July 2007

Closing the deal

As you probably know by now, Eric Gagne is en route. Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and a young man named Engel Beltre are Rangers-bound. I like the deal. Dye fell through.

Anyway, back with more later.

Donnelly is having Tommy John surgery. he’s out for the year. Timlin probably available to pitch tomorrow. Gagne also expected to arrive tomorrow.

Not only didn’t WMP get traded, but he’s in the lineup tonight.

Deal or no deal?

Therein lies the question as the hours tick away to 4 p.m. ET today.

This much we know: The Red Sox, as presently constituted, have led the American League East by a sizable margin for just about the entire season.

This much we don’t know: Is this team, as presently constituted, good enough to win a World Series?

I’d say if you could guarantee Ortiz was going to get his power back and give me some tangible evidence that J.D. Drew would show some signs of life and that Delcarmen was going to pitch like he has for the last month and not like he did Sunday and that Timlin’s latest shoulder achiness is just that and not anything serious, then, yeah, we could be talking about another parade in November.

Looking back at what happened a year ago, it’s pretty clear that general manager Theo Epstein looked at his team and decided they weren’t good enough to win a World Series, so he didn’t mortgage part of his future to get, say, Bobby Abreu. As it turns out he was right. That team suffered so many devastating injuries that a big deadline deal would have accomplished nothing.

But now, I have to think that Theo is doing everything he can to put another piece or two in place to make this club’s World Series chances greater. Does that mean getting Jermaine Dye? Perhaps. Rumblings are that he doesn’t want to package Delcarmen or Double-A prospect Justin Masterson along with Wily Mo to make that happen. The reason is that Dye would just be a two or three-month rental.

Now, the Globe’s Gordon Edes is reporting that the Red Sox have made a counter offer that Kenny Williams is "seriously considering". I think Dye would be a big addition to this team. There is one problem though: Where does Dye fit in? Perhaps Drew would go on the DL and get himself healthy if this deal was made. Who knows, they might even shut Ortiz down for a week or two if they added a Jermaine Dye. Maybe there will be a rotating system in which dye starts a game in left, right, DH and maybe even first once a week, adding up to five starts.

Will the Red Sox get Eric Gagne? I’m not so sure. Gagne can turn down a trade to Boston and all his contract incentives are based on finishing games. Would he be the perfect fit to put in front of Papelbon? Absolutely.

If Gagne doesn’t happen, perhaps there will be another reliever added to the mix.

What are your thoughts? Deal or no deal?

Danny Ainge obviously made his decision. What a doozy. For the first time in a long time, the Boston Celtics are highly relevant players in the Eastern Conference.

Also feel free to chime in with your thoughts on KG joining Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for a mighty big three.

Ian.

Dougie and Dice-K

Another Dice-K start, another new wrinkle. Doug Mirabelli will catch Matsuzaka for the first time today. Even in Spring Training, because ‘Tek was so intent on getting to know everything about Dice-K, he caught almost all of his side sessions and his every exhibition outing.

Mirabelli obviously will get a crash course on Dice-K from Varitek. Varitek and Mirabelli have a very close working relationship. As Terry Francona says, "They talk all day, every day."

Oh, and in case you didn’t figure it out, Mirabelli is catching because Varitek squatted for 12 innings last night and today is a day game.

Mike TImlin’s shoulder is just a little achy. He hasn’t pitched since Monday. He will rest again today and the team doesn’t play tomorrow, so the hope is that Timlin will be available in the ‘pen again on Tuesday night against Baltimore.

Today’s lineup:

Lugo SS
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 1B
Lowell 3B
Crisp CF
Pena RF
Mirabelli C

Matsuzaka P

And the Devil Rays counter with Scott Kazmir, who can be extremely dominant at times but hasn’t been able to quite put it together this year. He is 7-7 with a 4.02 ERA.

More later,

Ian.

Extra extra read all about it

Yes, I thought this one was in the bank. Jonathan Papelbon just gives you that feeling. He hadn’t blown a save since May 1 against Oakland. He hadn’t give up a memorably damaging hit since June 3, when A-Rod hit that mammoth homer in the Sunday night game at Fenway, although he did lose that extra inning game in Detroit just before the All-Star break.

Papelbon came into the night holding opponents to a .160 average. He had 13 strikeouts per nine innings. Translation, he is a filthy pitcher so it is news any time he doesn’t convert a save.

We could have been here a real long time. I remember another long night here at the Trop in 2003 when Kevin Millar won it in the 16th with his first hit — a home run — in a Boston uniform.

Thankfully the Devil Rays ran out of pitching, Lugo got that bases loaded walk and Manny and Youk put it away in the 12th.

Wondering why Timlin didn’t pitch when everyone else but Delcarmen (two innings Friday) did? Turns out his shoulder was barking a little. Hopefully it’s just a day to day thing.

That catch by Manny tonight was tremendous. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, but he is a better left fielder than people think.

Later,

Ian.

