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Pre-Game Notes 04.21.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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Word is that the Red Sox are “hopeful” that the game will get started in timely fashion. The tarp is still down, but it’s not raining at the moment (update!) and it’s raining hard at the moment. The dreaded “off-and-on” rain seems a decent bet for the evening.

In non-meteorological news, Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie underwent surgery on his left wrist. Manager Terry Francona said that the surgery, which repaired the S-L ligament and removed the fractured ulnar styloid, went as well as could have been hoped for. There was no damage to the TFCC cartilage, which would have required a more substantial surgery and rehab.

(Disclaimer: if you don’t understand what those terms mean, you’re not alone. Francona was reading about them from a sheet of paper, which he crumpled once he’d completed.)

Francona said that Lowrie is expected to wear a splint for the next 10 days, have the stitches removed and then being the long rehab process. If all goes well, he should we swinging again in six weeks, a timetable that will have him taking hacks around early June. Obviously, after a long period away from the diamond, there would be a still-lengthy rehab process, but the Sox remain hopeful that, as they suggested yesterday, he can return before the All-Star break.

“It was exactly what (the doctors) thought and hoped it would be,” said Francona.

Julio Lugo is slated (weather permitted) to begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket tonight. He is scheduled to play on Tuesday and Wednesday, have an off-day on Thursday, and then play Friday through Sunday. At that point, he will be re-evaluated to determine whether he is ready for activation, or if not, where he is in his progress back to the major-league diamond for the first time since the final Saturday before last year’s All-Star break.

–The Red Sox have placed Rocco Baldelli on the disabled list, replacing him with first baseman/outfielder Jeff Bailey. Bailey had been one of the top hitters for the Sox this spring, when he hit .355 with a .456 OBP and .600 slugging mark. It was understandably disappointing for Bailey to receive the news that he would not break camp with the Sox, but he absorbed it quickly and performed well while back in Triple-A Pawtucket. Bailey hit .255 / .407 / .511 with four homers for the PawSox, and was the obvious choice for a call-up to replace Baldelli’s right-handed bat in the lineup.

“I told Bails, ‘This is a lot more fun than the last time I saw you,'” said Sox manager Terry Francona.

“It is what it is. There was a need. I didn’t fill that need. Now I do,” Bailey said of the shuttle. “It’s always nice (to get called up). It’s the big leagues.”

There seems a decent likelihood that Bailey could be in the lineup against Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on Wednesday. Bailey said that he’s faced Liriano several times in the minors, and recalled homering off of him once on a snowy day in Rochester.

As for Baldelli, the hamstring discomfort was sufficient that Baldelli agreed that being shut down for a couple of weeks was the right course of action. There didn’t seem to be much concern that he would be out for longer.

–Baldelli was serving as the backup centerfielder, a position that Bailey cannot play. For now, J.D. Drew is the alternative to Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield, though it is conceivable that the Sox could make another roster move in the coming days to have a true backup centerfielder.

Daisuke Matsuzaka began his throwing progression, tossing the ball from 60 feet on flat ground. He emerged from the WBC measuring well in his strength tests, but the Sox did not feel that he was able to sustain his strength over the course of his outings, the byproduct of ramping up too quickly.

–Francona lauded the work and approach of George Kottaras, who has done well thus far as Tim Wakefield‘s catcher. Kottaras, Francona said, has been following Jason Varitek all over the place, and Francona noted with some appreciation that Varitek has been letting the rookie do so. Francona also said that while Kottaras has some pop in his bat, that may not be evident this year, as performance tends to be hurt by irregular playing time.

John Smoltz, still at the Sox’ extended spring training facility in Fort Myers, will throw a bullpen session. Depending on how that goes, he will either face hitters for live batting practice on Saturday, or throw two innings in an extended spring training game that day.

–The Sox will need to make a 40-man roster move to free a spot for Bailey. That will be announced at game time.

Read More: Jed Lowrie, Julio Lugo, Rocco Baldelli,
Varitek day off, Lowrie to AZ 04.19.09 at 12:29 pm ET
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With a morning game on Monday and after catching Josh Beckett on Saturday night, Jason Varitek got a break from the starting lineup on Sunday. George Kottaras was penciled in the lineup to catch Jon Lester.

