February 2008

Dice-K under the lights

Dice-K threw all of 12 pitches in his debut this spring, mowing through the Twins over two innings. He’s working on a two-seam fastball, though he only threw one of them tonight. Once Dice’K’s abbreviated outing was over, he threw 52 pitches in the bullpen.

Other things of note tonight: Youkilis and Varitek smoked back-to-back homers.

Mike Timlin, the old warhorse, made his spring debut, throwing a shutout inning. Okajima came out and threw a shutout inning also. Julian Tavarez, whose role has yet to be specified, went two innings and gave up a homer.

Other than that, what can we say? It was a Spring Training game.

Random thought: I think Bryan Corey has a very good shot to make the team as the 12th pitcher on the staff. He has a very good changeup and for a righty, he does a nice job getting lefties out. Francona and pitching coach John Farrell both love his attitude and I think they both considered him the toughest cut of last Spring Training.

That’s all for tonight.

Ian.

Bartolo speaks

Day 4 of Bartolo Colon coverage here in Fort Myers brought some actual words from the rotund righty, who held court under a palm tree outside the Red Sox clubhouse a few moments ago:

ON choosing the Red Sox: "There were other
teams offering but Boston was the only team that approached me aggressively and gave me the opportunity
to pitch.”

When will he be ready to pitch in Spring Training? “Probably on the 9th of march, god-willing, I’ll
pitch here.”

He has no clue when he’ll be ready to pitch for the Red Sox in the regular season.

How long would he be willing to pitch in the Minors? “That’s the decision of the organization. Whatever
is best for me, I’ll be fine.”

What does he still have left? “A lot of teams were saying I can’t still pitch so I’m
trying to take this opportunity to show those teams I can still pitch.”

Any health issues? “Arm feels good, just need to progress to a
point where my arm starts to feel stronger.”

Being with fellow Dominicans Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz: “That was a big part of my decision, being part of such
a strong group of Latino players here with Boston.”

He last pitched on Feb. 6 in Carribean World Series:

“I felt very good in the Carribean
world series, especially vs. Venezuela. Since then, I haven’t been throwing
much. I’ve just been exercising and working out.”

Ready to throw off mound, "I feel ready now. I’m going to throw a bullpen on Tuesday. I feel like I’m ready to go."

That’s all for now.

Bartolo is in the house

Big excitement today. Just as Terry Francona was completing his post-workout session with the media, Bartolo Colon pulled his maroon mercedes in to the gravel parking lot right outside the clubhouse.

The former Cy Young Award winner is officially in camp. He didn’t speak to the media. Instead, he quickly got into workout clothes and worked up a sweat. By early afternoon, Colon was playing catch with John Farrell, maxing out at 120 feet. He’ll speak tomorrow.

One observation from the field today is that Dice-K looked filthy. He gave J.D. Drew a nasty three-pitch combo that had the right fielder whiffed with on three straight pitches.

Tomorrow is a very short day, as the players leave for the White House at about 11:15 a.m.

And Thursday, there will be baseball. And with that in mind, here are the lineups for the big BC-Northeastern day-night doubleheader.

Lineup vs. BC:
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Lowell 3B
Varitek C
Youkilis 1B
Lugo SS
Kielty RF
Moss LF

Pitchers: Beckett, Snyder, Lopez, Delcarmen Corey.

Lineup vs. Northeastern:
Crisp CF
Cora 2B
Drew RF
Ramirez DH
Casey 1B
Carter LF
Mirabelli C
Lowrie SS
Ginter 3B

Pitchers: Masterson, Hansen, Bowden, Breslow, Jones and Jackson.

One more thing: Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant wrote a tremendous story today on the upcoming Red Sox visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical center. Goldberg got some vivid responses from Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin on what the visit was like in 2005.

More later,

Ian.

Monday thoughts

Nice to see Terry Francona get rewarded with a big payday on Sunday. I’m not sure he gets enough credit for just how well he has handled this team since he took over in 2004. Francona — much like Joe Torre for all those years in New York — knows how to handle a market that carves up most managers.

The other underrated thing about Francona. Most managers are either known as game tacticians or clubhouse managers. This guy is both. He knows how to run a game, and he knows how to deal with the players.

The Sox hired Bruce Hurst this morning as a roving Minor League instructor. It’s nice to see Hurst back in the fold. He still regrets leaving as a free agent following the 1988 season and going to San Diego.

