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Daisuke would like to pitch in next WBC

06.22.10 at 6:56 am ET
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The World Cup has been a regular part of the TV viewing in the Red Sox clubhouse, mostly for the same reason that the rest of the American sporting public is watching the tournament. There is something compelling about watching the best players from around the world in any sport taking part in the same tournament.

It is, of course, unfathomable that any soccer player on a qualifying country would opt not to play in the World Cup. But that is not the case with international baseball competition. Many baseball players opted to pass on competing in the World Baseball Classic out of concern that it would hinder their preparation for the regular season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, however, has not had that feeling. He has won the MVP of both WBCs, with very different consequences for his Major League Baseball career.

In 2006, his role as the outstanding pitcher of the tournament elevated his profile and likely resulted in the Sox having to pay even more dearly for his services than might have otherwise been the case. But in 2009, Matsuzaka rushed through his preparation, developed bad habits while trying to pitch through injuries and effectively derailed all but the final weeks of last season.

Given his prominence for Japan in the WBC, and the fact that the tournament appeared to impact him negatively last year, it was fascinating to see Matsuzaka monitor the World Cup. It was unavoidable to wonder whether the right-hander, who is due to come off the disabled list for an insignificant forearm strain on Thursday in Colorado, would once again pitch should the Japanese team ask him.

Matsuzaka made clear that he would certainly take part once again if the option presented itself in 2013. Asked if he would take part again, he nodded and, through translator Masa Hoshino, said simply, ‘€œIf they want me and I’m called upon.’€

The motivation is fairly clear. Matsuzaka said that he could not compare the experience of winning the WBC MVP trophy to winning the World Series with the Sox or to being victorious in Japan’€™s Koshien tournament, and made clear that each accomplishment offered ‘€œa great feeling or elation, and nothing can really top that.’€

Even so, he did make clear that success while representing his country did carry a special meaning.

‘€œI don’t try to divide up the game of baseball into two different categories [of pitching for a country vs. an MLB or NPB team],’€ said Matsuzaka. ‘€œThere’s a consciousness or an awareness that you are representing your country, and I think especially when your whole team feels that way, and that’s the atmosphere you’re inside, you can’t help but feel that’s part of your motivation.’€

That plays into Matsuzaka’€™s willingness and desire to pitch in the WBC again. Of course, by the time of the next tournament in 2013, Matsuzaka’€™s current contract with the Sox ‘€“ a six-year, $52 million pact that runs through 2012 ‘€“ will have expired.

Gammons on Big Show: Manny ‘is not Dustin Pedroia’

06.21.10 at 9:06 pm ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Peter Gammons talked to The Big Show Monday afternoon, and one of the big topics, as it was all around Boston last weekend, was Manny Ramirez. Gammons said that he wasn’€™t one of the media members swept in up in the hype of Manny’€™s return and that he wasn’€™t too surprised with the way the star left town.

‘€œI’€™m not celebrity-driven. I tend to be baseball-driven so it really didn’€™t fascinate me at all,’€ Gammons said. ‘€œIt’€™s a nice story and everything, but it’€™s not like he cared whether they ever won and it’€™s not like he left town with any dignity. He’€™s not Dustin Pedroia. I’€™m sorry. You wouldn’€™t be trading Clay Buchholz for him. The fact that there were only two teams willing to take him with the Red Sox willing to pay his salary in 2008 and neither team would give up a prospect really tells you something about his stature in the game.’€

He also talked about the plausibility that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees could all win 100 games, but one would not make the playoffs.

‘€œNow, we know that happened, but in this era, that’€™s really difficult to do. It is a possibility that all three teams could win 100 games, and one of them doesn’€™t make the playoffs.’€

What follows is a transcript of that interview. To hear the entire interview, click on The Big Show audio on demand page.

How surprised were you to see Roger Clemens sitting on top of the Green Monster Friday night?

I was told he was coming on Wednesday. ‘€¦ I decided, well, we’€™ll break the news on NESN at 6 o’€™clock on Friday night. A couple people from the Red Sox told me that [Clemens’€™ friend] Eddie Miller had the Monster seats. It really was a bizarre Friday night.

