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Francona pregame highlights Friday

04.24.09 at 6:12 pm ET
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Terry Francona on Mark Teixeira: ‘€œYou could tell at an early age he was real professional.’€ Francona was a bench coach for the Rangers in 2002 when Teixeira was coming up through the Rangers’ system.

Francona on Red Sox-Yankees here at Fenway: “They seem long. I think I was a little naïve (about rivalry) when I got here (in 2004). I tried to my homework but until you live through it. The first couple of games, I had to remind myself.  I don’t know if jittery is the right word but a little extra emotion. I think when you do something enough, you get used to it. The game are still exciting because they’re a lot of good players on both sides. The other stuff kind of wears on you a little bit.”

Francona on whether anything compares in his experience: “Yeah, I guess Birmingham-Huntsville (in Double-A). They shot off fireworks.”

Francona on Lugo: ‘€œLugo is probably days while Lowrie is weeks or even months. (Lugo) is playing tonight, tomorrow and Sunday and will join us in Cleveland and either join us or go from there.’€

Francona on Youkilis-Joba rivalry: “It was last year. I don’t know that I care to start the ’09 version of the Yankees with the ’08. I don’t know that that works. One of my goal this series is to go through this series is to get through this and keep my size 12 1/2 where they belong. I really don’t (expect a warning) but I didn’t expect one either with Beckett and I didn’t expect one the other night, either.”

Read More: pregame Friday, Red Sox, Yankees,

But who do the Red Sox pitchers target?

04.24.09 at 2:42 pm ET
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After this earlier post, some questions were raised about the number of times that Red Sox pitchers have hit various Yankees. As mentioned, Kevin Youkilis has been a popular target of Yankee pitchers. Since breaking into the majors, he’s been plunked eight times in his five seasons by New York — though, of course, Youkilis takes plenty of HBPs thanks to his willingness to sit on top of the plate. The same is true of Derek Jeter, who is described by most as diving into the pitch in order to ensure his coverage of the outside corner.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that Jeter ranks among the hitters most frequently drilled by Red Sox pitchers. In fact, four of the top five most-hit batters by the Sox since the start of the 2004 season are Yankees. Jason Giambi tops the list, a fact that did not surprise him when Josh Beckett drilled him in a game early last year. (Giambi took no offense, suggesting that pitchers always try to work him up and in to prevent him from extending his arms and launching.) The group, which also includes indomitable hit-by-pitch machine Reed Johnson (the only player to crack the top five targets of both the Yankees and Red Sox), who might have some kind of record for fewest plate appearances per plunking:

Jason Giambi – 11 HBPs (76 games, 302 plate appearances)
Alex Rodriguez – 10 HBPs (92 games, 399 plate appearances)
Reed Johnson – 10 HBPs (53 games, 165 plate appearances — NOT a misprint)
Gary Sheffield – 8 HBPs (50 games, 220 plate appearances)
Derek Jeter – 8 HBPs (84 games, 410 plate appearances)

Overall, Giambi leads the American League and ranks third in the majors since 2004, having absorbed 76 HBPs. Johnson (4th, 74), A-Rod (7th, 69) and Jeter (12th, 60) are also high among major-league leaders since 2004. Youkilis ranks 32nd in the majors during his career, having been hit a total of 43 times.

Read More: Derek Jeter, jason giambi, Kevin Youkilis,

Here come the Yankees

04.24.09 at 9:31 am ET
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In case you were bored of the NBA and NHL playoffs, or watching battles between Mel Kiper/Todd McShay or Chris Price/Jon Meterparel revolving around the NFL Draft, we bring you … the Red Sox and Yankees.

You know what’s exciting about this, the first meeting of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball’s headliners? 

It could be that it gets our stat man, Gary from Chapel Hill, all fired up.

By the way, here are my three favorite tidbits from the latest Nuggetpalooza: 

1. The Red Sox team ERA has been 6.50 over the last 25 games against the Yankees at Fenway dating back to mid-2006, going 9-16 in the process.

