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Montero might have been a missed opportunity for Sox

07.24.09 at 2:28 pm ET
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With an aging Jason Varitek behind the plate and no great catching prospects in the minors, the Sox have been rumored to be looking for a backstop to fulfill their long-term needs before the deadline.

In December, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported that Boston turned down an offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks who proposed 25-year-old catcher Miguel Montero in exchange for 22-year-old pitcher Michael Bowden, a prized Sox prospect who management has been very reluctant to trade away.

But did the Sox make the wrong move when they passed on Montero?

An article today on azcentral.com might have the answer. Since a back injury sidelined everyday catcher Chris Snyder, Montero “has taken the job and run with it.” Beginning June 18, Montero has played almost everyday, going 36 for 106 (.340) with seven homers and 20 RBI. In contrast, Varitek, whose contract is up at the end of the season, is batting .231 with 13 homers and 39 RBI in 73 games behind the plate.

Rumors have been circulating since mid-May that Boston is looking for a catcher, most notably the Indians Victor Martinez.

Read More: Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Jason Varitek, miguel montero

Red Sox vs. Orioles Match-ups, 7/24

07.24.09 at 12:46 pm ET
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ORIOLES VS. BRAD PENNY

Brad Penny‘s second-half struggles have been well-documented– a 4.37 career post-break ERA compared to 3.97 prior– but the Red Sox didn’t get to fully realize them until last Saturday. Penny allowed six earned to the Blue Jays over five innings in 6-2 Boston loss.

While the Red Sox have made more headlines for their five-game losing-streak dating back to the second game back from the break, that isn’t the only skid they’re looking to end tonight at Fenway. Boston has lost the last four games started by Penny dating back to June 28.

Penny has faced the Orioles just once this season, his second start in a Boston uniform on April 17. Penny was dreadful, lasting only three innings (his second-shortest Red Sox outing) and giving up eight runs, all of which were earned. The right-hander walked five Baltimore batters and struck out just one. Here are the numbers for Orioles hitters against Penny:

Ty Wiggington (22 career plate appearances vs. Penny): .400 BA / .455 OBP / .600 SLG, homer, 3 RBI
Cesar Izturis (11): .100 / .182 / .100, BB, 3 SO
Aubrey Huff (10): .000 / .100 / .000, BB, 3 SO
Melvin Mora (6): 3-for-5, double, RBI, BB
Luke Scott (5): 4-for-5, double, SO
Greg Zaun (5): 0-for-4, BB, SO
Adam Jones (3): 1-for-1, RBI, 2 BB
Brian Roberts (3): 1-for-3, RBI, SO
Nick Markakis (2): 1-for-2, homer, 4 RBI

RED SOX VS. BRAD BERGESEN

Like Penny with the Orioles, Bergesen has faced the Red Sox only once, but the results were far different. The Baltimore rookie baffled the Red Sox for eight innings, but recieved a tough-luck no-decision.

Having thrown 103 pitches, Bergesen was pulled with the Orioles up 5-1. A four-run ninth led by a Kevin Youkilis two-run homer and Rocco Baldelli two-run single tied the game up for the Red Sox, who ended up winning in 11.

The 23-year-old righty has been stellar as of late, giving the Orioles quality starts in nine of his last 10 outings (5-2, 2.41 ERA). Bergesen has gone at least eight innings in four of those starts. On the season he’s 6-4 with a 3.51 ERA and 54 strikeouts through 110.1 innings. Here’s how Red Sox hitters have fared against him:

J.D. Drew (4): 1-for-4
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3, 3 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 0-for-3
Nick Green (3): 0-for-3
Mark Kotsay (3): 0-for-3, SO
David Ortiz (3): 1-for-3, SO
Dustin Pedroia (3): 2-for-3, double, RBI
Jason Varitek (3): 0-for-3, SO
Kevin Youkilis (3): 0-for-3

Read More: Bergesen, Penny,

Cape Cod sluggers get their first sniff of Fenway

07.24.09 at 12:52 am ET
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Fenway Park is a miraculous place for anyone who has ever picked up a bat. A hitter’€™s park with a left field wall that’€™s generous to righties and a triangle in center that’€™s treacherous to everyone, its dimensions are almost as awe-striking as the legends that live within its confines. Sluggers of all types have hit there, and as a new class got their first crack at it Thursday for the Cape Cod Baseball League Home Run Derby, the lessons being learned on the fly were both apparent and amusing.

