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Vote: Where does Ortiz rank in Red Sox history?

04.13.10 at 3:09 pm ET
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In Tuesday’s column, Kirk Minihane offers his view of where David Ortiz ranks among the best Red Sox hitters of all time. To see his Top 10 list of Red Sox hitters, click here.

Where do you think Ortiz stands in franchise history?

Where does David Ortiz rank among the Top 10 Red Sox hitters of all time?

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Who would you rank ahead of Ortiz in franchise history? (select all that apply)

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Francona on D&H: ‘Err on the side of caution’ with Ortiz

04.13.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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Terry Fracona (AP)

Terry Francona (AP)

Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Tuesday and talked about the Sox’ slow start to the season and the challenges presented by David Ortiz’ slow start this year. The Sox skipper discussed why he believes it is premature to alter Ortiz’ playing time, including why he does not believe that a platoon between Ortiz and Mike Lowell is appropriate at this juncture of the season.

“You can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize,” said Fracona. “If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.

“I think it’s too early to [discuss a platoon]. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”

Francona also touched on several other topics, including the fact that he was “alarmed” by the comments of umpire Joe West about the pace of games between the Sox and Yankees, the Sox’ struggles to shut down other teams’ running games and the productivity of the bench. A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.

Against the Royals in the top of the ninth on Friday, with the tying run on first, why did you elect to employ a sacrifice bunt?

“We’ve got the top of the order. We didn’t feel like we could steal there. Give it two shots to score a run. A lot of times, we’ll start out by showing bunt, and if they want to give it to us on the first pitch, we’ll take it. Then if they move the infielders in, we’ll swing because they’ve sacrificed some real estate in the infield. A lot of things come into play on that. … We talk about that all during spring training. Once we get the infielders to crash, then we really are comfortable letting guys hit. Sometimes it backfires, and you get a guy who hits one right at somebody, but we’re just trying to play the percentages.”

Have your starters not performed up to your expectations or hopes thus far?

“You start out with the Yankees – that’s a tough transition from spring training to the Yankees lineup. I think Lester, it’s been the Lester we’ve seen the last couple of years. The stuff is plenty good, just not quite there as far as command. I thought yesterday, I know you make your breaks, but he was awfully unlucky. I know you make your breaks, but you’re going to see a better Lester.

“We’ve just not quite gotten into the flow of everything yet. It seems like in a couple of games we’re an inning short when we get to our bullpen and we have to go to guys before we want to, just things like that — normal, first-week things.”

Will you have to adjust your rotation when you get into a normal flow of games?

“I don’t think so. I think we want to stay on a five-day if we can. Giving guys one extra day, especially early in the season – actually, anytime – we’re OK with that. We’re OK with staying in rotation. Regardless of how it works, we try to turn it to our advantage.”

Do you think that talking to the media has become a problem for David Ortiz, that he’s thinking too much about criticism?

“I think he’s frustrated. … Yeah, I’ve seen that a few times, too. Until he really starts swinging like he can, he’s probably going to have to deal with it, and I’m going to have to deal with it, and we’re all going to deal with it. Because we went through this last year, and because of where we play, it’s there. And there’s no getting around it. It’s tough sometimes. You’d like to always say you have the right answers, and we certainly try to, [but] sometimes we’re searching a little bit, whether it’s the division between loyalty, and how far to go, and who to play, and the loyalty to a player and to your team, these are things we think about a lot, and it weighs on all of us. I was talking to [hitting coach Dave Magadan] after the game last night, because they’re down there constantly just trying to work on it, which is good. David, he drove the ball to left field yesterday, which is good. In his other at-bats, it looked like he was still stuck in between. But it was good to see him drive that ball to left-center.”

Does loyalty factor into whether David Ortiz is in your lineup?

“I think all our players have to have that feeling. These are things that I probably fight with myself all year long. I think the loyalty has to be to the team. And through that, I’m hoping that players whether they agree with the decisions we make or not, they understand why. And again, we go back to that we’re always trying to have an atmosphere around our team where guys want to do the right thing. Sure, they’re not always going to agree with the decisions. I understand that. I wish right now we could play two DHs. It’s just not the way it is. We continue to preach to guys, stay ready and stay focused, because you will get a chance and you don’t know when it’s going to be. And if you’re ready, then you’ll be able to help us win.”

Would you prefer not to platoon designated hitters?

