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Bonser has his ups and downs in rehab outing

04.08.10 at 8:55 pm ET
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Boof Bonser didn’t have the best night, but he certainly looked better than he did in spring training.

Bonser got the start for the Pawtucket Red Sox in the team’s season-opener Thursday night against the Rochester Red Wings and went 4-1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits. The big righty also had four strikeouts and two walks, finishing his outing with 76 pitches, 43 for strikes.

“I haven’t pitched in cold weather like that since I’ve been back, so it was good to get a little weather change here and see how the shoulder reacted,” Bonser said.

This was Bonser’s first appearance after he put up some disappointing spring numbers, going 0-2 with a 11.57 ERA in four appearances.

Both of the runs for Rochester came on home runs off of hanging curves, one in the second to veteran Jacque Jones and the other to Brock Peterson in a fourth inning that saw Bonser get into some trouble. In that inning, Bonser let two men on with two outs after a four-pitch walk and a single to Rochester’s No. 9 hitter Brian Dinkleman. He was able to strand the two runners, however, by getting center fielder Matt Tolbert on a 92 mph fastball. PawSox manager Torey Lovullo lifted Bonser after a hard-hit double by Luke Hughes in the fifth.

“I had no problems,” Bonser said. “The two bombs that I gave up, they were just the location was bad. I will still throw them again.”

Added Bonser: “They were strikes. Like I said, location was bad. If I throw them in the ground, who knows? Maybe I get him to miss,  maybe I get a ground ball. But like I said, they were strikes.”

Bonser had some trouble with his breaking ball in this one, but his fastball looked lively. He was in the 89-93 mph range all night, consistently hitting above 90 on the McCoy Stadium radar gun.

Bonser, who was acquired by the Sox from Minnesota in December, is on assignment in Triple A after suffering a right groin strain in spring training. He missed all of the 2009 season after rotator cuff surgery but is a likely candidate for a call-up to the Sox bullpen once he is healthy.

“The groin felt really good tonight,” Bonser said. “I am still wearing my brace. Like I said, I didn’t feel anything. Who knows? Wait and see tomorrow.”

Bonser isn’t sure when he might get the call to go back up to the majors. While he waits, he said he still feels he can work on getting in all his pitches and finding some consistency.

“It is just one of those ‘€” we will have to wait and see and see how many innings I get and go from there,” said Bonser on how long he will remain with Pawtucket.

Don’t expect quicker Sox/Yanks games

04.08.10 at 2:27 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon was right regarding the time of game for the Red Sox/Yankees games: People are going to have to just live with it.

Umpire Joe West, fresh off of working a Red Sox/Yankees series that averaged 3 hours, 47 minutes, told Bergen County Record newspaper that, “It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.” That comes after word from Major League Baseball executives his spring encouraging the Sox and Yankees to pick up the pace.

But according to a source with the MLB Players Association, changes to speed up the game any further aren’t expected any time soon.

A few Red Sox players broached the subject of Major League Baseball’s intent on speeding up games with union boss Michael Weiner when he appeared in front of the team in Fort Myers, Fla. Papelbon, for one, has already felt the affects of the focus by MLB, having been fined more than $5,000 last season for taking too long to complete his entry into games.

The Red Sox closer told WEEI.com this spring that the length of Red Sox/Yankees games shouldn’t be a concern for MLB.

‘€œHave you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘€˜Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended.’€™ That’€™s like a Red Sox-Yankees game,’€ Papelbon said. ‘€œWhy would you want it to end?’€

While he said his case isn’€™t an issue anymore, the reliever also wondered why there is an issue.

‘€œNot if it was an entertaining game,’€ Papelbon said when asked if he would mind sitting through a four-hour Red Sox-Yankees game. ‘€œAn entertaining game I wouldn’€™t mind. If it was 13-0 I would get out there. I enjoy the games. They’€™re a little bit longer than most games, but what are you going to do. Like I said, you can do all the things they ask us to do, and we’€™re doing them and our games are still just as long.

