March 2009

Pedroia to return Friday

Just as the Red Sox were updating the situation on Kevin Youkilis, which doesn’t seem to be anything to fret about, it was revealed that Dustin Pedroia will be back in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Pirates. Pedroia will get two at-bats Friday, take BP on Saturday and then get about three at-bats on Sunday.

As for Youkilis, he will wear a boot on his foot for two to three days, then hopefully progress to batting practice, and perhaps game action at some point next week.

Bench coach Brad Mills will manage the Sox on Friday. Terry Francona will be attending the graduation of son Nick from Officer Candidate School.

Jetting back to the Fort

Yes, the return of Brownie Points is coming. When last I was in Fort Myers five days ago, it was a slow camp. It was by the far the slowest Spring Training in my eight years on the Red Sox beat. And then I left and all you know what broke loose.

Lugo, surgery. Pedroia, injured, and out of the World Baseball Classic. Jon Lester, signed for five years. Jason Bay, no contract extension this spring. Josh Bard, out of a job. Kevin Youkilis, now out of the World Baseball Classic.

Wow. Quite literally, there was NOTHING going on when last I left Fort Myers. Now we have an official Red Sox Spring Training in full motion.

I land in Fort Myers after 11 tonight. Back in to blog and story mode tomorrow.

Later,

Ian.

Big Papi back in the saddle; Lowell playing third

Not sure what happened to Julio Lugo, but he left the game with some sort of right knee injury. This after a half inning of defense.

Speaking of defense, Mike Lowell has made a successful return to third base. Not only did he start a 5-4-3 double play in the first, but he just pummeled a towering home run to left. 

David Ortiz is back in the No. 3 hole for the Sox tonight after his surprisingly abbreviated trip to the World Baseball Classic. And, oh by the way, he unloaded for his first homer of the spring, a drive into the RF seats to cap a seven-run second inning off Chien-Ming Wang.

Are the folks back in the Dominican still shocked at two straight losses to the Netherlands? Ortiz couldn’t even believe the question. Of course they are shocked!

“What do you
think? It’s only been a few days,” Ortiz said.


For folks in the Dominican Republic, the World Baseball Classic is not just some exhibition showcase event, it is a matter of national baseball pride. So yes, the loss to a team that hardly any Major Leaguers was extremely tough to swallow.

As much as folks in the Dominican value the event, Ortiz has a feeling that he won’t  be participating in the 2013 Classic, at which time he’ll be 37 years old.

“I’d have to think
about it but I don’t think I will,” Ortiz said. “That’s going to be another four years and by
that time, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about that anymore. I’ve
already done it twice so people won’t complain about it back home. I’ve done it
already. I’ll just have somebody do it.”

In a candid moment in front of his locker, Ortiz said that it is easier to get in a routine and get prepared for a season in Spring Training camp rather than at the Classic.

“In my situation,
coming back here gives you a better chance to get ready than being out there
every day,” Ortiz said. “You don’t get to play every day, and on top of that, there are places
you go where you don’t have that much time to get our work in.


“One way or
another, that kind of affects you. The first time [in 2006, you had more time at the
field and things like that. I’m the kind of guy, I’ve got to do some extra
stuff to get ready. I’m pretty sure that all the guys are pretty much the same
way.”

 

“It’s not like I wanted
us to lose, but we already lost so …

“I’m happy to be
back and get ready,” Ortiz said.

 

George Kottaras is catching Tim Wakefield, but I still think Josh Bard is the heavy favorite to win that job.

Great to see NESN’s Jerry Remy back in the booth tonight. Terry Francona gave Remy a big, enthusiastic hug when he spotted him in the dugout during pre-game. This was Remy’s first game of Spring Training.

Remy returned to Fort Myers with his usual humor, telling his audience on NESN, “I would have been here sooner, but i had visa issues back in massachusetts and i couldn’t leave.”

Beautiful, absolute gorgeous night at City of Palms! I wish all of you were here.

There are some great matchups on tap at the World Baseball Classic this weekend.

Team USA is playing Puerto Rico on Saturday night in Miami. The upstart Netherlands plays Venezuela at 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon. Dice-K takes the ball for Japan on Sunday against Cuba in a 4 p.m. ET tilt.

Red Sox vs. the Yankees (SORT OF, but NOT REALLY)

Yeah, a little hard to get the juices flowing for this latest rivalry encounter. You’ll know what I mean as soon as you see the Yankees traveling squad. Here is the lineup manager Joe Girardi took with him to City of Palms Park.

Brett Gardner CF: Cody Ransom 3B; Juan Miranda 1B; Xavier Nady RF; John Rodriguez DH; Jose Molina C; Shelley Duncan LF; Angel Berroa 2B; Ramiro Pena SS.

