|Dustin Pedroia, Sox avoid WBC calamity||03.20.09 at 1:37 pm ET|
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia appears to have avoided a serious injury. The 2008 American League MVP returned to the field today, collecting an infield hit and RBI groundout in two at-bats while having no problems either running or in the field.
But Pedroia insists that he was not the only one who avoided significant injury when he left the World Baseball Classic due to a strained lower left abdominal muscle. Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is slated to pitch against Team USA this weekend, may have also avoided damage with Pedroia back in the Grapefruit League.
“Daisuke’s lucky I’m not there. I’d hit a line drive right off his back,” said Pedroia. “You guys can put that in your papers: I’d hit a line drive right off his back. He’d better hope that the Red Sox don’t trade him.”
Clearly, the last week has done little to dampen the second baseman’s confidence. Here are the rest of Pedroia’s thoughts on his first game activity since the strain. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jason Varitek goes yard||03.20.09 at 12:59 pm ET|
For the second time in as many games, Jason Varitek crushed a homer to right field while batting from the left side of the plate. Facing Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who was struggling to locate, Varitek jumped on a fastball down the pipe and lined it into the right-field bleachers. The event was noteworthy, given that Varitek hit just two left-handed homers in the final 113 games of the regular season last year, and none in the final 36 games of the regular season. (He did, however, hit a left-handed homer in the postseason.)
A couple other notes from the early-going in City of Palms Park:
–Dustin Pedroia batted in the first inning with no outs and Jacoby Ellsbury on third (double, steal). Pedroia knocked in a run with a grounder to short on the third pitch he saw. He followed that up by collecting an infield single to lead off the third, advancing to second when third baseman Andy LaRoche chucked the ball into the photographers’ well.
Pedroia, who was lifted for a pinch runner, also made a couple of plays in the field without incident in his first game activity since straining his lower left abdominal muscle on Saturday.
–Clay Buchholz worked five innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits and a walk while striking out three. He worked with the benefit of a sharp changeup, which he used to record all three strikeouts. He recorded six groundball and six flyball outs. As mentioned earlier, he’s using a two-seam fastball to increase his groundball rate thus far this spring. It is also worth noting that the pitcher withstood an assault by Pirates (and former Red Sox) reliever Craig Hansen prior to the game. Hansen, who made the trip with the Pirates, was a teammate of Buchholz in the minors, and rushed into the Red Sox dugout while Buchholz was sitting there prior to the game to exchange greetings.
|Father’s Day||03.20.09 at 12:20 pm ET|
As mentioned earlier, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is away from the club today to attend his son Nick’s graduation from U.S. Marine Corps Officer Training School. But Francona is not the only proud parent today on the Red Sox staff.
Pitching coach John Farrell‘s son, Jeremy, is part of the Pirates’ traveling roster today. Jeremy Farrell was selected out of the University of Virginia in the eighth round of last year’s draft. He hit .287 with a .351 OBP and .381 slugging mark in Short-Season A-ball last year, and is making his second trip in major-league exhibition games this spring, following a plate appearance (a walk) against the Yankees. The third baseman is likely slated to start the year in the Pirates’ Low-A affiliate in West Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »
|Buchholz has that sinking feeling||03.20.09 at 9:54 am ET|
Asked to define the difference in Clay Buchholz this spring as opposed to last, Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills cited two elements: more “giddy-up” on his fastball, and a vastly improved mound presence. Last year, team officials were disconcerted by the constant pick-off throws to first made by Buchholz (a pitcher whose quick time to the plate already allows him to hold runners well), a sign of his confusion while on the hill.
This spring, Buchholz — who starts today against the Pirates — has been more asertive on the mound. Not only has he been more locked in on what he’s doing on the mound, but his mound strategy has progressed to the point where he is shaking off catcher Jason Varitek unless and until he sees the right fingers calling for the pitch that he wants to throw.
Yet one sign that Buchholz has been waiting for with some frequency is the two-seam fastball. It is a pitch that Buchholz says he used in the past, but with little conviction or effect.Not so this spring. Buchholz has been attacking both left-handers and right-handers with the pitch, and he’s been using it to both sides of the plate. The result has been a healthy diet of ground balls thus far this spring.
“I’ve been probably throwing it 90 percent of the time this year, just spotting up and making it move back on the outside corner of the plate to a right-hander or front-door to a left-hander. It’s been a good pitch for me. If I can have that pitch and throw that whenever I want, I think I’ll be a lot better off than I was last year,” Buchholz said a couple days ago. “(Before), I said I threw a two-seamer, but I don’t even know if it did anything. That’s a pitch that everybody throws. Now I can actually see why it’s different than a four-seam fastball. You could see the lesser amount of seams on the ball when I threw it, but now it’s like, when I let it go, I can feel it and see it on the outcome.”
Though Buchholz is now embracing the potential of his sinking two-seamer, he has not leaned on close friend Justin Masterson for advice with the pitch. That is because Masterson’s video-game sinker is in a class of its own.
“His two-seamer is ridiculous,” said Buchholz. “Mine moves six inches. His moves 60 inches. It’s ridiculous how much his ball moves like that.”
Nonetheless, even a few inches of sink can be of huge benefit to the 24-year-old Buchholz. The two-seamer has made him much more pitch efficient this spring. He is on a 65-pitch limit in today’s game, and Mills noted before the contest that there was no reason, based on how the pitcher has performed thus far this spring, that he can’t go five innings (averaging 13 pitches per inning) with such a number.
The pay-off may not be early in the regular season, but Buchholz seems confident that it will come at the major-league level in 2009.
“I’m sort of the odd man out (of the rotation) right now. But I’m going to roll with them and hopefully come out of spring training with a spot,” said Buchholz. “Whenever I get the opportunity, I’m going to make the best of it and let the chips fall where they may.”
OTHER PRE-GAME NOTES
–Manager Terry Francona is away from the team to attend his son Nick’s graduation from U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. In his absence, Mills is stewarding the club today.
–Dustin Pedroia should be all set for two at-bats today, though obviously, if he feels any discomfort in his lower abdomen, the Sox will abbreviate his day. The injury is only a concern when Pedroia swings, and not when he is in the field.
–Mills praised the defense of Brad Wilkerson, who has been splitting time between first base and the outfield. Wilkerson is competing for the “Mark Kotsay” role of the backup at those positions, and has shown impressive aptitude at first base, where he made a nice play on a tough hop in the hole on Thursday and also snared an errant throw from third base and made a nice sweep tag of the batter to record an out.
“I think he’s shown pretty good instincts (at first),” said Mills, who was Wilkerson’s bench coach with the Expos in 2003. “It’s not foreign to him.”
Wilkerson will play center field in tomorrow’s exhibition game, and if he can demonstrate an ability to play all three outfield positions and first base, it would give him a clear advantage in the effort to make the major-league roster.
–Kevin Youkilis, who is wearing a protective boot for his sprained left ankle and Achilles tendinitis, is “still a little sensitive to the touch,” according to Mills. That sensitivity must subside before he can resume full baseball activities.
–John Smoltz remains scheduled to throw a bullpen session, his first of the spring, on March 25. Brad Penny is still on target to start a major-league spring raining game on Monday.
|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 »
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