March 2009

Carter and Green on the team — sort of

The last roster spots have been finalized, with the exception of the Brad Penny/Clay Buchholz decision.

Chris Carter and Nick Green, if everything stays the same, will be with the Red Sox on Opening Day at Fenway on April 6. However, general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona cautioned both players that a waiver transaction or trade is always possible in the last few days of camp.

Jeff Bailey was informed he won’t be on the team, and I’m sure it was a bitter pill to swallow, considering that he has played 1,111 games and came so close to making the club.

As far as the fifth rotation spot, Buchholz will make his final start of the spring today. Brad Penny pitches on Thursday, at which point the Red Sox will know for sure if the righty is ready to begin the season on the active roster.

Lowell and Rocco ready

When the spring started, two of the biggest question marks from a health standpoint were Mike Lowell and Rocco Baldelli. Lowell, of course, coming off hip surgery. And Baldelli dealing with channelopathy, which causes excessive muscle fatigue.

Both players essentially gave themselves clean bills of health heading into 2009.

Lowell is especially enthusiastic with one week left before Opening Day.

“I feel fine,” said Lowell. “I’m
actually further along than what I thought I’d be in a sense of, I thought this
week was going to be a final test of me bouncing back but I answered that a
week or 10 days ago. I’m really not worried about the season at all from the surgery
standpoint. I’m really happy. I’m actually ready to get out of here. It’s been
a long spring.”

As for Rocco, he belted a home run to left, his second in his last two games.

“I mean, I feel
alright. I could always be seeing the ball better, making more hard contact
consistently,” said Baldelli. “But I feel pretty good, and I’m happy with how Spring Training is
going so far.”

It speaks volumes that Baldelli is speaking more about specific baseball adjustments than his health.

“I would have been
very pleased to come in and just get on the field consistently, and just get in
some kind of baseball shape, and I think I have, and I feel good,” said Baldelli.

More from Fort Myers on Tuesday, when Clay Buchholz pitches against the Rays. Speaking of that, it really is starting to feel like Buchholz will make that April 12 start in Anaheim — and perhaps even another start after that — before Brad Penny takes that spot. The Red Sox have made no such announcement yet, but I’m starting to get that feeling. We’ll find out soon if I’m right. There’s no doubt about this — Buchholz has earned that start or two.

Dice-K in Disney

Yes, here we are, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, getting ready for an all-Japanese pitching matchup this afternoon. Dice-K, fresh off another World Baseball Classic MVP, is pitching against Braves rookie Kenshin Kawakami. Should be fun.

One of the cool parts about Spring Training is when highly-touted prospects get to be Minor League extras for the day. That is happening today for the Sox, as Che-Hsuan Lin — a native of Taiwan — is making the start for the Red Sox in right field and batting ninth
You might remember Lin from the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium last year, when he belted a home run and was MVP. He is a very good defender with speed — he stole 33 bases for Greenville last year — and is a developing hitter.

The Red Sox have Rocco Baldelli leading off today, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Nick Greeen, Chip Ambres, Dusty Brown and Lin.

Ortiz getting locked in

Like clockwork, David Ortiz always seems to find his swing in the latter days of Spring Training. The left-handed slugger belted a two-run homer to left against Francisco Liriano on Saturday.

“When he uses the
whole field like that, he is very dangerous,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “It makes him very tough to pitch
to.”

Ortiz is starting to feel good about his swing.

“It’s just
timing. Hitting is all about timing. Some people take longer than some others
to lock themselves in,” said Ortiz. “That’s how it goes. Especially in Spring Training when
you’re not playing every day.”

 

“You get your
work in, you get ready, you’re old enough to know what to do and then you go
from there. You’ve got the season around the corner so you want to make sure
that you’re where you want to be, or close.”

Dice-K checks back in — sort of

Daisuke Matsuzaka made his way to City of Palms Park today for the first time this spring, but it was on an off-day for the team. Matsuzaka, back from another successful stint at the World Baseball Classic, had his requisite physical that the rest of the pitchers went through on reporting day.

