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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.

ROYALS VS. TIM WAKEFIELD

Tim Wakefield gets his first start of 2010 after a mixed bag in 2009. (AP)

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

Kyle Davies is facing the Red Sox for the first time since 2005. (AP)

RED SOX VS. KYLE DAVIES

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

Statement from Ryan Westmoreland’s family

04.09.10 at 11:01 am ET
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The family of Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland released the following statement about the 19-year-old’s recovery from surgery to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain through the outfielder’s agency, Octagon:

As previously reported, Ryan is finally back close to home at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. Out of respect for a very caring and concerned public, the Westmoreland family felt it is now appropriate to issue the following statement:

“We greatly appreciate the privacy that we have had to this point. This privacy has allowed Ryan to focus entirely on his rehabilitation and we believe this has helped him make significant progress in a short period of time. The next few weeks are very important to Ryan’s recovery. We prefer to maintain this level of privacy until Ryan is further along in the rehabilitation process. We appreciate your understanding.

There are still many unanswered questions, but we are confident that with Ryan’s strength, courage and determination, along with the great support of his doctors and therapists, he will continue toward a successful recovery. We know that the road of rehabilitation will be long, hard and frustrating at times, but with continued patience and faith, everything will be ok. His spirits are great and his outlook is positive. As proud as we are of so many things Ryan has done in his young life, we have never been, and never will be, more proud of him for the courage he has shown during his recovery.

In the days after Ryan first experienced symptoms in early March, he was fortunate to consult with some of the leading neurosurgeons in the world. Ultimately, he was led to what we believe is the best medical staff in the world for this procedure, Dr. Robert Spetzler and his team at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Dr. Spetzler’s handling of this dangerous and delicate procedure not only gave Ryan a chance at a normal life, but in fact, saved his life. For that, we cannot adequately express our gratitude. The Neuro Rehabilitation Unit there, and at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, have paved the way for his recovery. We recognize those therapists and staff as being among the best in their field and crucial to Ryan’s recovery. We expect Ryan will remain at Spaulding Hospital for a short period of time and then transition to out-patient therapy.

We have always been very proud to be Boston Red Sox fans, but over the course of this time, that pride has increased ten-fold and is unrelated to the game of baseball. The ownership, management, staff, players and fans have shown a genuine compassion, sensitivity, professionalism and thorough support which has proven to be immeasurable. We are so fortunate to have their support and hope that knowing this, all of Red Sox Nation can realize this same pride in rooting for such a caring organization.

The overall support for Ryan during this period has been amazing. The thoughts and prayers of so many family, friends and many others that we have never even met, have given us confidence that the progress we have seen over such a short period of time will continue. Members of the MLB fraternity, both executives and players, have taken time to be by Ryan’s side and have shown class and support while offering an encouragement that is truly special.

We wish that we could individually address every message that has been sent our way through thought and prayer, but that would be difficult. Please know that we are very grateful and recognize them all for their kindness and sincerity. On behalf of Ryan, and our entire immediate and extended families, thank you.”

Read More: ryan westmoreland,

Everybody settle down about Big Papi

04.09.10 at 12:24 am ET
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Everybody should exhibit a little patience when it comes to David Ortiz. (AP)

The first series of the year for the Boston Red Sox didn’t end the way they would have liked.

After coming from behind to beat the Yanks on Opening Day, the Sox dropped the next two. The talk about the first three games of the year has been exhausting. It seems as though David Ortiz will be a topic for discussion until the big DH shuts up all doubters with his bat. Is he capable of doing exactly that? That’s yet to be seen.

Even if David comes out and swings the bat like he did the final four months of last season, when he led the AL in homers, tied for the lead in runs batted in and finished third in slugging percentage, it won’t be enough for some.

I’ve already heard, “But it was against bad pitchers,” or “None of them were clutch hits.” I agree that the days of David hitting .300 with 50 homers are over, but I still think that he can be productive, hitting .265-30-100.

A few observations on David Ortiz through the first three games …

He is missing some good pitches to hit.  He is either fouling them back or swinging through them. I’m sure he’d like to get a few of them back. But I do like the way he is staying within the strike zone.  In Game 1, David saw 20 pitches in four at bats. He saw the same 20 pitches in Game 2. In Game 3, it was 16 pitches. The point is is that he is working the count, getting in good hitter’s counts, seeing pitches and not chasing out of the zone. As a hitter, one of the most important things is to swing at strikes. You can’t make a living swinging at balls outside of the zone.

