|Veteran Rotations for the Twins and Red Sox||03.17.09 at 1:16 pm ET|
Minnesota’s Opening Day starter, Scott Baker, is on the bump for the Twins today. At 27 years old, Baker is the graybeard of a Minnesota staff that will also feature Francisco Liriano (25), Kevin Slowey (24), Glen Perkins (26) and Nick Blackburn (26).
By the standards of most major-league clubs – particularly playoff contenders (non-Tampa Bay version), it is an incredibly young rotation, particularly given that none of the starters has even three years of major-league experience. Yet by Twins standards, the rotation can be considered almost ancient.
In all likelihood, this season will mark the first time since the 2005 campaign that the Twins have not featured at least three pitchers who made 10 or more starts at the age of 25 or younger. The team has had at least three pitchers who hadn’t yet eclipsed 25 make at least 10 starts seven times in the nine years this decade, and in 14 of the past 19 seasons dating to 1990.
Clearly, Minnesota has a different operating model than the Red Sox. How different? Read the rest of this entry »
|Gang Green||03.17.09 at 12:04 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Greetings and Happy Green Day from Fort Myers. The Red Sox are rocking the green and white unis in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, a tradition that dates (in both urban legend and the Red Sox pre-game notes) to 1990, when Roger Clemens purchased green caps and stirrups for the entire team. That is what qualified for excitement in the days of yore in Winter Haven. Worth noting: Clemens (a No. 2 seed) is running neck-and-neck with Dave Stewart (No. 15) in the Pitchers’ Bracket Challenge over on 38Pitches – if you haven’t, check it out.
A couple noteworthy elements to the St. Patty’s uniforms: Nick Green is, appropriately enough, in the starting lineup, and Jason Varitek is wearing green catcher’s gear that will be auctioned at www.redsox.com to benefit Children’s Hospital. The bases are also green, and seem all but certain to be auctioned for some noble purpose or other.
The Sox are 6-2-1 on St. Patrick’s Day this decade, though winless (0-2-1) in the last three springs.
Against the emerald backdrop, the Red Sox and Twins will play Game 3 of the best-of-five Mayor’s Cup. The teams have split the first two games. In case you were curious, the Mayor of Fort Myers does indeed attend the Mayor’s Cup tilts.
Denard Span, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Crede, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Carlos Gomez, CF
Jose Morales, C
Brendan Harris, SS
Scott Baker, SP
Josh Beckett, SP
|Lugo will be sidelined through Opening Day||03.17.09 at 9:10 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that shortstop Julio Lugo underwent a successful arthroscopy on his right knee this morning to repair his torn meniscus. He will remain in Boston for the next five to seven days. The shortstop is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks. With Opening Day just under three weeks away, math is working against Lugo’s ability to play when the curtain lifts on the regular season on April 6.
“It looks like he’s certainly not going to be ready to start the season,” said Francona. “That’s stating the obvious.”
That leaves the door open to the group of Nick Green, Angel Chavez, Ivan Ochoa and Gil Velazquez in the competition to serve as a backup middle infielder behind Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie, who will now serve as the season-opening double-play combination.
|Prospects Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick among cuts||03.17.09 at 8:29 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Big-league spring training camp is beginning to thin out a bit. With players returning from the World Baseball Classic and the start of the regular season now less than three weeks away, the Sox have re-assigned some of their younger prospects to minor-league camp. Among the first to head down Edison Ave. are the team’s top two position prospects, first baseman Lars Anderson and outfielder Josh Reddick.
Both players could cite elements of their first major-league camp that proved satisfying. Reddick put up impressive numbers, hitting .500 and, he noted, even working a couple of walks, a point of emphasis for a hitter whose success has been the result of a unique ability to make hard contact on pitches all over (and sometimes outside of) the strike zone, a tendency that is often exploited at the upper levels of professional ball.
“I was actually impressed by myself,” said Reddick. “I went back to one of my old batting stances that helped me see pitches a little bit better. I was actually surprised that I did see pitches like I did. I got two walks, which is pretty good in about 30 plate appearances for me. I worked counts pretty well, saw pitches pretty well and just didn’t try to do too much, didn’t try to go out there and hit it 500 feet every time. I just put the ball in play, and it ended up working out for me.”
|Pedroia eyeing weekend return||03.17.09 at 7:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking in the Red Sox clubhouse Tuesday morning, Dustin Pedroia wanted to pass along a message. “Tell fans of New England,” the Red Sox second baseman said, “we’re back!”
Pedroia’s optimism centered on the success he had earlier in the morning taking 15 swings off a batting tee and 20 more in a flip drill without experiencing any pain to his lower abdominal injury, all after arriving at City of Palms Park at 6:45 a.m.
