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Terry Francona press conference, 4/6

04.07.10 at 12:08 am ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona spoke to the media following his team’s 6-4 loss to the Yankees at Fenway Park. Francona was asked about Jon Lester’s outing, if he considered pinch hitting Mike Lowell for David Ortiz in the eighth inning, the Marco Scutaro error, and Ortiz’ early offensive struggles.

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Closing Time: Yankees ‘pen the difference

04.06.10 at 11:20 pm ET
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The Yankees evened the season-opening series with the Red Sox on Tuesday night, getting a huge bounce-back effort from the bullpen in a 6-4 victory.

Here are some of the particulars:

Biggest Play Of The Game:

— Easy call here. Despite giving up a pair of hits in the eighth inning it looked as if Hideki Okajima was going to escape without allowing a run as Derek Jeter hit a routine grounder to Marco Scutaro with two outs. But Scutaro committed his first error as a member of the Sox, uncorking a low and wide throw to first that Kevin Youkilis was unable to handle. With the bases now loaded, Okajima then walked Nick Johnson to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. A Robinson Cano solo homer in the ninth accounted for the game’s final run.

What Went Wrong For The Red Sox

Jon Lester struggles:
On Sunday night Josh Beckett threw 94 pitches before leaving with two outs in the fifth inning, having allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks. Lester was better than his teammate on Tuesday, but not by much, as he gave up four runs on five hits and three walks in five innings of work. Lester also threw 94 pitches. Terry Francona mentioned before the game that he hoped in 2010 Lester would avoid what is becoming an annual slow start. One start against what might be the toughest lineup in baseball isn’t enough to make a call, of course, but this wasn’t the opening start Lester envisioned in what many feel could be a Cy Young kind of season.

David Ortiz is 0-for-2010:
And he’s not exactly making loud outs, either. Will Francona give Mike Lowell his first start of the year on Wednesday against Andy Pettitte? Makes sense, given Lowell is a career .345 hitter against Pettitte and Ortiz has looked dismal against left-handed pitching (raise your hand if you thought Lowell was going to pinch-hit for Ortiz in the eighth inning against Marte.) But there is this: Ortiz has owned Pettitte in his career, hitting .367 with an OBP of .431 in 58 plate appearances. Will that be enough to keep him in the lineup?

— Failure to produce against the Yankees bullpen:
After A.J. Burnett labored for five innings (seven hits, three runs) the bullpen took over and dominated the Sox lineup. In four innings the New York ‘pen allowed no runs on just three hits, zero walks while striking out three. Joba Chamberlain was a standout, striking out both batters he faced in the eighth inning.

What Went Right For The Red Sox

Daniel Bard:
Francona brought Bard into the game in the seventh inning to face the heart of the Yankees order. After walking Nick Johnson, Bard got Mark Teixeira (off to a brutal start) to fly out to left, struck out Alex Rodriguez and retired Robinson Cano on a weak grounder to second. Bard hit 98 MPH and also showed off a nasty changeup in the Cano at-bat.

Victor Martinez:
The catcher accounted for three of the four Sox RBI with a two-run HR in the third inning off of Burnett and an RBI double in the fifth.

— Terry Francona:
Got big laughs in the pre-game press conference when he admitted that he thought it was Dick Vitale — and not Neil Diamond — singing “Sweet Caroline” on Sunday night.

Francona pregame press conference

04.06.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona met with the media before Tuesday’s Red Sox/Yankees game. He touched on several topics, including the four-year extension signed by Josh Beckett on Monday.

Here are some highlights …

On the Beckett signing:

It’s great. I thought they handled it so well. For that to get done the way it did I thought was really professionally done. I remember back when we signed Lackey Theo giving Josh a call and thinking ‘good move’. In a place like this it’s hard to get a deal done like this without a lot of stuff being said. And you never heard a thing about it. I know Theo did a great job but I thought Beckett handled himself really well.”

On how much Beckett means to the team:

“There’s not one person around here that doesn’t want Beckett, I can tell you that. I don’t know if that makes a lot of sense for me to say stuff like that while they were negotiating, but everybody here likes having Beckett around.”

