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Five things we learned on ‘Daisuke Day’ in Pawtucket

04.10.10 at 5:50 pm ET
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The second game of the season for the Pawtucket Red Sox added a little more excitement for fans of the major league club. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox oft-injured starter, made his 2010 pitching debut with positive results. The right-hander pitched five solid innings in Pawtucket’s 1-0 win over Rochester on Saturday afternoon.

Matsuzaka surrendered only two hits, walked one and hit two batters while striking out three in his debut.

The questions still come up as to what will happen to Matsuzaka when he is healthy and ready to pitch for the Red Sox, but this was a first step and a positive one for a former 18-game winner in the major leagues.

Matsuzaka said he came out of the outing without any discomfort and said that he feels very good after throwing in live game action.

Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game.


Neck and back issues have hampered Matsuzaka early this season, and it was important to see if he could locate a fastball with consistent velocity. For all accounts the results were encouraging. Matsuzaka was playing in the 88-91 mph range consistently through his five innings and topped out at 93 once while touching 92 a few times.

“I felt I had good feel on the ball out there today,” Matsuzaka said. “I think the best part about today was my fastball command. … The feeling that sort of left over on my fingers after making those pitches felt pretty good in terms of velocity.”

Matsuzaka admitted that his secondary pitches were not up to par yet.

“My fastball was good but my slider and change-up weren’t that great today,” said Matsuzaka, who missed some spots with his offspeed pitches in the fifth, which resulted in one walk and two hit batsmen. “I think I really need those pitches to come along to put a better ball game together.”

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Red Sox vs. Royals matchups, 4/10

04.10.10 at 5:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox will send Josh Beckett back to the mound for the second time this season Saturday, though the lineup he will be facing won’t be anything near that of the Yankees.

Instead, Beckett will take to the mound at Kauffman Stadium to face the Kansas City Royals. Though the Royals might not be as daunting an opposition offensively, their pitcher will be every bit as good as CC Sabathia, as reigning AL Cy Young winner Zach Greinke will be on the hill for KC.

Greinke went six innings in his first start of the season against Detroit on Monday, allowing 2 runs (one earned) and six hits while striking out four. The Royals couldn’t take advantage of his effort, however, as they ultimately lost the game 8-4.

Greinke only saw the Sox once last season, when he went six innings on September 22, allowing just two hits and racking up five strikeouts, in a 5-1 KC win. He did have some trouble with control, however, as he walked three on the day. In his career, Greinke has started three games against the Sox with a record of 1-2. Despite that, in terms of teams that he has made more than one start against his 2.49 ERA against Boston is second best, trailing only the his efforts vs. the Seattle Mariners, who Greinke has a 3-0 record and 2.14 ERA against in six starts.

Beckett will be trying to rebound from his opening outing of 2010, when he went just 4 2/3 and allowed five earned against the Yankees. More troubling might have been the back-to-back homers he gave up to Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson, as the long ball plagued Beckett at times last season.

Facing the Royals might be just what Beckett needs to find his groove, as he is 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in seven career starts against KC. Last season Beckett was 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 14 strikeouts vs. the Royals, including a complete game shutout at Fenway on July 12. The second performance might have been somewhat deceiving, however, as the Royals had 12 hits off Beckett in his six innings of work on September 23 but could not manufacture runs in a 9-2 Sox win.

Here are the career numbers for each starter against their respective opponent.

Red Sox vs. Zach Greinke

Victor Martinez (45 plate appearances vs. Greinke): .341 average/.400 OBP/.439 slugging, 1 home run, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (17): .375/.42/.625, 4 doubles, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (10): .250/.300/.250, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (10): .100/.200/.300, 4 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (9): .375/.444/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek (8): .143/.250/.571, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis (8): .000/.25/.000, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (7): .400/.571/.600, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (4): .750/.750/1.000, 1 double

Mike Cameron (3): .500/.667/1.000, 1 double, 1 walk

Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida have both faced Greinke three times, with the Kansas City righty retiring them each time.

Royals vs. Josh Beckett

Jose Guillen (26 plate appearances against Beckett): .250 average/.269 OPS/.292 slugging, 4 strikeouts

David DeJesus (22): .190/.227/.286, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Jason Kendall (21): .125/.333/.125, 5 walks, 2 strikeouts

Yuniesky Betancourt (14) .462/.500/.923, 1 triple, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Billy Butler (11): .182/.182/.182, 5 strikeouts

Scott Podsednik (11): .500/.545/.500. 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Mitch Maier (10): .444/.444/.444, 2 strikeouts

Alberto Callasp (9): .111/.111/.111, 3 strikeouts

Brayan Pena (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 walk

Mike Aviles (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Roman Colon and Chris Getz have faced Beckett two and three times, respectivly, and have been retired by the Sox righty each time. Beckett has never faced Rick Ankiel or Willie Bloomquist.

