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Westmoreland takes an important step in long journey back 08.31.10 at 8:37 pm ET
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In 2009, Ryan Westmoreland left a hole in the wall of the Lowell Spinners' LeLacheur Park on a spectacular catch. (Image courtesy Lowell Spinners)

LOWELL – Six months ago, Ryan Westmoreland literally needed to be held up by his belt to take swings with a whiffle ball bat in the hospital.

On Tuesday, the 20-year-old Red Sox prospect showed some encouraging signs as he participated in another round of baseball activities in his long road back from brain surgery.

Westmoreland, who underwent a procedure to remove a cavernous malformation from his brain stem in March, spent the early afternoon taking roughly 60 swings off a tee and in rounds of soft toss at LeLacheur Park with the Lowell Spinners, the site of his last minor league stint with the Red Sox organization.

“I hit the ball pretty well for being only six months out,” said Westmoreland, who plans on rehabbing in Lowell until Thursday before heading down to Greenville to work with the Single-A Drive for the remainder of its season. “I’m not nearly in the shape that I used to be, but I feel great.”

The organization is taking it slow with Westmoreland in his recovery.

“It’s all on him as far as how he feels and how he’s going to progress,” said Spinners’ manager Bruce Crabbe. “What he’s capable of and we are just going to ride the wave and see where it takes us.”

His work in the batting cage took place well before the rest of the team went out for its regular work. Westmoreland said he has hit the ball off the tee on 10 different occasions during his rehab and stepped up to soft toss — from the side and from in front — only a couple of times.

But this small step can be seen as a major victory in the recovery process, both mentally and physically.

It was Westmoreland’s father, Ron, who remembered watching his son go through some aggressive rehab just a week after the life-threatening surgery in Phoenix.

“It was actually Andre Ethier’s brother who was one of the therapists. He put a whiffle ball bat in (Ryan’s) hand and they had to hold (Ryan) up by his belt,” said Ron Westmoreland. “They were pitching him balls and he was swinging and he was making contact. That was a pretty inspirational moment.”

Both father and son have said the doctors have been impressed where the prospect is in his recovery process, but one of the biggest hurdles that he has had to overcome is the ability to regain his eyesight.

Westmoreland said he was close to being legally blind after the surgery and in the first couple of months he had trouble watching television and movies. He slowly moved up to playing golf and worked on building muscle memory watching things that stood still.

Now he has 20/20 vision in his right eye and 20/25 in his left. His vision was a perfect 20/20 in both eyes before the surgery. His goal is to build up enough momentum with the soft toss from different angles where he can take regular batting practice, but he had no timetable on when that would happen.

“I saw a quick improvement,” said Westmoreland. “My eyes have learned how to focus on things that are still, it’s just now they are learning how to focus on things coming at me.”

For now Westmoreland will have to be a cheering teammate on the bench at whatever level he goes to work out. On this night, Westmoreland was introduced to a loud ovation before the Spinners game against the Tri-City Valley Cats — an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Some prospects would be disappointed returning to the same level for a second straight year, but Westmoreland plans on taking small victories one step at a time until one day he can put on the Red Sox uniform in Boston.

“It was amazing just because, at one point, there was a question about whether I was going to do anything again – breath, walk,” he said. “To be able to now do baseball activities – and pretty advanced activity for baseball and rehab – it’s great. To be able to do the thing I love, play baseball, although it’s second to being alive, which I’ve taken grips to, it’s special just to be around the game.”

“I’m alive,” he added. “And now let’s work back and let’s try to get to Fenway.”

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Terry Francona on D&H 05.12.10 at 12:01 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka came up big on Tuesday, according to Terry Francona. (AP)

In his third start of the season Daisuke Matsuzaka finally came through with an all around solid start, and Terry Francona was happy to see that out his starting pitcher.

“Hist tempo was much better. He got the ball and threw strikes. He used his fastball aggressively in the zone,” Francona told Dale & Holley (featuring Rob Bradford) on Wednesday. “A lot of swings and misses. A lot of balls lofted in the air that weren’t really squared up. He had no walks and nine strikeouts. It was a fun night to watch. When it comes together the glass certainly looks a lot more full.”

Francona also touched on Josh Beckett’s injury situation, Tim Wakefield’s return to the starting rotation and Jason Varitek’s hot bat to start the season.

To read the transcript look below, but to listen click here.

What did you see from Daisuke Matsuzaka that you hadn’t seen in his first two starts?

