|07.30.10 at 5:11 pm ET|
Talking prior to the Tigers series opening game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park Friday night, Johnny Damon said that if he would have remained a member of the Sox following the 2005 season the team might have won more than just the 2007 world championship.
“I actually think they would have won one more here,” Damon said. “During that offseason we just acquired Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and I was coming off a solid year. Signing me would have been a very easy thing to do. But with stuff going on with the front office here, was Theo [Epstein]here or was he not, all that kind of stuff. But you know what, things happen for a reason. I love playing here. I went to New York, which was against a lot of people’s wishes. But I fell in love with New York also. I’m one of those players I guess you could say like David Cone who can go anywhere and make the best of it, and that’s what I did. The fortunate thing was that I did get to win in New York, which I don’t think I would have ever been satisfied without it.”
When asked if things would have been different if Epstein wasn’t on hiatus during the time he was making his decision to sign with the Red Sox or Yankees after becoming a free agent, Damon said, “Maybe, I really don’t know all that was going on. I knew that I kept telling them I was ready to come back but it fell on deaf ears. I enjoyed the four years over in New York. Now I’m in Detroit and hopefully i can be there past this year but we’ll see.”
Damon, who indicated he wants to play at least one more season after this one, commented that he didn’t know if he would be welcomed any differently than when he returned to Fenway as a Yankee in ’06.
“These fans know I can be a difference-maker in a game, so for me getting booed isn’t just stuck to Boston and Fenway Park. I get booed everywhere,” the 36-year-old Damon said. “The teammates on this team can’t believe how much I get booed how much I get booed everywhere. It’s part of the game. I told these guys I’ve been around this game 16 games, been reeking havoc on these teams for so long, they’ve grown to hate me.”
Damon is currently in the midst of a one-year, $8 million deal with the Tigers. He is hitting .281 with a .373 on-base percentage. For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.
|07.30.10 at 4:39 pm ET|
Mike Lowell, back from a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket in which he hit .500 with four homers, including a three-homer game, has no idea what the next 24 hours will bring. The 2007 World Series MVP said that he has yet to talk to Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein since arriving at Fenway Park, and so he does not know the likelihood of whether he will be traded between now and the trade deadline on Saturday.
What he does know is that he can still produce. Lowell — who is hitting .213 with a .308 OBP, .350 slugging mark and .658 OPS in 31 big league games this year — was already convinced of that fact, even while he was riding the bench, something that made the season to date “terrible” for him to endure. But with his performance during his Triple-A rehab assignment, the 36-year-old feels like he demonstrated in emphatic fashion his ability to contribute somewhere.
“I just wanted to go to Pawtucket and feel good and put myself in a position where I … gave myself a little exclamation point of what I was capable of doing,” Lowell said. “I think I did everything I could have done in Pawtucket. If there’s something out there, whether it’s our team or another team, that they wanted to see more of, there’s not any more left. What do they want me to do? Hit four home runs? I think that’s a little unfair. So I leave it at that. There’s nothing left for me to do.”
In some ways, it was a double-edged sword for the corner infield to perform so well on his rehab assignment. For Lowell, it was a pleasure to once again have consistent at-bats, and yet there was a sense of disappointment that he had not had the opportunity to produce for a big league club this year.
“It just answered the questions of what I’ve been saying all along. If I get consistent at-bats, I feel like I can produce,” said Lowell. “I definitely got really hot there. I can’t produce at that rate, but I know I can still swing the bat. I think if anything that might add to the frustration. If I had gone 1-for-20, there might have been someone whispering in my ear, telling me, ‘Maybe you’re not capable of doing it.’ But I never thought of it being in that situation. It still makes you want to play.”
Where Lowell will play remains an open question. The Sox are holding off on activating him until at least tomorrow, rather than make a roster move (that would result in another player being moved elsewhere) only to have him get dealt less than 24 hours later.
Even so, while the Sox are exploring the market for his services, the potential suitors have dwindled in recent days, in the aftermath of deals made by the Rangers to acquire Jorge Cantu and the Tigers to pick up Jhonny Peralta. Lowell admitted that he has no idea what will happen between now and the trade deadline, and that he isn’t stressing about that fact.
Nonetheless, one thing remains clear. Lowell wants to play, and given that fact, he views his best-case scenario as being a playing opportunity for a team other than the Red Sox, who feature three All-Star-caliber players at the three positions that Lowell might play: Adrian Beltre at third, Kevin Youkilis at first and David Ortiz as a designated hitter.
