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Bard relieved after Patterson emerges healthy from beaning

03.25.11 at 11:27 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The moment was terrifying. In the top of the eighth inning of an exhibition contest between the Red Sox and Blue Jays, Boston reliever Daniel Bard unleashed a 95 mph fastball that drilled Toronto outfielder Corey Patterson in the head.

Patterson was dazed, but was able to walk off the field with assistance from Blue Jays manager John Farrell as well as a trainer. Bard was stunned by the event, and appeared disconsolate on the mound while Patterson was being attended to by staff on the field. That being the case, he was relieved after the game to learn that Patterson — who will undergo precautionary tests — had emerged relatively unscathed from the beaning. Bard received that news first from team medical staff, then by talking directly to Patterson.

“It scared me as much as anybody,” said Bard. “When I got back in here, I had them call over to make sure he was OK. He said he was doing fine. But to make sure, I got our trainer to call trainer and I actually talked to him on the phone. … It was a quick conversation. It was more the concept. I wanted him to know that I didn’€™t do it and then not think twice about it. I feel terrible doing that. They’€™re going to run some tests, just precautionary, but he sounded fine on the phone.”

Bard said that he was trying to throw a fastball down and in, but for the second straight pitch, he came out of his delivery and had the pitch sail up and in. Pitching coach Curt Young went to check on Bard after the incident, but the pitcher assured his coach that he would be able to control his emotions. He did allow a run-scoring triple, but allowed just the one run in the inning before exiting the game, which gave the right-hander the opportunity to check on Patterson.

“In spring training, your command is not always quite where it is during the season. Stuff like that can happen unfortunately. Both of us are trying to get ready for a season. Last thing I want to do is delay a guy’€™s season or have him start the year on the DL. I feel terrible,” said Bard. “Everyone is trying to break camp healthy. Hopefully he’€™ll be fine in another couple days.”

Bard had once before drilled a player in the head, that time with greater consequences. In 2007 — a year in which he had dreadful command difficulties, walking 78 and hitting eight batters in 75 innings split between Hi-A and Low-A — Bard hit a batter in the ear while with the Greenville Drive. The pitch, Bard recalled, cut off part of the hitter’s ear, necessitating a trip to the hospital and plastic surgery to repair the appendage, though ultimately, Bard said, that player “ended up being alright.”

Patterson was not in quite such dire straits. Much to Bard’s relief, initial word was that the outfielder would be fine.

“One of our doctors was over there and said that he really appreciated the phone call and stuff. That’€™s all I can do,” said Bard, who now has a 6.75 ERA with eight strikeouts, four walks and a hit batter in 6 2/3 innings this spring. “If I was trying to go up and in, I’€™d feel a lot worse. But I wasn’€™t. it was an innocent thing. I hope the best for him.”

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Why Andrew Miller will be starting in the minors

03.25.11 at 4:45 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There were plenty of unknowns when left-hander Andrew Miller signed his minor league contract with the Red Sox in December. No one could say with certainty where the 25-year-old — a wildly talented pitcher whose career results have never matched his potential — would start the season. Nor could anyone say in which role — starter or reliever — his work would occur.

But one thing was clear. For both Miller and the Sox, the goal was not trying to get Miller to maximize his season-opening contributions. Instead, in both the contract that they signed and the choices they were making, the pitcher and team were committed to Miller’s long-term development, hoping to put the former first-rounder in a position where he is most likely to achieve sustainable success.

And so, earlier this week, the Sox talked with Miller about their plans for him to start the year. After he threw 7 2/3 innings in seven spring training games, forging a 10.57 ERA while striking out six, walking four and allowing 11 hits, the Sox told Miller that he will go to minor league camp to be stretched out. He will work as a starter in Triple-A Pawtucket to open the year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Miller’s most likely big league role in 2011 will be as a starter. He could still be either a starter or reliever, depending on how his work in the minors goes. But for a pitcher who has endured constant mechanical tinkering over the years, it was agreed that the best course of action was to give him the stability of a five-day routine on the mound that will include a side session. The idea, said manager Terry Francona, is to let Miller get repetition with his delivery.