Is he not affected by the stories that are out there about him?

I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know what he believes and what he doesn’€™t believe. I’€™m not presuming guilt here, but I remember when he testified in front of Congress, I was watching a game with a general manager and I made the comment that I thought, watching him, that he believed he had never done anything, taken anything. And this person, who was a psychology major at an Ivy League school, said to me, ‘€œWell, you know, would you say, like a lot of professional athletes, that Roger’€™s a little self-absorbed?’€ And I said, ‘€œYeah, there’€™s no question.’€ He said, ‘€œOne of the basic truisms about psychology is that people who are self-absorbed can become delusional.’€ So I’€™m not really sure that Roger thinks that there’€™s anything wrong there. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Manny Ramirez, peter gammons, Red Sox,

Sox sign another indy prospect

06.21.10 at 4:02 pm ET
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Call it the Daniel Nava effect.

The Red Sox signed pitcher Jay Broughton, another independent league prospect from the Calgary Vipers out of the Golden Baseball League, and will move him to the Single-A Lowell Spinners, according to the Calgary Herald.

Broughton previously had been drafted by the Brewers in 2005 but chose to attend Ball State University on a partial scholarship instead. He struggled at Ball State, where he made just 30 appearances and had a 9.42 ERA in his four seasons there.

He went on to spend $3,000 that he had intended to use for grad school on the fee for the Arizona Winter League, and it was through his experience there that the Vipers drafted him into professional baseball. Broughton was 2-2 with a 4.01 ERA in Calgary before he signed with Boston.

His manager in Calgary was former Red Sox player Morgan Burkhart, who himself had been signed by Boston after being dubbed the “Babe Ruth of the [independent] Frontier League” by Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons.

Read More: daniel nava, Jay Broughton, Morgan Burkhart,

Vitek, Brentz leaving pitching behind after draft

06.21.10 at 10:35 am ET
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When Kolbrin Vitek and Bryce Brentz were selected by the Red Sox in the first 40 picks of the 2010 MLB draft, there wasn’€™t certainty as to what position they would man when getting on the field. What was certain, however, was that both players would have to leave behind an aspect of their game that allowed them to reach the professional level ‘€” pitching.

Vitek, especially, spent much of his time on the mound in his three years at Ball State. After recording an ERA of 5.65 in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, Vitek held the lowest ERA not only on his team but in the entire Mid-American Conference at 3.28 as a junior. Through 17 appearances, including 13 starts, Vitek went 3-4 and recorded three saves while pitching a team-high 79 2/3 innings and punching out 60 hitters.

With Vitek posting numbers like that, no one would have blamed him if he had decided to go down the pitching road. That is, if he had wanted to.

‘€œDefinitely position player over pitching was my preference,’€ Vitek said. ‘€œI’€™m glad it worked out that way.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bryce brentz, kolbrin vitek, lowell spinners,

Boxscore Breakdown – It’s A Six-Game Streak Now!

06.21.10 at 10:34 am ET
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Here and there from a second straight interleague sweep at Fenway:

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* – Since the beginning of the 2009 season, only three major league pitchers have made three different starts in which they have allowed no ER despite lasting fewer than 7 innings and throwing 100+ pitches.  And all three are (or were at the time) members of the Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Brad Penny.  Only six others have had even TWO such starts in that time.  The all-time leader in this type of start:  Former Ray and current Angel Scott Kazmir, with 8.

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* – The Red Sox did not hit a HR on Sunday, snapping a streak of nine straight games with at least one HR (12 straight at Fenway).  The nine-game streak was their longest since they homered in 12 in a row last June and their 12-gamer at Fenway was the longest since they had another 12-pack during August/September of 2006.

