May 2009

Big Papi on Manny, himself, his wrist

David Ortiz talked about all kinds of things today. Most interesting were his thoughts on Manny Ramirez. For the first time, Papi spoke at length about his Manny’s suspension, even calling out his friend for not speaking yet to the public on what happened.

Interestingly, Ortiz is very upbeat these days about his own struggles, feeling it is just a matter of time before he becomes a dangerous threat again. And in a display of just how popular Ortiz is, he said he got 50 to 70 text messages from around the league Sunday night after ESPN showed him looking very despondent in the dugout after an out.

And during the game, a 4-3 victory by the Sox Tuesday night, Ortiz was belted on the left wrist. Wouldn’t you know it was the exact same spot where the injury occurred last year? Big relief for the Red Sox, as Ortiz said by the end of the night he was fine and he expected to play Wednesday.

Bring on the Heat

There will be an exciting presence in the Boston bullpen tonight, as reports have circulated that Daniel Bard, he of the fastball that touches 100, will be activated before tonights game.

Another day, another injury

Continuing the theme of the week, J.D. Drew is out of today’s game with a sore legs, which include a barking quad. In actuality, he might not have played today anyway, as Kazmir is pitching for the Rays. But given Drew’s game-winning homer last night, it might have been nice to see if he could take that momentum into today.

Kevin Youkilis is also out of the mix for the fifth straight game, and likely won’t play again until the start of the West Coast trip on Tuesday. “We’ll try to use the day off to our advantage,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

And in a display of the selflessness that has come to mark this team, Youkilis said this morning that he’d have no problem with Jason Bay continuing to stay in the cleanup spot, even when Kevin is back in the lineup.

“He can hit there,” Youkilis said. “If he’s going to hit the way he is, he can stay there. I’ll hit anywhere in the lineup except for leadoff. I don’t mind. I’ll hit sixth, I don’t mind. I’ve hit there before.”

Papi out of lineup

Obviously the news today has been all Manny all the time. But we just got word that David Ortiz has been removed from tonight’s lineup because of a stiff neck. There was no mention of this at any time in the last few days, so I’m not sure when it cropped up.

The Red Sox shifted around their entire lineup, which is already minus Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Lugo — DH
Pedroia — 2B
Bay — LF
Lowell — 3B
Baldelli — CF
Drew — RF
Bailey — 1B
Green — SS
Kottaras — C

Wakefield SP

Lester: Enough is enough from Joba

While Jason Bay said all the right things about being plunked by Joba Chamberlain on Tuesday night, other members of the Red Sox are not amused by the hard-throwing righty continuing to go up and in on Boston hitters.

Joba has drilled Kevin Youkilis four times from August, 2007 to July, 2008. And two at-bats after Bay hit a three-run rocket on Tuesay, Chamberlain put one right at his numbers. This, on a night the righty was masterful over his final few innings, striking out a career-high 12 on the night.

Jon Lester was not pleased by what he saw at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

“It’s one of those deals where I’m all for throwing in, but there comes a point somebody, whether it be baseball or the opponent, has to step in and say enough is enough,” Lester told WEEI.com. “Balls have gone over guys heads and gone up too close. There’s a difference between throwing in and making a point and he definitely tries to make some points.

“I don’t know if he’s trying to him there or not, but he did and it looks bad because J-Bay did hit a home run off of him, along with the history with us and other players. He always comes back and says the ball slipped, I wasn’t trying to hit anybody. One time you can fool us, two times you can maybe say OK, but it’s gotten old. In baseball it’s one of those deals where you can’t really think there’s a punishment necessary. It’s one of those deals where we might have to police it ourselves a little bit more, I don’t know.”

Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell expressed similar sentiments on a radio interview with WEEI earlier today.

“Speaking specifically about [Tuesday] night: [Chamberlain] strikes out 12 guys, doesn’t seemingly have too many command issues, and if there was a purpose or an intent to throw up and in — or even if the intent was even further than that, to send a clear-cut message — you can disguise it a little bit more than making it very obvious with the first pitch in the middle of the back to Jason Bay,” said Farrell to hosts Dale Arnold and Michael Holley.

