|05.19.09 at 5:11 pm ET|
Following his three-game hiatus, David Ortiz gave off the appearance today in the clubhouse of a man from whom a burden had been lifted. Though he is, for now, maintaining relative silence with the media, at one point putting his finger to his mouth and offering a friendly “Shhhhh…” in response to an inquiry about his return, the slugger seemed upbeat in all of his interactions, pronouncing that he felt good about life and his return home.
He returned home not just to Boston following a West Coast swing that took an unquestionable toll in Anaheim, where he concluded a three-game series by going 0-for-7 and stranding a dozen runners, but also to his customary third spot in the batting order. Red Sox manager Terry Francona suggested that he had no real desire to remove Ortiz from the lineup position where he has remained since 2005.
“I think our best lineup is with him hitting third. Saying that, if you look at the production, I told him if I ever decide to change that, I’ll tell you first. He understood that. The one thing I don’t want to do is start bouncing the lineup all over the place,” said Francona. “I still believe our best lineup is the one we have, or similar to it. So I’d like to give it a chance.
“When things aren’t going perfect, I want to make sure he understands that we’re here for him,” Francona added. “It’s too easy to run from players or run from problems. I don’t know that cures what you’re trying to do. We think we have good players. Sometimes when it’s not going the way you want it to, running away isn’t the answer.”
Francona was pleased with the apparent improvement in Ortiz’ demeanor during his time out of the lineup, praising the slugger’s behind-the-scenes work to restore his stroke and stating that Ortiz would have been used as a pinch-hitter for Rocco Baldelli in the waning innings of Sunday’s game. (The Sox did not get that chance, as Baldelli’s turn never came up in the ninth, and the Mariners had a walk-off win in the bottom of the inning.)
Now, with Ortiz back in the lineup, the Sox can start examining whether the first part of the season has been a wild aberration or something more serious. Ortiz is hitting .208 with no homers, 15 RBIs, and a higher on-base (.318) than slugging (.300) mark. He has gone 144 straight at-bats without a homer, one shy of his career-long drought (set in 1998-2000, and which included a full year in the minors).
The Sox are hopeful, of course, for a rebound to performance levels that would suggest a player who deserves to be back in the third spot in the lineup. If that happens, the team is confident that Ortiz can still salvage an impressive campaign.
“We’re expecting him to do some good things,” said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. “He can put together a really good year in four and a half months. We’re going to need him if we’re going to be a team that competes for a championship.”
The Sox hope that they do not have to explore what might take place if such a turnaround does not occur.
|05.19.09 at 3:29 pm ET|
RED SOX VS. BRIAN TALLET
If David Ortiz is back in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays, he can take some measure of hope from his previous success against Toronto starter Brian Tallet. Ortiz has two hits ‘ a homer and a double ‘ in eight career plate appearances against the left-hander.
David Ortiz (8 career plate appearances): 2-for-5, homer, double, three walks
Jason Varitek (8): 2-for-6, homer, two walks
J.D.Drew (4): 0-for-3, walk
Julio Lugo (4): 2-for-3, walk
Mike Lowell (3): 0-for-2, sac fly
Dustin Pedroia (3): 2-for-3
Rocco Baldelli (2): 0-for-2
Jason Bay (2): 1-for-1, walk
Jacoby Ellsbury (2): 0-for-2
Nick Green (2): 1-for-2
George Kottaras (1): 0-for-1
BLUE JAYS VS. TIM WAKEFIELD
The Blue Jays feature a couple of formidable foes for Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield. Foremost, former Boston teammate Kevin Millar has been an absolute force against the knuckleballer. His .444 average against Wakefield is the second highest by any opponent who has faced the pitcher at least 25 times, behind only Dave Nilsson’s incredible .640 average. (Perhaps one should train to face the knuckleball by growing up in Australia and playing cricket?)
Vernon Wells (60 career plate appearances vs. Wakefield): .255 average / .350 OBP / .294 slugging
Alex Rios (40): .231 / .250 / .538, 3 homers
Kevin Millar (29): .444 / .483 / .889, 3 homers
Aaron Hill (26): .292 / .346 / .333
John McDonald (26): .240 / .321 / .320
Rod Barajas (23): .227 / .261 / .364, homer
Lyle Overbay (17): .313 / .353 / .313
Marco Scutaro (17): .313 / .353 / .438
Scott Rolen (13): .182 / .308 / .273
Adam Lind (6): 1-for-6
|05.18.09 at 3:38 pm ET|
The Red Sox traded minor-league outfielder Jeff Corsaletti to the Pirates for cash considerations. Corsaletti, a sixth-round pick in 2005, seemed stalled in the Sox system, where he was hitting .128 with a .319 OPS in Triple-A Pawtucket this year. He had put up far more impressive numbers earlier in his Sox minor-league career, particularly for Double-A Portland in 2008, when he hit .312 with a .417 OBP and .946 OPS. But with the inability to translate those numbers to Triple-A following a mid-year promotion last season, and given his ongoing defensive shortcomings, the outfielder’s window of opportunity with the Sox appeared to be closing.