Francona said that Varitek didn’t need a lot of convincing to take a break.

“When a guy’s 32 years old or something, you don’t necessarily always ask,” Francona said. “That’s just kind of common sense. We’ve got a lot of baseball left to play this year. I talked to ‘Tuckster’ a couple of days ago and said, ‘This is probably what we need to shoot for.’ I think he was in agreement. Just trying to make a long season work.”

Jed Lowrie, meanwhile will be seen Monday to have his left examined again. Lowrie is on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left wrist.

“He’s in Phoenix,” Francona said. “He’ll be seen early tomorrow morning. All the MRIs, all the pictures have either gone with him or are on the way.”

Read More: Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, MLB, Red Sox
Lowrie’s doctor “cautiously optimistic” surgery can be avoided 04.15.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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It has been a brutal couple of days for Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie. He awoke on Sunday experiencing the same symptoms that rendered him ineffective as a left-handed hitter over the final months of 2008. He landed on the disabled list and flew back to Boston on Monday, met with three doctors in Boston on Tuesday, then woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday for an early-morning flight to Baltimore, where he spent the day and flew back before finally landing back in Boston a bit after 6 p.m.

“It’s been a long couple days, but I guess it’s better to just get it out of the way,” said Lowrie.

Lowrie flew to Baltimore to meet with Dr. Thomas Graham of the Curtis National Hand Center. Graham worked to pinpoint the areas that have been the source of Lowrie’s discomfort and weakness, both over the final months of last year and since late March, and administered  two cortisone injections in the affected areas.

The shortstop said in a phone interview that Graham was “cautiously optimistic” that the shots, combined with rest and then a rehab program, might allow his condition to improve. Lowrie, whose wrist is stiff and in a brace following the injections, will be re-examined towards the end of a normal rehab program — he guessed that it might be after three to five weeks, though Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters in Oakland that the shortstop might be able to resume some baseball activity within two weeks – to determine whether that conservative treatment course will work, or whether surgery will be necessary.

Three scenarios are possible once the effects of the cortisone subside.

“One is that the cortisone didn’t work, and surgery is needed, whenver the cortisone wears off and it stops feeling good. Two is that it’s a short-term fix, that it feels good for a little while kind of like it did this offseason through spring training, and then the surgery is needed when that’s done. Or, it’s a long-term solution,” said Lowrie. “We decided that there was no reason to rush right into surgery, especially when you’re talking about a wrist, when there are more avenues to explore that are possibly less invasive such as a cortisone shot.”

That such scenarios are on the table is a bit bewildering for Lowrie. An offseason of rest and rehab seemed to pay signficant dividends, as his strength improved substantially from the end of last year to the time when he reported to spring training. Lowrie gained confidence as he proved capable of turning on good fastballs from right-handed pitchers, and believed that the injury was behind him during a spring when he was likely the Red Sox’ best hitter.

But Lowrie recalled feeling a return of soreness in the wrist after the Red Sox traveled to Tampa Bay to play the Yankees on March 24. Initially, he thought the soreness was a byproduct of returning from the injury. Instead, the symptoms got no better.

Still, even as the 24-year-old stopped hitting with the authority that he had exhibited as a left-handed batter over the first month of spring training, he believed that the issue was merely one of mechanics. That changed Sunday in Anaheim, when Lowrie awoke and discovered that his wrist was exhibiting the same issues that it did down the stretch last year, when his strength loss rendered him unable to hit effectively as a left-hander.

“That’s when I brought it to the attention of the trainers,” said Lowrie.

The two problem areas identified by Graham were the scapholunate ligament, in the top of his hand, the still-fractured ulnar styloid, the same break in his wrist that existed last year. The only way the break can be repaired, Lowrie said, is with surgery, though Graham told Lowrie that in some instances players have been able to remain on the field with that injury.

“It’s still an area of concern,” said Lowrie. “That’s what the cortisone will tell.”

Lowrie’s ECU tendon (the same one in which David Ortiz suffered a partial tear last year that landed him on the D.L.) is also inflamed, though there is some question about whether the fracture in his wrist is causing the tendon inflammation, or whether the tendon is the source of pain in the fracture.

Lowrie and the Sox are hopeful that surgery can be avoided. If not, there are two potential surgical options, with different implications for his availability for the rest of 2009.