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* – Dustin Pedroia raised his career interleague average to .359, the highest in the majors (min. 250 interleague PA):

.359 – Dustin Pedroia
.355 – Aaron Miles
.349 – Albert Pujols

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* – Currently at 10-2 in interleague play in 2010, the Red Sox have guaranteed a .500 or better record in such games for the 11th time in 14 seasons.  This season’s gaudy interleague record can be attributed to:

Leading the majors in interleague runs per game:

6.33 – Boston Red Sox
5.75 – Kansas City Royals
5.67 – Los Angeles Angels

2nd in the majors in interleague runs allowed per game:

2.92 – Chicago White Sox
3.08 – Boston Red Sox
3.17 – New York Mets

Leading the majors in interleague team batting average:

.306 – Boston Red Sox
.302 – Kansas City Royals
.299 – Minnesota Twins

2nd in the majors in interleague opponent batting average:

.197 – Texas Rangers
.220 – Boston Red Sox
.223 – Chicago White Sox

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* – The Red Sox have stolen three bases in two of the last four games.  The last time that they had two three-SB games within a week of each other where Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t contribute to the total was April 27 and May 1, 2007.

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* – During the first five games of the Red Sox current winning streak, opposing starters induced a total of 22 swings and misses from Boston hitters (never more than 6 in any of the five games).  Last night, Hiroki Kuroda induced 18 all by himself.  34% of Red Sox hitters’ swings came up empty.  For the season, Kuroda ranks 21st in the majors with a 24.5% swing and miss percentage while the Sox hitters are tied for 3rd at 17.7%.  Here are swing and miss percentages for Red Sox hurlers this year:

26.0% – Daniel Bard
25.6% – Jonathan Papelbon
25.5% – Jon Lester
24.0% – Ramon Ramirez
23.1% – Hideki Okajima
22.6% – Josh Beckett
21.9% – Clay Buchholz (he was at 22.7% last night)
19.3% – Manny Delcarmen
19.1% – Daisuke Matsuzaka
17.3% – Tim Wakefield
15.4% – John Lackey

The major league leader in swing and miss percentage (at least 1,000 pitches thrown) is the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (29.9%) while Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn creates the fewest breezes (6.3%; just 32 misses on 502 swings).

One Other Thing:  Here are the all-time Red Sox leaders in swing and miss percentage (since 1988 when they began tracking the stat; minimum 4,000 pitches thrown):

30.0% – Pedro Martinez
26.4% – Jonathan Papelbon
23.8% – Clay Buchholz
23.3% – Daisuke Matsuzaka

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* – During Dustin Pedroia’s 10-game hitting streak,er, “laser show”, he’s gone 20 for 40, batting a cool .500.  However that still doesn’t lead the league in that span (min. 30 AB):

.512 – Josh Hamilton, TEX
.500 – Dustin Pedroia, BOS
.471 – Delmon Young, MIN

This stretch by Pedroia ranks up there with the best 10-game runs of his career:

.537 – August 27 through September 6, 2008 (22 for 41)
.533 – June 17 through June 29, 2008 (25 for 49; including an 0-4 day)
.528 – May 20 through June 2, 2007 (19 for 36)
.500 – June 10 through June 20, 2010 (20 for 40)
.475 – April 13 through April 22, 2008 (19 for 40)
.474 – August 1 through August 11, 2007 (18 for 38)

One Other Thing:  Saturday’s game winner was Pedroia’s 12th career plate appearance with the game truly on the line: 9th inning or later, two outs, at least one runner in scoring position, with the game tied or the Red Sox trailing by one run.  Pedroia is now 2 for 10 (with 2 walks) in those chances.  On his other hit, the runner on second (Jason Varitek) did not try to score.

Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Dodgers 0

06.20.10 at 11:24 pm ET
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The Red Sox completed a sweep of the Dodgers on Sunday night, moving into a virtual second-place tie with Tampa Bay in the AL East following the 2-o victory. Both clubs stand just a game behind the Yankees. The Red Sox are now 8-1 in interleague play in 2010 and have won 23-of-31 overall. They have an off-day Monday before starting a six-game road trip at Colorado and San Francisco.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Clay Buchholz walked a pair of batters (Andre Ethier, James Loney) around a Manny Ramirez single with one out in the first inning. Though Buchholz was able to strike out Garrett Anderson (with a 96 MPH fastball) and induce a ground out against Casey Blake to get out of the inning without allowing a run, the 30 pitches thrown seemed to indicate a potential rare off night for the right-hander this season. But Buchholz, as we have seen throughout the first half of 2010, is now a different pitcher. After a HBP to Jamey Carroll with one out in the second inning, Buchholz did not allow another base runner until Anderson led off the seventh with a ground-rule double. His final line on Sunday: 6.2 IP, 3H, 0ER, 3BB, 4K. Mix in two HBP and it was clear that Buchholz didn’t have his best stuff, but he’s now able to control a lineup even without his “A” game. Buchholz now has 10 wins (tied with Philip Hughes and David Price for the AL lead), and an ERA of 2.47 (second to Price). Now a lock for the All-Star Game, the only question left is if Buchholz will start in Anaheim.

-After an 0-for-4 vs. the Indians on June 9, Dustin Pedroia had a batting average of .248, his lowest since April 9. Since then, Pedroia has been on an absolute tear, raising his average to .284 with 20 hits in his last 40 at-bats. Pedroia had his eighth multi-hit game in his last 10 contests on Sunday, and also chipped in with a pair of stolen bases.

-The bullpen was dominant, with Daniel Bard pitching an inning and a third of scoreless ball, helping Buchholz out of the seventh inning jam. His fastball reached 101 MPH on Sunday night. Jonathan Papelbon had a stress-free ninth, retiring the side in order to collect his 16th save of the season (in 17 chances).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

-The lineup wasn’t able to do much against Hiroki Kuroda, managing just six hits in seven innings while striking out nine times (the only Sox batter in the starting lineup to not K against Kuroda was Pedroia). Kuroda’s nine whiffs matched a season high, and he walked only a single batter — and that was an intentional pass to David Ortiz in the first inning.

-After a two-hit night on Friday, Darnell McDonald went a combined 0-for-7 with four Ks over the weekend. His batting average is down to .270 (lowest since June 4) and he now has just two hits in his last 15 at-bats.

-The Red Sox had a chance to put the game out of reach after a Pedroia leadoff triple in the eighth, but were unable to capitalize. David Ortiz grounded out to second against George Sherrill, and Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre struck out swinging against Justin Miller.

Sox draftee Ranaudo impressive in Cape debut

06.20.10 at 9:36 pm ET
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Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, selected out of LSU by the Red Sox with their third pick (No. 39) of the 2010 draft, delivered an impressive performance in his debut for Brewster of the Cape League on Sunday. The 20-year-old threw four innings for Brewster, allowing one hit and one unearned run while walking a batter and striking out three. One observer said that his fastball was regularly clocked at 90-92 mph.

Ranaudo is pitching in the Cape League in part to demonstrate his health as he prepares for negotiations with the Sox. Ranaudo was viewed as perhaps the top college pitcher in the country entering this year, but his draft stock sank due to injuries that played a part in his disappointing performance as a junior. As such, he is trying to demonstrate through a healthy performance this summer that he deserves a bonus more in line with one of the elite players in the country.

For more on Ranaudo, click here.

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Tito on Tito: Remembering times with dad

06.20.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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It’s not uncommon to see David Ortiz teaching soon-to-be six-year-old D’Angelo how to hit or Victor Martinez teaching his son, Victor, how to catch in the clubhouse before a major league game. But as Terry Francona recalled on Sunday, it wasn’t always that way.

As a matter of fact, when he was following his dad, it was quite the privilege.

“It was a little different back then,” Francona said of the time spent with the original Tito Francona during his dad’s playing days from 1959-1970. “My dad’s last three or four years, I went to the ball park with him just about every day.

“My punishment was not being able to go early. And it happened once. It wasn’t that I was that great a kid. I just wanted to go to the ball park.”

And on Sunday, Francona recalled one road trip with his dad in particular. It was August, 1970 and Tito Francona was finishing up his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Like all kids on summer vacation, his son Terry was hoping to go on a road trip with his dad.

