Archive for September, 2008

Other notes from Red Sox workout

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

“That’€™s the enemy of the players’€”injuries.” — David Ortiz

The observation by the Red Sox slugger seemed particularly apt, given that the Sox are trying to take on a 100-win Angels club despite being at less than full strength. Even if J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett are able to play, there will be questions about whether they will be able to do so at full strength. Nonetheless, the news on all three of those question marks was relatively promising. 

Mike Lowell took roughly 30 grounders. He did not have any demonstrable problems moving, but very few balls required him to move more than a half step in either direction. All the same, he deemed the workout “very good” on his way back into the clubhouse. 

J.D. Drew moved very well in the outfield, and responded well to both playing on Sunday and the cross-country flight. The team remains encouraged by his condition, and Drew described himself as “pretty confident” that he would be on the field for Game 1. Drew acknowledges that timing could be an issue, but he said that he felt good and saw the ball well in his game on Sunday.

Beckett had a strong flat-ground session (“the ball came out of his hand really well,” said manager Terry Francona) that augurs well for both a long-toss session on Wednesday and a bullpen session on Thursday.

While it is conceivable that Lowell could appear on the postseason roster as a pinch-hitter (particularly given that, even with the questions about Josh Beckett’s oblique, the team still can carry 14 position players), he will not be a designated hitter. Manager Terry Francona made clear that David Ortiz will D.H., and that he would not be comfortable using the slugger as a first baseman, particularly against an Angels team that puts constant pressure on defenders.

Ortiz offered some interesting insights into his most challenging season in Boston. He has had to deal with the twin challenges of a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for nearly two months and the departure of longtime lineup foil Manny Ramirez

“Manny’€™s situation was pretty obvious. Both sides had to make a move. Both sides thought Manny needed to go. The team needed to make a move. It was too much at the time,” said Ortiz. But the move that had to happen, Ortiz continues to insist, impacted significantly how opponents approach him. 

“It’€™s not a question,” Ortiz said. “Not having Manny behind you, people are going to make (different) decisions, the managers and pitchers. Thank God Youkilis is getting it done. He’€™s having a great season.”

Ortiz, on the other hand, had to search for his stroke. He hit .264 with a .376 OBP and .507 slugging mark, as well as 23 homers and 89 RBIs in 109 games. (It’s interesting to note that, over 162 games, Ortiz projected to 34 homers and 133 RBIs. Such marks would likely have shed a very different perspective on his year.) But he feels emboldened after hitting five homers in his final 10 games of the year. 

“When I injured my hand, the first thing the doctor told me was that we can either get you in surgery and we won’€™t know if you can play again this year or not,” Ortiz said. “The other (option) is that we can get you in a cast and you might have a chance to play again this year. Knowing that I’€™m playing for this team and knowing that we’€™ll probably be in the playoffs, I decided to get the cast.

“I missed two months. I came back. I was fighting through it. I’€™d say the last three weeks of the season I started feeling less pain. You saw my swing the last three weeks of the season. That’€™s me.”

Mike Lowell, pre-workout

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Sox are spilling out onto the field for their workout. Mike Lowell spoke a few minutes ago about his attempt to return from his torn hip labrum, and the significance of his ability to handle playing in the field and moving laterally. Here are some of his thoughts.

“If I don’t test it, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to try to go after the ball any differently than I would during the game. I think you’re almost trying to trick yourself into thinking you’re ready. The writing will be on the wall. I’ll either keel over because it hurts or I won’t. I don’t think there’s going to be any mystery.”

“I think I’ll know pretty quickly. Moving left and right was what bothered me before. We purposely haven’t made those movements (in the last few days) because there’s no reason to re-aggravate it. Where we were in the season, we could take things slow, so we did it that way.” 

On how he feels now: “I feel great just walking around and sitting, there’s really nothing,” he said. “The action of swinging has never really caused pain.” 

How he approaches playing through pain in the postseason: “I think you’ve just kind of got to (man) up and go…Playing Wiffle Ball growing up, I never said, ‘Hey–this is a meaningless game in June. You always put yourself in the postseason.”

On the roster decision: “That’s a decision for Tito to make and Theo and everyone else. Whether I’m starting or not, I think it’ll be a pretty easy choice.”

On his injury: “The diagnosis was that this is not going to get better unless we surgically fix this. That’s the challenging thing, just because it’s just been so long. It’s been something where I’ve had to be cautious about the steps I’m taking.”

