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Red Sox postgame notes: Saltalamacchia swings into action 03.21.12 at 5:15 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It had been a slow start to the spring for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who not only was just 1-for-13 in Grapefruit League action, but also missed time due to bursitis in his hip.

On Wednesday, in a 6-5 loss by the Red Sox, the 26-year-old had a game that represented a satisfying change of fortunes. Batting left-handed in all three of his at-bats against Pirates starter Kevin Correia, he went 2-for-3 with a double to left-center and a massive home run to right field.

“Me and [hitting coach Dave Magadan] have been working on some things, trying to stay on the ball more, and I was able to do it today at the plate,” said Saltalamacchia. “This spring I’ve really been getting underneath the ball and popping it up too much, just kind of bat head dragging a little bit. So we’ve really worked on getting the head outand staying on top. If I roll over or ground out, that’s OK, at least it’s not a pop-up. But what I’m still trying to do when I get two strikes, is trying to fight my way to get the ball in the field instead of striking out.”

That being the case, Saltalamacchia was particularly pleased with his second-inning double, in which he lined a two-strike fastball off the fence in left-center, a potentially important sign for a player who struck out in 119 of his 358 at-bats last year.

A year ago, the average AL hitter hit .185 with a .252 OBP and .283 slugging mark in two-strike counts. Saltalamacchia hit .157/.208/.347/.555, marks upon which he is hoping to improve. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: franklin morales, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jon Lester, junichi tazawa
Bobby Valentine really liked what he saw from Red Sox pitchers Tuesday night 03.13.12 at 10:33 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was understandably pleased with what he witnessed when watching Red Sox pitching Tuesday night against the Yankees in Tampa. Sox hurlers allowed New York just four hits while striking out 13 and walking one. Here’s what he told reporters after the Sox’ 1-0 win:

Felix Doubront: 4 IP, 2H, 0R, 3K, BB

“I thought Felix was outstanding. I thought he had really good control of his changeup, which is a devastating pitch for him. He had good control and command of his fastball. His breaking ball was good. His composure was good. He pitched four good innings.”

Michael Bowden: IP, H, 0R, 3K 0BB

“First off, I thought Michael worked the runner as well as I’€™ve ever seen him do it on film or live. He’€™s been practicing his stretch and varying his speeds. He had a pretty veteran runner on base, a very veteran runner in Andruw Jones, and he really broke his tempo. I think he was trying to steal, and he never could. His stuff down in the zone was good. His breaking ball was good. We didn’€™t get to see his split, but his slider was a good pitch for him tonight. He threw them back-to-back, too, and did a good job with it.”

Vicente Padilla: 3IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 4K

“Padilla made it look easy, didn’€™t he? There’€™s probably a change of the lineup a little there that made it — but he does that. Vicente can throw a lot of pitches to get ahead of the bat. He’€™s a strike-thrower. He’€™s probably the best strike-thrower we have. He pitched well tonight.”

Junichi Tazawa: IP, H, 0R, 0BB, 3K

“This was his best outing tonight. He kept the ball down very well tonight. His other outings, he was scattering it a little more. He spotted his fastball, that two-strike fastball up in the zone, and that was right where he wanted to throw it. His breaking pitches were sharp, much sharper than they have been.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, felix doubront, junichi tazawa, Michael Bowden
Bobby Valentine Notes: And then there were six… 03.06.12 at 12:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Red Sox had Carlos Silva work out for them in December, they were impressed by his stuff, which seemed to have greater life than at any point in years. However, mindful that he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2010, they were comfortable signing him only to a minor league deal.

While the right-handed sinkerballer had been slated to compete for a rotation spot this spring, that prospect is no longer realistic. The 32-year-old has been shut down indefinitely due to right shoulder inflammation. He is no longer being considered for the rotation, and it remains to be determined what his shoulder will allow him to do.

“That’€™s probably going to set him back enough that he won’€™t be totally in the mix,” said Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who said that while a definitive timetable was unavailable, the injury will keep Silva out of the “little picture situation.”