Matsuzaka threw on flat-ground in preparation for what is expected to be about a 50-pitch side session, after which the righty will speak to the Boston media for the first time since the end of 2008.

According to pitching coach John Farrell, Matsuzaka will throw about five innings against the Braves in DisneyWorld on Monday. No word yet if Mickey Mouse will be in attendance.

Otherwise, a quiet day. Justin Masterson reeled off 4 2/3 innings in a Minor League start and Rocco Baldelli got a bunch of at-bats in that same game.

Home game against the Cardinals on Friday, with Beckett on the hill.

Curt(ain) call — Big Schill calls it a career

That’s it. With the tap of Curt Schilling‘s fingers to his laptop keyboard, a great and memorable career officially came to an end.

It’s a good day for all of you to share remembrances of Schilling, both in terms of what he did in his career and what he did for the Red Sox.

I’ll start by giving you some of David Ortiz‘s remembrances:

Myself, I see him
as an amazing professional baseball player. When you look at somebody like,
man, how did you do it? What he did in 2004, I was around the whole thing,
seriously, it was one of the most
impressive things that I have seen in
baseball.”

Did Schilling change the culture of the Red Sox? You bet, says Big Papi.

“He did. He did.
I’m telling you, he did. Like I was saying before, I saw the guy getting
surgery and then two days later, he was pitching in one of the most important games
and dealing with it. It was freezing, rainy, cold as hell and the guy just had
open surgery on his ankle, bleeding to death. A lot of people came up to me and
asked me, was he bleeding for real? I’ll tell you what man, he showed me a lot
of guts. I have a lot of respect for Curt. I wish him the best now that he’s
not going to play baseball anymore and let him know that he has a friend here
he could count on.”

 

How was Schilling always so good in the big games?

“The guy had a
focus on the game like nobody I’ve seen,” Ortiz said. “He wanted to be in the game every
single second, you know? He would come to me and tell me things that as a
veteran, you would be like, ‘wow, this guy is taking the game to another level.’
Curt is a really smart man. He’s so smart that he turned out to be stupid
sometimes. I’m telling you, he was an amazing piece for this ballclub. That’s
the way I see it. I don’t care what anybody says.”

Beckett sharp; Ortiz razzes Pedroia

Josh Beckett is ultra-locked in this spring. When he had a bases loaded, one-out jam in the fourth and got out of it by getting John Mayberry, Jr. on a 5-4-3 double play, the righty pumped his fist like it was Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS in Cleveland. There have been nothing but positive developments from the ace all spring. The latest was five shutout innings, one walk and two strikeouts. Beckett threw 75 pitches, 45 for strikes.

The comedic moment of the afternoon took place in the fifth, when Dustin Pedroia lined a double down the right field line and David Ortiz followed with a towering double that one-hopped the wall in right. Now, typically a double scores a guy on second. But Pedroia had to hesitate for a minute to make sure the ball wasn’t caught. And third base coach DeMarlo Hale was undoubtedly being conservative because Pedroia was just in his second game back from that abdominal strain.

At any rate, Pedroia stopped at third, and Ortiz kiddingly gave him a hard time for not getting him an RBI. As Ortiz stood at second, he laughed and looked at Pedroia while mimmicking his legs going up and down. Pedroia thought it was funny. Those two guys are always on each other, and it’s always very humorous.

A Patriotic Sunday

It’s a lazy Sunday here at City of Palms, with not a whole heck of a lot of news going on. It was nice to see a group of Red Sox Minor Leaguers play the Military All-Stars on the back field this morning.

Former Sox general manager Dan Duquette is working with that team, and former Sox first baseman Brian Daubach was managing. A guy by the name of Doug Flutie played second base for the Military Stars today, and led off. In a shocker, Flutie remains in great shape at the age of 46.

While Flutie was a special guest, many of the military All-Stars are going to various places to get their baseball fix.

