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Thursday Morning Notes: Daisuke’s Debut

03.25.10 at 8:53 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka is set to face major league hitters for the first time this spring. He will come on in relief of Tim Wakefield in Thursday’s game against the Marlins. Matsuzaka’s progress has been slowed this spring by a mild back strain and then neck stiffness, but by all indications, he is now fully healthy for today’s outing.

Here is the Red Sox lineup that will face the Fish:

Ellsbury, CF
Scutaro, SS
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Hall, 2B

Pitchers: Wakefield, Matsuzaka, Atchison, Castro.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

What Happened With the Red Sox: Wednesday

03.25.10 at 8:47 am ET
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Ordinarily, the Pirates’ spring training ballpark in Bradenton is a wind tunnel that threatens to carry every fly ball over the fences. McKechnie Field usually plays as if it has the dimensions of  a Little League park. The foremost weapon for a pitcher to counteract those wind currents is thus fairly obvious: the strikeout.

That was a point that Josh Beckett made in dramatic fashion. His previous start had come last Friday, also against the Pirates in Bradenton, when he performed like a pitcher who’d been peeled off a sick bed. Beckett allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings that day, and admitted that he was running on fumes.

That was not the case on Wednesday, as the likely Opening Day starter allowed just one run on three hits in five innings while punching out nine. Even in an exhibition game, it appeared that Beckett was sending a message that he will not suffer mound embarrassment lightly. He built his pitch count to 85, then added 10 more pitches in the bullpen in an outing that represented a solid foundation for the start of the regular season.

— The Red Sox got the news that they had anticipated, with X-rays showing that Dustin Pedroia had not done any real damage to his left wrist while making a diving play on Tuesday. Pedroia is expected to take batting practice on Thursday and return to game activity on Friday.

Mike Lowell suggests that his right hip is in better shape this year than it was in 2009, when he was still in the early stages of recovering from the surgery he underwent to repair a torn labrum. That said, he was fairly blunt when asked whether his hip was as healthy as it was before the surgery.

“No, and it probably never will be,” he said.

Lowell explained that he has been able to make significant strength gains in his hip, but that the “significant” cartilage damage in his right hip will never be repaired. He didn’t understand that would be the case at the time of the surgery, making his current condition “disappointing.” He said that he will likely never be able to run as well as he did in 2007.

— Lowell did say that he’s adapting to the novelty of the social dynamic of being a first baseman.

“I feel like I know (Pittsburgh first base coach Carlos) Garcia, he’€™s almost like family after just five innings. No wonder everybody loves Sean Casey so much. He knows your whole family history. A lot more talk, a lot more talk. More bantering.”

For more on Lowell’s acclimation to first, click here.

— Reliever Joe Nelson has been building a solid case for a bullpen spot. He punched out a pair of Pirates on Wednesday, and now has struck out 12 batters in his nine spring innings. Nelson has a June 1 opt-out in the minor league deal he signed with the Sox. But if he continues to pitch as he has, that likely won’t come into play.

Another reliever also showed promise in his first outing of the spring. Alan Embree, facing a Double-A Orioles team in Fort Myers, needed just 12 pitches (11 strikes) to sail through an inning of work with a strikeout, groundout and flyout. He is slated to pitch in a big league spring training game on Saturday.

Mike Cameron homered on Wednesday, continuing some ridiculous offensive performances by Sox outfielders. Cameron is hitting .400/.474/.733, Jeremy Hermida is hitting .400/.447/.571 and Josh Reddick is at .400/.429/.700 after clubbing his seventh double of the spring on Wednesday.

— Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell watched his son, Pirates minor leaguer Jeremy Farrell, go deep to straightaway center field on Wednesday. Jeremy Farrell is now 2-for-2 with a homer in games against his father’s club this spring.

Read More: Alan Embree, Dustin Pedroia, jeremy farrell, joe nelson

The conspiracy theories start circulating

03.24.10 at 11:08 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Earlier this week Chris Johnson, the son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, went deep in a game against the Sox, and Wednesday Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell’s son Jeremy notched a home run off of his dad’s team in the Sox’ 6-4 win over the Pirates.

Are the Red Sox catchers calling for the vaunted Monty Burns Straight Ball every time a relative steps to the plate? No, but it does offer for a healthy dose of coincidence.