‘€œThat’€™s the only way you’€™re getting out [of the park]!’€ eventual derby-winner Connor Powers said after his turn in the first round, panting as he pointed to the green monster with his bat. Reporters laughed as Powers made his declaration, but the Mississippi State and Harwich Mariners star grinned as he assured them it was no joke. ‘€œI’€™m serious, I can’€™t hit it oppo here.’€

Opposite-field shots clearly weren’€™t what were expected out of Thursday’€™s two-round competition, but the right-handed slugger’€™s admission served as a reminder that, while those on display in the six-man event are likely a peek into the next class of big-league power-hitters, they are still players learning the game and adjusting to big-league surroundings. All this of course, while soaking up the aura of a park like Fenway.

‘€œI definitely feel like a big-leaguer [right now],’€ Brett Eibner of Wareham said after his turn in the event’€™s first round. The centerfielder panned across the field, wide-eyed, from left to right while standing in front of the home dugout, where former Cape Leaguer Brian Roberts sat just minutes before. ‘€œA lot of kids, when they grow up they dream about doing stuff like this. It’€™s just amazing.’€

Eibner hit two out in the first round and was edged out by Powers and Cameron Rupp for a shot at the finals, and the fact that Powers won the whole thing with just five total homers (he edged Rupp, 2-1, in the last round) speaks volumes to what each shot meant to the crowd and the players.

The biggest hit of the day came in the first round for Rupp. After using the left field wall to the best of his ability for two homers, he propelled himself into the finals with a blast to straightaway center, causing all on hand to rise to their feet for event’€™s deepest homer. Upon being told that the dinger signaled the end of his turn because he was the last batter in the round and had tied for the lead, sarcastic disappointment was ubiquitous on the field’€™s right side, where his West coaches and teammates were watching.

‘€œYou know what?’€ Rupp exclaimed. ‘€œI was just getting in a groove!’€

The energy within the players was clearly less out of the spirit of competition and more out of excitement for the opportunity to play on a big-league field. Jedd Gyorko, who posted the competition’€™s only O-fer, paid no attention to the results and cheered on teammates on the grass of what he called ‘€œone of the most memorable parks ever made.’€

Brewster’€™s Harold Martinez spoke of the memories he has of Fenway Park, though he’€™d previously only been there once in his life on what he called a ‘€œvisit.’€ When thinking of Fenway, it wasn’€™t Mo Vaughn, Manny Ramirez, or David Ortiz that came to mind. In fact, wasn’€™t even a Red Sox: it was Ken Griffey, Jr.

Now 10 years after watching on TV as Griffey edged out Jeremy Burnitz with 16 total homers to win the ‘€™99 Derby, Martinez was in the very same batter’€™s box competing for a title of his own.
‘€œThat was amazing, just watching all those guys hit home runs [in ‘€˜99],’€ said Martinez. ‘€œ[Now being here], it’€™s awesome.’€

Martinez watched as Powers slugged his way past him and the rest of the field, but the Fenway dirt on his cleats seemed to be enough for the Whitecap and Hurricane.
Powers, the 11th-round pick of the Dodgers, admitted that whether or not the next generation of power-hitters have any connection to the Red Sox, the venue of the derby was special for everyone.

‘€œIt’€™s Fenway Park, what more could you ask for?’€ said Powers, who grew rooting for the White Sox. ‘€œI’€™m not even a Red Sox fan and it’€™s just awesome.’€

No, nobody hit 16 homers, nor did anyone even hit 10. Half that was enough to name a champion, but for these sluggers, this derby wasn’€™t about the home runs.

‘€œIt’€™s just another thing I can knock off my list of things I’€™ve always wanted to do,’€ said Eibner.

