April 2009

Eerie — Nomar just hit one out

Hard to believe, isn’t it, that this is the first time Nomar Garciaparra has played against the Red Sox.

And as I sit here in the press box, they had just shown footage of Nomar’s first career homer, struck on Sept. 1, 1996, against these Oakland A’s here at the Coliseum. I kid you not, immediately after that highlight, Nomar ripped a solo shot into almost the exact same spot into the LF corner against Jon Lester. This was career jack No. 227 for Nomahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Kind of weird to see Nomar and Orlando Cabrera now teaming up on the left side of Oakland’s infield, isn’t it?

OK. How worried is eveyrone about Lester? Just two bad starts or is something else wrong?

Happy Easter from Anaheim

Wild start to this one, with Bobby Abreu asking for time and getting it and Josh Beckett unleashing it high and tight on the lefty.

I’m glad no punches were thrown. That wouldn’t have been the right way to celebrate Easter!

It seemed like Mike Scioscia was just itching to get thrown out of the game. Every time a sunflower was spat, it seemed like Scioscia was coming out of the dugout to argue. Obviously the Angels have been through a very emotional few days and that could have taken a toll today.

If the Red Sox get to the ninth with a lead, you won’t see Jonathan Papelbon out there. Not after 39 pitches yesterday.

This is where it is very nice to have Takashi Saito around.

Until Pedroia scored on the stolen base and subsequent error by Napoli, the Red Sox hadn’t had a run produced by anything but a home run since Friday — for those of you keeping track of such things.

Put away your magnifying glass

It was almost as if manager Terry Francona was foreshadowing the early bump in the road his team would encounter when last Sunday at Fenway he spoke of how everything gets magnified early in the season.

Here the Red Sox are, stumbling over their first four games, losing three of them. Only Kevin Youkilis has come out of the gate thriving.

But there are clearly no reasons to panic. This roster remains stacked and it’s just a matter of guys setting into their grooves.

Obviously, today is an important day with Brad Penny making his Red Sox debut. Penny should be a crucial piece of this rotation and perhaps ond of the best bargains in baseball if things go as the Red Sox hope.

Somber Friday in Anaheim

The Big A, Edison Field, Angel Stadium — whatever they are calling it these days — has always been one of my very favorite venues to work. The weather is always nice, the press box is in a perfect location in the open air. It’s easy to get around. I remember thinking a few times that it’s impossible to be here and not feel happy.

Well, today it is very possible. In all the times I’ve been to this park, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it be truly cloudy, gloomy and overcast as it is today. And it’s just so fitting given the mood around here after the tragic passing of Nick Adenhart yesterday. He was a 22-year-old righty with his whole career in front of him before he was killled in a needless hit-and-run accident. Just awful, absolutely awful.

It was chilling to walk into the press entrance today and see the shrine that has been created in honor of Nick. Flowers, cards, hats, uniform, pictures, you name it. Just a completely heartfelt thing that so many people have contributed to.

The Red Sox clubhouse had a very different feel to it today. They were quietly respectful.

Sure, there will be a baseball game today, but it won’t have that usual feel. Not by a long shot. Both teams will be trying to win, but more than anything, it will be a matter of just wanting the Angels to get through this difficult day and move on.

Game 2 — A battle of top lefties

I don’t think there will be any kind of letdown here tonight on the heels of Opening Day. How can there be when you have Scott Kazmir going against Jon Lester?

Consider that these two power arms were built within 17 days of each other in January, 1984. They could be linked for years to come, especially if they stay with their respective teams for the long haul.

These are two of the best young left-handers in the game. The 24-year-old Lester came in with a record of 27-8. Kazmir? He is 47-37. The Red Sox could have traded Lester to the Twins for Johan Santana, but passed it up. The Mets, of course, had the utter indignity of trading Kazmir to the Rays for the immortal Victor Zambrano, something they’ve regretted ever since.

I pity the poor hitters who have to face these two guys on this frigid night at Fenway.

Another interesting subplot tonight is Gabe Kapler vs. Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli, the former Ray, is making his debut for Boston. The opposite is true for Kapler, forever a favorite here at Fenway from his four years (2003-06) with the Sox.

In a shocker, Rocco got a big hand in his first at-bat. As my press box sidekick Lenny Megliola just said, “We ought to get the applause meter out — Rocco vs. Gabe.”

Now it is really Opening Day

A nice Tuesday at Fenway Park, as we finally get to see some baseball today.

Kudos — Monster Kudos — to the Red Sox for calling yesterday’s game as early as they did. It would have been a disaster having people sit through that monsoon just to cancel it.

With the first pitch scheduled ceremoniously for 4:06 p.m. ET — some left fielder hit .406 back in 1941 — another great Red Sox celebrates his 91st birthday today. Of course, he is also one of the greatest second basemen of all-time. Of course, I am speaking of Bobby Doerr. I hope he catches himself a giant fish today in the Pacific Northwest and catches some of the game. What a tremendous person. Total class act.

Now that the Red Sox have nine straight games without an off-day, manager Terry Francona doesn’t seem all that concerned about how it will affect usage. He said that the one guy he is hesitant to go back-to-back with right now is Takashi Saito. Saito is the one guy who didn’t go back to back agt all during Spring Training.

Look for Rocco Baldelli to make his first start in a Sox uniform on Wednesday night against Scott Kazmir.

Saturday in the Citi

OK, that’s my last corny pun about Citi Field for a long time, since, who knows when I will be here again? Perhaps in October for a Red Sox-Mets World Series? Otherwise, it could be a while.

Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the nod in Boston’s final game of Spring Training.

Kevin Youkilis is over the flu bug — intestinal turmoil as his manager referred to it as — that took him out of the lineup on Friday night. Youk is back in there today. Rocco Baldelli will lead off and play center against the left-handed starter. Ellsbury will come in off the bench at some point.

Brad Wilkerson has apparently decided he will accept an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket. This, after a horrific spring in which Wikerson hit .119 and struck out 18 times in 42 at-bats.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pitched in a camp game back in Fort Myers today, throwing six innings, allowing seven hits, two earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts over 83 pitches. 

The Sox will work out at Fenway on Sunday and then open their season. It will be the first Home Opener at Fenway for many players on the roster. Here is the list of those players who have never had an Opening Day with the Red Sox:

Justin Masterson; Brad Penny, Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito, John Smoltz, George Kotarras, Jed Lowrie, Rocco Baldelli, Chris Carter and Mark Kotsay

In the Citi — Red Sox vs. Mets

I’m at the brand-new Citi Field, a very nice facility, for tonight’s Red Sox-Mets game. Too bad the weather isn’t nicer, but the pouring rain from earlier this afternoon is now down to a drizzle.

Yes, this place — as you might have guessed — is far nicer than Shea Stadium.

As for tonight’s lineup, Kevin Youkilis was scratched because he is sick. Chris Carter will fill in at first.

The lineup is Ellsbury-Pedroia-Ortiz-Drew-Bay-Lowell-Carter-Lowrie-Varitek.

Penny good to go

Before the Red Sox got on a plane to New York, they were assured from Brad Penny‘s last outing of Spring Training that he is fine to make his first start of the regular season as scheduled on April 12.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Again, weather can get in the way of things. We just need to stay tuned to that and see how we get there.”

In other words, if the Red Sox got rained out on Opening Day, Josh Beckett would pitch Tuesday instead, meaning that a fifth starter would be needed on April 11 instead of April 12. At any rate, Penny is healthy.

“Great, no pain,” Penny said. “Velocity was there. I threw a couple of pitches I wouldn’t normally throw in certain counts. I think today was probably the best overall stuff I’ve had in spring.”