Hist temp0 was much better. He got the ball and threw strikes. He used his fastball aggressively in the zone. A lot of swings and misses. A lot of balls lofted in the air that weren’t really squared up. He had no walks and nine strikeouts. It was a fun night to watch. When it comes together the glass certainly looks a lot more full.

Did you see his fastball coming along like Matsuzaka said it was?

I think it’s been there. You look at his first two starts. He’s been good with the exception of two really tough innings. I know you can’t take those out of the line score, but he’s throwing the ball well. The one start, for whatever reason, he left the zone with his offspeed pitches. He tried to pick a little bit. I think he went into this start wanting to establish his fastball, and he did a great job of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gammons on The Big Show: Leave Buchholz in rotation 05.09.10 at 9:49 am ET
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Peter Gammons (AP)

Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday to discuss the state of the Red Sox. He said that all three contending teams in the AL East — the Sox, Yankees and Rays — have issues they have to deal with, and the answers will be coming soon.

“All three teams have a lot of questions to be answered, between now and the July 1,” he said.  ”I’m sure the Yankees will be saying, ‘Should we get Roy Oswalt?’ The Red Sox are going to be saying, ‘Should we take a chance on Lance Berkman?’ There’s a lot that may be decided in the next eight weeks.”

A transcript follows. To listen, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

What do you do with Daisuke Matsuzaka, especially now that Tim Wakefield is just sitting in the bullpen?

They’ll probably give Daisuke four or five starts. Victor Martinez was saying to me that he couldn’t believe the difference in his fastball between the first and second inning. He said it picked up like four or five miles in velocity. Then he’s having a little more confidence throwing a few sliders, where in the first inning he had no confidence in his fastball that he was overthrowing every slider. How long do you go? I appreciate that he had a lot of time off, that he was hurt and didn’t pitch that much to get here. But there isn’t a lot of time in a division with Tampa and the Yankees to sit around and say, “OK. We are going to give him 10 starts.” But if he doesn’t start, what are you going to do with him? I think it’s one of the many questions that will be answered in the next month.

Wouldn’t it make sense to put Clay Buchholz in the bullpen?

I don’t think you take a 200-inning, second-year starter and put him in the bullpen. I don’t see that as a viable alternative. I think you have to go find a veteran reliever somewhere. They’re not going to challenge Tampa and New York if Buchholz isn’t good enough to make 30 starts on the season. He’s got the second best stuff on the staff. He’s got to be one of your top starters. To me, you just can’t take a guy out because the other guys can’t do the role. You can’t take him out. To me, you weaken yourself immeasurably if you take Buchholz out of the rotation.

If you go out and find somebody, what do you do with Wakefield and Matsuzaka?

That’s the problem. Wakefield has pitched out of the bullpen. Now the question is, at his age is it too late to ask him to go back? Just as it may be too late to ask him to go back and make 20 starts if his back is going to go. I think they have more of a chance of figuring out the bullpen thing. Either Wake or Daisuke is going to end up being the fifth starter, and then you move on from there. It is good that [Manny] Delcarmen is starting to throw a lot better, that home run last night was a joke. They are going to have to go get one more veteran reliever, because they don’t have minor leaguers that are going to come in and step up the way [Daniel] Bard did. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, peter gammons, Red Sox, Yankees
Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 5/8 05.08.10 at 10:28 am ET
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The disappointment for Celtics and Bruins fans will be on their minds for a few days, but the beauty of baseball is that the bad vibes can turn into good ones in a 24-hour period. However, there hasn’t been many good vibes when the Sox take on the Yankees lately.

Since dominating the Yankees in the first eight games last season, the Red Sox are 2-13 against their rivals. The Yankees have won the World Series, and now sit six games up on the Red Sox in the AL East standings this season. Needless to say, the Red Sox need that fortune turned around, and quickly.

The Red Sox send Clay Buchholz up against CC Sabathia, depending on how the weather cooperates in Boston on Saturday.

The two went head-to-head last season on Aug. 8, with Sabathia getting the better of Buchholz, but not by much. Sabathia gave up two hits and zero runs in 7.2 innings of work, but Buchholz —despite six walks— didn’t back down, tossing six innings of two run baseball.

That young right-hander went 6-2 the rest of the way after that loss to the Yankees, and maybe gave him the confidence to pitch at the big league level.

Buchholz hasn’t had many ups-and-downs against major league hitters this season. He is 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts, and he will need to step up big to keep the Yankees —and the Rays — in sight.

The book on Sabathia — like Jon Lester — is to get him early in the season, because once he gets going, he’s not going to be stopped. The Red Sox got to the burly left-hander on Opening Night, but unlike Lester, he righted the ship in the month of April.

