|07.03.09 at 9:05 pm ET|
For the second time on Friday night, J.D. Drew swung at the first pitch he saw from Felix Hernandez. This time, batting with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, he crushed a 96 mph fastball to center for a homer. Drew is now hitting .308 with three homers in the 27 plate appearances in which he’s put the first pitch in play this year.
The homer brought the Sox to within 4-3. Tim Wakefield remained in the game for the top of the eighth, with the Sox seemingly hoping to leave their starter in position to claim one last victory before the All-Star rosters are announced. The move backfired, as Jose Lopez led off the eighth by launching a homer into the Monster Seats to put Seattle back ahead by two runs, 5-3. Wakefield worked around a double to get out of the inning, having thrown 112 pitches, tied for his most this year.
Wakefield is now almost surely done for the night. The Sox will have to rally for three runs against the Mariners bullpen in the bottom of the eighth to position the knuckleballer for a win. Sean White is on in place of Felix Hernandez, who threw seven innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks.
|07.03.09 at 8:49 pm ET|
As soon as he closed out the Sox’ 6-5 extra-inning victory on Wednesday, Jonathan Papelbon secured the ball that he used to set the new Red Sox franchise record for most career saves (133 and counting). He had it authenticated by Major League Baseball, and then, had one goal in mind for its preservation.
And what was that?
“Keep it away from my dog,” said Papelbon.
Papelbon, of course, has gone on record as saying that the ball used to close out Game 4 of the 2007 World Series against the Rockies was eaten by his dog. That keepsake, apparently, has been lost to history. The ball used for the Sox’ saves record, however, will be spared that inglorious fate. Even so, Papelbon seems less concerned with the ball itself than with the milestone that it represented. The build-up to the saves record had been on the closer’s mind, and so he is now looking forward to pitching without such anticipation to serve as mental clutter.
“Just the fact that it’s over with now, I can stop thinking about it, is real big for me,” said Papelbon. “I can move on. It’s just another step along the way.”
|07.03.09 at 8:26 pm ET|
The Mariners have jumped on Tim Wakefield for four runs on six hits in the third and fourth innings. The chief damage was done by an unlikely source in Ronny Cedeno, a good defensive player who is not highly regarded at the dish.
Cedeno’s .131 batting average entering tonight was the worst in baseball — by almost 50 points — of any player with at least 100 plate appearances in the majors this year. But the shortstop jumped on a 1-1 knuckleball with two outs in the fourth and hammered it off the angled section of the Green Monster just above the centerfield fence and between the yellow home run line and the camera well for a two-run homer. Wakefield had not allowed a homer in his previous three starts.
There was some unrest in the crowd, since the inning might have been over but for a very nice play made by a fan on a foul ball. Ryan Langerhans hit a pop-up by the Mariners dugout. Unimpeded, the ball would have landed between the first and second rows. But Kevin Youkilis and a fan in the first row both had an excellent read on the ball. It was the fan who caught a ball on which Youkilis might have been able to make a play. But with the at-bat still alive, Langerhans ripped a one-out double to center, and after a pop-out, catcher Rob Johnson hit a run-scoring double and then scored on Cedeno’s blast.
This was no Jeffrey Maier deal. The fan was perfectly within his rights to try to catch a ball that was in the stands. Nonetheless, an inning that Wakefield might (emphasis on might – assuming the outcome of a succession of events based on changing one of the prior events is a dangerous exercise in revisionism) have been able to escape without a run, and with a 2-1 lead intact, instead turned into a three-run rally and a 4-2 Mariners lead. And so a catch made by a fan might bear some responsibility for keeping Wakefield out of the All-Star game in St. Louis.
|07.03.09 at 7:35 pm ET|
A pretty fascinating first inning at Fenway Park. Some highlights:
1) Tim Wakefield sailed through a scoreless first, allowing only a lazy fly ball to Jose Lopez that scraped the Wall for a double. As long as rain doesn’t wipe tonight’s game from the record books (apparently a possibility, though it’s hard to tell on a beautiful night at Fenway), Wakefield now stands alone in Red Sox history, having made 383 starts with the club — one more than Roger Clemens.