“We thought about a lot of different stuff — pitching him every three days,” said Francona. “I think he agreed [with the idea of being a starter], because he can not only pitch in a game but then he can have a side day. I think he was really open to that. He can always pitch in the bullpen. But he gets starters’ innings, he’s stretched out, and it’s good for him. The more reps he gets, the better.”

As a starter, Miller will focus on fastball command and he will also have more of an opportunity to work with his changeup. That said, Francona believes that Miller’s slider is good enough that, whether he starts or relieves, the changeup is of less significance for the 6-foot-7 lefty than than it might be for other pitchers.

“He needs to command his fastball and work on his changeup. I thought his breaking ball was good right from the get-go. He’s got a nice feel for it. Almost a little surprising with that length in his body. He just really is comfortable with that pitch,” said Francona. “He’s just got to work on location with the fastball and certainly work on the changeup, but if he throws his fastball and breaking ball, he’s going to be fine. … He doesn’t need that third pitch as much as most pitchers do.”

While Miller’s final spring training stats were less than eye-opening, at times, his stuff was. He flashed a high-octane fastball and that wipeout slider that certainly have plus potential if he can command them and repeat them. Much as it was when Miller arrived in camp with the Sox, the future offers plenty of possibilities, but without a clear-cut path forward.

“If he pitches like we hope, he can be anything he wants. There’s a lot to like there,” said Francona. “I think we’re fortunate enough when we talk to him that he’s mature enough to understand that Opening Day wasn’t the end-all, the finishing line. Sometimes you see someone with that much potential and you don’t want to lose him and then the season starts and he doesn’t get to pitch enough and things don’t go right. I think this has a chance to really work out well.”

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Atchison, Hill, Kalish among Red Sox cuts

03.25.11 at 3:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Relievers Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, Randy Williams, Brandon Duckworth and Michael Bowden were all cut from the major league camp Friday afternoon. Atchison and Bowden were optioned to Triple-A, while Hill, Williams and Duckworth (who signed minor league deals with the Sox) were reassigned to minor league camp.

Outfielder Ryan Kalish was also optioned to minor league camp, and left-hander Andrew Miller had been told a few days ago that he, too, was being reassigned to minor league camp, where he will work as a starter for Triple-A Pawtucket in order to maximize his repetitions in games while also having a side day to be able to work on his delivery.

Atchison, who spent much of 2010 in the Red Sox bullpen, was arguably the most surprising of the cuts. In 43 appearances last year, he had a 4.50 ERA, and towards the end of the season was used as a setup man in front of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. But the Sox bolstered their relief corps in the offseason by signing Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, and with Atchison still having one minor league option remaining, the Sox sent the 35-year-old right-hander down.

“It’s never easy,” Atchison said. “I felt like I showed them what I can do. … The situation is what it is.”

Atchison pitched in seven games this spring, totaling 8 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on 11 hits, striking out four and walking four. Bowden appeared in seven games, pitching 9 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking three.

Hill, who was optimistic after altering his arm angle again in the past few days, didn’t allow an earned run in 8 2/3 innings (7 games) in Grapefruit League action. Nor did he permit an earned run in six big league appearances with the Sox last season. But the Sox are in a position to stash the lefty in the minors, since his opt-out is not until the middle of the summer.

Williams, who like Hill is a lefty, gave up three earned runs in 9 2/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking four. Duckworth had a 4.50 ERA, nine strikeouts and six walks in 10 innings.

Infielders Drew Sutton and Nate Spears will both travel with the Sox to Wednesday’s exhibition game in Houston, but both have been told they will open the year in the minors.

The Sox now have five pitchers left in camp with two openings in their bullpen. Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Hideki Okajima, Dennys Reyes and Felix Doubront are the pitchers who have not yet been told their Opening Day fate, though Doubront will either start in the minors or remain in Fort Myers while rehabbing. Albers (out of options) and Reyes (minor league contract with March 26 opt-out date) both have an advantage from a contractual standpoint; Aceves (2) and Okajima (3) both have options remaining.

Read More: brandon duckworth, randy williams, rich hill, ryan kalish

The Red Sox now know who they will face in Texas

03.24.11 at 6:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Rangers, the Red Sox‘ first opponent of the 2011 season, officially announced their starting rotation. The match-ups in the teams’ three-game series will be as follows:

Jon Lester vs. C.J. Wilson

John Lackey vs. Colby Lewis

Clay Buchholz vs. Tommy Hunter (Note: Hunter is dealing with a groin injury and may not make the start. Derek Holland may slide up to the third spot.)

