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Red Sox Draft Rounds 11-20: Tall, Taller, Tallest

06.11.09 at 6:15 am ET
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Apparently, the Red Sox have had enough of the Dustin Pedroias of the world. Or at least it seemed that way for the team’s second 10 picks of the 2009 draft, when the Sox selected a bunch of players who could form a pretty formidable basketball team.

After leaning towards prep position prospects with four of their first 10 picks of the draft, the Sox veered towards collegiate players and pitchers with picks 11-20. The demographic breakdown was:

4 college pitchers

3 college position players (1 catcher)

2 high school pitchers

1 high school position player

There was a common theme. Namely, the players taken were very, very tall. In fact, from picks 15-20, the Sox selected six straight pitchers (including Daniel Bard’s brother, Luke), each of whom is listed at 6-foot-3 or taller.

Here’s the breakdown:

11th round: Jason Thompson – Shortstop, Germantown (TN) HS, 18 years old

The slender (180 pounds) switch-hitting shortstop was an Aflac All-American player last summer, and is described as a five-tool talent with across-the-board skills that project well. He has a commitment to the University of Louisville, and told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that he’s undecided about whether to go to college or turn pro.

12th round: Michael Thomas – Catcher, Southern University A&M, 20 years old

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Thomas is an absolutely colossal target behind the plate. He suffered a broken hand earlier this year. Reports suggest that he is a very good defensive catcher with a rocket arm.

13th round: Christopher McGuinness – 1st baseman, The Citadel, 21 years old

McGuinness exhibited power and patience at The Citadel, hitting 15 homers as a junior while leading the country with 65 walks and forging a .520 OBP (12th in Division 1 ball).

14th round: William Holmes – Outfielder, Chaffey College, 21 years old

If you can read the tiny print detailing the statistics from the Foothill Athletic Conference, you can see that Holmes was a power-hitter with a good average (.379), OBP (.453) and slugging mark (.662) to go along with his nine homers. Insofar as the Chaffey College website describes him as an outfielder and DH, and he had but one steal in two attempts this year, one presumes that he is not the most athletic player selected by the Sox this year.

15th round: Michael Bugary – Left-handed pitcher, UC-Berkeley, 21 years old (6-foot-4)

Thus begins the run on mound giants. Injured for most of the past two years, Bugary returned to the mound for Berkeley and struck out a whopping 82 batters in 66 innings, perhaps because no one knew where the ball was going: Bugary also walked 51. (For his college profile, click here.)

16th round: Luke Bard – Right-handed pitcher, Charlotte Christian School (NC), 18 years old (6-foot-3)

You might have heard of Luke’s brother, Daniel, currently a reliever for the Sox who delivered his first big-league pitches of 100 mph on Tuesday. Here’s Daniel’s scouting report on his brother, who would likely require a considerable bonus to skip college and turn pro:

“(The Sox) really liked him. I talked to (amateur scouting director Jason McLeod) about him a couple times this spring. They said they saw him three or four times and that they really liked him,” said Daniel Bard. “He’s pretty similar (to where Dan Bard was when graduating high school). Velocity-wise, he’s pretty similar. He’s a little bit shorter, like an inch shorter. He’s really athletic. He’s a football player, a quarterback, so he’s a little beefier than me at the same age.”

Luke Bard — who was playing golf when he learned that he’d been drafted — has a scholarship offer from Georgia Tech, and as of now, the younger Bard anticipates fulfilling it.

“He’s not going to sign for 16th round money,” said Daniel Bard. “It depends on how much they like him and how much they think he’s worth. Then he’d have to decide. (Signing) probably wouldn’t happen until later in the summer.”

Regardless of what happens, the big brother expressed a note of pleasure.

“It’s really cool,” said Daniel Bard. “Regardless of what happens, whether he signs or not, it’s still pretty cool.”

17th round: Kraig Sitton – Left-handed pitcher, Oregon State University, 21 years old (6-foot-3)

In two years at Jacoby Ellsbury’s alma mater, the draft-eligible sophomore (Sitton was red-shirted as a freshman) has struck out more than a batter an inning while forging a 3.97 ERA, mostly in relief. According to The Oregonian, after dropping due to signability issues, Sitton is leaning towards returning to OSU.

18th round: Reynolds “Renny” Parthemore – Right-handed pitcher, Cedar Cliff High School (PA), 18 years old (6-foot-5)

He’s tall, athletic (he’s lettered in hoops, soccer, football as well as baseball) and throws pretty hard, with a low-90s fastball. He has signed a letter of intent to pitch at Penn State. Somehow, Parthemore seemed to strike a complimentary note when he suggested that the Sox handle high school pitchers like “fresh meat” in an interview with the Patriot-News.

19th round: Thomas Ebert - Right-handed pitcher, Florida International University, 21 years old (6-foot-6)

Ebert had an 84-18 strikeout to walk ratio while pitching for Mike Lowell’s alma mater this year.

20th round: Alexander Hassan – Right-handed pitcher, Duke University, 21 years old (6-foot-3)

Hassan, a native of Milton, Mass., is tied for the Blue Devils‘ career saves record. He played both outfield and pitched in college, but the Sox drafted him as a pitcher. The junior struck out 34 in 26.1 innings while holding opponents to a .228 average in 2009.

