|06.23.09 at 6:47 am ET|
LOWELL ‘Since Alex Wilson was three years old, he’s been dreaming of playing professional baseball, and on Monday his dream came true as he signed with the Boston Red Sox for a bonus of nearly half a million dollars ‘ not too shabby for a 22-year-old straight out of college.
But for the time being, he’ll be living his dream out in Donahue Hall, one of UMass-Lowell’s dormitories located right next to the Single-A Spinners’ LeLacheur Park. It has no TV, no Internet, and during the school year is home to 349 male and female undergraduates.
‘It’s not living the luxurious life that everyone may think it is,’ Wilson says. ‘I promise you that.’
While it may not necessarily be the ‘luxurious’ life of a professional baseball player, for now it’s a start to what looks like a promising career for the young pitcher. Wilson, who was drafted by the Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft (77th overall), features a low- to mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup that he says he’s still working on. Baseball America ranked Wilson the 52nd best prospect in the country, and he was second in the Big 12 in strikeouts with 120.
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Wilson was born there while his father was stationed in the region working as a geologist for Saudi Aramco. The family was only there for another year and a half before moving to West Virginia, which is where the Wilsons still reside to this day.
Wilson has always been a standout player. At Hurricane High School in Hurricane, W.Va., the right-hander was a three-time all-conference, all-county, and all-state honoree who was named West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year and threw a perfect game during his senior campaign.
In 2006, Wilson was a starter during his freshman year at Winthrop University, going 13-3 with a 3.78 ERA before being named Collegiate Baseball’s National Freshman Pitcher of the Year. He replicated his success during his sophomore year as he went 6-4 with a 2.51 ERA.
But after throwing over 249 innings in his first two years at Winthrop, Wilson injured his elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ligament.
‘For a baseball player, hearing that news is like the end of world,’ he says.
Not too long after, he decided to leave Winthrop to go play at Texas A&M.
‘I had a great start at Winthrop and I couldn’t argue with my numbers or what I was doing, it was just that I got used a little too much,’ Wilson says. ‘I figured if I was going back to school, why leave myself in the same situation?’
After successful surgery and a full recovery, Wilson began rehabbing for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League ‘ an experience that he says helped him get to the level he’s at today.
‘They were throwing me out there every fifth day when I was supposed to be even if I had a rough outing because they were really concerned with just letting me progress as a player,’ he says. ‘It’s rare you come across a situation like this when you’re trying to rehab in one of the better leagues in the country.’
Wilson’s recovery was advanced enough that he was able to work out for teams prior to the 2008 draft. The Red Sox, in fact, brought him to Fenway Park and seriously considered taking him last June, but instead, it was the Cubs who selected the pitcher in the 10th round with the 311th overall pick.
But Wilson decided not to sign with Chicago. He describes their offer ‘ believed to have been $600,000, or less than half of the first-round money that he was seeking last year ‘ as ‘sub-par.’
He called Coach Rob Childress at A&M to let him know that he’d be returning to play the following season, and in 2009 ‘ his first full season since recovering from surgery ‘ was converted from a starter to a reliever. Wilson said that he was able to get his fastball to sit comfortably again at 94 mph, and started throwing his curveball and slider a lot more as his out-pitches.
The young flamethrower ‘fell right into place,’ he says, and had no trouble adjusting to playing on a bigger stage as he went 6-6 with a 4.22 ERA in over 89 innings of work. Moreover, the decision to transfer allowed Wilson to fulfill a lifelong dream. Growing up Wilson idolized former Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, so when Boston selected him 77th overall in the 2009 draft, it was a more than ideal situation.
‘It was just kind of a dream come true getting a phone call saying, ‘Hey the Red Sox just picked you up,’’ Wilson says. ‘I was pretty ecstatic about that.’
Though it was difficult to leave A&M after such a short period of time, Wilson knew that playing for the Sox was a special opportunity he may never again get.
‘I’ll miss forgoing my senior year, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be,’ he says.
As a university studies major with minors in psychology and sports management, Wilson only has one semester left until he finishes his degree, and he plans to do so in the off-season.
