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Youk: We’re all human

08.26.09 at 8:04 pm ET
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No one inside the Red Sox clubhouse is more intense or conscientious about his work than Kevin Youkilis.

Which is why Red Sox manager Terry Francona has always been a big fan of his, even when he would occasionally express his displeasure by tossing a helmet or slamming a bat when things wouldn’t go his way on the field.

“I’m not going to go home and run to the TV and see how you perceive him,” Francona said. “That doesn’t help me do my job so I don’t know the answer to that. I know how we feel about him. I think he’s very much appreciated. He plays very hard, wears his emotions on his sleeve. So, if he’s criticized, it’s not by me.”

Youkilis held court at his locker before Wednesday’s game to clarify the comments he made following Tuesday’s game – comments to the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy that he’s just ‘annoyed’ with the Boston media as a whole.

“There are some days where you just don’t feel like talking to anyone, let alone to media members about maybe how poor you’ve been doing but it comes with the job and you’ve got to deal with it,” Youkilis said. “There’s always negatives to everything you do in life.”

Youkilis believes he has been portrayed unfairly as not enjoying his Boston experience.

“This whole thing about not liking playing in Boston, they’re putting words in my mouth,” Youkilis said. “When I say the greatest time is 7-to-10, I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact of who doesn’t love going to Fenway Park and watching a game from the first pitch on to the last pitch. It’s probably the best sporting event you can go to.

“There are things portrayed to the fans that aren’t always accurate. It gets frustrating for players when there’s not accountability and that’s when we have a deadlock sometimes is when people put words in our mouth, people say stuff, people blog about it, they write stuff on the internet and there’s stuff portrayed that’s not accurate.”

Youkilis was criticized recently by fans and media types alike, for charging the mound against the Tigers on Aug. 11 and earning a five-game suspension.

“The only thing I ever heard was that some people said I was being selfish toward the team and you ask some of my teammates, I don’t know how they feel, but at the time it was one of those things where emotion got the best of me and hopefully, it’ll never get the best of me again,” he said.

“We all make mistakes and we’re all human. I think everyone in this room mistakes at times. It definitely was a mistake. Everyone keeps saying, ‘Do you regret it?’ Well, yeah, I regret it because of the kids.”

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Red Sox remember Sen. Kennedy

08.26.09 at 6:15 pm ET
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Toward the end of his daily briefing with reporters, Red Sox manager Terry Francona remembered the late Senator Edward Kennedy, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch this past April 7 at Fenway Park.

“That day was very special for me,” Francona recalled. “I can’t sit here and say we were best friends but it was an honor to meet him. I got to escort him to the mound. I had a picture taken and he sent me a wonderful note. And from what I understand that was one of his special things, he did a lot of things in person and he did it himself. I was lucky enough to have one and I still have it sitting on my desk.

“I have a picture in my office of that day and I’m not very politically opinionated, which is probably good, but I think I’m probably aware what not only Senator Kennedy but his family has meant not only to this area but nationally,” Francona continued. “And because of my relationship with (team doctor) Larry Ronan, I’ve gotten to hear a lot of interesting stories because of his care for him.”

The Red Sox released the following statement following the news of the passing of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox Vs. White Sox Matchups 8-26-09

08.26.09 at 3:22 pm ET
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RED SOX HITTERS VS. GAVIN FLOYD

So far this week, the Red Sox have taken the first two of a four-game series against the White Sox. Last night was a true team comeback effort. Jason Bay took Scott Linebrink deep in the eighth-inning to break a 3-3 tie and lead the Red Sox to their second victory in consecutive nights.

Tonight at the Fens, the Red Sox will face Chicago starter Gavin Floyd. Floyd comes into tonight’s game with a 10-8 record and a 3.98 ERA.

This is the Windy City righthander’s third start and fourth appearance against the Red Sox. Floyd is 2-0 lifetime with a 5.74 ERA in those past appearances.

Here’s how the Red Sox bats have fared against Floyd in the past:

Victor Martinez (16 plate appearances) .333 BA/.375 OBP/.400 SLG.

Jason Bay (13) .200/.385/.300

J.D. Drew (10) .286/.500/1.000 (3B, HR, 4 RBI)

Mike Lowell (8) .143/.250/.571 (HR, 3 RBI)

David Ortiz (8) .375/.375/.750 (HR, RBI)

Dustin Pedroia (8) .250/.250/.375

Jacoby Ellsbury (7) .400/.571/.600

Casey Kotchman (4) .333/.500/.333

Alex Gonzalez (2) .000/.000/.000

Nick Green (2) .000/.000/.000

Jason Varitek (2) .000/.000/.000

Kevin Youkilis (2) .500/.500/2.000 (HR, 3 RBI)

Floyd has yet to face Rocco Baldelli.