2) The Red Sox appear to be taking an aggressive early-count approach against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Five of the six Sox hitters in the bottom of the first swung at the first or second pitch. Most stunningly, leadoff man J.D. Drew flew out to center on the first pitch of the game, a 94 mph fastball. The last time that Drew put the first pitch of the game in play while hitting leadoff was June 26, 2000, when he singled on Denny Neagle’s first pitch of the game. Since then, Drew had batted leadoff in 38 games and had seen at least two pitches in each of his first at-bats of the game.
3) King Felix gave up a run — two, actually — in Fenway. Entering tonight, Hernandez had made two starts in Boston, logging a total of 15 shutout innings, most notably the dazzling one-hit complete-game he threw in 2007.
4) Jason Bay, who carried an 0-for-17 slump into tonight’s game, ripped a ground-rule double over the head of Ichiro Suzuki in deep right field to plate the first run. That probably tastes much better than the five strikeouts he endured on Wednesday. Apparently, American citizenship suits Bay. (Bay did take a moment before the game to note that a) he is honored by his American citizenship and b) he has NOT renounced his Canadian citizenship. He is a dual citizen, and remains proud of his Canadian heritage.)
5) One bonus fact from the second inning: shortstop Nick Green, like Bay, snapped an 0-for-17 streak by doubling against Hernandez.
Sox lead, 2-0.
|07.03.09 at 6:57 pm ET|
“The doctor,” said Lowell, “asked me if I have a reaction to poultry.”
The inquiry was based upon the fact that Synvisc, the lubricating substance that was put into Lowell’s hip, is derived from the combs in the back of a chicken’s head. But while the source of the shot might have been slightly bemusing, Lowell pronounced that he feels “great…really good” following the draining of fluid and the injection of Synvisc in his right hip on Monday. Though the Sox opted to place him on the disabled list, Lowell said that the decision was one of precaution rather than necessity, a means of ensuring that he will be well rested for the second half.
“We took the junk out and put good stuff in. We had a good oil change,” said Lowell. “I’m really looking forward to a good second half…I feel much better than I did in the last two months.”
While Lowell had felt growing discomfort in his hip while running, he said that in the days prior to his receiving the injection, he was starting to feel his hip affect him at the plate.
“When I felt it tight the last five days, I didn’t feel like I could put the weight on my back foot the same way when I was hitting,” said Lowell. “Anytime you start hitting that, you almost start changing things. In the long run, I want to get to the point where I’m playing the game and not thinking about anything.”
Lowell said that he, the team, and several doctors developed a game plan for his return. Lowell will focus on building the muscles around his hip, taking this weekend off from baseball activities before resuming them while continuing his rehab on Monday. He said that a rehab assignment may not be necessary, since he will be taking batting practice everyday starting Monday.
However, Lowell did acknowledge that he will likely have more days off in the second half than he did at the start of the season. Lowell played in 44 of the Sox’ first 45 games and 65 of the team’s first 67 contests.
“I’ve got to believe I’m not going to play 59 out of 60 after the second half. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still produce or play well,” said Lowell. “I don’t want to go through this year the way I did last year. I think I would be putting myself and the team in a position that would be not the best…
“I believe that’s going to be better for me long term,” Lowell added. “Dr. (Brian) Kelly (who performed the surgery on Lowell’s hip) was the one who told me sometimes the best off day is the one where you feel good, because you can really recharge. When you don’t feel good, you get a day off, it usually isn’t good enough.”
|07.03.09 at 3:07 pm ET|
MARINERS VS. TIM WAKEFIELD
The Sox and Mariners last met in a mid-May series in Seattle, when the M’s took two of three from Boston. The Mariners are only 3.5 games back of the Angels and in third place in the A.L. West.