“I’d prefer not to. And again, I think it’s too early to talk like that. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”

Is Ortiz being too patient? Should he be more aggressive early in the counts?

“I don’t want to tell him that. I love the fact that he’s seeing a lot of pitches. I think there are times when he’s not committing to a pitch, and you’re seeing some check swings. I think [Magadan] was referring to that yesterday. But I never want to go up and tell someone, ‘Just go up and whack the first one you see.’ I love the fact that he’s getting deep into counts, because the more he does that, that’s going to help him. He’s going to get better pitches to hit. We talk sometimes about how if you get a check swing on a breaking ball in the dirt in a fastball count, you’ve got to earn the fastball. If you lay off the breaking ball, you’re eventually going to get a fastball in the zone that you can handle. I think he’s in between a little bit. I don’t deny that. But I love the fact that he’s seeing pitches.’

Are his struggles just a function of the stage of the season, or is this a more serious concern than that?

We have some experience with this. Last year, the first six or seven weeks of the season, David looked – he wasn’t driving the ball. It was tough. It was hard to imagine him being capable of driving in 100 runs. Then you look up four months later, and he’s doing that.

I don’t know if anybody has the exact right answer. But until you do, I’ll tell you what, as a manager you better err on the side of caution. Because you can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize. And sometimes we struggle. If we struggle as a team, we’ll get ourselves straightened out as a team. And that’s how I guess I’ve always felt about it. If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.

The bench made you look smart over the weekend.

I thought our guys did a terrific job. When you bring in a reliever and they give up runs, the manager is either a dummy or he’s smart. We try to know what we want to do before hand and be prepared. A lot of time when a reliever comes in and it doesn’t work, I probably don’t take it as personal as other people want me to. If I felt like it was the right thing to do, OK, maybe someone hung a pitch, that doesn’t mean you had the wrong pitcher in there. I thought our bench guys – that’s tough duty. … I thought our bench guys did a great job, because that’s not easy duty, facing Greinke under those circumstance.

How can you improve on slowing opponents’ running games? Right now, opponents are 12-of-13 against you on steal attempts.

We’re well aware of that. I actually think that our pitchers have done a better job. Yesterday, we had some legitimate chances to throw guys out. We had a 1.21 [seconds time from the pitcher] to the plate. Lester was a 1.23. Victor [Martinez] was a little bit up and to the right, to the arm side, on his throws. The thing, teams aren’t stupid. They’re scouting us like we’re scouting them. If they see a crack or a chance to jump out at us, they’re going to be more aggressive on the bases. That makes it more difficult also. We can start trying to pitch out but we really value – you’ve heard how much I talk about first-pitch strikes and pitching ahead in the count, we value that so much – so we’ve just got to keep plugging along. Not every team is perfect. We realize that teams, that’s one of the way they’re going to try to attack us.

Why would opponents throw a high and inside fastball to Dustin Pedroia?

I don’t think they always try to, but the other thing is, what you remember are the ones he hits. He also covers the outside of the plate. When you see him reaching down on those breaking balls, spanking one to right-center, you’ve got to try to come in and get him off the plate, and every once in a while he hits it. He’s just a special hitter.

How’s Brad Mills holding up while managing the winless Astros?

Millsy’s been great. I was joking with John Farrell yesterday, I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they were losing and I said, ‘Man, I feel like we’re losing a doubleheader.’ He’s actually been terrific. I think, if anything, no one wants to go through what they’re going through, but I think it proves that they’ve got the right guy. I’ve heard some of the comments from their players, how consistent Millsy is, how upbeat he’s been and I don’t doubt that. I think that it will prove through some tough times that they got the right guy.

What did you think about umpire Joe West’s comments about the Red Sox and Yankees games?

I was actually kind of alarmed. I get all the information from the league and I know how they feel. The one thing I think is misconstrued is I’ve seen the word ‘arrogance’ a few times, or ‘lack of respect.’ That’s not it. Sometimes we’re cited for slow play. I think sometimes we’re guilty. That’s the way it is, and we’ve paid the price. We’ve paid fines, we’ve gotten warned. But when you have a guy that is supposed to have no bias for a game come out and make comments that strong, it actually kind of alarmed me a little bit.

I’ve known Joe for a long time. You hate to see something like that come out in public, just because he’s supposed to be the guy ruling the game having no feelings, just making the calls. So, we’ll see where that goes.

