March 2008

Sunday in LA

Thanks for your patience while the blog site was reconstructed over the weekend. The Coliseum thing was quite an experience yesterday. Especially walking about two miles through the not so savory part of Los Angeles trying to find a cab because the shuttle buses had lines of oh, about four hours.

Anyway, it was unique but definitely strange. One of the stranger baseball experiences I’ve ever had. It’s good to be back to normalcy today. No more Tokyo, no more Coliseum. As Tito said, “I’d never been to Japan before and I’d never played in front of 115,000 people before but I’ve been to Oakland before.”

After today’s exhibition with the Dodgers, that’s where we’re headed — Oakland.

J.D. Drew is still not in the lineup. He’s progressing slower than the team had hoped, but they still haven’t ruled him out for Tuesday in Oakland.

Kielty will likely go to Pawtucket, but it’s not definite. Bobby indicated there might be another team he can get a Major League roster spot for. He said he’d know by tomorrow.

More later,

Ian.

Nine hours from Tokyo

Believe it or not, that’s all it takes to get from Tokyo to Los Angeles by plane. Alas, the Boston Red Sox are here at Chavez Ravine, A K A Dodger Stadium, and so am I.

This stadium is spectacular. It’s my second time here — first since 2002. I highly recommend the experience to anyone who hasn’t been here. This place still looks brand new. And it’s impeccably clean. Just a great, great facility.

The press box, fittingly, is named after the great Vin Scully.

In baseball news, Mike TImlin (lacerated right ring finger) is going on the DL, retroactive to March 20. He’ll be eligible to be activated for the Toronto series next weekend. That puts the roster at an even 25.

The person who had the most painful Japan injury? That would be pitching coach John Farrell.

In the eloquent words of PR guru John Blake, "A piece of jaw bone became explosed underneath [Farrell]s tongue.He was eating a cracker, and it got caught in the gum." I lost interest in the story after that. It was just too gross to think about. At any rate, John was in a lot of pain in Japan but he got operated on yesterday and reported to work today.

Colon is chucking tonight.

Ciao for now,

Ian.

The Ultimate Getaway Day

Konnichiwa everyone!

This is my last day in Tokyo. Literally leaving right after tonight’s game and flying to Los Angeles. We leave Tokyo at around midnight Wednesday yet it will only be about 6 p.m. Wednesday in Los Angeles when we land. Go figure!

It’s been an experience out here, that’s for sure. What an Opener last night was. Funny to see Embree work the seventh and Foulke working the ninth. "For a while, it felt like an alumni game out there," said Sox manager Terry Francona.

They are two of the 25 to help the Sox win their first World Series since you know when. Embree has resurrected his career nicely since leaving Boston and Foulke could be headed in that same direction.

As for tonight’s lineup — or this morning for most of you fine folks — Coco is playing center and batting eighth. Ellsbury is out. Terry Francona said he still doesn’t know exactly how the CF situation will play out but he thought getting Coco in there against a hard thrower like Harden was a good thing.

Moss is back in there. J.D. Drew said he’ll be fine for the games in Oakland.

More later — time permitting.

Ian-san.

WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just in case your alarm clocks didn’t work, I figure that headline for the blog might have. Game ON. One of 162.

I realize I’ve been neglecting the blog the last few days. I will make up for it later with a Tokyo sights and sounds blog, just so I can keep all of you updated on what I’ve been doing in this fine country.

In the meantime, I’ll plan on posting in this entry throughout the game, at least as much as possible.

While you New Englanders were rubbing the sand out of your tired eyes, J.D. Drew was getting scratched from the lineup — just moments before game time — with back stiffness. Brandon Moss will play right and bat sixth.

My favorite pre-game moment of Opening Day?

David Ortiz walked through a cramped hall in the clubhouse with a white mask on his face. Must be some kind of Japanese mask I guess. And Papi yells out, "This planet is full of superheroes."

On that note, it is time for Baseball 2008!

Ian.

Playing ball — Japan style

Gameday here in Tokyo. It’s the Red Sox and the Hanshin Tigers. The Red Sox put what amounted to an Opening Day lineup and it paid off in the top of the first when David Ortiz launched one into the seats in left. Yes, Big Papi’s swing translates at Tokyo Dome.

