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Red Sox Pre-Game Notes: Wednesday

03.04.10 at 4:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s a late day in Fort Myers, with the Red Sox and Twins preparing to renew their annual epic battle for the Mayor’s Cup. The Red Sox have thus put a fairly formidable lineup together for tonight’s game, with a lineup that features six everyday players and seven players likely to break camp:

Ellsbury, 7
Pedroia, 4
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 3
Beltre, 5
Scutaro, 6
Hermida, 9
Reddick, 8
Brown, 2

Josh Beckett will be on the mound for the Sox. Once again, Sox manager Terry Francona praised the work ethic and commitment of the right-hander.

“He’s solid. He works. He’s accountable. … Players love him,” said Francona.

Francona recalled hearing that Beckett was “brash” when the team acquired him from Florida after the 2005 season, but recalls being struck that the way in which the pitcher committed to his profession in 2006 was a bit different than what he had been led to believe.

Francona thought that the right-hander would pitch two innings tonight, but wasn’t certain of that plan.

A few notes from the rest of his pre-game meeting with the media:

Mike Cameron appears set to play centerfield on Friday against the Twins, barring any setback.

J.D. Drew is still slated to be the designated hitter on Friday.

Casey Fein, who was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon — just three days after the Sox claimed him from the Tigers — barely had time to make introductions and unpack his bags before changing clubs again. “That was a quickie,” said Francona. “How you doing and thanks for coming.”

Tim Wakefield is the scheduled starter for the Sox on Friday. He appears to be progressing well this spring, and showing few lingering effects from his offseason surgery on his lower back. “He’s a unique pitcher,” said Francona. “His three sides coming into this game, he’s been great. Ball’s all over the place. … I think he’s right where he’s supposed to be.”

–Francona said that while it can be difficult to move all over the diamond for a player like Bill Hall, he praised the role player for embracing the responsibility. “He knows our intentions are to get him at-bats,” said Francona. Hall is slated to get starts in the coming days at both shortstop and in right field.

Ryan Kalish‘s aggressiveness on the field drew praise from the skipper. On Wednesday night, Kalish advanced from first to third on a ball that never left the infield, sprinting hard for the extra base when the ball was bobbled.

“Whenever he plays, he’ll be one of the manager’s and coaches’ favorite guys,” said Francona. “He’s like an animal out there.”

Casey Kelly will be making his next start against the Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday. That happens to be Kelly’s hometown, and so his outing will no doubt be a significant event for the young pitcher. Francona thought that pitching coach John Farrell had tried to draw up the schedule to permit just such an outcome.

–Francona joined the chorus of those praising Jose Iglesias for his adjustment to the culture, in particular, his advanced knowledge of English, which he speaks without an accent. “He says he watches a ton of TV [to learn the language],” Francona chuckled. “So do I. It doesn’€™t help.”

Read More: bill Hall, Josh Beckett, ryan kalish, Tim Wakefield

What’s new with the Red Sox: Wednesday

03.04.10 at 7:53 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Nothing fancy, just the facts.”

After a pair of exhibition games — one against Northeastern, and another against Boston College — the Sox are now 14 innings, 47 players and 21 runs of offense into their exhibition season. As one might guess, the return to games meant of wealth of knowledge to be gleaned:

Casey Kelly threw a 1-2-3 scoreless inning in 10 pitches. His fastball was 90-92 mph, and he recorded a pair of strikeouts on his changeup. Interestingly, Kelly learned the change just one year ago in spring training. It is now his best off-speed pitch. For much more on Kelly, click here.

Boof Bonser sounded relieved after delivering a scoreless inning in the nightcap against BC. While his fastball sat at 88-91 mph, he was enthusiastic about the way that his shoulder responded to its first game test since arthroscopic surgery late last February. For more on Bonser, click here.

–Both Bonser and Kelly are slated to pitch next on Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles.

–To some, the image of Tim Wakefield working with 18-year-old Eri Yoshida of Japan on her knuckleball was an interesting human interest story. To Wakefield, it was far more than that, since the moment offered an echo of when his work with a pair of coaches for a women’s professional baseball team in Fort Myers helped to save his career. Of course, it helped Wakefield quite a bit that the coaches of the Colorado Silver Bullets happened to be Phil and Joe Niekro. For more, click here.