Dave Bristol, in his first year managing the Brewers, did both Franconas a big favor.

“Grizzled baseball guy but my dad knew it was his last year so he asked Dave, ‘Can I take my son on a road trip?’ because back then you didn’t do that but he said ok. So I went to Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago, a 10-day road trip.

“I remember being in Minnesota and watching Lew Krausse pitch for Milwaukee,” Francona began, before recalling another pitcher who pitched the next night. “Bert Blyleven [pitched] and after the game was over, I came into the clubhouse, and they just got two-hit, and I was sitting in my dad’s locker and I said, ‘That guy’s got a good curveball,’ and he looked at me like [he knew] I was watching the game. I was 11 and it was awesome. It was probably the funnest [sic] 11 days of my life.”

Read More: Bert Blyleven, Lew Krausse, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins

Doesn’t look like DL for Drew

06.20.10 at 6:25 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he is hopeful that J.D. Drew will return from a mild hamstring strain on Tuesday night at Coors Field in Colorado, adding he doesn’t believe the right fielder is headed for the disabled list.

“I hope Tuesday’s realistic,” Francona said before Sunday’s game. “If it’s not, we won’t do it. I think it’s probably realistic to think it might work, that he might play. The good news is that I don’t think anybody remotely thinks it’s a DL. Stay away from him tonight, get day off [Monday] and see how he’s doing. It’s a big outfield in Denver. If he’s healthy to play, he’ll play, if not we’ll make the adjustment like we always do.”

Read More: J.D Drew, MLB, Red Sox, right hamstring

Red Sox vs. Dodgers matchups, 6/20

06.20.10 at 8:43 am ET
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Bookending the weekend series between the Red Sox and the Dodgers, two young pitchers will again take the mound at Fenway. Just like on Friday with Felix Doubront making his major league debut for the Sox and Carlos Monasterios continuing his rookie campaign with the Dodgers, the pitchers for Sunday’€™s primetime game will be relative newcomers to their opposing lineups.

Remarkably, one of the most dominant pitchers so far this season, Clay Buchholz, has yet to face anyone in the Dodgers lineup, except for one: Garret Anderson. Keep an eye out for that matchup as the former Angel has done exceptionally well against the righty; 5-for-9 with two home runs and seven RBI. The fact that the remaining 12 offensive players on the team haven’€™t faced Buchholz (9-4, 2.67 ERA) before should work to his advantage, but it’€™s hard to imagine this season going that much better for the fourth year pitcher. He’€™s won seven of his last nine starts and his nine wins are tied for second most in the AL, one behind the Rays’€™ David Price.

Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda has had a very average season so far for the Dodgers. Kuroda (6-4, 3.10 ERA) started out the season well, winning five of his first six decisions, but he had a rough May, losing three straight games at the end of the month. The third year starter has come back strong in June, however, shutting out the Cardinals over seven innings in a no decision, then picking up the win over Cincinnati by tossing five shutout innings. Kuroda will look to continue his shutout streak against the Sox, a team that has only three batters with previous experience against him.

After LA leaves Boston, the Red Sox will go west, taking on the Rockies and the Giants before coming home for an AL East home stand concluding on the Fourth of July.

Red Sox vs. Hiroki Kuroda

Adrian Beltré (3 plate appearances against Kuroda): .333 BA/.333 OBP/.333 SLG, 1 RBI

Mike Cameron (3): .667/.667/.667

Bill Hall (1): 1.000/1.000/2.000, 1 double, 1 RBI

J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, Víctor Martínez, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis have never faced the Los Angeles starter.

Dodgers vs. Clay Buchholz

Garret Anderson (9 plate appearances against Buchholz): .556 BA/.556 OBP/1.222 SLG, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 1 strikeout

Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, Blake DeWitt, A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Chin-lung Hu, Reed Johnson, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Manny Ramírez have never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Clay Buchhlz, Dodgers, Hiroki Kuroda, Red Sox
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