Archive for March, 2011

Opening Day Lineup: J.D. Drew sits

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Terry Francona revealed his Opening Day lineup Thursday, slotting in Mike Cameron to play right field in the place of J.D. Drew. The batting order against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson will be as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Carl Crawford LF, Kevin Youkilis 3B, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, David Ortiz DH, Mike Cameron RF, Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, Marco Scutaro SS, Jon Lester P.

Francona cited throughout spring training how he might heavily weight the importance of putting additional right-handed bats in the lineup against Wilson. Cameron has only faced the Texas lefty three times, striking out twice, while Drew is 1-for-6 against Wilson. Last season, Wilson held left-handed batters to a .144 batting average and .400 OPS, allowing just five extra-base hits (all doubles).

Speaking to reporters during the team’s workout in Houston, Francona said, “This won’t be a platoon. J.D. knows that.”

Few Red Sox hitter have had any success against the Rangers Opening Day starter, with Scutaro (2-for-16), Crawford (2-for-12), Ortiz (1-for-10), and Youkilis (2-for-7) having the most experience against Wilson. Ortiz is the only current member of the Red Sox to have claimed a homer against the Texas starter.

Opening Day Nuggetpalooza: The Players

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Hopefully you enjoyed yesterday’s “Opening Day Nuggetpalooza: The Teams” enough to try today’s companion piece focusing on individual players and their Opening Day exploits.  Lots of leaders, trailers, and other oddities:

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* – Pete Rose, the all-time leader in opening day hits with 31, had 11 multiple-hit games on opening day, also the most since at least 1950, just ahead of Carl Yastrzemski (10) and Rod Carew (10).

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* – Active leaders in opening day hits (with 2011 club):

22 – Omar Vizquel, White Sox
21 – Todd Helton, Rockies
21 – Vlad Guerrero, Orioles
19 – Manny Ramirez, Rays
18 – Chipper Jones, Braves
18 – Derek Jeter, Yankees
18 – Paul Konerko, White Sox

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* – Guerrero is the all-time leader (since 1950) in opening day RBI with 19, just ahead of Jeff Kent and Frank Robinson, with 18 each. Vlad also enters 2011 sporting an 11-game hit streak on opening day, which appears to be the longest since at least 1950.

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* – Opening Day Career Batting Average Leaders (min. 30 such AB):

.484 – Ken Henderson (15-for-31)
.484 – Todd Walker (15-for-31)
.472 – Albert Pujols (17-36)
.467 – Jeff Kent (28-for-60)

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* – If you drop the at-bat minimum to 20, you’ll find that Arizona’s Xavier Nady is the active leader in opening day average at .481 (13-for-27), just ahead of Pujols’ .472.

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* – Lowest Career Opening Day Batting Average (min. 20 such AB):

.043 – Jay Johnstone (1-for-23)
.056 – Roy White (2-for-36)
.064 – Tim Foli (3-for-47)

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MLB Power Rankings, 3/31

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Welcome to the first edition of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Thursday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’€™s division, and also which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series. Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing kminihane@weei.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.

1. Red Sox. Why: Look, there are serious questions — with Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon Nos. 1 and 1A — but the best lineup in baseball, a dramatically improved bullpen and Jon Lester/Clay Buchholz/John Lackey (don’t laugh — 3.97 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in the second half last season for Lackey) at the top of the rotation should be enough for 95 wins and the AL East crown. What to watch: If he struggles early on, how much rope will Terry Francona give Marco Scutaro before going to Jed Lowrie at shortstop?

2. Phillies. Why: While all this “best rotation ever” talk is a little overstated — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were all Cy Young winners (seven combined) and are going to the Hall of Fame — there is no question that Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels/Blanton has a very good chance to be the best group of starters since that Atlanta crew. What to watch: Injuries — Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Brad Lidge are already banged up.

3. Yankees. Why: I just don’t see a big difference between the Red Sox and Yankees (though before you give any weight to that statement please note that until I spellchecked the sentence it read “I just don;t see a bog difference bewteen the Res Sox and Yankees”). I’d give the Sox an edge in lineup — but it wouldn’t stun me to see the Yankees score more runs — and a small edge in starting pitching. But I’d take Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano over any reliever on the Sox. This is a 90-95 win team, and I still think they make a move to grab another starter this season. What to watch: Assuming you buy Phil Hughes as a legit No. 2 starter, can the Yankees get enough from Freddy Garica/Ivan Nova/A.J. Burnett to stay in contention?

