handed hitter, he posted a .329 (81-for-246) average against right-handed pitching.  A native of Havana, Cuba, Iglesias established residency in the Dominican Republic before signing with the Red Sox.

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Orioles-Red Sox Match-Ups, 9/8

09.08.09 at 11:07 am ET
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Coming into the Red Sox‘ game with the Orioles Tuesday night, at Fenway Park, the only team Clay Buchholz has made more starts against than the Orioles is Toronto, having faced Baltimore five times, including four starts. His results have been mixed, ranging from the no-hitter he tossed on Sept. 1, 2007, to his last face-off with the O’s, Aug. 2 at Camden Yards in which Buchholz allowed seven runs on nine hits over four innings.

In all, Buchholz has a career 6.17 ERA against Baltimore, going 2-2 while allowing 17 walks in 23 1/3 innings. His last three outings against the Orioles has resulted in a combined 16 runs in 11 1/3 innings, with 12 walks and nine strikeouts.

Here is what the current Orioles’ hitters have done against Buchholz:

Brian Roberts: 11 AB, 6 H, 3 RBI, 3 BB, .545 BA, .643 OBP, .818 SLG

Nick Markakis: 8 AB, 0 H, RBI, 4 BB, .000 BA, .385 OBP, .000 SLG

Adam Jones: 4 AB, 2 H, HR, 4 RBI, BB, .500 BA, .500 OBP, 1.500 SLG

Melvin Mora: 4 AB, H, RBI, BB, .250 BA, .500 OBP, .250 SLG

Luke Scott: 4 AB, 0 H, 2 BB, .000 BA, .333 OBP, .000 SLG

Felix Pie: 3 AB, H, .333 BA, .333 OBP, .333 SLG

Chad Moeller: 2 AB, 2 H, RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 1.500 SLG

Ty Wigginton: 2 AB, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 2.500 SLG

Robert Andino: 1 AB, 0 H, BB, .000 BA, .500 OBP. .000 SLG

Lou Montanez: AB, H, RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 1.000 SLG

As for Buchholz’ opponent, David Hernandez, the 24-year-old has faced the Red Sox twice in this, his rookie season. The first outing, coming on July 26 at Fenway Park, he controlled the Sox’ bats, giving up just one run over seven innings, striking out two and not walking a batter. His next outing against the Red Sox, coming on Aug. 1, Hernandez only allowed two runs, but was forced to throw 102 pitches before exiting after 4 2/3 innings.

In 15 starts this season, Hernandez is 4-6 with a 4.54 ERA, and is coming off an outing against the Yankees in which he surrendered five runs over five innings.

This is what the Red Sox hitters have done against the right-handed Hernandez:

David Ortiz: 6 AB, H, 2B, .167 BA, .167 OBP, .333 SLG

Dustin Pedroia: 6 AB, H, HR, RBI, .167 BA, .167 OBP, .667 SLG

Jacoby Ellsbury: 5 AB, 3 H, BB, .600 BA, .667 OBP, .600 SLG

Kevin Youkilis: 5 AB, 2 H, HR, RBI, BB, .400 BA, .500 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Jason Bay: 4 AB, H, BB, .250 BA, .400 OBP, .250 SLG

J.D. Drew: 3 AB, H, .333 BA, .333 OBP, .333 SLG

Victor Martinez: 3 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

George Kottaras: 2 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

Josh Reddick: 2 AB, H, 2B, .500 BA, .500 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Jason Varitek: 2 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

Chris Woodward: 2 AB, H, BB, .500 BA, .667 OBP, .500 SLG

It’s official: Another year for Beckett

09.07.09 at 11:19 pm ET
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Ask about the 2006 contract extension many feel lost Josh Beckett millions in the open market, and the pitcher will usually give a hard-to-argue-with analysis:

“I will have made close to $50 million by the time I’m 30 years old.”

Thanks to Monday afternoon’s start in Chicago, that figure might be conservative.

By taking the mound against the White Sox Monday, Beckett started in his 28th game this season and thereby was able to have the $12 million team option vest for the 2010 season. The clause in the hurler’s contract was activated either if he started in 28 games in ’09, or 56 games combined in ’08 and ’09. Beckett started in 27 games last season.

The only way the option wouldn’t be triggered is if Beckett finishes the ’09 season on the disabled list.

Beckett inked his current contract extension in July, 2006 at what would be one of his lowest points of his Red Sox career. That deal was worth three years, $30 million plus the team option for ’10. When the deal was agreed upon, the righty owned a 5.12 ERA, the highest mark he would ever have any season as a Red Sox past May 16.

If the contract wasn’t signed, Beckett could have potentially made millions more in the free agent market since he would have become a free agent following the 2007 season. He would have been heading into the open market having not only finished second in the American League Cy Young voting, but having turned in a post-season in which he went 30 innings, allowing just four runs while striking out 35 and walking just two in leading the Red Sox to a world championship.

Many believe if he did go to free agency following the ’07 season, Beckett would have been in line for a deal similar to the one given to Johan Santana that offseason, a contract that came out to $137.5 million over six years.

Besides any insecurities that went along with getting off to a slow start with the Red Sox in ’06, there were good reasons Beckett inked his extension when he did. He was told while with the Marlins that getting his pitching shoulder insured might be difficult, potentially leaving some teams with uncertainty in terms of committing to the then-26-year-old. And there was also the knowledge that he would be young enough to get at least one more big deal if all worked as planned throughout the life of the extension.

(It should be noted that while Beckett wasn’t able to get insured by Lloyd’s of London to protect his pitching shoulder in ’05, he had undergone an MRI on his pitching elbow following the ’07 season at the request of the Red Sox for insurance purposes. As a result of the examination, the Red Sox were able to secure insurance on Beckett’s contract.)

Since signing his current contract, Beckett has the fourth most wins in the majors (51), the ninth-most strikeouts (605), and a 3.87 ERA. He has also developed into the leader on the Red Sox’ staff, both in performance and preparation, with the organization holding up the right-hander’s in-between-starts routine as the example for all their young pitchers.

As for life after ’10, Beckett presented the groundwork for his approach early on in this season’s spring training…

 

‘€œI honestly don’€™t try to think about it. I think if I deserve it I’€™ll be back here,’€ he said. ‘€œIf they think I don’€™t, I’€™ll have to go elsewhere and try something else. Obviously I would like to stay here, but (thinking about it) is really not in my core.

‘€œAt the end of the year hopefully we’€™ll sit down and maybe have a talk with (Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein), me and my agent (Michael Moye) and see what they’€™re thinking about. I want to see where they’€™re going, if I’€™m even in their plans. If I’€™m not it was an awesome run. I really haven’€™t sat down and thought about it too much, but at the end of the year we will sit down and at least have a talk. Even if nothing comes of it, just to say, ‘€˜Are we in the plans? Are we looking to get younger?’€™ It’€™s really up to them. I would like to stay here. I love playing in Boston. I can’€™t imagine another organization that would go so far out of the way to make my job as easy as possible. They realize our jobs are very demanding and very hard, and they do everything they can.’€

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