Valentine said that the issue was related to a pre-existing condition that the Sox knew about.

“I think we know exactly what it is and we were hoping it wouldn’€™t present itself as quickly as it did,” said Valentine.

Asked what the longer-term implications were of the condition, Valentine said simply, “It’s being discussed.”

Silva, 32, last pitched in the majors in 2010 with the Cubs, when he went 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA. He was 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA with the Yankees‘ Triple-A team last year before getting released. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, carl crawford, carlos silva, junichi tazawa
And so it begins: Bobby Valentine on the state of the Red Sox as spring training opens 02.19.12 at 2:58 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — It is an unusual spring for the Red Sox. As they return from a 2011 season that witnessed immense promise before ending in a startling collapse that yielded tremendous on- and off-field questions as well as turnover in both the front office and manager’s office, the Red Sox are a team that starts spring training with greater-than-usual uncertainty. The shape of the roster is less settled than is typically the case, and the mindset and dynamic of the organization will also be a work in progress over the coming six weeks in Fort Myers.

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, the successor to Terry Francona‘s eight-year run at the helm of the Boston dugout, did not hide from that fact. He embraced the questions surrounding his club.

“At the start of season, you have all questions,” said Valentine. “You have questions about how the team will come together. How the pitching staff will work with the catchers. How the lineup will look and work together. I’€™d say we have all questions and questions of good health, too.

“As far as positions, we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now, [Carl Crawford]‘€™s health is of question for maybe Opening Day anyway ‘€“ for opening day of Spring Training. We’€™ll deal with left field. You know a couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots also. If you mean just the personnel, those are the questions that need answers. The general idea of all the things coming together need to be answered.’€

Here are some of the questions that Valentine addressed on Sunday morning:

On what he think the team needs to do in the wake of its historic collapse in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: andrew miller, Bobby Valentine, Daniel Bard, felix doubront
Depth charge: How Red Sox starting depth is shaping up 12.22.11 at 2:04 pm ET
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Most of the curiosity surrounding the Red Sox rotation this offseason has focused on which high-end pitchers the team might pursue (whether trading for someone like Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza or Gavin Floyd or a free-agent such as Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt) or the two pitchers (Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves) who were key bullpen contributors for the Sox last year but who will be stretched out as starters in spring training.

However, the Sox’ efforts this offseason stretch well beyond just the top five starters whom they will feature, at least on paper, at the start of the season. Teams typically need at least seven or eight quality starters to make it through the shifting fortunes of the season and to withstand injuries and performances that fall short of expectations.

Last year, the Sox used 10 starters. They’re not alone. In the last 10 seasons, the Sox have averaged 10.2 starters per year. Since 2005, about 61 percent of teams in baseball have required 10 or more starters to make it through a year (led by a 2006 Royals team that used a shocking 17 starters in their season).

That being the case, the Sox are looking not just at high-end options (such as the free agent and trade candidates listed above), but also depth options that will give the team some stability when injuries inevitably enter the picture.

As the team continues that undertaking, here is a look at pitchers who are currently viewed as depth options in the organization:

GIVENS — the three starters who are certain (barring injury) to enter the year in the rotation, and require little explanation:

Josh Beckett (13-7, 2.89 ERA, 193 IP)
Jon Lester (15-9, 3.47, 191 2/3 IP)
Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.48, 82 2/3 IP)

BUBBLE — entering spring training, the pitchers who are currently slated to compete for starting jobs:

Alfredo Aceves (10-2, 2.61, 114 IP in the majors): Aceves made four big league starts and two more in the minors. He has a four-pitch mix that suggests the stuff to be a starter, although he was also a remarkably impactful reliever given his unique ability to work several innings at a time.