Red Sox vs. Royals matchups, 4/11

04.10.10 at 5:30 pm ET
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Sunday’s pitching matchup features a pair of starters who will be making their first start of the season in the Red SoxClay Buchholz and Kansas City’s Gil Meche.

Buchholz will have had a 10-day layoff since his final start in spring training by the time he toes the rubber in his first action of the 2010 regular season. The 25-year old righthander was 7-4  with a 4.21 ERA in his 16 appearances, with his last victory actually coming against the Royals on Sept. 24. In that game, Buccholz allowed five hits  and no runs while striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings, helping the Sox earn a 10-3 victory.

The only other time he faced Kansas City was in 2008, when he took the loss in a 4-3 game at Kauffman Stadium. In that one, Buchoolz was tagged for all four runs and also struggled with his control, walking three and hitting one batter.

Meche likewise only made one start against Boston last season, and was shelled in a 15-9 Red Sox win at Fenway. The KC starter allowed eight runs (six earned) and let up two homers and three walks on the day, lasting just 3 2/3 innings. 2009 was a forgettable year as a whole for Meche, as he went from a 14-11 campaign with a 3.98 ERA to a 6-10 record and 5.09 ERA. Still, the veteran Meche has been respectable against the Sox throughout his career, compling a 5-3 record with a 4.26 ERA in 10 starts.

This is the first year that Meche did not start the Royals’ opener. He has been recovering from a shoulder injury, but looked strong in tossing five scoreless innings against Royals minor leaguers on Tuesday.

There is not a whole lot to go on here with Buchholz’s history against the Royals, but Meche has some history against the Sox lineup.

Red Sox vs. Gil Meche

Victor Martinez (41 plate appearances vs. Meche): .244 average/.244 OBP/.390 slugging, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 8 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (29): .292/.414/.458, 1 triple, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (26): .375/.423/.917, 4 home runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (20): .188/.350/.375, 1 home run, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (15): .200/.200/.267, 2 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (15): .538/.600/.846, 1 home run, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (14): .214/.214/.286, 3 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (12): .300/.417/.400, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (12): .545/.583/.909, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Cameron (6): .250/.500/1.000, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida are both hitless in two and three at bats, respectively, against Meche. Jacoby Ellsbury is 0-2 with a sacrifice fly.

Royals vs. Clay Buchholz

Billy Butler (6 career plate appearances vs. Buchholz): .250/.333/.250, 2 strikeouts

Lowell says this year is probably his last

04.10.10 at 5:01 pm ET
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In a text message to WEEI.com, Mike Lowell said this is most likely his last year. Lowell also told reporters prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Royals that he will most likely retire following the 2010 season. Lowell is making his first start of the season Saturday night, playing third base and hitting sixth.

Here are Lowell’s comments to a group of reporters (courtesy MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Click here for Ian’s story):

(Are you looking to next year?) ‘€œNo, I don’€™t because this probably is my last year.’€

‘€œIf this was the fourth year of my career, I would have choked everyone by now in the organization, straight honest. I’€™m a much more mellow family man now.’€

(Think you would play next year?) ‘€œI think I can. It’€™s my choice.’€

(When did you come to that conclusion?) ‘€œThree years ago, to be honest with you. I have no qualms about it. My agent wanted to kill me for not taking a four-year deal and I said I don’€™t  know if I want to play four years but I know if I sign a four-year contract, I’€™m going to play four years. I didn’€™t know that. I tried to look at the big picture. I see my family, I see the age my kids are at. They’€™re both starting a new school next year ‘€“ all that good stuff. There’€™s a lot of reasons for dad to be there. Has this scenario maybe put baseball a little bit lower? I don’€™t think so. But it grinds at you a little. That’€™s where the mental challenge comes in.’€

(Anything change your mind about next year?) ‘€œWell, I’€™m not 100 percent sure. I would say I’€™m well up there. Actually I would love for the last year of my career to be the best year of my career if that would be the case. I don’€™t think there’€™s any better way of going out than on top. Why not?’€

