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Richardson talks quad injury

03.09.10 at 9:50 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Richardson, who had to leave his outing Monday with two outs in the eighth inning due to a ‘fatigued quad’ in his right leg, said he felt better Tuesday, but was going to rest the leg for a few days.

The lefty explained that he had first experienced pain in the quad about a week before, but it had subsided. As he progressed in his relief outing against the Cardinals, however, there continued to be a burning sensation when he landed upon delivering each pitch.

Richardson, who appeared in three games with the Red Sox last season and is thought to have a shot at contributing to the Sox’ bullpen at some point in 2010, said that he has never had any problems with the quad prior to this spring.

What’s New with the Red Sox: Monday

03.09.10 at 9:12 am ET
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Nothing fancy, just the facts.

Josh Beckett threw three perfect innings against the Cardinals on Monday, yet that performance seemed almost secondary to the identity of the man who was behind the plate to receive the 29-year-old’s pitches. Beckett spent the day working with Victor Martinez, and pronounced afterwards that he has achieved something in the vicinity of a 7-of-10 in terms of comfort level with the catcher who came to Boston at last year’s trade deadline, and who will now serve as the everyday catcher for the Sox in 2010.

Beckett explained that there is a necessary transition phase as he begins to work with someone other than Jason Varitek. Yet while opponents had a 1.021 OPS off of Beckett in three starts with Martinez behind the plate, compared to a svelte .625 mark when he threw to Varitek, Beckett made two things clear:

1) He likes throwing to Varitek because of the comfort that the two have built; and
2) He doesn’t dislike throwing to Martinez.

From this story:

“I do like throwing to Jason Varitek, and I’€™m not ashamed to say that. He has helped me so much throughout the years just throwing to him,’€ Beckett said. ‘€œThat doesn’€™t mean I don’€™t like throwing to Victor. I think Victor does great. Somebody asked me after a bad start that Vic caught me and I said, ‘€˜Damn, if you’€™re blaming him for me pitching like (crap) I’€™ll tell you right now he’€™s got a pretty good answer for you and that’€™s, ‘€˜I’€™ve caught two Cy Youngs in two years.’€™ Maybe it’€™s the Indian [and] not the arrow.

‘€œI don’€™t know if it’€™s blown out of proportion because the number is there and I’€™ll say it in front of Vic: I like throwing to Jason Varitek. It doesn’€™t mean I don’€™t like throwing to Vic. There’€™s got to be some transition there.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nathan’s status highlights Papelbon’s importance

03.09.10 at 8:28 am ET
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UPDATE: According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Twins received news on Tuesday that Joe Nathan has a significant tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and could end up missing the entire 2010 season if he undergoes Tommy John surgery.

They share a city in spring training, and they have shared dominance in the regular season.

Statistically speaking, since Jonathan Papelbon moved into the role of the closer at the start of the 2006 season, there has been Papelbon and Joe Nathan, and then there has been everyone else. Consider some of these numbers for the Red Sox and Twins closers from the past four years:

Papelbon: 264 innings, 1.74 ERA, 151 saves, 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, .190/.243/.284/.527 opponents’ line

Nathan: 276.1 innings, 1.73 ERA, 159 saves, 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings, .180/.241/.285/.526 opponents’ line

(For context, here’s the list of the 20 pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs and at least 200 innings pitched since the start of the 2006 season.)

Nathan’s extraordinary performance helps to explain why the Twins’ universe will be waiting breathlessly for the results of the MRI on the 35-year-old closer. The right-hander, who underwent surgery to remove a couple of bone spurs and to clean up some loose bodies in his right elbow this offseason, left the mound after feeling what he described as tightness and aching in that same elbow in an exhibition game on Saturday. Nathan was flown to Minnesota for the exam, the results of which — according to several reports — are expected to be known on Tuesday.

On Friday — one day before Nathan’s injury in his first game of the spring — Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire considered the impact of his closer on his club.

“Without Nathan, our bullpen is really in trouble. It has been and it will be if we don’€™t have Nathan. We’€™ve really struggled. Not saying somebody can’€™t step in, but without Nathan, we’€™d be in trouble,” said Gardenhire. “He’€™s been the horse. And he is the horse. So if we protect him enough, he’€™s really good.”

On Tuesday, the Twins will find out whether they need to contemplate life without Nathan. It is a scenario that the team would love to avoid.

Of course, that sort of discussion bears at least some notice for the Papelbon Watch. Because he has not signed a long-term deal, and instead has signed a series of record-setting one-year deals to pitch for the Sox, there has been significant attention devoted to whether Papelbon might stay in Boston beyond his eligibility for free agency and what the team might do if he leaves.

