July 2007

Back at the Fens

Following a delay of two hours, tonight’s Red Sox-White Sox game has at last started.

As for news, J.D. Drew is out of the lineup.  and Wily Mo is in. J.D. just can’t seem to get over this hamstring thing. At this point, the DL is not in the plans, according to Terry Francona.

Wily Mo said that Tito called him this morning to tell him he was playing, so the J.D. situation must have gotten a little worse over night.

The Yankees game was on the clubhouse television this afternoon and Jonathan Papelbon had a nice time poking fun at what he perceived to be the media’s obsession with the Yankees. When the Yankees lost, Papelbon did a mock celebration, which elicited a smile out of Theo Epstein. Paps is obviously trying to make a point that the players aren’t sweating the Yankees at this stage. Coco Crisp wonders why the glass isn’t more half full and that the focus isn’t more on the fact that the Red Sox are just percentage points behind the Tigers for the best record in the league.

FYI, White Sox 2B Tadahito Iguchi knows Matsuzaka about as well as any hitter could. He’s 31-for-85 against him in NIppon Professional Baseball. I wonder how much of the scouting report he is sharing with his teammates.

All for now, I’ll be back later,

P.S. — I’ll leave you with tonight’s lineup.

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

Matsuzaka SP

 

Have some class, please

Now that I’ve had a couple of days off, I’ve had some time to look at some of the recent comments on the blog and, at least in one particular case, it’s not pretty. You know who you are. Stop it.

I have no patience on this  blog for nasty, below the belt, mindless blabber. I love healthy discourse. But enough with the vile language and pure stupidity.

Your screen name will either permanently deleted from the system or I will delete each comment manually if I have to. I think, overall, the behavior in the comments section has been far better in 2007 than in 2006. But still, let’s make sure there’s no more nonsense.

Thank you,

Ian.

Ortiz takes it to the house

David Ortiz was not taking when Dustin McGowan threw him a 3-0 fastball in the first inning tonight at Fenway Park. Not when he had gone some 34 games without going deep at the place he has often referred to as "the House".

And this has very much been Ortiz’s house since he arrived here in 2003. So he took that 3-0 pitch and sent it sailing into the visitor’s bullpen. As Ortiz rounded the bases, I’m thinking he felt a big weight off his shoulders. This is a guy who takes his responsibility to this team and this city pretty seriously.

When he doesn’t come through, nobody takes it harder. You could see Ortiz’s shoulders slump last night when he had a chance to deliver a walkoff special but instead flew to center.

The Red Sox would become a very scary team if they can get Ortiz and Manny hot together for a prolonged stretch. Consider that they’ve gotten to this point — a 10-game lead in tow — with both guys lagging from their usual production.

On to other matters, what a throw by Coco Crisp to nail Glaus trying to get a double. Sure, Glaus was safe because Pedroia never tagged him. But nobody ever expected Coco to make a no-hop throw from the left-center field wall to second base. He’s having an all-around great year in the field.

J.D. Drew remains day to day with the bad hammy. Eric Hinske gets the start in right instead of Wily Mo Pena. I know it’s a lefty-righty thing, but don’t forget in Spring Training that the Red Sox were adamant about getting Pena every available outfield at-bat when any of the starters didn’t play. It hasn’t worked out that way in the least and Wily Mo is struggling with the bat. He has just 122 ABs.

This is what Theo Epstein said on Feb. 16, 2007 about Wily Mo:

"If you take a look at how many plate appearances
there are left after any set of three starting outfielders, let alone our
recent history of injuries in the outfield, there are plenty of plate
appearances. Wily Mo is going to scoop all of those up because of his ability
to play all three outfield spots. We’re very committed to him and his development. Just like last
year, there are two goals for him. We want to continue his development to
become more of a complete player so he can ultimately reach his ceiling, which
is tremendous. At the same time, he’s got to contribute to us winning
ballgames. He’s a little bit farther down the line than he was last year. He
went out, made some adjustments, hit .300, battled through some injuries. I
think he showed that he can help us win games.”

 

Here was Tito talking about Wily Mo Pena on Feb. 16, 2007:

“On one hand, I hope he gets 400 [at-bats]. On the other hand that
means that somebody else isn’t playing. I think if you realistically look at
our ballclub and what could happen, because of his ability to play center
field, left field and right field, every time somebody needs a rest or somebody
is nicked up, he’s the perfect candidate to get at-bats. Our responsibility
will be to find him enough at-bats where he can be productive. I’m confident we
can do that.”

