|Opting Out of the ‘Kotsay Competition’||03.04.09 at 11:10 am ET|
As discussed yesterday, there is currently a spirited open competition between Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter, Paul McAnulty and Brad Wilkerson for the role of the Red Sox’ fifth outfielder, a job that is vacant through at least the end of April as outfielder Mark Kotsay recovers from back surgery.
One additional item worth mentioning: both Bailey and Wilkerson have opt-out clauses should the Red Sox not purchase their contracts by specified dates. That being the case, here is a revised list of the contract status of all four players:
- Bailey can opt out of his contract and become a free agent if he has not been called up by July 15.
- Carter is a member of the 40-man roster, and so will remain under Red Sox control whether or not he is in the majors or in Triple-A.
- McAnulty does not have an out clause.
- Wilkerson has two outs: one on April 1, another on June 15.
|Report: Penny not scheduled to start until April 15||03.04.09 at 9:02 am ET|
According to the Boston Herald, starter Brad Penny‘s delayed start to his spring training season has not changed the projection for when he will make his regular-season debut. The Herald reported that the plan all along has been for Penny to make his season debut on April 15. However, April 12 appears to be the latest date that the Sox could turn to a fifth starter, with a rotation along these lines: Read the rest of this entry »
|Five Things We Learned on Tuesday in the Fort||03.04.09 at 8:40 am ET|
The Red Sox receive a reprieve today. With a break in Grapefruit League action, the players have a spring training rarity: a complete day off from all baseball activities. In some ways, the timing seems appropriate, since Tuesday marked one of the first days this spring when we learned real, substantive stuff. Here’s a roundup of five key items:
1) The Red Sox and J.D. Drew both insist that his trip to Boston to receive a pain-killing injection was no big deal. In a sense, regardless of the condition of the right-fielder’s lower back, they’re right. In 2008, there’s not much evidence to suggest that the Sox were a better team with Drew than they were without him.
2) Brad Penny has been slowed slightly in his efforts to get on the mound, as the team pushed back his first start of the spring in order to continue to have the right-hander build shoulder strength. As is the case with Drew, both the player in question and the team suggest this is no big deal. As is the case with Drew, time will tell.
3) Perhaps as important as Jon Lester‘s work to improve his changeup this spring are his efforts to avoid using his devastating cutter during the exhibition season. By shelving the cutter (a pitch that Lester feels he could throw while falling out of bed) at this point, Lester is forced to work to hone his other pitches while also preserving arm strength on his fastball. Lester worked briskly through a pair of shutout innings on Tuesday, and will be bumped up to three innings in his next outing.
4) The competition to assume the role vacated by Mark Kotsay (out through April due to back surgery) is an interesting one, and the chief candidates are making some strong early impressions. Both Paul McAnulty and Chris Carter hit homers on Tuesday, Jeff Bailey has hit well in the maiden games of the Grapefruit League season and Brad Wilkerson, despite a slow start at the plate in the first couple games of the exhibition season, is the best defender of the bunch.
5) As an 18-year-old player for the UC-Irvine Anteaters, Mark Wagner had a chance to catch 57-year-old Nolan Ryan. The experience was eye-opening, to say the least.
|Not quite Fisk’s homer off the foul pole…||03.03.09 at 5:38 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla.–The Red Sox mounted a dramatic late-inning rally in their 9-8 exhibition loss to the Reds, nearly erasing a 9-2 deficit with three runs in the seventh and eighth innings. But Boston fell short of avenging its loss in the seventh game of the 1975 World Series, and now is left to mull over the Grapefruit League defeat over the course of Wednesday’s off-day. That, or contemplate the beach.
A few observations from the game, aside from the fact that Jon Lester enjoyed a couple of quick, crisp innings in his second outing of the spring:
–Junichi Tazawa, whose first two appearances both came against college teams, got into a game against professional competition for the first time in his life. (Tazawa, you might recall, came to the Sox by way of the Japanese amateur industrial leagues.) It wasn’t exactly the Big Red Machine, but Tazawa continued to impress with another three-up, three-down inning against Wes Bankston (groundout), Danny Richar (groundout) and Luis Bolivar (strikeout on a slider).
Tazawa, who needed 15 pitches to get through his inning, told Japanese reporters afterwards that he was overly cautious pitching inside, where he consistently missed low, and that he was told by pitching coach John Farrell and consultant Denney Tomori that he will need to emphasize pitching inside in his next outing. Tazawa also informed Japanese reporters that the atmosphere was a little different than in his previous outings against college players, and that he was a bit nervous based on the improved caliber of opponent. Even so, in his appearances this spring, he has allowed just one baserunner on a walk.
–Paul McAnulty, who drove in four runs with a two-run double and a two-run homer to right, offered a reminder about how he earned the nickname “Chauff.” Worth reiterating: McAnulty was the first player ever drafted and signed by Jason McLeod, now the Red Sox director of amateur scouting.
