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Beckett: Shoulder, contract not concerns

03.30.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking after his Tuesday morning workout at City of Palms Park, Josh Beckett said that he has not heard from his agent, Michael Moye, that any agreement on a contract extension is imminent. The Red Sox‘ Opening Day pitcher explained that he has put a system in place throughout negotiations that doesn’t allow Moye to weigh the hurler down with information regarding talks unless information is needed or a deal is imminent.

Beckett said as of Tuesday early afternoon he was unaware of many of the specifics cited in an ESPN report stated a deal might be a nearing, or other reports that the suggest the Sox have offered the hurler a four-year deal and that the team was wary of offering a fifth year due to concerns regarding his right shoulder.

“It forces me not to speculate. I let other people speculate. I don’t speculate. I go off of what I know and I don’t know anything,” Beckett said. “I move forward with today.

“(The contract negotiations) really haven’t entered my mind at all. I’m not too concerned with it. If it’s meant to be and the Red Sox want me to be here then I’ll stay here because I enjoy playing in Boston. Playing in front of those fans. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. They do everything they can to make us successful as possible and I don’t think there are a whole lot of organizations that do that. It’s not a knock on them, but it’s a testament to how the Red Sox treat their players.”

As for the shoulder, Beckett explained that the only time his performance on the field has been affected by the body part was back in 2000 when Dr. James Andrews instructed the then-20-year-old not to have labrum surgery after another medical team had recommended an operation. The most recent sign that Beckett’s shoulder is holding up came last month when he passed both the team’s and an insurance company’s physicals on the way to getting a policy he was denied following the 2005 season.

“It’s a non-issue for me as far as my shoulder goes,” he said. “It’s not something that I lay in bed and worry about. I’m very blessed to have already pitched eight years in the big leagues and here I am going into my ninth full season. Yeah, I’ve had some bumps in the road with my shoulder but I only remember one bump in the road that caused me to miss significant time with my shoulder and that was in the minor leagues.

“As far as my shoulder goes I think I’m in a good spot with the way I prepare myself to where I know I’ve done the work that not only helps me be successful on the mound, but also be successful in staying healthy with my shoulder. If you go up and down this row of lockers, everybody in here that pitches, they’ve all got nicks in their shoulders and elbows. It’s part of the business. What you’re looking for is try to get a basis. You do an MRI every other year of some sort to see if there are some changes, and for me I don’t think that there are many changes since 2000.”

For more on Beckett’s thoughts on his shoulder and contract click here.

What Happened with the Red Sox: Monday

03.30.10 at 9:59 am ET
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With Opening Day now less than a week away, the roster decisions are crystallizing. The biggest variable in determining who will be ready to play in the majors come April 4 is health, as the Red Sox try to wade through who is in position to help the big league club for the start of the season and who will need additional work.

Arguably, the decision is more complex with Mike Lowell than it is with any other member of the club. Even the player had little opinion about whether — after entering last night’s game against the Rays with just 10 plate appearances this spring — he would be ready at the start of the year, though he did note that his status as a reserve could diminish the gravitas of that determination.

‘€œI don’€™t know what they think are quality at-bats. Maybe yes, maybe no. I honestly have no idea. I don’€™t know what they feel is adequate or not. It’€™s the organization’€™s call, not mine,’€ Lowell said. ‘€œTo go to Boston to not play? Same thing, right? If I go it’€™s not like I’€™m going to play right away and if I don’€™t go it’€™s not like I’€™m not going to play right away. I’€™m not playing either way, so it’€™s all up to them.’€

For more on Lowell’s uncertainty about his future, click here.

Josh Beckett has no such questions about where he’ll be on Opening Day: he’ll be starting the first game of the season for the Sox for the second straight year. The picture is slightly less clear for Opening Day in 2011, since Beckett is a free agent after this year. After a strong final spring tuneup against the Rays, he still had little to say about contract negotiations with the club, amidst reports that the Sox were unwilling to offer him a deal of more than four years.