So what happened? Well, Coco emerged into a pure Gold Glove center fielder and the Red Sox never want him out of the lineup. And when Coco was hurt, they went to Ellsbury and not Wily Mo. Also, they now like Hinske more than they did in Spring Training, even though he’s hitting a buck 90.

Some of these matters are viewed differently under the sun of Fort Myers than the reality of Boston in July when the team is desperately trying to win games. Wily Mo’s development has gotten a little lost in the shuffle here, and it’s showing when he does get at-bats. You wonder where they go from here with WMP.

More later,

Ian.

MBM and other thoughts

That’s right, Manny is Being Manny again, which means he is raking. He is about to enter one of those zones where you expect him to get a hit just about every time he comes up.

To me, Manny having a slow first half could only mean he’s going to have a monster second half. He’s been too good for too long to think otherwise.

Curt Schilling had a whole different demeanor to him today. You can tell that the guy is healthy again and feels primed for the stretch run. That is a very good sign for the Red Sox. Getting back Schilling — even if it’s the Schilling of the first half of 2006 — that’s a pretty good pitcher. Plus his history in big games is well-chronicled. A 1-2-3 of Beckett-Dice-K-Schilling could be mighty tough for any team to deal with in a Division Series

I’d guess that he’s going to start a rehab assignment next Saturday. Figure he makes two rehab starts and that puts him on pace to come back right around July 31 or Aug. 1 at home against the Orioles.

Has Tavarez finally gone South on us? That could bring up an interesting dilemma. Would they bring up Lester or Buchholz? Or would they simply keep Gabbard in the rotation alongside Schilling? Tavarez gets pulled in the fifth with a lead, taking away his chances of getting the win. I’m thinking Tito is getting tired of Tavarez not throwing first pitch strikes.

Drew left the game with  right hamstring injury in the same spot where it was bothering him in June. Hinske now in right. That’s all from Fenway for now. Donnelly had a setback in Lowell tonight with his forearm and couldn’t pitch.

Ian.

No MRI for Ortiz

Red Sox manager Terry Francona just said that there’s been no MRI for David Ortiz’s right knee nor is there one scheduled. Ortiz confirmed that after the game, but also added that he’s been playing with a torn meniscus since early last season and seemed to be leaning toward surgery this winter.

So when Ortiz fouled a ball off his body last night, naturally he pounded it squarely off the right knee. Hopefully he won’t be too sore tomorrow. I thought tonight Ortiz took some of the best swings he’s had in a while. Manny swung the bat well also.

We’ll see what Friday brings. Tonight was a good night all around for the Sox.

I’ll have more in-depth blogging tomorrow.

Ian.

Second half begins

A 10-game lead entering the second half. All of you would have taken that right? I’m not sure what is more surprising. That the Red Sox have a 10-game lead or that they’ve done it with such little resistance from the other teams in the division.

Some key issues to wonder about down the stretch:
Will Ortiz and Manny start hitting like Ortiz and Manny?
Will Ortiz’s legs hold up or will he have to be shut down?
Will the Red Sox get a dominant Curt Schilling down the stretch?
Will Theo go out and get a top-line setup man?
Will Coco establish himself as the leadoff hitter?
Will Drew and Lugo finally start producing?
Will Beckett keep up his Cy Young pace?
Will Okajima fall off as hitters adjust to him?

What are some of your questions? Those are mine.

See you tonight from Fenway. Wakefield vs. Halladay. two of the fastest workers in baseball which probably means will have a five-hour game!

Ian.

All-Star Tuesday

I’m blogging to you live from the sky. Well, actually the fifth deck of left field here at AT&T Park. Here is what the field looks like from my seat. I can’t complain. I actually have a great view of McCovey Cove from where I’m sitting so if anyone goes deep, I’ll see the water splash and the kayakers fighting over the ball. 0710071615

Not only is Hideki Okajima an All-Star, but so is his translator, Jeff Yamaguchi. Jeff called me over to his corner of the clubhouse today to show me that he happened to have a locker right next to Alex Rodriguez. Not bad company, right?

Red Sox assistant trainer Mike Reinold was also given clearance to come to the All-Star Game so he can monitor Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Reinold is extremely dedicated to the health of all the Red Sox pitchers and the club felt strongly about him being here with the two hard throwers.

