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Saturday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Doug Fister 04.07.12 at 4:57 am ET
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Josh Beckett

It has been an eventful offseason for Josh Beckett. The 31-year-old righthander was accused of drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse during games last season. He saw manager Terry Francona step away from the team, then watched as the Red Sox replaced Francona with Bobby Valentine, who, as an ESPN personality, had been publicly critical of Beckett. The drama continued for Beckett late into spring training, as he went to see a specialist about a thumb injury that has bothered him for 18 months and prompted much concern about his health and ability to pitch early in the season.

Beckett will look to put all the offseason hoopla behind him Saturday afternoon when he takes the mound in Detroit for his first start of the 2012 regular season. The Tigers will counter Beckett with Doug Fister, who will be the No. 2 starter for the Tigers in his first full season with Detroit.

Fister was traded from the Mariners to Detroit at the trade deadline last season, and he went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his 10 starts for the Tigers. The 28-year-old enjoyed a solid spring with Detroit, going 4-0 in five starts with a 1.86 ERA. He allowed 14 hits and four earned runs over 19 1/3 innings of work while walking five and striking out 15.

Fister does not have much experience against the Red Sox lineup. Of the Red Sox batters with five or more plate appearances against Fister, Kevin Youkilis is the only batter with a batting average over .300, as he is 2-for-5 with a double, RBI and walk. Jacoby Ellsbury is the only Red Sox player Fister has never retired, as Ellsbury is 1-for-1 with a double and two walks in three career plate appearances.

Fister has started four games against the Red Sox, tallying a 1-2 record with a 3.33 ERA. His only win against Boston came last season when he was still with the Mariners. Seattle topped the Red Sox, 2-0, on April 30 as Fister allowed five hits and five walks while striking out four in 5 2/3 innings of work. He has never faced the Red Sox as a member of the Tigers.

Beckett has more experience with the Detroit lineup, but very few of the Tigers have enjoyed consistent success against him. Delmon Young has the best career showing against the right-hander, hitting .357 with three doubles and an RBI in 15 plate appearances. Alex Avila is the only other batter who has an above-.300 batting average against Beckett in more than five plate appearances. He is 2-for-6 with two singles, a walk and two strikeouts.

Although Beckett generated much talk off the field during the offseason and spring training, he performed well on the mound. Beckett spread 19 innings of work over five starts, running off a 2-0 record with a 0.95 ERA. He struck out 10 batters in the spring while walking eight.

Beckett has pitched well at Comerica Park, going 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts there. His only loss in Detroit came last season, when the Red Sox dropped a 3-0 game on May 29. Beckett pitched well in the outing, as he allowed five hits and two earned runs over six innings of work. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: delmon young, Doug Fister, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett
Thursday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Jon Lester vs. Justin Verlander 04.05.12 at 5:15 am ET
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Jon Lester

After the sharp sting of the 2011 season, the number of major changes made to the organization in the offseason and all the eager hours of anticipation, the Red Sox will take back to the field as they kick off their 2012 season Thursday against the Tigers in Detroit. Both teams will look to get their respective seasons started on a winning note by wheeling out their premier starting pitchers, as the Red Sox will throw Jon Lester against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander.

Lester will be making his second consecutive Opening Day start, as he got the nod last year when the Red Sox lost 9-5 to the Rangers. In that start, Lester went 5 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits, three of which were home runs.

Even with a less-than-ideal start to open the season, Lester emerged as perhaps the team’s most reliable starting pitcher. In 31 starts in 2011, Lester went 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA, 182 strikeouts and 75 walks. His 15 wins were the most of any Red Sox pitcher and his ERA was bested by only one Red Sox starter (Josh Beckett). In spring training, Lester has shown no signs that his production will deteriorate, as he threw 18 innings and went 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA.

With the game scheduled for a 1 p.m. start, Lester will be pitching in two situations in which he thrived last season. Despite just a 5-5 record in 13 starts at Fenway Park last season, Lester went 10-4 on the road with a 3.47 ERA. In day games, he was 7-3 with a 3.25 ERA.

None of Lester’s 18 road starts last year took place at Comerica Park and Lester has not pitched there, or against the Tigers at all, since the 2010 season. In two starts against the Tigers that year, Lester struggled mightily, going 0-1 with a 5.54 ERA. One of those starts was at Comerica, a game in which Lester pitched seven innings and gave up four earned runs in what turned out to be a no-decision. Lester owns a 5.89 career ERA against the Tigers, his highest mark against any American League team.

