March 2010

Matsuzaka update

A day after Daisuke Matsuzaka was scratched from facing live hitters for the first time this spring, there wasn’t that much to update.

Matsuzaka experienced some neck stiffness while warming up prior to his scheduled live batting practice session on Saturday, so the Red Sox decided to call it off. On Sunday, there was improvement, but it was decided to continue to err on the side of caution.

“I feel a little better than yesterday, but I discussed things with the coachdes and trainers and the decision was to give it one more day,” Matsuzaka said. “Beyond tomorrow, we are going to see based on how I feel tomorrow.”

Beckett scratched from Sunday start

Josh Beckett will not be making his scheduled start on Sunday against the Twins. The news was passed along this morning that he was scratched due to illness. There are no more details as of now regarding the nature of Beckett’s illness, but I’ll pass any information along once we get it.

In his place, right-hander Ryne Miller will get the start. Miller signed as a non-drafted free agent in July of 2007. He split the year between Salem and Portland, pitching largely in relief, and went 10-4 with a 2.76 ERA over 94 2/3 IP.

Daylight Savings in Ft. Myers

The whole having an extra hour of daylight I’m sure will be outstanding later today. But when that alarm went off this morning, ugh. And it was still dark. But I digress. A few morning notes…

First, today’s lineup that will play over at Hammond vs. the Twins today:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Youkilis 1B
Ortiz DH
Hermida RF
Scutaro SS
Varitek C
Hall 3B
Reddick LF
Beckett P

That’s right, folks.  Jason Varitek is making is Grapefruit League debut today.
Terry Francona said he hoped that Varitek could stay in long enough to get two at-bats. He’d then make the trip to Kissimmee on Tuesday.

The only other news to report this a.m. is that the big-league clubhouse here got a little bit smaller. Several of the non-roster invitees were seen packing their bags and moving over to the Minor League facility. I was just reading over what Casey Kelly said yesterday — “If they sent me down tomorrow…” — I wonder if he knew something because he was among those reassigned.  Here’s the complete list, with a total of 12 guys being reassigned or optioned:

Pitchers: Casey Kelly, Adam Mills, Kris Johnson, Randor Bierd, Robert Manuel, Kyle Weiland
Position players: Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, Jose Iglesias, Luis Exposito, Yamaico Navarro, Che-Hsuan Lin

All were reassignments, except for Iglesias. He’s on the 40-man roster, so technically, he was optioned.

Mike Lowell will be in the lineup on Monday against the Orioles. That will be his Grapefruit League debut and he’ll be making it at a new position — first base. He’s been working with coach Tim Bogar on the new spot and word was that he felt pretty comfortable over there. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Kelly sharp in intrasquad game

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The fans were largely gone, the scoreboard was off and it won’t be recorded in any stat book, but Red Sox 2008 first-rounder Casey Kelly was pretty sharp during his three-inning intrasquad outing on Saturday afternoon.

The only blemish was a long home run off the bat of catcher Luis Exposito. The nature of the game had Expo batting every inning. Kelly struck him out in one outing. The next time, Kelly got a little too much of the plate with a fastball and Exposition crushed it over the left-field wall.

“If you’re going to give up a home run, you might as well make it like that,” Kelly joked after his outing. “That won’t be the last home run I give up in my career. It was hard having to face him every inning. I’ve only got three pitches.”

He was able to mix those pitches pretty well as he continued to work on improving his secondary pitches — his curve and changeup. Overall, Kelly feels those offerings are coming along nicely. As he prepares for his first full season as a pitcher-only, he couldn’t say enough good things about what he’ll take with him whenever his time in big-league camp comes to an end. With innings a bit at a premium, he understands that might be in the not-too-distant future.

“If they sent me down tomorrow, [I’d be happy],” Kelly said. “Just being around all these pitchers, I’ve definitely grown as a pitcher the last couple of weeks.”

 — Jonathan Mayo

Beautiful morning in Fort Myers

Jonathan Mayo filling in for Ian Browne for the next few here…

The rain is gone, the sun is shining. Let’s play two.

Actually, the Red Sox will, with an intrasquad game being played on the main field following the main game against the Pirates. Gotta go talk to the skipper, but for now, here’s today’s lineup:

CF Ellsbury
2B Pedroia
C Martinez
1B Youkilis
DH Ortiz
RF Drew
3B Beltre
CF Cameron
SS Scutaro

Clay Buchholz is starting. It’s a fairly stacked, close to Opening Day, lineup. That’s not usually something Terry Francona likes to do at this point of the spring, but the time off because of the rain kind of forced his hand.

“I don’t like doing what we’re doing today,” Francona said. “Guys have to stay out there too long to get their at-bats. But with the rain, we needed to get this group out there today. I don’t like doing that that much.”

Washed away at Roger Dean

JUPITER, Fla. — This is Alden Gonzalez here, filling in for Ian Browne, and it looks like I brought some of that Miami-ish rain from home with me on Friday. Sorry about that.
DSC01617.jpgAnyway, it’s been raining all morning at Roger Dean Stadium — and the night before — so the game was postponed before 11 a.m. ET. Here’s how it affects the Red Sox:
* They’ll play their regularly scheduled game against the Pirates at home on Saturday, at 1:05 p.m. ET (weather permitting). They’ll then play a 5 1/2-inning ‘B’ game against some of the guys from Minor League camp. Clay Buchholz (Friday’s scheduled starter) will start the game against the Pirates, followed by Michael Bowden. 
* Pitching in the ‘B’ game will be Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Casey Kelly, Ramon Ramirez and others.