The Sox will face the three teams below or just above .500 (the Mariners are 40-38, while Oakland (33-44) and Kansas City(33-45) are well under). The Sox can use this next week and a half at home before the All-Star break to gain ground on the Yankees, who will be facing Toronto then traveling to Minnesota and Los Angeles (Angels). All three teams have records over .500.
Wakefield heads to the mound Friday in his second to last start before the All-Star break, trying to add to his candidacy for a berth in the Mid-Summer Classic. In 15 career starts against Seattle, Wakefield has not fared well, with a 4-9 record. Yet seven of his 10 wins this year have come in front of the Fenway Faithful, and with the added incentive of an All-Star appearance on the line, Wakefield is certainly looking to produce a bang in one of his final first-half starts.
Mike Sweeney (35) career at-bats against Wakefield): .257 average, .366 OBP, .257 slugging, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts
Ken Griffey (27): .259/ .333/ .444, homer, 6 strikeouts
Ichiro Suzuki (25): .240/ .296/ .240, 2 walks, strikeout
Russell Branyan (11): 2-for-11, 3 strikeouts
Jose Lopez (12): .333/ .385/ .833, homer, walk
Chris Woodward (11): 2-for-11, walk, 3 strikeouts
Josh Wilson (9): 3-for-9, 3 strikeouts
Wladimir Balentien (6): 1-for-6
Franklin Gutierrez (6): 2-for-5, walk
Kenji Johjima (3): 1-for-3, strikeout
RED SOX VS. FELIX HERNANDEZ
Hernandez has not lost since May 19 and has not gone less than seven innings pitched since May 30. In three games last year against the Red Sox, Hernandez was 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA. Hernandez, too, will look to solidify his All-Star credentials, in a place where he delivered the most dominant outing of his career: a one-hit, complete-game shutout in 2007, in the first home start of Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s career.
Given how dominant Hernandez was in that game, it comes as something of a surprise to see that several Red Sox ‘ notably, J.D. Drew, David Ortiz and Mark Kotsay ‘ have done quite well against him.
J.D. Drew (16 career at-bats against Hernandez): .438 Average /.526 OBP/.438 slugging, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (15): .200/.294/.267, 2 walks, strikeout
Jason Varitek (15): .133/.188/.133, walk, 5 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (12): .333/.385/.333, 3 RBI, 3 strikeouts
Julio Lugo (11): 1-for-11, 2 walks
David Ortiz (11): .364/ .462/.636, homer, 2 walks
Mark Kotsay (11): .455/.500/.636, 1 walk, 1 RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury (7): 0-for-7, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Rocco Baldelli (3): 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Nick Green (2): 2-for-2
|07.02.09 at 6:01 pm ET|
Now he can say he’s an American, too.
The 30-year-old from Trail, British Columbia, was among 360 people to become U.S. citizens Thursday in a naturalization ceremony at Faneuil Hall.
Dressed in a suit, Bay blended into the diverse group of immigrants holding postcard-sized flags who took the oath administered by U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin.
Bay joined two military men and about a dozen children of newly sworn-in citizens to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. One little boy donned a special Red Sox T-shirt with Bay’s No. 44 decorated with red and white stripes and blue and white stars.
“I already knew it but I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess it up in front of all those people,” Bay said, admitting some jitters. “I didn’t want the kids to upstage me.”
|07.02.09 at 5:10 pm ET|
Tim Wakefield is doing everything he can to give himself a serious shot at being an All Star this season. His 10 wins are tied for best in the league and he has gone at least six innings in all but three of his starts. Unfortunately for Wakefield, one runs into a few stumbling blocks when evaluating the knuckleballer’s candidacy for St. Louis.
Most people who are 26th in ERA don’t go to the All Star game. That’s not to say that he can’t, but if Wakefield wants to get taken seriously when reserves are chosen, he’ll need to do some damage tomorrow night against Seattle and improve that 4.18 mark.
