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Smoltz talks about beyond this year

06.15.09 at 1:17 pm ET
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John Smoltz has executed his plan.

The 42-year-old is on the precipice of doing something some believed wasn’t a reality, coming all the way back to the major leagues after torn labrum surgery. And it is for this reason there was an excitement in Smoltz’ voice every time he spoke in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Thursday, he will either be returning to the majors as a member of the Red Sox, or will be pitching one more time for Triple A Pawtucket, residing just days away form his momentous return to the bigs.

“I’m in a total new place in my life and my career,” he said. “And you know what? The unknown is so intriguing. It’s vast.”

Evidently, it’s vastness could be growing exponentially thanks to the success of Smoltz’ comeback.

While the pitcher says he won’t allow himself to think too hard and long about life after this season with the Red Sox, clearly the road map he set out prior to having his surgery a year ago is continued to be followed. And, according to Smoltz, that path doesn’t stop at the end of  the 2009 season.

“The reason I had surgery was not to just come back for one year,” he said before Sunday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. “Having surgery certainly quality of life was part of it, but I could have waited to have that. To have surgery at this point, when I did, and not try to milk anymore of the rest of that  season, the reason I did that was to pitch well beyond. I figured if I was going to have surgery and I can pitch one year, what prevents me from pitching two years. Something will have to really go wrong to say, ‘OK I did everything I could and it wasn’t working,’ Hey, I can totally sleep with that. If I was going to resign to the feeling everybody had that this was it, as an athlete it’s not even so much to prove  people wrong but saying, ‘Hey I’ve done this before.’ You know how many things I wasn’t supposed to come back from? People take it for granted now that it’s old hat. Oh, he did it again. People underestimated my ability to think beyond what conceptionatl opinion was. I’m just not one of those guys. I would never do anything I didn’t think I could do beyond a reasonable doubt.”

While Smoltz knows how the plan is trending, he also emphasizes that the here and the now remain the priority.

“Sometimes I sit there and go, at this current moment there isn’t going to be a next year, and then the next week there might be a next year and a year after. I just stop right there,” he explained. “I stop thinking about things like that because I used to do that all the time. I used to have things planned out three or four years in advance. There’s just no good in it anymore.”

Smoltz is bracing himself for both the praise and the criticism that will come with his return. It would be inevitable for anyone having the kind of career success as the 20-year veteran. But throw in the fact that the Red Sox have starters at the ready to replace anyone in the rotation who may falter, and it the magnifying glass becomes even more prevalent.

“If you’re looking at things, you can find whatever fault you want, and I’m sure that will exist with me,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of nitpicking stuff. They wanted me to go away so it was just a magical end and surgery ended my career. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

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Why didn’t Ortiz bunt?

06.15.09 at 12:31 pm ET
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David Ortiz only started one game in Philly, going 1-for-4, but did get into Sunday’s Sox’ loss as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and walked. It capped a week that saw the DH hit .308 with two homers, four walks, and just two strikeouts.

Bottom line: Ortiz has entered the second-half of June looking like a much more confident hitter.

So, now that Ortiz has seemingly figured some things out, one question could be asked — with the shift still applied (albeit with slightly diminished frequency) by opponents, why didn’t he try to bunt his way on during his horrific hitting spell?

“I stink at bunting,” Ortiz said. “I have thought about it, but when I get to the plate, then I get thinking about how I don’t want to lose an at-bat. Sometimes I’ll bunt and I miss a pitch right down the middle and I get mad. I feel like I could have hit that ball out of the park. It happens all the time. But I’m not going to say I won’t do it.”

A big league lesson for Bard

06.14.09 at 6:49 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Daniel Bard struggled through his worst relief appearance as a big leaguer, allowing four runs on two hits and three runs in just 2/3 innings during what turned into a six-run seventh inning, in the Phillies’ 11-6 win over the Red Sox, Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

It was an appearance that harkened Bard back to last season, when he was pitching for Double A Portland.

