|Red Sox at Rays Pre-Game Notes, 3/7||03.07.09 at 1:03 pm ET|
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — It appears unlikely that the fever-pitch intensity of the ALCS will carry over in today’s Grapefruit League showdown between the Red Sox and Rays. Given that the Red Sox lineup today features just two players (Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie) and one pitcher (Tim Wakefield) who was on the roster for the playoffs last year, a reprisal of Coco Crisp vs. James Shields is rather far-fetched.
Nonetheless, a few items of note:
–A report from ESPNDeportes suggested that David Ortiz, who started at first base in a WBC tuneup game on Tuesday, had to be moved to designated hitter due to discomfort in his left shoulder. Red Sox manager Terry Francona was under the impression that Ortiz’ shoulder isn’t experiencing anything beyond the soreness that characterized his early days in spring training this year.
The Sox were caught slightly off-guard when Ortiz played first in the WBC, since the team almost never employs him at the position except in interleague play. “We don’t play him at first because we’re trying to keep him healthy,” said Francona. “There’s a reason we DH’d him.”
Even so, Francona said that he trusted the judgment of both Ortiz and Team Dominica manager Felipe Alou to make the right call.
“I would never tell Felipe who to play,” said Francona.
–Through Francona reserved the right to change his mind, Mike Lowell will make his first appearance of the exhibition season on Tuesday, playing as a designated hitter. If all goes well, Lowell will then make an appearance as a third baseman in a game next Friday night.
–Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first appearance of the WBC, allowing two runs in four frames of four-hit, two-walk one-strikeout ball. Matsuzaka struggled to command in the first (when he gave up both runs), but settled into a nice rhythm by the third inning. Francona is unsure how Matsuzaka’s innings will be managed once he’s done with the WBC, since it is conceivable that he could be ramped up as high as 110 pitches with roughly two weeks to go in spring trainin.
–Both Jed Lowrie (.385 average, two doubles, a homer) and Julio Lugo (.417 average) are hitting well early in camp. Lowrie, in particular, is making consistent hard contact, and Francona complimented the 24-year-old for how he’s handling the competition. “He’s completely embraced what’s in front of him,” said Francona.
While Lowrie sat in favor of Alex Cora against hard-throwing right-handers during the playoffs last year, Francona believes it will be unnecessary to do so going forward. Lowrie’s inability to catch up with fastballs, Francona suggested, was entirely a byproduct of his injured wrist, and the manager suggested that the shortstop has already shown an ability to square up balls that he could not catch up to at the end of last year.
As for Lugo, Francona is hopeful that the shortstop can improve upon the .343 slugging percentage that he has as a Red Sox. Lugo appears stronger this year, and his stance is also more upright, which might help him to hit with greater power. Lugo had a .419 slugging mark as a member of the Rays from 2003-06.
–Miguel Gonzalez, the right-handed pitcher taken by the Sox in the Rule 5 draft, underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday. He will miss the season.
–Brad Penny will throw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday.
–Rocco Baldelli is experiencing some tightness of the groin, and so has been somewhat restricted in his activities. During the year, Francona said that he might represent a solid (if infrequent) option as designated hitter to provide Ortiz with a day of rest on occasions when the Sox are facing a particularly tough left-handed pitcher.
|Delcarmen, Ramirez sign for 2009||03.06.09 at 7:53 pm ET|
Red Sox relievers Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen both agreed to terms with the Red Sox on contracts for 2009. Ramirez, who is 9-7 with a 3.62 ERA in two-plus seasons of major-league service, received $441,000, while Delcarmen (3-2, 3.49), who fell seven days short of eligibility for salary arbitration, received $476,000. Delcarmen is believed to have received the second-highest salary for a pre-arbitration middle reliever with two or more years of service time, behind only Carlos Marmol of the Cubs ($575,000) and just ahead of Saul Rivera of the Nationals ($475,000).
|Wrapping up at the Fort||03.06.09 at 4:43 pm ET|
The Red Sox took a Grapefruit League contest from the Marlins by a 5-3 count. As soon as non-roster invitee Adam Mills concluded his second inning of hitless ball (with two strikeouts) to lock down the save, fans stormed the field, began turning over cars and setting Fort Myers ablaze. Or, left quickly for the early-bird dinner specials. A couple final notes:
–Manager Terry Francona confirmed that J.D. Drew will be starting in the oufield on Sunday. Drew said that his swing was a bit rusty after a few days of inactivity, but he was pleased to be back in games.
