|Your daily dose of Junichi Tazawa||03.16.09 at 10:26 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To say there wasn’t much going on among those not heading up to Dunedin for the Jed Lowrie-a-thon might be an understatement. A group of Red Sox regulars came, drank coffee, worked out, and ventured off into the 80-something-humidity-laden air of Edison Ave.
I learned that Jonathan Papelbon is on medication that helps his migraine, which he only had one of this offseason. I learned that Hideki Okajima isn’t trying anything new this spring training, isn’t comfortable in going through his third spring with the Red Sox but is used to it, and, in the words of the reliever (through translator Jeff Yamaguchi) isn’t “into” watching the World Baseball Classic. And I learned that one of Josh Beckett’s first athletic injuries came after he pulled a lat muscle setting his junior high discus-throwing record (putting a dent in his Little League season that year).
Something else I learned was that rookie Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa is … A. Surprised at how much major league hitters swing at balls in the strike zone; B. Isn’t used to the American baseballs, feeling some are slicker than others; and C. Bitter at his old team, Nippon Oil ENEOS.
OK, that last part was a bit of an overstatement, but Tazawa said through a translator that he was a bit befuddled after hearing the results of his team’s victory in its Industrial League Tournament, last weekend. Evidently, he had carried ENEOS to victory in the tourney by pitching a bevy of complete games with very little run support. This time around, the club numerous pitchers, all of whom were treated to plenty of runs.
“I made a call to my coach and he said batting-wise they hit very well. I asked why I didn’t get that kind of support,” joked the affable 23-year-old.
Thus far against major leaguers, Tazawa — who is most likely bound for Double A Portland — has allowed just one run on three hits over five innings in three games.
Another topic of conversation was regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka’s six-inning outing against Cuba Sunday, in which he didn’t allow a run while striking out eight. There was the predictable uneasiness from the Red Sox corner of the world regarding the 86 pitches Matsuzaka threw, as was evidenced in comments made by Sox manager Terry Francona to ESPN.com:
“Dice-K pitched a great game yesterday,” Francona said before the Red Sox’ game Monday with Toronto. “But he also threw six innings. We’ve had [Josh] Beckett here for a month, and he’s up to four. It just makes you nervous. That’s all. Not being critical of anybody. It just makes you nervous.”
Matsuzaka could throw up to 105 in his next WBC start, which is double of what he’d be tossing with the Red Sox if with the team.
As a quick aside, it is interesting to note the Red Sox’ approach toward scouting Matsuzaka during the last WBC, as spelled out by Sox GM Theo Epstein Sunday. Epstein said that the organization was quietly hoping Matsuzaka didn’t distinguish himself for Team Japan since the Red Sox didn’t want everybody else seeing the kind of talents the Sox were already sold on. (You might remember, Matsuzaka was named the MVP for the tournament that year.)
Besides the pitch count, one thing that stood out in Matsuzaka’s latest win over Cuba was the sharpness of his curveball. It is a pitch, ironically, he shelved for much of last season according to Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
“He didn’t throw his split or his curveball that much,” said Farrell in a Nov. 11, WEEI.com story on Matsuzaka. “He made his slider a little bit bigger and a little less powerful, so that was a pitch that gave him a little bit more separation in terms of velocity. And then he would use his cutter. But his two-seamer is what I think made the most strides for him.”
Something to keep an eye on.
|Will the other ace be here?||03.16.09 at 10:39 am ET|
Josh Beckett was obviously happy for Jon Lester.
“It’s great,” said Beckett regarding his rotation-mate’s new five-year, $30 million deal. “I always think the first contract gives you that security and after that it’s icing. Now he has security for the rest of his life. Now he sets himself up for one more good deal.”
Beckett’s security came in the form of a three-year, $30 million extension signed in 2006, the guaranteed portion of which runs out at the end of this year. There is a $12 million team option for ’10, which automatically kicks in if the righty makes 28 starts this year.
But looming is that “one more good deal” about which Beckett spoke. The question is whether or not the 28-year-old will be riding out that next contract alongside the newly secured Lester in a Red Sox uniform.
“This is basically the last year of my contract. I’m not concerned with it too much. We’ll have to wait and see,” Beckett said. “The ball’s not really in my court as far as being a Red Sox. That’s what I want to do, but it’s not in my court. I’ve got this year and hopefully next year with the option. We’ll either work something out before then, or we won’t.”
The Beckett contract could get tricky.
|Jon Lester’s Contract Terms||03.15.09 at 5:00 pm ET|
According to a major-league source, Jon Lester‘s five-year, $30 million deal breaks down as follows:
2009 – $1,000,000
2010 – $3,750,000
2011 – $5,750,000
2012 – $7,625,000
2013 – $11,625,000
2014 (club option) – $13,000,000
Buyout – $250,000
Lester’s contract follows fairly closely the four-year, $30 million deal (with a $13 million option) signed by Angels starter Ervin Santana. The value of Lester’s three arbitration years in the contract is $17.125 million, though that’s slightly misleading, since the $1 million that Lester will receive for the coming year (as a pre-arbitration-eligible pitcher) is substantially more than he would have received in a one-year deal.