‘€œThe opportunity of not being able to do it is what makes it hard, it really does.’€

(If you keep feeling better this year, motivate you more to play next year?) ‘€œNo, no. If I hit 30 home runs this year or if I hit three, I don’€™t think that stance is going to change. Now whether I want to or not, that’€™s totally different. I’€™m pretty confident in what I’€™ve done and physically what I’€™m capable of doing. Yeah, you can look at, oh, this is a walk year, the next contract and all that stuff. It doesn’€™t even enter my mind. If it would, like I said, in the fourth year of my career, I would have been the biggest jerk in spring training and tried to get my way out of here because why not put up numbers when you showed, basically for me, at 65 to 70 percent, I was able to put up respectable numbers. I’€™d never proclaim that I’€™m 100 percent right now, but I’€™m much better than last year. I’€™ve said that from Day One.’€

The free-swinging start of Adrian Beltre

04.10.10 at 11:42 am ET
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On the one hand, Adrian Beltre has five hits in his first 15 at-bats, good for a .333 average that suggests a nice start to his Red Sox career ‘€“ particularly given that he played a key role in the Sox’€™ only win of the year. But beyond that, his offensive approach has seemed a curious one.

It is not just that Adrian Beltre has yet to take a walk in his 16 plate appearances this year. He hasn’€™t come close.

He has yet to reach a three-balls count this year. In his fourth at-bat in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals, he lined a single into center on a 2-0 pitch ‘€“ just the second time he’€™s gotten to a two-balls count this year.

Here is the rather amazing breakdown of the counts when he put a ball in play thus far this year:

0-0 count ‘€“ 3
0-1 count ‘€“ 3
0-2 count ‘€“ 1
1-0 count ‘€“ 2
1-1 count ‘€“ 1
1-2 count ‘€“ 4
2-0 count ‘€“ 1
2-2 count ‘€“ 1

Beltre is now averaging just 2.69 pitches per plate appearance, third fewest in the majors.

It is, of course, far too early to make sweeping assessments of what kind of a hitter he is, and whether this has simply been an unusually aggressive period. J.D. Drew, after all, had not walked in the first three games of the season against the Yankees. Beltre’€™s 3.77 pitches per plate appearance in his career is actually slightly more than the big league average (3.75) during his time. It is also important to note that he has been making repeated solid contact, with multiple warning track flyballs that have offered a glimpse of his power potential.

Even so, his on-base percentage has been below league average in 10 of his 13 seasons in the majors. And thus far — again, in an incredibly brief sample of games — he has shown a willingness to expand the strike zone with an aggressive approach that has been atypical for the Red Sox lineup under Theo Epstein.

It has also been noteworthy to see where Beltre has hit the ball on the field. He has put 14 balls in play this season, and all but two of those have been either up the middle or to the opposite field.

While there was some expectation that he would benefit significantly from relocating from Safeco (a frustrating environment for right-handers) to Fenway, Beltre suggests that his best power stroke is gap to gap. He crushed a flyball just in front of the bullpen in right-center during the Yankees series. The ball might have been off or over the wall in other parks, a reminder that his new home does not guarantee an offensive boost.

Beltre reflected on that fact in his interview on Friday’€™s pre-game show.

‘€œNormally, when I’€™m going right, my balls are right-center to left-center. According to Fenway, that’€™s not probably the best spot. Hopefully this summer, those balls I hit to the wall might be a little farther than that.’€

Read More: Adrian Beltre,

Closing Time: Royals 4, Red Sox 3

04.09.10 at 11:21 pm ET
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It was a night that would have been a celebration of Tim Wakefield. The Red Sox starter raced through five shutout innings to start the game and, after permitting back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth, rebounded to deliver a crisp 10-pitch seventh to entrust a 3-2 lead to his bullpen against the Royals.

Yet Hideki Okajima, back in Kansas City — the site of his big league debut, where he allowed a homer on the first pitch he ever threw in a major league game — failed to help Wakefield secure his 176th career win as a Red Sox. Instead, he permitted the first batter he faced (David DeJesus) to hit a double. That set in motion a Royals uprising that resulted in Rick Ankiel’s game-winning two-run single to center off of Daniel Bard, sent the Sox to a 4-3 loss and amplified questions that are quickly forming about the Boston bullpen.

Key Play of the Game

Though Bard’s 98 mph heater shattered his bat, Ankiel fisted a single into shallow center with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth to turn the Sox’ one-run lead into a one-run loss. It was the second straight game in which a Sox opponent won in its last at-bat.