Daisuke Matsuzaka knows that he won’t be pitching the Red Sox’ season opener. But he could be taking the mound at McCoy Stadium as the Opening Day pitcher for the PawSox this year. He threw a 62-pitch simulated outing on Monday, striking out seven of the 15 Red Sox Single-A hitters he faced, and he will next pitch on Saturday, following Tim Wakefield to the mound in an exhibition game in Washington, DC. Pitching coach John Farrell suggested that Matsuzaka is showing steady improvement in his spring outings. His fastball was 89-91 mph on Monday.

The back of the Sox’ Opening Day bullpen took little definition, aside from the revelation that Boof Bonser likely won’t be ready to be a part of it. Bonser, like Matsuzaka, threw a simulated outing on Monday, and he will not travel with the Sox to Washington on Saturday, instead remaining in Fort Myers to throw a minor league game. While he was slowed somewhat by groin stiffness last week, Farrell pointed out that the right-hander is also still in the early stages of rebuilding arm strength after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder 13 months ago.

Meanwhile, both Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree had poor outings on Monday night against the Rays, and Joe Nelson issued a walk in his third of an inning. Manny Delcarmen, meanwhile, continues to work through his delivery issues that have diminished the power that he generates on the mound, as he joined Matsuzaka and Bonser at the Sox’ minor league training facility on Monday.

Junichi Tazawa was not expected to help the Sox on Opening Day, but he did represent one of the Sox’ primary Triple-A depth options should a starter be needed. However, Tazawa may not be available for such a role for some time, pending the outcome of his visit to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham. He has been dealing with tightness in his elbow since last season, according to Farrell, resulting in the visit to Alabama. Scouts this spring had wondered about Tazawa’s diminished velocity and inability to work effectively down in the strike zone.

Fenway Park will make the Opening Day roster, and Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino detailed the upgrades to the 98-year-old ballpark on Monday. Of course, Lucchino seemed somewhat caught off guard upon finding out that one fan’s seats may have been moved to a less desirable position following the renovations. That fan? Mayor Thomas Menino.

Read More: Alan Embree, Boof Bonser, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Fenway Park

Tazawa reports problem with ‘a ligament’

03.30.10 at 9:30 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pitcher Junichi Tazawa said Tuesday morning that his visit to Dr. James Andrews determined that there is a problem with a ligament in his right elbow. The Red Sox had decided to send Tazawa to Andrews’ Birmingham, Ala. office to be examined after a tightness in his elbow, which he reports to have experienced dating back to his time in Japan, persisted throughout spring training.

“I can still throw so I don’t feel that terrible, but at the same time I’ve had an examination and there seems there is some injury to a ligament,” said Tazawa through translator Masa Hoshino, saying that while there is no plan set out right now surgery is “to be part of the discussion.”

“When I was playing in Japan I had a tendency of getting a little bit of tightness in my elbow and I think this was sort of an extension of the same thing. When I experienced this spring I mentioned that to the training staff and we collectively decided to have the doctor take a look at it.

“I think for me the tightness I was experiencing was fairly normal and what I was used to, so if it was completely up to me I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead and gotten the exam. At the same it’s an opportunity to find out what exactly is going on and exactly what the reasons are.”

Tazawa last pitched March 22 against Tampa Bay when he allowed four runs on four hits over one inning. The 23-year-old had appeared in five games this spring, giving up eight runs on 10 hits over seven innings.

Tazawa had impressed the Red Sox early on in camp after showing a remarkable amount of poise when called up to the big league club last August. The righty pitcher, who came to the Sox from a Japanese industrial league team, appeared in six games with the Red Sox in ‘€˜09, making four starts and finishing with a 2-3 mark and a 7.46 ERA. His first major league outing came on Aug. 7 when was called upon to pitch the 14th inning against New York at Yankee Stadium.