The Tigers lineup that Lester will face Thursday is expected to be one of, if not the best in Major League Baseball this season. Last season, the Tigers, as a team, batted .277, which ranked them third among MLB teams, trailing only the Rangers and Red Sox. Additionally, Detroit was fourth in hits, RBIs and runs, making it one of the most accomplished offenses in the league. The Tigers were only 11th among MLB teams in home runs, but that can be attributed to playing half of their games at cavernous Comerica Park.

What was already a potent Tigers offense was upgraded immensely in the offseason with the addition of prized free agent Prince Fielder. Last season playing for the Brewers, Fielder was among the leading candidates for the National League MVP, batting .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs. He ranked second in the National League in home runs and RBIs, trailing Matt Kemp of the Dodgers in both categories. Detroit, however, will be without catcher Victor Martinez for the entire season due to injury.

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Read More: Dennis Eckersley, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, justin verlander
Josh Beckett: Though thumb eventually may require surgery, ‘dumbfounded’ by concern 04.04.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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DETROIT — In most years, little drama surrounds a team on the day of its final workout prior to the start of the regular season. In that sense, the 2012 Red Sox are already an atypical team.

Andrew Bailey will undergo surgery on the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb on Wednesday, thus leaving the Sox without their anticipated closer for the first half of the season. Given Bailey’s situation, there were alarm bells sounded when news emerged that right-hander Josh Beckett was having his thumb examined both in San Antonio by Dr. Mark Bagg and in Cleveland by Dr. Thomas Graham, the latter being the same doctor who examined Bailey.

However, after manager Bobby Valentine declared Beckett’s thumb “not much of an injury,” Beckett suggested that he was stunned by the concern that the condition — which he considers trivial after dealing with some variation of it for 18 months — generated as much attention as it did.

“Everything’s fine. I really have no idea how this got blown out like this. I was dumbfounded,” said Beckett. “The text messages and the e-mails I was getting from guys, I was like, what’s going on here? I think a lot of it had to do with Andrew Bailey also having injured his thumb. But he injured his thumb on one thing. Mine was something that’s happened over time.”

Beckett said that he “had some issues the last few weeks of spring training,” but said that it’s something he “should just get through for six months.” He received a cortisone injection into the joint during the offseason and another roughly two to three weeks during spring training, and it was the fact that the second injection had limited palliative impact that led him to see Bagg in San Antonio. (It was the team, Beckett said, that wanted him to see Graham.)

“It didn’t respond as well [to the cortisone shot] this time, and I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t some more damage in there,” said Beckett, who said he did not know how to describe the medical condition that he faced. (“There’s a bunch of little bones and stuff in there that had some things going on.) “It’s something I’ve been dealing with for 18 months. It’s been there for 18 months. Like I said, we’re just covering the bases as far after a shot things didn’t go as smooth as they had in the past. We had to make sure there wasn’t some more stuff going on. … I think everything’s good. There was just one concern that it was my ligament, much like Andrew Bailey’s deal, and it wasn’t.”

Beckett acknowledged that he will continue to monitor the condition of his sore thumb during the season. He suggested that, at some point, surgery may be an option, but that it wasn’t being considered right now.

“We’ve got to kind of play it by ear, see how things go,” said Beckett.

Read More: Josh Beckett, thumb,
Ben Cherington talks Andrew Bailey, Josh Beckett 04.03.12 at 4:08 pm ET
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Ben Cherington gave the latest on injuries to Andrew Bailey and Josh Beckett Tuesday. (AP)

Talking to reporters prior to the Red Sox’ final exhibition game in Washington, D.C., general manager Ben Cherington spoke to the media regarding updates on both Andrew Bailey and Josh Beckett, whom both were being examined for thumb ailments in Cleveland on Tuesday.

On Bailey: “We’re proceeding as if he’s not going to be on the roster for Opening Day. Until we get a little more information I don’t want to speculate on what may or may not happen. It’s clear he has an injury, we’re still trying to figure out the best way to deal with it.’’