‘€œIf you don’€™t want to be there, don’€™t be there. Go home. Why are you complaining. I’€™m not going to sit somewhere I don’€™t want to be. If you go to a movie or any entertainment event and you like it, you’€™re going to stay and watch and you’€™re not going to want it to end. If you don’€™t, then you won’€™t. Why is it such a big deal?’€

In the eyes of Papelbon is that Red Sox-Yankees games are long ‘€” and will continue to be long ‘€” but that shouldn’€™t take anything away from the event.

‘€œYou can’€™t change the issues of great hitters having great at-bats, and great teams playing other great teams with lots of pitching changes. You can’€™t change that,’€ Papelbon said. ‘€œIt’€™s like walking a tightrope. What do you do? What don’€™t you do? It’€™s hard keeping everybody happy.’€

Umpire: Slow Sox, Yanks ‘a disgrace to baseball’

04.08.10 at 12:41 pm ET
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Joe West, chief of the umpiring crew that worked the just-concluded Red Sox-Yankees series at Fenway Park, criticized the teams for their slow play and lack of cooperation in attempting to improve the pace of the game. The first two games of the three-game series averaged 3 hours, 47 minutes. Wednesday’s game went 3:21.

“They’re the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace,” West told the The Record, a newspaper representing Bergen County, N.J. “They’re two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest?

“It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.”

Added West, who worked the plate Sunday night: “The commissioner of baseball says he wants the pace picked up. We try. And [Tuesday night’s game] still almost went four hours.” This, despite the fact that Tuesday’s home plate umpire, Angel Hernandez, refused to grant time out to a number of batters. “All of baseball looks to these two clubs to pick up the pace,” West said. “Angel did everything he could. The players aren’t working with us.

“This is embarrassing, a disgrace to baseball.”

To read the full story, click here.

Despite homer, Papelbon stays positive

04.08.10 at 12:09 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon was willing to chalk this one up to the wrong player, the wrong pitch, and the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The reason for the Red Sox‘ closer have to turn the other cheek was due to Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the 10th inning of what ultimately became a 3-1 win over the Yankees, Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Believe or not, with the homer, Granderson became the only player who can now claim to have hit more than one homer off of Papelbon throughout the reliever’s career.

“It seems I’ve made a few mistakes to Granderson, and like I said he’s the type of hitter if he makes mistakes he’s going to make you pay. I didn’t know that, that he has hit the most home runs off of me. It is what it is,” Papelbon said. “I think the mistakes I’ve made with him have been out and over and poorly executed.”

[Click here to listen to Papelbon’s take on his 10th inning struggle Wednesday night.]

This time it really hurt much more than the other Granderson homer, which came Aug. 11 and did nothing more than help the Tigers draw within two runs in the ninth inning of what turned into a 7-5 Red Sox’ win one batter later. The ball hit by the New York centerfielder — coming off a belt-high fastball with the count 0-1 — went into the right field stands, broke a 1-1 tie and proved to be decisive factor in handing the Yanks the series win.

[Granderson said after the game he doesn’t think he has an upper hand yet on Red Sox.]

Still, Papelbon felt that the night wasn’t a complete downer considering how he was able to approach his second outing of the season. He sported both a fastball that touched 96 mph, as well as the well-scrutinized splitter he has rediscovered.

“I did that very well,” said Papelbon of mixing up his pitches. “I got some broken bats and was able to keep a good mix in there. A couple of first-pitch splits from Swisher and Granderson. I felt like my command was good tonight. It kind of got away from me a little bit, but for the most part I felt like my legs were underneath me and the ball was coming out good. For me if I can go out there and duplicate the way I felt tonight for the rest of the season I’ll be good. I’ll be extremely happy with that.”

While Papelbon did feel spry in making his first outing since Opening Night, the pitch to Granderson served as an example that there were some missteps in regard to the closer’s command. He finished his 1 2/3-inning appearance having allowed the one hit while walking a pair, throwing 28 pitches (16 strikes).

“I felt really good tonight but it was a classic situation where you make one mistake and you pay for it,” he said. “Obviously it was a poorly executed pitch by me left up out over the plate. With this lineup you’re going to pay for it and that’s the way it is. You make mistakes you pay for it.

“I felt really good tonight. I felt strong. I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good. Like I said, I was really happy with the way I felt tonight.”