Read More: cape cod, CCBL,

Epstein: ‘We’re a good offensive club in a horrific slump’

07.22.09 at 4:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox are well aware of the depth of their offensive slump. The team’s lineup has been in a pronounced rut in July, and so it would be natural to conclude that the Sox acquired Adam LaRoche in part to address the lineup struggles.

Yet it would be inaccurate, according to Sox G.M. Theo Epstein, to draw such a conclusion. The Sox did feel that it was necessary to improve their lineup against right-handed pitching (something that the left-handed LaRoche is likely to help them with), and the team did want to add to its corner infield depth both as a hedge against injury and to make it easier to rest third baseman Mike Lowell. But while Epstein acknowledged his club’s offensive struggles of late, he also suggested that this move was not made as a desperate reaction to a relatively brief offensive struggle, or to a stumble in the second half that has seen the Sox go from three games up in the A.L. East to one game back.

“This move we made today is not in the least bit a reaction…When we sat down to assess where we were at the All-Star break’€¦the way we assessed it was we were basically dead even in a three-way race. That’€™s how talented the other three teams were. If you look at underlying performance, there’€™s virtually nothing to separate the three club,” Epstein said in a conference call. “I think we’re a good offensive club having a horrific month. When you go through slumps like this — and we’€™re in a pretty bad team-wide slump; we only have one or two players performing to career norms this month; as a club, I think we’re hitting around .220, .225 this month, so it’s a bad slump — anytime you go through slumps like this, 1) It’s important to assess any areas you can improve without overreacting, and 2) to put it in perspective, to realize that it’s not a good time to make a through assessment of the club when you’re in the middle of the slump.

“I think we’re realistic about where we are offensively. We have the potential to be really, really good. Right now, I think we’re around fourth in the league in runs scored. We have the potential to be a little better than that, but right now, we’re not the most prolific offensive club in Red Sox history. I think we score plenty of runs. We have the ability to be dangerous against both right- and left-handed pitching. I think we got a little more dangerous against right-handed pitching today. We certainly have the ability to score enough runs to get where we want to go, when you combine it with the run prevention attributes this club has.”

Some other insights from the conference call:

–LaRoche is expected to join the Sox in Boston on Friday. The team will make a corresponding move to free a space on its 25-man major-league roster at that time.

–The Sox felt that now was the time to build their corner infield depth, particularly in a fashion that would strengthen the team against right-handed pitching, since it is easier to do so before the July 31 deadline for trades not requiring waivers than it is after.

–The LaRoche trade was about achieving insurance. The Sox remain open to “a second kind of trade,” according to Epstein, pursuing an “impact” player. Even so, there are no guarantees that such a deal can be consummated at a cost the club views as acceptable.

“There’€™s a second category of player we’€™re also going to pursue, where the player can make significant impact on the roster,” said Epstein. “Those trades are hard to make…That doesn’€™t mean you don’€™t pursue them.”

–The deal was possible because the prospect cost (shortstop Argenis Diaz and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland) to the Sox was reasonable (indeed, in some ways, it appeared minimal).

“We’€™ve been in the market for a player who can do some damage against right-handed pitching and who can help our club’€™s depth at the corner infield. We’ve checked in on a number of players who fit that category and found that, by a large, large margin, the Pirates had the most reasonable acquisition cost,” said Epstein. “This was the chance to get at a very reasonable acquisition cost a player that we think will help our club, help against right-handed pitching, add to our depth and leave us in a position to continue to look for more impact before the end of the trading deadline…It was a relatively reasonable acquisition cost in terms of prospect inventory.”

–Much of the deal had to do with the club’s desire to give Mike Lowell more rest in the second half. Lowell, who underwent hip surgery last October, might not be at full speed and agility until next season. He stands to benefit from more rest.

“Mike has worked remarkably hard to put himself in position to play major-league games and to help the club. I think he is helping the club,” said Epstein. “(But) it’€™s clear to those watching the games that he’€™s not moving around as well as he would like.”

–LaRoche has historically enjoyed huge second halves. The Red Sox would be delighted if he continues that trend, but they do not believe that his history of post-All-Star-break performances is a guarantee of future success during the final months of the year.