On the matchup with the Angels–and the fact that the Sox have won nine straight postseason games from the Halos, but lost eight of nine to them in the regular season: “I don’€™t really think it’€™s a big issue. I don’€™t think they feel like they’€™re the same team as last year. I don’€™t think that we feel like we’€™re the same team that lost eight out of nine to them (this year). I think they see us as an obstacle to get to the next round, and we see them the same. I think it’€™s going to be a very good series. It’€™s two really good teams.”

Greetings from The Big A

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008


It’s a balmy mid-80s day in Anaheim, where the Red Sox are trickling into Angel Stadium of Anaheim (apparently, everything about the Angels must be explained with geographic detail) in anticipation of a pre-Division Series workout this afternoon. The grounds crew is overseeing the painting of the ALDS logo on the field, and the Space Mountain-style waterfall is cascading behind centerfield against a backdrop of Southern California freeway. California traffic is, like, so picturesque.

We’re just about to head into the clubhouses, so I hope to be back in touch regularly with updates throughout the day, particularly about the status of Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew.

When last the Sox saw the Angels on July 30, the team from California had just acquired Mark Teixeira. The Angels first baseman has been pretty good since that moment: he led the A.L. (minimum 150 plate appearances) in OPS with a 1.081 mark, and was second (to Melvin Mora?!) with a .358 average. (A certain former Red Sox outfielder who now plays in Los Angeles led the majors from July 30 to the end of the season with a 1.217 OPS.) Suffice it to say that the Angels lineup looks a bit different this year than it did in the 2007 Division Series.

As the day progresses, I also hope to figure out whether the ballpark is still referred to in the parlance of our times as “The Big A,” or whether that moniker was dumped when the stadium sold out and renamed itself Edison Field from 1997-2003. That, and the baseball stuff.

Lester: “I don’t care” about starting Game 1

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Jon Lester said earlier today that he doesn’t know which game he is scheduled to start, and he doesn’t concern himself with the query. 

“I don’€™t care. I don’€™t have any indication. It doesn’€™t matter to me at all,” he said. “If it’€™s Game 1, Game 3, 4, 5, it doesn’€™t matter when it is. You take the ball and go pitch. I’€™ve never been a big believer in the whole No. 1 starter or No. 5 starter. I understand it, but I think your No. 1 starter is just as important as your No. 5 starter. Obviously, it’€™s a nice honor if you get to pitch Game 1, but at the same time you still have to go out and execute pitches whether you think you’€™re a No. 1 starter or No. 5 starter.”

Post-game: Papelbon perplexed

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Here’s the recap of the Yankees‘ 6-2 win over the Red Sox, which resulted in the first 20 win season in Mike Mussina’s career. 

From the Sox clubhouse, the outcome was irrelevant, but a few individual performances had significance. Foremost was the return of J.D. Drew, who played seven innings and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and double play grounder while also chasing down a couple flyballs in right.

“He did pretty well,” said manager Terry Francona. “He got a little stiff at the end. Made a nice running catch. Looked like he moved around in the outfield. Got down the line pretty well. I don’t doubt he could have stayed in the game. I didn’t see a reason to do that. I think we’re encouraged. Our next step will be to see how he’s able to bounce back. It was encouraging.”

Jonathan Papelbon had a poor final tuneup for the playoffs. The Sox closer gave up four hits and three runs over 33 pitches in his inning of work, and kicked a water cooler in the dugout afterwards. Though NESN cameras caught Papelbon rubbing his kicking foot, he said that there was no injury.

Rain produced a slippery mound and made it difficult to get a grip on the ball, but Papelbon believed that inclement conditions were not solely responsible for his struggle. 

“Everything is soaking wet. Obviously, you’ve got to do what you can, but it’s still no excuse for me not to go out there and get outs,” said Papelbon, who spoke in a despondent whisper. “(The weather) affects your routine because every other ball you’d get, you’d go through three rosin bags. Your routine has to be altered, but that’s no excuse for me not to throw the ball well…

“It’s frustrating. Just a frustrating weekend in general. I feel fine. My body feels fine. I’m happy to get out of that without an injury, pretty much.”

Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-4 to improve his average to .326, but with Joe Mauer going 2-for-5 to maintain his .330 average, it looks like the Sox second baseman will lose the batting title. He didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m not real big into personal achievements like that,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. If I finish second or third, I’m real happy with that.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed three runs in four innings, was non-plussed about being told before the game that he would only throw three to four innings. (“I would have rather not been told before that I would be going for three or four innings,” he said.) All the same, he was satisfied with the purpose behind his final tuneup for the postseason.