Lou Merloni sat down with Jonathan Papelbon to review the closer’s blown save in Game 3 of the Divison Series. In that inning, Papelbon’s inability to use his split made him vulnerable. Merloni suggests that Papelbon’s split is looking significantly improved this spring. Read the rest of this entry »

Postgame Notes: Red Sox 6, Boston College 1

03.03.10 at 9:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox finished off a long day of work with a 6-1 victory over Boston College in the second half of a day-night doubleheader at City of Palms Park. The first day of competitive action this spring thus saw the Sox outscore their collegiate opponents (BC and Northeastern) by a combined 21-1 count, with Boston outhitting their opponents by a 22-5 margin on a day that saw 47 Boston players enter into game.

A roundup from the nightcap:

Boof Bonser sailed through his inning of work, retiring all three batters he faced and recording a strikeout. He threw seven of his nine pitches for strikes, including a swing-and-miss curve for his punchout. One scout had his fastball registering between 88-91 mph.

For Bonser, even though he was pitching against a college team, the occasion was significant. A year ago, he underwent arthroscopic surgery in the last week of February, before he could pitch in any games. The opportunity to return to competition was invigorating for the 28-year-old.

“It went great. I’€™m glad it’€™s over. This is my first spring training game in pretty much two years. People say it’€™s a college team. Well, to me, a college team wants to beat your brains in more than the regular team does,” said Bonser. “I was part of the team last year, but now that I’€™m playing, it’€™s kind of a whole ‘nother ballgame.”

Bonser said that less significant than his stuff was the fact that his shoulder felt “normal, like I’m healthy again without any problems,” and that he was able to loosen up easily for his outing. He was satisfied with the fastballs, curve and change that he threw (his short inning did not permit him time to throw a slider), but noted that the pitches were secondary.

“The biggest key was the shoulder, being able to let it ride,” said Bonser.

Manager Terry Francona suggested that Bonser looked like a pitcher who was healthy. In so doing, he also gave an indication of someone who can help the team.

“Looking at a guy who’€™s had the problems he’€™s had physically, then to look at his clean arm action, I think is phenomenal. It really jumps out at you,” said Francona. “That was really an encouraging inning, just to watch him go through his delivery and let the ball come out like that, we were really encouraged.

“If this works, this is a guy who knows what he’€™s doing and there’€™s some power to that fastball.”

–While Bonser’s shoulder is healthy, he has a blister on the index finger of his right hand. He suggests that he hasn’t been able to shake the problem for the last year, but that he has managed the issue thanks to the power of Super Glue (“Their stock’s up right now with how much I’€™m using on my finger,” said Bonser).

He has also found an expert who is more than willing to offer advice on treating an obstinate finger.

“As soon as [Josh Beckett] found out I had a finger problem, he was in my ear,” said Bonser. “I was like, great ‘€“ I know the method of bad fingers, I guess you could say.”

–Batting with the bases loaded in the fourth, Jose Iglesias jumped on a first-pitch fastball down the middle from right-hander Dave Laufer, lining a three-run double down the line and into the left-field corner. He later showed an inside-out stroke in lining out to second on an 86 mph fastball.

“He looked like he was ready to play. He wasn’€™t messing around,” said Francona. “He was obviously very excited to play. He came out in a hurry.”

Iglesias confirmed that the opportunity to enter a game was a momentous occasion for him.

“It’€™s like a dream, playing here and playing the first game in a Red Sox uniform,” Iglesias said through coach/translator Alex Ochoa. “I still have to work hard, and still have to things every day to get better. That’€™s what I’€™m coming here to do everyday.”

Ryan Kalish showed a strong first step in centerfield on a fly ball to semi-deep right-center off the bat of Golden Spikes candidate Mickey Wiswall. He also showed aggressive baserunning smarts by advancing from first to third on an infield single.

Junichi Tazawa narrowly averted harm, as he jumped when a liner went back up the middle, elevating just enough that the ball caught mostly his shoe rather than his toe. The right-hander — one of the Sox’ top depth options this year — averted harm and recorded a clean inning, striking out two.

Read More: blisters, Boof Bonser, jose iglesias, Josh Beckett

Postgame Notes: Red Sox 15, Northeastern 0

03.03.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox concluded a 15-0 win against Northeastern in the team’s first game of the exhibition season. The game was headlined by Casey Kelly’s first ever appearance against a college team, which resulted in a perfect inning of work that featured two strikeouts (both on changeups) and a first-pitch groundout on a fastball. For video of Kelly’s outing and his reaction to it, click here.

A few other notes from Red Sox land as the team prepares for its game against Boston College this evening:

–While Kelly was the main event of the Northeastern game, No. 34 also played a prominent role — for two different players who wore that uniform. David Ortiz turned on a fastball against left-hander Chris Bashara, blasting it over everything in right field. While the shot was aided by the wind, and one must take into account the fact that he was facing a college pitcher who may have been a bit awestruck, the swing was nonetheless impressive.