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Video: The Full Count

04.13.10 at 9:30 am ET
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On the first edition of The Full Count video show, Lou Merloni talks with Red Sox center fielder Mike Cameron, Rob Bradford explains his MLB Power Rankings and Alex Speier talks Red Sox farm system.

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Closing Time: Twins 5, Red Sox 2

04.12.10 at 7:14 pm ET
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It was a great day for the Twins, who opened their new ballpark with a solid 5-2 victory over the Red Sox. (Recap.) One-time Red Sox great bait Carl Pavano (traded back in ’97 in the Pedro Martinez deal) turned in six strong innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Counterpart Jon Lester, meanwhile, struggled, allowing four runs in five innings.

Lester nearly avoided harm in each inning, but ended up permitting all four runs with two outs.

The Sox now enter Tuesday’s off-day with a 3-4 record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE SOX

–Jacoby Ellsbury avoided a serious injury

Though Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup on Monday, he should not be sidelined for too long. Ellsbury suggested to reporters that he could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday.

–Dustin Pedroia is raking

Dustin Pedroia lashed a double (his second of the year), had a pair of line outs to center and added a sac fly in the eighth. He is now slugging .750 in the young season, and has driven in a team-high eight runs.

–David Ortiz drove a ball to the opposite field

In a promising sign for David Ortiz, he took a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner from Twins starter Carl Pavano and drove it to the wall in left-center. When left-fielder Delmon Young failed to corral it, it dropped for a run-scoring double, Ortiz’ third hit of the year.

However, it was a good news/bad news sort of day for Ortiz, who also struck out looking at a thigh-high Pavano fastball on the inside part of the plate and later struck out swinging on a slider from left-hander Brian Duensing.

He went 1-for-4, and is now hitting .136 with a .436 OPS.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE SOX

–Lester’s April Struggles Continue

It’s not as if Jon Lester was tattooed. Of the nine hits he gave up in five innings, just one (a Joe Mauer double down the left field line) went for extra bases. Some of the hits were of the bat-shattering variety.

Nonetheless, it was another instance in which Lester struggled with his location, something that has become a common theme of his April difficulties. Just 55 percent (59 of 107) of Lester’s pitchers were strikes, and he walked three batters, two of whom ended up coming around to score.

Lester has allowed 4.4 walks per nine innings in March and April, and 3.2 walks per nine innings from May through the end of the season. That helps to explain why the left-hander has a 5.08 career ERA in March/April, and a 3.50 mark in all other months.

–The Running Game

Nick Punto swiped a bag in the bottom of the second, making the Sox the first team in the majors to permit 10 stolen bases this year. The Twins went on to swipe another pair of bags, and the Sox have now allowed 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Right now, the team is on pace to allow 278 steals this year. The only team to yield 200 or more steals since 1990 was the 2001 Red Sox, when the diabolical trio of Hideo Nomo (52 steals), Tim Wakefield (32) and Frank Castillo (27) led the charge for a team that opponents to steal 223 times.

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Ortiz denies wrist injury

04.12.10 at 5:33 pm ET
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Speaking to the Boston Herald, David Ortiz denied a report in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he was battling an injured left wrist. The initial report suggested that “[f]riends of David Ortiz say the Red Sox slugger’s left wrist is hurting, though he refuses to make excuses.”

Before Monday’s game, Ortiz told the Herald that injuries have not been to blame for his poor start. He entered Monday with a .111 average (2-for-18), and six strikeouts in his previous nine plate appearances.

“Don’t pay attention to that crap,” Ortiz said of the report of an injury. “I’m fine. If I’d have been raking they wouldn’t be saying that.”

“I just can’t pay any attention to any of this crap going on around me,” he added. “Just play the game. The game is hard enough for people to be talking trash about you and you paying attention to it. You can’t listen to it.”

Ortiz suffered a partial tear of a tendon sheath in his left wrist in May 2008. Prior to that injury, Ortiz had a career line of .298/.399/.603/1.002 with the Red Sox. Since then, he has a line of .246/.343/.473/.817.

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MLB Power Rankings, 4/11

04.12.10 at 2:15 am ET
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Tampa Bay Rays1. Rays (14-5). DRaysBay: “Coming off his worst start of the young season, Price delivered arguably his best start ever.”

