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Red Sox Saturday Morning Notes: Fantasy Camp for Embree 03.20.10 at 10:06 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — An amused Alan Embree popped out of the Red Sox camp and onto the field at City of Palms Park — his spring training home in the 2003-05 seasons — turned around and took stock of his surroundings.

“Fantasy camp!” he mused.

The 40-year-old left-hander, who appeared in 211 games for the Red Sox from 2002 (when he was acquired by the Sox in a trade from the Padres) through 2005, is back on a minor league deal, now returns to the club for whom he produced a signature moment in franchise history, recording the final out of the 10-3 win over the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS in ’04. The Sox will try to determine if Embree — whose 2009 season was cut short by a line drive that broke his right tibia — is ready to throw a bullpen today. The team does not have a timetable for the pace at which it hopes he will progress this spring.

Obviously, Embree’s arrival will command the attention of the other relievers competing for a Red Sox roster spot.

“There’€™s guys in this camp, I’€™m sure their radar has gone up,’€ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Francona said that pitching coach John Farrell has already touched base with the pitchers to discuss the acquisition of Embree, and the manager planned to do the same.

LINEUP

Here’s the Red Sox lineup that will face the Orioles today:

Ellsbury, 8
Pedroia, 4
Martinez, 2
Youkilis, 3
Ortiz, DH
Drew, 9
Beltre, 5
Hall, 7
Scutaro, 6

Wakefield, SP (followed by Delcarmen, Nelson and Cabrera)

OTHER NOTES

Victor Martinez played his first game of the spring at first base on Friday, making a fine diving stop on a hard hit grounder. Manager Terry Francona suggested that the team was comfortable with having Martinez play that position as soon as it acquired him last year.

“I actually think we thought he was pretty good,” said Francona. “He’€™s so conscientious.”

The team does not yet know how often Martinez will play first in the coming season.

Kevin Youkilis has yet to play in a game at third base this spring, but Francona said that he would do so before the end of camp.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely to have his two-inning minor league outing at the Red Sox minor league facility at 11am on Sunday.

Jed Lowrie has not been able to return to meaningful physical activity from his diagnosis with mononucleosis.

“He’€™s allowed to do what is tolerated and he’€™s not been doing much. I would say that there’€™s just not much going on right now,” said Francona. “The hard thing is, you don’€™t know how much of a setback because when you’€™re not doing much and then when you come back, it’€™s going to take a toll. Hopefully he’€™ll be able to tolerate start doing some things.”

Mike Lowell remains in line to play third base for the first time of the spring on Sunday.

Read More: Alan Embree, brian shouse, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jed Lowrie
Red Sox Wednesday Morning Notes: Lowrie has mono 03.17.10 at 9:27 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — On a gray Florida morning, the Red Sox are hopeful that inclement weather will not prove an impediment to the donning of the green, part of the team’s annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Before today’s scheduled affair against the New York Metropolitans (who must traverse the state to journey from Atlantic to Gulf Coast, an undertaking of such great peril and exhaustion that Jason Bay elected to remain anchored in the safe haven of Port St. Lucie), the team would like pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to throw his long-awaited live batting practice, though the club is at the mercy of the fates and the local meteorologists.

A compendium of additional items of newsworthiness on this morning:

— A series of tests revealed that Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie‘s recent fatigue was the result of mononucleosis. The 26-year-old told the Sox last Thursday that he felt exhausted, at a time when he was facing an accelerated heart beat.

After more significant issues had been ruled out, subsequent tests revealed that his symptoms were a result of mono. He will be able to handle some return to physical activity, though it remains to be seen at what pace.

“He has mono,” said manager Terry Francona. “He can play as tolerated. It’s just, there’s a reason he was feeling run down the last week. He was on a bike yesterday. I don’t think he’ll feel like he has a ton of energy for the next week or two, but he can do physical things as tolerated. We’ll monitor him. I don’t think we want him kissing anyone, but we’ll keep an eye on him.”

— Reliever Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity has been pedestrian this spring. But while Francona acknowledged the fact, he also said that it wasn’t cause for alarm.

“I don’t know about [his velocity being down from where it] should be. It’s still not where it will be,” said Francona. “You’re going to have a little bit of dead arm, even a little dead body. There’s always that line we’re watching in spring training. He’s got no arm issues, so as his delivery comes together, you’ll see a little bit of that velocity come back. … He’s in good shape.”