“The big second half numbers are nice. I don’€™t think we go so far as to say they’€™re definitely predictive,” said Epstein. “It does provide some reason for optimism. Despite the fact that it might not necessarily be predictive, you can’t deny the monster second halves this guy has had…If things fall into place, the trend continues, and we do get the big second half, we would certainly benefit from that.”

–The Sox are hopeful that LaRoche’s swing will play well at Fenway. Epstein said that LaRoche’s best, natural swing is driving the ball to left-center and center, but that he became somewhat pull-happy in PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

–There’s a chance LaRoche could qualify for Type B free-agent status (even though he does not currently), something that could net the Sox a draft pick following the season should they choose to offer LaRoche arbitration prior to his potential departure as a free agent. But Epstein said that was not a major factor in the move, which was made mostly to improve the 2009 Red Sox.

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Theo Epstein,

The LaRoche Press Release

07.22.09 at 3:10 pm ET
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The Red Sox just sent out the following press release announcing the deal that brought Adam LaRoche to Boston in exchange for minor leaguers Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz (for the Pirates release, which includes quotes from Pittsburgh G.M. Neal Huntington on Diaz and Strickland, click here):

BOSTON, MA’€”The Red Sox today acquired first baseman Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for shortstop Argenis Diaz and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

LaRoche, 29, is batting .247 (80-for-324) with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 87 games for the Pirates this season. He ranks seventh in the National League with a .338 (54-for-160) average at home. Among current members of the Red Sox, only Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis (each with 42) have more extra-base hits than LaRoche’€™s 38, 27 of which have come at PNC Park . The left-handed hitter has committed just one error in 836 total chances and ranks second among N.L. first basemen with a .999 fielding percentage.

He has reached double digits in home runs in each of his six Major League seasons, including a career-high 32 for Atlanta in 2006. Since 2004, only six other N.L. lefties have more round trippers. Overall, LaRoche owns a .269 career batting average with 123 homers and 426 RBI in 775 games with the Braves (2004-06) and Pirates (2007-09).

The former first-round draft pick has posted second-half OPS of .941 since 2006, 12th in the N.L. during that span. He has belted 10 of his 12 home runs off right-handers this season and owns an .866 OPS against righties since the start of the 2006 campaign. He has appeared in eight career post-season games, going 8-for-25 (.320) with two homers and 10 RBI.

Diaz, 22, hit .253 (70-for-277) with 24 RBI in 76 games at Double-A Portland this season. Originally signed by the Red Sox as a non-drafted free agent in July 2003, he is a career .268 hitter with four home runs and 127 RBI in six seasons in Boston ‘€™s farm system.

Strickland, Boston ‘€™s 19th selection (18th round) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was 5-4 with one save and a 3.35 ERA (31 ER/83.1 IP) in 18 appearances/12 starts for Single-A Greenville . In three professional seasons in the Red Sox organization, the 20-year-old posted a 10-9 record with one save and a 3.66 ERA.

The Red Sox also promoted shortstop Yamaico Navarro from Single-A Salem to Double-A Portland today. He hit .319 (30-for-94) with four homers and 17 RBI over 23 games with Boston ‘€™s Carolina League affiliate this season.

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Argenis Diaz, hunter strickland, Pirates

UPDATED: Red Sox acquire Adam LaRoche for two prospects

07.22.09 at 1:00 pm ET
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WEEI.com has confirmed that the Red Sox and Pirates are close to finalizing a deal that would send first baseman Adam LaRoche of the Pittsburgh Pirates to Boston in exchange for two minor leaguers. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the first to report the news.

LaRoche is a power-hitting first baseman who has averaged 24.5 homers over the past four seasons with the Braves and Pirates. He is hitting .247 with a .329 OBP and .441 slugging mark for the Pirates this year, down from career totals of .269/.338/.486.

According to multiple baseball sources, the Pirates will receive shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland when the deal is finalized. Diaz is known as a gifted defensive player with incredible tools, but there are questions about his bat, and his defensive focus has at times come into question, resulting in high error totals (he has committed 18 errors this year).

