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Tough break for Velazquez

03.19.10 at 8:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox infielder Gil Velazquez chipped a bone in his left thumb diving for a ball on Tuesday in an exhibition game against the Astros and is expected to miss six weeks.

Velazquez appeared Friday morning in the Red Sox clubhouse at City of Palms Park with a cast on his left thumb and said he will be evaluated every two weeks.

Jacoby Ellsbury reported that he felt much better and took part in the team’s workout on Friday morning after taking the last two days to recover from flu-like symptoms. Ellsbury, who was still nursing a raspy voice, said he expects to be ready to play on Saturday when the Red Sox host Baltimore at City of Palms.

As the Red Sox headed north on I-75 to play the Pirates in Bradenton on Friday, several other regulars stayed behind to get their work in at City of Palms, including position players Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Ellsbury and Mike Lowell.

Lowell will play in a minor league spring training game at 12:30 at the Red Sox minor league complex down Edison Avenue.

Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard were among the pitchers getting side work in on Friday. Daisuke Matsuzaka was expected to throw a side later Friday, determining whether he will be cleared to pitch in a game on Sunday.

Read More: Gil Velazquez, Jacoby Ellsbury, mike lowell, MLB

Report: Positive signs on Westmoreland

03.18.10 at 11:37 pm ET
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The Providence Journal reported that Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland, who underwent a five-hour surgical procedure to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain on Tuesday, “continues to progress well following brain surgery and so far all the signs are positive.”

The report said that the first few days following the procedure will help with a a determination of what impact the condition had on the 19-year-old’s brain stem, which helps to control motor functions and vision, but that it could take weeks or months to determine whether Westmoreland suffered damage that will impact his quality of life.

The report suggested that it is possible that Westmoreland could recover fully and resume his professional baseball career, but that any such determination “will come much later.”

Read More: cavernous malformation, ryan westmoreland,

A look at new Sox minor leaguer Celestino

03.18.10 at 4:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Truth be told, there wasn’t a great deal of information available on Miguel Celestino, the minor league pitcher whom the Red Sox acquired as the player to be named to complete the deal that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall and cash.

The 20-year-old right-hander went 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts (against 23 walks) in 66.1 innings in Rookie Ball in 2009. Sox scout Matt Dorey was able to get a look at the pitcher during the Mariners’ Instructional League.

The Sox scouted Celestino further over the winter in the Dominican, and saw him throw in a simulated game in Mariners camp on Wednesday. The pitcher has shown a fastball at 90-91 mph that he throws at a good, downward angle because of his size (he is listed at 6-foot-5) and has shown some feel for his changeup, while also including a curve in his mix.

Based on the assessments of Dorey and Sox assistant to the GM Allard Baird, the Sox felt like they had a better feel for Celestino than the other players whom they could have selected from the Mariners’ list. And so, the team decided to take the pitcher, in hopes of having some time to begin to work with him in spring training.

“[Dorey] did a good job of digging in [Instructional League]. He had a report on him that was interesting enough that we wanted to include him in list of players,” said Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington. “We decided that he was the guy, and wanted to get him into camp a little bit sooner so we could work with him this spring.

“He’€™s a big, strong kid, good body,” Cherington added. “He has a pretty good angle, pretty good sink, good feel for a changeup. We’€™ll see him tomorrow and get a chance to know him.”

Read More: bill Hall, Casey Kotchman, miguel celestino,

Bigger Clay shows he can shoulder the load

03.18.10 at 3:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A bigger Clay Buchholz might just mean a more confident Clay Buchholz in 2010.

So far, so good.

Buchholz arrived in camp at 200 pounds, about 14 pounds heavier than he said he ended 2009. And in his latest stint against Minnesota High-A minor leaguers on a windy, chilly Thursday afternoon at the Red Sox player development complex, the right-hander looked very comfortable, retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced in four scoreless innings.

With pitching coach John Farrell, general manager Theo Epstein and Esptein assistants Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen watching from behind home plate, Buchholz threw his whole repertoire in a 46-pitch stint, throwing 32 strikes, allowing just a double to the No. 9 hitter, striking out four.