Daniel Bard (2-9, 3.33, 73 IP): Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007, but his three-pitch fastball/slider/changeup mix makes him the highest-ceiling Sox pitcher in just about any role in which he pitches. That said, there is a great unknown about managing the sort of innings bump that he’d face. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alex wilson, alfredo aceves, andrew miller, brandon duckworth
Red Sox notes: Terry Francona says he ‘could do anything’ to win 09.19.11 at 1:13 pm ET
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When the Red Sox had their game on May 17 with the Orioles rained out at Fenway, little did Terry Francona know what kind of impact it would have in September.

But on Monday, the Red Sox prepared to play a day-night doubleheader on the heels of dropping three-of-four to the Rays and watching their American League wild card lead dip to two games.

Not only that, they are piecing their rotation – and pitching staff for that matter – together to try and hold on for dear life.

“If you’re winning the first game, you go for it, obviously,” Francona said of using his bullpen in Game 1. “Winning Game 1 is so important. The hard one is maybe when you’re down a couple runs, maybe in the sixth. That’s the hardest one for me on a day like today because if you use somebody in the first game, you probably lose them for the second game. So, that’s the toughest one of all.”

Would Francona consider using Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in both games if the situation became urgent enough?

“Not Bard,” he said. “He had pitched in three-of-four going into [Sunday] and didn’t pitch him. I’d be surprised if we felt that way about Bard. I think we could probably do it with Pap, depending on how many pitches or the level of intensity.”

Bard pitched 74 2/3 innings in 2010 with a career-best 1.93 ERA and 1.004 WHIP in 73 games. This year, Bard is 2-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 66 games and a career-best 0.903 WHIP.

“Bard’s workload is about identical to what it was last year. We could do anything. When you start getting down toward the end, as a manager I don’t think you want to do anything drastically different because we try to be consistent but at the same time, you realize where you are and what can help you win.”

Junichi Tazawa saw his first and only game action last Tuesday, allowing two hits and a run in Boston’s 18-6 rout of the Blue Jays. It was his first MLB action since “Tommy John” surgery that forced him to miss all of 2010.

“We need to recognize he’s not going to be out there for eight. We’re going to try and win and we have enough pitching where we’ll be OK.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: baseball, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon
After two years, Junichi Tazawa completes the long road back to the majors 09.13.11 at 1:00 am ET
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It has been a long road back for Junichi Tazawa.

The 25-year-old will be called back up to the major leagues on Tuesday, putting him in position to throw a pitch in the major leagues for the first time since Sept. 4, 2009, a span of more than two years. Tommy John surgery ended his 2010 season before it even started, and marked the beginning of a process that pitchers dread.

Tazawa, whom the Sox signed as an amateur out of Japan to a three-year, $3.3 million deal in December 2008, said that entering the surgery, he was worried about how much time he would have to spend away from the game.

‘€œI was able to overcome those fear and worries, and I learned patience,’€ he said through a translator last month.

The trait would be necessary, not just during a 2010 season in which Tazawa was limited to rehabbing, but also this year, as he slowly moved to regain his form in games. Some pitchers return from Tommy John with improved velocity out of the chute, a byproduct of the comprehensive rehab process that can lead to comprehensive strength gains.

But Tazawa followed a different ‘€“ albeit similarly common ‘€“ pattern. When he started pitching in games this year, first in extended spring training in Florida, and then on his first rehab assignment in High-A Salem in May, his fastball velocity was regularly in the mid-80s, well short of the low-90s velocity (topping out at 94 mph) that he showed before surgery.

That diminished velocity, in turn, led Tazawa to struggle. He allowed 12 runs in his first two rehab outings with Salem. However, after those initially poor outings, he turned the corner. He allowed one run in his next 11 2/3 innings, and his velocity started to creep back into the 90s.

‘€œI just couldn’€™t swing my arm like before.’€ Tazawa said. ‘€œAs long as I resolved that problem, I felt pretty good.’€

From there, his performance also rounded back into the form that established him as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization in 2009. After he was promoted from Salem to Double-A Portland in June, he allowed six runs and retired just two batters in his first outing, but then had a 2.42 ERA in his next seven appearances for the Sea Dogs. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: junichi tazawa, Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, salem red sox
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