The Rangers also announced that Neftali Feliz will not be a starter and remain in his role as a closer, with Alexi Ogando serving as their primary set-up man.

Mike Stanton, destroyer of baseballs

03.24.11 at 5:54 pm ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — Mike Stanton hadn’t played for four weeks. The 21-year-old outfielder — who hit 22 homers in just 359 at-bats in his rookie season last year — had been sidelined since straining his quad on Feb. 27 in an exhibition game against a college team, a contest in which Stanton had smashed a homer in his first trip to the plate.

The Marlins outfielder looked rusty in his first trip to the plate, swinging and missing badly at Clay Buchholz‘ offerings en route to a strikeout. In his subsequent trips to the plate, however, he made his mark…literally.

Stanton crushed a pair of three-run homers against Buchholz in his next two at-bats, one on a hanging changeup, another on a cutter that backed over the plate. The first shot was prodigious, clanging about halfway up the Roger Dean Stadium scoreboard in left-center field, the sort of moonshot that is rarely seen.

“I quit watching,” marveled Sox manager Terry Francona. “At some point, I just quit.”

The blast was impressive enough in its own right, but even more so given that the stiff breeze was blowing out to right field throughout the day. On the day, Stanton was 3-for-4 with two homers while driving in seven, and giving a glimpse of why he is so highly regarded throughout the game, including by the Sox.

“He’€™s a giant. He’€™s a big boy, man. He’€™s not afraid to swing, obviously. But he’€™s a big strong kid,” said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia after his first glimpse of the Marlins outfielder. “He puts it in the air, it’€™s going to go somewhere.”

At the 2008 trade deadline, when the Sox were exploring deals in which they would part with Manny Ramirez, one of the teams with whom they were engaged was the Marlins. They discussed a number of scenarios with Florida, including some scenarios in which the Sox would have tried to negotiate a multi-team deal that would have netted them both outfielder Jason Bay from the Pirates as well as prospects from the Marlins.

The Sox had targeted Stanton (then destroying Single-A pitchers for 39 homers) as the top prospect in the Marlins’ system at the time, so his name came up in talks. But the Marlins knew what they had in the 2007 second-round selection, and so they were uninterested in parting with Stanton, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. And so it was instead the Dodgers who ended up becoming the partner in a three-way transaction that sent Ramirez to Los Angeles, Bay to Boston and four prospects (Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss from the Red Sox, and Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris from the Dodgers) to Pittsburgh.

Instead, the Red Sox can now have only rare glimpses of his jaw-dropping power, as was the case on Thursday.

Read More: jason bay, Manny Ramirez, Mike Stanton,

Red Sox notes: Bullpen competition nears its end

03.24.11 at 3:00 pm ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — The competition is now in the home stretch.

Manager Terry Francona said that the Sox will use “the next couple of days” to sort out many of their remaining roster decisions, most notably including which of the relievers currently in competition for the final spot will begin the year in the majors, who will start the year in the minors and which ones might end up in other organizations. It is a decision made more difficult by the fact that most of the pitchers hoping to open the year with the team have performed well.

“I don’€™t think anybody has done anything to where you go, ‘€˜They couldn’€™t handle it here,’€™” said Francona. “It makes for some difficult decisions, but I think for the very most part, everybody has done a pretty commendable job.”

As of now, the Sox appear all but certain to feature Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, Dan Wheeler and Tim Wakefield in their bullpen (barring an injury to any of those pitchers).

