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Theo remembers the Steinbrenner who hated to lose

07.14.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein joined in on the praise of the late George Steinbrenner, who died of a massive heart attack on Tuesday morning at the age of 80. Epstein praised Steinbrenner for his generous donations to many charities, especially in his later years, including five-figure donations to the annual Jimmy Fund Radio/Telethon on WEEI.

“Our condolences go out to the Steinbrenner family and the Yankees organization,” Epstein said Wednesday during an option Red Sox workout at Fenway Park. “Obviously, he was a great icon in baseball and great competitor. He was someone who hated to lose and ran his organization accordingly. We’€™re finding out more and more, that he was someone with a huge heart, as well, who might have been hard to work for, at times, but that doesn’€™t give you the full measure of the man. Seems like a great man and built a great organization. He’€™ll be missed.”

[Click here to listen to Theo Epstein’s recollections of George Steinbrenner.]

Early in his career, Epstein was working in the Padres front office when he had his first – and most memorable encounter – with Steinbrenner.

‘€œI remember in ‘€™98, I was working for the Padres, and the Yankees swept us in the World Series and I was walking toward our clubhouse and he was kind of storming by and getting ready to hit the champagne and he had 50 or 60 media members following him in his wake as he was kind of sprint-walking down the tunnel,” Epstein said. “That was my first, direct vision to him and that will always be how I remember him, just leading the pack and doing things his way.

‘€œHe was a great part of the rivalry and he is the Yankees so he’€™ll be missed.’€

Red Sox skipper Terry Francona also had his own Steinbrenner story to tell.

“When I was a young player the Yankees used to train at Ft. Lauderdale when I was a young player with the Expos,” Francona recalled before Wednesday’s voluntary workout at Fenway. “He actually came up to me’€¦ I was probably 22 years old. And he made a point of telling me how much he liked my dad.”

Steinbrenner, a native of Cleveland, watched Francona’s father, Tito Francona, play with the Indians from 1959-64.

[Click here to listen to Terry Francona recall the life and times of George Steinbrenner.]

“My dad had good years at Cleveland,” Francona remembered. “Again, I was a young kid and scared to death of him but it meant something to me that he said that. And over the years I’€™ve run into him, most of the time in Tampa. I think the one think that sticks out with me isn’€™t all the stuff that’€™s competitive and free agents.

“I think the one thing that sticks out is whenever there seems to be a problem or a disaster or’€¦he seems to be like first and writing the biggest check and I think that’€™s pretty cool. Whatever you want to say, I’€™m sure there’€™s a lot of things that have been said, positive and probably negative, he seems to like to come to people’€™s aid, and I always thought that was pretty neat.”

Was he surprised when Steinbrenner introduced himself once upon a time?

“A little bit,” Francona admitted. “I was 22 years old and trying to mind my own business. It was pretty cool.”

Read More: George Steinbrenner, Padres, Red Sox, Theo Epstein

Theo proclaims ‘good news’ on Ellsbury

07.14.10 at 7:58 pm ET
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Theo Epstein sounded an optimistic tone on Wednesday at Fenway Park when asked about Jacoby Ellsbury, who is now in Fort Myers attempting to rehab his ailing ribs and side. Epstein said he is encouraged that Ellsbury has been able to pick up a bat and do some baseball activities, indicating participating in games could be two weeks away.

‘€œI don’€™t want to put a timetable on it but a normal hitting progression is two weeks but I think it’€™s good news that he’€™s already ahead of that schedule, [two weeks] from picking up a bat to being able to take game at-bats,’€ Epstein said.

Ellsbury initially injured his ribs on April 11 in Kansas City when he collided with Adrian Beltre, going after a fly ball. He attempted a comeback in May in Philadelphia and suffered a setback and has been on the disabled list since. Ellsbury said last Saturday in Toronto that he did not re-injure himself when he attempted the comeback.

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, Theo Epstein,

Francona on D&H: Ellsbury was ‘worried’ about being a distraction

07.14.10 at 3:31 pm ET
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Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday, and spoke about Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, the status of Jacoby Ellsbury, and how he deals with arguing with umpires.

Said Francona: “That’s funny, because umpires aren’t supposed to be emotionally invested in the game, and we certainly are. The umpires’ big thing is when they throw you out, they want to get you off the field. I was trying to explain to the umpires the other night, ‘If you want me to leave, this guy has got to get out of my face.’ ”

Following is a transcript. To listen to the entire interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Were you concerned at all that Adrian Beltre played last night?

He had been checked by a lot of medical people. We were pretty comfortable that if he did play, he’d be a little bit careful. I think Dr. [Lewis] Yocum saw him prior to the game and said that if he was on his team he wouldn’t stop him from playing, so there were a lot of hands and eyes on him. We pretty much did the best we could. Trying to stop him from playing is not an easy thing to do.