He felt so strong that he threw another 15 pitches on the side in the bullpen after his work in the game to finish his work on his fifth day to pitch.

“I feel a little bit bigger in the shoulders and a little bit in the back, too,” Buchholz said, adding he’s already lost three pounds off his spring training weigh in. “So, it’s places where I can definitely use the extra weight. And I can afford to lose it if I have to.

“I don’t feel like it’s given me any velocity on my fastball. I feel it’s going to make it better for me throughout the season instead of being frail and looking like I’m going to die.”

He also joked that he gets offers from his pregnant wife to share some of the extra weight with his first child on the way.

And he knows that with Daisuke Matsuzaka being slowed this spring by back and neck ailments, he will likely be assured of starting the season in the rotation.

“Dice, whenever he’s ready to go he’s going to be good,” Buchholz said. “Obviously, he’s going to be ready within the next month or so. So I can’t put that in my mind as far as, ‘I should get the start in the first month up and then I don’t know what’s going to happen.’

“I’m just going to go out and pitch every day or every day they give me the ball and try to do what I have to do to succeed and get better every time I go out. That’s the way I have to look at it.”

Nor is Buchholz looking at this as a chance to replace Matsuzaka as the club’s No. 4 starter behind the big three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

“Dice being set back a little bit shouldn’t affect me a whole lot just because he’s going to be a guy in the rotation when he’s healthy,” Buchholz said.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, MLB, Red Sox,

Sox acquire Celestino from Mariners

03.18.10 at 11:32 am ET
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The Red Sox announced that they have acquired right-handed pitcher Miguel Celestino from the Mariners to completing the Jan. 7 trade that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman to Seattle in exchange for infielder Bill Hall and cash.

Celestino, 20, went 5-3 with a 4.73 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for the Rookie-level Peoria Mariners of the Arizona League in 2009, his first professional season in the United States. He tossed at least five innings in 10 of his 13 appearances and had a 13-inning scoreless streak from Aug. 11-16.  He pitched in the Dominican Summer League from 2007-08 and was originally signed by Seattle as an international free agent on Dec. 16, 2006.

Beltre offers a signature moment

03.17.10 at 3:59 pm ET
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To see a slideshow of Adrian Beltre’s defensive gem from Wednesday’s game, click here.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Alex Cora liner up the middle caromed off the bottom of pitcher John Lackey’s foot, Adrian Beltre’s eyes suddenly widened. The ball squirmed a few feet towards the third base side of the mound. Lackey took a couple steps towards it, but the Red Sox third baseman called him off.

This, after all, presented an opportunity for Beltre to make a defensive play that fills him with joy.

He sprinted in and barehanded the ball. While falling to his right, feet planted flat and torso parallel to the ground, Beltre whipped the ball with breathtaking power. His throw clipped Cora at first base by a half-step, producing not only an out, but offering Beltre’s first occasion since coming to the Sox to drop jaws with his glove work.

That barehand, flat-footed play on a carom, Beltre said, is a play that he loves “more than you can imagine.”

“That’€™s probably my favorite play. I love to make those plays, especially when it’€™s supposed to be a base hit,” he said. “It’€™s always nice to know that I can still do that. I hadn’€™t done it this year yet.”

There were different dimensions about the play to appreciate. There was Beltre’s howitzer, of course. Few infielders could imagine delivering a ball with that kind of velocity without having their feet planted.

“You can tell he’€™s been throwing the baseball all his life,” said manager Terry Francona. “It’€™s a natural thing. He can throw from a number of different angles.”

Beltre’s ability to bare hand the ball and find a grip on it also stood out.

“That’s almost like a routine play for him,” remarked Sox utility player Bill Hall, who saw Beltre make similar plays on a couple of occasions when the two were teammates in Seattle at the end of last year. “He’s bare handing that ball. That one probably has sidespin, so it makes it a little tougher to get a grip on that ball. And he’s probably throwing it without a good four-seam grip — and sidearm, and falling down. It just takes a lot of athletic ability and a lot of body control to do it.”