There is, of course, a belief in some corners of the baseball world that closers are an entirely replaceable commodity. There is evidence to support such a claim.

After future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman left the Padres for the Brewers last offseason, Heath Bell stepped up to save 42 games and record a 2.71 ERA. Papelbon made Keith Foulke on afterthought; ditto Nathan and Eddie Guardado.

Now, if Nathan is hurt for any period of time, perhaps the Twins can find someone else to assume his ninth-inning role. Perhaps if Papelbon leaves, the Red Sox could find someone to make the transition seamless.

But those sorts of experiments are uneasy ones. For a manager who has become accustomed to life with one of the game’s best closers, the idea of seeking alternatives is unpalatable.

“Talk to the teams that don’€™t have them,” Gardenhire said on Friday. “I’€™ll tell you they’€™re the ones who are watching games in October, in late October, if they don’€™t have somebody who can finish up.”

Read More: Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon,

Ellsbury gets $47,000 pay raise

03.08.10 at 5:56 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox announced the signing of 13 players Monday. The terms of the contracts are as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury – $496,500 (after making $449,500 in 2009); Clay Buchholz – $443,000; Jed Lowrie – $434,000; Daniel Bard – $415,500; Tug Hulett – $403,500; Ramon A. Ramirez – $403,000; Josh Reddick – $403,000 ‘€¨Michael Bowden – $402,000; Dusty Brown – $402,000; Aaron Bates – $401,000; Dustin Richardson – $401,000; Felix Doubront – $400,000; Mark Wagner – $400,000.

The highest paid player of the group, Ellsbury, is the only one who will be arbitration-eligible after the 2010 season.

With the agreements, all 39 players on Boston’€™s major league roster are under contract for the 2010 season.

Magadan on Iglesias: The sky’s the limit

03.08.10 at 5:43 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The bar is changing by the day.

“Everybody was comparing him to Rey Ordonez,” said one member of the Red Sox‘ uniformed personnel. “I saw this kid and knew this was no Rey Ordonez.”

The latest suggestion that Jose Iglesias might end up being above and beyond what the light-hitting, smooth-fielding Ordonez represented came Monday when the Red Sox’ first-year pro jacked his first home run, a three-run job with two on and two out in the eighth inning that gave the Sox’ a late lead over the Cardinals.

The Red Sox would need another comeback in the ninth after surrendering the advantage in the top of the ninth — getting a game-winning single from Che-Hsuan Lin for 7-6 win against St. Louis at City of Palms Park — but it was still the affable 20-year-old shortstop everybody was buzzing about.

“I think he’s got a little bit of that rising to the occasion in him. He’s always asking, ‘Am I playing today?’ He hates sitting on the bench watching the game. When he gets in the game he wants to make an immediate impact, and he did today,” said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. “He just needs experience and the sky’s the limit for him.”

Standing at just 5-foot-10 or so, Iglesias still looks his age (if not a bit younger). But as moments like Monday reminded many, there is a reason the Red Sox dished out a four-year, $8.25 million deal for the Cuban.

“He’s been pretty consistent,” Magadan said. “The No. 1 thing that jumps out at you is his passion for the game. He’s the first one in the cage, he’s the last one to leave. His work ethic is incredible. What he does routine-wise in the cage is like a five-year major league veteran. He has a really good idea of what he wants to do. He has an unbelievable amount of confidence. He is going to be one of those guys who is going to come quick.”

There is, however, work to be done, as both Iglesias and Magadan point out.

There is still an adjustment period, with the shortstop getting used to the abundance of resources (such as video) that he hadn’t been privy to back in his homeland. Iglesias also has to integrate the kind of subtleties that any 20-year-old from a foreign land — no matter how advanced — might be initially missing.

“I think he’s still learning.” Magadan explained. “His pitch selection and his over-aggressiveness sometimes gets in the way of having success at the plate. You see it a little bit in the spring where he expands the zone early in the count. But when he’s patient and he’s aggressive in the zone, you leave a fastball over the heart of the plate early in the count he’s ready to hit it. He’s just got to learn, and he will, to control the at-bat and don’t feel like the at-bat has to be over with after one or two or three pitches. I think he has the confidence to hit deep in the count, but I think his ‘Thou shalt not let the heater pass early in the count’ is something he subscribes to.”

But as the smile Iglesias wore while listening to the questions relayed by translator Gil Velazquez indicated, having the opportunity to get on-the-job training in environments like the one afforded him Monday makes road to the bigs a joy … for all involved.