— Super utility man Bill Hall earned praise from Francona for his great attitude while being shuttled around the field. Francona said that it remained a bit early to make assessments of Hall’s shortstop defense given that he’s only played five innings at the position. Even so, he suggested that the team would certainly be comfortable with having him spell starter Marco Scutaro at the position, but it remained unclear whether he’d be able to handle the position on an everyday basis should Scutaro suffer an injury.

“He’s a big kid — big strong kid,” said Francona. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we could certainly put him there. If Marco were out for two weeks or something, I don’t know if that’s the case. We just don’t know. But it’s nice to know that if something happens in a game, he can go over there, or play the odd game if he needs to. We certainly feel comfortable with that.”

— Left-hander Dustin Richardson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Sox had told Richardson that he had positioned himself to compete for a spot as a second left-hander on the major league roster on the strength of a terrific 2009 season, his first full year out of the bullpen (97 strikeouts in 74 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, and three scoreless appearances in the majors). But Richardson allowed five hits and three walks in 1.2 innings, and the Sox — who still consider the power lefty to be an intriguing prospect who could offer a mid-year boost — would like to see him work on attacking the strike zone while continuing his development in the minors.

“He’s an interesting guy. He’s left-handed, very athletic, good pitcher’s body,” said Francona. “He needs innings. He needs reps. He needs to pound the strike zone. We told him that. He’s a young kid that’s got some finish on his fastball that he can throw it in the zone and get hitters out, but consistency is going to be a big deal. You can’t go 3-2 on hitters and not pay the price. That’s all part of development.”

Jacoby Ellsbury has been dealing with a sore throat. He will be examined by a doctor, and take Wednesday and Thursday off from workouts, before returning to physical activity on Friday with an eye towards playing again on Saturday.

Josh Beckett continues to feel better after his own bout with illness, and will start on Friday.

— Infielder Gil Velazquez suffered a jammed thumb on Tuesday night, and will be examined.

— Minor leaguer Richie Lentz, who had a dominating bullpen season at two levels in 2008, informed the Sox that he was retiring. He flashed significant promise that year, showing a mid- to high-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball (albeit with command issues) en route to 112 strikeouts in 77.1 innings, but he elected to walk away from the game upon experiencing shoulder discomfort this spring.

Read More: bill Hall, Daisuke Matsuzaka, dustin richardson, Jacoby Ellsbury
What’s New with the Red Sox: Friday 03.06.10 at 6:52 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts.

Groundhog Day seemingly characterizes the start of the Grapefruit League schedule, not only because the unseasonable chill persists in Florida, but also due to the fact that the Red Sox and Twins keep playing one another. The Fort Myers-based combatants played for the second of three straight days on Friday, though the Twins offered evidence that, after losing the first contest of the best-of-five Mayor’s Cup on Thursday, they mean business.

Minnesota featured a stacked lineup that included Denard Span, Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome, Delmon Young and J.J. Hardy.

“I remember a long, long time ago when the Twins teams you used to see had all these big old horses walking up there in those big powder-blue uniforms,” Gardenhire said. “I was watching today all these big backs walking up to home plate going, ‘Wow, this is kind of like old school back in the day when I was playing against them in instructional league.’ Hopefully, that will be the case.”

That lineup jumped on Jon Lester for four runs in one inning, on a day when the left-hander struggled a bit with his control, throwing 16 of 33 pitches for strikes. Lester, however, said that he was just barely missing wide of his target, rather than bouncing pitches or throwing them off the backstop, and the fact that he felt physically good in his first start of the exhibition season allowed him to feel at peace with his outing.

Lester’s outing was not the most significant of the day, however. His performance was overshadowed by those of other pitchers. The details:

Tim Wakefield had a strong first outing of the spring, tossing a pair of shutout inning while allowing only one infield hit. The 43-year-old has shown thus far that he has no physical restrictions after undergoing lower back surgery to repair a bulging disc following the end of the season. As of now, he remains on a normal schedule, with his next start slated to take place on Tuesday.