Here is the breakdown of the remaining relief candidates in camp (through Wednesday’s games) who are gunning for the Sox’ final two relief spots:

Alfredo Aceves (2 options remaining): 5 games, 13 1/3 innings, 13 hits, 6 earned runs (4.05 ERA), 4 strikeouts, 3 walks

Matt Albers (no options remaining): 7 games, 10 innings, 8 hits, 2 runs (1.80 ERA), 11 strikeouts, 0 walks, 1 HBP

Scott Atchison (1 option remaining): 7 games, 8 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 6 earned runs (6.48 ERA), 4 strikeouts, 4 walks

Michael Bowden (1 option remaining): 7 games, 9 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 earned runs (1.86 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 3 walks

Rich Hill (minor league contract; opt-out in July): 7 games, 8 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 0 earned runs (0.00 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 3 walks

Andrew Miller (minor league contract; late-season opt-out): 7 games, 7 2/3 innings, 11 hits, 9 earned runs (11.57 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 4 walks

Hideki Okajima (3 options remaining): 6 games, 6 innings, 9 hits, 4 earned runs (6.00 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 1 walk

Dennys Reyes (minor league contract; opt-out March 26): 8 games, 8 innings, 6 hits, 1 earned run (1.13 ERA), 8 strikeouts, 3 walks

Randy Williams (minor league contract): 8 games, 9 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs (2.79 ERA), 10 strikeouts, 4 walks

If Albers or Reyes does not make the Opening Day major league roster, then the Sox could risk losing him, Albers because another team could claim him on waivers, Reyes because he could opt out of his contract. And the Sox, Francona said, are mindful of that fact when they make their roster decisions. Read the rest of this entry »

Francona on Epstein: ‘His choice of managers was smart’

03.24.11 at 1:34 pm ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona shrugged off comments made by Orioles manager Buck Showalter about Boston GM Theo Epstein. Showalter raised eyebrows with his dig at Epstein, suggesting that the Sox GM was the beneficiary of his team’s payroll above all else during an eight-year tenure that has resulted in two titles and six playoff campaigns.

“I’€™d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll,’€ Showalter told Men’s Journal. ‘€œYou got Carl Crawford ‘€™cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’€™s what makes you smarter? That’€™s why I like whipping their asses: It’€™s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘€˜How the hell are they beating us?’€™’€

Based on his personal experience, Francona was happy to back his boss.

“For the record, I think Theo’s really smart — whether he has a high payroll or not. His choice of managers is smart,” Francona (hired by Epstein and the Sox in 2003) joked.

Even before he interviewed for the Sox job, Francona received a scouting report on Epstein from then-Indians GM Mark Shapiro. Francona had worked with Shapiro in the Indians front office in 2000. Shapiro made clear that the Sox GM was a bright fellow.

“(Shapiro) just said, ‘Don’t mess with him, because he’ll turn you inside-out,'” mused Francona.

That turned out not to be a problem. Instead, after spending the day with Epstein and Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, Francona felt that he had found an organization for whom he was the right fit.

“You go into those and, obviously, you want to get a job, but my goal was always just to come out of there saying what I felt,” recalled Francona. “Sometimes, you come out of interviews feeling uncomfortable, or you get to the airport saying, ‘I didn’t want to say that.’ But I felt really good when I left there.”

Read More: Buck Showalter, Terry Francona, Theo Epstein,

Matt Albers, still with Red Sox, battling for a spot

03.24.11 at 10:47 am ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — Matt Albers, who was the subject of a report Wednesday stating that he had been released in order to sign in Japan, said prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Marlins that he has no plans to execute such a career change and is still focused on making the Sox.

“I got a text from one of my friends, just kind of random. I was like, ‘€˜Really?’€™ He told me the website. I went to it. It said [Albers had] been released and they let him go to Japan. That’€™s news to me,” said Albers. “I just kind of called my agent, said, ‘€˜Did you hear about this?’€™ He said, ‘€˜Yeah, don’€™t worry about it.’€™”

“I don’t know where that came from,” he added. “I didn’€™t really think much of it, obviously. I knew that I hadn’€™t talked to any Japanese teams. Obviously, with the situation going on there, I don’€™t think too many people have.”

Albers is scheduled to pitch Thursday afternoon. He has allowed two runs on eight hits over 10 innings, striking out 11 and not walking a batter this spring. In so doing, he has fulfilled some of his primary goals entering the spring, namely using his curveball, slider and bread-and-butter sinker to both sides of the plate while being more aggressive in getting ahead in counts.

“Walks have hurt me in the past,” said Albers. “So I just want to make sure I go out there, get ahead in the count, throw lots of strikes, trust my stuff. For the most part, I think I’€™ve been able to do that.”