“Last year in Portland I gave up two home runs in a relief outing. I think I followed it up with like eight or nine scoreless ones after that,” Bard said. “Just stick with what gets you to that point, and one bad outing, whether it’s getting hit or walking a couple of guys, I’m not going to change the way I go about things.”

So what did Bard do to deal with it?

“I talked to the pitching coach at the time, and he said, ‘Hey, they hit some good pitches. You’re doing what you need to do.'” the rookie said. “In this case I was around the zone, wasn’t hitting my spots and could have located better, there’s no doubt about it. It’s nothing to throw the red flag out about, or anything. I’m looking forward to getting back out there again.”

The outing for Bard, who came on for Josh Beckett with no outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning, could have been a lot less painful if he was able to hold on to a wide throw from shortstop Julio Lugo which could have potentially translated into an inning-ending double play.

But, with Bard covering first on the throw back on a potential 3-6-1 double play, the ball bounced off the pitcher’s glove as he sprawled out to haul in the throw. With the ball trickling away, Shane Victorino scored from second base with Philly’s seventh run.

“It hit my glove,” Bard said. “It wasn’t an easy play, but it hit my glove and I had a chance at it, but I didn’t make the play.”

Doubles from Jason Werth and Pedro Feliz, sandwiched around a Greg Dobbs strikeout, led to an intentional walk from Bard to Chris Coste, loading the bases. That would end Bard’s day, as Takashi Saito came on and proceeded to force in a pair of runs by hitting Jimmy Rollins and walking Victorino, finishing the scoring in the Phillies’ six-run seventh.

“I had trouble repeating my delivery, it was nothing much more to it than that. I could have made it a lot easier on myself if I caught that ball and finished that double play, but I wasn’t able to,” Bard said.  “I learn from everything. I’ll just stick with what has made me successful to this point. I’m not going to totally re-tool my pitches or anything. I’m just going to go out there next time and pound the zone like I have been. 

“It’s a bump in the road. I think everybody in this locker room has had at least one tough one and that’s the same for me. I’m not going to let it be any more than that and I’ll stick with the process that got me to this point and go from there.”

Beckett: ‘All I did was help us lose the game’

06.14.09 at 5:56 pm ET
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Josh Beckett struggled through one of his roughest outings of the season after going through one of his best runs of his career. In the Red Sox’ 11-6 loss to the Phillies, Sunday, at Citizens Bank Park, Beckett allowed seven runs (6 earned) on 11 hits, striking out five and not walking a batter over six innings.

It was the most hits as Beckett had given up in his last four outings, and as many earned runs as the starter had surrendered in his previous six starts.

Beckett did hit a solo home run in the fifth after allowing the Phillies to tie the game in the fourth with four runs, a blast which served as the impetus for the pitcher’s most telling post-game quote:

“I don’t want to talk about that,” said Beckett, who had supplied the last home run hit by a Red Sox pitcher, coming also at Citizens Bank Park, back on May 20, 2006. “All I did was help us lose the game. I’d like to talk about the other stuff I did to help us lose the game.”

As for the rest of Beckett’s comments following the game…

“I haven’t looked at any pitches but obviously they must have been up if they were getting them over the infield.”

(On the fourth inning) “They scored four runs that inning I think that’s where the game got away. Bad pitches, apparently.”

(On location) “I think it was more up and down. Just a god damn shame when your team scores you six runs and you can’t hold them to less than that.”

(On his warm-up session) “Everything felt fine.

(On his location being up in the zone) “I think it was pretty much the whole time. They hit some balls hard at guys. They blooped some balls in there.”

(On Jimmy Rollins’ seventh inning home run which gave Philly the lead for good) “Sinker down and away and it was right down the middle.”

(On having George Kottaras catch) “George did a great job. I don’t think anybody should blame the catcher, personally. You’re the one throwing the pitches, and you have to execute the pitches. I thought George did a really good job. Tek needed a day off and he did a really good job.”