Closing Time: Yankees 3, Red Sox 1

04.07.10 at 10:32 pm ET
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The game was following the perfect script for the Red Sox. John Lackey, in his debut with his new club, delivered a brilliant performance, throwing six shutout innings. He stood to claim the victory on a night when David Ortiz delivered his first hit of the young season, an RBI single that seemed like it might be enough to give the Sox a 1-0 victory.

But then, the Yankees pieced together a run in the top of the seventh when Victor Martinez proved unable to handle the short-hop on J.D. Drew‘s throw home, allowing Jorge Posada to clamber home and tie the game, 1-1. In extras, Curtis Granderson turned on a Jonathan Papelbon fastball, launching it deep into the right field grandstand to put the Yankees up, 2-1, in the top of the 10th.

New York tacked on a run, and Mariano Rivera locked down career save No. 528 to secure the victory.

Key play of the game

Obviously, Curtis Granderson‘s blast into the right field grandstand to lead off the top of the 10th inning was the decisive play of the game. The bigger question is whether Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon should have still been in the game to serve up the longball.

On the one hand, Papelbon had not only pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but he had also gotten up to warm in the middle of the eighth inning. The Sox do account for that sort of bullpen work in evaluating a proper workload for a reliever on any given night.

On the other hand, the Sox closer overpowered the Yankees with just 10 pitches in the ninth inning, and didn’t have to work particularly hard in retiring Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada.

With the Sox having an off-day between the contest against the Yankees and Friday’s series opener in Kansas City, it’s not hard to see why the Sox decided to keep Papelbon in the game, the outcome notwithstanding.

What went right for the Sox

John Lackey‘€™s initial returns on the Red Sox’€™ sizable investment were impressive.

The big right-hander, who came to the Sox after signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal this offseason, was little short of dazzling in his first game for Boston. Lackey was armed with a well-located four-pitch combination (fastball, curve, slider, cutter) that he employed to carve the Yankees over six shutout innings.

He held New York to three hits and no runs while walking two and striking out three in a debut. He threw 100 pitches, 58 for strikes, and left with a 1-0 lead. Though the Sox bullpen gave up the lead in the top of the seventh (a run charged to Scott Schoeneweis), Lackey’€™s performance was little short of spectacular.

–Before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees, David Ortiz said that he felt great — both physically and at the plate — and that the ongoing attention that his 0-for-7 start to the year was receiving remained mind-boggling to him.

‘€œI’€™ve been seeing [expletive] for years here,’€ Ortiz told WEEI.com. ‘€œBut what I’€™ve been seeing after two games, it’€™s like the season will be over tomorrow.’€

Given his familiarity with the rhythms of Boston, Ortiz is also no doubt aware that he managed to nudge the Ortiz Watch from orange to yellow, at least for a day. The Sox DH delivered his first hit of the season, a sharp single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the third to plate the first Red Sox run. Ortiz turned on a 90 mph, thigh-high fastball on the inner half of the plate and rifled it into right field, ending his 0-for-8 start to the season.

He did later strike out against Pettitte and Chan Ho Park, both on sliders.

Scott Schoeneweis, for the second time in the three-game series, looked great against lefties. He punched out both Robinson Cano and Granderson in the top of the seventh with the Sox holding a 1-0 lead. On the downside, however, he gave up a rocket to switch-hitter Jorge Posada (who was batting right-handed). Posada doubled off the base of the center field wall, and scored the tying run when Nick Swisher lined a single to right against Daniel Bard.

What went wrong for the Sox

–The Sox lineup failed to take advantage of opportunities for the second straight night. After a 1-for-12 night with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, the team went 1-for-7 on Wednesday. The Sox had plenty of scoring chances early, but stranded a pair of runners in both the first and second innings and another in the third. By that point, Yankees starter Andy Pettitte settled into a groove in which he attacked both sides of the plate with his fastball, slider and cutter, and the Sox could muster little against him.

–Though Jacoby Ellsbury managed an infield single, the Yankees allowed him to make little hard contact all series. He finished the three games having gone 3-for-15 (.200) with four strikeouts.

Victor Martinez gunned down Cano on a stolen base attempt in the top of the third inning. While seeing Martinez — who was 2-for-17 on stolen base attempts last year — deliver a strong throw to clip Cano was a promising sign for the Sox, it is noteworthy that Cano was running at all, since he entered the game 17-for-38 in his career in stolen base attempts.