Yet the Sox seemed more excited when Ino Guerrero, a Friend of Manny who has stayed on because he is one of the finest batting practice pitchers in the game, had two at-bats. Guerrero was wearing No. 34 when he pinch-hit for Ortiz, entering the box from the right side. Guerrero grounded out in both of his at-bats, but proved a feisty hitter, fouling off several pitches.

So, which No. 34 was more impressive?

“The one on the right side. First time for me seeing Ino going to the plate,” said Victor Martinez. “It was pretty fun, but the other side [Ortiz] was pretty good. David put good swings on the ball, and had good at-bats. That’€™s a pretty good sign for this early in the camp.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, however, offered a different perspective.

“The ‘€™04 and ‘€™07 [World Series] are definitely at the top, but the Ino at-bats are right there,” said Francona. “I never have caught myself, rooting against our people. … But it’€™s one of the highlights, man. We’€™re playing Northeastern and every [Red Sox] player from the next game is on the rail watching, pulling for a pulled hamstring.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka had another successful day of long toss (up to 180 or 190 feet, by Francona’s estimate) followed by some work in the bullpen, throwing to a standing catcher. He will now throw a bullpen session on Friday, with the Sox confident that they’ve followed the right treatment course for the mid-upper back stain that crept up a couple of weeks ago.

“I think he’€™s done it the right way. There’€™s no way you can get out and throw as far as he has and be not only a little bit healthy, but that’€™s hard to do. It’€™s impressive, actually,” said Francona. “He’€™s ready to go. The timing, I think we did it right.’€

–Catcher Luis Exposito continues to show intriguing offensive skills. The hulking catcher went 2-for-3 with a double to right-center (aided by a jet stream to that part of the park) and four runs batted in.

“Expo is the one that’€™s going to be fun to watch. He’€™s so big and strong and he throws so well,” said Francona. “A couple of years from now, where does he turn out to be as a player? Anybody with that kind of size and arm strength, it’€™s going to be fun to watch the progression.”

(For more on Exposito and the Red Sox’ minor league catching prospects, click here.)

–Red Sox right-hander Gaby Hernandez, designated for assignment on Monday, was claimed off of waivers by the Royals. Hernandez spent three weeks in the Sox’ system after having been claimed off of waivers from the Mariners on Feb. 10. (Here’s a look at Hernandez.) Hernandez was designated to accommodate Casey Fien, who was claimed off of waivers from the Tigers on Monday. Fien arrived in Fort Myers this afternoon, and was unpacking his belongings in the clubhouse at City of Palms Park between games.

Read More: casey fien, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, gaby hernandez

Kelly: ‘I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling’

03.03.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Though his outing against Northeastern University lasted just one perfect inning, spanning 10 pitches, Red Sox pitcher Casey Kelly could not help but beam.

The setting was not to be confused with that of a major league game. Kelly, a 2008 first-round pick out of Sarasota High School, was pitching in the Sox’ exhibition opener against a college. Indeed, the right-hander — who would have been a college sophomore had he accepted a scholarship to play baseball and football at the University of Tennessee — joked that he “finally made that college debut.”

Even so, there was a significance to his first game activity of 2010. Kelly was able to take stock of the experienced big leaguers on the field behind him to feel as if he had achieved a meaningful milestone.

“I don’€™t think I’€™ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound. It was a good first outing. To have the crowd and all those people behind me playing defense was a tremendous honor,” said Kelly. “I was just excited to put that Red Sox uniform on, get to play on the same field as some of the big leaguers ‘€“ Bill Hall, Jacoby [Ellsbury], Jed Lowrie, Gil Velazquez. To throw to Victor Martinez, I think I was more nervous about throwing to him than to face hitters. I felt good out there, and I’€™m excited to get that first outing out of the way.”

Kelly threw 10 pitches, seven for strikes, punching out two Northeastern hitters (both on changeups) and getting another to ground out on a first pitch fastball. His fastball registered 90-92 mph, roughly the same velocity that he displayed throughout his first pro season.

There were moments of confusion, such as when catcher Martinez shook his head while calling pitches, an indication that he wanted the pitcher to deliver a “fake shake” of his own head. Kelly was unfamiliar with the process.

“I was kind of confused,” Kelly admitted, “but afterwards we laughed about it.”