For now though, the hard-throwing pitcher will start making his way toward the big leagues. He has fully recovered from injury and is ready to move back to his natural role as a starter ‘ something he will begin doing soon in Lowell as prepares to move to the five-day rotation. There, he plans to work on his changeup and adjust to a heavier workload.
‘They’re going to take it easy with me and mold me to where they want me to be,’ he says.
Soon enough, Wilson hopes to completely fulfill his dream by pitching at Fenway for the team he grew up loving.
‘That’s definitely the goal. I don’t think anybody comes in here not wanting to do that,’ said Wilson. ‘I think I can do it, I’m confident enough in myself that I can pitch at that level. I just need to put my time in and work my way through the ranks to get there.’
|06.22.09 at 2:04 pm ET|
Red Sox second-round draft pick Alex Wilson is set to sign today for a bonus of approximately $475,000. The right-handed pitcher, who was moved from the rotation to relief with Texas A&M this year, will begin his career with Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League. Wilson features a power fastball in the low- to mid-90s, which he complements with a hard curve and changeup. He was taken by the Cubs in the 10th round in 2008 (coming off of Tommy John surgery), and turned down a bonus of approximately $600,000.
The Sox have also signed fifth-round pick Seth Schwindenhammer out of Limestone High School in Illinois (which counts Jim Thome among its alumni) for $140,000.
Despite reports that the Sox had agreed to terms with 10th-round pick Brandon Jacobs — a 5-foot-10, 240-pound tank of an outfielder with significant power potential but who has a scholarship commitment to play football at Auburn — those reports were erroneous. There is no agreement between the Sox and Jacobs, though the team will follow him while he plays in a wood-bat league this summer to determine whether it is worth signing him to a bonus that would exceed his slot value significantly.
Other picks whose signings were announced:
Willie Holmes (14th round) – outfielder, Chaffey College
Mike Bugary (15th round) – right-handed pitcher, University of California-Berkeley
Tom Ebert (19th round) – right-handed pitcher, Florida International University
Jordan Flasher (22nd round) – right-handed pitcher, George Mason University
Chris Court (23rd round) – right-handed pitcher, Stephen F. Austin University
Jeremiah Bayer (30th round) – right-handed pitcher, Trinity College
Kyle Rutter (41st round) – right-handed pitcher, North Carolina State University
Jordan Sallis (47th round) – second baseman, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
Drew Hedman (50th round) – first baseman, Pomona-Pitzer, $1,000
|06.22.09 at 12:06 pm ET|
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who was interviewed on Monday morning on the Dale & Holley Show, analyzed the physical, mechanical and mental issues that have led to pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka’s poor performance this year, and that forced his placement this weekend on the disabled list. While Farrell did outline the program that Matsuzaka will follow for building his arm strength, he suggested that there was no set timetable for the pitcher’s return to the major leagues, though he did insist that the Sox expect the pitcher back in 2009.
“Our every intention will be to get him back this year,” Farrell said during the interview. “Now I say that with no end time frame that says on August 1, he’s going to be back in our rotation. There’s going to be objectives that he’s going to have to meet along the way here both in terms of strength and conditioning, both from a body standpoint and from a shoulder standpoint and then you can’t short circuit the throwing program that we outlined at the outset that he is going to have to go through to not only he feels confident but we feel confident that he’s going to go back out on the mound and have the type of performance that he’s proven to us over the last two years.
“I wouldn’t say there is going to be a full three months of a full off season and then a gradual build-up. He’s working from a better foundation now than if you were talking about January or February, that’s obvious with the amount of innings he’s thrown already. It’s clear there are needs that do exist. By his own admission he knows there’s the need to take a step back before taking steps forward and that’s what we’re in the process of constructing an overall plan physically and fundamentally to get him back to that level.”
Farrell clarified that Matsuzaka is not facing an acute injury so much as he is simply still trying to rebuild strength in his right shoulder after having been unable to do so prior to the World Baseball Classic.