WHITE SOX VS. TIM WAKEFIELD

With tonight’s start, Tim Wakefield makes his return to the Red Sox rotation for the first time in a month. The All-Star knuckleballer has come back from a related tandem of back and then calf injuries.

Up until his stint on the D.L., this season had been a wildly successful one for Wakefield as he comes into tonight’s game wielding an 11-3 record and 4.31 ERA. Wakefield has a 7-11 record and a 5.11 lifetime ERA against President Barack Obama’s beloved South Siders.

Here’s how the White Sox hitters have fared against Wakefield:

Jim Thome (58) .154/.224/.385

Alexis Rios (47) .222/.255/.489

Jermaine Dye (45) .214/.267/.381

Paul Konerko (34) .214/.324/.464

A.J. Pierzynski (26) .292/.346/.458

Mark Kotsay (18) .222/.222/.556

Scott Podsednik (4) .000/.000/.000

Ramon Castro (3) .333/.333/1.333

Carlos Quentin (3) .667/.667/1.000

Alexei Ramirez (2) .000/.000/.000

Wakefield has yet to face Gordon Beckham, Brent Lillibridge, and Jayson Nix.

Terry Francona on Dale and Holley

08.26.09 at 2:41 pm ET
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After last night’s 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox, Terry Francona was a guest on today’s Dale and Holley show. Click here for full audio.

Here are some of the highlights:

On stealing bases in Fenway Park: “Regardless of where we’re playing you’re trying to strike a balance with a stolen base, one things that’s changed is that Fenway had a reputation that you can’t throw a lefty. we try to set him free when it’s to our advnatage. That’s more important than just letting him go.”

On record-breaking base stealer Jacoby Ellsbury’s speed and discretion when it comes to swiping bags: “That’s a very mature way to look at it. He could probably walk into third. If he can’t score on a base hit we’re in trouble. There are times when we don’t want to take the bats out of people’s hands.”

On his theory as to why baseball speedsters aren’t stealing bases into the 90’s and triple digits like they used to: “I don’t know. There’s certainly some guys with the speed that can do something like that. As baseball evolves teams are more aware of stolen bases. At what cost are you preventing it? But there are a lot of ways to stop guys from stealing.”

On what Billy Wagner will provide the Red Sox bullpen: “It gives us a second left-hander. What he’s done has been kind of miraculous. It’s easy enough to get Oki up in tough situations. Which is about nine out of every 10 times. It gives us that second lefty with a power arm.”

On his reaction to Papelbon’s comments about the team possibly acquiring Wagner: “I yelled at him, because I thought he was saying some stupid things in the paper. The way he said was never meant to be derogatory. The national media takes it and runs with it. We put out some fires that weren’t there. Which was a waste of my time. Pap is thrilled to have him here.”

On what Papelbon meant with his comments about Wagner this weekend: “He though he was still on the DL, He was not hammering him. He didn’t intend it to come out that way.”

On what moves have and will happen to make room for Wagner on the roster: “We already announced that we designated Gonzalez last night, that gets Wake on tonight, We’ll have to get Wagner on tomorrow.”

On comparing Wagner’s acquistion to that of Eric Gagne two seasons ago: “No, when we got Gagne we were looking for a true setup guy. Getting Billy Wagner, we think our bullpen is pretty good, getting that second lefty, we think it can be even better. He needs to be treated with caution. There’s going to be a lot of ways we can keep our eye on him. I assured him that we won’t hurt him.”

On Victor Martinez’s impact: “I think it’s worked out really really well. We knew what we were getting. He’s a leader, and elite switch hitter. He brings an enormous amount of enthusiasm everyday. That’ll grow here as he grows here.

On the impact Casey Kotchman has had on this team: “We got a guy who’s a pretty good player who’s taken a different role and it’s worked for the better.”

On how the team has reacted to recent lineup shifting: “I think I owe these guys, that there needs to be a reason as to why they’re not playing. I owe that to them. We’ve asked them to be co-operative and put the ballclub first. I’m proud of them.”

On where on the field is Victor Martinez best suited: “I’m not quite sure how to answer that. In Cleveland he was catching about half of the time. When you have a catcher who has the ability to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs, with his bat that makes him more dangerous.”