“He’s been dealing with some discomfort, some tightness, in the second half of last year,” Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell explained Monday. “He went through a normal offseason, didn’t have any issues, came into spring training, went through every outlined throwing session that we had and there were varying degrees of tightness or discomfort at different points this spring. And then in games his velocity was not quite where it was in the past and his breaking stuff was not as sharp. And even in his last bullpen he felt there was a little bit of tightness. I wouldn’t say it was further, or getting worse, but precautionary we wanted to send him to see Andrews and get that evaluation.”

Bullpen picture not much clearer

03.29.10 at 11:14 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — One of the focal points of the Red Sox‘ spring training meeting with the Rays Monday night at City of Palms Park centered around the performances of newly-acquired lefty relievers Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree.

Both have opt-out clauses that allow them to become free agents on April 15 if they aren’t on the Red Sox’ 25-man roster, and both were slated to use the game against Tampa Bay as a stepping stone to making sure that provision didn’t have to be enacted. But neither Schoeneweis nor Embree were able to take a step forward in their attempts to carve out a spot in the Sox’ bullpen.

Schoeneweis, who, unlike Embree, had virtually a complete spring training under his belt because of his time with the Brewers, allowed two runs on two hits while walking a pair and striking out two in 2/3 innings.

After a 1/3-inning from Joe Nelson (one walk) Embree came on and struggled as well. The 40-year-old lefty surrendered four runs on two hits and two walks over 2/3 innings.

“I thought he was a little too amped up. He had a week off and the ball was moving all over the place, but not necessarily in the strike zone,” Francona said of Schoeneweis. “He got the first two hitters struck out and then things kind of got away from us a little bit. Alan just didn’t command very well, from the very first pitch. He was up, down. So we’ve got some things to work on.”

Both Schoeneweis and Embree are scheduled to pitch again Wednesday. With Boof Bonser most likely ready to start the season on the disabled list, it would appear there are two spots to be had of a group consisting of the two lefties, Nelson, and Scott Atchison.

“It was frustrating,” Embree said. “I expected better results than that and it didn’t happen. It just makes me want to go back out there for next time.”

Beckett still not talking contract

03.29.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Following his six-inning outing against the Rays Monday night at City of Palms Park, in which he surrendered three runs (2 earned), Josh Beckett refused to address any contract-related items. ‘No, I don’t have anything right now,” he said when asked if the pitcher wanted to address anything regarding his contract talks with six days left until Opening Day. An ESPN.com report stated Sunday that the Red Sox were unwilling to go beyond four years when talking extension with Beckett, whose contract with the Red Sox runs out at the end of the 2010 season.

Pitching in his final spring training game before making the Opening Day start for the Red Sox, Sunday, Beckett threw 94 pitches, striking out eight and walking one while allowing six hits. The righty allowed two home runs, to Evan Longoria and Nevin Ashley, respectively. Beckett’s next outing will come at Fenway Park against the Yankees, Sunday night. He left with the Sox trailing Tampa Bay, 3-0.

“You want to progressively get better. I felt like I did that,” Beckett said. “Obviously I had 10 or 14 days there where I didn’t feel too good (due to sickness). For me to bounce back after that and come out here and get my pitches in and be where I need to be … like I said, it was kind of haunting me a little bit there for a while because I was worried about falling too far behind. The training staff and the doctors and everything did the best they could and that’s probably why I’m here.”

Beckett, who was especially pleased with the progress of his changeup, said he was not concerned about facing an American League East division rival in spring training.

“Even during spring training you’ve got competitive spirits and you’re trying to get guys out,” Beckett said. “Sometimes your game-plan maybe is a little bit over-exposed or whatever, but it’s just one more time that you have to make adjustments with guys during the season, especially as many times as we play Tampa and them being a good team.”

Farrell explains timeline of Tazawa injury

03.29.10 at 5:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell explained the timeline of the problem with Junichi Tazawa’s elbow that ultimately led him to be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Monday.