“I think it’s important to clarify, there are reports out there that Daisuke is suffering from a sore shoulder; that is not true. That is far from the truth,” Farrell said. “He does have some deficiencies in strength that goes back to the preparation for a full season that in this case has not been afforded and when you ramp up too quick you fatigue it and then trying to come back you’re working it to get back in shape and there’s just not ample time or format to do that. Fortunately with (John) Smoltz coming to us (from the disabled list on Thursday) we have that time on our side and we’re going to take the time needed to get Daisuke right to the pitcher he was the past two years.”
To listen to the complete interview, click here.
Here is a complete transcript of Farrell’s interview:
On the role of the WBC in Matsuzaka’s weakness and ineffectiveness:
You look back to Spring Training and this in not to point the finger at any one tournament or any one thing but when you take a pitcher and they are accustomed to a consistent progression year after year, outing after outing, and when you interrupt that and ramp up too quick, there are times when a pitcher will not have, and I’m using this word lightly, the foundation. Every pitcher has to get himself physically and fundamentally prepared to get himself through a 162-game season. When you try and short circuit that, whether it’s because of participation in the WBC or you can look back to the early ’90s when Spring Training was shortened because of the lockout or strike or any shortened Spring Training, it has an adverse affect on the pitcher. When Josh Beckett‘s Spring Training was interrupted because of a back injury, he ended up playing catch-up the entire year. This is very much what Daisuke is dealing with and what we are trying to rectify from today going forward.
I can’t speak to the outcome of (Daisuke rejecting the offer to participate in the WBC for Japan). I do know whether it’s Daisuke and his native country in Japan or guys that play for the United States, there’s a tremendous amount of pride that goes along with the involvement with that tournament. Some players feel more closely obligated to fulfilling that request but in the case of Daisuke it’s clear this is a very important participation and tournament for not only he but their entire country. But on the downside I think it’s clear now that there have been two of these tournaments that the season performance of the pitchers participating in that tournament takes a step backwards. That’s not just Daisuke. We’ve researched pitchers in Japan that have participated in their WBC and the same situation of sub-par performances is taking place. This is a well-intended tournament yet there are some drawbacks to it.
Is Matsuzaka stubborn? Is he open to adjustments, or does he loathe to listen to advice?
I wouldn’t say he loathes to listen, that’s not the case. But every elite performer, and let’s face it — Daisuke who has won 33 games in regular season baseball in the last two years, (and) should be considered an elite performer — they are very strong in their mindset on what their individual strengths are. They rely heavily on those and when it comes times for adjustment sometimes adversity as he’s facing now that is needed to make necessary adjustments. We’re not talking about wholesale adjustments with Daisuke, this is centering around physical strength and conditioning, core strength, overall shoulder strength.
I think it’s important to clarify, there are reports out there that Dice K is suffering from a sore shoulder; that is not true. That is far from the truth. He does have some deficiencies in strength that goes back to the preparation for a full season that in this case has not been afforded and when you ramp up too quick you fatigue it and then trying to come back you’re working it to get back in shape and there’s just not ample time or format to do that. Fortunately with Smoltz coming to us we have that time on our side and we’re going to take the time needed to get Dice-K right to the pitcher he was the past two years.
On Matsuzaka’s deep pitch counts and style on the mound:
I think the one thing that Daisuke has been very accustomed to and we were well aware of this with our scouting reports and video review of him coming over that this is very customary to the Japanese style of pitching. It’s not uncommon to go 3-2. That’s why you see elevated pitch count, that’s why you see pitcher’s, that are very accustomed to particularly starting pitchers, go deep in counts with high pitch counts. Because of the style that they use or the style they are somewhat groomed to pitch to. Here where he’s pitching to a smaller strike zone and a deeper lineup in terms of strength, he’s not doing anything different than he’s done before. It may look to us as being uncustomary but to him it’s very much the approach he has used his entire pro career.