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Beckett goes deep

06.14.09 at 3:22 pm ET
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Josh Beckett hit the first pitch of the sixth inning over the left field wall, off Philadelphia starter J.A. Happ, for the first home run by a Red Sox pitcher since Beckett’s May 20, 2006 blast, also at Citizens Bank Park, against Brett Myers. The homer tied the game at 5-5 after Philly had taken the lead with a four-run fifth. It was Beckett’s third career homer.

Decision on rotation to come Tuesday

06.14.09 at 2:56 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Sunday’s game that a decision regarding how the Sox’ plan on next using John Smoltz will be made after the team sees what transpires during the Sox’ series finale in Philadelphia. Francona said that an announcement regarding his club’s starting rotation will most likely come Tuesday. 

‘€œWe talked to Smoltzy last night. We just want to get through the off-day and then we’€™ll ‘€¦ I think we can lay out the whole week. We just want to get through the off-day,” Francona said. “Part of it is, we just don’€™t know how we’€™re going to get through today. We’€™ve got Wake again out in the bullpen as a reserve. We don’€™t want to use him, but we just want to protect ourselves. Until we get through it without using him, there’€™s no sense saying it and then undoing it. Get through today and we’€™ll kind of map it out. We have mapped out various possibilities. There’€™s no sense in [doing it ahead of time], especially when it’€™s going to require a roster move. Those things come at their own pace.’€ 

Pedroia, Drew out of lineup

06.14.09 at 2:20 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup Sunday, with Nick Green playing second base and Julio Lugo starting at shorstop.

“I’m sure I’ll be there in a a National League game — you’re always in there. I’m just beat up a little bit. My legs feel heavy. Tito, he always seems like he makes it the right time. I’ll be ready to pinch-hit or do whatever to help us win.”

Pedroia enters Sunday 4 for his last 38. “I’ve just hit one of those things where I’m not getting a lot of hits. Guys go through that. I’m not worried about it. I’ll figure it out. I’m just trying to find that consistency. I’m hitting around .300, that’s pretty consistent, but I haven’t found that swing to maintain it throughout the year like I did last year but it will come. I’m not panicking or anything like that. I’ll be fine.”
 
Also out of the lineup is J.D. Drew, who aggravated his right shoulder after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning Saturday night. The rest of the Sox’ lineup is as follows: Lugo SS, Ellsbury CF, Youkilis 1B, Bay LF, Lowell 3B, Baldelli RF, Green 2B, Kottaras C, Beckett P. The Phillies will send out: Rollins SS, Victorino CF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Dobbs LF, Feliz 3B, Coste C, Happ P.

Sunday Lineups

06.14.09 at 11:28 am ET
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REDSOX

Lugo         SS

Ellsbury   CF

Youkilis   1B

Bay            LF

Lowell      3B

Baldelli     RF

N.Green   2B

Kottaras    C

Beckett      p

 

PHILLIES

Rollins       SS

Victorino   CF

Utley            2B

Howard       1B

Werth           RF

Dobbs          LF

Feliz              3B

Coste             C

Happ              p

Penny fires back at Girardi

06.14.09 at 1:49 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Speaking after the Red Sox‘ 11-6 win over Philadelphia, Red Sox starter Brad Penny addressed Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi’s assertion Friday that he threw at Alex Rodriguez on purpose in the Sox’ win over New York, Thursday. 

“Why is he bringing it up a day later? Why not talk about it Thursday?” Penny said. “The game’s over with. I think he’s just frustrated. They have a good team and a good lineup. It’s not like this (season’s) over. It’s far from over.”

Regarding the pitch that hit A-Rod, Penny responded, “I don’t care what [Giardi] thinks. I didn’t hit him intentionally. I’m just pitching. We don’t go back and say they hit us intentionally. We’ve got games to worry about, not that (stuff). I don’t give a (care) what he says. He needs to worry about managing and let the league and the umpires take care of their job and he an take care of his.”