“Anything is a possibility. We’ll wait and see. I don’t have much else to say or know where to go,” Lowell said of trade possibilities. “[The best-case scenario] at this point? I think I’d be speculating and it would be pretty mean-spirited if it had anything to do with the Red Sox, because how am I going to play any of the positions that I play with David and Kevin and Adrian doing a good job? I don’t think anything I can say Red Sox-related would seem unselfish.”
|07.30.10 at 2:22 pm ET|
WEEI Red Sox play-by-play man and ESPN baseball broadcaster Dave O’Brien joined the Dale & Holley show on Friday to discuss the impending non-waiver trade deadline, what he thinks of the steroid era, as well as how high the ceiling is for the Sox this year.
Said O’Brien: “You look at the veritable All-Star team that was out over these last several weeks as the Red Sox faded to 7½ games back. Now, getting all these guys back, undoubtedly the Red Sox have a run of 20 wins in 23 days coming up, and will put great pressure, on the very least, Tampa Bay.”
Following are highlights. To hear the full interview visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Do you think the Red Sox need to be active as we approach the deadline?
I don’t think the Red Sox have to do much at all. I know Theo [Epstein] is looking at bullpen help with the possibility of acquiring another guy there. I’m for that, I like the the idea of changing up the look. Maybe late in the game, obviously not with [Daniel] Bard or [Jonathan Papelbon], but whoever gets them to that, the bridge guy to Bard. I wouldn’t mind that, just to give teams you’ve seen before, like Tampa Bay and the Yankees in particular, something else to have to plan for and think about. That would be great.
You’re getting all these pieces back [from injury] now, the Red Sox are now becoming, finally, at last, a whole ball club. I thought [Josh] Beckett coming back was just a gigantic thing. Maybe it wasn’t treated that way back he because it was out on the West Coast, but he just pulls that whole rotation together as everyone knows. Those guys now are going to be competing against each other, to see if they can top the outing from the night before. I think that works to a teams advantage. We saw it with [the Braves], and we’ve seen it here in Boston before. Getting healthy was huge.
Could asking starters to go longer help you later on?
It might. I don’t think it will with Beckett because he’s had all that time off. He’s a horse to begin with and he’s fresh. You don’t want to worry so much about the load on [Jon] Lester because Jon’s a big kid and loves to throw a lot of pitches; that’s his style. [John] Lackey might be the guy we don’t know about here in Boston. John’s 6-foot-6, he’s a big tough guy. Those three in particular I don’t know if you worry so much about. It’s Daisuke [Matsuzaka]’s way to throw lots of pitches. Unfortunately its over six innings, you know 5 2/3 [innings], and that has to stop, he’s the guy who puts the most pressure on the bullpen as everybody knows.
|07.30.10 at 1:54 pm ET|
The Red Sox are working feverishly to add to their bullpen. But what if the right deal isn’t there to be made? Can the Sox bullpen avoid being a potential fatal liability?
The team’s bullpen ‘ which sports a 4.42 ERA, is tied for second in the AL with 14 blown saves, has allowed the most homers (43) in the AL and generally lacks a reliable middle reliever in front of closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Daniel Bard.
There is a searching period at work for the Sox bullpen, something that became apparent when Scott Atchison was brought in to pitch in the eighth inning of Monday’s game, when Bard was unavailable. The Sox are trying to avoid putting Bard’s shoulder in a shredder. At the same time, it would be difficult for the club to suggest that it has confidence in the personnel heading to the mound on nights when he is unavailable.
All of that raises the question: can the bullpen be anything other than a weakness in the absence of change?
‘[The bullpen] is a strength if guys perform to their track records. That’s pretty obvious,’ said pitching coach John Farrell. ‘That’s not always been the case.’
Farrell suggested that the bullpen inconsistencies have been in no small part the byproduct of a loss of confidence by the individual pitchers in their stuff. There has been a tendency of pitchers to overthrow, resulting in walks that have made the base hits all the more costly.
That has led to usage changes across the Sox’ middle relief spectrum. Excluding Tim Wakefield (who has yet to appear in a game out of the Boston bullpen since Josh Beckett‘s return) and minor leaguers Michael Bowden and Felix Doubront (whose potential contributions to the major league bullpen cannot be predicted with any great precision), here is a look at the current Sox relief options behind Bard and Papelbon:
The stuff is still there, which makes it all the more puzzling to the Sox why Manny Delcarmen has had such an enigmatic season. He had a sub-2.00 ERA through the first two months of the season, saw his performance tank (14.73 ERA) over the next four weeks while dealing with back and forearm injuries, the latter of which forced him to the DL.