Martinez was not laughing, however, about what he saw from Kelly on the mound. Instead, he marveled at the fact that a 20-year-old who has just a half-season of pro pitching experience (after splitting his time between the mound and shortstop last year) could look like such a natural on the mound.

“I just heard that [he’s just become a full-time pitcher]. That’€™s amazing. Shortstop, going to pitch? That’€™s amazing. I thought he signed as a pitcher. His delivery and all that, it was pretty good,” said Martinez. “The kind of stuff he’€™s got is amazing for the time he’€™s been pitching.

“He has some great stuff. He was throwing his fastball in and out, mixing it with his curveball, changeup. He only threw one inning, but he threw pretty good pitches, quality pitches.”

Though Kelly pitched at Busch Stadium in St. Louis last July in front of tens of thousands of fans for the All-Star Futures Game, he still admitted that there were nerves entering his Wednesday outing. And so, in pitching in a game for the first time since that July contest, Kelly could appreciate the fact that he was dealing with butterflies, and that he was able to gain enough composure to execute his pitches.

“For me, it was kind of getting that first outing out of the way, getting those jitters, kind of understanding how the routine is, going about throwing your pen, how the timing matches up with the game,” said Kelly. “You just kind of get the first one out of the way, take a deep breath and breathe, kind of look at how things went, how my stuff was for the game.

“I was very, very nervous going in. Once I got on the mound, the competition takes over and you want to do your best,” he added. “It felt like I had been doing it for a while now. It felt like I didn’€™t take an eight-month break. I felt good out there. It’€™s kind of like riding a bike: once you do it once, it came back pretty fast.”

Kelly said that he is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles. Though his time in big-league camp, in all likelihood, will not last too long beyond that, Kelly is nevertheless using his opportunity as a learning experience that, he hopes, will have practical application down the road.

Read More: casey kelly,

Casey Kelly’s inning

03.03.10 at 1:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Casey Kelly just sailed through an inning of work in the top of the first inning against Northeastern. He retired the Huskies in order. After falling behind leadoff man Tucker Roeder, 2-0, he then came back with three straight strikes to punch him out swinging. He then got Tony DiCesare on a first-pitch groundout to second, then finished the inning by punching out Northeastern’s Frank Compagnone on four pitches, the last one a swing-and-miss fastball.

Kelly’s line was a perfect inning with two strikeouts, in which he threw 10 pitches (seven strikes).

Read More: casey kelly, Northeastern,

Sosa visa delay was due to past drug suspension

03.03.10 at 12:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox reliever Jorge Sosa said that the delay he experienced while waiting for a visa that would permit him to travel from the Dominican Republic was a result of a past suspension for the use of amphetamines. Sosa was suspended for 50 games while in the Mariners‘ minor league system in 2008. He experienced a visa delay while trying to get to the Washington Nationals‘ camp last year, and he once again faced a delay while trying to come to Fort Myers to join the Sox this year.

“I waited for my visa in the Dominican because I had a little problem with the consulate there. They gave me the visa yesterday at 3:30 in the afternoon and I took a flight here,” said Sosa. “The problem was I took a greenie three years ago. Then the consulate suspended [the visa application] for [the last] three years.”

Sosa, 32, signed a minor league deal with the Sox in January. He went 2-1 with a 6.45 ERA for the Nationals last year, and owns a career record of 42-50 with a 4.72 mark. Manager Terry Francona said that Sosa’s delay has left him behind the other pitchers who are competing for a spot at the back of the big league rotation.

“I don’t think it hurts you. I’m feeling fine. I’ll be ready for pitching,” said Sosa. “I came over here for an opportunity to pitch.

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Video: Lowell takes swings on the field

03.03.10 at 11:58 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell took batting practice before the exhibition game against Northeastern.

Red Sox Wednesday Morning Notes

03.03.10 at 10:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The games begin today, as the Red Sox will take on Northeastern and Boston College in their first two exhibition games of the spring. Northeastern players are leaning over the rail at City of Palms Park, watching the Red Sox take infield.

The most watched Red Sox player of the day will likely be top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, the 20-year-old who will, finally, get a chance to pitch against college competition after bypassing a scholarship offer at the University of Tennessee to sign as a first-rounder with the Sox for $3 million.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona cautioned that Kelly is not expected to be a finished product in his one-inning stint today, and that he will likely be dealing with nerves while on the mound. Still, the Sox skipper makes clear that there is plenty of interest in seeing Kelly in a game situation.

