|06.27.09 at 7:16 pm ET|
Jed Lowrie absentmindedly rubbed his left wrist as he spoke Saturday in front of his locker before the Paw Sox home game against Syracuse. Now almost 10 weeks removed from the surgery to repair that area, the wrist — which Lowrie said was at 85 percent of his right wrist when he was last tested a few weeks ago — is less of an impediment to the shortstop’s return to the majors than is the need to simply get back in playing shape.
Lowrie returned to the lineup on Saturday night with Triple-A Pawtucket against Syracuse to resume his rehab with the PawSox. He was in just his third game since undergoing his surgery in mid-April on Tuesday when he was hit by a pitch in the left knee on Tuesday during his first at bat in Norfolk. He remained in the game singling in the top of the third eventually scoring on an Aaron Bates double.
With the three days off, Lowrie’s efforts to regain his timing at the plate and his game stamina have been slowed, at least temporarily.
‘I don’t have a timetable right now,’ Lowrie said. ‘The pitch to my knee didn’t help on Tuesday. It’s only my third real game back because of Tuesday so I’m just looking to get at bats.’
The Sox followed a conservative course in getting the 25-year-old shortstop back into the field.
‘It tightened up on him so we’re obviously taking our time on it,’ said Paw Sox manager Ron Johnson. ‘He rehabbed for a couple days and yesterday he went out for a full pre-game. I talked to him this morning at the airport and he flew back today, not with us, and he said he was ready to go tonight.’
“He hasn’t played a lot,” Johnson continued. “The focus with Jed is to make sure he’s ready. This is almost like a ‘re-spring training’ for him.
While Lowrie is eager to return, he also recognizes that he will do himself few favors by rushing his rehab or becoming frustrated by the pace of his progress.
‘I know I’m a major league shortstop and I believe in myself,” said Lowrie. “I’ll be back as soon as I can get back.’
|06.27.09 at 2:34 pm ET|
Javier Vazquez didn’t get a chance to face the Red Sox when the Braves were in Boston last week, and perhaps that was just as well for the pitcher. For his career, Vazquez is 2-6 against the Sox. He seems to have a weakness for throwing homerun balls to his batting Boston counterparts, having given up 11 homers in just 10 games pitched.
Mike Lowell (out of the lineup again today due to hip discomfort) and David Ortiz both have two career homeruns a piece against Vazquez, but look for J.D. Drew to flash his elusive smile as he goes to bat against a pitcher who he’s homered off of four times. Well, maybe a smile is a lot to ask of Drew, but at least he’ll be happy on the inside.
(The only pitcher against whom Drew has homered more often is Claudio Vargas. Drew has taken Vargas deep five times.)
In his last two starts against Boston, Vazquez has allowed 12 runs in 11 2/3 innings.
On the other side of the ball is 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, who’s tied for the most number of wins this season on the Sox pitching staff with Josh Beckett. Wakefield (9-3, 4.47 ERA) will be looking to become the first Boston pitcher to 10 wins in 2009 as he faces a Braves team that didn’t go down easy against him last week in Boston. (Wakefield allowed four runs and got a no-decision.)
Ignited by David Ortiz’ recent surge and a pitching staff with a 3.38 in their last 23 games, the Sox are 7-3 in their last 10 games and currently hold the American League‘s best record at 45-28. The Sox are also 38-24 all-time against the Braves.