“I needed to pitch in the game today so I was going to go in even if it was for one inning. We even talked abut the possibility of me going in relief just to get those innings,” said Matsuzaka. “Today was preparation for the playoffs and it was just great that I was able to throw in the game. I didn’t have any goals today but just to be able to throw in the game with how the weather has been was enough for me.”

Bottom 9: Mussina wins 20

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Yankees win, 6-2, and Mussina goes to 20-9. Pretty good for a man who was seen as washed up when he went 1-3 to start the year.

Top 9: Why the Red Sox should be grateful to the Rays

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

The Rays beat the Tigers, 8-7, thereby muting any chatter that had the Red Sox could have won the A.L. East had they looked interested in winning games in this season-ending series against the Yankees

Elsewhere: Twins catcher Joe Mauer went 2-for-5, and his average is now at .330. He may or may not have to play one more game, depending on whether the White Sox defeat the Tigers on Monday in a makeup of a rainout game. Tigers players cannot be thrilled at the prospect that their vacations are beginning a day late. 

If Dustin Pedroia wants to catch Mauer (presuming that Mauer does not bat again this year), he would have to go 4-for-4 in the nightcap.

Bottom 8: Mussina likes Mariano

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Mike Mussina probably turned a paler shade of Moose when he watched Joba Chamberlain, Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte try to sabotage his 20th win. The trio gave up two runs while recording two outs, narrowing New York’s lead to 3-2. But New York summoned Mariano Rivera into the game, and the Yankees closer–who will likely have arthroscopic surgery to address a shoulder calcification this offseason–struck out Dustin Pedroia to end Boston’s threat. 

Rivera is making his 16th multi-inning appearance of the 2008 season, while Jonathan Papelbon has made just 13 such appearances. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez has not made a single multi-inning appearance this year. 

Papelbon, incidentally, is on the bump in the ninth, and has struggled amidst slippery (and meaningless) conditions. The lack of meaning in this game might be part of the reason–in spring training games, Papelbon has admitted in the past that it has been difficult for him to generate enough adrenaline to deliver dominating stuff.

Bottom 8: 3 million, and they all hate Joba

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Joba Chamberlain came and went, giving up a walk (to Jason Bay) and a double (Mark Kotsay) before being lifted in Fenway Park. He seems a singularly unpopular fellow in both Fenway Park and the Youkilis household. 

The Sox just announced today’s attendance–with 37,000+ on hand, the team pushed their attendance to 3,010,810, the first time ever that 3 million paying fans have passed through the Fenway turnstiles in a season. 

The Red Sox partisans were more than mildly chagrined when Jed Lowrie was called out on a 97 m.p.h. fastball that may or may not have caught the outside corner. Though the outcome (a strikeout) was undesirable for Lowrie and the Sox, however, it is worth noting that the process remains impressive. Lowrie faced down seven pitches, and has proven a laborious out for opposing pitchers. Entering today, he averaged 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, a mark that is best on the Sox and in the top 20 in the American League among those with at least 300 plate appearances.

Bottom 7: Moose tracks

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Mike Mussina is done after six shutout innings in which he allowed just three hits and two walks. With the Yankees ahead 3-0, Mussina will now sweat out three innings while trying to see whether, at 39 years old, he will win 20 games for the first time in his career. 

Mussina would be the oldest pitcher ever to win 20 for the first time, but there have been 11 separate instances in which a pitcher who is at least 39 years old has won 20. Here is the illustrious company in which Mussina finds himself:

Warren Spahn (3 times!), Cy Young (2 times), Phil Niekro, Pete Alexander, Jamie Moyer, Eddie Plank, Gaylord Perry, Early Wynn. 

To recap: seven Hall of Famers and one pitcher (Moyer) who looks like he will pitch until he’s collecting Social Security. 

As for the other individual storylines of this game:

–J.D. Drew just got blown away on a 94 m.p.h. fastball by southpaw reliever Phil Coke. He is 0-for-2 with a double play, strikeout and walk, and his day just game just came to a close, as he was replaced in right field by Jonathan Van Every.

Kevin Youkilis is 0-for-3, and his slugging mark is down to .5698, while A-Rod is at .5706.

Dustin Pedroia is now 2-for-3, bringing his average to .327. Joe Mauer collected a hit in his fourth at-bat, and is now at .329.