On expectations for Jon Lester:

“We’re excited. He had, the word I would use for this spring is ‘powerful.’ Right from the get-go. His expectations of himself are really high. What we just need to do is get him into that groove where he feels good about himself. Once he gets into that he’s one of the best in the game.”

On what he has told Mike Lowell about his role on the club:

“I think he has a pretty good understanding, but you can’t tell somebody something I don’t know. The one thing we basically told the guys that aren’t starting in our meeting was that you have to be patient. We have three off days. The first 10, 12 days are always difficult for everybody.”

On Clay Buchholz:

“He will throw a simulated game tomorrow. That’s what we decided, rather than sit him out in the bullpen. It won’t a huge thing, just a getting the rust off going into his start.”

On seeing Ryan Westmoreland Sunday night:

“It was great. Again, I understand everybody wanting to ask, it’s just I’ve been trying to adhere to the family wishes. But it was very nice to see him. We tried to, I don’t know if under the radar is the right word for it but keep him sheltered a little bit so he could visit with some players. But it was very nice.”

On the Neil Diamond performance:

“I don’t know if the Red Sox want to hear this, but I actually thought it was Dick Vitale. Go back and look.”

On seeing Pedro Martinez:

“It was pretty cool. I thought that was pretty cool. I thought the fans got to show their appreciation, and it was pretty obvious that Pedro was enjoying it. As he should. I thought it was a pretty good idea.”

Early returns on new defense

04.06.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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Clearly, Sunday’s game between the Red Sox and Yankees was most notable for the offensive eruptions by both teams. The three players whom the Sox had acquired to shore up their defense this offseason (Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro) went a combined 5-for-9 while driving in three runs, ensuring at least a bit of breathing room for the newcomers.

Nevertheless, while run prevention wasn’t exactly at the forefront of the Sox’ victory on Sunday night, a closer look revealed some promising first signs from the Sox’ revamped defense, particularly in the infield. The team turned a pair of double plays, something that they did in a major league worst 20 games last year. Scutaro showed range and a strong arm in the hole at short. Beltre, on the game’s final play, ranged far to his left, cutting off a ball that was hit straight at Scutaro, to record the game’s final out.

Consider the following piece of statistical gold mined by Gary Marbry in the Opening Day edition of Nuggetpalooza:

Red Sox pitchers induced 17 groundballs and only 2 went for hits (.118). They allowed a .244 average on grounders last season, 9th highest in the majors.

Clearly, one game does not a season make, or predict. Nonetheless, for a team that suffered through well-documented defensive struggles in 2009, the ability to convert grounders into outs on such a frequent basis has to be considered one of the more promising signs to come out of the game — perhaps even exceeding the offensive firepower against Yankees starter CC Sabathia.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, defense, marco scutaro, mike cameron

The ‘other’ Opening Days

04.06.10 at 1:13 pm ET
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While the Red Sox revel in their 48 hours of being undefeated, we can take the time to look at what happened while you were hibernating between Sox-Yanks games:

Roy Halladay started his march toward 40 wins, allowing one run on six hits over seven innings, striking out nine and walking a pair in the Phillies’ 11-1 win over the Nationals. Remarkably, he only threw 88 pitches. Only twice last season did Halladay not throw more than 88 pitches. He also had a hit.

— This just in: Albert Pujols is still really, really good. The Cardinals first baseman had four hits and two home runs. That’s right, he is on pace for 324 homers, which for every other player seems silly to mention, but somehow it seems possible for Pujols. St. Louis beat Cincy, 11-6.

Jason Bay‘s knees are still intact after the Mets’ 7-1 win over the Marlins, and not only that, but he also notched two hits. New York also enjoyed its once-every-fifth-day splash of good pitching with Johan Santana‘s six-inning win.’

— The Dodgers found that Vincente Padilla isn’t a No. 1 starter, and that Manny Ramirez can still hit a bit. The end-game: Dodgers drop an 11-5 decision to Pittsburgh and Manny gets two knocks and two RBI.

— The White SoxMark Buerhle is one of the game’s most underrated aces, as his seven-inning, three-hit outing suggested once against in Chicago’s 6-0 win over the Indians.

