|Coming soon: Daisuke Matsuzaka||03.23.09 at 8:25 am ET|
With Daisuke Matsuzaka having pitched last night in the World Baseball Classic, the Red Sox are looking forward to the starter’s return to Fort Myers, where they can regulate the rest of his spring training build-up towards the regular season. Matsuzaka threw 98 pitches in 4.2 innings in Japan’s WBC semi-final victory over the U.S. When the pitcher returns, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday, the team will have its trainers examine him and sit down for a discussion to chart his course for the remainder of spring training.
“It’s not the way we would escalate (his pitch count) on a normal schedule,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “YOu hope at some point during the season, you don’t have to pay for that.”
Nonetheless, Francona suggested that there was no reason to expect that Matsuzaka wouldn’t be able to take his normal first turn in the rotation, whenever that might be.
A few other notes:
–The Sox have started giving their relievers multi-inning appearances, and will soon start having them appear on back-to-back days. The team would like to do so with every reliever except for Takashi Saito. “With all (Saito) has been through with his elbow, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Francona. “I’m sure there will come a time when we need to (have Saito pitch back-to-back). … Now is not the time.”
–Justin Masterson is scheduled to make a start at the minor-league complex on Thursday. The team will let the decision on his starter vs. reliever status play out a bit longer.
–The team is unsure when or whether Rocco Baldelli might play on back-to-back days this spring, or during the regular season, for that matter. At this point, at least, the team does not need to schedule such workloads. If, during the regular season, the team faces left-handed starters on back-to-back days, there might be a desire to see whether Baldelli can make those starts, but the team won’t push the issue, particularly given that both J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury are considered decent options against left-handed pitchers.
“The guys we have out there aren’t necessarily platoon guys,” said Francona. “But (Baldelli) is a potent bat against lefties.”
|Beckett goes five scoreless||03.22.09 at 1:27 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Something about the Phillies in spring training seems to get Sox pitcher Josh Beckett fired up. In 2006, prior to his first season with the Red Sox, Beckett got into a shouting match with Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, resulting in emptied dugouts and bullpens but no fisticuffs. Today, it was in-game activity that proved sufficient to raise Beckett’s blood pressure.
After cruising through the first three innings, Beckett ran afoul of trouble in the fourth, allowing a single (Jayson Werth), double (Raul Ibanez) and 12-pitch walk (Howard) to load the bases. But Beckett erased the no-out threat, working Matt Stairs to a full count before striking out the Phillies’ DH and then getting John Mayberry, Jr., to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. Read the rest of this entry »
|A trip into the way-back machine||03.22.09 at 12:54 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell just took Phillies pitcher Brett Myers deep in the bottom of the first inning of today’s exhibition game. It seems likely that Jonathan Papelbon (if he is still on the premises — the Sox closer is not scheduled to pitch in today’s game) watched the ball sail over the fence and said something along the lines of, “Dude, been there, bro.”
Papelbon claims to have homered off of Myers in high school. Now, Lowell can claim to have homered off of the potential Opening Day starter for the Phillies in the Grapefruit League.
Using Papelbon’s plate prowess as a point of departure, here are a few other items of interest from some Sox players’ pasts: Read the rest of this entry »
|Dan Duquette alumni||03.22.09 at 11:25 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Former Red Sox G.M. Dan Duquette is in Fort Myers today, having made the trip with the U.S. Military All-Stars, a barnstorming group of U.S. military personnel that plays against pro clubs. The All-Stars are comprised of active-duty personnel (including LT Junior Grade Will Sheehan of Boston and Hoptial Medic 3rd Class Jeff Heriot of Franklin) who are on leave from their assignment, so the roster turnover is immense — last year, Duquette said, the team had 150 players.
While his current team hit in the cages, Duquette was greeted by Sox catcher Jason Varitek. Varitek, of course, was acquired in the epic deadline deal in 1997, when he unloaded Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners in exchange for Derek Lowe and the Sox catcher, now in his 12th spring training with the Sox. Aside from Varitek, here are the other Duquette alumni who remain with the Red Sox: Read the rest of this entry »
|Morning Red Sox updates||03.22.09 at 10:01 am ET|
Major-league camp was thinned out a bit, as the Red Sox optioned Michael Bowden to Triple-A Pawtucket and Junichi Tazawa to Double-A Portland, while also re-assigning pitchers Marcus McBeth and Billy Traber to minor-league camp. Bowden and Tazawa are the next wave of Red Sox starting prospects, as both require further minor-league seasoning but have offered evidence that they might be able to contribute to the rotation at some point in 2009. (Clay Buchholz, who has been dominant this spring, is not in the ‘next wave’ starter category by virtue of the fact that he is major-league ready, whether he starts the year in Triple-A Pawtucket or the majors.)
Bowden and Tazawa were interesting studies in contrasts this spring. Bowden, who won his major-league debut last August after a dominating season in the upper minors, struggled in almost all of his starts. He went 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA, and the pitcher who typically exhibits outstanding control allowed 20 baserunners (14 hits, five walks, one hit batter) in his 10.1 innings.
“A little bit inconsistent for him,” said Sox manager Terry Francona, who suggested that the pitcher’s delivery hitches might make him a pitcher who has difficulty finding a rhythm in spring training. “Once he gets to the season, he gets on that roll and then yousee what you have.”
Tazawa, on the other hand, was nothing short of dominant. The right-hander allowed one run in nine innings, striking out 10, walking one and allowing just five hits. He was dominant on the mound, shockingly poised (considering the transition to a new country) on and off of it, and showed other traits such as a delivery time of 1.10 seconds to home plate (“the quickest guy to the plate on the staff,” said Francona) that offer positive signs for his future.