4. Giants. Why: Because after following the Barry Bonds trial for the last week, I am now at least a quasi-expert in shrunken testicles. The Giants won the World Series on pitching and pitching alone last year, and that rotation will again be good enough to win the NL West. What to watch: Let’s see if Matt Cains dominant postseason last year — no runs allowed in 21.1 innings — was the start of a leap to superstardom. As good as Halladay/Lee are, if I’m the Giants I’m not entirely convinced I’d trade my top two guys for the Phillies’ top two.

5. Braves. Why: No huge strength that jumps out at you, but no significant weakness, either. Solid rotation — Tim Hudson (who has a career record of 165-87, identical to some guy named Koufax), Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson (Cy Young sleeper?), Mike Minor and Jair Jurrjens. Dan Uggla gives the lineup a boost, and Jason Heyward sure looks an awful lot like Alex Rodriguez circa 1996. What to watch: The bullpen. With Billy Wagner gone, the Braves are going with a combo of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in the ninth inning. The two guys have combined for exactly one more major league save than Montgomery Brewster.

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Tim Wakefield on Big Show: ‘I love our chances’

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield joined The Big Show Tuesday, discussing the coming baseball season with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley.

Given their offseason upgrades, the Red Sox have been considered favorites by many to head to the World Series this season. While Wakefield likes the attention the team has gotten, he understands that a lot has to happen for them to achieve their goal.

“It’s great to be touted as winning the World Series and as favorites before the season starts, but I never get too excited about that,” he said. “Everything looks good on paper, but [we won't know] until we actually get on the field and see how things jell together.”

The Red Sox added the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks in the offseason. While Wakefield doesn’t want to get caught up in the hype, he thinks the talent level is high enough for the team to win its third championship since 2004.

“I love our chances. I really do. Talent-wise, all around the infield, all around the outfield and our pitching depth is pretty solid,” Wakefield said. “I’m very excited about who we have on our club this year, and the direction that we can take.

“I think we have all the bases covered. We’ve got speed, we’ve got defense, we’ve got strong hitting, and we’ve got deep pitching. All five of those positions that you want to be on top of are all covered with the team and the talent that we have and the players that we have.”

Wakefield said he has no problem with beginning the season in the bullpen. He noted that his primary goal is to win another title, and that he is willing to help out in any way. He did admit, however, that he does think about potentially becoming the all-time leader in wins for the Sox. With 179, he would need 13 to tie the likes of Roger Clemens and Cy Young.

“I give it a lot of thought. It’s important form a personal standpoint, but more importantly, I don’t it to take away from anything that has to do with us winning a World Series championship here again,” he said. “With that being said, I’d like to accomplish that, but first and foremost is to try to win games for the Boston Red Sox and try to win another World Series title here.

If it happens, it happens, and if not, it’s not going to make me any different of a person. ‘€¦ It doesn’t make a better person because I am the all time [wins] leader in Red Sox history. It’s a nice goal to attain and it’s a nice number to have next to your name, but I think the biggest thing is to win a World Series title for the Boston Red Sox.”

Opening Day Nuggetpalooza: The Teams

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Start getting ready for tomorrow’s Opening Day with a big batch of Opening Day nuggets! Today’s focus is on team results in their openers over the years:

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* – Since 2000, there have been 175 stolen bases in opening games in the majors. The Red Sox have exactly none of them. They are the only team in the majors without a stolen base in an opener this century.

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* – While the Sox have not recorded a steal in an opener in the 2000’s, they’ve allowed 16 steals in that span on opening day, the most in baseball:

16 – Red Sox
12 – Padres
11 – Yankees
11 – Giants

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* – Over the last seven seasons, the New York Mets own the best opening game record (6-1), while the Astros, A’s, and Nationals/Expos have all gone 1-6 on opening day. Houston has managed a total of just eight runs in their last six openers.

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* – The Mets can thank a league-high streak of seven straight openers with nine or more hits for that gaudy record.

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* – The Yankees have allowed 9 and 10 runs in their last two openers, while the Angels have allowed a total of just seven runs in their last four opening games.

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* – Every team except Boston and Oakland has allowed two or fewer runs in at least one of their last seven openers.

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* – Oakland has been shut out three times in their last six opening games.

