March 2012

Schilling honored by Sox Hall call

Former Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling, who will be on the 2013 ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, will be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame first.

Schilling will be one of several new members to be inducted into the Sox Hall on Aug. 3, the day of a home game vs. the Twins.

“For an organization with this much rich history, and so many hall of fame caliber players and people, it’s most certainly an honor,” wrote Schilling in an email. “For what it’s worth, I am being inducted with the guy who got the first ML hit off me, Marty Barrett, and the first ML HR I ever gave up, Ellis Burks.”

Dice-K could pitch by early June

For all the drama over who will be Boston’s fourth and fifth starters, it is interesting to note that Daisuke Matsuzaka could be filling one of those slots by early June, according to Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

Dice-K threw two simulated innings on Thursday.

“Matsuzaka threw two simulated innings. After the first four pitches, he looked pretty good,” Valentine said.

A reporter asked Valentine if July 1 was a realistic date for Dice-K’s return.

“July? I think that that’s more than realistic, yeah. We have it mapped out before that. Closer to June 1.  Yeah. I man, potentially. And there I went. I threw out a date, didn’t I?”

Bard still fighting for fourth spot

While there seems to be a general assumption that Daniel Bard will break camp as Boston’s fourth starter, manager Bobby Valentine is still in the evaluation phase.

“I’m not there yet,” Valentine said.  “I don’t know that anybody’s being necessarily analyzed in a vacuum, not on this whole team. I think it’s what the team needs, how he looks at what he’s doing, how he fits into that rotation with the people that can come into the game when he leaves. But he’s done real well. He’s going to make the team.”

Bard is pitching tonight at JetBlue Park against the Blue Jays.

Game 8 Grapefruit League: Red Sox 5, Marlins 3

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- Josh Beckett and Andrew Bailey both recovered nicely from shaky beginnings. Pedro Ciriaco again proved why he might be a utilityman the Red Sox will be able to use at some point during 2012. And Mike Aviles is hitting like a man determined to be the Opening Day shortstop.

What went right: Aviles hit the ball with authority twice, clubbing a double and a triple. Ciriaco belted a walkoff two-run homer and made a nice relay throw to nail a runner at the plate. Beckett hit two batters in the first, but settled down to pitch four solid innings. David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia impressed manager Bobby Valentine by hustling from first to third on hits.

What went wrong: Outfielder Ryan Sweeney left the game after two innings with a nagging left quad. Bailey, making his first appearance as Boston’s closer, gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. At least he minimized the damage, giving up only one run.

What they said: “He’s got big league stuff. He’s an All Star. We just want him to break camp healthy.” – Saltalamacchia on Bailey.

What’s next: Fifth-starter candidate Felix Doubront will get the ball in a 7:05 p.m. ET contest airing live on MLB.TV against the Yankees. The Sox regulars scheduled to make the trip are Mike Aviles, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Righty Vicente Padilla, who is also vying for a rotation job, is slated to pitch in relief. Ivan Nova will get the nod starting nod for New York.

Injury update: “He’s going to throw 90 feet today with the trainer. He’s ready to progress here mid-week with some monitored swings.” – Valentine on left fielder Carl Crawford.

Game 7 Grapefruit League: Red Sox 6, Orioles 1

SARASOTA, Fla. –- Never mind that little loss of control in the first inning. Jon Lester pretty much looks ready for Opening Day. Aaron Cook looks like he could be a contributor if the stays healthy.

What went right: Lester broke out several lethal cutters during four strong innings of work. He gave up one run. Cook was held behind the other starters during the early portion of camp due to his recent history of health troubles, but he looks like he could catch on quickly, throwing several impressive sinkers.

What went wrong: Hard to find many flaws with this one. All in all, it was a good Sunday for the Red Sox.

What they said: “Speaking of the cutter, the last time I caught him, it was this little baby cutter which was seven years ago now. It’s a different pitch now.” – Kelly Shoppach, reunited with Lester seven years later.

What’s next: New closer Andrew Bailey will make his Grapefruit League debut out of the bullpen Monday in a 1:35 p.m. ET airing live on MLB.TV against the Marlins. Veteran right-hander Josh Beckett will make his third start, and setup man Mark Melancon is also scheduled to pitch. Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis will be back in the lineup after getting Sunday off.

Injury update: Shortstop Jose Iglesias is nursing a minor right groin injury, and manager Bobby Valentine might hold him out of the lineup until Thursday … Left fielder Carl Crawford (left wrist) continues to have productive work days and could resume swinging soon … Lefty Andrew Miller, who was shut down briefly with left elbow stiffness, is expected to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

Game 6 Grapefruit League: Red Sox 5, Rays 0

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves both continue to look capable of holding down spots in the rotation. But the question lingers: Can the bullpen survive the loss of both of them?