“He’s been dealing with some discomfort, some tightness, in the second half of last year,” Farrell explained. “He went through a normal offseason, didn’t have any issues, came into spring training, went through every outlined throwing session that we had and there were varying degrees of tightness or discomfort at different points this spring. And then in games his velocity was not quite where it was in the past and his breaking stuff was not as sharp. And even in his last bullpen he felt there was a little bit of tightness. I wouldn’t say it was further, or getting worse, but precautionary we wanted to send him to see Andrews and get that evaluation.”

The Red Sox hadn’t heard any reports back regarding Tazawa, who was slated to return to the team Monday night.

What’s up next for Daisuke

03.29.10 at 5:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka had what he defined as a productive day.

“I think compared to my last outing I felt like I was able to get more on every pitch more consistently and I definitely think it was a step forward,” the Red Sox pitcher said through translator Masa Hoshino.

The positive signs emanated from a 62-pitch simulated game Matsuzaka appeared in, during which he faced 15 minor-league batters, striking out seven of them. His fastball sat between 89-91 mph.

Even though the opposition was Single A hitters (Peter Hissey, Anthony Rizzo, Mitch Dening, Ryan Dent, Aaron Reza, Oscar Tejada, Jonathan Hee, Shannon Wilkerson, and Will Middlebrooks), the performance was a notch above Matsuzaka’s last appearance, in which he surrendered a run on two hits against Florida last Thursday.

‘€œGood intensity. With each outing, we’€™re seeing his arm strength improve or increase based on the sharpness of his breaking stuff,” said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. “As far as fastball velocity, today was consistent with the first outing he had down here in an intrasquad game. Typical, the second outing wasn’€™t as powerful but today, he regained that level of velocity. Again, that’€™s not everything that we’€™re measuring things on. It’€™s the overall pitch assortment, the overall command. Just his intensity and looseness in his delivery, today was a solid 60-pithc work day for him.’€

The plan for Matsuzaka is to now have him come in after Tim Wakefield in the Red Sox’ exhibition game against the Nationals in Washington, D.C. After that the location of his next appearance may depend on weather conditions, although there is a possibility he could start the season opener for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox on April 8.

‘€œIdeally we’€™d be able to do it at an affiliate where we’€™re able to get more of an atmosphere and other adrenaline-type things to have to contend with and control,” Farrell said. “The speed of the game is going to be much greater at that one of those affiliates rather than down here. We haven’€™t set out  the exact sites that he would be pitching at but we’€™ve approached this progression pretty much step by step. Today was another good step.”

Tazawa meets with Dr. Andrews about elbow

03.29.10 at 4:56 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox pitcher Junichi Tazawa is in Birmingham, Ala. visiting with Dr. James Andrews regarding his right elbow. There were no further details released by the team at this time. Tazawa last pitched March 22 against Tampa Bay when he allowed four runs on four hits over one inning. The 23-year-old had appeared in five games this spring, giving up eight runs on 10 hits over seven innings.

Tazawa had impressed the Red Sox early on in camp after showing a remarkable amount of poise when called up to the big league club last August. The righty pitcher, who came to the Sox from a Japanese industrial league team, appeared in six games with the Red Sox in ’09, making four starts and finishing with a 2-3 mark and a 7.46 ERA. His first major league outing came on Aug. 7 when was called upon to pitch the 14th inning against New York at Yankee Stadium.

Great park, Larry, but about those seats …

03.29.10 at 3:22 pm ET
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Boston Mayor Tom Menino was very impressed with the ninth edition of improvements to Fenway Park upon completion of his now-annual spring pre-opening day inspection.

With one minor exception.

Menino, like any season-ticket holder, partial or full, would like to keep his seats where they are when he renews every season. Well, turns out his seats were moved in the offseason and he was checking them out for the first time.

They are not in an ideal spot because of some of the improvements. He has been moved down the third base grandstand, more toward left field, and his seats sit behind a supporting beam.

“Where did they move my seats to? They moved my seats,” Menino said, much to the surprise of Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino.

“Your seats are in the same area they’ve always been,” Lucchino chimed in.

“No they’re not,” replied Menino in a serious tone.

“You can’t be serious,” Lucchino said.