“This is my first year with the organization but it feels like I’ve been here forever,” Iglesias said through Velazquez. “They have welcomed me like a family member.”

Beckett says communication with Martinez a ‘7’

03.08.10 at 3:09 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking after his three-inning spring training out against the Cardinals Monday afternoon, in which he didn’t allow a hit or run while striking out three, Josh Beckett spent most of his post-game press conference saying that he and Victor Martinez were progressing well in terms of working together as a battery.

Martinez caught Beckett in the pitcher’s second spring outing, having worked with the hurler in two bullpen sessions this spring. The catcher was able to catch just one of the hurler’s bullpen sessions last season, coming just prior to Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

“I would say we’re like a seven right now,” said Beckett when asked to rate where he was with Martinez on a scale of 1-10. “It’s very difficult for you to expect a guy to come over three-quarters of the way through a season and pick up on the same page of everybody. It’s very difficult. I rely heavily on those guys, I’m not ashamed to say that. We’re doing good, it’s just not like every pitch.”

Beckett reiterated that Martinez, who caught the starter’s final three starts of 2009, has nothing to prove when it comes to showing he can execute a game-plan.

“I think Victor is a very, very smart guy and I don’t think it would take him that long,” Beckett said. “He knows how to call a game. He caught two Cy Youngs in a row. I think that speaks for itself. If there’s some sort of issue between what he’s calling and how well I’m throwing it it’s probably me not him… I’m very comfortable with Vic. I really am. He really is a very smart guy.”

Besides the ‘X’s’ and ‘O’s’ of execution, Beckett said that the two have developed a comfort level that also enters into the equation.

“I think we’re comfortable with one another,” he said. “I think it’s a feel. He gets a feel for what I like to throw in certain counts. That creates rhythm. As far as being comfortable, I’m definitely comfortable with the way he receives the ball and everything like that. I just think for us right now it’s about getting on the page every pitch.”

As for the outing, Beckett felt he got in more of a rhythm after the first inning, partly because his warm-ups ended up finishing closer to game-time than normal. He ended up throwing 31 pitches, 26 for strikes, while focusing mostly on fastballs and changeups.

“I definitely think you learn things, but more than anything you learn about making adjustments,” he said. “I hate to use that cliche, but this is a game of adjustments because they are adjusting over there just like I have to make adjustments. One time through the league you may get away with one thing, but there are too much video and too many advance scouts you’re not going to get away with the same thing every day.”

Red Sox agreed to one-year deals with 13

03.08.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox announced that they have agreed to terms on one-year contracts with 13 players. Agreeing to terms were pitchers Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Ramon A. Ramirez and Dustin Richardson; catchers Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner; infielders Aaron Bates, Tug Hulett and Jed Lowrie; and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Reddick.

No further terms were disclosed. With the agreements, all 39 players on Boston’€™s Major League roster are under contract for the 2010 season.

Duncan: Penny trying some new pitches

03.08.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan has found himself linked with the Red Sox thanks to the struggles of certain pitchers while playing in the Boston uniform.

First it was Joel Pineiro who was traded from the Red Sox to the Cardinals in 2007 after being designated for assignment by the Sox. Pineiro went on to become a stalwart in the Cards’ rotation, ultimately winning 15 games on the way to signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Angels this past offseason.

Then John Smoltz hooked on with St. Louis after being released by the Red Sox in August of last season, finishing his seven-game stint with the Cardinals carrying a much-improved 4.26 ERA.

Now it’s Brad Penny’s turn.

The former Red Sox righty signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal over the winter and is slotted into the back half of the Cardinals’ rotation. This after splitting his ’09 campaign between the Sox and Giants, having finished his six starts with San Francisco having compiled a 4-1 mark with a 2.59 ERA.

Penny ran into some difficulties in his first outing of the spring, allowing three runs on six hits over two innings, but, as was the case with his two previous former-Red Sox projects, Duncan is optimistic.

“I think he’s trying to add some things to his game,” the Cardinals pitching coach said Penny. “He’s trying to improve the quality of his split-finger so it can be a more useful pitch. He’s playing around with a two-seamer to give him a little different look to his fastball at times. We’ll see how it develops. That’s what spring is for. His approach has been very positive and he wants to bounce back and have a good year. We’ll see how it goes.

“They are two pitches that he has thrown before, but he hasn’t used them a lot. I think with a little work they can get to a quality where he can use them more, which will add another dimension to his game. He won’t be out there strictly trying to blow people away with four-seam fastballs.”