“I look over and Sue Farrell is almost standing on top of our dugout, which I thought was cool,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “OK, here’€™s a family home run, good. After the second one, I was like, OK, that’€™s enough.’€

In other news …

Mike Lowell, who will next play third base for the Sox Friday, talked at length about a variety of subjects, including the state of his surgically-repaired hip. (Click here for his comments on the hip.) He also touched on the challenges that have come with playing first base, which he manned Wednesday.

“Trailing the runners, stuff like that, I’m just not used to doing. Like when runners go on second I have to remind myself that I’m the cut-off to center field and first base,” Lowell said. “When you’re doing a new position you go through that checklist a lot more until it becomes habit, but like I’m saying it’s not a position that I’m totally foreign too in the sense of I kind of know when I’m playing third the first baseman is the cutoff man for the guy in center so you have to put yourself in that spot.”

He also touched on the dynamic that comes with socializing at first base.

“I was asked how the kids and family are doing. ‘Is this guy making the team?’ When the first base coach is up with a runner on first … You almost can’t help but talk,” Lowell said. “When I got to first I would say hi to the first baseman and all of that but you’re almost gone in three or four pitches. I feel like I know (Pittsburugh first base coach Carlos) Garcia, he’s almost like family after just five innings. No wonder everybody loves Sean Casey so much. He knows your whole family history. A lot more talk, a lot more talk. More bantering. I will say this, you’re involved in a lot more plays, which is better. I would say it’s a more comfortable position to play because you just don’t have to make that throw. That throw from third is what sets it apart.

“I’ll converse, but I’m just not there yet because I’m still scared that I’ll be looking at Garcia and Josh will turn around and put one in my forehead. I’m getting more comfortable, but I’m still not there yet.

“I’ll never get to the [Kevin] Millar level.”

Alan Embree, who dominated the Orioles’ Triple A hitters, will pitch in his first big league spring training game of the year Saturday.

– Both Mike Cameron and Billy Hall hit home runs. It was Cameron’s second home run, with his average now at .400. It was Hall’s first homer of the spring as the utility man now hitting .182.

Nelson not worried about opt-out date

03.24.10 at 5:02 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Joe Nelson’s agent, Doug Schaer, confirmed that his client does indeed has an opt-out date where the pitcher can become a free agent if he is not on the Red Sox‘ major league roster: June 1.

Nelson, who has never had such a clause in any of his previous contracts, isn’t concerning himself with such formalities.

“I never had one because whomever I signed with the chances were that I wasn’t going to be on the big league team so I wasn’t trying to go somewhere else right away. This year, since I was in the big leagues last year and I had a guaranteed deal, my agent said, ‘You want to ask for that?’ I just said, ‘Sure, I guess.’ I know the people in this front office and they’re not going to bury me,” said Nelson, who is currently signed to a minor-league deal with the Sox.

“If they think I’m part of their plans on Opening Day or down the road their going to keep me. The second I’m not a guy where I’ve lost favor, or something like that, they would come to me and tell me that and let me go somewhere else to pitch in the big leagues. I have a relationship with them and they respect me as much as I respect them. It’s a two-way street. I trust them. If they have no plans for me tomorrow, they’ll let me know. They’re not going to hold on to me and say, ‘Maybe.’ If they don’t have plans for me they will let me know.”

Nelson took a step in the right direction in terms of making the team Wednesday, pitching one inning against the Pirates, striking out two and inducing a grounder. The 35-year-old’s spring training ERA now stands at 3.00, having made nine appearances.

‘€œI think he’€™s feeling a lot more confidence in his changeup, which is certainly putting it in hitters’€™ heads that he can elevate that fastball and they have to respect the changeup,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after his team’s 6-4 spring training win over Pittsburgh. “The last couple, three outings, I think he’€™s felt a lot better.’€

Lowell discusses progress of ‘the’ hip

03.24.10 at 3:42 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — After going hitless in three at-bats in the Red Sox spring training game against the Pirates, Mike Lowell spoke in detail regarding the progress of his surgically-repaired hip.

Lowell said that strength-wise the hip is back to where it was prior to the torn labrum he suffered in 2008, but there was some disappointment as to how the distance put between the surgery and his current state has left him running-wise.

“With X-rays and what I’ve done, I think what I was not aware of was best case scenario was status quo post-surgery. Meaning whatever cartilage damage I had, which was technically was pretty signficant on the hip side, it wasn’t going to get better. I don’t know if it was my optimism. I do believe it was what I was told, that it was going to get better,” Lowell said.