Bartolo Colon has signed a Minor League deal with the Sox, and he’ll be in Fort Myers tomorrow. al. It’s hard to believe he’ll all of a sudden regain his Cy Young repertoire after two injury-filled years, but there’s not much risk involved, so why not?

"Signing Colon to a Minor League deal, we think is a no-risk, potential high-reward signing," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "He’s
on a Minor League contract and he’s going to show up in camp tomorrow and we’ll
do an evaluation of how far he is away from helping us but it takes more than
five starting pitchers to get through a season. obviously he’s an accomplished
guy and if we can get him back to a point where he’s throwing well, he can
certainly help us at some point during the season.”

But the true excitement of the day? The Red Sox 2008 media guide was delivered to the media trailer this morning. For a beatwriter, this is one of the great days of spring. We live and die with this book for the next eight months, relying on the encyclopedic nature of it.

Kudos to John Blake of the PR staff for getting this bible out so ealry this year. The cover photo is a collage from last October — Josh Beckett pumping his fist, Jason Varitek hoisting the trophy, Jonathan Papelbon in utter disbelief, Mike Lowell watching the flight of a drive, Pedroia and Ortiz embracing, and Manny watching his bottle rocket walkoff soar out of the yard to end Game 2 of the Division Series.

And the new Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2008 was revealed in the guide. The Sox put players into their team’s Hall of Fame every two years. This November, the group of inductees is Mo Vaughn, Bill Lee, Frank Sullivan, Mike Greenwell, Wes Ferrell, Everett Scott, George Digby (scout) and Ed Kenney Sr. (executive). The Most Memorable Moment to be recognized that night will be home run No. 521 for Ted Williams, which came in the Splendid Splinter’s final at-bat in the Major Leagues.

Manny going with Boras

The Manny Ramirez contact situation just took an interesting turn, with the left fielder hiring Scott Boras, according to a report by SI.com’s Jon Heyman. Sox GM Theo Epstein confirmed that Ramirez informed him of the move. Should be interesting to see what impact this has on Manny’s future. The Sox have a better relationship with Boras than most teams, so that might be reason for optimism.

Mike Petraglia of MLB.com wrote a strong story on Sean Casey today. Everyone loves the Mayor, particularly Mike, who loves all things Cincinnati.

I led my notebook with Javy Lopez, the lefty specialist who didn’t get lefties out last year. Lopez is out of options, so this is a key spring for him.

Also, the photo image for my Dice-K book is now in the ads for the book, so I’m an excited author. The book hits stores on March 18, but you can pre-order it now.

Also, it’s official. The Red Sox are going to the White House next Wednesday.

Talk to you later,

Ian.

Manny Franco, I mean, Ramirez

Manny being Manny. Yes, the left fielder was his typical entertaining self in an interview session with the media that he initiated himself this morning. Manny sat down on a bench outside the clubhouse and discussed a bunch of issues, and reiterated that he wants to stay in Boston for as long as possible.

Later in the day, general manager Theo Epstein held court regarding Ramirez and a variety of other issues:

On Manny: “It’s great that Manny is here, in camp, on time. he’s
obviously put a lot of hard work into getting ready for the season. We’re
focused on 2008. Obviously Manny’s contract provides for the first of his
options to be decided upon at the end of the year. There’s a time for that, but
it’s certainly after the season. We’re looking forward to Manny continuing to
work hard and have a great year.”

Manny pulling a Julio Franco? “I wouldn’t put anything past
Manny. He’s certainly in great enough
shape where he can play at a high level for a long time. When something like
that is built into a contract, it makes sense just to be patient and wait for
just the appropriate time to deal with it. That’s well in the future. Right
now, we’re just focused on him having a great year.”

Manny’s year last year, “I think he produced at an elite
level, to say the least, when it mattered most. We certainly wouldn’t do it
over. He and David were a force to be reckoned with in the middle of our order
when the games mattered most. That’s what I look back and think about with his
work.”

Manny in better shape. “He looks good and is hopefully primed to have a big year.”

Better shape? “Manny always works hard. He doesn’t get the
credit that he deserves for being one of our hardest workers. This year, that
took a little bit of a different form. He was obviously out in
Arizona at API. I haven’t even seen him in uniform yet, so it’s
too early to tell. But he’s going to be prepared when the bell rings.”

Curt’s early rehab, “It’s the very earliest stages of his
rehab. But he’s showing up every day at six and attempting to put the work in.
I think he’s mentally in a place where he knows he’s got to work hard and be
patient in order to get back to a position where he can contribute.”