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Tough Tex

06.11.09 at 12:45 am ET
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‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’ were the words that President Theodore Roosevelt made famous and lived by.

After watching Mark Teixeira on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, there’ s no doubting he carries a big stick but his words following the seventh straight loss to the Red Sox this season spoke volumes about the kind of leader he could become.

“We just have to pick it up,” Teixeira said. “We can’t just throw out gloves out there and expect to win. I’m not saying anyone’s thinking that but it shows. We have to go out there and play well because a team like the Red Sox aren’t going to go out there and give us any wins.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Papelbon, Sox Close It Out

06.10.09 at 10:34 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon, whom manager Terry Francona said was suffering from a terrible bout of food poisoning that nearly sent him to the hospital and had him falling asleep in the bullpen dugout on Tuesday, was summoned for the ninth inning to preserve a one-run lead. The Red Sox closer gave up a one-out walk to Alex Rodriguez, and pinch runner Ramiro Pena stole second with one out. But Papelbon struck out Robinson Cano and then retired Jorge Posada on a warning-track fly ball that fell just short of the Wall as the Red Sox put away a 6-5 win over the Yankees.

Tim Wakefield (8-3) takes the win in a game when both Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell hit their 10th homers of the year.

Okajima sprints away from trouble

06.10.09 at 10:13 pm ET
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Hideki Okajima‘s scoreless innings streak may have ended at 16.1 on Sunday, when he gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz, but his run of mastery remains uninterrupted. Okajima proved enormous against the Yankees tonight, striking out Hideki Matsui after coming in with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the seventh, and then after putting a runner on second with one out in the eighth, striking out both Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon to preserve the Red Sox‘ one-run lead.

On Sunday, manager Terry Francona said that the key to Okajima’s remarkable run has been nothing more than command. His high-80s fastball still stands no more than a 50-50 chance of breaking a window pane, but he locates the pitch so precisely that he owns the complete trust of his manager.

Before the year, it seemed as if Okajima might get pushed down the totem pole in the bullpen thanks to the emergence of Justin Masterson and the signing of free-agent Takashi Saito. Instead, he has once again – at least for now – re-established himself as the key (and often final) piece of the bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon.

On top of it all, his running speed to and from the mound seems to have increased greatly thanks to his participation in the Honolulu Marathon this offseason. Okajima never breaks stride either on his run from the bullpen to the infield grass, or from the mound to the dugout. He may have the best on-field running pace of any pitcher since Craig Lefferts. In case you forgot, Okajima was thrilled to have run his 26.2 miles in six-plus hours, but has no ambitions of running the Boston Marathon.

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Ramon Ramirez gets tagged

06.10.09 at 9:45 pm ET
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For the most part, Red Sox right-hander Ramon Ramirez has been overpowering this year. He had held opposing hitters to a .151 average this year, and left-handers had just a .116 average against him.

But on Wednesday, he turned in his worst outing of the year. After giving up just one homer in his first 28.1 innings this year, he was taken deep back-to-back by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira to open the seventh inning. He came back to strike out a pair before allowing a hard-hit Jorge Posada single that ended his night. Ramirez was bailed out by Hideki Okajima, who came on with two outs and struck out Hideki Matsui to end the inning.

For Ramirez, the outing matched his worst of the year — a May 30 effort in which he also allowed three hits and two runs while recording just two outs. The Sox are now clinging to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh.

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Quality, thy name is Wakefield

06.10.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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The standards for a quality start are hardly unreasonable: at least 6 innings pitched, no more than 3 runs. By definiton, the quality start is one in which the pitcher has a 4.50 ERA or better while logging a sufficient number of innings to give his team a fightin’ chance to win.

Tim Wakefield entered today with a 7-3 record (the Sox are 8-3 in his starts entering tonight) and 4.50 ERA. Tonight against the Yankees, he left that number unaltered, going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits. He has now produced quality starts in eight of his 12 outings this year, second on the Sox only to the nine quality starts turned in by Josh Beckett.

Quite simply, Wakefield has given the Sox everything that they could have hoped for in the vast majority of his outings, including tonight, when he handed his bullpen a 6-3 lead after six innings.

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Kevin Youkilis goes oppo

06.10.09 at 9:00 pm ET
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After the Yankees scratched across a run in the top of the fourth against Sox starter Tim Wakefield, Kevin Youkilis tacked on a pair of runs in support of his compatriot, smashing a two-run shot into the Boston bullpen in right-center off of reliever Phil Hughes. The homer was the 10th of the year for Youkilis, a number that is somewhat more impressive considering his 15-day spell on the D.L.

The first baseman now has 10 homers in his 45 games played this year. If Youkilis is able to maintain such a pace while staying healthy over the remaining 103 games (after tonight) of the season, he would finish the year with 33 homers.

The fact that he is hitting homers to right-center at Fenway Park, of all places, is a testament both to Youkilis’ tremendous strength (it is debatable whether he or Jason Varitek is the strongest player on the team) and to his ongoing improvement and evolution as a hitter.