* Boston will now come back here to make this contest up on March 22 as part of a split-squad game. The other half of the squad will be back home playing the Rays. That will mark back-to-back split-squad doubleheaders on the schedule.
* Since the Marlins weren’t here on Friday (they were busy getting rained out in Sarasota, Fla.), Red Sox hitters were able to utilize the batting cages, and a few guys threw off the mound before they headed back to Fort Myers, Fla. 
* Mike Lowell (thumb) is still on track to play in his first exhibition game on Monday, against the Orioles. Daisuke Matsuzaka (upper back) is still scheduled to throw to hitters on Saturday. That will be at 11:30 a.m. in the backfields at City of Palms Park.
* Francona said his “best guess” would be that Jason Varitek, who missed a few days while attending to his ailing father, would play again against the Twins on Sunday, even though he’s itching to play tomorrow.
“I know he’s chomping at the bit, I just don’t think it makes any sense to rush and send him backwards,” Francona added.
* It’s too bad for Jupiter residents that the weather didn’t hold up. Even though Kevin Youkilis was the only everyday player in the lineup for the Red Sox, this contest was sold out.
“If I was the Cardinals, and I had a sellout, I would want to play the game, too,” said Francona, whose squad traveled 2 1/2 hours from Fort Myers. “I don’t blame them. If they want to pay for our dinner last night, we’ll accept it.” 

— Alden Gonzalez

Lowell targets Monday

When might you see Mike Lowell in an exhibition game? The target is Monday. The Red Sox are home  that day. Manager Terry Francona isn’t sure just yet if Lowell will be at first, third or in the DH slot.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will face hitters for the first time on Saturday, throwing BP on the backfield. It still appears as if Dice will pitch in a game of some sort — Minors maybe? — by the middle of the week.

Jason Varitek and Adrian Beltre were supposed to make the trip to Jupiter on Friday to face the Cardinals, but Francona called back to Fort Myers and told them not to bother. Varitek is still getting his legs back under him after tending to his ill father for several days. Kevin Youkilis is the only member of the starting nine expected to be on the trip.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been Mr. Bus Ride early in camp, was given these two days off on the East Coast. Francona said it would allow the outfielder extra time to take extra hitting, something the manager likes all hitters to have a chance to do at some point over the exhibition schedule.

The reunion with Jason Bay was about what you’d expect. Lots of hugs and handshakes during batting practice. It was a little surprising that Bay got some boos in his first at-bat. Obvioulsy there was a lot that went into him signing with the Mets instead of the Red Sox, but Bay was classy every step of the way.

Francona, who is a big fan of Bay, said he was amused to see the left fielder heckled just a bit. In a shocker, Bay handled it with perspective, sending third base coach DeMarlo Hale a text message during the game, saying, “That wasn’t as bad as I expected.”

There’s a chance the Sox will be rained out on Friday. The forecast for Jupiter is, well, ominous, to say the least. But we all know how quickly weather can change.

Captain returns to camp

It has been a rough few days for Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who left camp late last week because of an illness to his father.

The catcher returned on Wednesday, but it might take him a couple of days to get back into the swing of things. He did have one nice diversion — pictured below by Brita Meng Outzen — when he got to participate in the eremonial first pitch with his friend Nomar Garciaparra, who officially retired as a member of the Red Sox earlier in the day.
“Yeah, it’s a weird feeling. It’s just a different feeling,” Varitek said. “A little tired. I’m tired. I was tired today. it’s been a stressful, straining week, whatever, five or six days, whatever long it’s been. Guys have been great. Had a ton of text messages from [general manager] Theo [Epstein] down to [manager Terry Francona] down to [catching instructor Gary] Tuck down to my teammates. Family has been great. Friend support in the area has been awesome. I’m just very thankful that many people have reached out.”

Varitek, respecting the wishes of his mother, is keeping his father’s condition private at this time.

The Red Sox have given the catcher their blessing to do whatever he needs to from a family standpoint. Varitek’s parents live in the Orlando area, which is less than three hours from the Red Sox’s training base in Fort Myers.

Varitek has played in just one exhibition game this spring — the exhibition contest against Boston College on March 3. He said that he might be game-ready by Friday, though he could wait for Saturday when Boston has a home game.

Nomar retires

The big news of the day is the retirement of Nomar Garciaparra, who will be at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers today to make the announcement. The two-time batting champ and six-time All-Star signed a one-day contract with the Red Sox, so he could retire with his original team.

Please weigh in with all your Nomar thoughts.

Sping A-Wake-ning for knuckler

Tim Wakefield vowed over and over during the winter that he would be in no way limited by the back surgery he had in October. Given his age (43) and the fact that it was, after all, back surgery, some might have doubted his optimism.

But Wakefield has been backing it up all spring. His second Grapefruit League outing — which took place today in Jupiter, Fla. against the Marlins — was just as strong as his first.

Over three innings, Wakefield gave up two hits and no runs, throwing 30 pitches, 22 for strikes.

“We sort of take it for granted,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters in Jupiter after the game. “We shouldn’t. You know what he is, he’s just really good. Age hasn’t caught up with him. I know that there’s times when he’s been hurt and hasn’t been able to finish the year. But man when he’s out there, he’s pretty good.”

To Wakefield, the last two outings have just re-affirmed what he has suspected for weeks — he’s healthy.

“I was encouraged when I started working out and I got out of therapy,” Wakefield said. “Just when I first started playing catch, going through the regular motions, the on-the-field stuff felt really good. I’m just looking forward to getting over here, proving it every day to myself. Everything feels good.”

All-around, it was a pretty quiet day on the news front. Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw another side session on Wednesday. Terry Francona still suspects his first Grapefruit League game will be sometime around St. Paddy’s Day.