Once activated, he looked strong initially, retiring seven straight batters over two appearances. But in three subsequent appearances, he’s retired just four of the 12 batters he’s faced, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks while hitting a batter.
The issue doesn’t appear to be health so much as it is confidence, according to Farrell.
‘With Manny, there are times when he’s been very good when he’s trusted his ability. There have been times, even by his own admission, a lack of trust that causes him to rush and causes his arm to be late,’ said Farrell. ‘That’s the frustrating thing. When you look up and he’s throwing 92-95, if you locate that fastball with that power, that’s a pretty unique combination and one that permitted him to be successful for a long time. That’s what we’re working to get back to.’
Delcarmen’s walks totals have been worrisome to the Sox this year, as he’s issued 23 free passes (against 25 strikeouts) in 37 innings. Even so, he has at least shown the ability to be part of the solution for the Sox bullpen. If he can execute, then he can contribute.
It’s been ugly for Okajima, who has a 5.81 ERA, and has been shelled by opposing batters to the tune of a .351 average, .409 OBP and .947 OPS. Left-handed and right-handed hitters have been pounding him with equal enthusiasm.
Farrell believes that the left-hander’s problems stem from a failure to use his fastball in.
‘Before, when he’s been able to throw his fastball in to lefties and righties to keep them honest, it speeds up their bats a little bit to make the split a little more effective,’ he said. ‘That hasn’t been the case as frequently.
‘The one thing we continue to look at is the usage of his stuff,’ Farrell added. ‘What we try to do is not take his stuff and become traditional in approach ‘ the split late in the count, working away with fastballs. The ability to work in, both off the plate and for strikes, is key for him. Those are the areas we continue to try to establish.’
After allowing five hits and two runs while absorbing the loss on Sunday in Seattle, Okajima was not used in the three-game series against the Angels, despite the fact that Daniel Bard wasn’t available for two of the contests (and Jonathan Papelbon was also unavailable for one).
Perhaps he is dealing with lingering back discomfort; perhaps not. Regardless, given his performance and health struggles this year, the Sox have been without a reliable left-handed option. That explains in no small measure the team’s interest in Scott Downs and Craig Breslow.
If the team does not acquire a lefty, it will be interesting to see whether a roster move is made to give southpaw Dustin Richardson another shot. While Okajima likely can’t continue to struggle to this extreme, his career trend lines are ominous, as his ERA, hits per inning and homers per inning have gone up in each of his big league seasons.
Atchison’s role has grown to unexpected prominence, in no small part because over the last month, he has been the team’s most reliable reliever outside of Bard and Papelbon. In contrast to the command difficulties of other members of the bullpen, Atchison is appreciatively described by the Sox as a strike thrower, as evidenced by his 12 walks in 36 innings this year.
He recently had a stretch of 9 1/3 innings without an earned run, which resulted in him being the pitcher called upon to handle the eighth inning in Anaheim on Monday (when Bard was unavailable). However, he ended up yielding a two-run homer in that outing to Hideki Matsui that served as a reminder that lefties (.294 average, .853 OPS) have done a number on him.
Righties, in contrast, are hitting just .169 with a .553 OPS against the 34-year-old. Atchison has also generated a decent number of strikeouts, averaging 6.7 per nine innings. While his stuff is not overpowering, he is likely to remain a useful middle innings option for the Sox.
There is a reason why other teams have expressed some interest in Ramirez as a trade deadline acquisition. That much has been evident in his last three appearances, when Ramirez has retired all seven batters he’s faced, striking out four of them. Since May 27, in fact, he’s been quite good, forging a 3.33 ERA and holding opponents to a .205 average and .601 OPS.
To date, Ramirez has been used primarily in games when the Sox are trailing (22 of 43 appearances) or when the Sox have held a lead of four or more runs (14 of 43 appearances). He has appeared in the eighth inning or later of a game when the Sox were tied or had a lead of three or fewer runs on just six occasions this year.
There is a chance that the Sox end up dealing Ramirez between now and Saturday. Of course, there is also a chance that the Sox end up pursuing someone just like him: a potential buy-low acquisition whose stuff can play in the middle innings.
|07.30.10 at 1:03 pm ET|
Lester (11-5, 2.92 ERA) makes his first appearance since his botched perfect game against Seattle, which ended after 5 1/3 innings with an Eric Patterson dropped fly ball followed by a two-run homer that cost Lester the shutout and the win.