“I’€™m looking forward to watching this, but I think what is so interesting is that what you see today isn’€™t what you’€™re going to see in a year and a half from now or whenever. He’€™s going to be stronger. He’€™s going to be more refined. I do think it’€™s amazing how when you look at him, he doesn’€™t look like a kid that just turned 20 that hasn’€™t pitched,” said Francona. “This is what’€™s so interesting about him. You don’€™t know where he goes. Is he a kid that, when he matures, is he pitching from 93 to 95? Where does he settle in? That’€™s the fun part.

‘€œI think there’€™s too many people they say he’€™s going to be good to say unknown. Where does he settle into? I don’€™t think anybody knows. You project and you do all this, but you just don’€™t know.’€

Francona anticipates that Kelly will have at least one outing against a big-league team this spring.

–Reliever Jorge Sosa arrived from the Dominican after dealing with a delay of more than two weeks while dealing with visa issues. He now faces a bit of an uphill battle to put himself in the mix in the competition for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen. He’ll start by throwing a side session on Wednesday. “He’s trying to compete. He’s lost ground. we’ll try to gauge where he is.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw what Francona characterized as an aggressive long toss today, finishing his throwing on a bullpen mound. It appears likely that he will throw his first side session of spring training on Friday.

Clay Buchholz will throw 36 pitches in two simulated innings at the minor-league complex on Wednesday.

Mike Cameron “is doing pretty well,” according to Francona. “Unless he’s not perfect, he’ll probably play Friday.”

J.D. Drew will also play in his first exhibition game on Friday. Francona expects him to be the designated hitter.”I just don’t think it makes sense to rush him,” said Francona.

Mike Lowell is taking full batting practice outdoors for the first time of the spring today. Still, Francona said that he could not figure out a timetable for his entry into games this spring.

“We don’€™t want to hold him back, but we also don’€™t want to rush him and hurt him,” said Francona. “His thumb, I think, is feeling pretty good, but he’€™s a veteran player who’€™s been banged up, so we’€™ll try to make the progressions be appropriate.”

While Lowell’s hip is stronger than it was a year ago, he continues to ice it after workouts. “I don’t think he feels like he’s 22 years old,” said Francona.

–There was some jocularity about the notion that Manny Ramirez might be part of the delegation of Dodgers players that heads to Taiwan. Francona did note that the travel — a 13- to 14-hour plane ride each way in the middle of March — seemed immensely challenging. For more on the significance of the trip in Taiwan, click here.

–The Sox are distinguishing between the two Ramon Ramirezes either by referring to them as “Ramon” (the right-hander who was with them in 2009) and “Ramon A.” or by using their uniform numbers — No. 56 for the incumbent Ramirez, No. 71 for the Ramon A.-come-lately.

–Thanks to star mlb.com photographer Brita Meng-Outzen, who pointed out that Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven is set to become Legoland.

Read More: casey kelly, Clay Buchholz, cypress gardens, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Manny in Taiwan?

03.03.10 at 10:06 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been a fascinating period in which to consider the international travel schedule of Manny Ramirez. First, the outfielder proclaimed that he would end his career in Japan.

(“After I practiced yesterday,” he said last week, “I feel like I could play five more years. I’€™m going to play three more years here, then two more in Japan.”)

Now, Ramirez has signed up for the Dodgers’ exhibition trip to Taiwan, a three-game exhibition run from March 12-14. Of course, it would appear that Los Angeles isn’€™t exactly betting the house on the likelihood that Ramirez will make the trip, which would require flights in excess of 12 hours each way. So sayeth the Los Angeles Times:

‘€œWe fully expect he’€™ll make the trip,’€ Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said. ‘€œWe take him at his word.’€

Still, some club officials are worried that Ramirez could once again change his mind.

‘€œThey announced it?’€ one club official asked.

Told yes, the official exploded laughing.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona chuckled at the thought of Ramirez’ participation in the exhibition series. Asked what he considered the likelihood of Ramirez making the journey, he chuckled, “I’ll take the under.”

Regardless of whether Ramirez travels, however, there is little question that the series is a big deal in Taiwan. It is the first time in nearly two decades that a big-league team has made the trip to the baseball-loving island. Red Sox outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, through a team interpreter, described the Dodgers’ visit as “a great event for baseball fans in Taiwan.”

Lin said that Ramirez’ presence would represent “a big deal — he’€™s a great legend,” but he also suggested that he expects Hong-Shih Kuo and Chin-Lung Hu, two Taiwanese pitchers on the Dodgers’ roster, would likely be the stars of the series.

Read More: Che-Hsuan Lin, chin-lung hu, hong-shih kuo, Manny Ramirez
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