“In that sense, would I compare to like I am running like in ’07, I would say no. So in that sense it was a little disappointing. I still stick to that I really felt like every stride I took, especially at the beginning of the year last year, was very delicate and I don’t think I’m there. I still stand that I am better than last year. There’s a certain condition in the hip that I don’t think will ever allow me to get the point where I was in ’07 or prior. In that sense, of course that’s disappointing but I think once I got more educated in what happened with the surgery, and I have more range of motion now that can cause more friction, it makes more sense.

“Yeah, I think I was anticipating a little more going in … not strength-wise. It’s all the impact of the running because I can jump, I can push hard, and weights-wise I would say I am ’07 and prior, but you just can’t simulate running, unless you can run in a pool and that would be a different story.”

Lowell said he had been experimenting with a few different kinds of wraps over the past few games, but has decided not to use any after “fighting through” some of the previous treatments.

Finally, asked if overall his hip was better than last season, Lowell’s answer was, “absolutely.” But not as good as before the surgery?  “No, and it probably won’t be.”

Beckett strikes out nine in five innings

03.24.10 at 2:48 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Josh Beckett turned in a solid outing against the Pirates Wednesday afternoon, allowing just one run on three hits over five innings. Beckett struck out nine and walked two while throwing 85 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. Beckett, who left the game with the Red Sox leading 6-1, was replaced by reliever Joe Nelson.

Embree uses veteran wiles to baffle minor leaguers

03.24.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — Back in Fort Myers reliever Alan Embree befuddled the Baltimore minor leaguers at the Red Sox minor league training facility, turning in an 1-2-3 inning of work. Embree needed just 12 pitches, 11 of which were strikes, to get a strikeout, groundout, and pop-up.

Embree would appear to be slated to pitch in a major league spring training game for the first time this season when the Sox take on the Orioles Saturday in Sarasota.

In other news, Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer off of Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm in the first inning of the the Sox’ showdown at McKechnie Field. First baseman Mike Lowell also made a nice pick of a low throw from third baseman Jorge Jimenez in the first.

Why Joe Nelson is ‘LOST’ and some other Red Sox stuff

03.24.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — By now you’ve heard that Dustin Pedroia’s wrist is OK, he will take batting practice Thursday, and plans to play Friday against the Blue Jays at City of Palms Park. You also know that he was scheduled to hang back today, in part so that he could film a Dunkin Donuts commercial.

Here are some other news, notes and nonsensical ramblings while we await what figures to be Josh Beckett’s 85-90-pitch outing against the gritty, gutty Pirates (will send out old friend Brendan Donnelly as their third pitcher):

– Before the real newsy stuff, an explanation as to the blog’s title: On Joe Nelson’s glove, running down the outside where the pointer finger is placed, are the letters “LOST.” The explanation? While the reliever is a fan of the show (even though he fell asleep during the most recent episode) the word was placed there almost by accident. He had asked the glove manufacturer to put the first letters of each of his kids and his wife, which typically he wrote down as “TSOL.” Oh, and by the way, Nelson, who pitches second for the Sox Wednesday, feels his well-documented changeup is feeling a lot better than earlier in camp.

Mike Lowell will be playing first base again, Wednesday. He comes in having played five innings at both first and third, respectively. Red Sox manager Terry Francona praised the infielder’s actions at his new position, saying, “I think he feels pretty comfortable.” Here is some more Marlins/Lowell trade rumor linkage (courtesy MLB Trade Rumors).

– Francona noted that he would rather view Clay Buchholz through the prism of his starts last season rather than the pitcher’s rough outing Tuesday night.

– The Sox manager said that there was no timetable for the return of Jed Lowrie, who continues to recover from mono.

– Francona explained that Manny Delcarmen’s arm is sound, but he is still trying to work some kinks out regarding his delivery.

– Pitching for the Red Sox against the Pirates will be Beckett, Nelson, Brian Shouse, and Fernando Cabrera. The lineup will be as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury LF, Mke Cameron CF, Victor Martinez C, Lowell 1B, Jeremy Hermida DH, Bill Hall SS, Tug Hulett 2B, Josh Reddick RF, Jorge Jimenez 3B.

