|Ladies and gentlemen, a major-league lineup||03.20.09 at 8:17 am ET|
With Dustin Pedroia‘s return to the lineup this morning, the Red Sox have a lineup today for an exhibition game against Pittsburgh that features eight of nine likely Opening Day starters. The only absentee is Kevin Youkilis, who is out of game activity while wearing a boot through at least tomorrow, when he will be examined by a specialist.
Here’s the Red Sox lineup: Read the rest of this entry »
|Five Things We Learned on Thursday in the Fort||03.20.09 at 6:07 am ET|
As spring training days go, Thursday was a fairly full one. The Red Sox clubhouse has reclaimed nearly all of the players who traveled far and wide to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Only Daisuke Matsuzaka (slated to start Saturday in a semi-final game) remains in the tournament, and so yesterday offered an opportunity for players to reacquaint with their spring training surroundings and to examine their wounds. And so, the post-WBC scene takes front and center in today’s edition of Five Things:
1) Yes, Kevin Youkilis was kidding when he suggested that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was responsible for a sprained left ankle and Achilles tendonitis that forced the Red Sox first baseman out of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. No, Youkilis was not kidding when he said that he does not blame the WBC for the injury (even if he suggested that neither the several days spent on Toronto’s artificial turf during the first round of the tournament nor the decision to dog-pile with his manic teammates after a walk-off win against Team Puerto Rico did him any favors). More important at this point than the fault, however, was the prognosis. Youkilis could be back in games by early next week, and the Sox do not deem the injury serious. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox vs. Reds post-game notes||03.19.09 at 8:59 pm ET|
Jon Lester looked sharp in his fifth outing of the spring, logging 4.1 innings and allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while striking out six. His curveball overmatched left-handed hitters. The southpaw also reported progress with his changeup, which he estimated he threw seven or eight times, and feels as if there’s a good likelihood he’ll be able to employ it during the regular season.
–Jed Lowrie is raking. Batting left-handed in all four of his trips to the plate, the switch-hitting shortstop went 3-for-4 with a single, a double to left-center and a two-run homer that he ripped to right. All are reminders of his progress back from last year’s wrist injury.
His spring numbers are nothing short of spectacular. Following his three-hit night, he is hitting .462 with with a .500 OBP and .872 slugging mark. Clearly, following an offseason in which he could allow his wrist to heal, he is feeling good at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »
|Kottaras hopes to stick as backup catcher||03.19.09 at 7:38 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona talked briefly with George Kottaras on Wednesday morning, telling the catcher only that he would not be making the trip to Sarasota on Thursday to play the Reds, instead staying behind to catch Wakefield in a minor-league game. It wasn’t until a few hours later that Kottaras received a call from his agent with potentially career-changing news.
Josh Bard, who had been presumed (by virtue of his veteran status and his frequent work with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield this spring) the favorite to win the back-up role, had been cut by the Sox. About five minutes later, Kottaras received another call from Red Sox bullpen and catching coach Gary Tuck confirming the news and its implications: Kottaras is in the driver’s seat to claim the job of Boston’s backup catcher.
The 25-year-old Kottaras admits that, after six years in the minors, the idea that he is on the cusp of a major-league job is tantalizing. Nonetheless, he does not take it for granted. Read the rest of this entry »
|Pedroia prepares for return||03.19.09 at 5:52 pm ET|
SARASOTA, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia did not make the trip to Ed Smith Stadium to play the Reds tonight. But then, because of injuries to some of the team’s starters and the absence of a designated hitter rule in the National League park (something that prevented David Ortiz from making the trip), almost no recognizable names on the Red Sox made the roughly 75-mile trip.
“I turned around (on the bus),” manager Terry Francona admitted sheepishly, “and I didn’t know anybody.”
Though Pedroia was held behind at City of Palms Park, however, his day was anything but lost. The second baseman swung for the first time since suffering a lower left abdomen strain while playing for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, taking live batting practice at the Red Sox’ spring training facility. The session went without a hitch, and so the 2008 MVP will be back in the lineup on Friday when the Sox play the Pirates.
He is expected to get two at-bats on Friday, stay back to take batting practice on Saturday, and then increase his workload to three at-bats on Sunday.
“When he first came back we were all holding our breath a little bit,” said Francona. “After the initial relief, once he started getting back into what he was doing, we thought he was going to be okay.”
Prior to taking B.P., Pedroia reiterated that he is encouraged by his progress.
“I feel good. I haven’t felt (the injury) since (it happened),” said Pedroia. “The training staff has done a great job.”
A few other pre-game notes:
–In the absence of a D.H., Jon Lester will hit in tonight’s game. Lester looked a bit befuddled when confronted with a batting helmet in City of Palms before he hit the road for tonight’s start. Francona did not go so far as to say that Lester must superglue his bat to his shoulder.
“We may have him bunt,” said Francona. “We’ll see. I don’t want to give away too much strategy.”
–On a day when Tim Wakefield‘s knuckleball was giving fits to a team of Twins minor leaguers, George Kottaras looked comfortable behind the plate. Wakefield allowed one hit and fanned three in five scoreless innings, throwing 48 pitches (32 strikes). Through the first three innings, Kottaras boxed one nasty late-breaking pitch (with no base runners aboard), but otherwise, did a good job of keeping his hands close to his body and receiving the ball late. Kottaras has received very positive assessments of his receiving ability. More on him in a bit.