2. Yankee pitchers have gotten a swing and miss percentage of just 16.3%, the lowest in the AL this season:

16.3% – Yankees
16.8% – Blue Jays
17.4% – Angels

The Red Sox 18.8% mark is middle of the AL pack and the Rangers lead the league (28.8%). Last season, the Yankees (18.6%) and Red Sox (18.2%) ranked 24th and 25th in the majors. Among pitchers who have faced at least 15 batters, Takashi Saito (39.5%) ranks 3rd in the AL. The major league leader is K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez), against whom opponents have missed on 39 of 57 swings (51.3%).

3. So far in 2009, the Rangers and Red Sox have been baseball’€™s best early-inning offenses, ranking 1-2 in all three main hitting stats during the first three innings of games:

OPS: Texas, 1.015; Boston, .991; Cleveland, .855.
HR: Texas, 14; Boston, 13; Cleveland, 9. (The SF Giants have 1)
RBI: Texas, 40; Boston, 39; Three tied with 30.

On the flip side though, Boston is tied for the 4th most RBI allowed in the first three innings of games:

36 – Philadelphia
35 – Baltimore
32 – Cleveland
30 – Boston/Minnesota

Or maybe the excitement has something to do with the fact we can start talking about Mark Teixeira again.

But in this case, I’m particularly jacked up our blog partnership with one of the baseball world’s best blogs, Pete Abraham’s ‘LoHud Yankees Blog’. We claim to have a “Furiously Updated Blog”, but the standard bearer in this regard is Pete, and he will be in full force throughout this weekend. So while ‘Full Count’ will be giving you a tidal wave of stuff from the Red Sox side, you should cap off your experience by diving into the Yankees side of things with the ‘LoHud Yankees Blog‘. And don’t forget to tell them who sent you …

It should be fun.

Read More: Mark Teixeira, Pete Abraham, Red Sox, Yankees

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 4/24

04.24.09 at 9:29 am ET
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Last time Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester occupied the same stage, it was a decidedly friendlier setting. The two spoke at an event at Sacred Heart University in January, and seemed to get along famously while taking questions on the same stage.

One would imagine things being a bit less jovial tonight. Lester and Chamberlain will now confront each other as the starting pitchers for the first Red Sox/Yankees game of the 2009 season. There are plenty of sub-plots, foremost the debut of Mark Teixeira in Fenway Park, but ultimately, the game will likely hinge on how the two young power pitchers fare against each other.

RED SOX VS. JOBA CHAMBERLAIN (0-0, 5.06 ERA)

There are only three players in the majors with three career hits against Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain. Two of them are Red Sox: Mike Lowell (3-for-7) and Dustin Pedroia (3-for-8) are the two authors of the deed. (The third player is Rangers third baseman Michael Young.)

Of course, the performance of Sox hitters against Chamberlain has in many ways been overshadowed by his conduct against them. Specifically, there is the issue of Kevin Youkilis having to play dodge ball against a pitcher who has thrown pitches in the vicinity of his head on three occasions. Before Chamberlain, Scott Proctor nearly beaned Youkilis early in the 2007 season.

Youkilis has never been plunked by Chamberlain, but he has absorbed his fair share of drillings from New York. Since he broke into the majors in 2004, Youkilis has been hit eight times by Yankees pitchers, tied during that span (with Miguel Tejada) for third most among New York opponents (trailing Kevin Millar (10) and Reed Johnson (9).

Here is how current members of the Sox have fared against Chamberlain (Jeff Bailey, Nick Green, George Kottaras, Gil Velazquez and Jonathan Van Every have never faced him):

Jason Bay (3 career plate appearances): .500 average / .667 OBP / .500 slugging / 1.167 OPS
J.D. Drew (8): .000 / .125 / .000 / .125
Jacoby Ellsbury (7): .000 / .143 / .000 / .143
Mike Lowell (8): .429 / .500 / .857 / 1.357
David Ortiz (6): .167 / .167 / .167 / .334
Dustin Pedroia (8): .375 / .375 / .500 / .875
Jason Varitek (2): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000
Kevin Youkilis (8): .400 / .625 / .400 / 1.025

YANKEES VS. JON LESTER (1-2, 5.50)

Jon Lester delivered three dominating starts last year against the Yankees, going 1-2 with a 1.19 ERA. He struck out eight batters in each start, and Jason Varitek insists that Lester’s complete-game shutout in Yankee Stadium last July was the best game ever thrown by the pitcher, exceeding even his no-hitter against the Royals.