New York Yankees2. Yankees (12-6). River Ave. Blues: “I doubt [Vazquez] will miraculously round into form between starts, but he has to be better than yesterday, right?”

Philadelphia Phillies3. Phillies (11-7). The Good Phight: “While Rollins can’t be expected to break his career-long trend and keep walking at such a high rate when he returns, a bit more patience from Victorino, Polanco and especially Howard will be needed if the Phils plan to continue scoring at a league-best pace.”

Saint Louis Cardinals4. Cardinals (11-7). Redbird Rants: “Forget about the score and the month and the stakes. These opportunities don’t come knocking often. The best of the era face off – mano y mano. Lincecum’s arm vs. Pujols’ bat. Think about it.”

Minnesota Twins5. Twins (13-6). Nicks Twins Blog: “Slowey and Liriano have both given plenty of reason to believe they can develop into top-end starters.”

San Francisco Giants6. Giants (10-8). Frisco Fastball: “Ugh. That’s the only word I can find in my small vocabulary to describe last nights gem of a game. Well, I can find a few more, but, they’re not even appropriate on the raunchiest of porn sets.”

Detroit Tigers7. Tigers (10-9). Motor City Bengals: “Damon had three hits including two doubles. What’s more, he finally got rid of those horrid white shoes.”

Los Angeles Angels8. Angels (10-10). Halos Heaven: “Hard to believe it sometimes, but Torii Hunter is 34 years old.”

Oakland Athletics9. Athletics (12-8). Athletics Nation: “Given the injuries that have already beset the A’s, and given the lineup on paper even on a good day, you have to be pleased with the first 20 games.”

Colorado Rockies10. Rockies (10-9). Rox Pile: “Jimenez is, obviously, the best pitcher in MLB right now, and I don’t expect him to slow down. Like the Babe, I’m going to call my shot: Jimenez WILL have another no-hitter this season.”

San Diego Padres11. Padres (11-7). Friar Forecast: “As of this writing, the San Diego Padres are tied for the best record in the National League.”
Florida Marlins12. Marlins (10-9). Fish Stripes: “Ichthyomancy is ready for Midnight Baseball.”
Toronto Bluejays13. Blue Jays (10-9). Bluebird Banter: “I do consider Cito a good batting coach but it isn’t working with this group. But then I think that many of these guys couldn’t learn to hit no matter who worked with them.”

Chicago White Sox14. White Sox (8-11). Sox Machine: The first step in the Rios Acceptance Plan was all his responsibility.  He pretty much had to prove immediately that he wasn’t the absolute zero that bummed everybody out over the last two months of 2009.”

Chicago Cubs15. Cubs (9-10). Goat Riders of the Apocalypse:Right now, whether they are a good team or not, the Cubs are trending upwards.  The offense is getting hits, the pitching is holding back Chicago’s opponents, and the Cubs are playing well.”

Boston Red Sox16. Red Sox (8-11). Over the Monster: “If this was Tim Wakefield’s last regularly scheduled start, it’ll be a shame.”

New York Mets17. Mets (9-9). Kranepool Society: “The Mets right now are playing the way Epstein had hoped his Red Sox would when he ran all his statistical analysis that told him pitching and defense is the way to go. Right now the Mets are fueled on that formula.”
Los Angeles Dodgers18. Dodgers (8-10). True Blue LA: “Counting the playoffs, the Dodgers have won just six of their last 22 road games, and they have lost six consecutive series on the road.”

Texas Rangers19. Rangers (8-10). Lone Star Ball: “16 games into the season, and we are already having folks suggest that theRangers need to drop Rich Harden from the rotation to make room for Derek Holland, who is pitching on the same schedule as Harden at AAA and who is tearing it up in the early going.”
Atlanta Braves20. Braves (8-9). Tomahawk Take: “There is not any one particular thing that is not working; it is a number of problems that has this team reeling.”

Houston Astros21. Astros (8-10). Crawfish Boxes: “Don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but what a difference a week makes.”

Washington Nationals22. Nationals (10-9). Capitol Punishment: “Really, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but it’s fun to dream sometimes. And if nothing else, these last few games have let me dream back to ’05 — back when rooting for this team was all kinds of crazy fun.”

Seattle Mariners23. Mariners (9-10). U.S.S. Mariner: “These one run losses suck, but as long as the M’s continue to run out a JV line-up to accommodate the hugging DH tandem, it’s hard to argue that they deserve to win.”

