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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.”

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Here are your Fenway improvements

03.29.10 at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox just sent out a press release announcing some of the Fenway Park improvements fans will be able to witness when Opening Day rolls around Sunday night. Per the release, here they are:

1. Left Field 1934 Seating Bowl Concrete Repair, Waterproofing and New Seats

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 will also 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 patron 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.

The removal of the asphalt poured on cracked or broken portions of the concrete to provide temporary fixes over decades resulted in the lowering of the central cross aisle between the Field Box Seats and the Loge Box Seats in the left field portions of the 1934 bowl by approximately 8 inches. This is consistent with work performed last year to the 1912 seating bowl and will provide fans sitting in the lower rows of the Loge Boxes with improved views of the playing field.  The wheelchair and companion positions in the Loge Box were also improved this year and relocated from Section 31 to Section 32.  The sight lines from the new positions were enhanced by creating elevated platforms and positioning the companion seats next to the wheelchair locations rather than in front of them.  Several seats formerly placed in the lower aisle were removed for comfort and circulation.

All seats were refurbished and/or replaced by American Seating, the same company that has worked on the seats at Fenway Park since its inception in 1912.  The concrete repair work was completed by NER Construction of Wilmington, MA, who also completed a similar scope of work during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 off-seasons in other areas of the ballpark.

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MLB Power Rankings, 3/29

03.29.10 at 3:24 am ET
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Welcome to the first edition of the WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Monday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’s division, and also which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series. Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing rbradford@weei.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/bradfo. Enjoy.

1. Yankees. Why: If the Red Sox had Mark Teixeira, they would be No. 1, but they don’t, so the Yankees get the top honor. As comparable as the pitching staffs are, and New York’s complementary round of outfielders, I just can’t get past the fact the Yanks have something no other team in baseball possesses — the names “Teixeira” and “Rodriguez” slated into the middle of their lineup. What to watch: If Joba Chamberlain can become the dominant set-up man he once was.

2. Red Sox. Why: I think people in New England might be underrating this team a bit. The Sox are appreciably more talented than last Opening Day’s version, yet a fraction of the pundits are picking them to be a legitimate contender for the American League East crown. The biggest question mark as we storm toward the opener? The bench. Right now they don’t have proven answers at a variety of positions if the injury bug were to bite. What to watch: If part of this improved defense includes better controlling the opposition’s running game.

3. Phillies. Why: Roy Halladay will win 50 games. OK, maybe 40. Thirty? Whatever. Roy Halladay will win a crap-load of games, the rest of the rotation is solid enough, and the lineup will continue to offer more anxiety to National League pitchers than any other collection of bats. What to watch: If Jose Contreras actually can serve a purpose in Philly’s bullpen.

4. Rays. Why: I’m not completely sold on the Tampa Bay pitching staff, although James Shields and Matt Garza is a good place to start. I really like the versatility of the Rays lineup. General manager Andrew Friedman has done a good job so far of limiting the talent leaks despite a less-than-desirable payroll. The biggest challenge (Carl Crawford) is coming, but so far he’s stayed ahead of the curve. What to watch: If Sean Rodriguez, the key player acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade last season, can cement a spot in the everyday lineup and add yet another offensive threat.

5. Cardinals: Get ready for the drop-off. The reason St. Louis finds itself in this spot is the same reason the Yankees are No. 1 — the middle of the order. I’m a little sheepish about the rotation, especially if Chris Carpenter suffers through more physical ailments, but there is enough pitching depth, and offense, to figure things out as they go. What to watch: Brad Penny has had some rough spots this spring, but there still is some optimism regarding his stuff and conditioning. If St. Louis can get out of Penny what San Francisco did at the end of last season, that could potentially hand the Cards the division and pennant.

6. Angels. Why: The naysayers will point to the loss of Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero, but the reality is that with the acquisition — and subsequent performance — of Scott Kazmir last season, along with the potential of Brandon Wood, there won’t be as much of a step back as some might think. What to watch: If Joel Pineiro’s National League success will translate into his second go-round in the AL.

