|Arroyo Shipping Up To … Cincinnati||03.19.09 at 8:12 am ET|
For whatever reason, it sometimes becomes impossible to separate a name from a concept. Phrases become attached in almost surgical fashion. Pedro Martinez: proud. Youtube: sensation. Dustin Pedroia: feisty. Chris Carter: intense. Bronson Arroyo: free-spirit.
Arroyo, who will pitch tonight in an exhibition game against the Red Sox, apparently continues to earn the term as a member of the Reds. Now just over three years from being traded from Boston to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena, Arroyo seems at peace with the world. That owes not merely to his professional setting, or to his free-spirited (ah, that phrase again), guitar-playing ways, but also to his place of residence during spring training. Arroyo, as this Cincinnati Enquirer article details, lives on a house boat named the Nasty Hook (a term that evokes both things nautical and the pitcher’s signature pitch) during spring training. (Hat tip to Jon Rish, who will be in the radio booth for tonight’s Red Sox-Reds tilt.)
The multi-media exploration of Arroyo’s spring digs (one would be remiss not to check out the photo gallery or video tour) suggests that his decorative tastes are very, um, Graceland. Still, there is no evidence that Arroyo has used a gun on any of the flat screens (DirecTV signal) on board.
Though the notion of the pitcher living on the water while playing in Sarasota during the spring is entertaining enough, the best elements of the article pertain to what happens once the Reds break camp.
First, there is the regular season in Cincinnati. Arroyo, according to the article, turns the sport yacht into a floating club on the Ohio River.
“Break out the lights and the smoke machines and they’ll be dancing on the top deck and below,” Arroyo says.
No problems there for the pitcher. The real challenge for Arroyo will arrive next spring, when the Reds relocate from Florida’s Gulf Coast to Goodyear, Ariz., for spring training.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Arroyo told the Inquirer. “There’s not going to be a boat in the middle of the desert.”
If Arroyo demands a trade to a team on one of Florida’s coasts following this season, you’ll know why. Anchors away!
|Sox: Youkilis ‘not expected to miss significant time’||03.18.09 at 8:21 pm ET|
The Red Sox issued the following statement about the left ankle injury to first baseman Kevin Youkilis:
“Kevin Youkilis returned to Fort Myers, FL this afternoon to be examined by the Red Sox medical staff. He was diagnosed with a mild left ankle sprain as well as mild Achilles tendinitis in his left foot. Both MRI results were negative. To limit movement and allow his ankle to heal, Youkilis will wear a walking boot for the next several days but is not expected to miss significant time.
“Youkilis originally experienced some pain in his left ankle several days ago and it worsened in last night’s game vs. Team Puerto Rico. He will no longer participate in the World Baseball Classic and will return to Red Sox camp tomorrow.”
|Youkilis out for the WBC||03.18.09 at 5:52 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A baseball source confirmed that Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis will miss the remainder of the World Baseball Classic due to a left ankle injury. His ankle, according to the source, had been bothering him for about a week or so, with the irritation getting progressively worse. There is some inflammation in the ankle tendons and around the Achilles tendon. He has been examined by the Red Sox medical staff, and though the injury was not believed to be serious, all parties decided to err on the side of caution, leading to the conclusion that Youkilis will not be able to play this weekend as the WBC moves to Los Angeles for the semi-final round. The injury was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
|Why George Kottaras is Boston’s Backup Catcher||03.18.09 at 3:16 pm ET|
Brad Penny threw at the Red Sox’ minor-league complex today, showing good arm strength (he touched 95 m.p.h. on multiple occasions) in a three-inning outing in which he allowed a run on just one hit (a double) and an error while striking out four. After his outing, Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein spoke about the decision to release Josh Bard and anoint George Kottaras the likely backup catcher to starter Jason Varitek.
Epstein praised the work done by Kottaras behind the plate this spring, suggesting that the young catcher had shown both good hands and had been throwing well throughout this spring training. The 25-year-old worked with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Saturday and showed little discomfort working with the pitcher.
“(Kottaras) looked comfortable catching Wake the other day, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because he’s got good hands and he’s been very comfortable catching Zink in the minor leagues,” said Epstein. “He and Dusty have been throwing well. Jason has been throwing really well, too. That was really the biggest issue now—(Kottaras’) throwing.”
While Bard had been receiving well — in particular, Epstein suggested that he did a better job of catching Wakefield’s knuckleball than he had in his first brief tour with the Sox in 2006 — his actions behind the plate were not quick. Other teams had been running with relative impunity on him this spring, whether Wakefield (whose signature pitch makes it difficult to control the running game) was on the mound or not. The Sox hope to give Varitek more rest this year than in seasons past, and so the issue of shutting down other teams on the bases with the rest of the staff seemed of even greater concern than it might have been previously.
Offensively, Kottaras had an interesting mix of power and patience at Triple-A Pawtucket last year. He hit .243 but with a .348 OBP and .456 slugging mark, as well as 22 homers in just 395 at-bats.
“He’s got a strong throwing arm. He’s got really good hands,” Epstein continued. “He’s got some life in his bat. He’s got some knowledge of the strike zone. He’s not going to hit for a really high average, but between his walks and his power he still manages to bring something to the table offensively.”