On Jason Varitek catching Jon Lester and Josh Beckett: “I think the comfort level is fine. We try to put our team in the best position to win. I’m comfortable with Tek catching those guys. It may not be our best offensive lineup, but it’s a lineup I’m comfortable with.”

On Victor Martinez catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield tonight: “Victor has had fun with it. We took the knuckleball machine on the road trip, The thing from our standpoint is that it’s not April 7th, meaning we don’t have a whole season to have to deal with this. If he has to corral a few balls,  maybe he’ll get four hits at the plate.”

On keeping David Ortiz out of the lineup on Sunday despite having pretty good numbers against CC Sabathia: “We had to make a choice and David does have good numbers against CC. Most of them were way back when CC struggled against lefties. He’s had much more success against lefties. Mikey’s [Lowell]  coming off a game 3-for-4 with a homer. I think Mikey hit a home run. I don’t have a problem with what we did. If they let us play 10 guys I would’ve.”

On keeping players out of the lineup: “I need to have a reason, not for him but for myself. Sometimes you look at numbers, and they tell you something. But you want to make sure you don’t make a mistake.”

On if players are jockeying for playing time: “I don’t think there’s a competition for playing time. We’re going to play who we think will help us win. We are still. Whoever’s playing, we want to win. I think this is going to work and work well.”

On tonight’s lineup changes: “We’ve got Kotchman at first, Drew in right, Victor catching. We’ve got a pretty deep lineup tonight.”

On Tim Wakefield’s first post-DL start tonight: “We’re going to watch his gait. They have guys like Podsednik who will test it (by bunting). We’ll keep a close eye on it.”

Red Sox Announce Arizona Fall League Participants

08.26.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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The Red Sox have committed to sending four prospects to the Arizona Fall League. The group that will play for the Mesa Solar Sox includes:

–Outfielder Ryan Kalish, who ranks second among Red Sox farmhands with 15 homers, and has hit .271 with a .755 OPS and 10 homers since a May promotion to Double A Portland.

–Catcher Luis Exposito, a 22-year-old who is considered one of the organization’s top two catching prospects. Exposito has hit .287/.338/.436/.773 at two levels this year. Notably, he has raked since a promotion last month to Double A Portland, hitting .361/.381/.492/.873 in 15 games.

–Left-handed pitcher Dustin Richardson, who has excelled since being moved to the bullpen in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League last fall. Richardson had a 2.70 ERA and held opponents to a .186 average while striking out 80 in 63.1 innings for Double A Portland. That performance earned him a recent promotion to Triple A Pawtucket, for whom Richardson has made three scoreless appearances and struck out five.

–Right-hander Chris Province, a groundball machine in relief for Double A Portland. Province has a 2.94 ERA in 70.1 innings, and has 3.18 groundouts per flyout.

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A Look at New Red Sox Reliever Billy Wagner

08.25.09 at 6:09 pm ET
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Just when we all thought Billy Wagner was staying in New York, the left-handed reliever agreed to waive his no-trade clause just minutes before the Tuesday deadline ‘€“ effectively becoming a member of the 2009 Boston Red Sox.

It’€™s pretty clear this season will most likely be the extent of his term in Boston following the Red Sox agreement with Wagner not to pick up his 2010 option. Still, the team does reserve the right to offer the 38-year-old pitcher arbitration, according to ESPN’€™s Buster Olney. In the event that they do pursue arbitration hearings, Boston will still receive two draft picks even if Wagner departs as a free agent.

Initial reports said Wagner was reluctant to agree to a trade in a cautious attempt to stay healthy following recent Tommy John surgery. But just as the deadline approached, the lefty evidently changed his mind and decided to take a risk on Boston with the potential reward of a championship ring in October ‘€“ one notable item that’€™s missing from Wagner’€™s impressive trophy case.

A Look at Billy Wagner

Perhaps the most interesting fact about Wagner is that the southpaw used to be a righty. Growing up in Virginia, Wagner did almost everything sports-related and non sports-related as a righty. That is, until he broke his right arm twice within a short period of time while playing football and was forced to teach himself to throw left-handed through intense repetition. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect, and in this case practice certainly made Billy Wagner almost perfect.

In 1990, he was named Baseball Player of the Year coming out of Tazewell High School and pitching exclusively as a lefty who threw heat (although he still eats and writes with his right hand). He later attended Ferrum College in Virginia where he posted a 17-3 record in three years and set the Division III record for career strikeouts with 327 in 182.1 innings pitched. Not to mention, Wagner still holds the single-season NCAA record for strikeouts per nine innings (19.1).