BRAVES VS. WAKEFIELD
Garret Anderson (70 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .275 average/ .286 OBP/ .536 slugging, 5 homers, walk, 6 strikeouts
Casey Kotchman (18): .294/ .333/ .529, homer, walk, 2 strikeouts
Chipper Jones (17): .333/ .529/ .500, 5 walks, 2 strikeouts
Gregor Blanco (3): 1-for-3
Yunel Escobar (3): 2-for-3
Brian McCann (3): 1-for-3
Nate McLouth (3): 1-for-3
Martin Prado (3): 2-for-3, strikeout
David Ross (3): 1-for-3
RED SOX VS. VAZQUEZ
Mike Lowell (48 career plate appearances against Vazquez): .283 average/ .313 OBP/ .522 slugging, 2 homers, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Mark Kotsay (39): .200/ .282/ .286, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Julio Lugo (29): .296/ .345/ .444, homer, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
J.D. Drew (28): .417/ .500/ 1.000, 4 homers, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (26): .304/ .385/ .652, 2 homers, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (20): .105/ .150/ .158, walk, 9 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (14): 1-for-14, 7 strikeouts
Jason Bay (13): 2-for-12, walk, 5 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (11): 7-for-10, walk, 2 strikeouts
Rocco Baldelli (6): 1-for-6, 3 strikeouts
Brad Penny (6): 1-for-5, 3 strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (4): 0-for-3, walk, strikeout
|06.26.09 at 4:38 pm ET|
RED SOX vs. JAIR JURRJENS
The last time the Red Sox faced Jair Jurrjens (in case you can’t remember five days back), they defeated the Braves, 6-5, in a walk-off thriller courtesy of Nick Green‘s ninth-inning blast. Jurrjens wasn’t particularly tough on the Sox, giving up five runs (though only two were earned) through six and allowing a two-run homer to David Ortiz as part of a four-run first. He was only charged with two of the runs on a technicality, as the error that caused the inning to continue was his own.
On the season the 23-year-old righthander is 5-5 with an ERA of 2.89, which currently ranks sixth-best in the National League. He has struck out exactly twice as many hitters as he’s walked (62:31 K/BB) through his 87.1 innings for the Braves this season.
Jason Bay (7 career plate appearances vs. Jurrjens): 1-for-5, RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO
Dustin Pedroia (4): 1-for-4
Mark Kotsay (3): 2-for 3
David Ortiz (3): 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, SO
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3. 2 SO
Kevin Youkilis (3): 1-for-3, SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 1-for-3, SO
Nick Green (3): 0-for-2, HBP
George Kottaras (2): 1-for-2, RBI
BRAVES vs. JOSH BECKETT
On the hill for the Sox tonight is Josh Beckett, who is coming off his best start of the season and perhaps one of his best in a Red Sox uniform.
Beckett was extraordinarily efficient on Saturday against this same Atlanta club, needing only 94 pitches to toss a complete-game shutout at Fenway, his first complete game of the year, and his first-ever shutout with the Sox. He struck out seven Braves over the course of the night while giving up just five hits and walking none.
Boston’s ace enters the game with an 8-3 record to go with his 3.74 ERA. He’s gone at least six innings deep in each of his nine starts since May 5. With the exception of a June 14 hiccup in Philadelphia in which he was touched for six earned, he has been brilliant since May 16, posting a 1.60 ERA in seven starts while fanning 47 through 50.2 innings.
Beckett is on pace to reach the 200-inning mark for the third time in four seasons in Boston. Before coming to the Sox he had never reached 180 innings in a season.
Here’s how the Braves have done against Beckett. Aside from Garret Anderson, Atlanta batters have had a miserable time against the Sox ace:
Chipper Jones (30): 179 BA / .233 OBP / .393 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO
Garret Anderson (22): .450 / .500 / .700, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Brian McCann (14): .214 / .214 / .286, 4 SO
Jeff Francoeur (11): .100 / .182 / .100, BB, 3 SO
Greg Norton (11): .111 / .273 / .444, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Casey Kotchman (10): .200 / .200 / .200, 3 SO
Kelly Johnson (8): 1-for-7, BB, 3 SO
Nate McClouth (4): 0-for-4
Yunel Escobar (4): 1-for-4, 2 SO
Omar Infante (3): 0-for-3, 2 SO
Martin Prado (3): 0-for-3
David Ross (2): 0-for-1, BB
Matt Diaz (2): 0-for-1, BB
|06.25.09 at 11:12 pm ET|
(Rough start, good finish) “I can’t be disappointed. I lost a little rhythm there in the first inning, which has happened three different times when I’ve been gone for a year and tried to slow down as much as I can. But I’ve got to give them credit. They battled me on seven, eight, and nine-pitch at bats. Made one bad pitch each at bat to give up a hit.