The Sox starter said, unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox haven’t filed complaints to the league when similar situations have come up involving their hitters. “And they called the commissioner’s office. Come on. Let’s play baseball. What’s over’s over. It wasn’t intentional. Let’s move forward.”

Sunday, Girardi responded one more time.

‘€œHe’€™s got to do what he thinks is right and I’€™m OK with that,’€ Girardi told reporters before hit team’s game against the Mets. ‘€œIt’€™s not like I blasted Brad Penny – I just said I thought he hit Alex Rodriguez on purpose. I wasn’€™t 100 percent sure and only Brad Penny knows.

‘€œI shared a feeling that I had and didn’€™t mean to stir anything up. I just said what I thought.’€

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Being J.D. Drew

06.13.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — J.D. Drew leaned back in his clubhouse chair, seemingly amused by the line of questioning. He was used to it. Every time he comes to Citizens Bank Park it’s the same thing. When you’re coming back to a place where you’ve had batteries thrown at you, the memories don’t typically dissolve too quickly.

“The people in the stands, they’ll never forget the Drew name,” he said. “There can be a Drew coming in the park 30 years from now that comes into the park that don’t have any relatioship to us and they’re going to get booed. I feel sorry if the Phillies ever get a kid with the last name Drew.”

In a city known for it’s booing, it is Drew who perhaps brings out the most robust line of jeering.

The venom started back when Drew would visit the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, just two years out from when the outfielder chose not to sign with the Phillies after being drafted by Philadelphia out of Florida State University.

Upon taking his place in center field back on Aug. 10, 1999, Drew was forced to dodge a few batteries thrown from the stands and onto the artificial turf of what was then the Phillies’ home park, Veterans Stadium. Even a large roll of tissue paper was yanked out of one of the bathrooms and whipped down just past the outfielder’s head. The game was halted, with a warning going out over the loudspeaker mandating that if anything else was tossed the game would be forfeited by Philly.

That day Drew would go 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI. It was a sign of things to come.

Drew has gone on to play 16 games in Citizens Bank Park, hitting .333 with five home runs (including one Friday night).

“I don’t think about it,” he said of the vitriol he encounters each time in Philly. “It just comes with the territory, I guess. I understand the environment and the situation, it happened so many years ago. One way or another … the boos are going to happen.

“You have a higher sense of focus, I don’t know. I feel fortunate I hit the ball well when I come here. I really don’t have an answer.”

While the boos haven’t subsided, Drew also understands that the more time passes, the less the majority of the fans will understand why they are shouting such insults.

“I’m sure guys are sitting next to somebody and turns to him, ‘what are we booing about’,” he said.

Another thing that doesn’t help Drew’s cause when it comes to endearing himself to Philly fans — and some in Boston, for that matter — is the lack of emotion he continues to display, no matter the situation. Folks in both cities simply want to see proof the player is as upset as the patrons sometimes are.

That, he said, should never be a concern.

“People think this kid, he’s laid back. Listen to be at this level and to perform and do it for years you’ve got to have an inner drive,” said Drew, taking a more serious tone. “I often said I battle more on the inside, which sometimes is tougher on you as a person if you go in there and explode and let it all go. I go home when I’m not going well and just wear myself out mentally trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that. You guys will never see that and the people in the stands will never see that. 

“It’s just my personality. I’m more of an introverted person by nature. Different people view it different ways. You’ve got guys running around here bouncing off the walls playing loud music, and you’ve got me sitting here watching the ballgame, chilling out. People all do it different ways. I’ve often said I would like to outwardly get it out, express it and be done with it, but that’s not how I operate. It’s just different.”

And, yes, Drew confirmed he has never been ejected from a game. It’s just who he is, whether Philadelphia likes it or not.

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