According to Pedroia, if he continues to progress he will use Wednesday’s off day to take more swings off a tee and with flips. Thursday he is scheduled to take batting practice for the first time, a process he will repeat on Friday. The second baseman said that he is eying a return to game action Saturday, though it would be more likely that he would return later in the weekend, since the Sox are unlikely to send him on a cross-state bus ride to play in Jupiter.
“Sitting out the last couple of days stunk,” Pedroia said. “But we have to get this thing better. The good thing about it was that Team USA did a great job. It didn’t hurt me that much, but once I felt something they shut me down completely. That was huge.”
|Your daily dose of Junichi Tazawa||03.16.09 at 10:26 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To say there wasn’t much going on among those not heading up to Dunedin for the Jed Lowrie-a-thon might be an understatement. A group of Red Sox regulars came, drank coffee, worked out, and ventured off into the 80-something-humidity-laden air of Edison Ave.
I learned that Jonathan Papelbon is on medication that helps his migraine, which he only had one of this offseason. I learned that Hideki Okajima isn’t trying anything new this spring training, isn’t comfortable in going through his third spring with the Red Sox but is used to it, and, in the words of the reliever (through translator Jeff Yamaguchi) isn’t “into” watching the World Baseball Classic. And I learned that one of Josh Beckett’s first athletic injuries came after he pulled a lat muscle setting his junior high discus-throwing record (putting a dent in his Little League season that year).
Something else I learned was that rookie Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa is … A. Surprised at how much major league hitters swing at balls in the strike zone; B. Isn’t used to the American baseballs, feeling some are slicker than others; and C. Bitter at his old team, Nippon Oil ENEOS.
OK, that last part was a bit of an overstatement, but Tazawa said through a translator that he was a bit befuddled after hearing the results of his team’s victory in its Industrial League Tournament, last weekend. Evidently, he had carried ENEOS to victory in the tourney by pitching a bevy of complete games with very little run support. This time around, the club numerous pitchers, all of whom were treated to plenty of runs.
“I made a call to my coach and he said batting-wise they hit very well. I asked why I didn’t get that kind of support,” joked the affable 23-year-old.
Thus far against major leaguers, Tazawa — who is most likely bound for Double A Portland — has allowed just one run on three hits over five innings in three games.
Another topic of conversation was regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka’s six-inning outing against Cuba Sunday, in which he didn’t allow a run while striking out eight. There was the predictable uneasiness from the Red Sox corner of the world regarding the 86 pitches Matsuzaka threw, as was evidenced in comments made by Sox manager Terry Francona to ESPN.com:
“Dice-K pitched a great game yesterday,” Francona said before the Red Sox’ game Monday with Toronto. “But he also threw six innings. We’ve had [Josh] Beckett here for a month, and he’s up to four. It just makes you nervous. That’s all. Not being critical of anybody. It just makes you nervous.”
Matsuzaka could throw up to 105 in his next WBC start, which is double of what he’d be tossing with the Red Sox if with the team.
As a quick aside, it is interesting to note the Red Sox’ approach toward scouting Matsuzaka during the last WBC, as spelled out by Sox GM Theo Epstein Sunday. Epstein said that the organization was quietly hoping Matsuzaka didn’t distinguish himself for Team Japan since the Red Sox didn’t want everybody else seeing the kind of talents the Sox were already sold on. (You might remember, Matsuzaka was named the MVP for the tournament that year.)
Besides the pitch count, one thing that stood out in Matsuzaka’s latest win over Cuba was the sharpness of his curveball. It is a pitch, ironically, he shelved for much of last season according to Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
“He didn’t throw his split or his curveball that much,” said Farrell in a Nov. 11, WEEI.com story on Matsuzaka. “He made his slider a little bit bigger and a little less powerful, so that was a pitch that gave him a little bit more separation in terms of velocity. And then he would use his cutter. But his two-seamer is what I think made the most strides for him.”
Something to keep an eye on.
|Will the other ace be here?||03.16.09 at 10:39 am ET|
Josh Beckett was obviously happy for Jon Lester.
“It’s great,” said Beckett regarding his rotation-mate’s new five-year, $30 million deal. “I always think the first contract gives you that security and after that it’s icing. Now he has security for the rest of his life. Now he sets himself up for one more good deal.”
Beckett’s security came in the form of a three-year, $30 million extension signed in 2006, the guaranteed portion of which runs out at the end of this year. There is a $12 million team option for ’10, which automatically kicks in if the righty makes 28 starts this year.
But looming is that “one more good deal” about which Beckett spoke. The question is whether or not the 28-year-old will be riding out that next contract alongside the newly secured Lester in a Red Sox uniform.
“This is basically the last year of my contract. I’m not concerned with it too much. We’ll have to wait and see,” Beckett said. “The ball’s not really in my court as far as being a Red Sox. That’s what I want to do, but it’s not in my court. I’ve got this year and hopefully next year with the option. We’ll either work something out before then, or we won’t.”
The Beckett contract could get tricky.
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