“But very encouraged by how good I can be, and how good I felt, and the stamina and everything going forward. I was really disappointed on the bloop hit. Two runs is two runs. Going to give up two runs. Felt like that was pretty much the unfortunate hit that put their young pitcher in a nice position to have a four-run lead against our lineup. All in all, most times if the line score is the way it is I’m going to be very disappointed, but I really can’t be at this point.
“A lot of hard work. Although I’d like that mulligan in the first inning, that’s the way it happens. Now everything will be normal for me.”
(On his velocity) “Yeah, there’s still some room for that to improve. I got a little anxious and jerked some pitches that is normal and that’s the thing, when you go through this process, everyone wants to come out and throw great, but I threw so many quality iptches I was pleased with that I know within a matter of a few starts I’ll be honed in to where I want to be, and hopefully not have, when I hit Nick Johnson, kind of sped things up a little bit. All in a all, lot of hits product of poor placement and good placement by them. Before you know it, it’s 4-0 and I’m saying here we go again. Fortunately, could have gone another inning. Felt that strong.”
(How he felt at the end) “Yeah, said I was good, but the situation in my first start and 90-something pitches, that’s what I was most disappointed about. I pitched myself out of a potential good game in that first inning with 35 pitches. I never felt couldn’t make a pitch, repeat a pitch, make an adjustment on a pitch.
“Once I got past the first inning, felt normal again. All encouraging signs for the future.”
(Going through all of his pitches) “I check them all off, except for the first inning, I started to feel for some pitches instead of throwing, and it cost me a couple of times. The best way to describe it is you get in that moment, you knmow it counts, trying to mak ehte best pitch you can. With some of those hitters, Josh Bard especially, he just battled me until I hung one. I made seven really, really good pitches in the at-bat and the one bad one he hit.
“Every time I got on the mound felt I can make those pitches. What’s happened fo rme was I made a lot of really, really good pitches early in the count with no conact, and with two strikes, have to make those pitches. That’s where I said my famiilarity will come back really quick in two to three starts.”
“Unfortunately it started out this way a few times in my career. Don’t get too worried about it. I was very encouraged by the stuff that I had tonight.”
(How this comeback was different than others) “It felt different because I had 71 texts today. It felt different because so many people were and have been rooting for me that’s what frustrates you. That’s what sturggled with most in first start. Wanted to do well for those people who have been so supportive.
“My buddy joked he flew up from Miami for one that last 1 2/3 innings. At least I got five innings today.”
“So much for going on eight days. I’m glad it’s over so I can resume the five-day rotation and do what every pitcher does, make improvements from game to game.”
“That’s what I feared most coming into this game, wanted to do so well for everybody involved, find self going, ‘How did I get here? How did four runs just happen?’ No matter if I’m 42 or 22, I feel like I can accomplish whatever I want this year. That’s why I came back, rehab went the way it did, now it’s just a matter of going out there and doing it like I did before.”
|06.25.09 at 10:53 pm ET|
(On giving up four runs in the first inning) “I’m sure there were some emotions and adenaline that was certainly flowing and I think that had an impact on certain pitchers that inning. He really gathered himself and really allowed some rhythm to take over and allow him to gather himself over the rubber and throw the ball downhill. I thought he was very good. The velocity was better than some games he has pitched in rehab. All in all I thought it was a very encouraging outing. Certainly enough to be successful at this level, to be sure.”
(On what was said between the first and second innings) “It was just a very simple reminder about things we have talked about on the side things we have given for feedback in his rehab starts, just buying some time over the rubber to allow his arm to get up and throw downhill. Once he did that the next four innings went as I think he had hoped, and certainly we hoped. We can’t leave out the first inning but all in all I think it was a very good starting point.”