On comparing Matsuzaka to Greg Maddux when he came to the Red Sox:
I think it’s common in baseball to draw comparisons, particularly if we’re not familiar with a guy, within the baseball world. You try to align them or draw comparisons with another pitcher who might be fresh or another player, fresh in minds of people of people who have a direct interest in the game but also who follow it as a strong fan. The one thing that people look, they can hear that report now that Greg Maddux is coming over to us and compare that to what he’s doing now and say that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What we’re dealing with right now is someone who’s not in his top physical condition. And I say that not because he’s not working out but he’s having to work extra hard to generate the type of velocity we’ve seen from him and when a pitcher does that, either by over throwing trying to get the intended results, he’s feeling the wait of not carrying the load in our rotation and when pitcher does that they can try to hard and overthrow and when they do that they sacrifice command and location and that’s clearly what has taken place here.
On the timetable for Matsuzaka’s return:
Our every intention will be to get him back this year. Now I say that with no end time frame that says on August 1, he’s going to be back in our rotation. There’s going to be objectives that he’s going to have to meet along the way here both in terms of strength and conditioning, both from a body standpoint and from a shoulder standpoint and then you can’t short circuit the throwing program that we outlined at the outset that he is going to have to go through to not only he feels confident but we feel confident that he’s going to go back out on the mound and have the type of performance that he’s proven to us over the last two years.
I wouldn’t say there is going to be a full three months of a full off season and then a gradual build up. He’s working from a better foundation now than if you were talking about January or February, that’s obvious with the amount of innings he’s thrown already. It’s clear there are needs that do exist. By his own admission he knows there’s the need to take a step back before taking steps forward and that’s what we’re in the process of constructing an overall plan physically and fundamentally to get him back to that level.
What are the biggest adjustments he’s faced in the U.S.?
He’s gone through a number of changes, both through a natural progression and getting accustomed but probably the biggest thing is the strike zone and what he’s pitching to here. When he came to us, we all saw the first half of the first season he was with us, there was five pitch mix he was trying to incorporate during the game and because of the need to throw pitches that probably have smaller shape to them, in other words not as big a curveball, he has not used his split finger as he did early on in his career here. All that has been large in part because he has been pitching to the strike zone. He has added a two seam fastball to his mix a little bit more frequently over the past year. Those are natural changes he’s gone through as a result of a five-man rotation and the pitching on shorter rest, his bullpens in between starts have been reduced in terms of total number of pitches thrown and that’s because he goes on feel and he understands what our pitchers go through. He sees a living example of their work and he’s made some sizable changes in the time he’s been here.
On John Smoltz:
I think were going to have a guy that’s very excited to be back on the mound. I’m sure people in the Boston area view John Smoltz from afar. Yes we’ve seen him pitch here against us but what he’s accomplished and what he’s gone through in his own career both in terms of on field performance, regular season, post season, coming back from injury and surgery multiple times, there’s always and innate ability to be successful because his numbers year in and year out have been extremely consistent even despite the injuries he has had. Pretty significant surgery last June, has done all the necessary work to get back to this point. I mean we have a pitch count on him, expect 85-90 pitch count limit going in but not only is he a guy that’s going to be excited to get back on the mound but I think he is going to have a game that he’ll keep in check and give us an opportunity to win and this is just in his first outing. Where he grows from this point in terms of performance, we all feel confident he’s going to be a successful pitcher for us.
I was looking at the current situation with a potential of six starters, obviously with Daisuke’s transaction bringing us back to five, but we were also in a stretch of the season where we have four consecutive off day’s on Monday and then when you get into the addition of six men you’re into seven and possibility eight days on occasion for a starting pitcher on the rotation. When you get into that amount of time in between starts it has, well the positive effects are that you are controlling the innings and giving ample rest and recover time but the downside of that is that when you get past the sixth day, when you’re pitching on the seventh, eighth or beyond I think it begins to affect the touch and the feel of secondary pitches that are important to each guy when they take the mound. it’s overwhelmingly, from a physical standpoint a good thing, but from a performance standpoint you look to put in two bullpens if it’s an eight-day rotation, a guy’s probably got to get to the mound twice in between starts to keep that touch and feel , so there’s a view that this is good for the protection of the pitchers but still we’re out to win every night and you try to optimize both in this case.