“It wasn’t talked about in detail because we’re not going down that path yet. Hopefully it never comes to this,” said Lowrie. “If (the injury) continues on, I can either have the bone — the ulna styloid — reattached to the ulna or get it taken out. If it’s removed, it will be a shorter rehab period. If it’s attached, it’s a little longer.”

A year ago, Lowrie played through the injury because it was clear that doing so was in the best interests of the team. With fellow shortstop Julio Lugo on the sidelines due to his torn quadriceps muscle, Lowrie felt that he could help his team even while playing through the condition (a notion that was validated when he hit a walkoff single in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Angels).

With the recurrence of the injury, however, Lowrie recognized that playing through that sort of pain — and with diminished performance — for another full season was not an option.

“I have to be realistic about this. I have to get healthy so I can be the productive player that I know that I am,” said Lowrie. “It’s important to figure this out now to get healthy and to figure this out. I don’t want it to linger my whole career. If this is something long-term, I don’t want to have to get cortisone two, three, four times a year and hope that it will heal later.

“I have such a drive to be out there with my teammates. It’s hard to step back from that. Everyone around me in the clubhouse is so team-first oriented,” he continued. “Last year, I played injured. I thought that was the best thing for the team, for me to battle through it. It happened again this year, unfortunately, with the same kind of injury. It’s time for me to figure out a long-term solution where this doesn’t keep recurring.”

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The low-down on Lowrie and other stuff 04.13.09 at 10:17 pm ET
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OAKLAND — While we should hear more Tuesday regarding the particulars of Jed Lowrie’s wrist injury (which has placed him on the 15-day disabled list), this is what we know …

Per Red Sox manager Terry Francona from his pre-game media briefing: 

“The only thing we have right now is that he was sent back for a bunch of tests so we can be a little more conclusive on what is going on. 

“They just want to get all the facts before they start telling us what’s going on.

“He showed up yesterday and said it was bothering him. I think the more we started talking to him and pushing a little bit, we realized we need to get this thing checked out. He had such a good spring. Then when you kind of push him and prod him a little bit he said it had started to bother him the last couple of weeks but didn’t say anything to him. On one hand we told, ‘Hey, you need to let us know.’ On the other hand that’s how players are and you kind of respect that.”

“Same area? Yeah. They’re getting a lot of good opinions. Their not sure, that’s why we sent him back.”

As for Lowrie’s replacement, Nick Green, it should be noted that he made an early impression with his throwing arm.

“Nick’s a solid baseball player,” said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia of his new double-play partner. “He does a lot of things really well. He brings energy. He’s got an absolute cannon for an arm. Nick’s a good player. It’s huge for us when our two shortstops go down and these guys are ready to step in and do a good job. I played catch with him one time and he just about bruised my palm. I’m like, ‘I’m going to stop playing catch with him for a while.'”

Gil Velazquez, who, like Green, hits from the right side, found out that he was going to be catching a 6 a.m. flight upon arriving in Rochester with the Pawtucket Red Sox after playing all 15 innings of the PawSox’ Sunday tilt in Buffalo. The 6-foot-2 shortstop, who has been widely praised for his defensive abilities, was 4 for 18 with the PawSox.

In other notes:

Dustin Pedroia, who has come under major scrutiny in the Oakland area because of comments made in a Boston Magazine article in which he calls his hometown of Woodland a “dump”, received a smattering of boos in his first at-bat.

Casey Kelly, the Red Sox’ first selection (30th overall) in the 2008 draft made his professional pitching debut for Single A Greenville Sunday, allowing four hits with four strikeouts in five scoreless innings.

– Francona spoke fondly of Harry Kalas, the Philadelphia Phillies announcer who passed away suddenly Monday, remembering one of the lighter moments when Kalas served as the announcer for the Phillies’ fantasy football draft. “He did our first fantasy football draft,” Francona remembered. “That was incredible. We didn’t do a lot of good things there, but we did that good.”

– Monday marked the 12-year-0ld birthday of Wally the Green Monster.

Chris Carter, who hails from nearby Fremont, is leaving 50 tickets for friends and family Tuesday.