As a left-handed hitter, he provides a better theoretical complement to Varitek, since Varitek’s left-handed stroke is not as strong as his right-handed one (something that is also true for the switch-hitting Bard). But Epstein cautioned that such a consideration was not meaningful in and of itself.
“He has the potential to be a nice complement to Jason as a left-handed bat,” said Epstein. “(But) that in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. He’s got to go play well.”
The release of Bard does nothing to change the Sox’ outlook regarding the catching market. The team continues to examine the market for a potential successor to Varitek, but there is, according to Epstein, nothing that the team is looking to do in the immediate future.
“We’ve been saying all along that we’re happy with the young guys,” said Epstein. “Maybe this move will help emphasize it a little more. We’re not in any active talks. There’s nothing imminent at all. For now, we’re going to address this internally. Sure, someone that we think can be a real upgrade as a No. 1 catcher when Jason’s career comes to an end, we’ll always be on the lookout for that guy. But we’re happy with what we have internally right now.”
By releasing Bard this morning, the team freed more time for Kottaras to work with Wakefield, and for both Kottaras and Dusty Brown to work with the rest of the pitching staff.
Bard had signed a $1.6 million non-guaranteed contract with the Sox in December. As such, by releasing him this morning, the team is only on the hook for 30 days of termination pay ($262,295). While Kottaras has caught Bard just once this spring, the Sox still felt comfortable with the move. The front-office did not seek Wakefield’s feedback on this specific course of action, though they have gotten his assessments of the catching situation throughout the spring.
“We get (Wakefield’s) feedback all the time, but we’re paid to make these decisions,” said Epstein. “It’s tough to let a guy go who is a good person and doing his best. (Bard) has had a good career but we felt that this was the best move,the right fit for the organization at this time.”
|George Kottaras and the knuckleball||03.18.09 at 1:45 pm ET|
We’ll have more on the release of Josh Bard later on — along with an encouraging outing by Brad Penny over that minor league complex in which Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said the pitcher touched 95 mph (after living between 89 and 92 mph in his previous outing). What we do know is that the Sox were impressed with Kottaras’ throwing ability (which was a step up from Bard), along with what he’s done at the plate this spring.
“It’s his job to lose,” Epstein said of Kottaras, who is hitting .429 (6 for 14).
In Tim Wakefield’s last start the knuckleballer went out of his way to praise Kottaras, who had one passed ball but did an admirable job otherwise. To get an idea of how the 25-year-old approaches catching the knuckler here is an entry we had earlier in the spring that might shed some light.
More to come …
|Red Sox Cut Josh Bard||03.18.09 at 10:56 am ET|
The position of backup catcher has proven one of the most unstable on the Red Sox roster in recent spring trainings. In 2006, John Flaherty tried to catch Tim Wakefield for a game, found the task of spearing his knuckleballs so daunting that he retired and conceded the job to Josh Bard. Bard was overmatched by the task one month into his Red Sox career that year, and so was traded to San Diego to bring back Doug Mirabelli. Mirabelli remained in Boston until last March, when he was shocked by a mid-camp cut in favor of Kevin Cash. Cash was not tendered a contract this past offseason, became a free agent and signed with the Yankees, opening the door for Bard’s return.
But today, the Sox announced that they would cut Bard, continuing the merry-go-round of catchers paired with Wakefield. The move comes as something of a surprise, since Bard had done a passable job in his work with Wakefield this spring (though he had been unable to control the running game, whether working with Wakefield or other pitchers) and was hitting .429 (6-for-14), though it is worth noting that Bard, like starter Jason Varitek, is a switch-hitter who does a significantly better job against left-handed pitchers. So in some ways, his skill set was redundant with that of the starter’s.
General manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona are expected to offer insight into the roster move later today. At first glance, it would appear that George Kottaras would be the front-runner to become backup among the in-house candidates. Kottaras is left-handed and out of minor-league options. Still, as recently as Sunday, Epstein suggested that the Sox continue to monitor the market for catchers (especially one who might qualify as a “catcher of the future”), and so it may be premature to suggest that Kottaras is on his way to a backup spot.
Bard’s $1.7 million contract was non-guaranteed, so the Sox will only have to pay only a fraction of it.
More in a bit.
|Davey Johnson’s having flashbacks||03.18.09 at 10:04 am ET|
Last night Team USA Davey Johnson compared the Team USA’s win over Puerto Rico to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (the one he managed the New York Mets over the Red Sox, for you youngsters).
But in Toronto, in the first round of the World Baseball Classic, the sight of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis already had Johnson reminiscing about that ’86 Mets squad.
The first comparison was almost obvious.
“(Pedroia) somewhat reminds me of (Wally) Backman and (Lenny) Dykstra,” Johnson said. “They have the same sort of personality, doing whatever it takes to win a ballgame and not afraid to be a little vocal about it. I kind of call them my foxhole guys, and he’s one of those foxhole guys. You’ve got to have them.”
Casting somebody on the ’86 team to play Youkilis wasn’t as easy for Johnson, although the plate discipline of the Red Sox first baseman brought back memories of Johnson’s old first baseman, Keith Hernandez.
“Youkilis is another throwback, not afraid to get his uniform dirty. He’s a gamer, a foxhole guy. He’s a unique guy,” Johnson said. “He has a similar approach to what Keith had. He’ll go the other way, but if they come into him he’ll turn on it. He had a good eye. But the two have totally different personalities.”
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