June 2009

Checking in from … Boston

Sorry guys and gals, I did not make the trip to the land of the crab cakes. I’m home in Boston for some downtime. Figured I’d check in because a little birdie told me a new thread would be helpful for commenting purposes.

It looks from afar like Terry Francona has not lost his touch. A little lineup tweak and J.D. Drew, batting leadoff tonight with Dustin Pedroia to the two-hole, is in the midst of a big night.

Jon Lester putting up zeroes yet again.

I think John Smoltz’s start tomorrow night will be far more telling than the one against the Nats the other night when he had what I’m sure was an overpowering combination of rust, adrenaline and nerves.

As for Mike Lowell, the news seems good. Just the fact that they were able to drain all that fluid before the shot shows you there was cause to all the discomfort he has had of late. Best case scenario, Lowell returns to the lineup on Friday night at Fenway. Worst Case scenario, they put him on the DL and he returns for the first game after the All-Star break.

Anyway, talk to everyone soon.

Ian.

Sox lineup subtracts Bay, adds Lugo

Jason Bay is out of the lineup for just the second time this season, with the Red Sox facing a pitcher in Javier Vazquez that he is 2-for-12 against lifetime. But it’s more just a chance to get Bay a day off, then the matchup issue.

Julio Lugo is back in the Boston lineup for the first time since June 13.

“Lugey, when he has been called upon, has actually swung the bat real well,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “He got the bunt down last night. Again, I feel about him like I feel about everyone else. I don’t want to just let him not be sharp enough to help us win games. Greenie has played well, I think everyone knows the background there. I just think it’s a good day for him to play.”

Tito joins the 800 club

ATLANTA — Though it was overshadowed on a night Josh Beckett reeled off his latest gem and David Ortiz hit a mammoth home run, Red Sox manager Terry Francona reached a personal milestone, winning his 800th game. This, in Boston’s 4-1 triumph over the Braves.

Francona became the ninth active manager to have that many wins, joining Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy and Mike Scioscia.

Seven of those nine — including Francona — have won at least won World Series. Baker and Bochy, who have both managed pennant-winners, are the only two on the list not to own a World Series ring as a manager.

Francona is 800-731. With the Red Sox, he is 515-368.

Perhaps most impressive about Francona’s resume is what he has done in October. He has a record of 28-14 in the postseason and is the only manager in Major League history to record wins in his first eight World Series games.

The Red Sox could give Francona a chacne to extend that streak this season, as they have a 45-28 record and lead the Yankees by four games in the American League East.

Ian Browne

Lowell expects shot next week

Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell was out of the lineup for the fourth time in the last six games on Friday night. You might not see Lowell at all this weekend as a starter. The tightness in his hip is lingering, and Lowell expects he will get a synvisc shot in his right hip early next week, perhaps by Monday.

The good news about a synvisc shot is that it only requires about a 24-hour recovery period.

There is no Jacoby Ellsbury tonight. The center fielder banged up his right elbow crashing into the wall in Josh Bard’s double Thursday night. Kotsay is playing center. Ellsbury expects to be back in the lineup on Saturday.

The return of John Smoltz

John Smoltz, the future Hall of Famer, formally begins his career with the Boston Red Sox tonight, pitching here in the Nation’s Capital. It should be good theater for sure, as evidenced by the sight of several national writers in the press box, including Gordon Edes of Yahoo!, Jack Curry of the New York Times and Ken Rosenthal of Fox and Foxports.com.

Meanwhile, Big Papi David Ortiz is back in the cleanup hole for the first time since 2005 on a night Kevin Youkilis is out of the lineup. Just a rest for Youk as manager Terry Francona adapts to National League rules. It will be interesting to see if Ortiz settles into the cleanup spot between Youkilis and Bay, to give them more of a right-left effect in the middle.

Jed Lowrie’s rehab has been set back a couple of days after he got belted in the knee earlier this week. Lowrie should be back in the PawSox lineup by Saturday.