On Jonathan Papelbon’s season:
I think he’s doing an excellent job. The one thing Jonathon has done is set an extremely high standard of performance. There have been reports that when he doesn’t have the same amount of swing and miss to his fastball the questions start to come up about what is wrong and here is a guy who has executed and been successful in all his save opportunities except one and yet what he’s incorporating is his delivery of 2007 which allows him to use his body and his legs more consistently in generating his velocity. What we’ve seen is his velocity is at the higher end of the normal range for him so he’s bringing in 95-96 to the mound much more frequently than he did a year ago. Some of these adjustments are natural over time. He made the adjustment in 2008 to respond to some tipping of pitches, particularly one pitch. So to combat that we developed a little bit of a different delivery to allow his hands to ride up with his knee a little bit more consistently. That has been taken away this year going back to the 2007 delivery with his hands pretty much preset with his hands right next to his shoulder, his leg up to his glove now. We’re fortunate to have Jonathan not only because of his competitiveness but because of his ability to save games the way he does.
From our angle in the dugout for a right handed pitcher we’re seeing their pitches back when they’re in the stretch position so it can be a little difficult in real time as the game is going on to detect this. What begins to emerge is that you watch the hitter’s reaction. If certain pitches are thrown it’s the secondary pitches particularly in most pitcher’s cases the breaking ball, the split finger. When a hitter takes it without any kind of offering or they don’t even flinch it begins to pique your interest. Something was detected even before that pitch was thrown if they don’t even offer for it. Particularly in the case of Jonathan if he’s throwing in the mid-nineties a hitter has got to start his swing much earlier than with a guy that is throwing in the mid-eighties. When they don’t even offer at a secondary type pitch then we begin to look a little deeper into it. It can be a fanning of the glove, hand position on the body that pitchers will subconsciously get into and its just habit. We look for ways to disguise that habit and look for ways to make every pitch look the same coming out of the hand.
|06.21.09 at 7:14 pm ET|
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and third baseman Chipper Jones were both ejected along with reliever Eric O’Flaherty for questioning a non-strike three call to J.D. Drew in the seventh inning of Boston’s 6-5 win over the Braves.
Drew singled in a run on the next pitch.
Afterward, Jones ripped home plate ump Bill Hohn, who ejected all three. “I don’t know why umpires have to be confrontational,” Jones said.”When he goes back and looks at the replay of the pitch, hopefully he can admit he missed the call.”
Jones stepped in to try and protect O’Flaherty, who was being relieved by Cox when he asked about the pitch to Drew. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.21.09 at 6:17 pm ET|
There Nick Green was. Running out of the batter’s box as he watched his fly ball sail down the right field line and curve just inside the Pesky Pole for a game-winning home run to lead the Red Sox over the Braves, 6-5, at Fenway Park.
Funny thing was, he didn’t realize that he had just won the game.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t realize what was going on,” Green said. “I didn’t even comprehend the fact that I swung at the first pitch and it was a walk-off. I just knew that we still had to hit.”
When did it hit home?
“When I hit second base and everybody is standing at home plate and then I realized what was going on,” Green said. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.21.09 at 3:44 pm ET|
“It’s the ballclub’s decision, but I also felt I couldn’t keep going the way I’d been going. I had to make some changes, so overall, I’m hoping its’ going to be a good thing and will work out.”
“I’m not sure at this point whether traveling with the team on next road tirp. Can’t say for sure.”
“I had some awareness of this going into the exam. Going in I could tell there was some weakness there.”
(On any regrets about playing in the WBC) “I have no regrets. I knew going in that this season I’d have to work hard at the WBC and throughout the regular season as well. That’s the mentality I had in offseason as I was ramping up.. Really it was my fault I wasn’t able to do that effectively. Have no intention of placing any blame on the WBC or using it as an excuse.”
(Problem in shoulder before? You bring up to team?) “Think that fatigue is something that happens to everybody. Not a direct cause of wanting to talk to coaching staff. Everyone feels fatigue, but coming out of my last start, I knew I had to talk to the coaches. I came off the mound that night, thought about it all night, wanted to start conversation with them. They wanted to meet with me.”