Mike Lowell suggested to manager Terry Francona that he is feeling good, and would like to get in a game as soon as next Wednesday. Francona said that it was more likely that the team would wait until it returned from a trip to Florida’s East Coast before putting Lowell in a game, perhaps as soon as next Sat., March 13. Even so, the manager took it as a good sign that the corner infielder is pushing for expanded activity.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had what he and pitching coach John Farrell deemed an encouraging first bullpen session of the spring. Matsuzaka threw 58 pitches, with his catcher moving from a standing position to an intermediate squat and then finally to a crouch for the last 12 pitches. Farrell said that Matsuzaka, whose spring schedule was slowed by a mild mid-upper back strain at the start of spring training, is making steady progress, and shows the core strength to maintain a consistent delivery, something that was an issue last year. Matsuzaka — who will throw his next bullpen session on Sunday — said that he is in better shape physically than he was in any of his first three seasons with the Sox.

All of that said, neither Farrell nor Matsuzaka could say whether the pitcher will have finished the necessary steps to be ready to pitch come Opening Day. Of course, Matsuzaka need not pitch that early. Indeed, thanks to a boatload of early off days, the Sox could go without a fifth starter until April 18 — and that date assumes that there are no rainouts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: casey kelly, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie
What’s New With The Red Sox: Tuesday 03.03.10 at 2:47 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Nothing fancy, just the facts.” (I’ve been told by Rob Bradford that I am contractually obligated to lead with that statement.)

The Red Sox had one last day of workouts at the minor league training facility before packing their belongings and preparing to head up the road to City of Palms Park for the start of the exhibition calendar. News was scant, insofar as the next round of questions that looms about the club will be answered during spring training games, beginning with Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College.

Even so, some items came more clearly into view:

Jonathan Papelbon discussed his desire to achieve greatness, and the changes he’s making this spring to do so. He discussed tweaking his mental approach, while also identifying work on his split-finger fastball as a key to his success for the upcoming year.

‘€œI came into this spring training knowing what I had to do and being on a mission to do it, whereas other spring trainings, I hadn’€™t necessary come in that way,’€ said Papelbon. ‘€œThis spring, that was part of it ‘€“ being able to throw my split more, my slider more, making my adjustment to the hitters.

‘€œIt’€™s like riding a bike ‘€“ it’€™s always there in the back pocket, but you’€™ve just got to break it out and dust the rust off,’€ he continued. ‘€œI’€™ve kind of developed a really good feel for it out of the gate now. For me, that’€™s huge, because obviously that’€™s a feel pitch, a confidence pitch. It’€™s a pitch you have to have confidence to throw. For me, being able to come out here these first few sessions and throw it effectively has been a big confidence builder for me. I’€™m excited to keep building that throughout the spring.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bill Hall, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis
Audio: Lowrie back on ‘right’ path this spring 02.20.10 at 10:29 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — By his own admission on Saturday, Jed Lowrie did not take the best approach to healing his left wrist in 2009.

He played just 32 games and hit just .147 after having surgery on his left wrist on April 21.

“Bottom line, I just need to get healthy,” Lowrie said. “You can look at this season as a rebound season, but I’m looking to have a long career, I’m not looking at one season. Every year I come into camp, I want to be the starting shortstop. I don’t look at it as just looking at this year, it’s all or nothing. I’m going to look at it as I want to build a career.

“That’s why I want to make sure I fix this and get this right. I’m not looking at it as a one-year standpoint.”

[Click here to listen to Lowrie talk about his regrettable 2009 approach to his left wrist.]

Read More: Jed Lowrie, Red Sox,
Lowrie looks to move forward at 9:59 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. –By his own admission, the 2009 season was a challenging one for infielder Jed Lowrie. The 25-year-old admitted that the frustrations were numerous, beginning with the fact that he learned in April that the broken bone in his left wrist following the 2008 season had not fully healed and would require surgery.

Lowrie then had the ulna styloid completely removed — a procedure without known precedent for a major-league baseball player, since the small bone is more often repaired and screwed into place — leaving him out for several months. When he began his rehab at Triple A Pawtucket, Lowrie started well but then after a few games encountered discomfort and numbness on check swings and then, increasingly, in routine baseball activities.

“My wrist just wasn’€™t in shape last year. I just wasn’€™t ready to be an everyday player. I feel right now that I’€™m on that track and it’€™s getting better everyday,” said Lowrie. “I did everything I could to be on the field, and nothing worked. That was probably the most frustrating part, because we tried so many different things and nothing worked.”

He did return to the field late in the year, but the results suggested a player whose readiness to play was somewhat in doubt. In 32 games, Lowrie hit .147 with a .211 OBP, .265 slugging mark and .476 OPS, all a terrible disappointment given both the promise he had shown in his rookie year and his performance last March as arguably the top hitter in his team’s spring training camp.