What was your mentality when you were managing this game?

I think we tried to cover a lot of different areas, which isn’€™t terribly fair to the manager. We tried to win. We tried to get people in the game. We tried to do some special things. We were in New York, so we tried to have [Mariano] Rivera finish the game. We wanted him to be the last guy standing on the mound. So, if you’€™re trying to just win the game, you’€™re going to let the starting pitcher go more than two innings, and you’€™re going to do some things. So, you’€™re trying to do a whole lot of things, but because the game does mean home field, you’€™re trying to win the game also. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury, Terry Francona,

All-Star Nuggetpalooza (Part 2)

07.14.10 at 11:54 am ET
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Here are a few more nuggets I found while nosing around Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Musings. If you missed Part 1 yesterday, it’s here.

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* – In recent years, the Red Sox have struggled coming out of the break, going just 7-15 during the Thursday-Sunday period following the ASB since 2004. That .318 winning percentage is the lowest in the AL and 3rd lowest in the majors in that span:

.286 – Washington Nationals (6-15)
.286 – San Diego Padres (6-15)
.318 – Boston Red Sox (7-15)

Boston’s 4.71 team ERA in those games is the AL’s 2nd worst:

5.20 – Chicago White Sox
4.71 – Boston Red Sox
4.58 – Kansas City Royals

Meanwhile, the Angels have tended toward really fast starts after the break, going 16-5 in those games (.762) and putting up a team ERA of 2.75, second only to Minnesota’s 2.70.

Be wary of the Yankees’ Mark Teixiera coming out of the break as he’s gone 10-21 (.476) with 4 HR in the first weekend after the break over the last two seasons. Boston’s Kevin Youkilis has hit “just” .333 in those games (7-21), but 5 of those hits have been for extra bases (2 doubles and 3 HR). JD Drew, not so much. He’s gone just 1 for 23 (.043) during the first four days following the break over the last two seasons.

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* – On June 23, John Lackey allowed 13 line drives in 28 opponent AB during his outing against Colorado (46.4%). It’s the highest such percentage in any appearance by any starting pitcher since 2008 (min. 25 opponent AB):

46.4% – John Lackey, 6/23/10 at Colorado
44.0% – Jake Peavy, 6/29/08 vs Seattle
40.0% – Six different pitchers tied

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* – Jon Lester has tossed a 1-2-3 first inning eight times so far in 2010, and the Red Sox have gone just 4-4 in those games.  He had done it 20 times over the previous two seasons, and Boston won 18 of those 20.

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* – AL Leaders In OPS Allowed Vs Top Hitters (2010 OPS Above .850; Min. 50 such batters faced):

.539 – Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS (.209 average; 1 double)
.656 – Jon Lester, BOS (23 K’s to only 7 BB)
.659 – Brandon Morrow, TOR

Since May 24, Daniel Bard has faced 15 batters that currently have an .850+ OPS and only 2 have reached base (single, double, 5 strikeouts)… In John Lackey‘s last 8 starts dating back to May 21, those .850+ hitters have gone 23-46 (.500) against him with 12 of those hits going for extra bases. That includes Lackey holding them to an 0 for 2 in last Saturday’s outing in Toronto… Jon Lester has not allowed an extra base hit to an .850+ OPS hitter since May 20 (42 such batters faced).

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* – So far, the Red Sox lead the majors in OPS against good pitching (pitchers with sub-3.40 ERA):

.710 – Boston Red Sox (in 2009 they ranked 16th at .636)
.688 – Detroit Tigers
.680 – New York Yankees

They also lead the majors in OPS against bad pitching (pitchers with an ERA over 5.00):

1.005 – Boston Red Sox (they ranked 2nd last season at .950)
.968 – San Francisco Giants
.954 – New York Yankees

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* – JD Drew’s struggles versus lefties has been well-documented this season. But did you know that he is 3 for 8 (.375) with 5 RBI against southpaws with 2 outs and runners in scoring position and 6 for 45 (.133; all singles) with 17 strikeouts in all other situations against lefties?

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* – Boston’s Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon rank 1-2 in the AL in OPS allowed with two strikes (min. 75 such batters faced):

.279 – Daniel Bard, BOS (opponents are 7-81, an .086 average)
.281 – Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (opponents are 5-70, an .071 average)
.295 – Jose Valverde, DET

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* – Texas’ Cliff Lee has 91 strikeouts this season, and 29 of them (32%) have been of the 3-pitch variety, the highest percentage in the majors this season (min. 70 strikeouts):

31.9% – Cliff Lee, SEA/TEX (29-91)
26.0% – David Price, TB (26-100)
24.3% – Randy Wolf, MIL (18-74)

The lowest “3PK” percentage belongs to Oakland’s Ben Sheets (4.9%; 4-82). And guess who has the highest “3PK” percentage on the Red Sox. Just guess. It’s Tim Wakefield (22.2%; 12-54).

