|Friday morning with Bobby Valentine: Jon Lester needs his rest, ‘concern’ about Andrew Miller, next steps for Daisuke Matsuzaka||04.20.12 at 1:04 pm ET|
It is an extraordinary day in the life of a ballpark, as Fenway Park prepares to become the first American sports venue to observe its 100th birthday. It is a day when an address and a building will relegate to parentheses the two big league teams with the largest payrolls (the Yankees and Red Sox).
“It’s the baseball land of Oz,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of the ballpark that he now calls home. “People dream about this place.”
Valentine recalled how, when he visited Fenway as the manager of the Rangers (in the ’80s and early ’90s) and again with the Mets (who came to Fenway for interleague games between 1997-2002, when Valentine was their skipper) that Fenway Park felt “old.” No longer, he suggested. The park has undergone renewal and feels vital, no more so than on Thursday, when over 54,000 fans came to the open house to wander through the park and connect with its many nooks and crannies.
“I would say that this ballpark has created as many memories for people in this area and around the world as any venue in the world,” said Valentine. “Today, there’ll be a memory created for me and everybody else who’s here today.”
As for the nuts and bolts of the Red Sox roster…
– The Red Sox gave some thought to having Jon Lester start on Sunday, which would have been the scheduled day for Daniel Bard to start. However, the Sox are going to stick with Bard as the scheduled starter for Sunday night (a day with heavy rain in the forecast) with Lester slated for Monday. A couple factors weigh into that. Part of the equation is the desire to keep Bard on a regular starter’s routine as he adjusts to his new role. More significant, however, was the fact that Lester required 80 pitches for just two-plus innings in his most recent start on Tuesday, and the Sox wanted him to have an extra day of rest.
“Throwing 80 pitches in two innings, that’s like throwing 150 pitches in eight, or more. It might even be more strenuous,” said Valentine. “To have him throw a bullpen yesterday, I don’t think that was the proper thing to do. I think that extra day of rest is exactly what he needs at this time. It’s a combination. I think if it was a rainout, it would be a much bigger, easier situation.”
– Left-hander Andrew Miller, coming off an outing on Thursday in which he threw just 20 of 50 pitches for strikes, will remain in Triple-A Pawtucket. He will no longer work on scheduled days, but instead be used whenever PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler sees fit.
“Up until today, he had always had a schedule, a performance day, and we would dictate what it was — 15 pitches today, 30 pitches, start an inning, don’t start an inning,” said Valentine. “Now we’re going to have Arnie just use him as needed and see how he progresses.”
To date, Miller’s results have been inconsistent. He looked brilliant on Monday, striking out the side, but then with Valentine saying he wanted to see one more good outing, the left-hander backed it up with a four-walk, four-out performance.
“It is concerning,” Valentine acknowledged of the pitcher’s wildly oscillating results. “I think it’ll all work out.”
– Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s unimpeded progress in recovering from Tommy John surgery last June is ready for the next step. The right-hander will start a rehab assignment with Salem of the High-A Carolina League on Monday, and he will have a pitch limit of roughly 75 (up from the 59 he threw in his last extended spring training outing).
“Daisuke feels really good,” Valentine said. “He’s ready to start dealing with competition rather than rehabilitation.”
Valentine said that Matsuzaka will still face controlled competition, meaning that he won’t be allowed to throw 30 pitches in an inning. However, the outing will start a progression of approximately five starts after which Matsuzaka could be ready or nearly ready to return to the big leagues. The right-hander will face a 30-day rehab clock, meaning that he could be pitching again in the majors by the end of May, less than a year after his surgery.
Matsuzaka is 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA in five seasons with the Sox. Last year, he was 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA in eight games before blowing out his elbow.
– Another Tommy John rehabber, Rich Hill, is further along than Matsuzaka in his rehab progression, since the reliever does not need to build his pitch count in the same fashion as a starter. Hill has dominated the lower levels of his rehab assignment, with 13 strikeouts and one walk in six innings spanning five appearances (two with Single-A Greenville, three with Salem). Hill will next pitch on Saturday night in Triple-A Pawtucket, as he nears a return to the majors. Both he and Miller started their 30-day rehab clocks in the first week of April, so the Sox can keep both in the minors for approximately two more weeks.
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