“Bailey’s injury is different (than Beckett’s) in that we believe it is more of an acute injury we think he suffered when he was in a collision at Bradenton when he covered first and collided with Alex Presley and he fell. At the time he didn’t think anything of it but then started to experience some soreness shortly after that and then went back and looked at the video and he definitely landed on his thumb so he’s never had any thumb soreness before that so we don’t know for sure but it seems possible that’s what did it. Anytime you have more of an acute injury, we have to get to the bottom of how bad it is and whether it can be managed conservatively or not.”

Regarding surgery: “Don’t think it would happen today. If the procedure’s necessary, I think it would happen soon but we’re not at that point yet.’’

On potential closer candidates: “We’ve got a number of guys who have done it a little bit and think they can and are capable of doing it. Ultimately that’s up to Bobby [Valentine] who he brings in in the ninth inning. there are a number of guys out there who have some saves, have pitched late in games and maybe it’s more than one guy, that’s something that Bobby will decide and the game will dictate.

“We’re never comfortable with the depth we have, this is an opportunity for some guys to step up and maybe pitch in a different role than they would have before. I think when you lose one guy to the bullpen no matter who it is, no matter what the role is, there is a little bit of a ripple effect on other guys’ role. This is an opportunity for guys to step, maybe do a little more than in the past and then we’ve got to continue to look for protection just as we would in any season. As you guys know, we’re going to use 20,. 25 pitchers, not 12, we’ll keep doing that. Then we’ve got guys who are hopefully can be factors at some point early in the season – Andrew Miller and Rich Hill – both in Fort Myers and who both should go out on rehab assignments pretty soon. We’ve just got to keep looking and give the guys here every chance to prove they can do it.”

On Daniel Bard’s role: “No, the decision was made and he’s going to pitch Game 5 in Toronto and we’re committed to him as a starter right now.”

On Beckett: “Josh has had some soreness off and on this spring that he’s pitched through. We took the opportunity, the time between his last outing to the extended side he threw, the 100 pitch side in Fort Myers to let him gather as much information as possible so that we could help him manage it the best possible. He’s not that concerned about it, we expect him to pitch Game 2. It’s mostly information gathering at this point.

“You know that was one of those things that is common with pitchers, they might feel a little something, guys feel stuff all the time and he didn’t report it right away. I think he felt like it was just one of those things you get in spring training, you’re just a little sore and it goes away and you keep pitching through it. Over a period of days it kept nagging at him and it wasn’t getting better – I can’t remember the exact date he reported it. We took him out of his last outing and kind of stepped up our efforts to get it checked out and get to the bottom of it. It is what it is. We’ll know more by the end of the day.’’

“He’s had it off and on this spring. There may have been a time or two in the past where it’s been bugging him. This isn’t atypical for a pitcher or any player, you have something that crops up from time to time and has to be managed, and he’s managing it.

“It’s not tendinitis. You can kind of make a comparison to a pitcher’s shoulder or elbow, most major-league pitchers have changes in their shoulder or elbow that they pitch through. He’s got some changes in his thumb but it’s something he’s been able to pitch through and he’s planning to pitch through and pitching with, not that concerned with.

On if that impacts his grip: “You’d have to ask him. Josh has evolved as a pitcher. He was a different pitcher in 2011 than he was in 2007, we all saw that. He’s always making adjustments out there. He threw his curveball plenty this spring, threw it effectively, I don’t think there’s any one pitch he’s not going to use. He’s evolved as a pitcher but he’s not eliminating anything.’’

Read More: Andrew Bailey, ben cherington, Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett
Crisis averted? Bobby Valentine ‘totally’ expects Josh Beckett to be ready for start of season 04.02.12 at 12:48 pm ET
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Manager Bobby Valentine expects starter Josh Beckett to be ready to start the season as scheduled. (AP)

Shortly after Alfredo Aceves told reporters in Fort Myers that he was on call in case the Red Sox needed to fill in for Josh Beckett‘s first two starts of the season, manager Bobby Valentine suggested that, while the team has made some contingency plans for a “situation” with Beckett’s right thumb, he does not anticipate having to seek an alternative starter for the team’s second game of the year.

Asked if he expected Beckett to make his scheduled start on Saturday against the Tigers, Valentine responded, “Totally.”

Valentine told reporters that Beckett had an impressive 100-pitch bullpen session on Sunday, and that he felt good and commanded well. The manager suggested that Beckett will have the thumb — an issue that has been mildly bothersome since late-March — examined in San Antonio “just for peace of mind.”