Read More: Jed Lowrie, nick green, Terry Francona,
Lowrie Heading to D.L. Due to Wrist Injury at 7:26 pm ET
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Jed Lowrie, who has been sent back to Boston in order to undergo tests on his left wrist (the same one that suffered a non-displaced fracture last season), will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. The shortstop informed team officials about discomfort in the wrist on Sunday, but expressed that he had been dealing with the issue for a couple of weeks.

Throughout the spring, there were markers of significant progress in Lowrie’s recovery from an injury that rendered him ineffective as a left-handed hitter last September and October. The 24-year-old said that his left wrist was showing nearly identical strength to his right one at the start of spring training, and his gap-to-gap power as a left-handed hitter throughout the spring suggested as much.

But Lowrie got off to a dreadful 1-for-18 (.056) start at the plate this season, striking out in almost half (eight) of his at-bats. The trip to the disabled list suggests that it was not merely a slump.

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Bottom 8: Pedroia joins the chorus of the dismayed 04.08.09 at 10:04 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia, behind 0-2 while leading off the eighth, got called out for a check-swing against a J.P. Howell curveball. Pedroia took some umbrage in the suggestion that he had swung. That would be three Red Sox who are acutely disappointed in the work of home-plate ump Bob Davidson. I believe that Pedroia expressed precisely that sentiment, or at least some approximation of it. (Careful lip-reading scrutiny of his reaction on NESN suggests that he employed his complete arsenal of Parliamentary debate skills in pronouncing, “(Expletive) that (expletive).”)

Who knows whether Davidson has impacted the game?

At any rate, Howell gained no momentum from the call. David Ortiz scorched a liner off the base of the Wall in left, Kevin Youkilis singled off the glove of diving third baseman Evan Longoria and, after Rocco Baldelli struck out swinging, Jason Bay smashed a run-scoring double down the left-field line. Howell then clipped Mike Lowell on the elbow with a fastball, loading the bases and prompting Howell’s egress from the contest in favor of hard-throwing right-hander Grant Balfour.

Balfour posed an interesting test for the first man he faced, Jed Lowrie. Lowrie, of course, was benched against hard-throwing righties during the playoffs last year, the non-displaced fracture in his left wrist rendering the switch-hitter unable to generate enough bat speed to catch up to a good, firm fastball. This spring, Lowrie had seen signs of a reversal, pulling fastballs foul against the likes of hard-throwing Orioles reliever Chris Ray in exhibition games.

But in his first such test of the 2009 regular season, Lowrie — who represented the tying run — was overmatched. Balfour threw six pitches, all 94-95 mph fastballs. Lowrie swung late as the last one zinged over the outside part of the plate, and the Rays escaped the inning with their four-run advantage intact.

Rays 6, Red Sox 2

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Red Sox vs. Reds post-game notes 03.19.09 at 8:59 pm ET
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Jon Lester looked sharp in his fifth outing of the spring, logging 4.1 innings and allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while striking out six. His curveball overmatched left-handed hitters. The southpaw also reported progress with his changeup, which he estimated he threw seven or eight times, and feels as if there’s a good likelihood he’ll be able to employ it during the regular season.

Jed Lowrie is raking. Batting left-handed in all four of his trips to the plate, the switch-hitting shortstop went 3-for-4 with a single, a double to left-center and a two-run homer that he ripped to right. All are reminders of his progress back from last year’s wrist injury.

His spring numbers are nothing short of spectacular. Following his three-hit night, he is hitting .462 with with a .500 OBP and .872 slugging mark. Clearly, following an offseason in which he could allow his wrist to heal, he is feeling good at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jed Lowrie Sees the Difference 03.10.09 at 8:19 am ET
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The sign that Jed Lowrie was looking for came on, of all things, a foul ball. It was a fastball from Orioles one-time closer Chris Ray, a pitcher with legitimate velocity who does a good job of getting in on the hands of left-handed hitters. That is precisely what Ray tried to do. Lowrie pulled the pitch, by his own account, “way foul.”

“It was a fastball in, probably on the inside corner,” said Lowrie. “I hadn’t felt that kind of quickness to an inside pitch in a long time. It felt like the wrist was getting better. … Last year, I just wasn’t catching up to a good fastball. This year, the wrist is feeling better, and I’m trying to maintain that throughout the year.”