 Five outfielders? “It’s too early to get into roster
discussions. We don’t know what the makeup of the 25-man roster is going to be.
You start speculating at this time of spring, you end up having to go hunt for
25 healthy guys at the end of March. We’re just going to see what we have and
make the best decisions for the club at the appropriate time.”

On Coco ’s comments from
yesterday. “I think Coco was actually really
calm and deliberate about what he said. We’ve been in communication about it. I
think the way it was reported or the way it was reported in the interview that
came out with all you guys around skipped a step, and that step is that, as
Tito said, Coco’s the incumbent and Coco played great defense last year and was a huge part in our run prevention. We allowed
the fewest runs in all of baseball. he was a huge part on a club that won 96
games so he’s got an opportunity to keep his job and go out and make an impact
for this club again as an everyday player. it’s premature to speculate about
the next step because we haven’t even begun Spring Training. We’ll see how
things look down the road.”

Dice-K increasing his workload in Spring Training? “Yeah,
John Farrell works with the pitchers on a daily basis to make sure they’re
ready to go for the start of the season and prepared for what will hopefully be
a seven-month season once again. Suffice it to say, he’s not going to let any
of the pitchers do anything that would do more harm than good. We certainly
trust him to monitor Dice-K’s workload, as well the workload of any of the
other pitchers here in camp.”

Manny being on time, “Yeah, we’ve always had decent
communication with him about when he’s coming in. There always seems to be
something that comes up that prevents him from being here on time. I’d be lying
if I didn’t say it’s nice to see him. He’s ready to go and on time with the
rest of his teammates and that sends a great message.”

Manny Motivated? “I think he’s motivated every year. He
cares about winning and he has a lot of pride in his own performance, putting
up numbers. He’s one of our hardest workers. I think he’s always motivated.”

More on Manny, “The contract provides an option at the end
of this year and dictates the time-table for when the club has to make that
obligation. That’s just something that has to be dealt with at the appropriate
time. That’s an issue for after the season. Right now, he’s preparing to have a
big year and we’re preparing for the same.”

David Ortiz’s knee,  “I
think the surgery was needed and appears to have been successful. He’s pretty
close to 100 percent. He feels a lot of pain relief, which is good. We’re going
to be smart about it but I don’t think it’s a critical issue that we have to
monitor on a daily basis. He’s going to let us know how he feels and Tito will
be smart about how he uses him. Our hope is that it will be a non-issue this
season.”

On Dan Kolb, “We had room for a couple of more non-roster
invitees and there were a few guys who were throwing for scouts and he was one
of them so we went and saw him. He’s looking to bounce back in his career and
get back to a point where he can pitch effectively at the big league level.
Those non-roster invitees are basically no-risk, potential reward situations
for the club. He fits into that boat. He’s a hard worker, he’s a pro. If he can
get back to the level he was at a few years ago, he can help us at some point
this season.”

Time-frame on knowing if Schill has bounced back from the
cortisone shot? “It’s a real rehab process. We’re counting on at least six to
eight weeks of strengthening before we see where we are.”

“He’s doing the rehab and our guys will monitor it every
step of the way but we’re in the real preliminary phase of this thing. It’s way
too early to give you guys any feedback on how it’s going, other than, it’s
going.”

Mike Lowell said you had him at hello. “Yeah, well (as he
smiles), that’s why we barely moved from our initial offer.”

Will Wake negotiate a clause in his contract to bring
Mirabelli back every year? “Cash caught him pretty well last year. Wake’s a
little bit less needy than people think. He goes out there and he’s not a freak
because of the knuckleball. He’s a pitcher. He’s a member of this pitching
staff just like anyone else. He isn’t really that high maintenance.”

Ian.

Coco wants to play; Manny arrives

With the complex mostly empty, Manny Ramirez took his first steps of Spring Training mid-Wednesday afternoon, dropping off his belongings and then leaving. I’m sure Manny will be the big story tomorrow. He just has that kind of star power.

A day after Jacoby Ellsbury addressed the media, it was Coco Crisp’s turn to speak this morning. My man Mike Petraglia was on the scene and his story is live on redsox.com.

The gist of it is that if Coco isn’t the starting center fielder,that he will ask for a trade.

"I want to play everyday," Crisp said. "I
think everybody wants to play everyday. If you don’t, I think there’s something
wrong with you. I don’t want to sit on the bench. I can cheerlead with the best
of them, but that’s not where I want to be, though."

Interestingly, Coco put on 14 pound of muscle, hoping to add a little more thump to his game.