That was a reminder that opposing teams will run on the Sox and Martinez until they prove they can control the running game. Indeed, in the fourth, Granderson swiped second against Martinez, and Brett Gardner later collected a steal. Martinez threw out 1-of-5 attempted base thieves in the series.

Read More: David Ortiz, john lackey, Jonathan Papelbon, victor martinez

Lackey dominant in debut

04.07.10 at 9:20 pm ET
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John Lackey‘€™s initial returns on the Red Sox‘€™ sizable investment were impressive.

The big right-hander, who came to the Sox after signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal this offseason, was little short of dazzling in his first game for Boston. Lackey was armed with a well-located four-pitch combination (fastball, curve, slider, cutter) that he employed to carve the Yankees over six shutout innings.

He held New York to three hits and no runs while walking two and striking out three in a debut. He threw 100 pitches, 58 for strikes, and left with a 1-0 lead. Though the Sox bullpen gave up the lead in the top of the seventh (a run charged to Scott Schoeneweis), Lackey’s performance remained undeniably strong.

Lackey had said on the Big Show on Monday that, while only 5 percent of people in a recent poll suggested that he was the team’€™s ace (far shy of the voting totals received by teammates Jon Lester and Josh Beckett), he planned on changing that total.

‘€œI guarantee I have more than 5 percent at the end of this year,’€ said Lackey. ‘€œI hope all three of us have great years and it’€™s 33 percent at the end of the year.’€

Lackey may have taken his first step to move the needle on Wednesday.

Read More: john lackey, Yankees,

Ortiz has a hit, Teixeira still doesn’t

04.07.10 at 8:27 pm ET
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David Ortiz notched his first hit of the season, rifling a single into right in the third inning of the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Yankees. The base hit, coming off New York starter Andy Pettitte, snapped an 0-for-8 drought for Ortiz to start the 2010 season

(To see what Ortiz told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier about the situation, click here.)

After two at-bats Wednesday night, Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira still doesn’t have a hit this season, having come up empty in his first 10 at-bats. That leads us to the Ortiz vs. Teixeira tote board for the pair performances since June 6, 2009:

Ortiz: 94 hits, 27 HR, 79 RBI, .262 batting average, .355 on-base percentage, .546 slugging percentage

Teixeira: 121 hits, 22 HR, 73 RBI, .289 BA, .374 OBP, .527 slugging percentage.

Ortiz: ‘It’s like the season will be over tomorrow’

04.07.10 at 6:35 pm ET
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Red Sox slugger David Ortiz spoke briefly in the clubhouse prior to Wednesday’s game against the Yankees. Ortiz, who is 0-for-7 with a walk in his first two games of the season, was still puzzled by the fact that there is a spotlight on his struggles after just two games of the season.

“I’€™ve been seeing [expletive] for years here,” Ortiz told WEEI.com. “But what I’€™ve been seeing after two games, it’€™s like the season will be over tomorrow.”

Ortiz has gotten somewhat accustomed to this sort of rhythm, as he started slowly over a larger period of time in the past two years. In 2008, he was hitting .070 with a .370 OPS through the first 12 games of the season. In 2009, his struggles lasted through the end of May, as he was hitting .185 with a .570 OPS and one homer through the first two months of the season.

Despite those experiences — and his rebounds from both of them — he said that he is still unsure how to respond when dealing with public and media reaction to just a couple of tough games.

“I guess I’€™ll have to keep that for myself and explain that later on,” he said. “Right now, I can’€™t.”

That said, despite the fact that Ortiz is hitless after two games, he said that he still feels good both generally and at the plate.

“I feel great, man. I feel great,” he said.

Read More: David Ortiz,

Cameron on The Big Show: ‘No interest in the whole rivalry thing’

04.07.10 at 5:25 pm ET
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Mike Cameron dropped by to chat with The Big Show on Wednesday at Fenway Park about the new center fielder’s first impressions of putting on the home whites. Much was made of the debate centering on Jacoby Ellsbury or Cameron in center and the new acquisition said he could play another position, but center is where he wants to be.