Lucky for Wakefield, not every starter with a better ERA than him has a great record. In fact some of the starters have awful records (see: Washburn, Jarrod; Lee, Cliff). Those records are more likely to cost someone a spot than a semi-bloated ERA. Here’s the bottom line: Wakefield can lower his ERA with a good start. Washburn (4-6) can’t get to 10 wins with a good start.
HIS SELECTION WILL DEPEND SOLELY ON WINS
A 10-3 record is nothing to sneeze at, but anyone with a slightly-worse mark and better ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, etc., will stand a much better chance of making the team over Wakefield. That’s why Wakefield needs to hope that wins are regarded as much more important than ERA.
As it is now, Wakefield should be able to jump ahead of guys like Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.10 ERA) and Matt Garza (6-5, 3.45), but it won’t get him ahead of the Jered Weavers of the world and that’s where he might end up losing out.
Throughout the years Wakefield has grown into a pitcher that Boston can count on a quality start from. Wakefield currently ranks 12th in that category with 10, but is just three behind Zack Greinke, Lee, and Dallas Braden for the AL Lead (13).
THE ROSTER WON’T HAVE AS MANY PITCHERS IN AN NL PARK
Wakefield’s chances would definitely be better if this game were being played in an AL park. Last season, 12 pitchers (six starters, six closers) were on the AL All-Star roster in Yankee Stadium while only 10 were on the roster in San Francisco in ’07. Six starters still went, but when looking at the competition that Wakefield faces, it would appear that he is pretty far down on the list of possibilities.
Fortunately for Wakefield this year, managers will be allowed to add one more pitcher to each squad, and will likely be encouraged to add a starter who can consume some innings to avoid the humiliation of ties or a position player getting on the mound. That just may be what gets the knuckleballer into his first All-Star game. Even so, don’t be surprised if he’s left off the team from a numbers standpoint. Too many people are ahead of him in ERA (25), innings pitched (21), and strikeouts (41) for anyone to consider him a lock.
Additionally, the man who gets final say over his fate is someone who has seen No. 49 at his best in Rays manager Joe Maddon. Wakefield has historically shined versus teams whose names end in “Rays,” including a record of 8-3 versus Tampa Bay since Maddon took over in ’06.
Maddon might have some allegiance towards a couple of his own guys– Garza and James Shields rank 12th and 13th in ERA, respectively, but only have six wins apiece– but if anyone is to give Tim Wakefield his much-needed push to St. Louis, wouldn’t it be a guy who knows first-hand just how much he can dominate?
EVERY TEAM NEEDS A REPRESENTATIVE
As everyone knows, every team needs to be represented in the All Star game. That means that if Player A has better numbers but plays on a team that is already represented, Player B will make the team over the more-deserving Player A if he’s on a team full of scraps. Think that’s unfair? Lance Carter would disagree. The reliever made the AL squad in ’03 despite posting a 4.05 ERA before the break for Tampa Bay.
Looking through the teams, the usual suspects for this kind of stuff appear to be mostly clean. Kansas City will send Greinke, Cleveland will send Victor Martinez, the Rangers have several legit candidates in Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Kevin Millwood, Detroit will send Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, the Orioles have Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts…the list goes on and on. The one team that could really bite Wakefield is Oakland. With nobody on the Athletics having a standout season, Dallas Braden could see his 3.13 motor him past his 6-7 record and into the All-Star game. Catcher Kurt Suzuki could also make it, but he’s in a tight spot with Joe Mauer, Martinez, and A.J. Pierzynski having big seasons.
JOSH BECKETT IS CRAMPING HIS STYLE
If Josh Beckett makes this team over Wakefield, don’t blame the ace. After a rough two-game stretch that left him sitting with a 7.22 ERA at the end of April, Beckett has bounced back in a big way and would be deserving as an All-Star, which would all but rule out a spot for the longest-tenured member of the Sox.
