June 2009

Bard brings triple digits

Red Sox rookie Daniel Bard  hit 100-mph in college. He did so at just about all of his stops in the Minor Leagues. He was even clocked at 101 for the Sox in Spring Training during an outing against the Marlins.

On Tuesday night, Bard hit triple digits for the first time as a Major Leaguer, working a scoreless ninth inning in the Red Sox’s 7-0 win over the Yankees.

“I’ve peeked at [the radar readings] a couple times,” said Bard. “I kind of use it to get a gauge of
where I’m at that day. I think here is one of the more accurate in
terms of consistency.

Bard’s first 100-mph offering was a ball to Alex Rodriguez, though he wound up getting A-Rod on a grounder to second. In the second to last pitch of the game, Bard again hit 100 against Robinson Cano. The second baseman did get a piece of it, fouling it off.

“I reared back on that one. It was pretty much all I’ve got,so I kind of wanted to see where I was at,” said Bard.

The righty is also enthused by the improvement of his slider, after altering his grip recently. That was the pitch on which he struck Cano out to end the game.

“I was finally able to bury one,” said Bard. “I’ve thrown some good ones, especially since I switched to that new grip. That was the first one I really buried.”

Though Bard has yet to be used in a pressure situation by manager Terry Francona, he continues to dazzle. Over 11 innings, Bard has an 0.82 ERA. This was the first time he’s pitched the ninth inning.

“It’s a good situation to get him in, let him get his feet wet,” Francona said. “He threw the ball well. You can’t always pick the situations but tonight we could and I think it was good for him. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He keeps his eyes open, he listens to [pitching coach] John [Farrell]. He’s trying to learn while he’s competing and he’s done a good job.”

Ian Browne

Ortiz likely DS — Designated Sitter — in Philly

It became an annual tradition in June. The Red Sox would go to a National League City and Terry Francona would juggle around his lineup, with David Ortiz starting two or three of the games at first base, with the other corner guys splitting days off.

Now, however, with Ortiz — not withstanding tonight’s prodigious two-run homer — mired in a slump of epic proportions, Kevin Youkilis will stay right at first base for the series at Philadelphia this weekend. Don’t rule out Mike Lowell getting one game off, and Youkiis moving to third, and Ortiz getting one start. But I wouldn’t expect it to be much more than that.

“We’re trying to win games,” said Francona. “We want to put our best hitters — and our best defensive players [out there]. What do you do with Youk? We have a guy that’s won the Gold Glove that I would have a hard time saying, ‘we’re not going to play our Gold Glove first baseman because I want to take David’s mind off of his struggles.’ That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Francona confided Tuesday that even when he used to force Ortiz in at first base in Interleague Play during his time as an elite slugger, it wasn’t the most comfortable move.

“I don’t think that’s our best team,” Francona said. “I think when we’ve done it in World Series and some Interleague, we hoped it didn’t cost us games. I was always very uncomfortable with David out there. I think that’s obvious. Part of it is because he hasn’t been out there. I don’t think that’s fair to him. I hate to put it a player in a position where he can be embarrassed. It’s not because of skill. It’s because he hasn’t been out there.”

As for the pitching matchups in Philly, right-hander Joe Blanton will go Friday night, followed by left-handers Antonio Bastardo and J.A. Happ. You would think Papi plays Friday, with Lowell getting the day off after a late night of travel. Best guess is that Papi serves as pinch-hitter Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, here we go — time for Red Sox-Yankees. Just a light mist.

Jacoby from all angles

Getting a couple of days off, ladies and gentleman, which is why there has been no thread since Friday.

At any rate, I did work on an extensive piece on Jacoby Ellsbury that ran on the website last night, looking at this unique player from a variety of angles, looking at his past and examining his future. Here it is.

Youk recovered, back in lineup

BOSTON – After being removed during the past two games with right-leg issues, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis was back in the lineup Friday night, batting third for manager Terry Francona.

The fact that Youkilis exited in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Tigers was purely a precaution.

“You know what, I think he was OK yesterday,” Francona said. “Watching [Miguel] Cabrera [get hurt] runing the bases – and knowing how important Youk is – and having [Mark Kotsay] available, we just thought it made sense. I guess around noon today, he said he was fine, ready to go.”

Youkilis initially had trouble with his leg when Josh Anderson of the Tigers inadvertently kicked him while trying to beat out a double play on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, I feel good,” Youkilis said. “Just had a problem yesterday with my calf tightening up. A little rest – day game after a night game.

In other news, shortstop Jed Lowrie took live batting practice for the first time since left surgery. There is still no precise time-table for his return the the roster.

Why did Julio Lugo start at shortstop for the second straight night with Nick Green on the bench?