On Saturday morning, Lowrie arrived at the team’s minor league training facility following an offseason spent under the supervision of medical trainers. He worked both with a hockey trainer in Toronto (where Lowrie was living with his fiancee) and a tennis trainer in the Tampa Bay area (where he worked out starting in mid-January), both of whom helped him to devise a treatment plan that might address the struggles of the previous year.

Lowrie suggested that he feels that he has a better sense of what he needs to do to stay healthy in order to get his career once again moving forward.

“I think we went down the wrong path last year. We never really figured out what was going on,” he said. “We never really got on a path that worked last year. I feel like I had a chance this offseason to kind of reset and find that way.

“I played all of 2008 with a broken wrist. I don’€™t feel like I need to prove I’€™m tough enough. I just need to get healthy.”

Yet whereas Lowrie succeeded in his opportunity to win the everyday job as shortstop over Julio Lugo last year (his performance would have won him the role even had Lugo not undergone surgery in mid-March), this year, there are no certain openings on the major league roster. Marco Scutaro was signed to be the everyday shortstop, with Sox GM Theo Epstein saying at the time that the team believed in Lowrie’s talent, but had to see him prove an ability to stay healthy at the big league level. There is the possibility of a reserve role for the versatile Lowrie, who has played short, second and third, and whose switch-hitting could also prove useful for a club whose starting infielders (Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia) are all right-handed.

But, the possibility also exists that the Sox could determine that the best thing for Lowrie, after last year’s lost development time, would be to play everyday in Triple A Pawtucket. Lowrie resisted saying whether he viewed that possibility as a better or worse option than a major league bench role. Instead, he said that he wanted to keep an “open dialogue” with the club to determine what would be better for his career, not just in 2010 but for the long haul.

“You can look at this season as a rebound season, but I’€™m looking to have a long career. I’€™m not looking to just have one season,” said Lowrie. “Every year that I come into camp, I want to be the starting shortstop. I don’€™t look at it as just this year, all or nothing. I look at it as, I want to build a career. That’€™s why I want to make sure that I fix this and I get this right. I’€™m not looking at it from just a this-year standpoint.”

Because of that broad view, Lowrie was able to find some hint of a silver lining from a 2009 season that otherwise challenged him in any number of ways.

“I never gave up. I could have easily just said, ‘€˜I’€™m done for the year.’€™ There were a lot of times when I felt that way, where my wrist just wasn’€™t responding. But I never stopped trying,” said Lowrie. “That’€™s what I’€™m most proud of last year. I kept to the grind and did everything I could to get back on the field.”

Read More: Jed Lowrie,
Marco Scutaro and what it means for Jed Lowrie 12.04.09 at 6:31 pm ET
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Theo Epstein was very clear on Friday. He still believes in Jed Lowrie.

But right now, not as the starting shortstop for the Red Sox. That job belongs to 34-year-old Marco Scutaro following Friday’s two-year deal with a dual option for a third that could carry through the 2012 season.

“We still believe in Jed Lowrie,” Epstein said on Friday. “I still believe in Jed Lowrie. He has yet to reach his potential because of some injury issues but we feel the best is yet to come.”

Lowrie has all of a sudden become a different sort of middle man. The man caught in between Marco Scutaro and blue chip Cuban shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias.

Epstein also said that Lowrie met with doctors on Friday to have his surgically repaired left wrist is getting stronger and stronger. Lowrie finished 2008 with a fracture in that same wrist and then tried to play in 2009, only to be forced to shut it down early in the ’09 season and undergo surgery.

Epstein said that Lowrie should be a go for spring training and expects him to fight hard for a utility infield position on the 2010 Red Sox.

Other tidbits from Friday:

Epstein said he expects the replacement for Amateur Scouting Director Jason McLeod to come from outside the organization.

“We’ll probably try to promote from within,” Epstein said. “It’s more likely that [the replacement] will come internally.”

Asked if he expects the replacement process to impede the planning process for the June 2010 draft, Epstein said, ‘No. We’ll be clicking on all cylinders by that time.”

The team also sent medical staff to check in on Mike Lowell this week. Epstein indicated that the team was told it usually takes a year-and-a-half for a player to get back to full speed and that’s where Lowell should be this spring following hip labrum surgery following the 2008 season.