What went right: Bard and Aceves both looked sharp while pitching three shutout innings against the Rays. Jose Iglesias executed a hit-and-run single in the first, moving Nick Punto to third. Iglesias also squared one up in his next at-bat and reached third when B.J. Upton misplayed his line drive to right-center.

What went wrong: Iglesias misread a sign and attempted a straight steal of home, only to be thrown out. Manager Bobby Valentine said after the game that it was supposed to a fake steal of home.

What they said: “I’m not a believer in the windup, period. I don’t get it. You throw your most important pitches of the game out of the stretch so you have to be more effective out of the stretch. Men are on base when you’re pitching out of the stretch so if that’s where you can throw your best pitches, why are you teaching yourself to throw twice, two different ways? It’s a crazy thought but I think if we were just starting the game right now, we wouldn’t teach anybody a windup.” – Bobby Valentine on his disdain for the windup.

What’s next: The Red Sox travel to Sarasota on Sunday to play the Orioles in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Jon Lester makes the start, and Aaron Cook will come out of the bullpen in his first appearance of camp. Cook is one of several candidates vying to be Boston’s fifth starter. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz will make the trip.

Injury update: Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to impress in his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. The righty threw a 40-pitch side session and should be on track for a return by midseason, if not sooner.

Game 5 Grapefruit League: Pirates 7, Red Sox 4

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- Clay Buchholz isn’t thinking about his back anymore when he pitches. David Ortiz’s home-run swing looks in midsummer form. Those were just a couple of highlights from Friday night’s game at JetBlue Park.

What went right: Ortiz clocked one over the visitor’s bullpen in right field. Darnell McDonald took two big swings, clearing the Monster with a towering homer and reaching on a double. Michael Bowden, who is out of options, gave manager Bobby Valentine something to think about with a strong inning of work. Buchholz threw some good changeups and curves over his three-inning stint.

What went wrong: Vicente Padilla simply didn’t have it, giving up five hits and four runs over two innings. Padilla is part of the crowded competition trying to win a spot in the rotation or the bullpen.

What they said: “I really like Michael Bowden. His fastball was down in the zone. I’m not sure of the speed because we don’t have guns here. It looked like it was 91, 92. When it was down in the zone he had a good split working off of it. His split, again, from the side, but I have a pretty good perspective of things, I think, it looked like it was a pitch that was very hard to recognize. I liked what I saw. He’s going to get more quality innings, move up in the game a little.” – Bobby Valentine.

What’s next: Working on a transition from the bullpen to the rotation, Daniel Bard makes his second Grapefruit League start in a 7:05 p.m. ET home contest, which will air on MLB.TV, on Saturday against the Rays. Bard tossed two scoreless innings his first time out. Alfredo Aceves, Clay Mortensen, Brandon Duckworth, Matt Albers and Junichi Tazawa are also scheduled to pitch. Righty Wade Davis s the Rays’ scheduled starter.

Injury update: Andrew Bailey (lat strain) has been cleared to make his Grapefruit League debut on Monday. Lefty Andrew Miller (elbow stiffness) will resume throwing on Saturday. Carl Crawford (left wrist) was cleared to start throwing again and should get back on a hitting program within the next couple of days.

Chatting with Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington took some time out of his busy schedule on Wednesday morning to talk with MLB.com about his first Spring Training in his new job. Here are some highlights from the interview.

After spending the winter building a team, what is Spring Training like? “Spring Training is the fun part, no doubt. It’s an opportunity to get back to what , I think, most of us got in the game in the first place, just to watch players play, watch the team play and see the collective work that’s been done when we get out on the field. You can start to see some things happening. Some good things, some not so good things. You react to the not so good things and try to react to them. Spring Training is a great time of year because it’s sort of the culmination of the offseason, which is typically a sort of frenetic pace. You get to now watch the game and that’s what we all want to do.”

What issues regarding the team keep you awake at night these days? “Well, the things that sort of stand out are the obvious ones. We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff. We’ve got a lot of guys here who are capable of doing that. We get to see them more. We’re optimistic because we believe we have guys that are capable of taking advantage of that opportunity. We have to see them do that. It’s march 7 – we haven’t seen enough of it yet. We’ve tried to build some depth in the outfield in the event that Carl wasn’t back at the beginning of the season and it looks like he may need a little more time. We’ll continue to look at that collection of outfielders and figure out works. As with every spring training, we’re going to cover every other team’s camp and see if there are guys available that might help us. I’d say that the primary focus is on trying to figure out who from that group of pitchers is going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.”