“He had an extraordinary camp,” said Francona. “He just handled everything. Nothing threw him off.”
The team will have Tazawa focus on working out of the windup (he has worked solely out of the stretch in his amateur career) in order to put less stress on his arm, a decision made in deference to the team’s desire to have him continue as a starter. But after spending the spring absorbing lessons from major leaguers, there is certainly reason to believe he could become a contributor at that very level later this year.
OTHER MORNING NOTES
–Josh Beckett will start for the Sox today, and is scheduled to throw roughly 75-80 pitches.
–Kevin Youkilis is taking batting practice this morning, and Francona plans to talk with him to confirm whether he will be ready to game activity on Monday.
–Dustin Pedroia is back in the lineup, having come through all tests well (both Friday’s game and batting practice on Saturday) thus far, and should take three at-bats today.
–Brad Penny is slated to throw three innings and roughly 45 pitches on Monday, in his first Grapefruit League start of the spring.
–Even though Daniel Bard has been overpowering in major-league this spring, his season seems all but certain to commence in the minors. “He’s a young kid,” said Francona. “He needs to go pitch in the minors.”
–The Sox will keep giving Justin Masterson a starter’s workload for now, since the right-hander shows no concern about whether the team employs him as a member of the rotation or a reliever for the regular season. “Because Masterson is not panicky,” said Francona, “we like the idea of keeping him stretched out.”
–Outfielder Jonathan Van Every will remain in a boot for about four or five days after undergoing an MRI on his right ankle, sprained on March 12.
Today’s Red Sox lineup:
|Youkilis and Drew both fine||03.21.09 at 11:15 am ET|
After being examined by a foot specialist this morning, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis was cleared to have the boot taken off of his left ankle and to resume baseball activities. He took batting practice, and afterwards said that he is not experiencing any pain, and that the exam showed that he had good strength in his tendons.
“I’m ready to go out and play some ball now,” Youkilis said. “If I can play, I’d love to.”
He guessed that he would probably continue to test the ankle and Achilles by taking grounders on Sunday and then, if all goes well, he hopes to get in a game on Monday. He did not sound concerned about the time off.
“I’ll have plenty of at-bats by the end of the spring,” he said.
J.D. Drew was not able to take part in baseball activities today, instead seeking treatment after getting hit by a pitch on the bottom of his right hand (which he wraps around the knob of the bat). The outfielder wore a bandage on his hand, but said that the issue was just a bruise and that he hopes that after a couple of days, he will be able to start swinging again. Like Youkilis, Drew was unconcerned about the layoff, suggesting that the final week of spring training will be the most important time to lock in his rhythm at the plate. He suggested that the injury would in no way jeopardize his status for Opening Day.
“We’re way away from that,” Drew said. “There’s plenty of time here to let it feel right.”
|Health updates: Smoltz, Youkilis, Pedroia||03.21.09 at 8:31 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox play today in Jupiter, though not many players who will open the regular season on the roster are making the trek. The only starter to hit the road for the cross-state journey is Jason Bay. The other members of the Opening Day lineup are back in City of Palms Park for a morning workout.
Among those in Fort Myers this morning is pitcher John Smoltz. The 41-year-old is nearing his first mound session since undergoing surgery last June. He will throw a bullpen on Wednesday, and the idea that he is now just four days away from doing so has the starter understandably enthused.
“It’s a lot exciting. I’ve been waiting a while,” said Smoltz. “It’s night and day (how his arm feels now versus last year.”
Though Smoltz has not been throwing off a mound, he has been able to sling the ball in PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice). Still, the real test of his shoulder, he suggests, will not come until he is on a schedule of getting ready for games once every five days. Nonetheless, Wednesday will represent a significant milestone on the road to what Smoltz and the Sox hope will be a return to the majors around the beginning of June.
“It’s one of many, many steps,” he said.
–Kevin Youkilis just stepped onto the field for a morning workout without his protective boot on his left foot. He had worn the boot for the past three days after suffering a sprained left ankle and Achilles tendonitis. He was due to be examined by a foot specialist this morning.
–J.D. Drew is not yet on the field this morning. He was hit in the right hand by a pitch on Friday, and was diagnosed with a contusion after X-rays came back negative.
–Dustin Pedroia, who will take batting practice shortly, said that he woke up feeling fine after playing on Friday for the first time since suffering a muscle strain in his lower abdomen last Saturday. He is eager to swing again today to confirm that he has emerged from the return to game activity without a problem.
“I’m not that sore. My legs are sore from not playing a few days, but I feel okay,” said Pedroia. “That’s a good sign. Hopefully, tomorrow I wake up and feel normal still and will play.”
Pedroia, after playfully suggesting on Friday that he would have hit a liner off Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s back had the two faced each other in the World Baseball Classic, expressed an interest in taking live batting practice off of his teammate whenever the pitcher is back in Red Sox camp after the World Baseball Classic. He then offered a sheepish clarification.
“I don’t want anyone to hit Daisuke in the back,” said Pedroia.
–Outfielder Jonathan Van Every is wearing a boot on his right foot. Van Every suffered a sprained ankle more than a week ago.
This is the Red Sox linup that will take the field in Jupiter:
Jeff Bailey, 9
Jason Bay, 7
Brad Wilkerson, 8
Chris Carter, 3
George Kottaras, 2
Nick Green, 4
Angel Chavez, 5
Gil Velazquez, 6
Michael Bowden gets the start. He is scheduled to be followed by Junichi Tazawa, Devern Hansack and Marcus McBeth.
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