“I’m very serious,” Menino answered without hesitation.

“Well, let’s hope they’re better located,” Lucchino joked.

“I’m going to start looking. Might have to close it down if they’re not,” said an equally sharp-witted Menino.

But Menino has to like what the Red Sox have done with now more than $140 million over the last nine winters. They’ve added nearly six thousand seats, opened up grand concourses in all areas of the park, added seats atop the Green Monster, added suites behind home plate and the first- and third-base lines and remade much of the infrastructure such as the public restrooms and clubhouses.

Just one more winter remains of work before the Red Sox prepare for their centennial season at Fenway in 2012.

‘€œThe ownership has done a great job over the last several years,’€ Menino said. ‘€œUp until this past year, they spent $140 million of their own money on the improvements to the ballpark. It’€™s a cleaner ballpark, it’€™s a more fan-friendly ballpark than it’€™s ever been. I want to thank the Red Sox for really caring about this part of our city in so many different ways and working with different community groups in the Fenway area.

‘€œWe’€™re tough on the inspections, too,’€ Menino added.

‘€œThe fan improvements are perhaps less sexy than some in the past but very appealing to our fans,’€ Lucchino said. ‘€œWe’€™ve got better circulation within the ballpark, more stairways and other things to make moving around in the ballpark easier. We’€™ve got more bathroom fixtures and facilities, which I think has been a problem in the past.

‘€œThis American icon that once was cramped and congested now has more seats and spaces, wide open concourses, new and improved facilities and many more food and beverage options for our fans. Leading up to its 100th Anniversary in 2012, our focus has been always to improve and expand the physical structure without disturbing the warmth, charm and authenticity that surrounds this ballpark,’€ Lucchino said.

The concrete in the lower left field seating bowl, originally constructed in 1933-34, has been repaired and waterproofed. As part of this project, the dugout seats, field box seats and loge box seats have been replaced with new seats and now contain cup-holders.

All dugout seats and field box seats in these areas also will have cushioned seats. In the left field grandstand area, the original blue wooden seats (only wooden seats left in Major League Baseball) have been refurbished and fitted with self-rising mechanisms that enable the seat to retract automatically once a fan stands up.

This will allow for more room in the seating rows and improved mobility for fans entering or exiting the rows. Additionally, a new row of grandstand seats has been added to the back of grandstand sections 29, 30 and 31.

Read More: Fenway Park, Larry Lucchino, Mayor Tom Menino, MLB

Lowell doesn’t know what future will bring

03.29.10 at 3:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell is the Red Sox‘ lineup Monday night against Tampa Bay. That much he knows. After that, he said it’s anybody’s guess.

Lowell says he still has no clue as to the organization’s thinking when it comes to bringing him with the team for the start of the regular season. Heading into the game with the Rays he has 10 at-bats this spring training, thanks in part to the knee injury he suffered Friday that took him out of the lineup over the weekend.

Does he think the 15-day disabled list is a likelihood?

“I don’t know what they think are quality at-bats. Maybe yes, maybe no. I honestly have no idea. I don’t know what they feel is adequate or not. It’s the organization’s call, not mine,” Lowell said. “To go to Boston to not play? Same thing, right? If I go it’s not like I’m going to play right away and if I don’t go it’s not like I’m not going to play right away. I’m not playing either way, so it’s all up to them.”

Lowell said his knee felt appreciably better after feeling some concern immediately after fouling the Brett Cecil pitch off just below the kneecap. Against Tampa Bay, he is hitting sixth and playing third base, where he has played just six innings this spring.

“I’m going to get a bunch at-bats this week. I think then I’ll be able to make a better assessment,” said Lowell. “A lot of times it just clicks. You see the ball for a couple of good swings and you’re right where you want to be. I’ve never had a spring with 10 at-bats going into the last five days. I wanted those at-bats. That’s why the knee thing sucked because I was hoping to get a lot of at-bats. I couldn’t have picked two worse days to miss.”

Read More: mike lowell,
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