April 2006

Big Papi and Coco

Just a great day for the Red Sox to be able to lock up Big Papi through at least 2010. Let me first say that I’ve enjoyed covering David Ortiz probably more than any other athlete during my sportswriting career. I remember vividly Ortiz showing up in Fort Myers as a guy who was going to platoon with Jeremy Giambi back in the spring of 2003! Ortiz was a great guy then, and he still is now.

Success changes almost every athlete. It’s only natural. I can honestly say that Ortiz is the same humble guy now that he was three years ago. If anything, success has made him a happier and even more approachable person. I can’t remember seeing anyone enjoy the limelight quite as much as this guy has. He’s embraced the pressure cooker, which explains why his October of 2004 has to be the most magical postseason put forth by any player in the history of the Red Sox. His sense of humor, as I’ve displayed in this blog a couple of times already, is a daily fixture in that clubhouse.

If you mention any player who is with the Red Sox now, or with Ortiz at any time during his career in Boston, he will refer to that person as "my boy". This guy likes everyone, and I’ve never seen anyone who didn’t like him. There is no better "face" of the Red Sox going forward than this guy.  Oh yeah, and he also happens to be the best clutch hitter in the game. If anyone wants to bring another name to the table, I’d love to hear it.

So needless to say, it was a bittersweet Monday leading into Tuesday’s Fenway Opener. Ortiz is here to stay, but Coco Crisp is on the shelf for a few weeks at least. It will be a big loss, but this is also a great time to see what Adam Stern can do. it seems like he’s been on a high ever since he returned from the World Baseball Classic. I’m curious to see what he will do on an everyday basis.

Beckett tomorrow in front of the home crowd. It’s supposed to be a gorgeous day. I’m looking forward to it. I bet Ortiz brings down the house during pregame introductions.

Until then,

Ian.

Ouch on Coco

So I’m just setting foot into BWI Airport, excited to go back to Boston for the first time since Feb. 19, and my cellphone rings. It’s my esteemed co-worker Mike Petraglia, informing me of the TV report up in Boston that Coco’s finger injury was worse than originally feared, and he might miss close to a month.

The Red Sox still haven’t given us an update to confirm the report, and word is that Coco will be re-examined by the medical staff tomorrow. However, the Channel 7 sports staff is very good, so I highly doubt they got the story wrong. Hopefully Coco is a quick healer.

The only silver lining is that Adam Stern is obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now. So if there’s a good chance for Stern to get his share of playing time, it’s probably now.

Other than Coco, it’s hard not to be pleased with the way this team is playing right now. They are pitching, playing defense and working counts. It was a very well-rounded road trip. And Foulke was indeed lights out on Sunday, the best i’ve seen him since 2004. He looked like Foulke again. If  Timlin, Foulke, Papelbon and Tavarez are all healthy and pitching well, the Red Sox would have a bullpen as formidable as any in baseball.

  I bet everyone is looking forward to Tuesday. the home opener is always a special day at Fenway, and the weather reports are good. How many of you have tickets to the game?

  Talk to you soon,

Ian.

Sunday in Baltimore

No Coco Crisp today. As it turns out, he injured his left index finger on that awkward slide into third base when he was trying to steal. It’s nothing major, with the offday Monday, it made sense to give him two days off in a row so he’d be good to go on Sunday.

In the meantime, it gives Adam Stern — Mr. Canada during the World Baseball Classic — a chance to lead off and play center field. This will probably be Stern’s only start before he goes to  Pawtucket once his Rule 5 clock expires on April 19.

The only other lineup move is that J.T. Snow is at first base, Youkilis gets a day off.

It should be fascinating watching Wakefield and Bard today. Do you think they’ll have a better rhythm than the other day?

We’ll find out soon.

Talk to you later,

Ian.

Game 5 in the books

There was a lot to like about this one, aside from the weather. Yes, I am still thawing out.

  But Schilling was phenomenal again. Consider that his last pitch of the day was his hardest (96 MPH). It’s night and day from last year. Schilling noted that the Red Sox wouldn’t have won a game like this last year, and the numbers back him.

   The 2005 Red Sox went 3-22 when scoring less than three runs. This year’s team has won by a score of 2-1 twice in the last three days. Pitching and defense, that is what wins. it’s not just a cliche, it’s true.

  Papelbon was again lights out at last call. He’s faced nine batters this season. He has also retired nine batters this season. Translation: He’s been unhittable.

   They go for the sweep tomorrow, and all eyes will be on the Wakefield-Bard combination. A 5-1 road trip would certainly create a good feeling for Tuesday’s Opening Day.

  Talk to you on Sunday,

Ian.

tarp is off, Game 5 will start soon

OK, the tarp is off the field. the pitchers will warm up soon and we should have a baseball game by about 6 p.m.

Oh well, I was never much of a fan of those 4:30 starts anyway. Give me a day game or give me a night game. Don’t give me something in between.

Things to watch today. Wily Mo Pena will make his first start as a member of the Sox, batting eighth and playing right field. He will be something to see all year long. When Pena gets a hold of one, his blasts can be majestic. So far in his career, he’s had a hard time being consistent. But Pena has been following Big Papi and Manny around like a puppy dog, so you can only think that will help him.

How good will Schilling be? Cand he match the form he had on Monday in Texas? If Schilling can be a start-in and start-out ace, the Red Sox are going to be a better team than people projected.

I’ll talk to you soon,

Ian.

rain, rain, go away

the latest word in the press box is that the game is not expected to start any earlier than 5:45 p.m. It could be a long one. Good thing the press box here is open air and not heated. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

sorry, false alarm

Tarp back on, it was just a maintenance thing to take it off and re-place it. But it doesn’t seem to be raining anymore, although the press box is covered with a plastic covering, so it’s hard to tell. More later.

Tarp is off the field

One hour and 21 minutes before the first pitch and the tarp has come off the field. it’s still raw, but play ball! Too early in the season for rainouts, right?

Saturday at Camden Yards

Dreary, dreary day here, but it’s still close to two hours before the first pitch. Curt Schilling was in full uniform about an hour ago, breaking down film and ready to go.

PenaWily Mo Pena makes his first start in a Sox uni today. He’s trying to have the same type of debut as the man he was traded for. I’m thinking Pena finishes the season with a few more homers than Arroyo, but that’s not exactly going out on a limb.

That’s about all the excitement I have for you so far.

More later.

Ian.

Game 3 control issues

Wow, the first inning and a half of this game has been fairly tough on the eyes. Seven walks for Cabrera over 1 1/3 innings? Unreal.

And I did say in my last post how much I loved watching Cabrera pitch. This wasn’t what I had in mind.
If the Red Sox can win comfortably, Terry Francona should get an ideal chance to get Foulke in the game in the late innings and see if they can get him on track.

Clearly, Papelbon is the guy in the ninth inning of close games for right now. But I’d put that in pencil, not ink. I do think they’d like Foulke to reclaim his old job. It’s just hard to say if that is realistic right now.

Stay tuned.

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