Of course, the Red Sox are aware of McAnulty’s pedigree as a hitter. They’re trying to determine how well he can play defense at first base and the outfield corners. McAnulty is competing with Brad Wilkerson, Chris Carter (who homered yesterday, and is hitting .417 this spring) and Jeff Bailey (0-for-1 yesterday, now hitting .500 this spring) to serve as the fill-in for injured first baseman/outfielder Mark Kotsay in the first month of the season.
“(The competition for that spot) is wide open,” said manager Terry Francona. “Some of it is going to depend on Mikey Lowell‘s health. What you’re looking for out of that right now is need, and then you’d like to see some guys do well. We’ll make our decisions based on what helps our ballclub best. We’d like to see three or four guys in a position where we have a tough decision to make.”
A few items in handicapping that race:
- Wilkerson, McAnulty and Carter are all, like Kotsay, left-handed. All things being equal (and presuming that third baseman Mike Lowell is healthy), the team would likely prefer a left-handed bat, since Rocco Baldelli should be a right-handed option as a fourth outfielder.
- Wilkerson, McAnulty and Bailey are all signed to minor-league contracts, while Carter is on the 40-man roster but has options remaining.
- Wilkerson is clearly the best defender of the bunch, someone who could even be considered for spot duty in center field. That ability is not insignificant.
“We’ve told all of them–all those guys fighting for that spot–that they need to catch the ball,” said Francona. “We think we have good pitching. They need to catch the ball. And they’re going to be asked to do a few different things: play first, play the outfield.”
That being the case, Francona seemed slightly chagrined by McAnulty’s fourth-inning error. Though it seemed as if umpire Randy Marsh should have ruled Jay Bruce out, as McAnulty appeared to catch a foul pop-up and then lose the handle on it when transferring it from glove to hand, Francona suggested that the responsibility was at least partly with the player. “When you do that, you open it up (to an umpire’s judgment),” said Francona.
–Mark Wagner unloaded for a two-run homer. That was almost as impressive as the fact that the catching prospect has caught Nolan Ryan.
–Wes Littleton was roughed up badly. The sidearming right-hander gave up three hits, hit a pair of batters and gave up a grand slam to former Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes while recording just two outs. The opposite-field grand slam by Gomes was a particularly poor outcome for a pitcher whose delivery is meant to permit him to dominate right-handers. Though Littleton seemed a fringe candidate for the bullpen–especially if Justin Masterson ends up in the rotation to start the year–he has done little to advance that goal.
Though Littleton’s outing was a poor one, it did inspire some good pressbox banter about an effort by Dock Ellis to prove to the Big Red Machine that he was not intimated. On May 1, 1974, Ellis hit the first three batters of the game (Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen) and then narrowly missed hitting Tony Perez, whom Ellis walked to force in a run. Ellis had some choice, colorful and extremely profane comments about his intent while on the mound, so consider yourself duly warned if you want to read more through this link.
–Jed Lowrie continues to impress with his consistent hard contact while batting left-handed this spring. He had a single to right in the first and a double in the fourth. He also grounded hard to first base.
|Jon Lester Sharp In His Second Outing||03.03.09 at 2:46 pm ET|
Jon Lester looked every bit the part of a power pitcher today, recording a pair of strikeouts (Jacque Jones and Brandon Phillips) among the six batters he faced. Lester also pluncked outfielder Jay Bruce with a stray fastball, though Bruce was quickly erased from the bases when he was caught stealing.
Lester’s fastball showed good life, and he snapped off a couple nice curves, most notably to catch Jones looking at a called strike three. Given the lengthy spring training, and the desire to scale back Lester’s work a bit this spring given his hefty innings load in 2008, it made little sense for the Red Sox to send the starter out for a third inning, despite the fact that he threw just 20 pitches (including a couple changeups).
“We’ve got a lot of innings to go this season. I’m not worried about throwing more innings in spring training,” said Lester. “These games don’t mean anything. We’re just trying to get our work in and come out healthy. An extra inning here doesn’t really do me any justice for the season.”
|Nolan Ryan, Anteater Dominator||03.03.09 at 1:26 pm ET|
From the annals of the unexpected:
Red Sox minor-league catcher Mark Wagner has worked with some immense talents since being selected as a ninth-rounder by Boston in 2005. He’s worked with almost all of the top young talents who have matriculated through the system, including the likes of Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden, among others. Yet none of those fellows can qualify for the title of most impressive pitcher whom Wagner has ever caught. That prize belongs to one Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr., the Hall of Famer who is now president of the Texas Rangers.
Just what, exactly, was Wagner–who was nine when Nolan Ryan threw his last major-league pitch as a 46-year-old–doing catching baseball’s strikeout king? Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox vs. Reds lineups||03.03.09 at 12:22 pm ET|
For those keeping score at home…well, good luck. Today’s starting lineups for the Reds’ visit to City of Palms Park, where the Sox are dealing with the short-term absences of both J.D. Drew (facet joint injection) and Julio Lugo (out with food poisoning): Read the rest of this entry »
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