Milwaukee Brewers24. Brewers (8-10). Brew Crew Ball: “Hopefully the Brewers are good and rested after their off day today.  Don’t get me wrong–there was a game today.  The Brewers just chose not to play.”

Arizona Diamondbacks 25. Diamondbacks (8-10). Venom Strikes: “It has been hard to watch the Dbacks bullpen blow save after save.”

Cleveland Indians26. Indians (8-10)Indians Confidential: “Sunday was like a fight where the Indians were hit with jab after jab after jab until they simply couldn’t answer the bell.”

Cincinnati Reds27. Reds (8-11). Redleg Nation: “The Reds are great now, right? This win changes things, doesn’t it?”

Pittsburgh Pirates28. Pirates (7-11). Raise The Jolly Roger: “It really has been an unbelievably miserable six days for the Bucs.”

Kansas City Royals 29. Royals (7-11). Royals Review: Do you wanna talk about the details or the big picture? Four years into the Moore regime, and they’re still the bumbling Royals.”

Baltimore Orioles 30. Orioles (3-16). Camden Chat: “For a team that’s found so many ways to lose over the course of the season, to see them finally find a way to scratch out a win was heartening.”

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Red Sox vs. Twins matchups, 4/12

04.11.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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Yes, they are going to be playing outdoor baseball in Minnesota this season. And the Red Sox will be the first team to officially test out the new digs at Target Field (the St. Louis Cardinals did make a visit at the end of spring training) when they open a three-games series with the Twins Monday afternoon.

Jon Lester will be making his second start of the season against a lineup laden with lefthanded hitters. The Sox starter struggled against the Yankees, allowing four earned runs and walking three through five innings in a no-decision. Lester faced Minnesota once last season on May 26, taking the loss in a 5-3 game after going six innings and allowing five runs (all in the fifth inning) while walking three. In that one, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau delivered the big blow with a three-run shot that gave Minnesota an insurmountable lead.

Lester has made two other starts against the Twins in 2008 and struggled in each, giving up five runs (3 earned) in 5.1 innings in one and five earned in 7.1 innings in the other. That history is not a good sign considering that the Minnesota’s lineup is much improved this season — the traditionally small-ball Twins have mashed an MLB-best 10 homers in their first seven games.

Carl Pavano will get the honor of pitching the opener at Target Field for Minnesota. The well-traveled righty looked great in his first start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, holding them to just one earned run and striking out six through seven innings. The Sox saw Pavano once last season before he was dealt from Cleveland to Minnesota, when he helped the Indians earn a 3-2 victory by holding the Red Sox to two runs through six innings despite some control issues, as he finished with three walks and hit one batter.

That was a rare good showing from Pavano against the Sox. His career record vs. Boston in six starts is 2-3, with an ugly 7.07 ERA. The Twins and their fans will be hoping for a better showing than that as they would love to usher in the Target Field era with a victory. But the Red Sox will be looking to play the role of spoiler and get their third straight win to move back over .500.

Red Sox vs. Carl Pavano

Adrian Beltre (30 plate appearances vs. Pavano): .276 average/.300 OBP/.571 slugging, 2 triples, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (16): .308/.400/.538, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Cameron (13): .077/.077/.077, 4 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (12): .364/.417/.545, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (11): .545/.545/.636, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek (11): .400/.455/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (10): .571/.600/1.143, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (4): .667/.750/2.000, 1 double, 1 home run, 1 walk

Bill Hall (3): .667/.667/2.000, 1 double, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia is hitless in three at bats against the Twins starter. Pavano has never faced Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis or Jeremy Hermida.

Twins vs. Jon Lester

Delmon Young (21 career plate appearances vs. Lester): .158 average/.190 OPB/.158 slugging, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Brendan Harris (19): .444/.444/.722, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 strikeouts

Joe Mauer (10): .222/.300/.222, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Justin Morneau (10): .444/.500/.778, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Michael Cuddyer (6): .333/.333/.500, 1 double

Jason Kubel (6): .000/.167/.000, 1 walk

Nick Punto (6): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Denard Span (6): .500/.667/.500, 1 walk

Alexi Casilla (5): .000/.400/.000, 2 walks

Jim Thome (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 strikeout

Lester has never faced the Twins two new starting middle infielders in shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Orlando Hudson. He has also not seen backup catcher Drew Butera.

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