“Those things aren’t forgotten. We know there is a history there between the pitcher in New York and our guys here. Not to say that he was specifically out to do that, but I think history speaks for itself and we’ve got a number of games left with these guys.”

The Red Sox face the Yankees next on June 9.

In other news, shortstop Jed Lowrie was back at Fenway for the
first time since his surgery on April 21 left wrist surgery. He remains
on target to start swinging a bat in early June and still hopes to
return to the lineup before the All-Star break.

And in an unrelated but important note, Brownie Points wishes a speedy and heartfelt recovery to NESN analyst Jerry Remy, who is taking an indefinite leave of absence to fully recover from the cancer surgery he had late last year. It won’t be the same around Fenway the next few weeks without the Rem Dawg, who has become as much a part of Red Sox culture as the Green Monster.

Drew leading off; Youk, Ellsbury not playing

Definitely a different Red Sox lineup tonight as they open a five-game homestand at Fenway. J.D. Drew is leading off, Jason Varitek hitting sixth, Jeff Bailey batting seventh, Jonathan Van Every eighth and Nick Green ninth.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who injured his right hamstring last night, should return to the mix tomorrow night. Manager Terry Francona seemed a little more iffy on when Kevin Youkilis might be back.

Rocco Baldelli is here at Fenway, but won’t be activated tonight. He was scheduled to have today off. There will be a decision on Rocco tomorrow.

Jed Lowrie was back with the team today for the first time since his surgery. His rehab is right on schedule. He should start swinging a bat in early June.

The team is in the process of deciding where Dice-K’s next rehab start will be. The choice is either for Pawtucket at Columbus, or home for Portland. If I was in Matsuzaka’s shoes, I’d beg for Portland so I could have the best lobster imaginable.

John Smoltz re-started his throwing program on the Fenway lawn, playing catch at a distance of 60 feet.

All for now.

The New Yankee Stadium

I have to say, I am digging the new digs here. In a big shocker, it is very state of the art, very expansive, yet still feels a bit like the old Yard.

Finally, the tarp is off the field so they can play ball tonight. 9:20 first pitch.

Hughes and Lester. Nice matchup. But I really like Beckett against Joba tomorrow. I’m sure Joba won’t be having any more Youk ideas with Beckett on the hill.

Standard lineup for this one, except Green is playing short and not Lugo. It seems as if Lugo still isn’t in true game shape, and will spend the next day or two with the strength and conditioning coach Dave Page.

Looks like the Celtics have come out flatter than a pancake against the Magic for Game 1. How could you expect anything else after the way the last series unfolded?

Survive and advance

From what I could see following on the gamecast and by word of mouth, this wasn’t one of the prettier Game 7 victories in Celtics history, but they found a way. They found a way via a great run at the end of the first half. They won with Eddie House banging out one clutch three after another. They won with KG again in street clothes. They won with grit, pure and simple. They won with the Bulls finally proving to be human in crunch time. What a series. This is why you fight for homecourt.

Now they just have to contain Superman, A K A Dwight Howard in the next round.

As for the Red Sox, a split at the Trop would be pretty sweet the way this four-game series started.

Another Lucky 7 for the Celtics?

As the faithful readers of this blog know. every now and then we take the conversation away from baseball. Tonight, we have Game 7 of an epic Celtics-Bulls Series at the TD Banknorth Garden. I’m not sure you could have a more competitive, exciting playoff series than this. Throw away Game 3, and every game has been epic.

Anyway, Game 7 at home brings back a lot of great memories. Here is a look at the last quarter-century of Celtics Game 7′s in Boston.

1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Celtics vs. Knicks: With constant cries of MVP from the packed house, Larry Bird puts on what had to rank as one of his top five performances of all-time. The Bird man scored 39, and I believe also had a triple double. Just a breathtaking performance and this game was never close.

1984 NBA Finals, Celtics vs. Lakers: Cedric Maxwell: “Jump on my back, boys.”. The Max Man lived up to his word, scoring 24 points, grabbing a bunch of rebounds and devouring the Lakers in side. Dennis Johnson also had a huge game. Danny Ainge gave them a spark off the bench with some big outside shots. Bird put it away with four free throws in the last minute or two. It was a great ending to a classic Series.