“Just been a little situation. I think I might’ve mentioned it 10 days ago that there’s a situation that we’ve been dealing with,” Valentine told reporters. “I feel really right now –– as in all cases you have to be prepared and I think we are. I think we’re covered with whatever happens. The good news is in his 100 pitches yesterday, he felt terrific.”

The thumb injury notwithstanding, Beckett had a very strong spring, with a 0.95 ERA in five Grapefruit League starts and a .117 batting average against, along with 10 strikeouts and eight walks, in 19 innings.

OTHER NOTES

– Valentine said that closer Andrew Bailey‘s thumb is being examined on Monday and perhaps Tuesday. Until the Sox have the results of his exam, they won’t be ready to finalize their roster, particularly their pitching staff. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, Bobby Valentine, carl crawford, Josh Beckett
Tim Kurkjian on The Big Show: ‘There’s going to be some issues’ with Bobby Valentine, Ben Cherington 03.27.12 at 5:25 am ET
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ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian joined The Big Show Monday to discuss a series of issues and topics currently surrounding the Red Sox, including the team’s pitching staff, the potential for a bounce-back season for Carl Crawford and whether the team will be able to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

However, nothing surrounding the Red Sox was a bigger story than a report stating that manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington, both in their first year with the club, are at odds with each other.

It was a claim that Valentine dismissed today, noting the report as nothing more than “lazy journalism,” but Kurkjian said that there is certainly the potential for prolonged tension between the two.

“We have to understand that there’s going to be some issues here where there’s a manager in his 60s who has done the things that he has done, not just in this country but in Japan, and you pair him with a first-time general manager who’s trying to feel his way,” Kurkjian said. “There’s going to be some issues along the way, whether it’s who’s our shortstop and is this guy going to pitch the eighth inning or is he our fourth starter? Those are big questions that have to be answered.

“Sometimes, the manager wins those battles. Sometimes, the GM wins. In the end, Bobby is going to insist on doing what is right and in his heart, he thinks he’s going to be right 99 percent of the time and I can tell you, hopelessly biased, he’s right an awful lot.”

Along with the new personnel, another major question that will face the Red Sox this season will be whether Crawford can rebound from a disappointing 2011 season in which the high-priced free agent acquisition batted a career-worst .255. Kurkjian said that there may be some major internal problems plaguing Crawford, but that Valentine should be able to find a way to fix what went wrong last season.

“I checked very closely last year with the Rays when Crawford was struggling thinking nobody knows him better than the Rays, and I was assured that he will be fine as long as he has two things going for him – comfort and trust,” Kurkjian said. “He has to be comfortable in where he is and he has to trust the people who are making the decisions around him.

“I don’t know if he didn’t trust or wasn’t comfortable or whatever, but that was a really down season for him and I worry that they’re going to find that level of trust and comfort that’s going to make him play like he did with the Rays.”

Kurkjian said that, for now, he has the Red Sox making the playoffs as a wild card and that a big reason for that decision will be the positive effect that Valentine will have on the team.

“I think a smarter, wiser, older Bobby Valentine from, say, the Ranger days in ’85 is going to take a look and say, ‘Look, I’m going to do my part, but in the end, we’re going to win with those guys,” Valentine said. “If Carl Crawford is more comfortable hitting second and he’s going to be a better player hitting second, then I’m going to hit him second.’ That’s how smart Bobby is – ‘What button do I have to push to get this guy to play?’ He always finds the right buttons.”

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Read More: Andrew Bailey, ben cherington, Bobby Valentine, carl crawford
Thursday afternoon with Bobby V: The Dice-Man cometh? 03.22.12 at 7:35 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka could be back by sometime around early June. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Among the various elements that the Red Sox must factor into their plans for their rotation, add a first-half return of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

That, at least, was the message from Red Sox manager Daisuke Matsuzaka after the rehabbing right-hander — now more than nine months removed from Tommy John surgery — tossed two simulated innings against hitters at the team’s spring training complex. After the outing, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked whether July 1 seemed like a realistic return target for the 31-year-old.

“July? I think that that’s more than realistic, yeah. We have it mapped out before that. Closer to June 1st,” said Valentine, who clarified that he was referring to a timetable for Matsuzaka to return to the major leagues. “I mean, potentially. And there I went. I threw out a date, didn’t I? I told you the first day I’ll never throw out a date, didn’t I?” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis
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