He struck out a career-high 13 but gave up four hits and four runs over 7 2/3 innings in the loss. He is 0-2 in his last two outings, allowing nine runs (seven earned), despite pitching into the eighth inning in both games.
The Red Sox, who have been leaning on Lester as their ace this season, will need him to bring his stuff Friday as they attempt to close the gap on the Rays for second place in the AL East. The first-place Yankees are 7 1/2 games ahead, despite the fact that the Red Sox were just a half-game back at the beginning of the month. After losing two series and splitting with Seattle, the Sox finally swept a series with Anaheim to take their first series since the All-Star break. They were 7-7 in their two-week stretch vs. the AL West and are 10-9 against the AL Central in 2010.
Lester, who got his first All-Star election this year, hasn’t lost two games in a row since April, quickly bouncing back with eight straight wins in 11 starts. Lester is 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA at Fenway this season, but he’s never won against the Tigers; he is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA against Detroit.
Armando Galarraga (3-3, 4.43 ERA), another almost-perfect pitcher who famously lost his perfect game on umpire Jim Joyce‘s mistaken call, represented the Tigers well in his last start against the Sox. He beat Boston in his first game back in the major leagues in May. He’ll take on the Sox again Friday to allow teammate Jeremy Bonderman to make two starts next week. Galarraga is looking for his first win since the All-Star break.
|07.30.10 at 12:51 pm ET|
ESPN columnist Bill Simmons joined the Dale & Holley show Friday morning (listen at the Dale & Holley audio on demand page) because he was “just bored” and to talk about his most recent column that indicates he’s not as interested in the Red Sox this season. “I don’t remember a Red Sox season like this, where I’ve never had less Red Sox conversations with my friends or my family or whatever,” he said. “It’s tough to get through the games,” he added, complaining about how long the games last.
Talking about the current Sox players, Simmons said: “I don’t think there’s anybody with the charisma of Pedro [Martinez], Manny [Ramirez], [David] Ortiz in his prime, going back a little bit further, Nomar [Garciaparra] in his first five years. I don’t think anybody resonates with this fan base like those guys did.” Of J.D. Drew, Simmons said: “He kind of leaves you cold. Jut after four years, it’s the same kind of reactions every time.”
Simmons said the championships in 2004 and ’07 have had their effect as well, indicating that fans need a “kick in the stomach” to get them fired up again. “You’ve got to build up that residue of pain and anguish and all that stuff, and that’s when you get to the final place,” he said. “We’re still living in the grace period.”
Simmons said he’s concerned that the Sox’ season might be over with two months remaining. “I find it hard to believe we can make up six games on Tampa at this point. I think the Yankees are a lost cause,” he said, adding: “It might just not be the Red Sox’ year, which is fine. I think they knew that going in. I think they were hoping they could do the pitching-defense thing for one year. They knew it was going to be a transition year. They knew they had a ton of money coming off after this season, and they were just kind of hoping to patch it together. And it kind of worked, but then the injuries ‘ once [Dustin] Pedroia and [Victor] Martinez went down, that just knocked them out of it, basically.”
|07.30.10 at 6:55 am ET|
Josh Beckett hosted his annual charity event Beckett Bowl on Thursday night at Lucky Strike Lanes near Fenway Park. Tim Wakefield, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash were among the Red Sox players who bowled to benefit Beckett’s charity. Click here to see photos from the event.
|07.29.10 at 6:53 pm ET|
NESN commentator and Red Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice joined The Big Show Thursday to talk about his experience and opinion of the Hall of Fame now that he is an official member of “the club” in Cooperstown, while shedding some light on the Red Sox’ decisions facing the trade deadline, and why power hitters seem to be missing from the major leagues.
Following are highlights of the interview. To listen to the full interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.
On how it feels to go to the Hall of Fame now that he’s a part of it:
It was much easier. I think when you’re talking about going to the Hall of Fame, you like to think about the guys that you’re going to meet and what’s going to take place. Me, last year, I didn’t have any idea of what to expect, but this year was a little different. I didn’t have to prepare a speech of anything like that. I wasn’t a rookie, you know?