What Went Right for the Sox

–Wakefield was efficient and dazzling, going seven innings and allowing six hits and a walk while striking out six. Aside from the back-to-back homers he allowed with two outs in the sixth to Ankiel (who went 4-for-4) and Billy Butler, Wakefield was tremendous. He threw 96 pitches.

JD Drew hit a colossal shot to center, a two-run homer for his first round-tripper of the season.

Mike Cameron reached base three times, collecting a pair of singles and a walk.

What Went Wrong for the Sox

–The bullpen again struggled, allowing a pair of runs in an inning. The Sox bullpen has recorded every one of the team’s decisions this year, going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA.

–The absence of reliable middle relief options may be taking an early toll. Though the Sox have had a pair of off days, it is noteworthy that Bard has appeared in all four games thus far. Still, his stuff was excellent, as he recorded a key strikeout of Butler with one out and a runners on first and third before giving up the game-winning hit on a nasty fastball to Ankiel.

–The Sox lineup continued its futility with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-8 in such circumstances.

David Ortiz got ejected for arguing a third-strike checked swing. Though he served a double to left against a shift, he had a pair of strikeouts in going 1-for-3, and the ejection seemed a display of mounting frustration.

Gammons on Big Show: ‘Pretty serious concerns about middle relief’

04.09.10 at 6:55 pm ET
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Hall of Fame reporter and NESN analyst Peter Gammons checked in with the Big Show on Friday to discuss the early-season lessons offered by the Red Sox-Yankees series. Gammons identified two chief concerns about the current Red Sox: the team’s bullpen and, if he continues to struggle, the David Ortiz dilemma.

“The biggest thing is I have some pretty serious concerns about middle relief ‘€”getting to [Daniel] Bard, [Hideki] Okajima and [Jonathan] Papelbon,” he said.

As for the other hot topic, David Ortiz, Gammons suggested that there are questions about whether he can still handle fastballs, and that Ortiz needs to stop trying to pull the ball in his at bats.

“I still want to see what happens if he goes back to taking the ball the other way like when he first came here,” Gammons said. “If he does that and gets the ball in the air, maybe he will go back to ‘€” maybe not a 50-something home run guy ‘€” but if he has a .390 on-baseand hits 30 home runs, he is going to be pretty valuable because of all the guys that are going to be on base in front of him.”

Gammons was asked about what he believes the Sox will do once Daisuke Matsuzaka is ready to come back to the big leagues. Matsuzaka is currently on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket and will pitch on Saturday, but he is likely to get slotted back into the rotation when he is healthy. Gammons said that his guess would be the Red Sox would put Tim Wakefield in the bullpen, but not necessarily permanently.

“At times during the season I am sure that they will use a six-man rotation to get extra rest so they make sure Beckett and Lester and Lackey and Buchholz are fully healthy,” he said. “But I think that is the direction they will end up going and I think that is very hard given the fact that Wakefield was an all-star last year in the first half of the season. But it might be that he is your only guy that can pitch out of the bullpen.”

Gammons also touched on the comments made by umpire Joe West about the pace of Red Sox-Yankees games. “I think the league can talk to the Red Sox and it can talk to the Yankees, but I don’t think that is Joe West’s place to be blasting the players,” he said.  “And he didn’t offer any solution. So if he doesn’t have a solution, just go to the league and let them come up with some way to have them play faster.”

To listen to the interview, go to the Big Show’s audio on demand page. A full transcript is below.

You have a terrific relationship with a lot of the players around the game. But on the whole, there is not a great relationship between the athlete and the media today. Has it changed because of the money?

Because time is so restricted and access is so restricted today, there really isn’t a lot of time that the media has with players, managers and coaches. Now you can’t go into the clubhouse until 3:30, I mean I understand that. The size of the media is so much more overpowering today than ever before.

I remember when Richard Justice, one of my journalist friends, was covering the Redskins. He said, “Do you realize that you spend more time with players on a three-game homestand than I spend the entire season with the Redskins?” They were so restricted in being able to get there.

I think it is a lot that players are very guarded in what they say. I was kidding Derek Jeter the other day. In all the interviews I have done with him after games and so forth, there was actually one after Pedro [Martinez] threw at Karim Garcia and all that happened after that, Jeter actually called the whole scene a disgrace. He said to me, “I slipped.” I said, “It is not that big a deal,” and he said, “Ugh, I let my guard down one time.”