David Ortiz held his first mass media gathering following the workout and made a strong recommendation that the Red Sox bring back Manny Ramirez beyond this season.

In other news, Terry Francona revealed the pitching alignment for the first few exhibition games. Beckett pitches against Boston College on Feb. 28. Justin Masterson will get the ball in the second college game that day against Northeastern. Dice-K  against the Twins on the 29th. Jon Lester pitches on March 1 vs. Minnesota. And Tim Wakefield completes the three-game set against the Twins on Sunday, March 2.

Ian.

Ellsbury speaks, Papi arrives

I had yesterday off, when Curt Schilling broke his silence. He blogged today and sounded pretty determined to make an impact on the 2008 Red Sox. One reason you can’t count Schilling out is his competitiveness. Much like Pedro did in his time with the Red Sox, Schilling thrives on proving people wrong.

This morning, Jacoby Ellsbury held court in a mass media gathering. It still amazes me what a dead ringer he is for Johnny Damon. Not only the style of play, but the tone of his skin, the cadence of his voice — everything.

Ellsbury said all the right things about battling Coco Crisp for center field. “I think it’s good for both of us. It pushed me that much
harder in the offseaosn, I’m sure it did Coco as well. You know, we have a good relationship and we’ll make the best of the
situation.”

In other news,Big Papi David Ortiz is in the house. He took some hacks in the cage and then talked to the media for about a minute as he walked through the complex. But it’s always news when Ortiz talks, and he’s expected to have a much more expansive chat with the assembled writers and television personalities tomorrow.

Mike Lowell strolled through the facility after camp had virtually cleared out for the day. The classy third baseman will probably work out tomorrow, and I would guess the newest author might have a couple of words for the assembled press.

Later,

Ian.

Sunday best

Dustin Pedroia, the American League Rookie of the Year, is back. And he’s still got the same chip on his shoulder that endeared him to teammates a year ago.

A sampling from his media gathering this morning:

What does Pedroia have to prove to people this year? “I don’t really care what people think. I don’t really
have to prove anything to anybody. I just have to prove stuff to my teammates.
I don’t give a [expletive]t what anybody says about me. I’m going to go out there and
be who I am and if you don’t like it, watch somebody else. That’s all I care
about.”

As for that Rookie of the Year Award? "I don’t think about that, man. That’s just something
that sportswriters voted on. I don’t think I was the best rookie. I didn’t
really think about it. The only thing I knew is I got an opportunity to play in
the World Series and we won. That’s what our goal was all year. The whole
Rookie of the Year thing, I’m not really concerned about it. I actually, I
might put a little holster on it and hold up my garage door and put it down
there.”

Oh, and Pedroia is ready to renew his vow to beat Kevin Youkilis in any type of speed race. “I’m a lot faster than him, let’s just clarify that right
now. I’ll race him in my tennis shoes, or no shoes, it doesn’t matter. I’ll
just race him.”

There you have it.

Word is that the ace — No. 19 in your program — Josh Beckett will meet the press following today’s workout.

More later.

Ian.

First official workout

Today, the 2008 Red Sox — at least the pitchers and catchers — took the field as one for the first time.  After the workout,  captain and catcher Jason Varitek held his state of camp address with the media. His backup Doug Mirabelli held court earlier this morning.

PR maven John Blake predicts that the ace — No. 19 Josh Beckett — might provide us with some words on Sunday. Thus far, Beckett has only spoken with Rob Bradford of the Boston Herald.

For those of you who can’t get enough of this, I’m sure you tuned into NESN today from 10 a.m. to noon. It might have been the first time a spring training workout has ever been televised. Dan Shaughnessy wrote a humorous satirical take on it in today’s Boston Globe. There will be more live coverage from NESN, beginning on Wednesday.

Everyone is still waiting breathlessly for No. 38 Curt Schilling to hold his first media gathering since word broke of his injury more than a week ago. Schill declined comment today.

His wife Shonda later came into the complex on crutches. I’m not sure what happened there. *****UPDATE. Intrepid MLB.com scribe Mike Petraglia has informed me that Shonda stepped on some glass at their Spring Training home. Sounds painful. We wish Shonda all the best in her recovery.

Group 1 was must-watch for those roaming the grounds of the Minor League complex. That’s where Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka and Wakefield aired it out in side sessions.

Speaking of Matsuzaka, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell informed the Japanese media that Dice-K will make his exhibition season opener on Feb. 29 — Leap Day — against the Twins on the other side of Fort Myers.

later,

Ian.

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