Beckett’s 9-3 record is a shade below Wakefield’s 10-3, but the rest of Beckett’s numbers put Wakefield to shame. Beckett definitely falls under the previously-mentioned guys who have it all over Wakefield in every place but the win column. His 99 strikeouts nearly double Wake’s 50, but his five earned yesterday didn’t help. Either way, he’s got a lower ERA (3.67) and WHIP (1.22), while also tossing more innings (105.1). If it comes down to Wakefield and Beckett, it won’t even be a discussion unless Wakefield can nail down that win tomorrow night.
Here’s a list of some of the starters with whom Wakefield will likely battle it out for a roster spot (keep in mind that six starters went the last two years):
Zack Greinke (KC): 10-3, 1.95 ERA, 114 SO
Roy Halladay (TOR) [if healthy]: 10-2, 2.56, 95 SO
Felix Hernandez (SEA): 8-3, 2.54, 107 SO
Justin Verlander (DET): 8-4, 3.54, 130 SO
Jered Weaver (LAA): 8-3, 3.10, 86 SO
Kevin Millwood (TEX): 8-5, 2.80, 74 SO
Edwin Jackson (DET): 6-4, 2.49, 84 SO
Josh Beckett (BOS): 9-3, 3.67, 99 SO
Ricky Romero (TOR): 6-3, 2.85, 61 SO
Mark Buehrle (CHW) 7-2, 3.26, 61 SO
Erik Bedard (SEA) [if healthy]: 5-2, 2.47, 65 SO
WAKEFIELD: 10-3, 4.18, 50 SO
As anticipated, Wakefield doesn’t exactly match up favorably with the rest of the competition. However, it would be awfully hard to turn an 11-game-winner away from the All Star game.
|07.02.09 at 9:15 am ET|
Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, during an interview on Thursday morning on the Dennis & Callahan Show, addressed the dynamics of the American League East race between the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays — both during the season and the winter. Lucchino suggested that there is little surprise to find that the division race is nip-and-tuck, with all three teams performing well, and also said that there would be no surprise if the Yankees went after Sox outfielder Jason Bay in free agency this offseason.
Here are some highlights from Lucchino’s appearance:
Are you surprised that the Sox do not have a lead of more than 2.5 games?
We expected at the start of the season that there would be three teams in the American league East that would be battling, and that there would be very slight differences in the win column among the three teams. That seems to be the way it’s developing right now…(The Yankees) aren’t going anywhere. They’re going to be around all season.
Our view at the start of the season was that there were some teams that would be winning in the mid-90s in the number of games won, and the differences between them would be very slight. I’m not very surprised that this is the way it’s played out…There won’t be much breathing room for the rest of the season, in my opinion.
If you were a team that had spent almost a half-billion dollars in the offseason, would you be upset not to be in first place?
Not yet. I think I would look to see that the differential of a couple of games can disappear in a few days’ time…If the team were somehow out of the race, if the team had turned into an utter disaster in terms of morale and performance, that would be a different matter…Some kind of patience and stability are essential during the course of the pennant race.
Given the Yankees’ offseason spending, is there satisfaction in being ahead of them after a winter in which the Sox spent their resources on short-term contracts and extensions for homegrown players?
They are definitely two different approaches. No question about that. We don’t rule out the significant free-agent signings. Make no mistake about that. We were out there trying to sign Teixeira. We look at the best free agents to come onto the market every year. It’s just not our primary course of action. It’s not the preferred way to operate. But you should never, and we never, foreclose any options to make our team better.
I do like the fact very much that we have a different approach. The Yankees seem to do things one way. We try to do them another. They’ve built the eighth wonder of the world as a ballpark, as a grand stadium, a grand edifice. We just have a nice little ballpark here. They’re also in the largest market in the world. We are in the most avid or passionate market in the world. There are real differences between us, and I like to be reminded of those from time to time.
Would you be surprised if a team with the resources of the Yankees made a run at Jason Bay in free agency this winter?