(On what worked best for Smoltz) “The ability to throw three and four pitches at time for strikes. He still commanded his fastball better as the game went on. I think he realizes that he can use his fastball. There’s some similarities here we’ve seen from Schill as a veteran pitcher transitions or makes adjustments after a certain time. Where he has the ability to trust his fastball even more, not having to pitch to his secondary stuff. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a 90 percent fastball guy, but I think they fouled off a lot quality offspeed pitches down in the zone when he had enough velocity to keep guys honest.”
(On if there is room for greater velocity after topping out at 93 mph) “There may be. He’s now got 35 innings under his belt. You see it with the guys in our rotation now. The power pitchers don’t get their stuff until the fifth, sixth week of the season. Not to say that’s the case with John. I don’t know that. But typically guys who pitch with above average velocity it’s a few starts into their regular turns. Keep in mind, John’s just coming out of spring training as far as we’re concerned.”
(On if the Sox were able to see the real Smoltz in the fifth, when he struck out the side) “I think we’ve felt that way the minute we took the mound. We don’t expect him to go out and strike out every hitter he faces. But there was no hesitation, there was an aggressivenes to the zone. I think it was a very encouraging outing.”
|06.25.09 at 4:55 pm ET|
John Smoltz will make his first start as a member of the Red Sox tonight, facing the Washington Nationals. Join WEEI.com in the Virtual Pressbox for real-time insight, updates, polls and conversation. Rob Bradford will be on the scene in Washington, D.C. He’ll be joined by a host of WEEI.com personalities, including Curt Schilling, Gary From Chapel Hill, and you! First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.; the pressbox opens at 7. Be there.
|06.25.09 at 4:49 pm ET|
It’s been 388 days since Smoltz last tried to pitch in the majors. Last June 2, he gave up three hits and two runs in an inning of work out of the bullpen, blowing a save in the process. It was that outing – his first after a rehab stint, and the last of his illustrious career with the Atlanta Braves – that convinced him to undergo season-ending surgery on his torn labrum.
And now, almost 13 months later, he is back… The details:
NATIONALS VS. JOHN SMOLTZ
Here’s pretty much everything that we’ve learned about Smoltz since he came to the Red Sox, including the fact that he is a decorated accordionist.
Smoltz has pitched more innings against the Washington Nationals franchise (formerly the Montreal Expos) than any other club. He’s compiled a whopping 310.1 innings against the Expos/Nats — roughly two seasons of work for some starters — going 21-12 with a 2.55 ERA against a former divisional foe when Smoltz resided in the N.L. East. His 21 wins against the franchise are his most against any club.
As a result, several members of the Nats have seen quite a bit of Smoltz. Interestingly enough, Nick Johnson has faced Smoltz more than any other pitcher during his career with a total of 37 plate appearances.
Ryan Zimmerman (39 career plate appearances vs. Smoltz) ‘ .270 average / .308 OBP / .514 slugging (2 HR 9 RBI, 11 SO)
Nick Johnson (37) ‘ .188/.297/.375 (1 HR 2 RBI, 8 SO)
Austin Kearns (29) – .276/.276/.517 (1 HR 3 RBI, 10 SO)
Cristian Guzman (21) ‘ .250/.250/.400 (0 HR 1 RBI, 3 SO)
Ron Belliard (17) – .176/.176/.176 (0 HR 1 RBI, 5 SO)
Adam Dunn (15) – .167 AVG./.333 OBP/.500 SLG (1 HR 1 RBI, 8 SO)
Josh Willingham (11) ‘ .250/.364/.250 (0 HR 1 RBI, 2 SO)
Willie Harris (6) ‘ .667/.667/1.167 (0 HR 2 RBI, 2 SO)
John Lannan (4) – .000/.000/.000 (0 HR 0 RBI, 3 SO)
Wil Nieves (3) – .667/.667/.667
RED SOX VS. JORDAN ZIMMERMAN
For the third time this series, the Sox will face a Nationals pitcher whom they’ve never seen before, so there’s not much by way of match-ups to offer.
Jordan Zimmerman, a native of Auburndale, Wisconsin, made his major league debut on April 20th of this year. He has now made 11 starts, going 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA. When speaking at a public event shortly after his major league debut at ESPN Zone in D.C., Zimmerman spoke of the shaving cream pie-in-face ritual that is given after a pitcher’s first win.