Sabathia sports a 4-1 record with a 2.74 ERA in six starts this season, and is coming off a strong eight-inning performance against Baltimore.

David Ortiz was in the lineup on Opening Night against Sabathia, and with Mike Lowell only hitting .262 with seven strikeouts against the Yankees ace, one might wonder who gets the nod. Ortiz does have two homers against Sabathia in his career, and a long ball off possibly the Yankees best pitcher could silence a lot of critics.

A win on Saturday, weather permitting, will help ease the mind of Boston sports fans, but a loss could prolong the funk a little bit longer.

All eyes are on Clay Buchholz to right the ship against the Yankees. (AP)

YANKEES VS. CLAY BUCHHOLZ

Robinson Cano (8 plate appearances): .375 average/ .375 OBP/ .400 slugging percentage, 1 strikeout

Alex Rodriguez (8): .250/ .250/ .625, 1 homer, 1 strikeout

Curtis Granderson: 0-for-5, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Derek Jeter: 2-for-7, 1 strikeout

Jorge Posada: 0-for-4, 1 walk

Nick Swisher: 0-for-2, 2 walks, SAC bunt

Mark Teixeira: 1-for-2, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Never faced: Brett Gardner, Nick Johnson, Ramiro Pena, Randy Winn

CC Sabathia figured out his early season struggles and looks strong so far for the Yankees. (AP)

RED SOX VS. CC SABATHIA

David Ortiz (31 plate appearances): .241 average/ .290 OBP/ .483 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (23): .368/ .478/ .368, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (22): .350/ .409/ .550, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (19): .263/ .263/ .316, 7 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (19): .059/ .158/ .059, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (18): .125/ .222/ .375, 1 homer, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (16): .071/ .125/ .143, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (16): .214/ .313/ .286, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (12): .250/ .250/ .333, 6 strikeouts

Bill Hall: 1-for-6, 2 strikeouts

Never faced: Jeremy Hermida, Darnell McDonald

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 5/7 05.07.10 at 10:56 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox want to keep the Yankees in sight. (AP)

Usually you don’t see a “must win” series in early May, but the Red Sox can’t lose any more ground to the Yankees. The Sox sit five games back of the Yankees — 6½ back of the first-place Rays — and will look to keep the recent good vibes going in Fenway Park vs. their longtime rivals.

The teams have gone in different directions since meeting in the infant stages of the 2010 season. The Yankees have been consistent and the Red Sox have not. Part of that inconsistency on the Red Sox starts with the rotations, namely Josh Beckett. At times, Beckett has looked like the ace of the staff, while other times it’s looked like his name and “ace” don’t belong in the same sentence.

Beckett will look to improve on his first outing against the Yankees, when he gave up five earned runs in 4-2/3 innings on Opening Night. After two mediocre starts against Texas and Tampa, Beckett bounced back with a quality start vs. Baltimore — two runs over seven innings in a no-decision.

The right-hander will need to keep Robinson Cano in check, which this season has been easier said than done.

Cano is in this top-three in average (.362), slugging percentage (.695) and home runs (9) in the American League. He has been the spark plug behind the Yankees offense, and his numbers against Beckett are in line with his production this year.

The main reason why the Yankees are so steady this year is starting pitching. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett are a combined 12-1, and Friday’s starter, Phil Hughes, is a perfect 3-0. Hughes solidified the back end of the bullpen last year for the Yankees in their title run, and he seems to be doing the same to the end of the rotation.

He has only allowed four earned runs in his four starts this season, and the 23-year-old is coming off probably his best outing of the season — zero runs in seven innings — against the White Sox.

Both teams come in to the contest with four-game winning streaks in their back pockets, and Beckett will need to set the tone tonight to help the Red Sox climb their way back into the division race. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh Beckett, Phil Hughes, Red Sox, Yankees
Red Sox vs. Angels matchups, 5/6 05.06.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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The Red Sox haven’t had a poor outing from a starter since, well, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s last start. Matsuzaka will make his second appearance this year against the Angels, and his results will have to be much, much better to keep the streak of solid starting pitching flowing.

Matsuzaka threw 95 pitches and gave up seven runs, as he labored through a tough 4.2 innings against the Orioles. In his defense, it wasn’t a pretty weekend for any of the Red Sox in Baltimore.

We’ve seen good Daisuke and bad Daisuke against the Angels in his career. In 2008, Matsuzaka gave up six earned runs in five innings, but he bounced back in 2009 with six shutout innings, while only surrendering three hits.