That’s the way a lot of athletes are. They are suspicious. It is hard when you are in a large pack of people to know who you can trust and who you can’t trust. And that is why it is so important … [to] try to get time alone with people.

Is the real difference now that there is a whole different tabloid media out there right now?

You are absolutely right. For instance, I go back ‘€” and hopefully I am not hurting the reputation of these people ‘€” I go back to the mid ’70s and there was a raid at one bar and [inaudible] and Rogelio Moret just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t believe ‘€” I think there was a story about [inaudible] because he was arrested. The time that Moret was supposed to pitch against Jim Palmer on Monday night baseball and he had a slight accident at 5:20 in the morning in Connecticut, that was part of the notes but it wasn’t a huge deal. It is now. I actually think that for instance Deadspin is really good at what they do, because people want to read that and they do it well. TMZ does a really good job at what they do. That is what people want to read, and they go out and get it. But it creates a huge guard for the athletes, and I don’t blame them. I think one of the amazing things ‘€”and we were talking about this all week with the Yankees here’€” is that Derek Jeter has essentially managed to stay clear of this. He is a mega-star in New York and is a mega-personality.

But he has been single up to this time, right?

That is right. I remember that Mike Lansing once said to me, ‘George Brett is my idol. He played 20 years and then got married.’

That is the thing. We were talking about Jeter on the program because people reference him all the time and say, “Derek Jeter never does any of that stuff.” People forget that Steinbrenner reprimanded him because he had too much of a nightlife and then they covered it all up with that MasterCard commercial. And it was funny.

It was. Derek knows how to protect his privacy. He and [Jorge] Posada, nobody ever knows where they are. He is very smart that way. But I think it is amazing that considering this time when everyone has a cell phone with a camera, he just doesn’t get photographed. There are a couple people who show up all the time on like Deadspin because somebody is in a bar and takes a picture of them; there are like archives. Not only athletes, but people in the news media. It is a whole different world. The person with the cell phone could be calling 911, or they could be taking a picture.

Was there anything that came out of this series that you didn’t recognize before the series started?

The biggest thing is I have some pretty serious concerns about middle relief ‘€”getting to [Daniel] Bard, [Hideki] Okajima and [Jonathan] Papelbon. Maybe this is just mechanical with Manny Delcarman and he will get straightened out and get back to 95 miles per hour. I trust that that can happen. But he and [Ramon] Ramirez had amazing records last year in that their earned run averages went up every single month of the season. We haven’t seen anything from Ramirez that would tell us he is going to be any better. That is a concern and obviously the whole Ortiz thing is something that we watch. I really can’t figure, like Sunday night, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1 with [Kevin] Youkilis in scoring position, he gets fastballs and he is trying to pull them. I don’t know if he is going to hit the fastball again. I think part of it is his insecurity; he is trying so hard to be Big Papi. To me, he is forever trying to pull the ball when he became Big Papi because he hit the ball to left center.

It might be also that he is trying to cheat a little bit.

Oh, I think there is no question. That is why when somebody throws him a breaking ball he usually wraps around a little bit. I still want to see what happens if he goes back to taking the ball the other way like when he first came here. If he does that and gets the ball in the air, maybe he will go back to ‘€” maybe not a 50-something home run guy ‘€” but if he has a .390 on-base and hits 30 home runs, he is going to be pretty valuable because of all the guys that are going to be on base in front of him. But that is one of those issues that is going to be very tricky for Terry Francona to work through.

If Ortiz does continue to struggle, how long will Mike Lowell continue to sit there and bite his lip?

If Ortiz struggles, I think Lowell will start DHing against left handed pitching and they will see what happens from there. I don’t think Lowell will say things, just because it is not his style. I understand that he is frustrated; he believes he can hit, but at the same time how do you move all these guys around. I think that he will DH against left handers. I didn’t think it was the right time, considering how proud Ortiz is.

It is just too early, isn’t it?

Yeah. I still want to see, again, if he thinks about driving the ball to left center field. He pulled breaking balls but he only hits fastballs to left center and center. I think about a Wednesday afternoon when he hit the home run against B.J. Ryan. It was a 97 mile per hour fastball down and away and he drove it to the center field bleachers. I want to see what happens in time. When he was really great, I don’t think I realized how much he is like everyone else in that he is very insecure.

Well he is sensitive.

He is sensitive and he is embarrassed. Most guys are, most players are. A number of Orioles players told me that Cal Ripken is the most insecure human being they have ever met. So we will just see on that but it is really tough and I think it is really weighing on him right now. He might be better off playing on the road for a few weeks.