“I could play some other positions also, but I still have a window that I still can go out and play the game in center,” he said. “Maybe I’€™m not as fast as I was when I was 21, 22 years old. At the same time, I still feel like I can play. I feel better. Some days feel better than others, and the day I feel really, really good I start to cheat a little bit more. The days I don’€™t feel as good I just kind of back up a little bit.”

Cameron also touched on the secret wind veils that make playing center at Fenway so unique, his relationship with Terry Francona, what it’s like to be back in the American League and his initial struggles to find his way around the Fenway area.

Following is a transcript. To listen to the interview, click here.

What’€™s your experience so far in center field at Fenway Park?

No different then the past experiences out there. I’€™m starting to learn the wind veils out there, something that nobody discussed with me when I was on the other team.

There are secret wind veils?

If you look at the right thing.

In the press box with all the hot air?

That’€™s one of the interesting things is one of the wind veils is on top of the press box.

You may have been brought in for defense but you and Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro have helped stabilize the bottom of the lineup.

The one thing about it is as baseball players we don’€™t look a the description of how a team is designed. We are brought here to do a job and just be productive and you look at the past and me, Beltre and Scutaro have all been thought of as defensive players or great whatever you want to call it. But at the same time this game the No. 1 thing is pitching and if you have solid defense and pitching you are going to have a really good chance. You add the other element of is when you have an explosive offense or whatever you want to call it now you are looking at a championship caliber ball club. As a player you don’€™t really look at those things, you just play. I’€™m a baseball player. I try to be good on defense or base stealing. Sometimes I may not hit very well but you try and be a good hitter as much as possible.

How has Terry Francona changed since you first met him when you first entered the league?

When you go and be the manager for Philadelphia and then you go to Oakland have the opportunity to be a bench coach. Also to sit in the stands and be an advanced scout and then become the manager of the Boston Red Sox and go through some really great seasons here, probably two of the best seasons that people are going to remember here by winning championships. Sometimes there are shortcomings, but to be able to keep this unit together under this type of situation ‘€¦ He’€™s always been calm and collected but looking at it from your manager as a player under these type of baseball capabilities and playing in the New England atmosphere it’€™s always a calming sense to have a manager like that. He’€™s always joking too. I’€™ve known that him ever since I was 18 so it’€™s always a calming factor for myself.

How have you been able to maintain yourself as a good defender late into your 30s?

It’€™s just a blessing. I’€™ve just been one of those guys. In the past Steve Finley was one of those guys who could do it for a long time. Kenny Lofton was one of those guys and Devon White was one of those guys too. I could play some other positions also, but I still have a window that I still can go out and play the game in center. Maybe I’€™m not as fast as I was when I was 21, 22 years old. At the same time I still feel like I can play. I feel better. Some days feel better than others, and the day I feel really, really good I start to cheat a little bit more. The days I don’€™t feel as good I just kind of back up a little bit.

Do you do things differently now than you were in the past when you might have had more speed?

Most definitely. When you go through something I went through before, having a really bad incident, you play the game a little bit different. I still play balls to the wall. I still have to be really considerate of what I can and cant do on the field now. I would rather play 145 games then play in 100 or 99, by being a little bit smarter on the field. Now it takes me a little bit more time to kind of get ready. So I have to go get ready before I go to practice, so that’€™s probably the most important thing to remember that that’€™s part of the routine now.

Has Jacoby Ellsbury sat you down to talk about center field at all?

We have been doing it all spring. Pretty much throughout the course of the season we are going to do a lot more. He’€™s still going to play some center this year, because I don’€™t think they are going to let me play everyday, but I would love to. I want to go over there and play around with the wall a little bit too, to kind of get a feel of it.

Have you done some practicing over there yet?

I’€™ve been going over there a little bit in practice to go get a feel for it. Even though I’€™ve played it so many times for some reason I feel like I’€™m at home now and I have to know what’€™s what. The game itself will dictate how you go about doing those things and that’€™s one thing we talk. When the ball is going to left field I have to be very cognizant of going over there all the time, when I used to stand over and watch a little bit.

Have you been able to travel in Boston without any problems?