The best thing for David is indeed this six-game road trip. Its an opportunity to get away from the chaos that is Boston. There won’t be 30 members of the media in Kansas City or Minnesota. He won’t be listening to talk radio (not that he does). It’s a chance to clear his head and realize that it’s the first week of the season.

Big Papi is well aware how important it is for him to get off to a good start this year. He doesn’t need to be reminded of it after two or three games. If there is anything that he can take away from his tough start last year, it’s that no matter how bad you start, you can recover and still have a productive season. Can he have a two-month stretch like he did at the start of last year? I don’t believe he can, but I’m willing to give him a month or so to get it going. He’s too important to this lineup not to give him that long of a leash.

We all talked about how important he was going to be to this team coming into this year. If that’s the case, how can people talk about pulling him out of the lineup so quick? I don’t understand it. We call ourselves baseball fans, but ask yourself this: Over the years have we ever seen someone struggle early in the year only to come back and be a very productive player? So why is this any different?

I understand that there is a track record with David over the last two years, but injuries have been an issue. After the ’07 season, David had knee surgery. It’s never a good thing when a “big” guy has a lower extremity issue. You could see early in 2008 that David was favoring his knee at the plate, not sitting down on his legs when hitting. It took a while that season, but he got it going, only to injure his wrist midway through the year. That offseason, David admits that he didn’t hit as much as he would have liked. That fact, paired with the World Baseball Classic, meant that Big Papi just wasn’t ready to start the year.  He paid the price last season as it took him two months to find any kind of rhythm. This offseason was different. He had no injuries to rehab.

But he now has another battle on his hands —  a fan base that is extremely impatient. Fans don’t want to wait a month or two. They want Big Papi back and they want him back NOW. How does he handle it? It may take a few weeks to answer that question, but if you ask me, he’s still earned that much patience after everything he has given Red Sox Nation since the first day he became one of ours.

Read More: David Ortiz,

Embree gets his work in at Pawtucket

04.08.10 at 9:38 pm ET
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The Alan Embree comeback story continued Thursday night, as the 40-year-old left-hander got in a solid inning of work for the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Rochester Red Wings in the season-opener for the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

Embree came on in relief in the top of the sixth inning and was immediately greeted by a hard grounder at his right leg off the bat of Rochester right fielder Brian Dinkleman. Embree’s 2009 season ended last July when he broke his tibia after being struck in that same leg by a line drive off the bat of Atlanta Brave Martin Prado, but he fielded this one cleanly and made the out at first.

Embree was helped by an outstanding defensive play in center by Josh Reddick, who ran down a long fly ball off the bat of Trevor Plouffe and made the grab on the warning track. In all, Embree wasn’t making anyone miss and the Red Wings hit the ball hard, but he kept the PawSox’ 7-3 lead intact despite a walk with one down in the inning. He needed just 10 pitches to get out of the inning.

“I was working on my four-seam fastball today and I didn’t have to use anything else,” Embree said.

“Embree was attacking the strike zone with a pretty good fastball,” PawSox manager Torey Lovullo added. “He is just coming off a big injury, so for him to get out there and get his timing and get his rhythm, it was pretty good to watch.”

Embree’s fastball was in the 90-94 mph range on the night as he looked to be loose in just his third week back on the mound. The lefty came back to Boston on a minor league deal on March 20 and appeared to be rusty in his three spring training appearances. If Embree is not added to the big league roster by April 15, he said that he will search for another opportunity.

“They only have me until the 15th, so that is the timetable,” he said. “There are 29 other baseball teams out there that are probably looking for relief help. The goal is on the 15th to sit there and go, ‘OK, I am going to Boston.’ But if that is not the case, I have to think about the rest of the season as well.”

Embree said he is not keeping tabs on the big league relief corps, including Scott Schoeneweis, the lefty specialist in the Sox bullpen who has gone 1-2/3 innings and allowed one earned run in his two appearances so far this season.

“It is one of those things where if I do what I am supposed to do down here, I will either be able to help the Red Sox or I will help another team or I will go home,” Embree said. “I don’t look at it as a competition with anybody. If I just do what I am capable of doing I will be fine.”

Bonser has his ups and downs in rehab outing

04.08.10 at 8:55 pm ET
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Boof Bonser didn’t have the best night, but he certainly looked better than he did in spring training.