As recounted by the Washington Post, Zimmerman was special delivered by John Lannan and Scott Olsen, with an assist to a TV sideline reporter, who apparently staged a fake interview to set Zimmerman up for the kill. “I knew something was up,” Zimmerman said. “All of the sudden she’s like, ‘Let’s face this way.’ As soon as I turned, bam, right in the face.”
Jared Shafran contributed to this post.
|06.24.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
(On expectations) ‘Let’s see, how about no runs, as many innings as they’ll let me pitch. Basically I want to go out there and do what I’ve done the last few starts and that’s command my pitches and see what else happens.’
(On velocity) ‘The biggest thing is I have enough pitches to get hitters out and the stuff that everyone is talking about might be different, so be it. But I think the ability to pitch and get guys out will be the same.’
(On reinventing himself) “Absolutely. This is not the old or the new or the done. This is just a new chapter of which, when I have a baseball in my hand, I feel like I can make a pitch and do the things I have to do to hopefully take the sting out of the bat and if that’s the case, we’ll progress and keep getting better every time out. Tomorrow is just one rung on the ladder to try to climb as far as I can to see how good I can be and really, at the end of the day, be in a position to pitch in the playoffs.’
|06.24.09 at 3:52 pm ET|
NATIONALS VS. JON LESTER
Jon Lester said hello to the baseball world in his third career start. On June 21, 2006, the left-hander flashed his immense potential. The Washington Nationals were the victims.
Lester struck out 10 and allowed three hits and one run in six innings that night. His manager glimpsed something that night that has now become a frequent phenomenon.
‘He made them respect all of his pitches — the slow breaking ball, the cutter, his fastball, his four-seamer,’ Terry Francona said that night. ‘And they couldn’t get a bead on any one of his pitches. He threw them all for strikes. It looks like his fastball’s got a little bit, whatever it registers on the gun, it’s got that last couple feet where it keeps going, and when it’s getting to the hitter and Tek, it’s got a little finish to it.’
After he struck out 10 batters that night, it became natural to anticipate that there were more such nights to come. Remarkably, however, Lester went almost three years before he finally punched out 10 in a game again, accomplishing the feat this May 4 in Yankee Stadium.
Now, however, Lester is cementing his strikeout credentials. He has four games with double-digit whiff totals since the start of May. He will look to up that total against a Nationals lineup that is averaging 7.9 whiffs per game:
Alex Cintron (8 career plate appearances vs. Lester): 2-for-7, walk
Freddie Bynum (4): 0-for-4
Corey Patterson (3): 1-for-3, homer
Ryan Zimmerman (3): 0-for-3
Lastings Milledge (2): 0-for-1, HBP
Josh Willingham (2): 2 walks
RED SOX VS. CRAIG STAMMEN
You might guess that no members of the Red Sox have ever faced Craig Stammen. You would be correct.
Stammen is a product of the University of Dayton (go Fliers!). In his major-league debut, he pitched four no-hit innings before getting touched for a run and a hit in the fifth.
In six starts, he’s 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA. He earned his first big-league win in his last outing, pouring in 6.1 shutout innings against the Yankees.
|06.24.09 at 1:33 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that, contrary to reports, starter Daisuke Matsuzaka has been on the shoulder program of assistant trainer Mike Reinold since coming to the Red Sox. Francona suggested that the pitcher has been coachable.
To listen to the complete interview, click here.
On the Red Sox recent stretch of success:
‘So much gets as if from week to week, I think we choose to go about things how we do,. When it’s all said and done things we’ll shake out. I know where we are, we just don’t really care.’
On Dustin Pedroia hitting leadoff:
‘I actually asked him (whether he was comfortable there). If it was a case that it bothered him, I wouldn’t hit him there, I think it’s just a coincidence. ‘¦ We just set up the lineup like we think it’s going to work, and then not move them everyday. If they’re good players, it will all shake out.’