There were a couple times where Ortiz would not get a hit and the NESN cameras would show Lowell, and you could see the frustration on his face. Because he still believes, like you said that he should be out there.

Yeah, I mean you look at his numbers last year, and Mike Lowell was still a good hitter even though the hip was obviously bothering him. Now I don’t know if he is going to be able to play third base again, but he can still hit. It is up to Terry to figure out different ways to get people in there. It is a very sensitive issue with Ortiz and the question is going to be when is he going to show signs that he is going to get it back.

Watching some of the new guys, what interests me is watching Curtis Granderson. The guy has two home runs against very good right handed pitchers in a ballpark that is very difficult for left handed home run hitters. This guy against right handed pitching in that ballpark, hitting that low in the lineup in that ballpark, that is a little scary, Peter.

It is. I think that Granderson and Nick Johnson will have 65 home runs between them

How many games does Johnson play? That is the question.

The fact that he is DHing will help. Seeing Nick Johnson hit second with that .406 or .402, whatever it is, lifetime on-base percentage and Granderson down there lower in the order with no pressure and then when they get to that ballpark. I think there are some disturbing signs that the defensive jitters that Granderson had last September in Detroit ‘€“ they didn’t get rid of him because of money. They got rid of him because they didn’t want to pay him because he really struggled defensively. It will be interesting to see how that goes. But those two guys, they are going to be big offensive forces on that team. And I think [Robinson] Cano is going to hit 35 or 38 home runs before it is over. He doesn’t move too well at second base but he is going to hit a lot of home runs.

Were you surprised that the Josh Beckett deal got done so quick?

When it was sort of played out to me how it went about, I think it speaks volumes about Josh Beckett’s maturity. I remember being down [at spring training] the day before pitchers and catchers reported when John Lackey came in about 2:30 in the afternoon. Beckett and [Jon] Lester were there waiting for him. Lackey got the contract that Beckett thought he was going to get, and that just speaks volumes about who Beckett is. He never really played out the impact of the whole contract negotiation.

He said to me the other day, ‘I am getting pretty good money here. I have a chance to win every year. John Lackey actually gives me a better chance to get a ring. Why leave?’

I thought it was really interesting that he made mention of the fact that Theo Epstein called him as they were signing Lackey. He took that as a tremendous amount of respect from the front office. Who knows exactly what the numbers are going to be anytime you sign a guy? But the thing that you know, and have heard from him too, is that in 2000 the Marlins doctor wanted him to have surgery. And Dr. [James] Andrews now says that his shoulder is stronger now than it was then.

Yeah. He says, ‘I remember them talking in the other room and they said I needed the surgery.’ And that is what really drives him.

He forged a very close relationship with Dr. Andrews. I think it is a huge advantage to have to much pitching tied up for a long period of time. I think we see that the worst decisions on free agents are made with pitchers because of the unpredictability. So now, whether it is Jayson Werth or whoever it is going to be this offseason, the price isn’t going to be as high as it would be for Cliff Lee, who I think is a tremendous physical risk.

If everybody is healthy when Daisuke Matsuzaka comes back, who is the odd man out in the rotation?

I think they will figure that out when they get to it.

Who would you say is the odd man out of the rotation?

Well my guess is that [Tim] Wakefield ends up in the bullpen. I’m not sure but they think [Clay] Buchholz is a [No. 1 or No. 2 starter] and it is his time. Nine out of 10 quality starts down the stretch, so I think they just figure out what to do. At times during the season I am sure that they will use a six-man rotation to get extra rest so they make sure Beckett and Lester and Lackey and Buchholz are fully healthy. But I think that is the direction they will end up going and I think that is very hard given the fact that Wakefield was an All-Star last year in the first half of the season. But it might be that he is your only guy that can pitch out of the bullpen. I think that Buchholz is so good that there is no reason to put him in the bullpen. But it is an interesting situation. Last year with all the injuries they had and the disappointments with Brad Penny and John Smoltz, they had 55 starts where their starters had a 6.28 earned run average. It is amazing they won 95 games last year given how many problems they had holding their rotation together.

What do you think of those Joe West comments?