That being the case, he was dealt to Pittsburgh, where he will enjoy a better opportunity to reach the majors. The 26-year-old was assigned by the Pirates to Double-A Altoona.
|05.15.09 at 4:47 pm ET|
MARINERS VS. JON LESTER
Jon Lester (2-3, 6.31 ERA in 2009; 1-0, 4.67 in three career starts against the Mariners) has endured a puzzling start to his 2009 season. He is coming off of a start in which his line score (4.1 innings, 10 hits, 8 runs) was as bad as just about any in his career. Yet in that Saturday game against Tampa Bay, he was largely a victim of terrible luck (and Evan Longoria), as he allowed five hits that were grounded through the left side of the infield.
Lester has been a victim of the longball this year, having allowed eight in 41.1 innings (1.7 per nine innings), the second highest total in the A.L. and up significantly from the 14 he allowed in 210.1 frames (0.6 per nine innings last year). But his stuff appears as good as ever: he’s striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings, the second highest rate in the American League. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.15.09 at 2:40 pm ET|
Wednesday night all eyes were on the box behind home plate at Angel Stadium, the one flashing the radar gun readings. Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard was pitching and with his outing came the expectation that an 100 mph fastball would be making at least one appearance.
The pitch came, Angels slugger Mike Napoli swung about an hour late, and all the attention immediately transferred to that box.
Doubts were passed from person to person in the press box, until finally somebody confirmed that the radar gun readings on the television had it at ’97’. It made no difference. Two more fastballs later and Napoli had struck out and those who weren’t familiar with Bard’s fastball had been introduced to what had instantly become of baseball’s most dynamic heaters.
But it raised the question: Could such chicanery with the radar gun readings get in the head of a young pitcher to the point where they try and become someting their not?
“If you’re smart enough and mentally prepared enough, that shouldn’t bother you,” said Bard, who has been clocked as high as 102 mph. “You should look at how hitters do against you.”
Bard could see Napoli’s reaction and that was good enough for him. He has gone through the ups and downs of radar gun readings in the minors, understanding the fun fans derive from seeing an 100 mph fastball. It started when he got his first ‘100’ mph reading on a stadium gun at Hadlock Field in Portland on a 3-0 pitch (“You get the courtesy applaud on a 3-0 strike, but then it kind of got louder and louder,” he remembered. “Then I turned and it showed 100 mph.”
And Bard has already heard the stories of how Tampa Bay lowers their Tropicana Field gun, or even how the Cardinals supposedly turned Joel Zumaya’s 100 mph heat into 92 mph during the 2006 World Series. In short, he is prepared for what awaits him.
Still, there are some pitchers who view the practice of displaying the readings in a negative light, with Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon leading the charge.
“You know what the radar gun is for? The fans,” Papelbon said. “I personally don’t even think we should have them in the ballpark because it’s a tool that benefits only the hitter, not a pitcher at all.”
Ironically, it is Papelbon who witnessed perhaps one of the greatest shock and awe moments when it came to the reading on a radar gun. While in the Florida State League, he had to man a gun himself with Zumaya pitching, charting the throws of his own pitchers. But when the then-Tigers minor leaguer started throwing, Papelbon couldn’t help himself.
The Sox hurler turned on his ‘Stacker’ radar gun, pointed it at Zumaya, and proceeded to do a double-take. ‘104’.
“That was legit, too,” he said. “That was the fastest I’ve seen, by far.”
Nobody is going to deny the entertainment value of the stadium readings, which promise to be a focal point each and every time Bard enters a game this season. Yet it will also test a pitcher’s discipline, as Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen found out this year when he came one mph away from hitting 100 mph for the first time in his career.
“I was just one away,” lamented Delcarmen. “I like looking at it just to see where I’m at. Some parks will take some speed off for the opposing team and that will make you feel like, ‘I don’t have my fastball today’. But I like looking at it. You just have to be careful.”
|05.14.09 at 7:40 pm ET|
With the bases loaded and two outs in the 12th inning, David Ortiz hit a check-swing dribbler out in front of the plate which Angels’ catcher Jeff Mathis got to in time to throw out the Sox’ DH to end the threat.