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* – The Cubs have averaged 7.4 runs per opening game in the last seven seasons, tops in the majors:

7.4 – Cubs
7.3 – Yankees
6.0 – Rockies

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* – Only five teams (Rays, Mets, Astros, Tigers, Indians) have avoided allowing any unearned runs in their last seven openers, while the Reds have allowed 11 of them.

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* – The Yankees have homered in each of their last 12 opening games, the longest active streak in the majors. Boston’s opening day opponent, Texas, holds the second longest such streak, having homered in nine consecutive openers.

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Red Sox pick up catcher from Colorado

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The Red Sox acquired catcher Mike McKenry from Colorado on Tuesday for righthanded reliever Daniel Turpen. McKenry, 26, hit .265 and caught 94 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last year, and appeared in six games with the Rockies at the end of last season. Turpen, 24, an eighth-round pick of San Francisco in 2007, was originally acquired last year when Boston sent righty reliever Ramon Ramirez to the Giants. He was selected by the Yankees in the Rule V Draft during the winter, but was later returned to the Red Sox. He split time between the Giants’ and Red Sox’ organizations in 2010, finishing with a combined 4.50 ERA in 69 relief innings in Double-A.

Adrian Gonzalez says his spring went perfectly

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€” Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit his second homer of the spring (and second in three games), a towering solo shot to left, in the final game of Grapefruit League play, as the Sox and Rays played to a 1-1 nine-inning tie Tuesday. After the contest, Gonzalez — who finished the spring with a .308 average in 10 games spanning 26 at-bats — said that the spring had gone as well as he could have hoped as he recovered from the surgery to repair his right shoulder labrum.

‘€œI think so,’€ Gonzalez said when asked if his spring went perfectly according to blueprint. ‘€œComing here, I knew that if everything came out as planned I would be ready for Opening Day. Then I came here and I was ready earlier than I’€™d hoped, I got more at-bats than I thought I was going to get, and I feel really good going into the season.’€

Gonzalez appeared to build progressively into comfort at the plate. He got enough at-bats that he was able build strength to the point where he could resue using his normal bat, and he also saw enough pitches that he feels that, in leaving Fort Myers, his timing is where it needs to be for the regular season.

‘€œ[Timing] feels good. I think after that minor league game, things started to click and I started to feel more comfortable at the plate,’€ he added, referring to a game against Sox minor leaguers last week in which Gonzalez got six at-bats against Sox pitchers.

Now, after an offseason of anticipation following his trade to the Red Sox in December, Gonzalez said he is eager for the start of the regular season schedule.

‘€œDefinitely, it’€™s been on my mind for a couple of days. It’€™s getting closer every day, which is awesome,’€ Gonzalez said. ‘€œBeing able to get out of here is one of those final steps for knowing that you’€™re real close.’€

Sources deny reported Red Sox deal for catcher

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two team sources denied a report that the Red Sox have acquired catcher Mike McKenry from Colorado for reliever Daniel Turpen.

“Twitterverse ahead of reality,” said one of the sources.

Sox GM Theo Epstein had said on Monday that the team would explore trade options to acquire veteran catching depth. All the same, as of now, the team has not made a trade involving the 26-year-old McKenry, a catcher who is out of options. It was unclear whether such a trade was being negotiated.

McKenry spent most of last year in Triple-A where he hit .265 with 10 home runs. He appeared in six major league games last season. The 26-year-old McKenry spent the last five seasons in the Rockies system.

Turpen, who was in the bullpen for the Sox on Tuesday but did not pitch in the contest against the Rays, was acquired at the July 31 trade deadline last year in exchange for Ramon Ramirez. He was selected by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft (an experience about which Turpen raved, given his opportunity to share a clubhouse with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and to see how they prepared), but returned to Boston in mid-March. He was informed of the rumor following the game, but admitted that without confirmation of it from any parties involved, he was unsure how to react.

“I’ve never been a part of a rumor before. Last year, [the trade to the Sox] was from out of nowhere. I thought I was in trouble when I got called into the office,” he said. “It’s baseball. It’s a business.”

Even so, he said that he’s been in a bit of a spin cycle since last July. He had spent his entire career with the Giants, but has now moved to the Red Sox and Yankees and back — in addition to the rumored deal to the Rockies — in the last eight months.