What about shortstop? “We feel confident in what Aviles can do and the protection that Punto gives us. We think very highly of Iglesias and the player he’s going to be. He’s shown some good things already this spring and he’s making progress. I think I’ve said, there’s a competition. It doesn’t mean that competition is on equal footing. Some guys are going into the competition with an advantage but we’re not going to limit anyone. We’ll see how things evolve. Again, we’ll keep our eyes out but we feel confident that we have he answers here.”

How has life changed being the GM? “I guess I get recognized a little more but I don’t feel any differently, really. I’ve had the privilege of working here for a long time so I know … and growing up in new England, so  I know how passionate Red Sox fans are and that’s why this is such a great place to work and it’s such a great place to do our jobs. I’ve gotten recognized a little bit more but it’s nothing like what I saw from Theo all those years because I think the way that Theo came into the job and the success that he had – the sort of historic achievements put him on a level that no one else will or should. For me, I’m comfortable with that aspect of the job – people recognizing me more, but it doesn’t feel that different.”

Is it any different dealing with players in your new role? “I think one of the most important things I learned from Theo is that you can have a good relationship with a player and you can still make a hard decision. He did that I think as well as anybody. I’m a different person but I do think it’s possible and I think it’s important to have a good relationship with players but also to make it clear that that there are still decisions to be made and we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. Some of those decisions, players won’t agree with but along the way, we can treat each other with respect and get along. Look, we’re all trying to achieve the same goal.”

Parting ways with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek? “That was one of the most challenging aspects of the offseason really, even though in the end, it didn’t translate into anything on the field this spring. Both those guys are guys that I have a great deal of personal respect for. Their accomplishments on the field speak for themselves and certainly the organization holds in really high regard. We made a decision that we weren’t prepared to guarantee them a job on the team  and based on that, we then had a long period of conversation about what that would mean and left the door open because we wanted to give them a chance to have a say in the outcome and the final decision. But it was hard, you have guys that have left that much on the field and given that much to the organization. There were times this offseason that I had to deliver news that they didn’t want to hear. We tried to do that in as respectful a way as possible. I also know that there will always be a place for Jason and Tim in the organization and we hope that we can work with both of those guys for a long, long time.”

From the outside looking in, you seem unflappable: “I don’t think I’m unflappable. I think I probably show my emotions a little bit less than some others. When things don’t go well, it bothers me as much as anyone else. I may internalize that more than some others.  I think that being a farm director for as long as I was was good preparation for this job in the sense that what you’re trying to do is create a system that works the best for as many people as possible. It’s not ever going to be perfect for everybody. Being a farm director helped me understand that the goal is to provide the best opportunity for as many people as possible and to help as many people as possible. Within that, there are going to be things that happen that you don’t like and people that are disappointed because players are human beings. I think in that sense it’s helped me a little bit.”

Tuning out public perception, particularly when it’s negative: “Some of it we don’t have a choice but to remove ourselves from it and just focus on finding solutions, finding answers. I understand, I have a great appreciation for the importance of the attention that the team gets, whether it’s positive or negative. We wouldn’t be the Boston Red Sox and this wouldn’t be such a great place to work if that attention wasn’t there. At different times, that attention can come in different forms. Last offseason we made some really big moves and felt reall good about our team and a lot of other people did too and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. This year, our offseason was different, the way the season ened, the attention on the team was taking on a bit of a different flavor but I think if you take one step back, and sort of look at what’s actually on the field, in hindsight, there were some questions about last year’s team and there were questions about this year’s team and questions about 29 other teams in baseball. We’ve just got to do the best we can to get this team ready and look for solutions as we need them as the spring goes on, as the season goes on.”

Your first few months working with Bobby Valentine? “It’s been good. I’ve learned a lot from him. He sees the game about as well as anyone I’ve worked with. He sees the game differently then I do. We come from different backgrounds and I think that’s helped. I see some things differently that may help him sort of gain a new perspective. Hopefully the combination of different backgrounds can help us together make decisions. He’s got a ton of energy. He’s actually got – there’s a lot of things he has in common with tito. He lives and breathes and sleeps baseball. He wants nothing more than for players to perform well and for the team to win. He has a true passion for the game. He’s a baseball lifer in eveyr sense of the word. Their styles are different. There are certain things they’re going to do differently on the field and the way they go about things but ultimately there are a lot of core elements that are similar and the end goal is certainly the same. My job has been to get to know him and work with him and hopefully complement him as well as I can and develop that relationship so that when we get into the season and go through those inevitable tough times we both know we’re in a position to rely on each other and make the tough decisions if we need to.”