— So much for the “great Jason Frasor as a closer experiment,” with Frasor handing the Rangers a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays by giving up two runs on four hits in just a third of an inning. Then again, the Jays’ closing options are limited. Oh, and old friend Alex Gonzalez had a hit and didn’t make an error.

— In the battle of young center fielders named Carlos, both Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez had four hits apiece, but Gonzalez’ team came out on top with a 5-3 win. (Maybe it was because he moved to left field later in the game.)

Zack Grienke is still good — allowing one earned run over six innings — but so is Johnny Damon, who had two hits, two runs, and two RBI in his Tigers debut. Detroit beat Kansas City, 5-3.

— Braves rookie Jason Heyward lived up to the hype, as the 20-year-old homered in his first at-bat, a three-run shot in a 16-5 rout of the Cubs.

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 4/6

04.06.10 at 1:08 pm ET
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So much for the pitching matchup.

Opening Night was supposed to be a showcase of two aces ‘€” the Red SoxJosh Beckett and the YankeesCC Sabathia ‘€” but instead it turned into a slugfest, with the Sox emerging with a 9-7 victory. Instead of the Sox showcasing their new defensive-minded team, the bats took center stage Sunday night.

Tuesday could be different, with Jon Lester going to the mound for the first time in the 2010 regular season to face A.J. Burnett. Which Lester we see, however, will play a factor in that. In 2008, the southpaw flummoxed the Yankees in his three starts, going 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA, including a complete-game shutout in a 7-0 Sox win.

But last season, Lester proved mortal against New York. He went 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA against the Yanks, including his last start against the Bronx Bombers on Sept. 25, when he gave up five earned runs in a 9-5 loss, pitching just 2-1/3 innings and limping away after taking a liner off his leg (narrowly avoiding a catastrophe as it just missed his kneecap).

Burnett’s path vs. Boston follows a similar arc. During his three-year stint as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, the hard-throwing righty was a Red Sox killer, going 5-0 over that period. But in his first season in a New York uniform, he was hit hard in his four starts against the Sox, going 0-2 with a whopping 8.84 ERA. He gave up at least five runs in three of the four games, including a particularly ugly nine-run outing in the fourth start in which he was tagged for three homers.

Control was a problem for the Yanks’ No. 2 starter, as he had 16 walks in those games. Still, Burnett did show flashes of his previous form against Boston in August when he allowed just one hit over 7-2/3 innings in a no-decision, despite allowing six walks. Even more so than Lester, which Burnett shows up on the mound will be the key in this game.

Red Sox vs. A.J. Burnett

Dustin Pedroia (34 plate appearances): .280 average/.471 OBP/.520 slugging, 2 home runs, 9 walks, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (34): .273/.294/.667, 4 doubles, 3 home runs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (32): .259/.375/.370, 1 home run, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (31): .269/.387/.385, 3 doubles, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (28): .231/.286/.500, 4 doubles, 1 home run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (25): .261/.292/.391, 1 home run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (23): .235/.435/.294, 5 walks, 1 strikeout

Marco Scutaro (21): .316/ .381/.368, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Cameron (13): .364/.385/.909, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Yankees vs. Jon Lester

Derek Jeter (26 plate appearances): .375 average/.423 OBP/.375 slugging percentage, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Robinson Cano (22): .227/.227/.318, 4 strikeouts

Nick Swisher (20): .133/.300/.400, 1 home run, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Alex Rodriguez (17): .250/.294/.688, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Jorge Posada (14): .231/.286/.231, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

Mark Teixeira (14): .286/.286/.500, 1 home run, 4 strikeouts

Likely starter Nick Johnson was retired in each of his three plate appearances vs. Lester as a member of the Nationals last season. The Sox starter has not faced two of the Yankees starters ‘€” Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.

Sox asked Beckett for medical contingency

04.06.10 at 7:02 am ET
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According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Red Sox had initially asked Josh Beckett to include a medical contingency in the pitcher’s contract, with the team offering an increase in the financial terms in exchange for the clause.

Ultimately there was no such contingency put in place in the four-year, $68 million contract extension agreed on by Beckett and the Sox, with the physical examinations administered by both the team and the insurance company ending up being satisfactory enough for the team to secure protection via insurance if it decided to go that route.

