NEW YORK — So, here is what happened Friday (before the epic, 15-inning, 2-0 Red Sox’ loss):
- Toronto outfielder Alex Rios was claimed off waivers, as was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney, leading some to suspect that the Red Sox might be the team making a claim on the Blue Jays outfielder (who is owed more than $60 million). But late Friday afternoon a source told WEEI.com that the Sox were not the team that made the claim.
- Junichi Tazawa was called up from Triple A Pawtucket. Friday night his role will be out of the bullpen, with the Red Sox making a determination after that as to what the pitcher will do. It was not announced who will take John Smoltz’ spot in the rotation. (More on that in a bit.) For a great breakdown on Tazawa’s unlikely path to the big leagues, check out Alex Speier’s blog entry.
- The Red Sox claimed shortstop Chris Woodward, who had been designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners. This is for all those who had forgotten who the 33-year-old is.
- To make room for Tazawa the Red Sox designated Billy Traber for assignment, and Woodward’s spot was made possible by the DFA’ing of John Smoltz. The Red Sox aren’t ruling out a return by Smoltz, who Sox GM Theo Epstein met with Friday morning to inform the pitcher of the news. It would seem as though the opening for such a return would see Smoltz go the minors to see if relieving might be an option going forward. As Red Sox manager Terry Francona pointed out, the team wouldn’t ask the surgically-repaired shoulder of Smoltz to simply dive into the relief pitching lifestyle that encompasses quick warm-up periods.
- On the injury front, Jason Bay reported progress regarding his hamstring, saying he would know more after pushing the injury a bit more in the coming days. Jed Lowrie still felt numbness in two of the fingers on his left hand and consulted with Dr. Donald Sheridan by phone. Sheridan was the physician who performed surgery on the shortstop’s left wrist earlier this season. One possible explanation, according to Sheridan, was the inflammation of some nerves.
All of that said, here is what Epstein told the media when holding court in the visitors manager’s office at Yankee Stadium Friday (courtesy MLB.com’s Ian Browne):
(On Smoltz) “It’s never easy. I think we just felt like we had to try something different. It’s never easy to tell someone they’re designated for assignment, especially a Hall of Fame pitcher like that. I think it was certainly time to try something different. John understood and we asked him just to go home for a few days and think about what he wants to do, think about if he can still help. The good thing about the designation is that it buys some time to come up with the appropriate assignment. I’m sure I’ll have somethin g for you guys next week.”
(On Smoltz staying the organization) “We’re certainly open-minded to it. I think the key thing is, we just asked John, he just pitched last night, go home, think about things, we’ll touch base early next week. “
“He’s going to go home and think about things, and think about ways that he can still help an organization and we’ll pick this up next week.”
(On the Red Sox struggles) “It’s a challenging time for this team for this team, there’s no doubt abou t it. we’re not playing the type of baseball we want to play. We’re not getting consistent quality starts. We’re not hitting with runners in scoring position. It makes for a challenging time. Since the All-Star break, we haven’t won as many games as we’d like. A lot of things are going wrong with health and performance and it’s times like these that you find out what you’re all about as a club as an organization. Things can go two ways when you have a challenging period. You can rise up to meet the challenge or you can let it get the best of you. I know this team plans on doing the former.”
(On the struggles of the starting pitching) “Yeah. I think it’s been surprising sort of how quickly we’ve gone from the quote unquote best starting pitching depth in baseball to a challenging time for our rotation. That’s happened quickly, but it’s not unexpected. It’s the reason we didn’t trade away when we had a perceived surplus. It’s not unusual to get to this point, or at some point during the season, where you have to find a way to turn it around in the back half of the rotation. But it’s important that you do turn it around and find a way to stabilize the rotation and get a number of pitchers giving us a chance to win night in and night out. That’s our challenge right now and I think we’ll find a way to do it. but it’s not easy. We need to turn it around.”
Want Tazawa to spend year in minors? “Not necessarily. Everyone’s development path is different. This guy showed up in Spring Training and was mature well beyond his years from a baseball standpoint and from a personal standpoint. Certainly, he pitched extremely well at Double-A. He had just gotten his feet wet the last couple of weeks at Pawtucket. Perhaps, in a perfect world, he would have had a little time at Pawtucket, but I also think he’s ready. I also think he’s ready to contribute up here. He’s lived up to the scouting reports we got from him from Craig Shipley and our international staff and I think he’s ready to contribute at this level now.”
(Is Tazawa here to stay?) “We’ll see. Given everything that is going on with the club right now, I don’t think it’s possible to make any de finitive statements. Because we’re at a critical juncture at a challenging time and so many things have gone, not as anticipated the last couple of weeks, we’re certainly day to day with a lot of things, if not inning to inning and pitch to pitch. Last night, we made Verizon a lot of money with the cellphones giving everything that was going on. Trying to find a way to field a full roster today and make things work. I don’t think it’s a time to make definitive statements, other then to say things will stabilize. It’s not going to stay like this and we’re going to get through it as an organization. We can’t have any firm commitments because we have to see how things shake out.”
(Does Smoltz have the desire left?) “I don’t think it’s appropriate to A, get into that publicly, and until we have follow-up direct conversations. I also think you need to give it some time. He pitched last night, and we have a difficult conversation with him the very next day. I think it’s important to give him a couple of days to go home and think about things. That’s why we asked him to go home and process it.”
(On claiming Woodward) “I’m sure there are potential moves the club can make. It’s a little more difficult this time of year, but there are still some things that can be done but to be honest with you, we were left in a difficult spot given the injuries that have developed and some of the performances of the last few days. We had to scramble to field a full roster. We made some moves today to give us the best chance to compete in this series and going forward, and that’s what we’re going to need to do. I’m sure there will be more moves coming as we stabilize. Once things stabilize, I think we’ll feel pretty good about our roster again.”
(On Paul Byrd) “He was throwing and working out consistently, expecting a call in June or July from a club and then stopped throwing about two weeks ago. When we first called him a few days ago, he started again and was able to throw two innings against a college team. He reported today down in Fort Myers and threw. He’s got some work to do to get in game condition and to get his arm into shape. He’s probably about thre e weeks away from being able to help.”
“I think John, he’s certainly not a quitter. That’s one thing he’s not. It certainly never entered his mind to stop pitching. When he woke up today, it was how can I help the team win. But he’s also a realist and understands that the results so far have not been what we’re looking for. I think that’s the best way to categorize it.”
(On Josh Reddick) “He’s done a nice job initially and filling a role for us. I don’t think his development is complete. I think he’s made a lot of strides this year to get himself in a position where he can come up here and compete. He’s a multi-tooled, multi-skilled player. soli d, all-around player who can help you win games with his range in the outfield, with his arm, with his baserunning, with his pop and his approach is really starting to come around so we like him and think it’s been an accomplishment this year to get to the point where he could come up and hold his own and at some point, there’s more development left for him at Triple-A. That’s where he was gonna go when we needed him back again.”
(On if the Red Sox would have done anything differently with John Smoltz) “I don’t think so. I think we had our experts working with him. John knows himself really well. Our trainer knows pitching elbows and shoulders really well and John Farrell knows pitching really well. Those three guys put their heads together and made the best possible plan and he worked extremely hard. The results just weren’t there.”
(On Tazawa’s rapid ascent) “I think we envisioned him starting out the year in Double-A and getting up to the Big Leagues in September. To answer your question exactly, it’s three weeks.”