Albers is among the group of pitchers on the bubble for one of the final bullpen spots on the Sox roster. He is out of options, meaning that if the Sox wanted to send him to the minors, they would first have to subject the right-hander to waivers. Manager Terry Francona said that Albers has been “great” this spring, and did acknowledge that the possibility of losing a pitcher on waivers would play into the decision-making process with the final spots on the big league roster.

“We certainly have to think about that. If I said we didn’€™t, that would probably be a flat-out lie,” said Francona. “You’€™ve got to be cognizant of it.”

Albers acknowledged that he is eager to see what happens to him in the coming week. By April 1, he could either be on the Red Sox’ major league roster, with another team (if he is traded or gets claimed on waivers) or in the minors with the Sox.

“I’€™ve been in this situation the last three years in Baltimore where I haven’€™t found out that I made the team until camp ended. I knew that was going to be the situation. I’€™ve kind of been through it a few times so I kind of know what to expect a little bit,” said Albers. “It’€™s kind of wait and see what happens. I try not to worry about it too much. Definitely a decision is going to come down in the next week or so. But, just go out there and try to pitch.”

While the whereabouts of his start to the season remain unknown, one thing appears certain. Albers will be doing his pitching in North America, and not in Japan.

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Josh Beckett talks what went wrong in ’10, and what can go right in ’11

03.24.11 at 10:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett recently took some time to explain what exactly happened in the final two months of last season, and how he is approaching this year differently. Here are some of the highlights of what he said. (To read the entire story, click here.)

– He identified 2010 as the toughest year of his life.

– It was Beckett’s subscapular muscle in the back of his right shoulder which he strained during an early June bullpen session, not entirely his lat muscle, which was the area previously identified as the problem. (Although the lat leads up to the meat of the shoulder through the subscapular.)

– Although he was able to come back in late July, he never felt the ability to finish off his pitches because of the shoulder and back issues.

“I was missing the power at the end (of the delivery),” he said regarding a major problem that needed to be fixed for ’11. “I had some good ones, and those were probably ones where I used my secondary stuff a lot better. The bad starts were the ones where I tried to throw fastballs by guys when I didn’t have that power. I feel like I’m getting that back.”

– Beckett felt like he fell into some bad habits in ’10, and still is trying to put them in the rear-view mirror.

“I had to re-train myself this offseason after I got into some bad habits,” he said. “It’s not an overnight deal. You pick up some bad habits when you throw for six months a different way then you have thrown for the last 20 years. I have had to make some small adjustments this spring. it’s still not 100 percent comfortable. That’s what we’re looking for.”

– The righty regrets taking the approach he did, trying to push through his injuries instead of drawing back a bit.

“I would be like, ‘No, no, no, I’ll figure it out my way.’ Less would have been more,” Beckett explained. “It would have been better for me. Instead I would still go out and do the same amount of long toss, the same amount of bullpens, with the same effort level. By doing that my next start was always in jeopardy. It just snowballed. That was what it was like all year after I hurt my back.”

– Beckett is optimistic about where he is at heading into the season. He has hit 95 mph on multiple occasions, and identifies the run he went on in ’09 as the feeling he’s striving for.

For the complete story, click here.

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Adrian Gonzalez pleased after minor league game

03.23.11 at 4:36 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez had six at-bats in a minor league game at the Red Sox Player Development Complex on Wednesday. The first baseman (Gonzalez served as DH on Wednesday and hit third in each inning) collected three hits, an RBI and run scored in his six at-bats, and seemed pleased when talking to the media following the game.

“It went well,” Gonzalez said. “The shoulder’s been feeling really good. For [Red Sox trainer] Mike [Reinold], it was playing back-to-back [games for the first time], but for me it was more to get my timing down. First couple days, I was just hitting, looking for a fastball. The last couple days, I’ve been trying to actually have at-bats. It hasn’t gone too well. So it was good to be able to go out there, try to have some at-bats, mix it up, be aggressive, all that. It felt good.”

Gonzalez plans to play with the Red Sox for the remainder of the spring training schedule, though he will take days off on Thursday, as the Sox travel to Jupiter to play the Marlins, and Sunday, a road trip to Sarasota and the Orioles.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Red Sox,
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