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* – Red Sox W-L Records Since 2008 When These Players Do Not Play (i.e. have at least one plate appearance):

Dustin Pedroia: 13-15 : 3-2 in 2008; 3-5 in 2009; 7-7 in 2010;
Kevin Youkilis: 26-24 : 9-10 in 2008; 15-11 in 2009; 2-3 in 2010;
David Ortiz: 47-31 : 31-22 in 2008; 7-5 in 2009; 9-4 in 2010;
JD Drew: 55-35 : 36-19 in 2008; 13-12 in 2009; 6-4 in 2010;
Jason Varitek: 83-63: 20-16 in 2008; 33-20 in 2009; 30-27 in 2010;

Anybody else surprised at how well the Red Sox have done with Drew or Ortiz missing? One other thing: When neither Drew or Ortiz bats in a game, the Sox have gone 5-3 since 2008.

Sox set rehab assignments for Beckett, Buchholz, Delcarmen

07.14.10 at 11:34 am ET
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The Red Sox announced rehab assignments for three of their injured players. Manny Delcarmen is scheduled to begin his stint with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs Thursday night at New Britain. Clay Buchholz will start for the Pawtucket Red Sox Friday night at Syracuse. Josh Beckett will make his second rehab start Saturday night when he pitches for the PawSox at Syracuse.

The Sox also announced their pitchers for the upcoming series vs. the Rangers at Fenway Park. Tim Wakefield will face right-hander Tommy Hunter in Thursday’s opener. Felix Doubront will go up against righty Colby Lewis on Friday night. Saturday night’s game features John Lackey against All-Star left-hander Cliff Lee. Jon Lester will face fellow left C.J. Wilson in Sunday afternoon’s finale.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, manny delcarmen,

Available second basemen and Elias rankings

07.14.10 at 10:39 am ET
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MLB Trade Rumors had two posts Wednesday morning that are both of interest to Red Sox fans as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

First, MLBTR looks at second basemen who could be on the move before the end of the month. The Sox are said to be in the market for a middle infielder after Dustin Pedroia went on the disabled list with a broken foot at the end of June. One of the more intriguing prospects is Orioles All-Star Ty Wigginton. He has hit .252 this season but his power numbers (14 home runs, 45 RBI) certainly add to the resume. He’s also a free agent at the end of the season, meaning he could be one of the most likely on this list to be moved. Others that could see new homes come July 31 are Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson and Cristian Guzman.

Also at the site are the Elias Rankings that determine whether free agents-to-be are considered Type A, Type B or none of the above. Those designations decide the draft compensation teams can be awarded if they lose a given free agent. For instance, the Red Sox selected Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo in the draft after being awarded the 36th and 39th picks in the sandwich round for losing Type A free agents Jason Bay and Billy Wagner.

Here’s what Boston free agents-to-be would be designated as if the season ended today:

Victor Martinez, C, Type A

Jason Varitek, C, Type B

David Ortiz (option for next year), DH, Type B

Bill Hall (option), utility, none

Adrian Beltre (option), 3B, Type A

Mike Lowell, 3B, Type B

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Rumor Mill, Ty Wigginton, victor martinez

Why the Red Sox (and others) are interested in DeJesus

07.14.10 at 7:09 am ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Blue Jays catcher John Buck is hardly unbiased on the subject of David DeJesus. The two were Royals teammates from 2004-09, and even now that Buck has gone to Toronto, he still considers the Kansas City outfielder one of his best friends in the game.

Even so, after years spent watching DeJesus play, Buck feels like he is in a good position to appreciate the outfielder’s talents. Indeed, Buck suggests that DeJesus has been underrated by the baseball world as a result of his relative obscurity, and that he would represent a great all-around fit — offensive, defensive and in the clubhouse — for a team in contention.

“I don’€™t think he gets enough credit,” said Buck. “He does it so subtly, because I think he’€™s a good ballplayer. He goes about his business. He’€™s not too flashy. He just gets it done and stays consistent. At the end of the year, he’€™s got really good numbers.

“I don’€™t think I’€™ve ever seen anyone have as consistent of at-bats as he does. He never gives away an at-bat. He always seems to be putting competitive at-bats, no matter what the situation is, no matter what type of pitcher it is. Plus, he was in the running for a Gold Glove last year [even though he plays] in left field.”

DeJesus, 30, is currently enjoying perhaps the finest of his seven big league seasons. He is hitting .326 with a .395 OBP, .460 slugging mark and .855 OPS, all of which would represent career highs. He has a grinding approach to his plate appearances, averaging 3.96 pitches per plate appearance.