–The day after he looked strong in a two-inning minor-league stint, Brad Penny reported no setbacks, and the big right-hander is set to start on Monday in a Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. “(Penny was) real upbeat. That was good to hear,” said Francona. “I thought he was strong. That was a good step forward.”
–Kevin Youkilis will be examined by a foot specialist on Saturday. Until then, any work he does will be off the field. When examined, then the team will figure out his schedule for a return to the diamond.
|Blame Jeter, Not the WBC for Youkilis Injury||03.19.09 at 2:14 pm ET|
The injury has a culprit. Until today, the source of Kevin Youkilis’ sprained ankle and tendonitis of the Achilles tendon had not been explained. Youkilis, back in Red Sox spring training camp following his exit from the World Baseball Classic on Thursday, corrected the record.
“Derek Jeter,” Youkilis said, “kind of grabbed at my ankle and twisted it.”
Youkilis, of course, was speaking in jest about his Team USA teammate. In fact, despite the fact that he had to leave the WBC due to injury, the Sox first baseman and cleanup hitter tried to emphasize that the tournament was neither to blame, nor would he be deterred from encouraging teammates to participate in the future.
“This is something that didn’t just start a couple days ago,” said Youkilis, who suggested that he had started feeling discomfort at the beginning of spring training, while he was still with the Sox and before he reported to Team USA. “This has been something that’s been going on for a couple weeks now. I know people have been hearing that this is the WBC’s fault, that this is a stupid idea. It’s not. It’s a great thing. We had fun. It was a blast. It was an honor to represent the country.
“I didn’t get hurt playing in the WBC. I could probably go out right now and probably play if need be. But it’s not in my best interests right now. I need time to recuperate. If I don’t stay in this boot for three days, this will linger the whole season for me. This is something I had to do. I had to come home. It’s not easy for me to walk away from playing baseball — ever. Especially with Team USA. But this is something that was in the best interests of the Red Sox and the best interests of myself. This year is about playing for the Boston Red Sox and winning a championship.”
Youkilis did not offer a “single-bullet theory” of a sole culprit to explain the injury. It was just normal baseball activity — perhaps amplified a bit by a spirited celebration after Team USA’s walkoff victory over Puerto Rico — that resulted in a condition that required treatment.
“I think, more or less, it was just running, going side-to-side, things like that, dog-piling, running around, having so much fun doing that, that was probably not the brightest idea,” said Youkilis. “When you have your adrenaline up, you can do a lot of things. It probably wasn’t the greatest decision on my part to participate in dog-piling, running around and jumping around. It probably didn’t help it at all, but it had nothing to do with all that.”
Youkilis actually has a history of problems with the left foot, as he battles plantar fascitis in the appendage. The first baseman, in fact, was pleased to note that the MRI on his ankle suggested that his foot is in excellent shape. He will follow a normal rehab course to calm down the inflammation and prepare for the year.
“My main concern is being able to play a whole season without something lingering,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to linger.”
The Team USA training staff included Youkilis’ ankle in its daily injury reports in recent days, but for the most part, it had not been a big deal. In the last couple of days, particularly during and after the walk-off win against Team Puerto Rico on Thursday, the condition became worse. And so, the decision was made for Youkilis to leave the tournament and return to Fort Myers for examination by the Red Sox’ medical staff, which gave him two MRIs (one on the ankle, another on the Achilles) before putting his left leg in an immobilizing boot.
He is expected to be in a boot for two to three days, have another day off to rest and then return to game activity, likely early next week.
“We’re not really concerned at all,” said Epstein.
Epstein declined to say whether or not he viewed the tournament as responsible for the rash of injuries to participants. Youkilis, on the other hand, made clear that he did not consider the tournament at fault.
“It definitely was an awesome experience. I’d recommend it for all the guys four years from now. I had a blast. I had a great time,” said Youkilis, whose sole complaint was the number of days off between games. “I wish I could be there in L.A. to help the guys win. It was very disappointing for me to come home.”
|Kottaras prepares to work with Wakefield||03.19.09 at 11:48 am ET|
Ordinarily, a mid-day start byat the Red Sox’ minor-league complex would pass rather quietly. Yet today’s start by the 42-year-old carries some added intrigue.
Wakefield will pitch for the first time since the job of catching the knuckleballer was declared George Kottaras‘ to lose on Wednesday. The 25-year-old Kottaras will now be subject to heightened scrutiny for the way in which he tosses each of Wakefield’s throws. With the Red Sox scheduled to play tonight in Sarasota, the event of the pairing of those two battery mates will assume center stage during the day.
A couple of additional notes at the minor-league complex this morning:
–Jason Place is still trying to get past the ligament strain in his right ankle, suffered at the end of last season. He is taking batting practice but being held out of games. Place hopes that he will be able to start competing in the next couple days.
–While in major-league camp, Lars Anderson wore the number of a defensive lineman (No. 78) while Josh Reddick played the part of a wide receiver (No. 82). Now, following their re-assignment to minor-league camp, both have been given digits more suitable to baseball, with Anderson wearing No. 5 and Reddick No. 30.
–With ever greater attention given to the notion of the Red Sox catcher of the future, one potential catcher of the distant future has shown some intriguing tools in camp. Oscar Perez, a 17-year-old from Venezuela who was the jewel of last year’s class of international amateur free agent signees (non-Junichi Tazawa division), has shown impressive all-fields power at an early stage, and will certainly be intriguing to monitor as he prepares to play in the U.S.
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