–Brad Penny, after being examined by Red Sox team physician Dr. Thomas Gill, was given the green light to throw a bullpen session on Sunday (one week after he was shut down when he had a tough time getting loose). Penny will likely need at least one more side session before he is ready to pitch in a game.
–Reliever Takashi Saito turned in a scoreless inning of work, his third of the spring. The 39-year-old once again showed good life on his fastball. For the Extra Innings Mechanical Nugget of the Day, here is Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell on the source of the reliever’s velocity: Read the rest of this entry »
|Beckett’s day, and other game notes||03.06.09 at 3:23 pm ET|
Josh Beckett concluded his day having thrown a tidy three shutout innings against a prospect-heavy Marlins travel team. He thus became the first Red Sox pitcher to work that far into a game this spring. His curveball, in particular, seemed to overwhelm Florida, eliciting a handful of swings and misses in his shutout stint. Beckett threw 45 pitches, 31 for strikes. The right-hander was pleased with the fact that he worked out of a first-inning jam, escaping a second-and-third situation with one out without allowing a run. He did so by getting Wes Helms on an infield pop-up and Mike Stanton on a strikeout.
It marked the first time this spring that Beckett had allowed baserunners. He did not seem terribly excited about the chance to work from the stretch.
“I’d like to pitch out of the windup all season,” he said.
A couple of additional tidbits from the early phases of the game: Read the rest of this entry »
|Near-Marlin Manny Ramirez||03.06.09 at 1:08 pm ET|
Hanley Ramirez did not make the trip to Fort Myers. The All-Star shortstop is playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, leaving the Marlins to bring a prospect-heavy but unfamiliar lineup for today’s game at City of Palms Park.
But at least one name might ring familiar.
The fifth hitter in Florida’s lineup today is Mike Stanton, ranked No. 16 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. As an 18-year-old last year, the outfielder turned in an extraordinary year for Greensboro of the low Single-A South Atlantic League, hitting .293 with a .381 OBP, .611 slugging and a ridiculous 39 homers.
Stanton’s prospect stock rose to the point where he was rumored to be the centerpiece of a complicated three-way deal that would have sent Manny Ramirez to the Marlins, brought both Stanton and Jason Bay to the Sox and sent an assortment of players to Pittsburgh. A National League source, however, said that while the Marlins received plenty of inquiries about Stanton, he was never available in a deal, even for Ramirez. The potential was too great for Florida to contemplate parting with the outfielder.
Nonetheless, the Marlins did come close to acquiring Ramirez. How close? Read the rest of this entry »
|Mike Lowell Feels A-Rod’s pain (and then some)||03.06.09 at 11:57 am ET|
The news that Alex Rodriguez suffered a torn labrum in his hip resonated at some level with Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. Lowell, of course, was forced by that injury (or more precisely, a series of injuries that started with a torn hip labrum) to shut down last October in the middle of the playoffs.
Even so, Lowell was cautious in assessing his Yankee counterpart’s injury. There were different circumstances in the injuries of both players: Rodriguez had a cyst that resulted from his condition, while Lowell also had a bone fragment that became dislodged in excruciating fashion, and his femur had to be shaved to moderate the pain in the joint.
“I’m asked a lot, ‘How would you compare yours to Chase Utley’s,’” Lowell said, in reference to the Phillies second baseman who also underwent surgery this offseason for a torn hip labrum. “I say, ‘I don’t know.’ Not everyone’s shoulder surgery is the same, so I can’t imagine that everyone’s hip surgery is the same.”
Lowell believes that he would have been able to play thorugh the pain of a torn hip labrum. The reason why it became painful to watch him play in a state that he referred to as “medically intoxicated” was because of the knifing pain created by the detached bone fragment.