Francona: Pedroia’s wrist fine

03.24.10 at 11:24 am ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. ‘€” Red Sox manager Terry Francona, speaking before the Red Sox’ spring training game against the Pirates on Wednesday, said that X-rays on Dustin Pedroia’s wrist were negative and that the second baseman is expected to take batting practice Thursday and play in a game on Friday.

Pedroia stayed behind in Fort Myers on Wednesday as he previously had been scheduled to film a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial.

Pedroia sprained the wrist diving to corral a grounder in the first inning of Tuesday night’s game vs. the Twins. He left the game an inning later.

What Happened With the Red Sox: Tuesday

03.24.10 at 8:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — At least for a night, the beast was back.

One should never overreact to spring training games. March line scores are often the stuff of divine comedy for pitchers for any number of reasons: pitchers are simply working on emphasizing different pitches; the decreased adrenaline of a game that represents a punch-in, punch-out scenario leads to less impressive performances; zephyrs gusting towards fences can transform any ball hit in the air into a tape-measure shot. And so on.

Even so, on Tuesday night, Clay Buchholz encountered a problem that he had managed to confront and overcome last season. He started pitching as if panicking when runners were on base, bouncing a full complement of pitches — even fastballs — in front of home plate.

It may have been no more than an isolated incident. Buchholz insisted after the game that he would work past pitching in a state of distraction with runners aboard.

Even so, it is worth noting how significant an issue it is, based on the following:


BASES EMPTY: .259/.326/.394/.720
RUNNERS ON: .348/.441/.546/.987
MAN ON FIRST: .403/.486/.790/1.276


BASES EMPTY: .254/.321/.418/.738
RUNNERS ON: .259/.331/.385/.716
MAN ON FIRST: .238/.324/.302/.626

Buchholz was roughly the same pitcher in 2008 and 2009 with the bases empty. The difference was that he figured out how to retire opposing hitters with men on base last season, resulting in a season of immense promise rather than disappointment.

For more, click here.

— Buchholz may not have been the only one panicking last night. Some heart rates went up in New England when Dustin Pedroia was removed from the Twins game prior to the bottom of the second inning. But the injury appears not to be severe, pending an exam on Wednesday morning, with Pedroia getting diagnosed with a mild left wrist sprain incurred on a diving stop of a grounder. For more, click here.

— Who knew? When Daniel Nava went deep against John Lackey in a minor league camp game on Monday, it represented an act of unexpected revenge by one of the most improbable prospects in the Sox’ minor league system.

“We have a history,” Nava said of Lackey.

Find out more by clicking here.

— Speaking of improbable prospects, Jorge Jimenez is back in Red Sox camp after getting returned by the Marlins. He had been moved to Florida as a Rule 5 draftee, but the Marlins decided that they couldn’t keep him on the big league roster for a full season. Still, the 25-year-old (a 15th-round pick in 2006) opened some eyes with his play, and he’s now in big league camp with Boston. For Jimenez’ thoughts on his time with Florida and his return to the Sox, click here.

— The Marlins gave lots of love to Jimenez’ defense at third base. Everyone else is giving lots of love to the Sox’ major league defense in 2010. According to the projections of John Dewan, one of the gurus of defensive statistical analysis, the Sox will enjoy an 87-run improvement in their defense in the coming year.

— For a time, it appeared that Casey Kotchman would be a contributor to that defensive upgrade. Instead, a trade with the Mariners sent his supple leather to Seattle. That’s well and good, considering that Dewan projected the Mariners to be the best defensive club in the majors. At the same time, the news that Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is considering Kotchman for the third spot in the batting order is somewhat startling. Certainly, when the Sox envisioned a roster that would include the first baseman, it was not with an idea of using him in the middle of the order in mind.

— One final thought on defense: had Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Rays after being drafted by them in 2002, he and Carl Crawford would have made for one of the fastest outfield tandems in big league history. Ellsbury considers that possibility here.

— The Sox relievers were in focus during the team’s exhibition game. While most were locked in on the fact that Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity remains in the low-90s, it was also worth noting that Jonathan Papelbon threw some dirty splitters. For more, click here.

— Finally, if there is such a thing as a Boof Watch, and there is such a class of people who have committed themselves to such a dark art, then they can get their requisite fix here. Boof believes he’ll be healthy enough to resume baseball activities in the near future, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. Also in the same link is a suggestion that Jed Lowrie is on a very different pace of progress in his recovery from mononucleosis, and that four players — most notably Michael Bowden — were shipped to the minors.

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