I had none of that. The 8 p.m. game kind of helped with it being Easter Sunday. It was a very big help, but I think I took this route a couple times. I’€™ve made it a couple of times on this route in my mind, but my car did a good job. Once I got around here I did circle around the stadium a couple times, and I didn’€™t think I could turn on Lansdowne Street because it looks like there was a big block party because it was blocked off. So I couldn’€™t get in there when I wanted to, so I had to call into the guys in the clubhouse and find out what was good and find out what I could and couldn’€™t do.

Thank God for GPS.

Definitely. I got a straight shot on Route 9 all the way out, so I’€™m good.

Did you get a sense of the difference between most series and a Red Sox vs. Yankees series?

There’€™s a lot more media people. This is my first series as a Red Sox, so I do know that there is a lot more people coming from New York than there would be if it was Kansas City or Minnesota. It’€™s well expected. I’€™ve played against both and now I get a chance to play in it. As much hype as it is I really don’€™t want to have it go through my mind because that’€™s just going to add much more pressure on it. I just want to get comfortable playing at home for the Red Sox. I just want to go out and play as best I can and just beat up on the Yankees. I have no interest in the whole rivalry thing. I’€™m just trying to play as well as I can for the Boston Red Sox and if it just happens to be the Yankees then they just happen to be on the list.

Dough Mientkiewicz said the best rivalry is White Sox vs. Twins.

I guess for the last few years you would think that. I played in the Windy City Classic and I’€™ve played in the Subway Series but this is crazy. It’€™s kind of subdued a little bit from what I’€™d seen on TV, but there has a ruckus in the stands as far as I can tell.

Did you notice the umpires tried to pick up the pace of the game last night?

They couldn’€™t do it though. They can’€™t do it. Everyone has a routine they go through. Some guys are going to see balls. Some guys are going to swing, but the game seems like it’€™s forever. If I was in Milwaukee last year the game would have been two hours before. It’€™s a four-hour game and you got to get in the feel of it. I’€™m enjoying it, though. More so than anything, this is my opportunity to enjoy the game with the focus on playing really good baseball for the Boston Red Sox. But I’ve got to enjoy this. It’€™s only going to happen one time, so I’€™m going to enjoy it.

Mariano Rivera just isn’€™t going to go away, is he?

That was the one thing about it he was throwing that cutter 96 (mph) and it was running across the plate. Last night he threw me one cutter under my hands and I was like, ‘€œOK. Here comes the cutter again. I’€™m going to open up and be ready for it.’€ It comes in and it’€™s sinking a little bit and I was like, ‘€œWhere did that come from.’€ A lot of learning for me is through relievers, so I kind of have pick my spots and kind of ambush somebody, because as much as I haven’€™t seen these guys at the same time I have to be very cognizant of what the guys feature pitches are. I’€™m sure they know a lot about me, but knowing a lot about someone and facing someone is totally different. That was my first time facing Joba [Chamberlain] the other night. That kind of amped me up a little bit the other night. He’€™s been the guy who is fist pumping. I thought they were going to walk J.D. [Drew] last night with me being the new guy here, but that was my bad thinking. I did get a chance to see Mariano though.

Do you have to change anything to fit the philosophy here in Boston?

I just try to be better. The times I get strikeouts is when I’€™m not being aggressive from the beginning or sometimes like last night I went out of the zone against A.J. [Burnett] and I really didn’€™t have to. I kind of got caught up in the fastball thing and he’€™s slinging it everywhere and I’€™m just swinging at it. I just need to stay within myself more than anything and when I find myself doing that I find myself having better at-bats, much more quality at-bats and just having the comfort level to go out and do it. They have a couple of guys here that take 1,000 pitches. Sometimes I get in that mode, too. It just depends how I’€™m feeling. But for the most part it’€™s really about getting comfortable and playing the game I’€™m comfortable playing. I can slash it and minimize a lot of strikeouts just by staying in there and having that aggressive mindset. I had [Dave Magadan] in ’06 in San Diego, so he’€™s told me the same things, to get out of your own way and go play the game.

Francona: ‘My goodness – it’s the third game of the year’

04.07.10 at 4:45 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona offered further insight into how he views David Ortiz‘ 0-for-7 start to the season, and why he elected not to pinch-hit for the slugger against Yankees left-handed reliever Damaso Marte in the eighth inning of his team’s 6-4 loss on Tuesday. Francona suggested that it seemed a bit early for such strong reactions to two hitless games, and said that he wants to ensure that Ortiz is not “looking over his shoulder” less than two games into the season.