The Houston Astros selected Wagner in the first round of the 1993 draft (12th pick overall), and used him exclusively as a starting pitcher throughout his two-year stint in the minors. By 1996, the flame throwing lefty had been converted to a reliever, going 2-2 with nine saves, 67 strikeouts, and a 2.44 ERA in 37 games for Houston.

Wagner ultimately saved 225 games for the Astros between 1996 and 2003 before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies just before the 2004 season. (The move was supposedly made in an attempt to free up salary that was later used for Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens to come to Houston.) Though his first season in Philadelphia was shortened by injuries, he came back in 2005 with 38 saves and a 1.51 ERA to boot.

This, of course, helped his case during free agency the following season when he signed a four-year, $43 million deal with the Mets. While New York GM Omar Minaya was certainly aggressive in his pursuit of Wagner ‘€“ along with plenty of other teams with big money to spend on free agents ‘€“ reports speculate that the Phillies made no attempt to re-sign their closer, considering the former Phillies closer to be somewhat of a clubhouse cancer. While in Philadelphia, Wagner reportedly criticized the team on multiple occasions, and even said his former teammates hoped he would fail because he wasn’€™t well liked in the clubhouse. What’€™s more, Wagner claimed former Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell called him ‘€œa rat.’€

Between 2006 and 2008, Wagner had three very impressive seasons with Mets. He saved 40, 34, and 27 games respectively in those seasons while also posting ERAs of 2.63 or lower. In his first post-season with the Mets in 2006, Wagner recorded three saves but also allowed six runs over 5.2 innings.

In September 2008, Wagner sustained more injuries to his left elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery.

At 38 years old and coming off major elbow surgery, Wagner doesn’€™t seem the likeliest candidate to propel the Red Sox to a championship. But he’€™s stated that he’€™s not done playing baseball just yet, and that above all else he’€™d like to win a World Series. In a 2008 interview with MLB.com, Wagner said:

‘€œSomewhere down the road, I am going to help somebody win a championship.’€

For now, his sights are set on Boston. Although he has suffered plenty of injuries and setbacks during his 14-year MLB career, Wagner has enjoyed much success, too. The six-time All-Star was the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in 1999, the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher in 2005, and number six all-time in saves behind Dennis Eckersley. During this crucial stretch, he’€™ll most likely abandon his closer role to pitch in the eighth and set the stage for Papelbon. And while this isn’€™t necessarily his preferred status, he’€™s realized that this may be the only way to fulfill his prophecy that somewhere down the road, he’€™s going to help somebody win a championship.

Hopefully for Boston, it’€™ll be the Red Sox.

Notes:

- Wagner needs 15 saves to reach 400 for his career, and 40 to pass John Franco as the left-hander with the most all-time saves.

- Though only 5’11, Wagner has been known to reach 100 MPH effortlessly throughout his career – an accomplishment not common for many lefties.

- According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

“The money that the Red Sox are saving on the performance bonuses that could have gone to John Smoltz and might have gone to Brad Penny ‘€” if he had remained in the rotation ‘€” will match almost dollar-for-dollar the $3.5 million that they owe Wagner in remaining salary and a $1 million buyout.”

 

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Pap: no apology needed to Billy Wags

08.25.09 at 5:02 pm ET
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Don’t waste your time expecting Jonathan Papelbon to recant some of his remarks over the past four days concerning Billy Wagner.

On Tuesday afternoon, hours before the second of four games with the White Sox and moments after the Red Sox officially announced they had acquired Billy Wagner for a pair of minor leaguers, Papelbon said he welcomes the new 38-year-old fireballing lefty to the Red Sox bullpen.

“If I need to apologize for something, then I’ll apologize,” Papelbon said. “This is just a situation where there’s nothing for me to apologize about. I said nothing demeaning about him. We’ll get along great, I know we will. I’m actually looking forward to him coming here and kind of picking his brain.”

Papelbon said he’s looking forward to getting to know Wagner and seeing how he might deepen an already strong Red Sox pen.

Francona said he’s not concerned about the Papelbon’s comments becoming a distraction.

“With Pap, there’s about four or five times a year,” Francona said of Papelbon’s frank comments about not wanting to disturb the chemistry of the bullpen. “There’s not a whole lot of filter there. He’s also a good kid. We’re okay.”

But perhaps Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein shed the most light on the whole Papelbon-Wagner dynamic that the club feels has been overdramatized.

“I think Pap feels he was misunderstood and he’s not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with, obviously,” Epstein said. “When I talked to him directly about it he couldn’t have been more excited about the prospects of adding Billy Wagner and actually went out of his way to make sure Billy knew that he was more than welcome here.”