They are starting an ace-caliber pitcher in Chien-Ming Wang.

here is what the Red Sox have.

Ellsbury CF
Lugo SS
Ortiz DH
Lowell 3B
Drew RF
Bay LF
Wilkerson 1B
Kottaras C
Chavez 2B

Wakefield SP

On a different planet

I know a lot of you always think I’m on a different planet, but today I am actually in Jupiter, not to be confused with Mars.

OK, Jupiter, Florida. It was an interesting drive across Lake Okeechobee. Well, not really but I stayed awake for it.

Jason Bay and David Ortiz worked out in Fort Myers today, returning from their respective losses in the World Baseball Classic. They will both be in there against the Yankees on Friday night.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Papelbon ripped Manny Ramirez for being a bad teammate in a magazine interview. This isn’ t exactly a news flash. If Manny had been on board with what the Red Sox were doing, he wouldn’t have been traded. They didn’t trade him because of his hitting. As Papelbon said in a text message to his buddies at Comcast SportsNet, “That old news story was four months ago. I’m not saying anything else, but I’m also not taking back anything I have said already.”

Anyway, on to matters that actually happened in Jupiter, Beckett was lights out again. Four shutout innings. Masterson fired zeroes for two innings. It was another tough day for prospect Michael Bowden, who allowed two runs and now has a 13.50 ERA in camp. Bowden has pitched in four games and given up nine runs.

“He just needs the ability to go out and pitch a number of innings,” said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. “Right now, with him as a career starter, routines are disrupted. He’s aware of that. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the benefit of being able to start a ballgame and go, here, here’s three or four innings for you and go settle into a rhythm. Even though today, i think he did a much better job getting into that rhythm. His strengs and attributes are certainly durability, being able to pitch a high number of innings and he’s in a situation where he’s trying to make an impression. He’s clearly a depth starter for us. And we’re getting him the work when it becomes avialable.”

Offensively speaking, not much to report today. Outfield prospect Josh Reddick had three hits from the leadoff spot and is hitting .500 this spring. Julio Lugo was 1-for-2, and has a .450 average.  

A line drive finale for Lowell

Yes, Terry Francona did say before the game that “Mikey is going to get two at-bats today and DH.”

As it turns out, Lowell wanted a chance to run out of the box, which he didn’t get while striking out and popping up in his first at-bats.

The final at-bat, taken in the bottom of the seventh inning was far more successful. Lowell watched a ball, then looked at a strike before raking a hard, clean, line single over the head of the shortstop and into center field.

FYI, Buchholz was absolutely lights out today, three perfect innings.

 

The return of Mike Lowell

Yes, Mike Lowell is in the Boston batting order for the first time since Game 3 of last October’s Division Series against the Angels. He will be batting fifth, serving as the  DH.

Last time we all saw Lowell play a game, he was hobbled, and a shell of his normal self.

I’ll give you pitch-by-pitch updates of Lowell’s at-bats for those of you who can’t watch live.

Also, I’ll fill you in on Clay Buchholz‘s start and any other interesting happenings of the game.

Looking for a Mr. Camp? The early nominee is Nick Green. The 29-year-old veteran journeyman — who has 275 games of Major League experience and a lot of service time in the Minor Leagues — is hitting .478 with two homers and five RBIs over 23 at-bats.

Unfortunately for Green, it’s hard to imagine a roster spot will be open to him unless there is a trade of a certain veteran shortstop, which is highly unlikely.

Lester, Youk, Lugo and other topics

This is obviously terrific news for the Red Sox that Jon Lester is seemingly on the verge of signing a five-year deal, $30 million that includes a $14 million option for 2013. So now the Red Sox, going into the next four to five years, know that they can depend on a sturdy nucleus of Pedroia, Youkilis, Lester and Ellsbury.

It is so hard to find a big, strong lefty like Lester that you can anchor a staff around, so you knew the Red Sox would pounce at the first opportunity to get him secured for the forseeable future.

Of course, the Jonathan Papelbon situation is still year to year, and you wonder if the sides will ever meet up there. Papelbon has made it clear that he wants to get his maximum worth, and the Red Sox might eventually deem that they can get someone like Daniel Bard to do the job at far less money.

Speaking of Bard, I don’t ever remember a prospect who was all but a lock not to make the team having a camp like this. He is just overpowering hitters.

The Red Sox are representing themselves well at the World Baseball Classic. A day after Dice-K got the win for Japan, Youkilis just obliterated a towering home run, his second longball in his many days. Dustin Pedroia might have broken out of his swing, golfing a pitch down the left field line for a double in Team USA’s big top of the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, in Fort Myers, the shortstop situation continues to be intriguing becuase Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie are both playing well.