Well, I was sitting behind home plate and I was muttering and cursing because Joe West was missing so many pitches. He was part of the problem with the delay of that game. Angel Hernandez blowing two or three calls at first base didn’t help. Look, the Red Sox and Yankees ‘€” both teams have talked about how those games get to be excessively long. But it is the nature. It’s the pressure, it’s the intensity. Both teams are built to try to get the other teams starters out by the sixth inning. OK, they may wander around a little bit. But these guys stepping out didn’t just start happening now. It used to drive opposing teams insane that Dwight Evans and Marty Barrett were forever trying to upstage pitchers by stepping out during their delivery. Angel made his point the other night, but I don’t know. I think some of the umpires should be a little bit careful blasting players when the whole umpire structure in Major League Baseball is being called out constantly. I think they are trying, but the umpire’s union has far more power. And Joe West is the head of the umpire’s union, so therefore he got the opening night home plate.

I was pretty happy with the pace. Three games, all were under four hours. For Red Sox-Yankees, I would say those are brief encounters.

They are, especially since all three games were tied in the 7th inning. They were all very tense games. I think the league can talk to the Red Sox and it can talk to the Yankees, but I don’t think that is Joe West’s place to be blasting the players. And he didn’t offer any solution. So if he doesn’t have a solution, just go to the league and let them come up with some way to have them play faster. But if the games are memorable ‘€” if they are five hours long and they are won in the 14th inning on a grand slam or Aaron Boone hits a home run ‘€” people want memorable games, not just games that are played very fast. A 5-1 game played in an hour and 51 minutes is not very memorable. Just ask the fans in Kansas City.

Read More: Curtis Granderson, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Joe West

Will opponents stop throwing fastballs to the Sox?

04.09.10 at 3:02 pm ET
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Gary From Chapel Hill breaks down the Red Sox’ Wednesday loss to the Yankees with typical precision, and in the process, noticed an interesting trend:

Through 3 games, Red Sox hitters have created a solid +2.17 runs above average per 100 fastballs seen (3rd in the majors) and a putrid -2.40 per 100 non-fastballs (3rd worst).   Last season, the Red Sox RCAA per 100 fastballs ranked 2nd and they were 6th per 100 non-fastballs.

Is this just an early season blip?  Or a concern going forward?  We will find out soon if opposing teams believe it to be true because they will stop throwing them as many fastballs (currently, the Sox are seeing 54.9% heaters).

So far:

Game 1 – Yankees threw 61% fastballs (1% lower than CC Sabathia‘€™s typical start in 2009) and the Red Sox won;
Game 2 – Yankees threw 59% fastballs (7% lower than AJ Burnett‘€™s typical start in 2009) and the Red Sox lost;
Game 3 – Yankees threw 44% fastballs (13% lower than Andy Pettitte‘€™s typical start in 2009) and the Red Sox lost;

I’€™m not sayin’€™.  I’€™m just sayin’€™.

Obviously, it’s early, so one should no more draw conclusions about whether opposing teams are altering the way that they are pitching to the Sox as one should wonder, after three games, whether David Ortiz is done. Even so, it will be interesting to monitor whether opposing pitchers depend on an unusually off-speed heavy arsenal against the Sox going forward.

Another random fact from the the Nuggetpalooza Pitch Report:

The Sox lost on Wednesday despite their starter (John Lackey) going 6+ innings while allowing no runs or extra base hits.  It was the first time that’€™s happened to the Red Sox since 2003.  In each of the previous two such losses, the Red Sox starter was Derek Lowe (in 2002 and 2003).

For more of the Nuggetpalooza breakdown, click here.

Red Sox vs. Royals matchups, 4/9

04.09.10 at 1:39 pm ET
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Now that the craziness of Opening Night and the long games (which Joe West is clearly not a fan of) with the Yankees are over, it’s time for the Red Sox to get rolling along with the 2010 season. The Sox embark on their first road trip of the season, starting in Kansas City against a young Royals team.

The Red Sox will not be sending a young starter to the mound on Friday night (8:10 start). Tim Wakefield, 43, gets the ball for the first time in 2010, and he is out to prove that his back is healthy and able to withstand a full season after offseason back surgery. Wakefield is 11-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 26 games (19 starts) in his career against the Royals. Last year, Wakefield had a disappointing September start against the Royals when he went five innings and gave up five runs (four earned) and was very wild, issuing seven walks in a 12-9 loss on Sept. 20 while trying to pitch through both his back injury and the rain.

Wakefield’s start actually represents something of a milestone. At 43 years, 250 days, he becomes the oldest pitcher ever to start a game for the Sox, surpassing David Wells, who was 43 years, 98 days in his final start for the Sox in 2006.