Staying cool

Some people don’t think Tropicana Field is all that charming. I must confess that when I’m in Tampa in late July, there’s nothing like being under the cool roof of the Trop. 0727071730Is it in my top 20 ballparks? No. Top 29? No.

But I’ll take the AC. It’s an oven out there.

Nobody loves this place more than Tim Wakefield. He’s now 8-0 here with a 2.33 ERA. Do you think the Devil Rays ever say to themselves, why doesn’t this man just retire? Wake will be 41 on Thursday by the way.

Interesting nugget about Youkilis, who returned to the No. 2 spot in the batting order tonight for the first time since July 1. In actuality, he stopped hitting second with any regularity at the end of May.

At any rate, when Youkilis hits second this season, he is hitting .349 with 8 homers and 28 RBIs. He only has two homers hitting anywhere else in the batting order. While batting fifth, where Youkilis has spent a lot of time of late, he’s at .217 with no homers and 12 RBIs. His other favorite spot is third, where he’s at .359 with two homers and six RBIs in 39 at-bats.

On to other topics: Schilling held court before the game and it’s amazing the change in his disposition from the night he pitched in Atlanta to now. He has that look to him again that he’s ready to pitch and dominate in big games down the stretch. That’s a big thing for this team. He’ll be on the mound either at Safeco on Aug. 5 or at Anaheim one night later.

I can only imagine how Julio Lugo must have felt tonight playing for a team with legitimate World Series aspirations while watching the Devil Rays — his old team — play out the string with more than two months of season left.

The Red Sox must be going through Ping Pong and Nintendo withdrawals today. No such excitement in the visitors clubhouse here, where there were a few card games going on, but other than that, not much. Im sure everyone was a little tired tonight. The team probably got to the hotel after 3 a.m. This life is not as glamorous as you might think sometimes. But they still found a way to win.

All for now,

Ian

Skies part for Manny

The rain subsided. The tarp came off the field. And then Manny Ramirez nearly made it rain again with one of the most prodigious home runs we will see all season. The moon shot went way up into the seats in center field.

The blast was hit at a clip of 481 feet, the third longest homer ever hit at Jacobs Field. Jim Thome struck the longest at 511 feet. Mark McGwire ranks second with a 485-foot missile. And now Manny just being Manny all over again, silencing those boos. Yes, they are still bitter around here that Manny left for the greener pastures of Boston. 

Schilling will make one more rehab start after tonight — on July 31 at
Columbus. The most logical time to expect Schilling to pitch for the
Red Sox is August 6 in Anaheim. He was almost unhittable in Toledo tonight, limiting those poor Mud Hens to two hits and no runs while striking out eight over five innings. Of Schilling’s 66 pitches, 24 were strikes. It seems pretty obvious that Schilling has accomplished everything he has set out to do, and the last rehab start is simply a matter of biulding his pitch count up.

In other news, Jacoby Ellsbury tweaked his groin and has been placed on the seven-day DL by Pawtucket. Former Major Leaguer Brady Clark was signed to a Minor League contract, where he will likely fill in while Ellsbury is out.

Not sure if Clark would be a fit in Boston. I think at this stage they’re better off with WMP. I mean, Clark was a decent player a couple of years ago, but there must be a reason he couldn’t make it with the Dodgers.

I jokingly asked Josh Beckett on the bench today who will pitch tonight if Gabbard doesn’t wake up. Gabbard literally napped for over an hour in the clubhouse sitting on the chair in front of his locker. Beckett figured maybe he was at least on the couch. Nope, I witnessed it with my own two eyes. Nothing was waking Gabby up. Oh well, he did take the mound when it was time to play ball and there was no crick in his neck.

Comical moment in the clubhouse today was when Manny hollered for someone to buy him his own Nintendo. That’s all these guys have been playing for the last four days here in the visitor’s clubhouse.

On to tonight’s lineup:

Lugo SS
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 1B
Lowell 3B
Varitek C
Crisp CF
Pena RF

Gabbard SP

Papi is back and so am I

While David Ortiz rested the last few days, I was in a blog-free zone. Sorry about that, and I don’t have any excuses. But I’m back to blog away, starting tonight. And Ortiz is back in the lineup.

I’m here at the Jake by the Lake. I think Oil Can Boyd would agree that it’s a nice ballpark on the ocean. That was one of my favorite quotes ever. It came after the Red Sox and Indians had the majority of their game fogged out in 1986 at cavernous Municipal Stadium. Boyd said, "That’s what happens when you build a ballpark on the ocean." Classic.

It’s a little cloudy here, but not too foggy. We might get a shower or two, but this, too, shall pass. 6 p.m. update: The rain is gone, replaced by sun. The tarp is off the field. Play ball.

Coming on the heels of a terrific, 1-0 game last night, there’s another good pitching matchup on tap here tonight. Beckett against Carmona. This game is obviously huge for the Indians as they don’t want to lose a third in the row to the Sox.