“The labrum, from what I was told, you can probably play through the labrum. But when I tore the last piece, it took a little piece of bone, where it was attached, from my hip joint. That little piece of bone was lodged into my joint. That’s what was causing my pain,” said Lowell. “I even remember asking the doctor, ‘How can Chase Utley run around when he’s going to have surgery and I feel like I’m dying.’ … He showed me a picture after the surgery. I had a piece of bone that was stuck. He said, ‘This is not allowing your hip to do anything.’ At least it made sense.”
Lowell will have to work all year to continue his recovery. He currently spends about 90 minutes in sessions in the training room as he tries to return to health. Currently, he is able to hit, field and throw without pain. Running remains a bit of an issue.
“After this year, I think next year will probably be a lot easier,” he said. “I’ll have a year under my belt, and I’ll be totally healed.”
Lowell admitted that, with the injury, he had contemplated his longevity in the game. Yet he suggests that, given his recovery, he is not looking at his final days as a player.
“I think if I had to play two more years the way I played the last two months of last year, I don’t even want to play any more like that. But I don’t think I’m at that point. I feel like I’m in good shape. If I can be productive, I don’t want to stop playing unless it feels right for me and my family,” said Lowell. “It’s normal to feel like, I’m 35 right now, I’m not 24. But I don’t feel like it’s a struggle for me to come to the park. I think that’s a good sign.”
|Pre-game notes, 3/6||03.06.09 at 10:21 am ET|
Forgive me if you’ve heard this before: not much going on this morning in Fort Myers. Reliever Takashi Saito is scheduled to pitch, and he’s been one of the more interesting players to watch this spring. Though there was some thought that his damaged elbow might necessitate Tommy John surgery last year, the right-hander has appeared to be anything but damaged goods. His velocity in games has peaked around 92-93 mph, roughly where it was when he was performing at full health for the Dodgers.
“Ball’s coming out of his hand nice, with not a lot of effort. I think we’re really pleased with what we might have found,” said manager Terry Francona. “Doesn’t look like he’s favoring his arm at all. That’s exciting … We thought that he would come slower in camp. We were okay with being real patient, let’s let him build up his arm strength. But he looks real healthy. That’s good news.”
Other notes from the mundane:
–Josh Beckett is slated to throw roughly 45 pitches today, and so stands a good chance of being the first Red Sox pitcher this spring to reach the third inning.
–Pitcher Brad Penny is going to throw long toss today. He’ll visit later today with Dr. Thomas Gill, the Red Sox team physician. Francona said that there was no real cause for alarm. “I don’t think we’re terribly worried about him,” said Francona. “He’s come through all the MRIs and all his testing, he’s come through fine.”
–Josh Bard is scheduled to catch Tim Wakefield tomorrow against the Rays in Port Charlotte. It will mark the third straight pairing of those two. Francona would like George Kottaras to catch Wakefield at least once this spring. Even so, the fact that Bard is getting almost all of the game action with Wakefield underscores the veteran’s front-runner status in the competition for the backup catcher role.
–J.D. Drew will serve as designated hitter, and will likely bat three times.
–Jason Varitek‘s left-handed swing has been noticeably simpler this year. Throughout his career, the catcher has had a lot of mechanical checkpoints that have made his swing from that side of the plate a complex undertaking, and one that is difficult to maintain. Though he has not received many at-bats to this point, Francona is pleased with the progress.
“Left-handed, it’s always taken more work. Even when he put up the good offensive numbers, he had to spend more time (in batting practice) left-handed.
… I like the idea that he’s trying to keep it simple, especially from the left side. The more consistent he can do that, the better chance he’ll give himself,” said Francona. “Saw him shoot the ball to left-center the other night. That approach, if he can stay with it, will be beneficial.
–All of the players (Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter, Paul McAnulty, Brad Wilkerson) in competition for the firth outfielder spot have swung well to this point in the spring. Carter went 3-for-3 with a homer against Puerto Rico on Thursday, but his defensive limitations are the primary factor in whether or not he’ll be able to stick with the Sox as a major leaguer.
“You can’t work any harder (than Carter),” said Francona. “I was talking to him a couple days ago about his throwing. I was hitting him ground balls and the ball wasn’t ending up where it was supposed to. I just said in passing, ‘You’ve got to get the ball.’ He had (first-base coach Tim Bogar) on the back field this morning. He takes it to heart. But it is important. A bat that good, we do want to spend some time with him defensively because the bat is so potent.”
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