Last season, Penny threw his splitter less than five percent of the time, while relying heavily on a four-seam fastball that, while with the Red Sox, was often left up in the zone.

“I don’t think our division helps,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona said in regards to the struggles some of the aforementioned pitchers had while playing for the Sox. “If you’re a pitcher getting out of our division is never going to hurt… Penny, I don’t think it will surprise us if he gets people out. We really liked him.”

Of course it wasn’t Duncan who was the most sought-after Cardinals coach, with hitting coach Mark McGwire signing a litany of autographs prior to the game. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa recently said he would encourage McGwire to take batting practice to help give the Cards’ hitters more of a visual guide of how to approach BP.

When asked if he had ever contemplated such an approach, Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan quickly said, “Never. Not a chance.”

How Marco Scutaro became a leadoff hitter

03.08.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With Jacoby Ellsbury getting the day off, Marco Scutaro manned the leadoff spot for the Red Sox Monday against the Cardinals at City of Palms Park.

It is familiar territory for the shortstop thanks to his time in the Blue Jays’ lineup’s top spot for the past 1 1/2 seasons. But before Cito Gaston took over as manager of the Jays, Scutaro’s life as a leadoff man was extremely limited.

“I can remember doing it once when I was with Oakland,” Scutaro said prior to Monday afternoon’s game.

Scutaro’s ascension into the lineup’s top spot began when Gaston took over the Jays on June 20, 2008, with one of the manager’s first act becoming installing the shortstop at leadoff.

“I guess they didn’t have any leadoff guys, and he saw me take some pitches and stuff and said, ‘You can do it.’ In the minors I was more in the second spot,” Scutaro explained. “I liked it. I had not complaints.”

But while Scutaro did indeed have a propensity to take pitches — averaging 4.06 pitches per plate appearance — Gaston didn’t mandate that he watch a flurry of pitches go by before swinging the bat.

“The thing was that Cito’s approach was one that he didn’t like you take pitches. He just said to look for your pitch and swing at your pitch,” said Scutaro, who hit .220 (13-for-59) when putting the first pitch in play last season. “That’s pretty much what I did. He loved first-pitch hitting.”

Another interesting note from the construct of the Red Sox’ Monday lineup was Billy Hall’s presence in left field. Hall played 22 games in left field last season, but prior to spring training of ’07 he had never played a single game in the outfield … ever. Not Little League, high school, or any other level.

Yeah

A Monday morning of Red Sox stuff

03.08.10 at 10:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — After a round of clubhouse access, and Terry Francona’s debriefing with the media, here is the latest (while, of course, awaiting the arrival of Albert Pujols, but not Julio Lugo):

– Francona said there are no new updates with Mike Lowell, and that the infielder would like to shoot for the end of the week to get in games.

– The plan is for Josh Beckett to get about three innings in against the Cardinals.

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s next bullpen session might have to be pushed from Tuesday to Wednesday because of the team’s travel schedule and subsequent availability of pitching coach John Farrell.

– Outfielder Zach Daeges is being sent back to minor league camp, where he will be able to treat a troublesome lat muscle that hasn’t allowed him to swing in camp.

– There’s a chance Jason Varitek could be back with the team Monday night after tending to a personal issue.

– Talking about outfielder Josh Reddick, Francona said he has improved his plate discipline compared to last spring training. “When he learns to swing at strikes,” the Sox manager said, “he’s going to be pretty successful.” Comparing Francona to another young outfielder in Sox camp, Ryan Kalish, Francona noted that Kalish might have the ability to steal a few more bases than Reddick and that the comparison to Trot Nixon was a pretty solid one.

– On working with the new coaching staff, Francona said it’s “Actually been kind of fun … Enjoyable.” He also noted regarding the practice of coaching third base — which is now Tim Bogar’s duty — “If you don’t get guys thrown out than you’re probably making some mistakes.”

John Lackey said that after taking time to work on his changeup for the past few spring trainings, he isn’t going down that route and will prioritize his primary pitches.

Dustin Pedroia said he feels the best he has in any spring training, noting that he feels as though if the season started today his timing is where it needs to be to be successful. Pedroia also explained that physically he feels better than in past years, having taken a slightly different approach to lifting in the offseason.

– And, finally, Jacoby Ellsbury offered what he believed was his most impressive feat of athleticism. “Doing a reverse, 360-degree dunk in college,” the outfielder said. Ellsbury said he first dunked a women’s basketball as a 5-foot-8 8th-grader. For the best video proof of Ellsbury’s athleticism, check out the following segment, put together by Nike:

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