Biggest things you learned from Theo? “Well as I said, really, if I could point to one thing, it’s that sense of humanity that he showed in the way that he made decisions. You could make tough decisions and do it in a respectful, humanistic way. And that was the right thing to do, — it was the right thing to do sort of on moral grounds,  but it was also  the right thing to do on professional grounds. It helped give players the security of knowing that even when there was going to be a tough decision, when there was going to be bad news delivered, it was being done with as much respect as possible and it was being done in a way that helped the team and gave guys the best chance to win possible. If I had to point to one thing, I’d say that. There’s a lot of other things he taught me. Certainly I think he knows he knows as much about evaluating players as anyone in baseball. He’s got I think a very unique combination of feel for the objective side of player analysis and the subjective side. I don’t know too many people, if anyone, who are as good at sitting dfown and watching a game and seeing a player and evaluating them subjectively and also you can look at performance history and know exactly what he’s seeing there and being able to combine those two things. There are people that can do that. There are people that are good at one or the other . they’re may be people, but no one that I know as well that can do it like he does. So I learned a lot from him in those areas. I don’t think I match him in that respect. But I certainly learned a lot about how to balance those two things.”

Dan Duquette said the other day you always wanted to be a GM. Is that true? “I think when I first got the opportunity to work in baseball – first with the Indians and then with the Red Sox, Dan gave me an opportunity to scout, which is something I wanted to have the opportunity to do. I wanted to learn how to scout. I think I got into the game wanting to be a GM but also knowing that there’s a lot to learn and I was thrilled to have a chance to work in the game. As time went on, the goal of being the GM was still there. But really it evolved more into – what’s most important to me is not the title, it’s to be part of a group that’s doing something special and has a chance to put together and be part of a winning team, a winning organization. That’s what’s most important to me. When I was offered the job in Boston, I took it as much because I wanted to be part of something special and part of a winning organization as I did because of the tittle or because this was something I aspired to. Yeah, I had that goal in mine and I was lucky to … Dan gave me a chance to scout and learn and make some mistakes and learn from mistakes both in domestic scouting and Latin America. Then when Theo came aboard, I was given opportunities by him too. I’m very lucky to be given those opportunities and get the training and experience necessary to be able to do this job now.”

How excited are you to get to Opening Day, when you start getting measured every day by wins and losses? “It’s exciting. I think we’ll be facing Justin Verlander and it’s probably going to be about 40 degrees. I don’t know if that’s something you really look forward to. But it’s exciting because I think more than anything, I know the group of guys in the clubhouse are really ready to go be the Boston Red Sox again. Another thing that Theo taught me is that nobody should be judged by one moment. No team should be judged by one moment either. It should be judged by a longer time span, a longer period of peformance and behavior. I think the Boston Red Sox are much different than Septmeber of 2011 and I think our individual players are much different than what the perceptions of September of 2011 were. I think they are motivated to go show people that. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, more than anything else.”

Game 2 Grapefruit League: Red Sox 10, Twins 2

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- Break up the Red Sox. They’re off to a 2-0 start in Grapefruit League action, both wins coming against the Twins. All kidding aside, there were a lot of encouraging developments on Monday night.

What went right: Clay Buchholz pitched in a game for the first time since June 16 of last season, and looked healthy in doing so. The righty pitched two shutout innings. Vicente Padilla, trying to nail down a rotation spot, also looked good, wiggling out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam and firing two scoreless innings. Jose Iglesias dropped down a bunt single, stole a base and started a nifty 6-4-3 double play.

What went wrong: Carl Crawford learned earlier in the day that his goal of playing on Opening Day is probably over. The left fielder will curtail hitting and throwing activities for five to seven days as he bounces back from left wrist surgery.

What they said: “I liked seeing him in the competitive mode that he was in tonight. He’s a fierce competitor. His pitches were good. He didn’t pitch that well with them. But I liked what we saw. I think he’s going to be a welcomed addition to this staff.” – Bobby Valentine on Buchholz.

What’s next: Daniel Bard, who is transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation, gets his first start of Spring Training in Tuesday’s 1:35 p.m. ET contest against the Orioles. Alfredo Aceves, also vying for a rotation spot, will work out of the bullpen. So, too, will highly touted prospect Alex Wilson. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez should be back in the lineup after getting the night off on Monday.

Injury update: Closer Andrew Bailey could pitch in a game later this week, which would mark his first appearance in a Boston uniform. Bailey had been slowed by a mild lat strain.

Crawford on Opening Day? ‘Not realistic’

The Red Sox will open their season on April 5 in Detroit, but you can be nearly certain that Carl Crawford will start his season a bit later.

After a Monday consultation with Dr. Donald Sheridan — the same doctor who performed his wrist surgery in January — Crawford was told not to hit or throw for five to seven days.

“The Opening Day thing is probably not realistic,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “It might be. But probably not.”

Cody Ross will probably start in left on Opening Day, and hold down the fort until Crawford returns, which you would think will still be at some point in April.

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