They have a track record of doing exactly that: signing the best players to come onto the free-agent market…Jason has the kind of track record that will establish him as one of the better free agents on the market as a position player. I think that it’s quite likely that they may do that, as a general rule. But who knows? I don’t know how rich their farm system is in terms of coming outfielders, but that doesn’t seem to deter them in most years.
Do you continue to try to negotiate with a player during the season even if he’s declined an offer?
There’s no one-size-fits-all. There’s no single rule. It depends on who the agent is, how forceful the declination is. It depends how strongly our baseball operations people feel about the player. There’s no simple rule that applies across the board.
Internally, what kind of measures were you considering when David Ortiz was struggling?
Patience. Patience. Patience. We felt that he deserved every second chance imaginable given his track record, given his role with the team and given the surprise that his decline represented. It wasn’t a slight fall-off. It was a drop-off of significant proportions. I heard no one, in no meetings, was there discussion about doing something about David Ortiz’¦There was never any disaster plan enacted.
Have you had to reconsider the notion that you can never have too much starting pitching?
I still believe you can’t have too much.
You have too much — ask Clay Buchholz.
I think we’re going to have to come back at the end of this season and see what kind of injuries we have in July, August, September, and see what kind of role Buchholz has for us. Will he win some key games for us this year? Most likely, yes. You just can’t decide, after 78 games, that you have enough. The cruel irony is disposing of some of this pitching and finding out that you need an arm because someone goes down unexpectedly.
My view is you stockpile it. That doesn’t mean you don’t use it judiciously if there is a trade that makes you better. But as a rule of thumb, you want to have deep depth, as Earl Weaver talked about it.
Do you think you might re-sign Bay before he reaches free agency?
I don’t think there’s much utility in talking about possible free agent signings at this point…I don’t see how it will help us get something done to talk about over the radio.
|07.01.09 at 2:06 pm ET|
Reymond Fuentes, the high school outfielder from Puerto Rico whom the Red Sox selected in the first round of this year’s draft, has agreed to terms with the Red Sox on a signing bonus of approximately $1.13 million. Fuentes has already passed a physical and drug test, and his signing will become official on Wednesday.
The outfielder, whose speed and defense have earned him comparisons to Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury, is expected to be assigned to Fort Myers of the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. This is what we wrote about Fuentes following his selection in the draft:
Fuentes, the first player taken in the first round out of Puerto Rico since 2000, was one of the fastest players in the draft. The 18-year-old confirmed the relevance of speed to his game.
‘My strength is my legs,’ Fuentes said shortly after the Sox selected him with the 28th pick of the first round of the 2009 draft. ‘My game is slap the ball and start running’¦ On defense, I have good range, and cover a lot of space and ground in the outfield.’
Amateur scouting director Jason McLeod said that he has plus-plus speed, and was a sprinting champion in Puerto Rico. Fuentes received comparisons to a pair of Sox (current and past) centerfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon.
‘Beltran’s cousin, Jacoby’s clone,’ wrote Cora. ‘Saw him. He flies. Good level swing. Hard worker.’
As they followed the 18-year-old, particularly this spring, the Sox began to see something more. Physically, the outfielder ‘ who is a cousin of Carlos Beltran ‘ began to develop this year. McLeod and G.M. Theo Epstein went to scout Fuentes in Puerto Rico in May, and at that time, his bat had advanced in noteworthy fashion.
‘I thought his bat speed had improved from where he was at the beginning of the spring,’ said Epstein. ‘The ball was coming off his bat much better. He started to really interest us as a guy who was not just going to disrupt on the bases, who was not just going to flash a plus-plus run tool in centerfield, but who could really hit as well. For us, that pushed him up into the first round.’
In addition to Fuentes, the Sox also announced the signings of fourth-round pick Jeremy Hazelbaker, eighth-rounder Shannon Wilkerson, 12th rounder Michael Thomas and 13th-round pick Chris McGuinness.
For more on Fuentes, including a look at the Sox’ wait inside the draft room to see whether the outfielder would be available when they made their first-round selection, read “Holiday in June: A Day in the Life of the Red Sox Draft.”
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