One of the most interesting things to watch in Japanese baseball is the pregame BP. They have two cages set up side by side. And the batting practice pitchers don’t lob them in there in these parts. They throw serious heat from about 45 feet away. I would imagine that would be very beneficial to helping the hitters get their timing by game time. I’m told that the BP pitchers in Japan make about $100,000 a year. Not a bad way to make a living.

I roamed the concession stands during pre-game and found some pretty good sushi. I had no idea what I was eating but it tasted good.  Some of my fellow writers — Amalie Benjamin and Jeff Passan — weren’t as impressed with it. Oh well. Rob Bradford of Boston Herald fame found the chicken sticks which are awesome. I remember having those when I was here in 2006. I might have to go find some. Late news udate: I did find some. Just as good as I remember. And only 300 yen per piece.

And just like Ortiz’s swing translates to the Tokyo Dome, so does Manny being Manny, who entertained the small gathering of Boston scribes this morning with some insightful stuff. He wants to hit 600 homers in his career. Here is the transcript of what he said:

Being in Japan: “I don’t have no problem
with the time, I’m sleeping good, I’m ready to go.” 

Sushi, “Love it.”

Has he thought about the rest of his career?

“I know what lays ahead. I’m going to get two more years
here, and then I’m going to get four years, so it’s going to be six years. I’m
going to finish my career here.”

 

“I’m ready to play. I’ve prepared myself good to play the
game. I’m going to go have fun, play the game and that’s it.”

 

“I’m going to get to 600 [homers]. Why not? The sky’s the
limit. There’s no limit.“

 “I’m going to play six more years and there’s no doubt I can
do it.”

 “Like I say, sky is the limit.” 

“I want to be like Julio Franco, play until I’m 50.”

“I’m ready to go.”

 “I’m happy. Like I tell them, I’m going to get two more
years, than sign a contract for four years and that will be six years. I’m
going to finish here. I feel like a baby now.”
 
Repeating, “Like I told you, sky’s the limit. There’s
nothing impossible in life. If everybody in this room gets the same thoughts
and we’re thinking right, there’s no way … we have the same group of guys that
won last year so there’s no doubt that we can do it again. Nothing is
impossible.” 

Playing in Japan:“It’s great. A bunch of
people, they don’t get to see us all the time, they’re going to get to see us
here in person. They’re going to love it. They’re going to enjoy it.”

 “I’m ready to go.”

That’s all from Manny. Of course, the big newsmaker in Tokyo is Dice-K. His every step is chronicled around here. Which brings up the question: Who is the next Dice-K? Bradford has uncovered that fact in the Boston Herald.

That’s all for now. More later. Until then, Sayanora,

Ian.

Konnichiwa!

Here I am, back in the big,bad, exciting land of Japan. As some of you more faithful readers may recall, I was first here in November, 2006, where I first encountered some guy named Dice-K. Rest assured, Matsuzaka is still as big as ever here in his homeland.

But I must admit, the truly best part of my day was riding in a helicopter with Tim and Stacy Wakefield, Jake and Mike Timlin, and others in a fascinating visit to the U.S. army base called Camp Zama. Curt Schilling and Bryan Corey were in another chopper right next to us. It was truly awesome looking down on Tokyo from an altitude of 1,000 feet and even cooler to see how excited the soldiers, family members and other civilians at the base were to see the defending World Series champs. That was an experience I will never forget.

I did arrive to the workout late — as did Schilling, Timlin, Wakefield and Corey — because the bus we were in got extremely stuck in traffic. Tokyo traffic is much like New York traffic, or pre big dig Boston traffic. Oh well. We made it eventually.

Clay Buchholz is very enthused about pitching against the Hanshin Tigers tomorrow. However, you can be sure that Mr. Timlin won’t pitch in that game. After having two stitches inserted into his finger, you wonder if Timlin can make it back by Tuesday’s Opening Day.

At any rate, I ate some GREAT sushi tonight. It really does melt in your mouth out here.

More tomorrow. Or maybe later today depending on what part of the world you might be reading this in.

Ian-san.

It all starts with Dice-K

The suspense — as if there ever really was any — ended today with the announcement that Dice-K will get the ball on March 25 when the title defense  officially begins under the roof of Tokyo Dome against the A’s.

