March 2009

Buchholz and crisis management; Pap breaks out slider

While the star of the day was top prospect Daniel Bard and his 100-mph fastball (I’m not sure poor Mike Aviles ever saw it), Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon also had interesting outings against Puerto Rico.

Buchholz got into jams in both of his innings, and got out of them. This is significant because this is the same type of thing that would just sink him last year, be it in Spring Training or the regular season.

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First inning, two
guys on, nobody out. Last year, it would have just snowballed and there would
have maybe been three runs at the least,” Buchholz said. “My thought process was alright, make a
pitch right here, get a groundball. I struck somebody out and then pop fly,
nobody advances. Last guy I struck out. That first inning made me go in the
dugout and just take a deep breath and say, OK, once again, I’ve been in that
position and I knew how to do it more [now].


“And second inning, right off the
bat, bases loaded, nobody out. From then on, my mindset was minimize and get a
groundball or get a flyball and I came out lucky and got a double play and then
ended up getting out of it with just one run.”

As for Papelbon, he is making a concerted effort to integrate the slider into his mix this season. Of course, Papelbon already has that lethal fastball and split, but the slider can give him a new wrinkle.

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Papelbon said he hasn’t thrown it much since converting to reliever for good in 2006.

“Today, I felt
like I wanted to go out there and throw my slider more and I was able to do
that well,” Papelbon said. “Just because,
for me, I feel like it’s time to kind of give those hitters something else to
look at. For me, adding another pitch will just, I feel like, make me better. I
felt really good today and I’m really pleased about it.”

Red Sox against Puerto Rico

An interesting day here at City of Palms, with the Red Sox facing off against Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic squad.

It is the return of Alex Cora to City of Palms, though Cora isn’t in the lineup. Neither, for that matter, is Bernie Williams. Carlos Beltran is batting third and Pudge Rodriguez, still looking for a job, is hitting sixth. Sidewinder Javier Lopez could pitch against the Sox today, which is an interesting twist, but not exactly Derek Jeter facing the Yankees.

It’s a bittersweet day for Mike Lowell, who wanted to play for Puerto Rico but had to give up that dream thanks to his hip surgery. Overall, Lowell is in great spirits and plans on playing in an exhibition game within the next week.

The J.D. Drew situation really seems very minor. His main thinking behind the cortisone shot was simply to eliminate the problem before it became one. Drew should play Friday.

Clay Buchholz is pitching today for the Sox. He’ll be followed out of the ‘pen by Jonathan Papelbon, Michale Bowden, Marcus McBeth, Charlie Zink and Daniel Bard.

The Sox have a lineup of Ellsbury; Lugo; Carter (1B); Bailey (LF); Wilkerson (RF); Lowrie 3B; Kottaras; Green.

Penny back to flat ground; J.D. gets shot

Early news today: Brad Penny is officially out for Thursday’s start against Puerto Rico, and there is no timetable for his first exhibition game. He was a little fatigued, so he’ll work exclusively on flat ground for the time being

I feel pretty
good,” Penny said. “I don’t think the shoulder strength is quite where it needed to be yet
for the workload that had been scheduled out. It’s better to take it easy right
now then to get out there the first week of April and have it flare up on me.
So, just staying on the shoulder program, still going to play catch, and just try
to get my shoulder strength to where I need it to be.”

J.D. Drew flew back to Boston the other day for a cortisone shot on his back, but manager Terry Francona stressed that it was nothing to be overly alarmed about and that it was done more for maintenance than anything else. Drew could be back in the lineup by Friday.

“[I've] been
working with a chiropractor and started talking about some of the underlying
issues and thinking that the facets might be a little bound up,” Drew said in
an interview with NESN’s Heidi Watney before leaving City of Palms Park on Tuesday. “So,
talking with the training staff a little bit, decided to do an injection in
that area to see if that would free up some of the old scar issue, an old
injury, and give me some freer motion in that area.”

It looks like Nomar is on his way to Oakland. A little ironic, isn’t it, that Nomar and Orlando Cabrera will now be teammates?

Classic Exodus

There was a different feel in the clubhouse at City of Palms Park this morning, as David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Bay were spending their final few hours in Fort Myers before going to the camps of their respective countries for the World Baseball Classic. Javy Lopez was also leaving camp, but Puerto Rico will train just down the road in Fort Myers for the next few days.

Meanwhile, Dice-K remains in Japan, where he’s been all spring. He pitched for the second time in a game situation yesterday — or is it tomorrow in Japan ??? — giving up a hit and two walks over three shutout innings against the Yomiuri Giants. It was a relief appearance for the Dice Man.

By the way, Mr. Ortiz has a message for his teammate, but possible competitor during the Classic

“I’m
going to take Dice-K deep for sure,” chuckled Ortiz.

But Dustin Pedroia, whose TEAM USA squad will be playing in the same bracket as Canada in the first round, couldn’t resist telling Jason Bay that his squad won’t be around long.

“Pedroia told me to pack one pair of underwear,” said Bay.


Speaking of Bay, he will play center field for Canada to allow his team to generate some more offense.

After those early-morning chats about the Classic, I trucked over here to Hammond Stadium for a tilt against the Twins. The Red Sox trotted out Pedroia, Ortiz and Youkilis in this one, and have a loaded arsenal of pitchers going today, including Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito.

Youkilis (photo below) just smashed a homer to right-center, improving a swing that he felt had been “horse manure” in recent days.

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Beckett had a nice easy stint, mowing down all six batters he faced. He didn’t get to use his changeup because he was so efficient at being ahead in the count. Oh well, that’s a problem Beckett and the Red Sox will gladly take.

Papelbon was impressive in his first exhibition outing, firing 10 pitches and mowing through the Twins in order.

Sox are in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow. I’m not scheduled to go on that trip, but I will pass along whatever updates I get.

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