The 22-year-old Diaz is hitting .253/.309/.310 with Double-A Portland this year. He has not hit any homers this year. After he got off to a terrific start in April (hitting .289 with a .769 OPS), he hit .246 with month-by-month OPS totals of .587 in May, .609 in June and .567 in July. His ceiling is considered that of a major-league backup infielder, but for him to achieve that status, he would have to show greater consistency in the field. Diaz was added to the 40-man roster following the 2007 season. Pirates G.M. Neal Huntington had this to say about Diaz in the Pirates’ official press release announcing the deal:

“Diaz is an intriguing shortstop prospect who projects to play above-average defense with soft hands, good first step quickness and an above average throwing arm,” said Huntington. “He is developing on the offensive side of the baseball, but Argenis quickly becomes the best defensive shortstop prospect in our system.”

Strickland, an 18th round pick in 2007, is 5-4 with a 3.35 ERA for the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League this year. The 6-foot-5 20-year-old has shown excellent command for the Drive, with a 51-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.1 innings this year.

He shows advanced command for his age of a fastball that is in the vicinity of 90 mph, and his frame suggests the possibility of a future uptick in velocity as he fills out. He also has a decent changeup, but he has yet to show a consistent breaking ball that he can use as a complementary pitch. His development of that pitch will, in all likelihood, determine the quality of the Pirates’ return in this deal (aside from the salary relief they will achieve by moving LaRoche). This is what Huntington had to say in the Pirates’ press release:

“Strickland is a young developing right-handed starting pitching prospect with a good frame, solid delivery, clean arm action and an interesting pitch arsenal,” said Huntington. “He is a quality strike thrower with a fastball that has averaged as high as 93 miles per hour, with the potential for a major league caliber breaking ball and changeup to complement his fastball.”

LaRoche is eligible for free agency following this season. He is playing on a one-year, $7.05 million deal in 2009, his last as an arbitration-eligible player. His brother, Andy, was part of the three-team deal that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles last July 31.

The first baseman has struggled of late, hitting .138/.167/.241 in July. Throughout his career, however, he has been a significantly better hitter following the All-Star break, with a career second-half line of .296/.357/.544 and a .901 OPS, compared to first-half marks of .252/.326/.447/.773.

Because Diaz was on Boston’s 40-man roster, LaRoche will be able to take his spot. It remains to be seen, however, how the Sox will clear a spot on their 25-man major-league roster for LaRoche.

Hunter Strickland went 5-4 with one save and a 3.35 ERA (83.1ip/31er) in 18 appearances (12 starts) this year for the Single-A Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old Strickland entered the season with a career record of 5-5 and 3.94 ERA (96.0ip/42er) in 24 games (16 starts) since being selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Last year with Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League, Strickland posted a 3.18 ERA (70.2ip/25er) in 15 games (10 starts), which ranked fifth among all Red Sox minor leaguers. Strickland finished the season by posting a 0.43 ERA (20.2ip/1er) in his last four starts.

“Strickland is a young developing right-handed starting pitching prospect with a good frame, solid delivery, clean arm action and an interesting pitch arsenal,” said Huntington. “He is a quality strike thrower with a fastball that has averaged as high as 93 miles per hour, with the potential for a major league caliber breaking ball and changeup to complement his fastball.”

Though there had been reports that the Pirates would send money to the Red Sox to cover part of the remaining $2.95 million of LaRoche’s salary this year, Kovacevic reports that no money will move from Pittsburgh to Boston.

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Argenis Diaz, hunter strickland, Pirates

Terry Francona on Dale and Holley

07.22.09 at 12:55 pm ET
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As a part of WEEI’s Red Sox Wednesday Dale and Holley talked with Red Sox manager Terry Francona today. Click here for the full audio.

Here are some of the highlights:

On the Red Sox ongoing search for a long-term leadoff solution: There’€™s been a lot made of that. I’€™m way more comfortable with JD leading off than you are. What we really want for our guys at the top of the order to get on-base. Jacoby at the bottom was given that part of the lineup a different look. Ellsbury obviously has skills that can change a game anywhere he hits. We just need to get on-base better.