Beltre’s play commanded an ovation at City of Palms Park. But while it is clear that he has the capability to garner more such reactions with his work in the field, the third baseman made clear that his motivation to work tirelessly in the field during batting practice comes from another source.

“I enjoy making them myself, because I’€™m doing something for my teammates,” said Beltre. “It makes me want to get better everyday. I want to be able to help my teammates, especially the pitchers out there, trying to do their job, which is getting groundballs, so we can do our job.”

One other Beltre-related item from Wednesday’s game: the Red Sox narrowly avoided a potentially devastating blow.

In the top of the sixth with Hideki Okajima on the mound, a Mets batter flicked a ball into the air, about halfway down the third-base line. Beltre and catcher Victor Martinez converged. Martinez tried to make a sliding catch, and Beltre nearly collided with him before peeling off at the last moment. The ball bounced in foul territory, and the two players remained unharmed.

“We’€™re actually yelling for [Okajima], because that’€™s probably the one play where he has to take it, but he might have got sandwiched there,” said Francona. “That’€™s kind of in no-man’€™s land.”

That being the case, Beltre recognized that the Sox had dodged the proverbial bullet.

“I didn’€™t expect Victor to be there. Normally the catcher doesn’€™t go there for that ball. That was supposed to be my ball. I was surprised that he got there so quick,” said Beltre. “I told him it was lucky that collision didn’€™t happen. That would have been a disaster in spring training.”

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Lackey: ‘I don’t want to bring those runs up north’

03.17.10 at 3:13 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox starter John Lackey logged four scoreless innings, in which he remained characteristically efficient. He allowed just two hits and walked none while striking out a pair of Mets hitters, needing just 39 pitches (28 strikes) to sail through his outing.

Such performances have largely typified the right-hander’s spring. He has now thrown nine scoreless innings in exhibition game, and he has yet to walk a man during the Grapefruit League season. He has allowed five hits in 30 at-bats, holding opponents to a .167 average. His biggest concern has thus been his ongoing need to build up arm strength (he threw about 10 pitches in the bullpen after leaving Wednesday’s game).He also wants to see improvement in his breaking ball, which he will measure by whether he is able to get more swings and misses with the pitch.

But overall, Lackey has had little to complain about this spring.

“I feel pretty good. I feel like my delivery is on time, location is pretty good,” said Lackey. “I’ve thrown the ball pretty well. But honestly, I’d probably like to give up a couple runs here. I don’t want to bring them all north with me.”

Lackey did have a line drive hit off the bottom of his foot, but reported no ill effects from the shot. Instead, he had an opportunity to marvel at a defensive gem turned in by teammate Adrian Beltre. Though the ball trickled just a few feet from the mound, Beltre called off Lackey and pounced on the ball. He reached down, barehanded it, and with his torso parallel to the ground and while falling towards the third-base line, he launched a missile to first to clip Mets shortstop Alex Cora at first.

“Pretty awesome play by AB,” marveled Lackey. “That dude can play.”

“He always shows off the arm. No step over to first, he’s got that one down,” the pitcher continued. “Guys on our team on the [Angels] bench would talk about, ‘Hey, that dude can pick it.’ It was definitely impressive to watch him play defense.”

Read More: Adrian Beltre, john lackey,

Matsuzaka could throw in game on Sunday

03.17.10 at 11:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 40-pitch live batting practice session in which he mixed fastballs, sliders and changeups, which he followed by throwing 10 more fastballs with no swings. He then concluded the session by throwing four pitchouts. Afterward, pitching coach John Farrell said the session was “successful.”

“Most important [was] the overall physical aspect: no restrictions, no hesitation. He feels good about himself,” said Farrell. “Every progressive step is a positive one, one that you can begin to build upon: increase pitches, increase innings. Today was an important [step] to at least see a hitter in there, for him to begin to get feedback on how his pitches are acting and to see a batter in a box.”

Matsuzaka threw all his pitches in facing Tug Hulett, Aaron Bates and Angel Pagan. He elicited one swing and miss (on a fastball to Bates), but aside from a couple of liners to the outfield, most of the swings resulted in foul tips or foul balls.