1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Celtics vs. Bucks: Much like the ’09 edition, the Celtics were battered during this playoff run. McHale was playing on a broken foot, Parish was playing on a badly sprained ankle, Walton was pretty much out of the mix at this point with a cracked bone in his foot. But Larry Bird was healthy and in his prime. The lasting memory of this game is Parish and McHale, despite their injuries, getting one offensive putback after another. And DJ made the play of the game with about two minutes left, chasing down Parish’s block and jumping out of bounds as he threw the ball off Jack Sikma. Boston ball, Boston’s series. The Celtics were down 8 in the fourth quarter. With Danny Ainge hobbling off with a leg injury, Jerry Sichting hit a couple of key hoops in the fourth.

1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics vs. Pistons: Sort of the last hurrah of greatness in the Bird era if you think about it, as this victory punched the last ticket to the Finals for that storied group. Speaking of Bird, he was simply magnificent, going for 37 points. Still, the Pistons wouldn’t go away, even after Vinny Johnson and Adrian Dantley head-butted each other early in the fourth quarter, forcing the exit of two key Detroit players. Key sequence of the game came with about three minutes left when the Celtics got maybe five offensive rebounds on the same possession and Danny Ainge banged out a 3 to finish the possession. The Pistons were pretty much done after that. Unfortunately, they would get their revenge the next year.

1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Celtics vs. Hawks: Yes, we all know about the duel between Bird and Dominique. But this game was so much more than that. This was pretty much a two-point game from the opening possession on. Just a classic game in every way. Bird had done nothing in the first three quarters, scoring 14 points, and hitting the front rim on several outside shots. But he literally came out of the phone booth in the fourth quarter, going 9-for-10, and just willing some of those shots. His three from the left side made it 112-105 Boston with about two minutes left. But the Hawks hung in, until Bird finished them off by, as Johnny Most screamed, “Going right to left with a left-handed scoop shot!”. Bird completely deked Dominique on the play, and coasted to the basket uncontested as the shot clock expired. This is when Brent Musberger hollered, “You are watching what Greatness is all about.”

2005 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Celtics vs. Pacers. Can we just forget this game ever happened? Just an embarrassing letdown by the Celtics. Simply awful.

2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Celtics vs. Hawks. A complete clinic of Celtics defense. KG manhandled the Hawks all day and this game, other than maybe 2-0, was never close. This series should have never gone seven.

2008 Eastern Conference seminfinals, Celtics vs. Cavs. This is right up there with the Bird-Dominique game. Just two teams who played their hearts out, and two superstars who all but refused to lose. PJ. Brown hit a huge jump shot to help seal the win. The signature moment was Pierce cradling a loose ball on the floor, and then his wobbly free throw that he thought “Red might have put in”. Lebron had nothing to be ashamed of in this one. The Celtics were the better team and Paul Pierce somehow matched his heroics.

Just about game-time. Chime in with any Sox or Celtics-related comments tonight.

May Day

April is in the books, and at 14-8, it wasn’t a bad month at all for the Red Sox. Especially when you consider that they started 2-6.

But if there are two players the Nation is preoccupied with right now, it has to be Josh Beckett and David Ortiz. Neither star has gotten off to a good start.

Beckett, after pitching a gem in his first start, is 0-for-4 in the quality start department in his last four outings. Most troubling are his last two performances, when he was belted for 15 runs and 20 hits over 9 2/3 innings.

The plus side, however, is that the ace is healthy. He says that, and the radar gun backs it. For some reason, his location has been off. He is leaving the  ball in the upper portion of the zone.

Then there is Big Papi, who has yet to leave the yard. Yes, a homerless April for the big man.

Ortiz is of more concern right now than Beckett because of his age, and the fact he didn’t hit consistently after coming back from the wrist injury last year.

Papi did do a nice job of going to the Opposite Field on the last home stand, peppering several balls off the Monster. But he’s yet to really turn on a pitch to right or right-center.

Again, it’s only a month. Players usually revert to who they are. My prediction is that Beckett and Ortiz both have a strong month of May and we are dwelling on someone else’s struggles when June starts.

In other news, Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely to begin a rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. He will go three innings in that one, and likely make another one after that.

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