On the team’€™s current slump:  ‘€œwe’€™ve got a lot of guys at the same time, it makes it tough. Very rarely do you have everybody hot, we’€™ve been pretty fortunate that Jason Bay had basically been carrying us. These things get a little cyclical.’€

More on the slump: ‘€œWe understand that their trying a little too hard. It’€™s not because of a lack of care, they’€™re just caring too much. You don’€™t want guys to take it causally but you don’€™t want it to take away from their game.’€

On Ortiz’€™s double the other night: I was watching the ball a little bit more than him. I believe there was two outs when he hit it. You want everybody to get every base they can.’€

On recent pitching struggles out of the All-Star Break: We fully understood that there can be some rust. If someone’€™s going to have some rust coming out of the break its better than losing gas at the end of August. What happened to Wake, I don’€™t know if we can help it.’€

On Wakefield’€™s injury: He tweaked it when he was throwing, Guys are susceptible to stuff like this when they get older. We need him to get healthy. When he’€™s healthy we’€™ll let him pitch.

On last week’€™s Lugo transaction: It’€™s a big deal when you owe someone that much money. For a lot of reason it didn’€™t work like we wanted. There have been a lot of things that have gotten in the way of his athleticism. We just didn’€™t see that here.

On the reported Adam LaRoche acquisition and other deals the Red Sox could be involved in: ‘€œI do know that we’€™re going to be involved in a lot of discussions. When things come up the Red Sox are discussed. This is a tough time for our team, and a lot of guys are on edge. There are a lot of uncertainties that go into this week.’€

On the Red Sox chain of command during deadline time: ‘€œI don’€™t think I’€™m the person who needs to say that. It’€™s my job to get the guys in our clubhouse and take care of them. I understand my responsibility and I think Theo understands his.’€

On if Francona or the players have player personnel input: ‘€œI don’€™t know about checking on guys, players having input. There’€™s a lot of communication that happened in the course of a normal day, Theo and his guys do good job of being prepared. It’€™s my job to make this clubhouse work. I just need to spend my energy to get our team to play as well as they can.’€

Wakefield to the D.L., Buchholz recalled

07.21.09 at 5:05 pm ET
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The Red Sox will place Tim Wakefield on the disabled list with a lower back strain. In his place, Clay Buchholz will be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and will start Wednesday’s game against the Rangers. Wakefield tweaked his back in a recent side session. He has been placed on the D.L. retroactive to July 18. Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters that the injury is not to the knuckleballer’s shoulder.

Buchholz, who earned the win in the first Red Sox game of the second half, will be pitching with four days of rest. He allowed one run on four hits in 5.2 innings against the Blue Jays on Friday.

Wakefield (11-3, 4.31) is tied for the American League lead in wins with 11. He was named to his first All-Star team on the basis of that performance. He last pitched on July 8, earning a win by pitching six innings and allowing three runs.

This is the third time in four seasons that Wakefield has gone on the D.L., following a stint due to a shoulder strain last August and from July-Sept. 2006 with a stress fracture in his rib cage. He also missed time late in the 2007 season with a shoulder strain, but because rosters had expanded, he did not have to go on the D.L.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield,

Dustin Pedroia on Dale & Holley

07.21.09 at 1:39 pm ET
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Here’s a transcript from this afternoon’s interview on the Dale & Holley Show with Dustin Pedroia (CLICK HERE to listen to the complete interview with Dale & Holley):

On the music he chose when he comes up to bat at Fenway: ‘€œI’€™m from the West Coast, it’€™s a little West Coast rap and I kind of like it.’€

On already writing a book at such a young age: ‘€œObviously I’€™m not very big and growing up I was a Giants fan and looked up to Barry Bonds and he’€™s really not my size or the type of player that I am. Just wanted to write about what I did to get to the big leagues, and I just kind of wanted to get my story out. It’€™s really so that kids and other people can know and say, if this guy can do it so can I. Maybe there will be a volume two somewhere down the road but I hope people enjoy this and like what they read.’€

On Tito saying he’€™ll read Pedroia’€™s new book when he’€™s in the bathroom: (Laughing) ‘€œI have to put up with him everyday, and it just gets worse and worse everyday. I don’€™t know how he does it.’€