It will be interesting to see who catches Matsuzaka in this start. Matsuzaka has a 4.04 ERA when he is paired up with Jason Varitek, compare that with a 5.40 ERA when he throws to Victor Martinez.

Martinez clearly holds the offense advantage against Angels starter Scott Kazmir —.455 average for Marinez to .188 average for Varitek — but getting Matsuzaka comfortable and back into a flow might come into play.

Even though David Ortiz went deep last night and has showed some power over the last week, expect to see Mike Lowell in this game. Lowell is a career .250 hitter vs. Kazmir, but he has four homers against the lefty. Ortiz has only mustered a .205 average against Kazmir, so expect to see Lowell in this matchup.

Kazmir is an all too familiar face to the Red Sox. In his 23 career starts, Kazmir has an 8-7 record with a 3.59 ERA, which was compiled mostly in a Tampa uniform. The 26-year-old was on the mound in Game 3 of the ALDS last year, which happened to be the last game of the Red Sox’ season.

The Red Sox go for the sweep and a little payback for last year’s ending.

The Red Sox need Daisuke Matsuzaka to be a lot better against the Angels than he was vs. Baltimore. (AP)

ANGELS VS. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA

Bobby Abreu (21 plate appearances): .125 average/ .333 OBP/ .250 slugging percentage, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts

Hideki Matsui (16): .250/ .438/ .500, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Torii Hunter (10): .200/ .200/ .500, 1 homer, 2 strikeouts

Maicer Izturis: 1-for-6

Jeff Mathis: 0-for-4, 3 strikeouts

Juan Rivera: 0-for-3, 1 strikeout, 1 SAC fly

Kendry Morales: 1-for-2, 1 walk

Erick Aybar: 1-for-2

Howie Kendrick: 0-for-1, 1 walk

Never faced: Mike Napoli, Reggie Willits, Brandon Wood

It feels like Scott Kazmir has been in the league forever, but he's only 26. (AP)

RED SOX VS. SCOTT KAZMIR

David Ortiz (50 plate appearances): .205 average/ .300 OBP/ .364 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (45): .250/ .333/ .600, 4 homers, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (45): .237, .333/ .316, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (44): .188/ .386/ .313, 1 homer, 9 walks, 11 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (36): .517/ .600/ .793, 1 homer, 6 walks, 1 strikeout

Adrian Beltre (21): .111/ .238/ .111, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (20): .278/ .350/ .333, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (11): .455/ .455/ .455, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (8): .143/ .250/ .429, 1 walk, 3 strikeout

Bill Hall: 2-for-6, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Hermida: 1-for-3, 2 strikeouts


Francona on D&H: ‘David needs to play tonight’ 05.05.10 at 1:45 pm ET
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Terry Francona will continue to get questions about who is playing DH every night. (AP)

Terry Francona called in for his weekly talk with Dale & Holley on Wednesday, and still the No. 1 question is about the David Ortiz-Mike Lowell situation, especially with Lowell swinging a hot bat and Ortiz struggling.

Francona said Ortiz will be in the lineup Wednesday against the Angels, and he explained his decision.

“David needs to play tonight,” said Francona. “We got to give David chances where we think he can succeed to put some good swings on the ball. It doesn’t insure that it is going to happen. I certainly want it to happen. In a night like tonight, David is going to DH. I understand what you are asking. I understand what you are inferring. It’s a long year and we got to try and put guys in a position to succeed.”

Francona also talked about the health of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, the decision to send Jason Varitek in Baltimore and how it’s OK not to have a “happy clubhouse.”

To read the transcript look below, but to hear the interview click here.

Does it feel like you’ve managed 999 games in a Red Sox uniform?

It feels like I’ve managed 999 this week.

Number 1,000 is tonight for you.

I actually didn’t know that. I think there is a lot of things I didn’t know.

What does it mean to you?

My first thought is if it’s a 1,000 here it’s probably like dog years and it’s 7,000 somewhere else.

What was your mindset of how long you wanted to stay in Boston when you first took the job?

I don’t I’ve ever viewed it like that. I was obviously excited to come up here. When managers jobs change, not too often are the circumstances that they are here. This job was kind of built to try to win, so I caught a break and I knew that. Things went well and you get to stay and you do the best you can. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about stuff like that. I’ve got my hands full trying to spend my energy on what I can control. Those other things, I don’t think it makes any sense to do that. Someday I won’t be here, for whatever reason, and that’s the way the game is. I can live with that. I just want us to play good baseball. That’s kind of what I need to spend my energy on. Read the rest of this entry »

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