Here are the potential incentives attached to the deal:
All Star game: $50,000
Cy Young Award: 1st place $100,000, 2nd place $75,000, 3rd place $50,000
MVP: 1st place $100,000, 2nd place $75,000, 3rd place $50,000
World Series MVP: $100,000
LCS MVP: $50,000
OPTING OUT OF THE OPTION
The contract also includes a unique voiding mechanism for the 2014 option in case Lester gets traded: if Lester finishes first or second in Cy Young Award voting in any guaranteed year of the contract (from 2009 through 2013), the 2014 club option will be voided if he is traded.
|More on Jason Bay talks||03.15.09 at 11:12 am ET|
Following the press conference to announce the Red Sox’ signing of Jon Lester to a five-year, $30 million deal with a team option for $13 million, Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that the team and Jason Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, have agreed to stop negotiations for the time being on a contract extension for Bay.
“We’ve had some talks but they weren’t really substantive, but recently we’ve had more substantive talks and it’s become clear because of the unusual marketplace that we’re not going to get anything done in spring training so we’re going to halt talks for now,” Epstein said. “Just table them. But both sides have committed to maintaining dialogue throughout the course of the season. I think there’s desire to get something done on both sides. There’s just a mutual recognition right now that it’s going to be next to impossible to get something done. It really boils down right now to the nature of the market. The market has changed so much from two years ago to this winter, or from a year ago to now and who knows where it’s going to be a year from now. So that unpredictability I think has created a landscape that’s difficult to navigate to get any extension done a year earlier. Both sides wanted it, so we tried. But both sides recognized it’s just too difficult to get it done right now.”
Following Epstein’s comments, Bay spoke on the matter in front of his locker.
“I don’t think anybody in my situation wants to play for six years and then you earn the right to be a free agent and on some levels sell yourself short, and that doesn’t mean there doesn’t have to be some concessions,” Bay said. “But you put yourself in this position and I think it’s in my best interest to kind of explore. Not to say we’re ever going to go that far, but I definitely want to make sure it’s the right fit.”
Regarding if he thinks the market for outfielders will take a turn toward becoming more profitable for the players, Bay said: “I don’t know. That’s the risk you take. Who knows if I’ll get that far to find out. There’s nothing I can do about the market. There’s nothing I can do if I’m a free agent at that time. That’s the reality that I’m in right now. That complicates it even more as far as looking over certain things. Like I said, if something comes up that makes some sense … I mean, you get to this position you don’t want to sell it short, but I also understand it’s a different time that it was three or four years ago.”
|Bay, Red Sox ‘table’ extension discussions||03.15.09 at 10:41 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that, after substantive conversations with outfielder Jason Bay (and his representatives) about the possibility of a contract extension this spring, the two sides have concluded that an agreement is not possible at this time. The Sox and Bay will disengage from discussions for the rest of the spring, though the two sides remain open to resuming conversations over the course of the season.
The reason for the inability to come to an agreement was a dramatically changing market for the services of power-hitting corner outfielders. This offseason, that market seemed to collapse, with players such as Pat Burrell (two years, $16 million), Adam Dunn (two years, $20 million) and Bobby Abreu (one year, $5 million) all getting much less than the market would have suggested in past offseasons.
Bay is entering the final year of a four-year, $18.25 million deal he signed with the Pirates before the 2006 season. He is due to receive $7.5 million for the coming year.
Bay, a career, .282 hitter with a .375 OBP and .516 OBP, performed almost exactly to those numbers with the Red Sox after being traded to Boston last July 31. The 30-year-old hit .293/.370/.527 with the Sox during the regular season, then hit .341/.471/.634 in the playoffs.
|Lugo to have knee scoped||03.15.09 at 9:08 am ET|
Speaking this morning at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Red Sox Terry Francona said that Julio Lugo will be heading back to Boston to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right knee. Dr. Thomas Gill will be performing the operation on Tuesday.
“The extend of whats going on in there is a little hard to determine the severity, or lack of severity, but that’s why we have Tom,” Francona said. “Tom treats the symptoms, not just the MRI. It’s pretty conclusive that something is going on in there. Lugo showed up yesterday with continued soreness. He showed up today with the same thing.”
As for Dustin Pedroia, Francona noted how relieved the team was that the injury was to the second baseman’s abdominal muscle and not his oblique, which can sometimes sideline players up to a month.
“The good news is that it’s not an oblique,” said Francona, who heard of Pedroia’s ailment on the bus ride back from Fort Lauderdale. “I think that was the original scare, not only from our side not seeing them, but from their trainer listing to what Pedey said after swinging the bat. So we’re very relieved about that.”
Francona said that it can’t yet be determined when Pedroia will be back on the field.
The Red Sox have reassigned pitcher Saturday’s starting pitcher, Adam Mills to the minor league camp.
|All is well, nothing to see||03.15.09 at 7:59 am ET|
In case you haven’t heard, Dustin Pedroia has left the World Baseball Classic due to a lower adominal strain. This morning he spoke to the media from the Red Sox clubhouse in Fort Myers. (Transcript courtesy Dan Barbarisi of the Providence Journal):
Pedroia: I’ll be fine. Nothing to be worried about. Just take a couple days to get it calmed down and we’ll go from there.
“I grabbed at it, and the hitting coach said go see the trainer.”
“I was going to try to play, and then Youk calmed me down, said shut it down, get it looked at. We’ve still got three more weeks, you’ll be fine.”
“I don’t think it’s going to linger. I’ll take care of it and get it ready and get ready for the season. It won’t be an issue.”
“It’s not as bad as people have said or anything, I’ll be fine.”
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