“It’s been very weird,” Turpen said. “The trade last year, getting used to that. Then Rule 5 is a very weird experience. You don’t know who you’re going to play for, whether the Red Sox, the Yankees, [another team] on waivers, or what’s going to happen. The whole spring has been kind of crazy, but I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can.”

Turpen, 24, spent all of last year in the Double-A Eastern League, first with the Giants’ affiliate in Richmond, then with the Portland Sea Dogs. The 2007 fourth-rounder with the heavy sinker was 7-6 with a 4.30 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 69 innings last year. He did take pleasure in seeing the Giants win the World Series, both because he got to enjoy the sight of many of his former teammates celebrating and because he was mindful that Ramirez became a key element in the San Francisco bullpen, without whom the Giants might not have reached the playoffs.

“To see a guy who is there because I was there was a cool experience,” said Turpen.

Buchholz rebounds in successful final tuneup for season

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Clay Buchholz got tattooed last week by the Marlins for 11 runs in four innings, it wasn’t exactly the way he wanted to enter the regular season. Granted, he wasn’t about to panic about one rough spring start in a meaningless exhibition game, but all the same, it wasn’t the ideal platform for the start of his season.

And so, it was with satisfaction that Buchholz delivered a far more impressive performance on Tuesday, one very much in line with the vast majority of his spring. Against a lineup that featured several Tampa Bay regulars, Buchholz logged four innings, allowing one run on a hit and two walks while striking out three. As opposed to the Marlins game, when he missed up in the zone, Buchholz was down with his pitches on Tuesday, a common characteristic throughout a spring in which he had a 3.43 ERA while allowing 22 hits and seven walks in 21 innings. He struck out 15.

It was the final measure of a comfortably quiet spring for Buchholz. For the first time in his career, he was pitching to prepare for a season rather than to prove something to Sox brass.

“It was basically a completely different feeling, coming in, obviously knowing what I wanted to do rather than what I had to do. I feel like every time out I didn’€™t have to gain the trust of anybody,” said Buchholz. “Years past, it was basically going out and trying to showcase and if things went well, go from there. This year, my main focus coming into spring was work on my pitches, work on different situations, different counts, and I basically worked on everything that I needed to work on through the spring. It feels good.”

Now, Buchholz recognizes that the expectations for him and the Sox are high. The 26-year-old is coming off a season in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA. He is viewed as an anchor of a team that is expected to compete for a World Series, perhaps logging 200 innings in the regular season and then pitching into October. Buchholz is not shying from those realities, at the same time that he acknowledges that they cannot affect how he approaches his work.

“I think everyone is expecting us to go out and be the No. 1 team in our division and try to compete for a championship in Oct.,” said Buchholz. “I know as a pitcher, once you release the ball, you can’€™t do anything to control it. … Hopefully, your preparation is right and you can go out and do what you need to do.”

For Buchholz, there is a checkmark next to the preparation for the season. Now, starting on Sunday, he will have the opportunity to see how his offseason and spring training results will translate to performance.

Francona: Red Sox remain undecided about Opening Day lineup

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Opening Day is just three days away, yet Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that he is still mulling his Friday lineup against left-hander C.J. Wilson and the Rangers. Wilson has some of the most dramatic left-right splits in the game. Last year, left-handed hitters had just a .144 average, no homers and a .400 OPS against him, while righties hit .236 with 10 longballs and a .679 OPS.

As such, Francona said that were it the middle of the regular season, he likely would be inclined to sit most of his left-handed hitters against Wilson. But, given the prestige associated with Opening Day, he is going back and forth with the decision.

“It’€™s not just a lefty, but who the lefty is,” said Francona. “That’€™s why I’€™ve been so hesitant to talk about the lineup because C.J. Wilson is one of those lefties where, on normal days, if it’€™s July … that’€™s the day you’€™d give your righties a shot. But it’€™s Opening Day. So there’€™s some thought, I think, that needs to go into that.

“He is so tough on lefties, it gives me pause to think. How much, I’€™ve got to see. I’€™ve actually been trying to wait till we get on the plane and get out of [Fort Myers], just because we’€™ve got a game in Houston and I’€™m kind of trying to separate it. It’€™s not a huge secret. I just kind of want some time to look at the whole series.”

Yet it’s worth noting that almost no one on the Sox — left-handed or right-handed — has a good history against Wilson. Here is how members of the Sox have performed against the Opening Day starter: (more…)