On his close relationship with Tito: ‘€œIt started when I started getting hits. I don’€™t think he really wanted to talk to me when I was hitting .150 that April in ‘€™07. But I always try to keep the manager relaxed. I understand how tough baseball can be. Playing all these games is not easy, so I always try to keep the clubhouse relaxed and keep everybody not stressed out. Especially playing in Boston is tough. The expectation to win is so hard. I always joke around with everybody and that includes the manager. I’€™ll make fun of him’€¦ just to keep it relaxed. We’€™re all in this together and we’€™re trying to win.’€

On making stuff up as motivation: ‘€œYou always need motivation as a player. We play 162 games and I think everyone knows this game is not easy. You’€™re going to hit tough patches in the road and you have to find ways to motivate yourself and your team and I think that’€™s the biggest thing for a player like me. Everyday I have to bring energy to the team, that’€™s my job. I have to get on base and score runs and do the little things to help us win. There are certain times when I’€™m not hitting well at the plate or seeing the ball good, but I have to find a way and motivating myself is the biggest thing to help my team win.’€

On not being recognized as a player during 2007 World Series in Colorado: ‘€œIt was kind of crazy. We won the first two games and headed to Colorado, and I get to the field around one o’€™ clock. I’€™m one of the first guys there. I take a cab, I get there and the guy stops me and he says, what’€™re you doing here? I say, well gee I’€™m here to play baseball. We’€™ve got the World Series going on, I’€™m not sure if you’€™ve been watching. He says, well you need to have ID. So I get my wallet and give him my players identification card and he just looks at me and goes, you can get this anywhere kid’€¦ After about three or four minutes I finally snap on the guy and tell him, I’€™m the guy leading off the World Series with bombs. I don’€™t hit many homeruns so I had to throw that out there. The guy kind of laughed and I ended up just walking in. Once I got to the clubhouse I told everyone about it and they were making fun of me, and they’€™re still making fun of me today.’€

On being injured badly playing for Team USA: ‘€œIt’€™s the toughest thing I’€™ve been through while playing. I’€™m the kind of guy who will put his body through anything. You know, I’€™ll dive into first base. I have no fear. My dad always told me, you have to play a hundred percent otherwise you’€™re going to get hurt. We were playing Amsterdam and there was this ground ball that just took a bad hop, and it shattered my face. It broke six bones under my eye and one above it. My eye didn’€™t open up for a couple weeks and we had all these tests done’€¦ Right when I got back from that I didn’€™t want to take a groundball, I was scared. I talked to Harvey Dorfman, a sports psychologist about it, and he’€™s one of the greatest guys in baseball. He just told me, for a guy like you to be scared of things on the baseball field, you’€™re never going to make it. You have to put your face to the ball, you have to get in front of the ball, and you have to do the little things to help your team win.’€

On people criticizing his size and what he’€™s done to strengthen his body: ‘€œI was a lot fatter. I was always short and kind of chubby. In ‘€™06 I got called up and Theo said, you have to get yourself in the best shape possible, you have to lose weight, you have to trim body fat if you want to come in here and fight for the second baseman’€™s job in ‘€™07. And I’€™ll tell you what, that offseason was unbelievable. I ran three times a day, push-ups, and pull-ups ‘€“ all core work to try to lose body fat. And I’€™ve never really done that before. I’€™ve always been a guy who’€™ll go in there and lift weights. I never thought running was a part of my game’€¦ I dedicated myself. I ran, I ate where it was to a point where I pulled out a measuring cup and put vegetables in there. It was kind of a little overboard, but I knew that if I could lose that weight it would make me a better player.’€

On whether he could play shortstop in the big leagues today: ‘€œI’€™d like to think I can, but the organization decided to move me to second base a few years ago and I’€™ve kind of taken to it. I won a gold glove last year and I always joke around with Tito about how I could play shortstop. And he always reminds me of when I got called up in ‘€™06 and Derek Jeter hit me a ground ball and I threw it 15 rows into the stands at Yankee Stadium‘€¦ I know I could play there but my best position is second base.’€