Epstein said J.D. Drew is right on track to be at full speed following a procedure to clean out the AC joint in his left shoulder following the season. It is not the same shoulder the Red Sox protected themselves against when they inked Drew to a five-year, $70 million deal prior to the 2007 season.

Epstein said there is ‘nothing specific’ to report in the talks with Jason Bay’s agent.

The priorities for the Red Sox at the Winter Meetings are likely to include starting pitching, bullpen depth and bench depth with Epstein indicating the team would be ‘open-minded’ about a high-impact free agent.

“We still have a lot of moves to make,” Epstein said, before adding “This [signing Scutaro] is significant.”

The meetings start next week in Indianapolis.

Read More: Jed Lowrie, jose iglesias, marco scutaro, Red Sox
Red Sox Decline 2010 Option on Gonzalez 11.08.09 at 5:08 pm ET
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The Red Sox have declined their $6 million option on shortstop Alex Gonzalez for 2010, a major-league source confirmed. As a result, Gonzalez is now eligible for free agency. The news was first reported by boston.com.

Despite the decision to decline the shortstop’s option and instead pay him a $500,000 buy-out, the Red Sox have expressed some interest in bringing back the 32-year-old at a lower guaranteed salary. Gonzalez hit .284 with a .316 OBP and .453 slugging mark, five homers and 15 RBIs in 44 games for the Sox after Boston acquired him in a trade with the Reds in mid-August, his second stint with the Red Sox (after he spent the 2006 season in Boston). On the year, Gonzalez’ combined numbers between the Reds and Red Sox were .238/.275/.355.

Gonzalez is one of 10 players to spend at least 25 games at shortstop for the Red Sox since 2004.

The Sox currently still have Jed Lowrie on their major-league roster, though the Sox have admitted that while they would love to see the 25-year-old assume the role of starting shortstop, his struggle to remain healthy over the last couple of years suggests that the team cannot enter next year banking on his ability to take that role. Nick Green, who is due to undergo back surgery on Monday, was outrighted to the minors on Thursday.

Read More: Alex Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, nick green,
Lowrie: ‘The Prognosis Is Good’ 10.16.09 at 5:30 pm ET
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Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie, whose season was hampered by the need for surgery on his left wrist in April and a difficult recovery process from it, met with Dr. Donald Sheridan — the specialist who performed surgery on him in April — and was told on Friday morning that his wrist should be fine after an offseason to recover and strengthen the area.

“The prognosis is good,” Lowrie wrote in an e-mail. “With rest, strength and conditioning it should be 100 percent.”

Lowrie hit .147 with a .475 OPS in 32 games this season. Sox general manager Theo Epstein said at the conclusion of the season that the team believes in the young infielder’s talent, but until he proves the ability to remain healthy over the course of a big league season, the team will need other options as short. All the same, the Sox still consider the best-case scenario for their shortstop position in 2010 to be Lowrie’s emergence as a healthy and productive big leaguer.

“Lowrie is an important factor for us,” Epstein said on Monday. “This is a young player we really believe in who has been hurt as a big league player. We’€™ve not seen the type of player he can be yet at the big league level because he’€™s been playing hurt the entire time. At some point, the player has to get healthy to be able to show what he can do and to be able to help the organization.

“I don’€™t think we can hand a job to him because he hasn’€™t proved his health yet at this point. But at the same time, I wouldn’€™t be surprised if we’€™re sitting here at this time next year, hopefully with champagne and not having one of these post-mortems, but looking back and saying, ‘Wow, he really got healthy and proved himself in winning that job or playing his way into a meaningful role,’ ” Epstein continued. “Now it’€™s on him. He’€™s got to get himself healthy and make an impact. We can’€™t stake our season on the hope that he’€™ll be healthy. We have to have other options.”

Read More: Jed Lowrie, shortstop,
Red Sox Updates: Lowrie on the Roster, Baldelli Uncertain 10.06.09 at 7:05 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — A number of updates from the Red Sox on workout day:

Jed Lowrie will be on the postseason roster as the backup middle infielder. Nick Green said that he is feeling better, but entering today, had not felt physically ready for game activity.

–Utility infielder Gil Velazquez, meanwhile, after spending most of the year in Triple-A, is with the team but not on the roster. He was summoned from the Mexican Winter League in case something happens that would require the Sox to have another infielder available. Velazquez confessed that “it was a shock” when the Sox summoned him to join the club. Even so, this is the second straight year when he has been part of a playoff taxi squad. In 2008, he actually ended up replacing Mike Lowell on the active roster prior to Game 4 of the ALDS against the Angels.