The Royals don’t come in with a lot of experience against the much experienced Wakefield. The well-traveled Jose Guillen has the most plate appearances vs. Wakefield (17), but he has only mustered a .214 average, while the free swinger has struck out seven times. Scott Podsednik comes in blazing, hitting .455, but he too has struggled hitting the knuckleball, only hitting a paltry .143.

Unfamiliarity is the theme of this game. Royals starter Kyle Davies has not faced three of Boston’s top four hitters in Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Victor Martinez has seen Davies the most, 13 times, and he has been successful, batting .333 while belting one home run off the starter.

Davies has only faced the Red Sox once in his career, that being a 2005 start when he was with the Atlanta Braves. He did pitch well, shutting out the Red Sox over five innings, striking out six and scattering four hits in a 7-5 Atlanta win. But only David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Youkilis (who did not register an at-bat) remain from that Red Sox squad.

Davies went 8-9 with a 5.71 ERA in 22 games for the Royals last year, and batters hit 18 home runs off of him. Red Sox fans might remember Davies for giving up Alex Rodriguez’ 500th home run in 2007.

There are a lot of unknowns in this game as the Red Sox look to improve on their 5-3 record vs. the Royals last season.


Jose Guillen (17 plate appearances): .214 average/.353 OBP/.214 slugging percentage, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Yunieski Betancourt (13): .385/.385/.692, 1 homer

Jason Kendall (11): .300/.364/.300, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

David DeJesus (9): .111/.111/.111, 1 strikeout

Billy Butler (8): .286/.375/.429, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Scott Podsednik (7): .143/.143/.143

Willie Bloomquist (6): .667/.833/1.000, 3 walks

Mitch Maier (5): .000/.200/.000, 1 walk

Rick Ankiel: 2-for-4

Mike Aviles: 0-for-3

Alberto Callaspo: 0-for-3

Chris Getz: 2-for-3

Never faced: Brayan Pena


Victor Martinez (13 plate appearances): .333 average/.385 OBP/.750 slugging percentage, 1 homer, 1 walk

Marco Scutaro (9): .625/.667/1.375, 2 homers, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Cameron (6): .400/.500/1.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Adrian Beltre (5) .200/.200/.200, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall (5): .333/.600/1.267, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Hermida (5): .250/.200/1.000, 1 homer, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (5): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz: 1-for-3

Jason Varitek: 0-for-2

Never faced: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, J.D Drew

Read More: Kyle Davies, Red Sox, royals, Tim Wakefield

A look around the Red Sox system

04.09.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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A few items from today’s coverage of the Red Sox minor league system, which will be a regular component of our Friday coverage:

From the minor league notebook, a look at Red Sox pitching prospect Drake Britton, who started lighting up the gun after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Both he and roommate Nick Hagadone rehabbed like possessed men in Fort Myers, in part because they had little else to do … save for blitzing through episodes of Entourage on DVD. It was not outlandish for the two to watch a full season in a single day.

Hagadone, who was dealt to the Indians in the Victor Martinez trade, is throwing in the mid- to high-90s. Britton is in a similar boat, as the promising young left-hander discovered with some pleasure when he returned to the mound at the end of last year.

The notebook also features a look at some openers from the Sox affiliates, including one prospect who had a nice first step in trying to rebound from a rough 2009, and a few players with new teams and new positions.

–Over at Sox Booth — a place to get an insider’s perspective on the Red Sox radio broadcast coverage — you can find the first of the minor league radio interviews that will be a regular feature. Evan Lepler, broadcaster of High-A Salem, checks in with Salem manager Kevin Boles to discuss the team’s opener and promising pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. For that, click here.

Also in Sox Booth, Mike Antonnelis — who does play-by-play for the Portland Sea Dogs in Double-A — sat down with reliever Robert Coello to discuss his unusual career path that has taken him from catching to pitching. For that interview, click here.

–The family of Sox prospect minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland released a statement of gratitude to both Sox fans and the doctor who saved their son’s life.

Alan Embree turned in a scoreless inning of work, throwing just 10 pitches. He said that he will likely exercise his right to opt out of his minor league deal if he’s not added to the Sox’ big league roster by April 15.

Boof Bonser had an 89-93 mph fastball for over the course of his 4.1 inning outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. He hung a couple of curveballs that were hit for homers, and said that his groin felt fine. For more, click here.

Read More: drake britton, robert coello, ryan westmoreland, Stolmy Pimentel
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