“I don’t feel panic,” said Francona. “There’s no way I can wake up in the morning — nor do I want to — and run to the radio or run to the paper and see how I’m being perceived.

“Part of being a fan is that you love your team, you’re not supposed to think logically all the time. … You’ve heard the comment that if you manage like a fan, you’ll be a fan. That’s not what I’m looking for. The thing that I’ve learned here that’s hard is you have to be patient. And when you don’t want to be patient, you really need to or you can really screw up some things.”

Clearly, the decision to stick with Ortiz instead of Mike Lowell — both on Tuesday night against Marte, and on Wednesday against a Pettitte, a pitcher against whom both Ortiz and Lowell enjoy substantial success — was a demonstration of that notion. Though Francona would like to find good matchups in which to use Lowell, he also wants Ortiz to maintain his confidence.

“Tonight would have been a good night to play [Mike] Lowell. It would have been a bad night not to play David. And since they won’t give us two DH’s, you have to make a decision,” said Francona. “We want to have an atmosphere where we have guys who want to do the right thing. And we want them to walk up there and feel confident. I don’t want David looking over his shoulder a game and a half into the season. I was asked last night about pinch-hitting for him. We’ve got a runner on second, nobody out and a dead pull hitter. That’s what we’re looking for. We don’t want to send a righty up there to massage the ball to the right side when we have that guy up there. It just didn’t work.”

The fact that Ortiz has struggled against left-handers over the past couple of seasons would seem to argue in favor of more of a platoon between Ortiz and Lowell. In 2009, the right-handed Lowell hit .301 with an .867 OPS against lefties. Ortiz, meanwhile, hit .212 with a .716 OPS against southpaws. Francona didn’t dismiss completely the notion that he could end up using Lowell more against left-handers, but he did note that there are benefits to having Ortiz remain in the lineup against southpaws.

“Why would I come out and say, ‘We’ll put a date on this.’ That’s not me doing a very good job if we fell into that,” said Francona. “The other thing to remember is, I know the numbers — I’ve seen the numbers you’re talking about — but take David for example. He drove in 99 runs last year. If you didn’t play him against certain lefties, he wouldn’t have had those numbers against righties. Facing left-handers, at times, guys have to do that. Especially left-handed, it keeps you longer on the ball. You get into some bad habits just playing against right-handers. So it’s a little deeper than just what people are looking at.”

Francona did seem a bit bemused by the fact that this line of inquiry about the status of Ortiz was emerging after just two games of the season.

“Being reactionary in my job, especially here, I think that has a chance to set off things in a bad chain reaction, as opposed to helping,” said Francona. “It feels early to be talking about it. … My goodness. It’s the third game of the year. Yeah, it’s crazy.”

Clay Buchholz threw 48 pitches in a simulated outing that the Sox hope will leave him sharp entering his start in Kansas City on Sunday.

–Francona is hoping to get the Sox reserves into the lineup starting with the weekend series against the Royals. He said that Jason Varitek will ‘certainly’ get some starts in the coming roadtrip.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Boof Bonser are both scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches in their rehab outings for Triple-A Pawtucket. Bonser is starting the PawSox opener on Thursday, and Matsuzaka pitches on Saturday.

Alan Embree will also pitch on Thursday. The Sox need to “pitch him as much as we can without going overboard” while they try to evaluate the left-hander as thoroughly as possible prior to his April 15 opt-out date.

Jed Lowrie is still suffering from fatigue. He will have occasional days when he feels good, but will then feel run down and unable to maintain significant physical activity the next day. There’s no timetable for his recovery.

–While the Sox will have Jason Varitek be used as a somewhat normal backup catcher, they will avoid having him catch Tim Wakefield.

“That’s the on thing we probably don’t want to do, because we’ve never done that,” said Francona of the use of Varitek. “[Martinez has] done a great job. … My first few years here, that was a panic situation. … When we put put [Doug] Mirabelli in limos…”

Read More: Alan Embree, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz
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