“I think I had good life on my fastball. I also felt I had good break and good command on my breaking balls, although there is some work to be done there,” said Matsuzaka, who seemed particularly pleased with his work out of the stretch in the second half of his live B.P. session. “I think if there was one thing, since it was my first time facing live batters, I didn’€™t pitch inside. But I think that’€™s something I’€™ll work on as I start throwing in games.”

The Sox have Thursday off. Following that day of rest, the right-hander will be evaluated by team trainers and then throw a bullpen session on Friday. If that goes well, Farrell said that the pitcher could throw two innings in a minor league spring training game as soon as Sunday.

“That would be the ideal scenario. Still, we have the right to adjust by a day if so needed,” said Farrell. “We don’t want to skip any steps along the way here, and we want to be sure he has ample time and we provide him ample time to build a foundation that’s going to endure an entire season.”

The pitcher has admitted that his pace this spring has been frustrating at times. The back injury that slowed him at the start of spring training and then the neck injury that delayed him by a couple more days in the last week have been unwanted.

But now, he is feeling no ill effects of either of those issues. As such, he is trying to remain mindful of what lies ahead for him this spring, and this season.

“I feel I can get over these frustrations as we move forward,” said Matsuzaka. “Really the only way to go from here is forward. … I definitely want to stay on the schedule that’€™s been laid out. I just want to stay on track going forward, on the schedule that’€™s been laid out for me.”

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Red Sox Wednesday Morning Notes: Lowrie has mono

03.17.10 at 9:27 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — On a gray Florida morning, the Red Sox are hopeful that inclement weather will not prove an impediment to the donning of the green, part of the team’s annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Before today’s scheduled affair against the New York Metropolitans (who must traverse the state to journey from Atlantic to Gulf Coast, an undertaking of such great peril and exhaustion that Jason Bay elected to remain anchored in the safe haven of Port St. Lucie), the team would like pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to throw his long-awaited live batting practice, though the club is at the mercy of the fates and the local meteorologists.

A compendium of additional items of newsworthiness on this morning:

— A series of tests revealed that Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie‘s recent fatigue was the result of mononucleosis. The 26-year-old told the Sox last Thursday that he felt exhausted, at a time when he was facing an accelerated heart beat.

After more significant issues had been ruled out, subsequent tests revealed that his symptoms were a result of mono. He will be able to handle some return to physical activity, though it remains to be seen at what pace.

“He has mono,” said manager Terry Francona. “He can play as tolerated. It’s just, there’s a reason he was feeling run down the last week. He was on a bike yesterday. I don’t think he’ll feel like he has a ton of energy for the next week or two, but he can do physical things as tolerated. We’ll monitor him. I don’t think we want him kissing anyone, but we’ll keep an eye on him.”

— Reliever Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity has been pedestrian this spring. But while Francona acknowledged the fact, he also said that it wasn’t cause for alarm.

“I don’t know about [his velocity being down from where it] should be. It’s still not where it will be,” said Francona. “You’re going to have a little bit of dead arm, even a little dead body. There’s always that line we’re watching in spring training. He’s got no arm issues, so as his delivery comes together, you’ll see a little bit of that velocity come back. … He’s in good shape.”

— Super utility man Bill Hall earned praise from Francona for his great attitude while being shuttled around the field. Francona said that it remained a bit early to make assessments of Hall’s shortstop defense given that he’s only played five innings at the position. Even so, he suggested that the team would certainly be comfortable with having him spell starter Marco Scutaro at the position, but it remained unclear whether he’d be able to handle the position on an everyday basis should Scutaro suffer an injury.

“He’s a big kid — big strong kid,” said Francona. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we could certainly put him there. If Marco were out for two weeks or something, I don’t know if that’s the case. We just don’t know. But it’s nice to know that if something happens in a game, he can go over there, or play the odd game if he needs to. We certainly feel comfortable with that.”

— Left-hander Dustin Richardson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Sox had told Richardson that he had positioned himself to compete for a spot as a second left-hander on the major league roster on the strength of a terrific 2009 season, his first full year out of the bullpen (97 strikeouts in 74 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, and three scoreless appearances in the majors). But Richardson allowed five hits and three walks in 1.2 innings, and the Sox — who still consider the power lefty to be an intriguing prospect who could offer a mid-year boost — would like to see him work on attacking the strike zone while continuing his development in the minors.