“They both look good,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
“If that ends up being a dilemma, I’d rather have that happen than guys not
playing well.”

 

Lugo remains confident that he can be the player he was before coming to the Red Sox. 

“Things are going to take care of themselves as long as I’m healthy,” Lugo said.

And fans will be happy to know that the shortstop is working very hard on his defense this spring with new infield coach Tim Bogar.

“Very well, i think Bogar is going to be a big help to me,” Lugo said. “He’s letting me be myself and making plays the way I know how to make it and that’s the way it should be. That’s what got you here. Just refine those skills and that’s it.”

Dice-K is 1-0 — 4-0 lifetime in the Classic

No, I did not wake up to watch Dice-K pitch against Korea either, but I got a full recap of e-mails from my friend Jonny Miller of WBZ Radio. Jonny is, how shall we say, an early riser.

Jon’s first e-mail came to me at 5:44 a.m. “First inning, gave up 455-foot homer to Kim.” … 30 pitches, end of 1, 3-2 Japan.

Jonny fired off another one at 6:16 a.m. “DIce-K update, second inning, one hit, 14 pitches, end of 2, Japan 8, Korea 2.”

Jonny strikes again at 6:32 a.m. “1 BB, 14 pitches, Japan 9, Korea 2 after three.”

Last Jonny update came at 7:15 a.m. “Dice-K done after 4. Japan 11, Korea 2, Mid five”.

At any rate, Matsuzaka and Japan cruised to a mercy rule victory. Matsuzaka wasn’t particularly sharp, but keep in mind he has never been a fast starter in his career.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona — who always awakens early this time of year — saw most of the outing (four innings, four hits, two runs, two walks, one strikeout) on television.I think all Tito really wants to see from Dice-K out of this tournament is a healthy finish to it.

“I watched most of that,” Francona said. “ A little shaky first inning, 29-pitch first
inning. Gave up some hard hits in the second, but they had a baserunning error,
then he settled down and got the last eight of nine. It was OK. It’s Spring
Training and you don’t have the luxury of missing your spots because the game
is on television.”

In other news, Mike Lowell is expected to make his exhibition debut on Tuesday, as the DH against the Orioles. He will proably play at third for the first time in the night game against the Yankees on Friday the 13th.

Brad Penny will fire off a 35-pitch side at City of Palms tomorrow. No word yet on his first game.

Dice-K at Dawn

Who are the truest baseball junkies out there? The correct answer is those of you who will set your alarm clocks so you can watch Daisuke Matsuzaka face Korea at 5 a.m. ET on Saturday. This World Baseball Classic encounter from Tokyo will be televised on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and yes, MLB.TV.

Under tournament rules, Matsuzaka is permitted to throw 70 pitches in his first-round start.

Those of you who need a Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay fix can check out Team USA vs. Canada at 2 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN. And Big Papi David Ortiz will be representing the Domincan Republic in an 11 a.m. encounter (ESPN 2) against the Netherlands.

Things are much quieter here in Fort Myers, where a home game Spring Training lineup features Josh Reddick, Jeff Bailey, Zach Daeges, Chip Ambres and Ivan Ochoa.

Ace Josh Beckett is nearing the completion of a three-inning outing. Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury will make the trip to Port Charlotte tomorrow — “You’ll see those guys on every trip,” quipped Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

With the Marlins in town today, Alex Speier of WEEI.com used the timing element to write a nice blog entry on how close Manny Ramirez came to being a Marlin. Imagine how that could have changed the course of events? Would Manny still have wound up with the Dodgers this year? Would Manny have even approved a trade to the Marlins?

By the way, how utterly perplexing was Manny’s comment at the presser yesterday: “Sometimes you’re better off to have a two-year deal in a place that
you’re going to be happy than have an eight-year deal in a place that
you’re going to, you know, suffer.”

Suffer? Really? Did Manny suffer while winning two World Series? Did he suffer while earning $160 million in Red Sox dollars? Did he suffer while getting the trophy as World Series MVP in 2004? Did he suffer as fans adored him unconditionally for eight years, many of them who would write e-mails to every sportswriter who had the audacity to dare criticize Manny for one of his indiscretions? Did he suffer while teaming with David Ortiz to form one of the most dynamic 3-4 punches of this generation?

Suffer?!? If Manny ever plays at Fenway again, he will probably be greeted with the loudest round of boos in Red Sox history.

I will say one thing though. I did not “suffer” covering Manny during his time in Boston. He is the best pure hitter I’ve ever seen, and was always amusing to observe and, even when he allowed, to interact with.

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