Sore or not, Varitek in the lineup

The only thing Jason Varitek likes talking about less than his hitting are whatever injuries might be bothering him at a given time. The captain, uncharacteristically, left Nationals Park following Tuesday’s game without speaking to the media. This is probably because he knew the topic of his sore left shoulder would come up.

Multiple times during the game, NESN cameras caught Red Sox trainer Paul Lessard working on Varitek’s shoulder. After the game, once fully showered and dressed, Varitek went back into the trainers room to have additional treatment or consultation.

All manager Terry Francona would reveal on his weekly radio appearance this afternoon on WEEI is that Varitek is, “A little beat up.”

That said, the captain is in the lineup tonight, batting sixth. Though Varitek wouldn’t use it as an excuse, you wonder how much the ailment has had to do with his bat going quiet in June.

After clubbing his ninth and 10th homers in a win over Minnesota on May 28, Varitek hasn’t gone deep since. In June, Varitek is hitting .196 with five RBIs.

I’ll update in a little bit once I get to the clubhouse to see if Tek or Tito has anything else to add on the subject. Because Varitek is intensely private about injuries, my guess is that Francona will have his back and not elaborate all that much.

More later, and be sure to keep following me on Twitter, where the
updates are frequent throughout the night at
http://twitter.com/IanMBrowne .

What to do about Dice-K?

The Red Sox are in an extremely tricky spot here, as Dice-K got rocked yet again tonight. Now what do they do?

Smoltz is already slotted in to take Matsuzaka’s normal day, which is Thursday at Washington. Do you skip Matszuaka altogether for one turn in the rotation? Do you put him in the bullpen for a couple of weeks? Do you somehow convince him to waive his no Minor Leagues clause and go down to Triple-A so he can put himself back together?

This is one of the most delicate situations the Red Sox have had during the Terry Francona/Theo Epstein regime. How do they finesse this?

Obviously the organization has made a $103.1 million investment in this man. Though the results weren’t pretty, Matsuzaka seemed like a pretty good investment those first two years.

This season? They can’t even get a decent start out of him. Matsuzaka is now 0-for-8 in the quality starts department.

Pedroia on the bases

After stealing two bases last night, Dustin Pedroia is on pace to snag 30 bags this season, 10 more than he finished with last year.

The interesting part of this is that Pedroia was in a steals slump earlier in the year. In April, he had three steals and was caught three times.

“You know what, I actually thought early in the season, he got thrown out a couple of times and I thought he was not as aggressive for a while,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Was trying to tell him, it’s a hard conversation because we don’t like making outs on the bases but he’s such a good baserunner and he’s so conscientious, it’s like, not that he panicked, but he looks in like,’I can’t get thrown out like that.’ I’m like, ‘you’re alright, you’re a good baserunner.’”

“And he’s a very good basestealer. I thought it was more of an anomaly. It just happened a couple of times early in the season. I like when he runs. He’s a very good baserunner. If our guys, like Ellsbury, are good at what they do, we don’t want to stop them. I think that’s a little bit of a misrepresentation. We like the guys to steal but we just want to make sure they’re  safe.”

In May, Pedroia was 5-for-6 and he’s 4-for-4 this month.

Play ball?

Still a light rain falling over Fenway, but the tarp is on the field, and it looks like they could start close to on time.

No. 500 at Fenway

Groundskeeper Dave Mellor has struck with his handy lawn mower again. In left field, there is a giant 5. to the right, in shallow center, a giant 0. and another huge 0 in right. Yes, tonight is the 500 consecutive sellout at Friendly Fenway.

The streak started on May 15, 2003, and has included some highly memorable moments.

As for more current affairs, Brad Penny will face Andrew Miller this evening. Penny is throwing mid to upper 90s heat consistently right now. His trade value is going up by the minute. Would you trade him though?

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