“This is a
barnstorming tour,” Duquette said. “We go around from city to city. We’re kind of like the Harlem
Globetrotters of baseball. It’s a fun thing and a good way to connect. People can
relate to baseball and they can relate to the service, they can relate to
patriotism.”

These aren’t professional-caliber players just yet, but that also isn’t the point.

 

“They are the
best of the best of the U.S. Military,” said Duquette. “We are developing a farm system of our
own for the U.S. Military All-Stars, but I can tell you last year we beat the
Cape League All-Stars.”

Daubach is also having a good time of it.

Just being around
them, they’re great guys and sweeing how much they love baseball and what they’ve
done for our country, it’s very special,” Daubach said. “They love
hearing baseball stories and we love hearing about what it’s all about over
there. It’s been great.”

Two of the troops are from the New England area: LT Junior Grade Will Sheehan (Boston) and Hospitcal Medic third class Jeff Heriot (Franklin, MA).

The Red Sox Minor Leaguers won by a score of 4-0.

For more info on the U.S. Military All-Star team, click here.

Return of the Prodigal Pedroia

Yes, No. 15 Dustin Pedroia was back in your Boston Red Sox lineup today, batting second and playing second base.

The first play of the game went to second base and Pedroia fielded it cleanly. In his first at-bat, he drove in Ellsbury with a grounder to short. In his second and final at-bat, Pedroia reached on an infield single and went to second on the error before coming out for a pinch-runner.

“I felt good,” Pedroia said. “I think
the biggest thing is to see how it feels tomorrow. Hopefully I’m not sore or
anything like that. I definitely want to take it slow. I’ve been doing all my
treatment stuff. It was good to get back on the field and get a couple of
at-bats and get back in the game rhythm. Tomorrow is probably the biggest day
to see how it feels. Hopefully I’m not sore and hopefully Sunday I can get out
there and play again.”

 

J.D. Drew was hit by a pitch on the right hand and was taken for X-Rays. They were negative. It was just a contusion.

Yet another strong outing for Clay Buchholz, who lowered his Spring Training ERA to 0.66 with five innings and no earned runs.

One other obvious positive development here today. Jason Varitek absolutely tatooed a three-run homer from the left side. He hit it on the street behind the RF wall. Tek’s second lefty homer of the week.

The big game of the weekend of course — no, not a college basketball game — is Japan vs. Team USA. Sunday night, 9 p.m., Dice-K taking the ball.

Pedroia only wishes he could be there.

“I wish I was
there and to be a part of it with those guys. It was an unbelievable experience
getting a chance to play with all those guys. I’ll definitely be rooting hard
for them. I’ll shoot them a text message, a little motivational speech for ‘em.
I’ll get em going,” Pedroia said.

Intrepid reporter Jonny Miller of WBZ Radio asked Pedroia if he had any secrets for Team USA about facing Dice-K.

 

“Daisuke is lucky I’m not there, I’d hit a line drive
right off his back and you guys can put that in your paper. I would hit him
right in his back. He better hope the Red Sox don’t trade him,” Pedroia said, as he walked away.

 

Funny stuff. A chirpy Pedroia must mean a healthy Pedroia.

Put Lowrie on ice

You think Jed Lowrie is ready for Opening Day? The switch-hitter continues to crush the ball in Spring Training. He had another big night in Sarasota, going 3-for-4 with a homer. Lowrie is hitting .462 on the spring with six doubles, two triples, two homers and 10 RBIs.

“Put him on
ice,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I’m stating the obvious, but he’s been taking great swings. He’s been swinging
the bat since Day One. He’s probably in a little bit more of a groove because
he’s playing a little more consistently than everybody else. But he has been on
everything. It’s been fun to watch.”


Obviously Lowrie is a different player with a healthy wrist than the guy who tried as best he could throughout the second half of 2008.


“To be brutally
honest, he didn’t get to those pitches last year. Especially towards the end of
the year. He looks like he feels good about himself. He should,” Francona said.

“To be
able to stay on top of that ball and stay through it instead of just coming
around it, that’s the difference,” Lowrie said.

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