“You watch him, he’€™ll see 10 pitches in an at-bat. I think that’€™s what makes him so good. Plus, he’€™s not just a slap hitter,” said Buck. “He’€™s gap to gap and will hit a home run every once in a while. He’€™s not just singles hitter.”

All of those attributes would make DeJesus an intriguing addition to any contender. And, after spending his career playing for a team that has been out of contention every summer, Buck believes that his friend would relish the opportunity to step into a pennant race.

“I think he would love to [compete in a pennant race],” said Buck. “Knowing his personality, I think he would be excited to play for something meaningful.”

DeJesus is currently making $4.7 million in the final season of a five-year, $13.8 million deal that includes a $6 million option and $500,000 buyout for the 2011 season. He is both good and affordable, at least in dollars. Whether a contender also finds him worth the cost in players sought by the Royals (described as significant by baseball sources) remains to be seen, but the interest in such a player will no doubt be extensive.

Read More: david dejesus,

Ortiz: ‘I believe I’ll be back (with the Red Sox)’

07.13.10 at 5:42 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — David Ortiz, who told ESPN.com Monday that he would like a multi-year contract after his current deal, told WEEI.com prior to Tuesday’s All-Star Game that he thinks he will return as a member of the Red Sox next season.

“I believe I’ll be back (with the Red Sox),” said Ortiz, whose current deal includes a $12.5 million team option for 2011. “(Expletive) yeah. What should I believe? I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going to go the Angels. This is too far.”

Ortiz won the Home Run Derby Monday night, and hits the second half hitting .263 with a .945 OPS and 18 home runs. For more coverage from the All-Star Game see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

Sox interested in David DeJesus?

07.13.10 at 4:08 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — According to FoxSports.com, the Red Sox spoke to the Royals roughly 10 days ago about the availability of outfielder David DeJesus, who is hitting .326 with a .395 OBP and .855 OPS for the fourth-place club. The report said that the clubs plan to stay in contact about the left-handed hitting outfielder.

A major league source said that the cost of acquiring the outfielder, who is on a $4.7 million deal this year with a $6 million option for 2011, is currently rich, and considered it unlikely that the Sox would pursue DeJesus unless Kansas City seeks less in return than is currently the case. That said, outfield production remains an obvious area for potential improvement on the Sox, given that the team’s injury-depleted unit has a collective .758 OPS that ranks 11th in the American League, a .258 average that is 12th and a .326 OBP that is 13th.

While both Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury are slated to return from their rib injuries in the second half, there is some question as to what kind of production the Sox might get from those two players after substantial time on the disabled list, or from Mike Cameron, who has been fighting to stay on the field while playing with an abdominal strain.

Read More: david dejesus, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida, mike cameron

Henry: Steinbrenner ‘forever changed baseball’

07.13.10 at 3:55 pm ET
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The Red Sox sent out a press release on the passing of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on Monday. Red Sox principal owner John Henry, who was once a minority owner of the Yankees, expressed his condolences to the 80-year-old Steinbrenner’s family.

‘€œI had the good fortune to call George Steinbrenner both partner and friend,” said Henry. ‘€œI had the privilege to watch George as he built a system that ensured his beloved Yankees would have a strong foundation for sustained excellence. And then we fiercely competed in the American League.

“George Steinbrenner forever changed baseball and hopefully some day we will see him honored in baseball’s Hall of Fame as one of the great figures in the history of sports,” said Henry.

‘€œGeorge Steinbrenner was a formidable opponent and baseball’€™s greatest rivalry will not be the same without him,’€ said Tom Werner, Chairman. ‘€œAs the longest tenured owner, he left an indelible mark on the game. I worked with George in my position as the owner of two Major League franchises and saw first-hand his passionate leadership style, his zeal for winning, and his love for the game. Above all, I knew George as a competitor and today Red Sox Nation lost a person who truly relished the prospect of facing the Red Sox and doing all he could to make sure his beloved Yankees would come out victorious.”

‘€œGeorge Steinbrenner was one of the most important people in the history of the game, and his impact touched all aspects of the business of baseball,” said Larry Lucchino, President/CEO.  “His vision for the Yankees turned around a once struggling franchise and manifested itself in the form of seven World Series Championships and 11 American League pennants. My respect for George went beyond the baseball field because of his sincere and longstanding commitment to charity, and to people in need.  He had a giant heart, often well hidden from public view. Part of his legacy here in Boston will be the profound kindness he showed to numerous local philanthropic causes, especially as a regular and generous contributor each year to the Jimmy Fund of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.’€

For more on the Red Sox, go to WEEI.com/RedSox.

Read More: George Steinbrenner,
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