Bonser got the start for the Pawtucket Red Sox in the team’s season-opener Thursday night against the Rochester Red Wings and went 4-1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits. The big righty also had four strikeouts and two walks, finishing his outing with 76 pitches, 43 for strikes.

“I haven’t pitched in cold weather like that since I’ve been back, so it was good to get a little weather change here and see how the shoulder reacted,” Bonser said.

This was Bonser’s first appearance after he put up some disappointing spring numbers, going 0-2 with a 11.57 ERA in four appearances.

Both of the runs for Rochester came on home runs off of hanging curves, one in the second to veteran Jacque Jones and the other to Brock Peterson in a fourth inning that saw Bonser get into some trouble. In that inning, Bonser let two men on with two outs after a four-pitch walk and a single to Rochester’s No. 9 hitter Brian Dinkleman. He was able to strand the two runners, however, by getting center fielder Matt Tolbert on a 92 mph fastball. PawSox manager Torey Lovullo lifted Bonser after a hard-hit double by Luke Hughes in the fifth.

“I had no problems,” Bonser said. “The two bombs that I gave up, they were just the location was bad. I will still throw them again.”

Added Bonser: “They were strikes. Like I said, location was bad. If I throw them in the ground, who knows? Maybe I get him to miss,  maybe I get a ground ball. But like I said, they were strikes.”

Bonser had some trouble with his breaking ball in this one, but his fastball looked lively. He was in the 89-93 mph range all night, consistently hitting above 90 on the McCoy Stadium radar gun.

Bonser, who was acquired by the Sox from Minnesota in December, is on assignment in Triple A after suffering a right groin strain in spring training. He missed all of the 2009 season after rotator cuff surgery but is a likely candidate for a call-up to the Sox bullpen once he is healthy.

“The groin felt really good tonight,” Bonser said. “I am still wearing my brace. Like I said, I didn’t feel anything. Who knows? Wait and see tomorrow.”

Bonser isn’t sure when he might get the call to go back up to the majors. While he waits, he said he still feels he can work on getting in all his pitches and finding some consistency.

“It is just one of those — we will have to wait and see and see how many innings I get and go from there,” said Bonser on how long he will remain with Pawtucket.

Don’t expect quicker Sox/Yanks games

04.08.10 at 2:27 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon was right regarding the time of game for the Red Sox/Yankees games: People are going to have to just live with it.

Umpire Joe West, fresh off of working a Red Sox/Yankees series that averaged 3 hours, 47 minutes, told Bergen County Record newspaper that, “It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.” That comes after word from Major League Baseball executives his spring encouraging the Sox and Yankees to pick up the pace.

But according to a source with the MLB Players Association, changes to speed up the game any further aren’t expected any time soon.

A few Red Sox players broached the subject of Major League Baseball’s intent on speeding up games with union boss Michael Weiner when he appeared in front of the team in Fort Myers, Fla. Papelbon, for one, has already felt the affects of the focus by MLB, having been fined more than $5,000 last season for taking too long to complete his entry into games.

The Red Sox closer told WEEI.com this spring that the length of Red Sox/Yankees games shouldn’t be a concern for MLB.

“Have you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended.’ That’s like a Red Sox-Yankees game,” Papelbon said. “Why would you want it to end?”

While he said his case isn’t an issue anymore, the reliever also wondered why there is an issue.

“Not if it was an entertaining game,” Papelbon said when asked if he would mind sitting through a four-hour Red Sox-Yankees game. “An entertaining game I wouldn’t mind. If it was 13-0 I would get out there. I enjoy the games. They’re a little bit longer than most games, but what are you going to do. Like I said, you can do all the things they ask us to do, and we’re doing them and our games are still just as long.

“If you don’t want to be there, don’t be there. Go home. Why are you complaining. I’m not going to sit somewhere I don’t want to be. If you go to a movie or any entertainment event and you like it, you’re going to stay and watch and you’re not going to want it to end. If you don’t, then you won’t. Why is it such a big deal?”

In the eyes of Papelbon is that Red Sox-Yankees games are long — and will continue to be long — but that shouldn’t take anything away from the event.

“You can’t change the issues of great hitters having great at-bats, and great teams playing other great teams with lots of pitching changes. You can’t change that,” Papelbon said. “It’s like walking a tightrope. What do you do? What don’t you do? It’s hard keeping everybody happy.”

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