And this just in: Joel Pineiro has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket, foregoing his right to test free agent waters. Interesting. Obviously there wasn’t a lot of interest out there from other teams for old Joel. Pineiro actually is starting for Pawtucket today, and the Red Sox will help him build himself back up as a starter. I doubt you’ll see him start in Boston, but it might help him latch on somewhere else.

Here is tonight’s lineup:

Crisp CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 1B
Drew RF
Varitek C
Hinske 1B
Cora SS

Beckett SP

Ian.

Lester is back

Big announcement before today’s game. Jon Lester will start Monday night in Cleveland and Julian Tavarez is now in the bullpen, starting today. I think everyone thought this move was still a couple of weeks away, so the Red Sox obviously did a nice job keeping it on the down low.

Why now? It seems to  me that Tavarez had simply regressed to the point where the Red Sox did not feel he was giving them any chance to win. Seven and a half game lead or not, that’s a bad feeling to have.

Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times caught up with Lester at Pawtucket earlier today and here are Jon’s thoughts on coming back to the show.

On when the news came:

“I kinda heard [the possibility of a call-up] a couple of
days ago, but couldn’t say much. I found out for sure about the plans [Sunday].
I’m excited and ready to go.”

What was the reaction: “Little of a businessman-like approach. It really hasn’t
sunk in yet, but I’m sure it will [Sunday night and Monday], for sure. I’m
looking at it as another start right now and hopefully don’t get too nervous
come [Monday in Cleveland].”

 Is this a short or long term promotion?

“They haven’t said anything. All I know is that I’m going
with the team [Sunday night] and pitch [Monday], that’s all I know.”

 What’s going through your mind? “Lot of excitement. Like I said earlier, it really hasn’t
sunk in yet, but I’m sure it will. It will be a little surreal, but I’m going
to enjoy it.”

 
About being an inspiration and coming all the way back
from cancer: “I don’t know about inspiration. I did what everyone else
would have done in that situation. I want to come back and play baseball. I
love to do this; this is my job. I just want to come back and be with these
guys and do this for a long time.”

 You feel ready? “Yeah. I feel physically good. Mentally I feel good.
After my last start [last Wednesday, where he allowed three runs in seven
innings vs. Ottawa], things are starting to come around.

 Pitch count expected to be an issue Monday? “I don’t think so. They haven’t said anything.”

 Possibility of Schilling coming back and you heading to
the bullpen, you hear anything like that? “No idea. All I know is that I’m pitching [Monday], and
we’ll go from there. If that’s what they want me to do, than that’s what I’ll
do. If they want me to stay in the rotation, than I’ll stay in the rotation and
do the best I can.”

That’s all for now.

Ian.

Momentum shift

Did someone say something about the Red Sox being in a hitting slump? In case you haven’t noticed, the bats are back.

For the first time since June 10, Terry Francona posted a lineup that had Julio Lugo batting leadoff. Tito wouldn’t say if it was permanent or not. Some of it had to do with David Ortiz being out of the lineup after the shoulder strain of Friday night.

Speaking of Papi, he’s day to day. He got a clean bill of health on his MRI this morning. No structural damage.

I have a feeling Lugo might not come out of the leadoff spot again. And how about Coco Crisp? Yes, the Red Sox have at least gotten the player they thought they had traded for in January, 2006. I’m not sure what is going on with Coco’s on again, off again relationship with the media. After speaking expansively following Friday night’s game, Coco didn’t talk at all after driving in five runs on Saturday.

It’s pretty impressive that the Sox could put together this type of offensive barrage on a day Ortiz was sidelined. It sounds like Ortiz will again sit on Sunday.

Is Kason Gabbard really this good or are hitters still trying to figure him out? At this stage, it’s hard to think Gabbard will be the one to come out of the rotation when Schilling returns. But these kinds of decisions are the ones teams love to be tough ones. For that means that things are going well.

How bad is that White Sox bullpen? Sixty-three pitches in one inning today? That was hard to believe.

On that note, I’ll talk to you all on Sunday.

Ian.

Friday night at the Fens

No Youuuukkkk tonight. Why?

"He’s not in the midst of swinging it as well as
he has," said manager Terry Francona. "He missed about a week before the break and then he’s played every game
since."

On the other hand, J.D. Drew is back in the lineup, batting fifth and playing right field.

Schilling is ready to crank it up tomorrow in Pawtucket.

Tiki Barber — the former star running back who recently retired from the NY Giants — was in the clubhouse before the game wearing a Red Sox batting practice jersey and, yes, he took some hacks before the game. My crack assistant Alex McPhillips tells me, " No homers for Tiki Barber. Just a few nubbers down the line."

After batting practice, the clubhouse was closed to the media for about 10 minutes in order for the guys to have a team meeting. Was the topic the slumping offense or remedies for the 20-24 record since May 31? Inquiring minds want to know, but no information has been disclosed just yet.
Now, I’ll leave you with tonight’s lineup.

Crisp CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Drew RF
Lowell 3B
Varitek C
Hinske 1B
Lugo SS

Beckett SP

later,

Ian.

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