There was more evidence to come shortly thereafter, when Lowrie faced Orlando Roman of Team Puerto Rico. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Chris Ray, Jed Lowrie, Julio Lugo,
Lugo no fan of shortstop competition 03.08.09 at 7:48 am ET
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Julio Lugo, a native of the Dominican who moved to New York in his youth, had his cell phone blow up on Saturday after the Dominican Republic endured a shocking 3-2 loss to the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Plenty of incoming and outgoing minutes were devoted to the topic.

“Man,” said Lugo. “Everybody called me. Even David (Ortiz) called me. He couldn’t believe it. That’s hard. I’m hurting right now. … (Ortiz) couldn’t believe we lost. I didn’t think (there was baseball in the Netherlands, but I guess there is.”

Asked for his thoughts on how the heavily favored Dominican team lost, Lugo offered a simple explanation.

“I think they just took it too lightly,” he said.

Lugo will not be guilty of such a mistake this spring as he competes with Jed Lowrie for the role of everyday shortstop for the Red Sox. All the same, taking a competition seriously and enjoying it are two separate things. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jed Lowrie, Julio Lugo, WBC,
Red Sox at Rays Pre-Game Notes, 3/7 03.07.09 at 1:03 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — It appears unlikely that the fever-pitch intensity of the ALCS will carry over in today’s Grapefruit League showdown between the Red Sox and Rays. Given that the Red Sox lineup today features just two players (Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie) and one pitcher (Tim Wakefield) who was on the roster for the playoffs last year, a reprisal of Coco Crisp vs. James Shields is rather far-fetched.

Nonetheless, a few items of note:

–A report from ESPNDeportes suggested that David Ortiz, who started at first base in a WBC tuneup game on Tuesday, had to be moved to designated hitter due to discomfort in his left shoulder. Red Sox manager Terry Francona was under the impression that Ortiz’ shoulder isn’t experiencing anything beyond the soreness that characterized his early days in spring training this year.

The Sox were caught slightly off-guard when Ortiz played first in the WBC, since the team almost never employs him at the position except in interleague play. “We don’t play him at first because we’re trying to keep him healthy,” said Francona. “There’s a reason we DH’d him.”

Even so, Francona said that he trusted the judgment of both Ortiz and Team Dominica manager Felipe Alou to make the right call.

“I would never tell Felipe who to play,” said Francona.

–Through Francona reserved the right to change his mind, Mike Lowell will make his first appearance of the exhibition season on Tuesday, playing as a designated hitter. If all goes well, Lowell will then make an appearance as a third baseman in a game next Friday night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first appearance of the WBC, allowing two runs in four frames of four-hit, two-walk one-strikeout ball. Matsuzaka struggled to command in the first (when he gave up both runs), but settled into a nice rhythm by the third inning. Francona is unsure how Matsuzaka’s innings will be managed once he’s done with the WBC, since it is conceivable that he could be ramped up as high as 110 pitches with roughly two weeks to go in spring trainin.

–Both Jed Lowrie (.385 average, two doubles, a homer) and Julio Lugo (.417 average) are hitting well early in camp. Lowrie, in particular, is making consistent hard contact, and Francona complimented the 24-year-old for how he’s handling the competition. “He’s completely embraced what’s in front of him,” said Francona.

While Lowrie sat in favor of Alex Cora against hard-throwing right-handers during the playoffs last year, Francona believes it will be unnecessary to do so going forward. Lowrie’s inability to catch up with fastballs, Francona suggested, was entirely a byproduct of his injured wrist, and the manager suggested that the shortstop has already shown an ability to square up balls that he could not catch up to at the end of last year.

As for Lugo, Francona is hopeful that the shortstop can improve upon the .343 slugging percentage that he has as a Red Sox. Lugo appears stronger this year, and his stance is also more upright, which might help him to hit with greater power. Lugo had a .419 slugging mark as a member of the Rays from 2003-06.

Miguel Gonzalez, the right-handed pitcher taken by the Sox in the Rule 5 draft, underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday. He will miss the season.

Brad Penny will throw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday.

Rocco Baldelli is experiencing some tightness of the groin, and so has been somewhat restricted in his activities. During the year, Francona said that he might represent a solid (if infrequent) option as designated hitter to provide Ortiz with a day of rest on occasions when the Sox are facing a particularly tough left-handed pitcher.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, mike lowell,
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