David Ortiz seems to be a lot more relaxed in this environment than he was in the last couple of weeks of the first half. He can forget about his leg woes for a couple of days and just relish in the experience of being among the best of the best. All the players rode through the city today in a red carpet parade. Well, all of them except Manny. Manny did have his son following him around during batting practice and he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Josh Beckett will be the first pitcher out of the bullpen for manager Jim Leyland tonight. Josh will be reunited with catcher Pudge Rodriguez, his catcher from the 2003 World Series champion Marlins. Beckett expected to go one inning.

Papelbon expects he’ll pitch, but he wasn’t sure if it will be a closing situation.

More later,

Ian.

Future of the Red Sox

This is the Future’s Game, which explains why the Future of the Red Sox are here at gorgeous AT&T Park in San Francisco today. Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off his six-day stint in Boston, decided that he did not want to miss this game. Ellsbury is leading off for the U.S. Team and playing left field.

He was perhaps the most sought after player by the media this morning. ESPN got an on-field0708071002_1
interview with him, and several others — including yours truly — swarmed in thereafter. Clay Buchholz, who I guess you could say is the Red Sox equivalent of Ellsbury — the best pitching prospect in the organization — is also here, and ready to pitch an inning of relief. Clay might be headed

to Pawtucket after the All-Star break, but he’s still waiting for official confirmation on that. Buchholz made his most recent appearance for Portland in the bullpen in preparation for this game. Would he be comfortable doing that same role in Boston later  this year if needed? Absolutely. In fact, Buchholz said he would welcome it. Anything to get to the big leagues seems to be his attitude.

At any rate, this is an exciting time for the Red Sox right now when you look at two kids of this caliber at at an event like this. They aren’t just Red Sox prospects, they are two of the best prospects in all of baseball. I remember being at the Futures Game two years ago and seeing Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez representing the Red Sox. Somehow, I don’t think Ellsbury and Buchholz are getting traded to the Marlins.

Here is what Buchholz had to say:

on the season: “It’s sort of been a little blur because you don’t ever
expect to go out and do as well as everything has been going this year. You
expect there to be a couple of bumps in the road and there hasn’t really been
that many for me yet. Hopefully there’s no bumps and I can keep it rolling but
I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it if there’s a couple. I’m
trying to ride that little wave right now and it’s been good so far.”

Where do you go after the All-Star break? “I’ve been told that I might be going to Pawtucket, that would be great. That’s what
you want to do in Minor League Baseball, move up in the ranks. That would be
fun for me. if it doesn’t happen, I’m happy pitching in Portland. It’s a great place to pitch.”

Pitched in relief in last Minor League outing: “That
was just to get ready for this [Futures Game]. I talked to Theo and he wanted
to make sure I knew what it felt like before I went out there. It’s my first
relief appearance in pro ball. it was different but I’ll hang with ‘em and get
through it.”

Could you see yourself getting up to Boston this year? “I’d like to say so. That’s
a goal for me, just going up there and seeing what it’s all about, maybe
getting a cup of coffee in September or something, if not before then, that
would be great too. I’m not going to get mad if it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t
happen to a lot of people. It would be great though.”

Would you be open to pitching in relief for the Red Sox
later this year if it filled a need? “Oh, most definitely. I’ve done it before.
I did it in college a couple of times. It’s just more of a mental part of the
game. it’s two different mental sides of the game, relieving and starting. If
you get your mind right, you can do it. it’s not that big of a difference. You
could let it affect you really easily.”

Biggest key to success this year? “Being able to throw
strike one with any pitch that I want to throw it with. Changeup, curveball,
strike one. Then being behind in the count and being able to do the same thing,
throw strikes.”

Being out here on this field with the top prospects in
baseball, “It’s what you play for. This is who you want to be associated with.
It’s an honor to be out here and it’s going to be a great experience.”

Good to see Jacoby here with you? “Oh yeah. Last I heard
he wasn’t going to be able to come, then he called me yesterday and was like, I
am getting to come. He’s on cloud nine right now, I don’t see how anyone could
be above him right now. It was awesome seeing him get to go to Boston, a guy that I came up playing with and
seeing him get a bunch of starts up there.”

Here is the interview with Jacoby Ellsbury:

What kind of whirlwind week has this been for you, “It’s
been a crazy week just finding out that I was going to start in center field
for the Red Sox and hitting ninth. I was up there for six days and then found
out I couldn’t participate in the Future’s Game because I was up there too long
past the deadline. I was headed to Pawtucket to play a doubleheader. Right before I boarded the plane, I found out I could
play in the Future’s Game. it’s been a crazy week. My agent called the Red Sox to verify that I could
participate in the game and the good news was that I can, so I’m excited about
it.”