Rocco Baldelli remains “pretty tender,” according to Sox manager Terry Francona. The team would like to have him on the roster because of the power threat he represents off the bench, but his strained left hip flexor has made it unclear whether that will be possible.

“He’s still pretty tender,” said Francona. “I think we plan on taking the full allotment of time just to see if he’s okay because of the threat he presents from the right side. I don’t know if it will work or not. We’re not going to put him on if he can’t play, but if he can, we’d like to have him.”

Manny Delcarmen will throw in the bullpen today, and is feeling better than he has at any time since his car accident on Saturday. Even so, Francona said that the Sox have not yet finished making out their roster, and so he was not able to divulge whether the Sox would go with 10 or 11 pitchers, or who might be on or off the bubble.

Mike Lowell said that his sore right thumb is fine. He expects no limitations when games begin. That stands in sharp contrast to how he felt a year ago, when he felt that he was “not even anywhere near” the point where he could help the Sox.

“I’€™m a primetime, lean machine right now,” said Lowell. “Everything is fine. We’€™re ready to go. … I figure if I missed 19 [games] going into the All-Star break, and came of that alright, I’ll be ready to go.”

–Francona also praised the Angels lineup, and suggested that it represented a different sort of animal than it had in years past. The presence of Bobby Abreu has played into that, as has the emergence of Kendry Morales as a switch-hitting power hitter.

[Abreu] is one of the more professional hitters in the game. I think that beyond Bobby, Morales has given them an unbelievable power dimension to their team that ‘€‘’€‘ they go 1 through 9, and they have the ability to switch hit, run the bases, hit for average, and hit the ball out of the ballpark. There’s a lot of ways. There’s a reason they’re good.”

On the other hand, ALDS Game 1 starter Jon Lester said that while Abreu has changed the dynamic of the Los Angeles lineup to a degree, the team’s ability to assert pressure through its running game remains its key to success.

“Obviously, having Bobby Abreu in the lineup helps out. He sees a lot of pitches. He’s a very patient hitter. He’s a guy that’s definitely not afraid to hit with two strikes. You know, I think that helped trickle down into some other spots in their lineup.

“But they’re still aggressive. They still go up there with a plan, and they try to execute their plan. I think what makes the Angels so difficult is the way they run the bases. They’re always pushing the envelope. They’re always trying to get that extra base and put the pressure on us or the team that they’re playing to, you know, to push the envelope, like I said.

“I don’t think they’re any different as far as attacking them. I still have to pitch to my strengths and my game plan. But knowing that, you go in there hopefully with the same approach, and hopefully, you can get some guys out early, swing at some of your pitches instead of letting them dictate the count and dictate the plan.”

–Lester admitted that he was “surprised” to be selected as the Game 1 starter for the series, over right-hander Josh Beckett.

“I was surprised to be in this position. But I’m thankful to be considered for Game 1. You know, obviously, Josh has had a lot of success in the past, and hopefully, he’ll continue to do that. Hopefully, I won’t let him down or the team down as far as taking the ball in Game 1, and going out and pitching well,” said Lester. “[I'm] just excited for the game to get here, more or less. We get out here early and have a couple of days to get acclimated with the time change and the travel. So now it’s just kind of a waiting game, and getting my work done and getting ready for Thursday.”

Though Beckett has forged a reputation as one of the best big-game performers in the majors thanks to his dominant 2003 and 2007 playoff runs, Lester has also benefited from prior experience, both in winning the World Series clincher in 2007 and in amassing a 2.36 ERA in four starts (which included 14 innings without allowing an earned run against the Angels) in 2008.

“It just goes back to that comfort level. You know, once you experience it, it’s something that never goes away. It’s not something that you’re going to forget or just put in the storage department and never remember again about it. So I think once you get one game under your belt, it makes every other game easier.

“It’s going to be crazy here just like it was last year and when we went to Tampa last year. But that’s what makes it fun. You’ve got a bunch of screaming people in the stands, and it makes it hard for you to focus. But you just draw from those past experiences like I said before, and you learn how to handle those situations and hopefully you can stay focused enough to execute the pitch and get some guys out.”

Read More: Bobby Abreu, Jed Lowrie, manny delcarmen, Rocco Baldelli
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