“He’s an interesting guy. He’s left-handed, very athletic, good pitcher’s body,” said Francona. “He needs innings. He needs reps. He needs to pound the strike zone. We told him that. He’s a young kid that’s got some finish on his fastball that he can throw it in the zone and get hitters out, but consistency is going to be a big deal. You can’t go 3-2 on hitters and not pay the price. That’s all part of development.”

Jacoby Ellsbury has been dealing with a sore throat. He will be examined by a doctor, and take Wednesday and Thursday off from workouts, before returning to physical activity on Friday with an eye towards playing again on Saturday.

Josh Beckett continues to feel better after his own bout with illness, and will start on Friday.

— Infielder Gil Velazquez suffered a jammed thumb on Tuesday night, and will be examined.

— Minor leaguer Richie Lentz, who had a dominating bullpen season at two levels in 2008, informed the Sox that he was retiring. He flashed significant promise that year, showing a mid- to high-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball (albeit with command issues) en route to 112 strikeouts in 77.1 innings, but he elected to walk away from the game upon experiencing shoulder discomfort this spring.

Read More: bill Hall, Daisuke Matsuzaka, dustin richardson, Jacoby Ellsbury

Sox: Westmoreland surgery ‘successful’

03.16.10 at 7:50 pm ET
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The Red Sox issued the following release about the surgical procedure performed on 19-year-old Ryan Westmoreland to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain:

“According to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’€™s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ, Red Sox minor league outfielder Ryan Westmoreland today underwent successful surgery to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain. Dr. Robert Spetzler performed the surgery. The announcement was made by General Manager Theo Epstein. Following the five-hour procedure, Westmoreland remains in the intensive care unit but has come through the surgery well. Due to the complexity of this surgery, Ryan will face a difficult period initially before beginning his recovery.”

ESPN.com reported that it will be a few days before a prognosis for Westmoreland’s recovery will be available.

Even so, the initial report following the surgery was promising, given the potential for far worse outcomes. The procedure carried risks of either brain damage or, in some instances, death (according to ESPN.com’s reports).

Against those concerns, the Sox were treating the news as highly encouraging. Manager Terry Francona was contacted by GM Theo Epstein after the procedure, and the report the Sox skipper received was highly promising.

“It sounds like very encouraging news,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We’€™re obviously thrilled about that, and thankful.”

Yet even with the news that the surgery appears to have been a success, the idea that the 19-year-old faces a “difficult period” in his recovery could not be dismissed. Westmoreland’s teammates expressed caution in their assessments of the procedure, noting that the outcome will be measured not by a return to the baseball field, but instead by the Rhode Island native’s quality of life.

“I got a text from his good friend saying that surgery couldn’€™t have gone better,” said minor league first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who considers Westmoreland a good friend, and had sent the outfielder texts in recent days. “If everything was successful ‘€“ which it is ‘€“ it’€™s a long road back. … I don’€™t know what his process back will be, but it’€™s a long way back.”

While around his minor league teammates and before he was sent on a medical leave from the club on March 4, Westmoreland had remained in excellent spirits, even as he was dealing with the symptoms of his condition. The way in which he handled the situation further underscored to Westmoreland’s teammate that there are far greater concerns than the outfielder’s baseball future.

“He’€™s such an unbelievable person, on and off the field. He’€™s such a great talent. He deserves to live a great life. Hopefully he’€™ll come out of all of this in the best way,” said Sox prospect Ryan Kalish, who befriended Westmoreland this offseason. “It’€™s just a shame to see what’€™s happened. It’€™s uplifting that his surgery went well, but we’€™ll see where it goes.

“Really, it’€™s not about baseball right now. It’€™s about the quality of life. If he comes out of this and plays baseball, it will be an amazing story. But as long as he comes out of this, whatever he does, it will be a success.”

Read More: cavernous malformation, ryan westmoreland,
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