Meaningful to be on this stage? “It means a lot, especially to play with these guys. A
lot of guys here you’ll see in the big leagues here in the near future. The
guys you hear about, talk about, I’m very excited to be here.”

What did the stint in Boston do for your confidence? “It gives you
a lot of confidence. No matter what you do in the Minor Leagues, you don’t know
what it’s going to be like until you play in front of 40,000 fans. It gives you
the confidence to go back to the Minor Leagues and just continue to improve and
know what you need to work on.”

What surprised you while you were up with the Red Sox?
“Just playing at the Fenway ballpark, just the fans, the intensity, the love of
the game they have. It was fun. it was a great atmosphere to play in and
obviously that’s the only big league park I know as of this moment. But it was
a great experience.”

What do you think of this park? “This is very nice. I’ve
never been to AT&TPark.t’s a long way out
to McCovey Cove.”

Tired after your week? “I’d say going on adrenaline I’m
happy the All-Star break is coming up here. It will be nice to have three days
off and just relax.”

Family never made it to Boston last week, “They didn’t have the
opportunity. I had such late notice that it would have been tough for them to
make it. I’m sure next time they’ll be there for sure. This is the first time
they’ve seen me in a big league ballpark and it’s the first time my mom has
seen me play professionally. So it should be a treat for her.”

Talk to you later,

Ian.

Welcome to the bigs Jeff Bailey

Nice story tonight in Detroit — where I’m not — as Jeff Bailey will put on a Major League uniform for the first time. Bailey, by all accounts, is a great kid. Terry Francona never stopped raving about him the last two springs.

Bailey came up as a catcher but developed throwing yips and was since moved to first base/DH. He’s got some pop in his bat. He’ll probably just be around through the weekend and it gives the team good depth with Youkilis hobbling. Bailey is 28 years old so this first trip to the Major Leagues has to be a thrill.

Ellsbury went back down, but he showed that once he comes back, he could be here for a very long time. That guy can flat out play. What a baserunner. That play where he went from second to home on the wild pitch will be in the 2007 Red Sox highlight tape — you can take that to the bank.

And I’ve hedged on this before, but now I can say it with certainty. Coco Crisp is BACK. They finally have the guy they thought they were getting from Cleveland. He is jumping on fastballs and gives the Red Sox a very solid hitter in the lower part of the order. Also, if this guy doesn’t win a Gold Glove this year, there should be an investigation. I loved that over the shoulder catch he made last night. He’s been a joy to watch out there.

I fly to San Fran for All-Star festivities on Saturday. i’ll talk to you from the Futures Game on Sunday.

Thanks, talk to you then,

Ian.

All-Star selections

For the most part, it was what we expected. Ortiz, no-brainer because you knew the fans would vote him in. Beckett and Papelbon were as automatic as they were well deserving.

Manny? It’s a below par year but I’m not surprised the players voted him in because the context these guys think of is, "Who is the last guy we want to see at the plate when our team is trying to win a game?". I think Manny qualifies as a consistent answer to a lot of players in baseball. Mike Lowell had a great line when he said that Vegas Oddsmakers were probably setting a line on  whether or not he shows.

Mike Lowell? He got off to a great start and third base isn’t a deep position in the AL. And when Manny and Ortiz weren’t hitting for their usual production, Lowell carried a big part of the load early in the season.

As far as snubs go, Youkilis is the one obvious one. I think he’s been the best hitter on the team this year, but the whole thing about Ortiz being considered the AL first baseman for All-Star purposes basically crushed Youk’s chances.

Okajima being on the Final Vote is a great story. I wonder how much they considered putting Matsuzaka on there instead. Dice-K measures up statistically to many of the pitchers who are All-Stars this year. But there’s no doubting Oki’s dominance. I’m thinking he’ll get a lot of on-line votes in two countries. As Jonathan Papelbon said dryly, "I know they have a lot of computers in Japan." And Red Sox Nation has always hit the on-line ballots heavily.

Once I actually get to San Francisco, you know the Bonds story is going to rise above all else. Regardless of what he’s done in his career and how he achieved it, it’s going to be a compelling story watching this all-time great play perhaps his last All-Star game in his home city. Whether or not Bonds cheated on his way to glory isn’t for me to decide. But I do know this. Long before that guy’s body started expanding, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer without question.

I’m looking forward to watching the whole show unfold.

At any rate, I’ll be at Fenway in a little bit.

Later,

Ian.

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