7. Tigers. Why: The placing might be a bit high, but when you can start with the arms (not necessarily pitching) of Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Jeremy Bonderman, living with a lineup with Carlos Guillen as the designated hitter can be tolerated. What to watch: How much of an influence Johnny Damon has on the team’s dynamic and if he can play 140 games to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Report: Sox unwilling to offer Beckett more than four years

03.27.10 at 9:56 pm ET
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According to ESPN.com, the Red Sox won’t offer pitcher Josh Beckett a contract extension of more than four years. The report, which cited a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, suggested that the Red Sox have concerns about Beckett’s shoulder that have led them to cap their offer at four years. While the Sox signed John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal this offseason, the club’s chief health concern was with Lackey’s elbow, rather than his shoulder.

Lackey owns a career record of 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. A.J. Burnett owned a career 87-76 mark with a 3.81 ERA when he signed his five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. Beckett, meanwhile, has a career 106-68 mark with a 3.79 ERA, making it natural to expect that he would be in line for a contract along the lines of his current and former teammates.

But as WEEI.com reported in February, Beckett’s shoulder presented different concerns than Lackey’s elbow issues, making it possible that his contract situation could be viewed as different than that of Burnett and Lackey. Beckett was told in 2000 that he would need surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder, but was reassessed by Dr. James Andrews, who helped him on a non-surgical path that has kept Beckett’s arm healthy for the past decade. Most recently, Beckett passed his insurance physical this spring.

The Red Sox and Beckett have declined comment on discussions about a contract extension for the pitcher this offseason, beyond making clear that both parties are interested in continuing the relationship beyond the 2010 season. Beckett, who turns 30 on May 15, is set to earn $12.1 million in 2010, the option season on a three-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Sox in 2006.

Read More: a.j. burnett, contract extension, john lackey, Josh Beckett

What Happened with the Red Sox: Friday

03.27.10 at 10:31 am ET
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It was one of the more hectic days on the spring training calendar, with players coming and going at an entirely hectic pace.

The day began with left-hander Brian Shouse shaking hands with members of the Sox following his release. That seemed to augur an approach in which the Red Sox would not use a left-on-left specialist in 2010. (Alan Embree, the left-hander besides Shouse in the running for a bullpen spot at the start of the day, is comparably effective against batters from both sides of the plate.) Of course, by the end of the day, the Sox had added another player with precisely such a skill, as left-hander Scott Schoeneweis was signed by the club one day after his release by the Brewers. The 36-year-old left-hander has held lefties to a .227 average and .606 OPS in his career.

In between those bookend relief moves, the day had a number of twists in altering the shape of the 2010 Red Sox:

— Prior to yesterday’s game, a Red Sox source indicated that nothing was in the works as far as a trade of Mike Lowell. Now, a deal involving the corner infielder is even less likely, at least prior to the start of the season, after Lowell smashed a foul ball off his left leg, just below his knee. Major damage was apparently avoided, as X-rays came back negative, though he will at least miss Saturday’s game due to the injury.

— The Sox moved to add further infield depth, acquiring Kevin Frandsen from the Giants in exchange for a player to be named or cash. He will offer the team middle infield depth, something that became necessary with Jed Lowrie sidelined by mono.

— Frandsen was apparently quite popular on the Giants, though he was chided on his exit. “You were traded for cash? That means you suck!” Edgar Renteria yelled playfully at Frandsen in front of reporters (as reported via Twitter by Andrew Baggarly). Of course, one must wonder what Renteria thinks of players who must be traded with cash. . . say, perhaps, $8 million of a remaining $26 million obligation over three years.

— The Sox’ season opening rotation took shape, at least for the period until Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from the disabled list. To no one’s surprise, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey will start the first three games against the Yankees. But even though the Sox do not technically need a fifth starter until April 18, the team elected to slot both Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz into the rotation. For details, click here.

— MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner visited the Red Sox. Weiner, of course, was last seen flanking David Ortiz at the Sox slugger’s press conference in New York in which he discussed his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. Weiner expressed his satisfaction that the leaks have seemingly dried up since that press conference. Ortiz, for his part, said that he doesn’t want any more names to be surfaced, and feels no need to have the complete list of those who tested positive to be published.

Lowell suffers setback with knee contusion

03.26.10 at 5:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A day after saying he was happy with the way spring training was progressing, Mike Lowell suffered another setback.

In the first inning of the Red Sox‘ spring training game against the Blue Jays, Friday at City of Palms Park, Lowell fouled a 1-1 pitch from Toronto starter Brett Cecil off the area just below his left knee-cap. The third baseman, who was supposed to serve as the Sox’ designated hitter Saturday which would mark his first back-to-back appearances of the spring, had to be helped off the field by head trainer Mike Reinold and manager Terry Francona.

The Red Sox later classified the injury as a “contusion,” with Francona relaying following the 3-2 Sox win that preliminary tests were somewhat positive.

“He was X-rayed, negative. Saying that, he took a pretty good shot,” Francona said. “It was below the kneecap enough where it got some ‘€¦ it didn’€™t just get bone. We were gonna DH him tomorrow. I don’€™t think that’€™s realistic. He’€™s going to be pretty sore. He’€™s intact. He’€™s just going to be pretty sore.

“It looked like it hurt. We’€™ll keep an eye on him. I’€™ll give him a call a little bit later. That looked like it hurt.’€

Lowell had been looking forward to getting at-bats, having gone 1-for-1o in the spring coming into the game with the Jays.

‘€œI don’€™t care who it is or how hard they’€™ve worked. You don’€™t want to see anyone get hurt,” Francona said. “Again, you saw what I saw. It looked like it hurt. I’€™m sure they’€™re icing the heck out of him and we’€™ll see how he feels tomorrow.’€

Sox sign lefty Schoeneweis

03.26.10 at 4:58 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox announced that they have signed left-handed pitcher Scott Schoeneweis to a minor league deal. The 36-year-old was released by the Brewers on Thursday. He pitched in 45 games for the Diamondbacks in 2009, recording a 7.12 ERA in 24 innings, though those on-field struggles came at a time when he was grieving the death of his wife.

Schoeneweis’ deal includes an April 15 opt-out clause that allows him to become a free agent if he isn’t on the major league roster.

This spring, despite a 7.11 ERA, Schoeneweis felt that he was throwing well and that, more importantly, he was once again able to enjoy his profession.

“The positive I take out of this [spring with the Brewers] is I realize I can have fun again,” Schoeneweis told reporters upon learning of his release. “I haven’t had fun for a long time. I know 100 percent that I am a big league pitcher, bottom line. It would be a shame if this was it for me, because I feel like I did when I was 28.”

Though Schoeneweis is a lefty specialist, left-handers hit .276 with an .837 OPS against him last year. In his career, Schoeneweis has held lefties to a .227 average and .606 OPS. His signing comes on the same day that the Sox announced that they had released left-hander Brian Shouse.

“We’re going to look at those last two spots being able to match-up left on left,” said Farrell after the Red Sox’ 3-2 win over Toronto Friday afternoon at City of Palms Park, prior to the announcement of Schoeneweis’ signing. “The most effective pitcher getting left-handers hitters out will be factored in, whether that’s Joe Nelson, whether that’s Scott Atchison, Alan Embree. We still have a very open competition with what’s taken place. Scott Atchison has done an exceptional job I think at this point coming in. In a three-week stretch of games, we know he’s going to throw strikes, he’s going to throw multiple pitches over the plate so he’s not predictable in any one count. He’s done a very good job. It will be encouraging to see what takes place with Alan’s first appearance with us. Knowing we’re eight days away from breaking here we’re not going to force-feed the issue but he’ll have time for four appearances and we’ll get a solid look at him during that time.”

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