On the Red Sox recent offensive troubles: ‘€œIt’€™s just a rough patch. We were talking about it on the bus how it’€™s not easy and it never is. Obviously in ‘€™07 and ‘€™08, the two years I was here before, we had some great teams and won a World Series’€¦ but there are always bumps in the road. There are always times when you lose three in a row, and the Yankees win three in a row, and it gets tied. It’€™s always a tight race. But you just have to rely on your teammates and believe that we’€™re going to be all right’€¦ We need to get ourselves in a position where we get everyone on the same page and get everyone hot at the same time. We’€™re going to be a good team when we do.’€

On challenges as a second baseman dealing with so many shortstops throughout the season (Lugo, Lowrie, Green): ‘€œI’€™m comfortable with all of them. We’€™ve spent enough time taking ground balls before BP and stuff. So that parts not the thing. Jed’€™s injuries at the beginning of the year were unfortunate. And Julio, we played together for a couple of years and got comfortable. And Greenie’€™s done an incredible job coming in and playing for us. But we’€™re all on the same page defensively and it doesn’€™t matter who’€™s coming in and playing for us.’€

On being more comfortable hitting second than in the leadoff spot: ‘€œLast year I hit second most of the year. In ‘€™07 I hit ninth and then leadoff for most of the time until Jacoby got called up’€¦ I’€™m more of a situational guy’€¦ I love being up there in a situation where I could do a lot of things to help our team at bat.’€

On what his teammates have said to him about his new book and the 2009 Red Sox in general: ‘€œWell first off, I don’€™t even know if half of our team can read. We don’€™t have the sharpest guys here. You know what, I don’€™t know. With our team, everyone loves everyone. We’€™ve got a lot of guys here on the same page. We get to the field early, we hang out together. It’€™s a special group, and I’€™m looking forward to how the season plays out. We’€™ve got a lot of guys who care about winning and when you have that you have a special team.’€

Book signings at Barnes & Noble on Boylston St. (Thursday 5:00 PM) and Willow Books in Acton (Thursday 9:00 PM)

Read More: Dustin Pedroia,

Red Sox/Rangers match-ups

07.21.09 at 12:54 pm ET
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(Courtesy Greg Cameron)

After last night’€™s loss against the Texas Rangers last night, the Red Sox look to get back to their winning ways. Tonight, they’€™re looking at their ace, Josh Beckett, to right the ship.

The all-star and Texas native comes into tonight’€™s game with a 11-3 record and 3.35 ERA. Beckett’€™s last outing proved to be a successful one as the right-hander tossed a complete game gem against the Kansas City Royals on July 12.

Here’€™s how the current Ranger lineup has fared against Beckett over the years:

Andruw Jones (36 plate appearances) .250 avg./.333 OBP/.250 SLG % (9 SO)

Marlon Byrd (22) .333/.455/.445 (1 HR, 3 RBI)

Michael Young (12) .083/.083/.083 (3 SO, 1 H)

Hank Blalock (8) .286/.375/.286

Omar Vizquel (7).143/.143/.143

Nelson Cruz (2).000/.000/.000

Josh Hamilton (2) .500/.500/.500

Ian Kinsler (2) .500/.500/1.000 (2B)

Beckett has yet to face Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, David Murphy and Taylor Teagarden.

The Red Sox have only faced tonight’€™s Rangers starter, Tommy Hunter, in an abbreviated sampling. Hunter lasted just 1.2 innings on Aug. 14 giving up nine earned runs and a home run in his only other start against the Red Sox.

The tall and hefty righty made his major league debut deep in the heart of Texas last August and struggled mightily, surrendering four home runs and 20 earned runs in just 11 innings of work.

Hunter, a 22-year old right-hander has pitched well thus far for manager Ron Washington‘€™s Texas club, as the ship looks to have been righted this year; Hunter comes into tonight’€™s contest with a 1-1 record and a 2.35 ERA.

Here’€™s how the Red Sox fared that afternoon against Hunter:

Jason Bay: (2) 1-2 RBI

J.D. Drew: (2)0-2

David Ortiz: 1-2 (3-run HR)

Dustin Pedroia: 1-2 (2B, RBI)

Kevin Youkilis: (2)2-2 (2B)

Jed Lowrie :(1)1-1

Jason Varitek: (1)0-1

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