Given that dominance, some of the Yankees have surprisingly strong numbers against the pitcher:

Melky Cabrera (8 career plate appearances): .625 average / .625 OBP / .750 slugging / 1.375 OPS
Robinson Cano (11): .273 / .273 / .364 / .637
Johnny Damon (14): .417 / .500 / .667 / 1.167
Derek Jeter (14): .385 / .429 / .385 / .814
Hideki Matsui (3): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000
Jose Molina (7): .429 / .429 / .429 / .858
Jorge Posada (3): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000
Cody Ransom (3): .500 / .667 / 1.000 / 1.667
Nick Swisher (9): .167 / .333 / .667 / 1.000
Mark Teixeira (3): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000

Read More: joba chamberlain, Jon Lester,

Minor league notes: Bard is still bringing the heat

04.23.09 at 6:43 pm ET
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After finishing spring training as one of the most impressive pitchers in camp, reliever Daniel Bard isn’t letting up just because he was sent to Triple A Pawtucket. His latest memory-maker? Bard struck out the side on nine pitches to pick up his third save in as many chances, against Rochester Wednesday.

Bard has allowed just one run (a homer) in six appearances over nine innings with a 16-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings. The home run he allowed on April 18 to Lehigh Valley’s Jeremy Slayden was not only the only run he has allowed but also the lone hit surrendered by the reliever.

Bard isn’t alone in making an early impression in the Sox minor leagues with his Pawtucket teammate, pitcher Michael Bowden, allowing just one run in 14 innings over three starts this season. Another familiar face from major league camp in spring training has been catcher Mark Wagner, who drew at least one walk in each of his first six games while reaching base safely in each of his initial 10 games. Wagner has also caught six of his eight attempted base-stealers.

First-round pick Casey Kelly continues his stint as a pitcher before morphing into a hitter later this season, giving up two hits over five innings for Single A Greenville, marking the third straight five-inning shutout stint for Kelly. In 15 innings he has struck out 12 and walked just two. Also for Greenville, Anthony Rizzo is 11 for 20 over his last six games and has eight extra-base hits.

Read More: Daniel Bard,

A hero (sort of) comes home

04.23.09 at 5:44 pm ET
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So the Red Sox have traded for pitcher Kason Gabbard … actually, they bought pitcher Kason Gabbard, getting him from the Texas Rangers for cash. So, the question you might have is “Why?” Because — everybody together now — you can never have enough pitching, or in this case, Gabbard.

And if there was any a pitcher who exemplified this it is Kason Gabbard, one of the pitching heroes from the Red Sox’ championship season.

In case you forgot, Gabbard was pretty much the only ready-for-primetime player sent over to Texas in exchange for Eric Gagne back at the 2007 trade deeadline, heading over to the Rangers along with outfielder David Murphy and minor leaguer Engel Beltre. Gabbard had allowed the Red Sox to weather the storm when Curt Schilling went down following a June start in Atlanta.

Gabbard ran off four straight starts in July that set the stage for the Rangers’ acquisition, pitching more innings (28) than any of the other starters during that span from July 2-July 21, going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA while holding opponents to a .133 batting average. While few will remember, it was Gabbard who helped weather the storm of what was a depleted starting staff, and did so in such fine fashion that he presented enough value for what was, at the time, an important deadline deal.

It was that implementation of Gabbard, along with a smattering of help from Jon Lester, which set the Red Sox up to execute their current philosophy of having extra hands on deck for when members of the starting staff need to be reeled in for October-sake. 