“We have outstanding health reports. ‘€¦ All the testing now is better than it’€™s ever been. The commitment that we made today demonstrates that,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “We kind of put our money where our mouth is. He’€™s a guy who is insurable. He’€™s someone who we count on to be as healthy as he’€™s been. And look at what he’€™s done for us. He’€™s been remarkably consistent. He’€™s thrown as many innings as anybody. There’€™s not a medical reason why that shouldn’€™t continue with the work that he’€™s put in to create a foundation for his success health-wise.”

The source also indicated that Beckett’s initial contract request exceeded that of the deal signed by Carlos Zambrano, who received a five-year, $91.5 million deal with a vesting option in 2013 that could pay the pitcher $19.5 million.

Lackey on The Big Show: ‘Jump right in the deep end’

04.05.10 at 10:37 pm ET
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John Lackey called in to The Big Show on Monday to talk about his first night in a Red Sox uniform. Lackey will be throwing on Wednesday against the Yankees and he said he was looking forward to officially joining the rivalry.

“With the Yankees being in town it’€™s going to make it that much more special for sure,” he said. “Might as well just jump right in the deep end and see what it’€™s about.”

A big draw for Lackey was the heralded shoulder program that the Red Sox have implemented since Theo Epstein became general manager. He said has noticed the difference between the Red Sox program and the training he did in Los Angeles.

“It’€™s definitely different. It’€™s more in depth than what I’€™ve been used to,” said Lackey. “I came from a pretty good organization and you think they would have a solid training staff and that sort of thing, but I really think it’€™s better here for sure. I’€™m feeling better at this point of the year. I’€™ve made it through spring training healthy and feeling good. The attention to detail and the prevention of injuries is pretty strong.”

Lackey also commented on Josh Beckett’s new contract, Dustin Pedroia’s confidence and Casey Kelly’s growth as a young pitcher.

Here is a transcript.

How did it go last night being in the rivalry now?

It was pretty sweet. The atmosphere was pretty awesome last night. It was fun to be here and fun to take all that in. It will be fun to get involved for a couple of nights.

It must be nice to know that Josh Beckett will be around for a few years with you and Jon Lester.

I was fired up. I knew Josh had something going on, but when I heard it was official I hollered at him and was fired up that he got it done.

Does it make it more special that your first start is against the Yankees?

For sure. It felt like a playoff game last night. The way the fans were and the fly over, all that kind of stuff. With the Yankees being in town it’€™s going to make it that much more special for sure. Might as well just jump right in the deep end and see what it’€™s about. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: john lackey, Red Sox, The Big Show,

Josh Beckett/Theo Epstein press conference

04.05.10 at 4:55 pm ET
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Theo Epstein officially announced the signing of Josh Beckett to a four-year, $68 million extension at a press conference Monday afternoon. Beckett and Epstein answered questions from the media about the details of the deal and the team going forward.

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Beckett: ‘I look at it more as what I gained than what I potentially lost’

04.05.10 at 3:43 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Josh Beckett announced the completion of a four-year, $68 million extension that will keep the pitcher in Boston through the 2014 season on Monday afternoon. The contract includes a $5 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $15.75 million per year from 2011-2014.

There is little question that, had Beckett reached the open market after 2010 (presuming that he stayed healthy), he could have seen more guaranteed years and money in a deal. The five-year, $82.5 million deals signed by both Sox teammate John Lackey and Yankees starter A.J. Burnett — pitchers to whom Beckett compares favorably — suggest as much.

Yet Beckett made clear that he had no reservations about the possibility that he was not seeking every available guaranteed dollar.

“I guess I look at it differently than most people do. A lot of people look at what you could lose, or what you lost. I look at what I gained here,” said Beckett. “I gained four years more of stability knowing that i’m going to be in an organization that’s going to put a competitive team out there every year.

“That really can’t be underestimated, either, because the season gets really long when you’re losing 90 games. Whenever you’ve got a chance to win 100 games every year, the seaosn goes by a little bit faster. I know i’m going to have a chance to win here every year. For me, I look at it more as what I gained than what I potentially lost.”

Here is a transcript of highlights from the press conference, which featured Sox GM Theo Epstein and Beckett. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Contract, john lackey, Jon Lester
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