“I don’t know,” quipped Francona. “We’re just trying to get the most out of both of them. There’s some things I probably don’t mind sharing and sometimes I just think there’s stuff where I’m trying to make my decision. Millsy and I sit around a lot and talk. There’s certain days I want a certain guy to play for various reasons, whether it’s range or who’s pitching for them. Just looking at it. Just thought, we’ll go with Julio tonight. And, again, we can adjust as we go over the weekend. My point is, it’s not a perfect science.”

Ian Browne

Papi sits against Dontrelle; Lugo back at short

Day game after a night game, with Dontrelle Willis pitching, Terry Francona has given David Ortiz the day off. Papi did take two of his best swings in a while last night, producing a 420-foot out and raking a two-run double.

Despite his unique arm angle, WIllis has struggled far more against lefties this season than righties. Lefties are hitting him at .370, vs. .271 by righties.

Julio Lugo is back at short, with Nick Green sitting for the first time since Saturday.

Drew is DH-ing. Rocco is in right.

for more, find me at twitter


Smoltz speaks out on behalf of Glavine

DETROIT — When you think of Tom Glavine, the first two names that come to mind are John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. The three of them formed one of the best rotations of all-time throughout the 1990s. So when Glavine was abruptly released by the Braves on Wednesday, it was unsurprising for reporters to swarm Smoltz for his opinion. The right-hander — now with the Boston Red Sox — delivered, pulling few punches.

Did Smoltz speak with Glavine after the news broke?

“I did [talk to him],” Smoltz said. “Like a lot of things lately, they handled it, let me just say, in a very interesting way. One that leaves you scratching your head. It’s unfortunate for Tommy. Obviously, you know, I’m using a very soft word of disappointed because that ain’t right. To go that far and to rehab and then right before the time, you know, do that. That’s not my problem anymore. I just feel bad for a teammate of mine that I had for a long time.”

Was the move financially motivated?

“I know too much,” Smoltz said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Smoltz appeared to be as upset at the Braves over this, as he was back in January, when he signed with the Red Sox after getting what he felt was a low-ball offer from his former employers.

The righty seemed sincerly stung by what happened to Glavine.

“That’s just not how you treat people. He didn’t have a chance to fail at that level, if that was the issue or concern,” Smoltz said. “It’s just not how you go about it. They’re in control and they made those decisions. They’ve made a lot of them lately.”

On the situation in general, Smoltz said, “They’re going to go on and Tommy’s going to go on and do whatever he decides to do. It’s just too bad for a guy that, first time working his way back, and then pitched fairly well. To talk about his velocity is kind of funny. No one has ever talked about his velocity before.”

Does Smoltz think Glavine will pitch again this season?

 “I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think he’s at a point in his career where this was probably going to be the only situation that he would have gone and worked this hard to try to come back. I don’t know. I just know he didn’t retire.”

Smoltz is expected to debut with the Red Sox during the series against the Florida Marlins June 16-18. The way the schedule is set up, Smoltz could face the Braves twice in June. The teams play at Fenway June 19-21, and in Atlanta June 26-28.

Ian Browne

Day Two in the Motor City

First of all, I am truly stunned by the news that the Braves have released the great Tom Glavine. I know he had a roster bonus or whatever, but seriously, this guy is an icon. A 305-game winner and just a class act.

I will attempt to get John Smoltz’s reaction to this stunning move following tonight’s game.

There continue to be no answers for the slump that has gripped David Ortiz and turned him into a player nobody recognizes. On this trip, at least, Papi had gotten into a habit of putting together good at-bats his first couple of times up, but then staggering for the rest of the night.

“I think as the games progress, he’s still falling into a little bit of almost trying to go 3-for-1,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “You see guys do that a lot early in the game. He’s been doing it as the game progresses. Maybe he has time to sit around and think, maybe he watches at-bats. Because his more productive at-bats have been earlier in the game, and that’s a little bit hard to figure because normally with hitters when you have a good at-bat, that’s when you can start stringing together good games.”

For more updates during the game, as always, follow me on twitter. @IanMBrowne

Pedroia, Kotsay and Twitter

Here we are live from Comerica Park, where Dustin Pedroia is again leading off for the Red Sox. J.D. Drew is again hitting second. Youkilis is third, Bay cleanup, Lowell fifth, Ortiz sixth and Nick Green starting at short for the third day in a row.

The way the offense is going now, Terry Francona feels that he needs his best on-base players at the top of the lineup. He even mentioned the new look being at least partly a by-product of Ortiz’s on-going struggles.

Mark Kotsay is on the active roster; Jeff Bailey has gone back to Pawtucket.

And just to let you know again, I have joined the new wave known as Twitter. There are a lot of times where it’s going to be quicker for me to Tweet something than to post a whole new blog entry. Just to be clear, I won’t be blogging any less, so don’t worry about that! There will still be at least one new thread every game I am at. But you will get more info from me — and more timely info from me — by also following me on twitter.

So all of you should get in the habit of following me on twitter.

@IanMBrowne is where you can find me.