According to baseball-reference.com, Youkilis had only hit two homers to right at Fenway in his career, and both had been Pesky Pole shots. This one was a blast to left-center that created a crater in the middle of the Sox bullpen, a legitimate shot to the opposite field, a place where — even last year — Youkilis proved incapable of reaching.

Though the Yankees scratched out another run (thanks to the continued Mark Teixeira Show: the switch-hitter, who is batting right-handed against Wakefield’s knuckleballs, is 3-for-3 with two doubles and a single off the Wall) in the top of the fifth, the Sox still lead, 6-3, entering the bottom of the fifth.

Read More: Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira,

Wang done, Yankees torch their bullpen

06.10.09 at 8:23 pm ET
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Before Wednesday’s game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi expressed his hope that starter Chien-Ming Wang could make it through 80-85 pitches and about six innings. Wang nearly fulfilled the first vision, but came nowhere near the second.

Wang labored through 69 pitches, lasting just 2.2 innings. It’s the second straight night in which a Yankees starter has failed to make it through three innings, following a 2.2 inning outing by A.J. Burnett on Tuesday. Wang allowed four runs and six hits while walking three in his abbreviated outing. Several of the hits were of the hard variety, foremost run-scoring doubles in the second inning by George Kottaras and Dustin Pedroia, and a solo homer that Mike Lowell lined off of the shelf atop the Green Monster for a homer to lead off the third.

Wang now has a 21.60 ERA in five starts this year. Incredibly, this was his second longest start of the year. Given that he was quite effective in three long relief appearances (2.25 ERA in eight innings), the Yankees may be forced to consider moving him to the bullpen and bringing Phil Hughes back to the rotation.

Hughes entered for Wang and stranded a runner by striking out George Kottaras. After three innings, the Red Sox are up, 4-1.

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And Jason Bay Goes Cha-Ching

06.10.09 at 7:37 pm ET
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Unlike Johnny Damon, Jason Bay has proved rather unmoved by playing at home or on the road. He is hitting .274 with a .402 OBP and .991 OPS at Fenway, and .282 / .406 / 1.024 away from the friendly confines.

But the timing of his greatest successes this year, both at home and on the road, has been well-nigh impeccable. In particular, Bay’s ability to decimate the Yankees (he is hitting .545 against them with three homers and 11 RBIs) has been virtually inspired.

“He’s been a Yankee killer,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before today’s game.

The elements are familiar: Bay is a free agent after this year. He has been a dynamo with the Red Sox, and last year showed an extraordinary ability to remain unperturbed by the potential upheaval of a mid-year trade in which he replaced Manny Ramirez. As such, any team that is interested in acquiring Bay’s services can have confidence in his ability to seamlessly integrate himself into a new clubhouse, city and environment.

“He’d fit in anywhere,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

Damon and Hideki Matsui represent $26 million in free-agent money that could be coming off the Yankees’ books following this season. The Yankees should be in the market for a power-hitting outfielder. And every Yankees executive and every Yankees fan has seen Bay as nothing but a colossal wrecking ball, capable of decimating a pitching staff.

Tonight, Bay stepped to the plate with runners on first and second in the bottom of the first. He bounced a single through the left side on the infield and into left field to give the Sox a 1-0 advantage. And the drumbeat in New York suggested that the Yankees should make a run at a player whom the Sox would love to retain just grew a little louder.

Thanks to Bay’s single, the Red Sox are up, 1-0, after the first inning.

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Johnny Damon does not take his free-agent show on the road

06.10.09 at 7:26 pm ET
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You look at the numbers and marvel at the show that Johnny Damon is putting on as he prepares for free agency.

Damon is 35, but his numbers suggest that he is someone with plenty in the tank. He entered tonight hitting .294 with a .367 OBP — marks largely in line with his career totals — but with a shocking 12 homers and .908 OPS. Damon is threatening to break his career high in homers (24, accomplished in his first season with the Yankees in 2006) by the end of July. In some respects, the confluence of his mammoth season and impending free agency would seem to represent the perfect storm.

Only that the storm is taking place in one and only one city and ballpark. The new Yankee Stadium has seemed on some nights like the House George Built For Johnny. In his home park, Damon is hitting .315 with 9 homers and a 1.033 OPS. On the road, he is hitting .273 with a .319 OBP, 3 homers and a .783 OPS — respectable numbers (except for the on-base percentage), but not exactly the stuff on which multi-year contracts for a veteran corner outfielder is built.

Therein lies the rub. The Yankees’ new ballpark is puffing up the stats of its residents in such dramatic fashion that it might have a perverse effect — namely, much as was the case with Coors Field in Denver, it could end up devaluing the numbers of its residents because teams will simply assume that players like Damon are nothing more than a product of an incredibly hitter-friendly environment, in which every pop-up to left-field seems like a potential homer.

Facing Tim Wakefield in the first inning of tonight’s game between the Yankees and Red Sox, Damon rolled a weak grounder to first on the third pitch he saw. He is now hitting 4-for-17 this year at Fenway. One imagines that every out he has while outside of New York is costing him money.

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