On Ellsbury returning to the leadoff spot:
‘At some point in his career, that’s out best lineup. There’s no getting around that. For right now, Pedey’s going to get hot here. You can see that coming. J.D.’s been getting on base like crazy. I think it plays to more of the strengths of our lineup. Jacoby is swinging the bat so well that if you have him hitting behind Lowell or David or Tek, it gets those guys more pitches to see because they see Jake sitting back there and he’s swinging the bat well, and he has the ability to use his legs down at the bottom of the order to get himself in scoring position, I like the way it’s working right now.’
On Daisuke Matsuzaka being on a different shoulder program than other pitchers:
‘That’s actually not true. All our pitchers are on the shoulder program. That’s the one thing that’s not negotiable for any pitcher. They have to test out shoulder-wise. Otherwise we get concerned. Dice-K you have to explain it to him. He’s a guy who was raised in a different culture. We’ve had to explain it because it’s different from what he’s used to. But to say he hasn’t done the shoulder program I don’t think is correct.”
More on Matuszaka:
‘I think there’s been a lot of adjustments that needed to be made. Some we thought he would have to make and some have surprised us’¦There are a lot of things that have come into play that he’s had to make adjustments since he’s been over here.
“For whatever has happened, he’s managed to win 33 regular season games and three postseason games, which is a lot. Now, this year has been a battle. From the start to now, the WBC has a lot…he ramped up too quick. Now, in any town, as a fan, especially in Boston, when a guy struggles, they want to get rid of him. I don’t think that makes sense. We have a huge investment in this guy. He’s already shown he can be a top-flight pitcher, we’ve got to get him back there. That’s our goal”
On whether he is coachable or headstrong:
‘Very, actually. Not very headstrong, but very coachable’¦He’s a great kid. He has his own opinions. So do we’¦He’s just not pitching well. When you’re not pitching well, everyone is looking for something’¦He’s just not getting guys out.’
On Matsuzaka’s arsenal of pitches:
‘I thought his best pitch would be his changeup…That hasn’t been the case. For whatever reason, hitters have seen the changeup out of his hand better than I thought they would so there hasn’t been the deception and he hasn’t thrown the split nearly as much because of the grip of the ball so that takes away from one of his weapons.’
On Jason Varitek‘s playing time:
‘I’m not going to apologize for wanting to play him. He’s been a little beat up the last few weeks. We like him being on the field. We want him running the game for us. ‘
On calling up Pawtucket catcher Dusty Brown:
‘We had a basically a free roster spot, if we got into a game and something happened to a catcher, we’re just trying to protect ourselves’
On John Smoltz‘s return tomorrow night:
‘It’s exciting. We’re looking for him to keep us in the game. He’s done everything and more that we could’ve asked. We’re looking at 85-90 pitches, not bad for a first time out. We’ll have to use some judgment on that.’
On Jason Bay:
‘He’s tremendous. He’s a strong kid , he has some of the best hitter’s hands, doesn’t he? This kid is some kind of player. He’s a great player and he’s an even better teammate. Great kid. He’s funny, he’s not the loudest guy, he’s got some sneaky humor to him. He just shows up and plays. You ask him if he needs a day off, he says no, and then I write him back into the lineup.’
On Mike Lowell getting time off due to his hip:
‘I think that’s me over doing it. I probably ran him out there when I shouldn’t have at times. We’ll play David tonight at first, Youk at third. I’ll keep a better eye on it going forward.’
On if his player are mindful of playing NL-style baseball and if Smoltz was always going to come back against an NL opponent:
‘I don’t think they really care, if there’s anything different. We just wanted him to pitch when he was ready.’
On the difference in pace of game between each league:
‘I think some nights in the NL, the closer you get to the dugout things just kind of happen, I’m used to the AL now, and how it works. When you have good player and pitchers I don’t care what league you’re in.’
On how little turbulence there is in the Red Sox locker room:
‘How many places can you sit a David Ortiz and you don’t hear a word? There’s a lot of selflessness and I love it. Sometimes things will go bad, but I think our club can go through it.”
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