Matsuzaka checked back into the Fort today after witnessing the birth of his baby boy in Boston. He didn’t waste any time, throwing a side session and then talking with the media, almost all of which was Japanese. The American media was here in Tampa for Sox-Yankees.

Colon got ripped today by the Yankees, giving up three hits and four runs over 2/3 of an inning. Don’t read too much into it. His velocity was still good. This is a guy making his second start of Spring Training.

Coco Crisp is finally making progress. He is getting at-bats at the Minor League complex today along with Bobby Kielty.

Josh Beckett  continues to make nice progress. Perhaps he’ll pitch during the series in Toronto April 4-6, though the Sox aren’t ready to make any definitive plans just yet. I would think Dice-K and Lester would pitch the two games in Oakland April 1 and 2.

Rotation announced on Monday

At last, Josh Beckett has been officially ruled out for Japan. He will stay back in Fort Myers while the Red Sox make the endless journey to the Far East.

Saying that, Beckett took a positive step forward today, playing catch for the first time since being sidelined with back spasms.

Manager Terry Francona will announce the rotation for Japan on Monday. Logic points to Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching Opening Day and Jon Lester pitching the second game.

Very uneventful day here in Bradenton. Pedroia went deep. Snyder, Okajima and Papelbon all pitched well. Yankees tomorrow in Tampa. Both teams will play the bulk of their "A" lineups and we have a good pitching matchup. Colon vs. Pettitte.

Ian

Hoping to Cash in

The first sign that the Doug Mirabelli era was officially over? When I walked into the clubhouse around 8 this morning, Manny Ramirez had moved into Dougie’s old digs. Give Manny credit for this. He knows about prime real estate. Because Mirabelli is a catcher, his locker was significantly wider than most of the other lockers. It looks like Manny has also maintained residence in his own locker. Just another case of Manny being Manny.

But Curt Schilling made it clear on his blog how much Mirabelli ment to the team while he was here.

"In the 20 years since I was first called up to the big leagues I’ve
played with exactly 2 players who’s presence in the clubhouse carried
onto the field. Darren Daulton in Philadelphia, and Doug Mirabelli here
in Boston.

"Very few players have that ability, and when they have it you know
it. 4am landing in Toronto after a sweep, quiet plane, get on the bus
for the 40 minute ride to the hotel, dead silence and everyone is
wiped. By the time you got to the hotel the entire bus was laughing and
the day was behind you. It’s a gift and Doug had it in spades."

That’s powerful stuff from Schilling and provides more insight than Mirabelli’s reputation as "the guy who could catch the knuckleball."

New backup Kevin Cash held court this morning and is excited about the opportunity.

“I was very happy but at the same time, but yesterday was
a rough day for everybody just because of the relationship Doug has with a lot
of these players on this team. He’s very well liked, very well respected. That
goes from my standpoint too. at the same time, it is a business and it’s a
career opportunity for me," said Cash.

More later, with Dice-K taking the ball against perhaps baseball’s worst team going into the season, the Baltimore Orioles.

Ian.

Bartolo, Pedroia, Mirabelli and more

Yes, Bartolo Colon’s debut in a Sox uniform was today.Doug Mirabelli was supposed to catch him, but instead was released before the game. Kevin Cash will be the new backup C simply because Theo Epstein, Terry Francona and the coaches feel he is better defensively at this stage of the game than Mirabelli. And the fact Cash caught Wakefield well for a few starts last year doesn’t hurt.

As for Colon, his first inning started out like this: single up the middle, error shortstop and walk. With the bases loaded and nobody out, he got out of the inning unscathed.

He got the first two batters out in the second, then served up a long home run to No. 9 hitter Jon Weber. Other than that, there was no damage.

Theo  said after the game that Colon stayed between 90 and 94 on the gun, which was very encouraging.

At any rate, some mild comedy in the clubhouse this morning. Dustin Pedroia had been out with the stomach flu the last few days.

Francona had someone  post a picture of Pedroia in the clubhouse that contained the following caption: Rat Boy answers questions about arsenic poisoning.

Said Francona this morning: "I called his wife Kelli and said, ‘Do I have permission to put your husband in the game because I know who wears the pants in this family’. She said, ‘Yeah, you have to get him out of here’."

In roster moves — aside from Mirabelli — Devern Hansack and Jonathan Van Every were optioned to Pawtucket and Schilling was placed on the 60-day DL.

More later,

Ian.

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