On the talk surrounding the Hall of Fame process and his comfort talking about it now:
Well, the difference is when you talk to people in general and when you talk to the guys that were in the Hall of Fame, some of the guys you have met, they compare you, your playing ability, more accustomed to theirs, and they see what other people didn’t see, or saw at that time. When Hall of Famers consider you Hall of Fame, that’s more of an honor than people that didn’t play. These guys actually played the game and they knew what it took to play the game and how hard I played, and part of the impact — I was getting more impact than anything else — on the baseball field.
On the outgoing and not-so-outgoing Hall of Famers:
I think Frank Robinson, he’s sort of like the mayor of everything. … When you go through the Hall of Fame you’ve got to go through Frank Robinson. Frank will tell you in a minute, “You’re a rookie, so sit there and be quiet.” There’s a ritual, well, I don’t know if it’s an actual ritual, but things that Rickey [Henderson] and I went through and Andre [Dawson] had to go through. We sort of told Andre what was going on, and it was pretty good. Really, it was supposed to be like a 10-minute speech, but it was a 10-minute speech and after that you go back to the hotel and you sit there on the balcony, you rock in a chair and you look out over the water and it’s really fun. I didn’t have to do it this year, and Rickey and I, we told Andre what was going on, and it was very nice.
On the press’ treatment of Rice now that he’s in the Hall of Fame:
I think the toughest thing about guys going to the Hall of Fame, I think, and I’m not a writer, but when you have some of the writers who have never played the game. I don’t know how many guys vote on the Hall of Fame, but I think it should be maybe half players and half writers. Then you have a better idea.
|07.29.10 at 6:45 pm ET|
Former Blue Jays manager and current ESPN analyst J.P. Ricciardi joined The Big Show Thursday to talk about what’s going on in the world of baseball the last two days before the trade deadline, whether the Sox can recover in terms of the pennant race and their ratings, who the biggest surprise is in baseball this season, and how the votes should work for Hall of Famers from the steroid era.
Following are highlights. To listen to the full interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.
On Theo Epstein’s thoughts at the trade deadline:
I think he’s definitely been looking at relief pitching, I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think they’ve been in with a lot of good guys. I think the price tag is really high right now, so they’re trying to address their relief pitching, they’re trying to add one more bat which may be in the outfield because their outfield is still banged up. I think they’re just getting everyday players back like [Victor] Martinez, and ultimately their lineup will start to get together a little bit more, but I think they’re going to need one more bat, which I think they’re going to try to get. They might have as much luck on the waiver wire when guys start going through waivers, they’ll get more luck than what teams are asking for right now — straight up trades. So, I think they’re going to address some of that bullpen help.
On general managers feeding rumors to the media:
Well, I don’t know so much if the general manager would be out there doing it. I would say in today’s game, it might be the agent who’s doing it. I think the agent has more contact with writers today than they’ve ever had, I think they are the ones who a lot of the times bring us some interest, and say, “Hey, this team is interested in signing this player,” when there’s absolutely no truth to it. But they’re trying to create a market and drive a market, and I think the one thing in Boston is the Red Sox and Yankees are always cognizant of what the other is doing. It’s almost like the old Mad magazine “Spy vs. Spy.”
On whether the Yankees are more inclined to look for bullpen help:
I think they’ll try to get some bullpen help. I think they’re going to really try and deliver a knockout punch and try to get an Adam Dunn. I don’t know if it will happen. But I think if they can put that cycle back in their lineup it finishes up their lineup and absolutely it may deliver a knockout punch to the division.
On whether the Sox can stay in the pennant race:
I think they can. They remind me a lot of what the Phillies are doing. The Phillies are really starting to make a push, they’re starting to play their best baseball. I think it’s really incredible what the Red Sox have been able to do this year, to be able to hang in this race, to be that banged up and really hold the fort down while they’re starting to get these guys back. I think their best baseball is still in front of them, being able to pitch, being able to hit, being able to do it all together.
I think they’ll get something in the way of something small, but they’re not going to trade [Jose] Iglesias, they’re not going to trade [Casey] Kelly. They’re not going to bite on that bullet, but they’re going to get some guys in there that can help them, whether it’s a group of smaller guys. Even if it’s just changing scenery in the bullpen to give them a different look. He’ll do some different things but I think the big pieces are coming back. … They have to have a push, that’s the only way they’re going to get back into it, but I do think it’s in there.
|07.29.10 at 6:04 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the Padres ‘kicked the tires’ regarding the availability of Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie, but San Diego will not pursue him as a solution for their depleted infield. Lowrie has played in six games since returning from the disabled list with mono, hitting .250/.318/.400/.718 with 3 RBI in six games.
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