For Texas, the notion of acquiring Gabbard was initially thrilling considering the market price for the kind of pitchers the lefty was developing into. As the Rangers brass pointed out, if Gabbard hit the open market following that ’07 season, in which he finished at 6-1 with a 4.65 ERA, the pitcher would have commanded a more-than-decent payday. But then injuries hit the former high school teammate Jerrod Saltalamacchia (just a little fun fact) and, after 12 starts in ’08, and he was forced to the operating table with a bone spur in his left elbow.

Although the 27-year-old Gabbard did start this season making five relief appearances with Triple A Oklahoma City, the Red Sox will scale him back and start over in extended spring training in Fort Myers. As for thoughts of using Gabbard primarily against left-handers, lefties have hit .237 against Gabbard, compared to a .263 clip for righties.

All things considered — especially since it only involves cash — bringing the owner of a World Series ring is, if nothing else, a good reminder of why you can never have enough Gabbard/pitching.

Read More: Kason Gabbad,

Red Sox eager to see if Byrd flaps his wings again

04.23.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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According to a report by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, right-hander Paul Byrd hopes to return to playing baseball. The pitcher, whom the Red Sox acquired in a trade from the Indians last August, suggested that he would be ready to pitch in a game with a couple weeks of preparation through a minor-league assignment. While the Red Sox would not be expected to get involved in bidding for the pitcher (who went 4-2 with a 4.78 ERA in Boston), his return could nonetheless be significant for the team.

If Byrd signs a contract with a club before the amateur draft in early June, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick for the pitcher, a Type B free agent who declined the team offer of salary arbitration. While another team would not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Byrd, the Sox would receive a compensation sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds of the draft), which would currently fall in between the 43rd and 50th overall pick of the draft.

Read More: Paul Byrd,

Carter packs his bags

04.22.09 at 11:35 pm ET
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While the Red Sox had no announcement, outfielder/first baseman Chris Carter confirmed he was being sent to Triple A Pawtucket following the Sox’ 7-3 win over Minnesota in the teams’ second game of their doubleheader, Wednesday at Fenway Park. With outfielder Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list, and recently-recalled Jeff Bailey primarily a first baseman, one player who could potentially be recalled is outfielder Jonathan Van Every, who had a grand slam for Pawtucket in his first game back from an ankle injury, Wednesday. Carter was 0 for 5 with a sacrifice fly in his stint with the Sox.

“It’s really the classiest, greatest team I’ve ever been on. I’m just really privileged to be a part of it,” said Carter just after packing his bag in front of his locker. “I’m always grateful. I’ll play baseball anywhere, and to play on what I think is the best team in baseball, and not only on the field, is fantastic. They’re just a great bunch of guys. I always look at the positives. I’ll get more at-bats, so that will be good.”

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8th and 9th innings: Bullpen closes it out

04.22.09 at 10:25 pm ET
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Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon came on to finish off the sweep for the Red Sox, each pitching a scoreless inning in capping the Sox’ seventh win in a row, beating the Twins in Game 2 of the teams’ doubleheader, 7-3, at Fenway Park.

More after clubhouse time …

7th Inning: Pedroia caught again

04.22.09 at 10:04 pm ET
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Minnesota reliever Luis Ayala hit Dustin Pedroia with a 91 mph fastball that tailed up and in, prompting home plate Chad Fairchild to issue a warning to both sides. Ramon Ramirez had hit Delmon Young the inning before. Pedroia was ultimately caught stealing, his second caught stealing of the season (in four attempts) after getting thwarted just once in 21 regular season tries last season.

The steal attempt marked the first time this season Pedroia has gone on a 1-0 count, having tried twice on first pitches, and one other occasion with the count 1-0. He had three successful swipes on 1-0 counts last season, tying 2-0 and 0-0 hitting situations for the most successful for his steal attempts.

Oh yes, Ramirez pitched another scoreless inning, marking the seventh straight game he has appeared and not allowed a run. He gave way to Hideki Okajima in the eighth.

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