“Immediately after I can off the mound my thought was, ‘If I keep going like this, it’s just going to be a burden to this team. There was no way I was going to keep going like that. Tim passed, I kept thing about it, and it reached the point where I needed to approach the coaching staff and be prepared to say on my end to be taken out of the rotation. I had reached that point.”
“I’m not content or satisfied with the situation, but at the same time the depth of the staff gives me an opportunity to focus on myself 100 percent and work on what I need to do.”
|06.21.09 at 1:34 pm ET|
The last time Dusty Brown saw the inside of the Red Sox clubhouse at Fenway, it looked a lot different than it did on Sunday, when the catcher was called up to the majors for the first time in his career, taking the spot temporarily for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“It’s the first call-up,” the 27-year-old catcher said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s pretty good. The last time I was in here I think was the year I signed, 2001, and it was much smaller. I was expecting less, I guess. I was pretty impressed.”
Brown’s impact at Triple-A Pawtucket has come behind the plate. He has thrown out 28 percent (16-of-58) of attempted base stealers and leads all International League catchers in putouts (329) and total chances (359). Read the rest of this entry »
|06.21.09 at 12:58 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was about as clear as he could be on Sunday about the near future for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday’s game with the Braves.
“It was very obvious that we would have to D.L. him,” Francona said. “This is not going to be a two-week D.L. We have to figure this out. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get him back to being Daisuke.”
Matsuzaka was placed on the D.L. Sunday, with the club calling up catcher Dusty Brown to take his place, for the time being. John Smoltz is expected to take Brown’s spot when Smoltz starts Thursday against Washington. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.20.09 at 10:31 pm ET|
Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was examined on Saturday, and underwent an MRI to evaluate his right shoulder. Boston manager Terry Francona said that while there was no structural damage to the shoulder, the same weakness that has affected the pitcher throughout the season persists. Still, while Francona’s description of Matsuzaka’s condition made it seem likely that a trip to the disabled list will be necessary, the manager said that the team did not have an official move to announce.
“We don’t have anything official to announce because we really need to let this thing settled down,” said Francona. “I will say, I don’t think it’s any surprised, there’s some weakness that we’re going ot ahve to fix. By that, it’s going to have to be addressed, but there is no official announcement tonight.”
Francona met with Matsuzaka, G.M. Theo Epstein, pitching coach John Farrell, team physician Dr. Thomas Gill and trainers over the course of the day. He suggested that the team was unlikely to announce the next move with the pitcher until after Monday’s off-day. That delay reflects in part the fact that it is difficult, according to Francona, to get a good read on a pitcher’s health the day after a start. (Matsuzaka allowed six runs in four innings on Friday.)
That said, the manager painted the portrait of an issue that has been ongoing, and that continues to limit the pitcher’s effectiveness.
“We’ve been fighting this (shoulder weakness) all year. It’s been hard, and I know that I keep coming back to the (World Baseball Classic), and that’s probably not a real popular thing in baseball to say that, but (Matsuzaka) didn’t have a chance to get a foundation (for his arm strength),” said Francona. “You’re ramped up to try to get people out probably before he was ready. Physically it’s happened to pitchers where they’re pitching in earnest before their bodies or arms are ready to do that, and I think we paid the price for that.
“We’ve been playing catch-up,” Francona continued. “We did what we thought was right to shut him down earlier (this year, when he went on the disabled list in April). I think we all see that it’s not really getting strong or better. It’s been a struggle so we’re trying to address that.”
|06.20.09 at 9:24 pm ET|
Jonathan Papelbon was warming in the ninth, but Josh Beckett seemed to have no intention of turning the game over to anyone. He retired the Braves in the ninth on just five pitches to finish a complete-game shutout and 3-0 win in just 94 pitches. It was Beckett’s first shutout as a member of the Red Sox, and the third or his career. It was also Beckett’s first complete-game of the 2009 season.
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