Not only did it snuff out the Red Sox‘ best chance thus far in extra innings — leaving the scored tied, 4-4 — but it also put Ortiz at 0 for 7 with 12 left on base, tying a club mark for most stranded that was originally set by Trot Nixon in 2003. As a team the Red Sox have stranded 17 baserunners. The team record for most left on base by a team is 22.
|05.14.09 at 6:49 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was tossed from the game by home plate umpire Bill Miller for arguing balls and strikes in the 10th inning and the Sox and Angels tied at 4-4. It was the first ejection for any member of the Red Sox this season.
Julio Lugo, who was at-bat at the time, proceeded to launch a double into the right-center field gap (his fourth hit of the game). Lugo would be caught up between second and third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s grounder to first, but stayed in run-down long enough to let Ellsbury to reach second.
As good a baserunning move as it was for Ellsbury, he proceeded to make a bad one on the next at-bat when Angels center fielder Torii Hunter made a spectacular running catch of a Dustin Pedroia blast to deep center, failing to tag up on the play. David Ortiz would ground out on the first pitch of his at-bat to end the Red Sox’ half of the 10th.
|05.14.09 at 6:23 pm ET|
In what I’m calling one of the best plays of the Red Sox‘ season, J.D. Drew caught Torii Hunter’s shallow fly ball on the dead run (the infield was in with Bobby Abreu at third base and one out) and flipped a throw (again, while on the run) which took one hop before landing right to catcher Jason Varitek, who applied the tag on Abreu.
What made the play so difficult was that A. How far Drew had to go to get the ball, out-running Jacoby Ellsbury to the pop up; and B. the accuracy in which the right fielder made the throw to prevent the Angels’ go-ahead run. This from Drew the other night when talking about his speed:
“The coach that was timing me (in the 40-yard dash back in college) was a football coach. He looked at his watch and said, ‘That can’t be right.’ So I did it a couple more times,” Drew remembered. “I can’t remember the time, but I know it was a sub 4.5 (seconds). He was like, ‘You’ve got to come out for the team.’ The best 60-yard time I ran on a track was 6.28. But I’m old now. Every year you have to add a .1.
“I’ve always felt like anything first time home, especially in my younger days, I could run with anybody.”
It’s 4-4 heading into the ninth.
|05.14.09 at 6:12 pm ET|
David Ortiz ended the Red Sox‘ half of eighth inning by taking a Scot Shields pitch to the warning track in left field. The ball clearly would have been out of Fenway Park, for what it’s worth, but was hauled in for the frame’s final out.
Just prior to the Ortiz at-bat, Dustin Pedroia knotted the game up for the Sox, singling on a two-out, line-drive to center field, scoring Julio Lugo. Interestingly, Lugo was attempting a steal of third on the pitch. The hit also moved Jacoby Ellsbury to third from first. Also, when Ortiz hit his fly ball Pedroia was heading to second on an attempted steal, as well.
Hideki Okajima remains in the game for the Red Sox with the score standing at 4-4.
Here are also a couple of quick nuggets from Gary from Chapel Hill:
– The Sox have 7 strikeouts looking today. It’s the 7th time since the start of 2004 that they’ve had 7 or more, tied with FLA and CIN for the most.
– Brad Penny vs. the 7-8-9 hitters in the lineup: 1.065 OPS, .316 batting average, .381 on-base; .684 slugging; 42 batters faced.
|05.14.09 at 6:02 pm ET|
Red Sox starter Brad Penny gave way to reliever Hideki Okajima with one out and a runner on third in the seventh inning. Penny allowed four runs on seven hits, striking out four and walking one. Sixty-one of his 97 pitches were for strikes.
Penny clearly heeded his own advice, limiting the free passes, and thereby not giving into multiple big innings.
“Avoiding walks,” said Penny before Wednesday’s game regarding the key to any success he might have. “Staying out of the big inning. People are also going to try to bunt on you and move runners over. They’re going to steal on you like Tampa Bay. The Angels have always been consistent with that, bunting and moving guys over.”
Unfortunately for Penny, Okajima couldn’t get out of the seventh unscathed as Jeff Mathis launched a fly ball to left field which Jason Bay made a diving catch on, but it did allow Erick Aybar to tag up from third with the go-ahead run.
For Okajima, that was his 10th inherited runner of the season, with the lefty now having allowed three to score. Last season he allowed 13 of his 25 inherited runners to score.
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