Epstein also clarified that, during a Major League Baseball sanctioned window during which the Sox could talk directly to Wagner prior to the trade, Papelbon also participated in the conversation to express directly to the Mets pitcher how excited he was to be teammates with a man who over 15 years has forged a reputation as one of the top closers in baseball history. 

As for how to use him, Francona will have that responsibility.

“I think we’re excited,” Francona said. “I think we have to recognize that he’s 14 months post-Tommy John surgery. I think it’s a great addition to our bullpen but again we will be very prudent and will use a lot of common sense and have a lot of communication with him because of what he’s been through, physically.”

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Red Sox Radio Broadcasts Return to WEEI

08.25.09 at 4:25 pm ET
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August 25, 2009 (Boston) ‘€” Entercom New England announced today that, effective with the team’€™s game against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday evening, August 26th, all future Boston Red Sox games will be carried on WEEI 850 AM in Boston, the flagship station of the WEEI Sports Radio Network.

From 1995 to 2006, Red Sox games were carried exclusively on WEEI. In 2006, the games were shifted to Entercom sister station WRKO AM 680.

‘€œWe have a tremendously close partnership with the Red Sox, and are very excited to bring them back to WEEI,’€ said Jason Wolfe, Entercom New England’€™s Vice President of AM Programming. ‘€œThis move will add consistency to our lineup, whereby all of our sports assets will be consolidated in the same place. There’€™s no better compliment to the Boston Celtics, Patriots Monday and Patriots Friday, Sunday Night and Monday Night NFL football, the Super Bowl and NCAA Men’€™s Basketball Tournament, than adding Red Sox baseball back to nation’€™s biggest sports radio station.’€
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Red Sox Announce the Wagner Deal

08.25.09 at 2:34 pm ET
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The Red Sox just issued the following press release to announce the deal to acquire Billy Wagner from the Mets in exchange for two players to be named:

The Boston Red Sox today acquired left-handed pitcher Billy Wagner from the New York Mets in exchange for two players to be named later.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Wagner, 38, has appeared in two games for the Mets in 2009, tossing 2.0 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.  In 45 relief outings with New York last season, the left-hander was 0-1 with a 2.30 ERA (12 ER/47.0 IP) with 27 saves in 34 chances before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow on September 10.

A six-time National League All-Star, Wagner is 39-37 with 385 saves and a 2.39 ERA (218 ER/820.0 IP) in 767 career relief appearances over parts of 15 Major League seasons with the Astros (1995-2003), Phillies (2004-05) and Mets (2006-09).  His 385 saves rank second all-time among left-handed pitchers, trailing only John Franco’€™s 424, and sixth overall on the all-time saves list.  He has recorded 30 or more saves eight times and set a career high with 44 for Houston in 2003.

Wagner earned the 1999 National League Rolaids Relief Award and finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting that season.  Since 1954, his 2.39 ERA ranks third among qualifying relievers behind only Mariano Rivera (2.09) and Joe Nathan (2.13).

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Red Sox Acquire Billy Wagner From Mets

08.25.09 at 2:22 pm ET
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WEEI.com has confirmed reports that the Red Sox acquired left-handed reliever Billy Wagner from the Mets in exchange for two players to be named later.

The Sox were awarded a waiver claim on Wagner, who has 385 career saves, on Friday. The two teams had until Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. to work out a deal or to have the Mets grant the waiver claim (and part with Wagner for nothing). But both of those possibilities required Wagner, who has a no-trade clause, to sign off on the deal.

Over the last couple of days, reports had surfaced that Wagner planned to employ his no-trade clause to block a deal, both because the Red Sox would not agree to grant his request that he not be offered salary arbitration and out of a feeling that pitching in a more regulated environment (outside of the rigors of a pennant race) would best position him for free agency. But, in the minutes leading up to the deadline for the trade to be completed, Wagner apparently had a change of heart, deciding that the opportunity to pitch for a championship was more important than pitching on a structured schedule with an out-of-contention team.

Boston.com reported that the Sox agreed not to exercise Wagner’s $8 million option for 2010, meaning they will exercise the $1 million buyout. But the report suggested that the Sox retained the right to offer Wagner salary arbitration, which would give them two compensatory draft picks should Wagner, a Type A free agent, be offered salary arbitration and sign with another team.

While the identity of the minor-league players whom the Mets will get back has yet to be learned, New York’s primary motivation was considered to be salary relief and the risks associated with either exercising Wagner’s option or offering him salary arbitration. That being the case, the return might be expected to keep intact Boston’s top prospects.

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