August 2012

Bard is back

With the Red Sox now in a position where they are playing for the future, it was of note to see Daniel Bard return to the team on Wednesday, in preparation for being activated by Thursday.

Bard could be a vital piece for the 2013 Red Sox if he can figure out a way to get back to what he was from 2009-11.

Here are his thoughts on being back in the bigs.

“It’s good to be back. It took some patience, but I’m glad to finally get the call,” Bard said.

Was the time down on the farm beneficial?

“It just gave me a chance to work on some things without too much consequence in the results. I worked accomplishing some really good things, and I’m headed in the right direction, and now I just need to get back in a competitive environment and focus on competing.”

Mental or physical?

“It’s a little bit of everything. Pitching is a combination of both. It’s just a matter of getting out there every couple of days and trying to get better every day.”

How humbling was it?

“It definitely came as a shock when it first happened. I’ve talked about that enough. But it was an opportunity to work on some things I needed to work on. I’m glad to be back.”

Other pitchers have been sent down before and have recovered to have success.

“Pitching is never something that you figure out. It’s a constant process to get better. Once you do feel good about how you’re throwing the ball, it’s a constant work to maintain that. Every pitcher has his ups and downs. It’s another part of your journey.”

How has he felt lately?

“It’s good now. I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well the last few weeks. There have been a couple of hiccups here and there, but it was more just trying to tweak something in the mechanics and carrying it into a game maybe didn’t go as well as we wanted, but it wasn’t a confidence thing, it was working on some new things. The last few have been really good. I feel like I’ve simplified my delivery to the point that I can just go out there and not think about it and focus on getting the hitter out.”

“The initial shock of getting sent down and pitching in that environment after being up here for three years, it’s hard. There’s no adrenaline. It’s 100 percent development and just working on things. Once I got through that and got to the point that I forced myself to just go out and compete, those were the best outings I had. Getting to this environment up here is only going to help.”

Mechanics better now?

“It’s good. You know, I was never a guy that had the same arm slot on every pitch. I’d be higher on some, lower on some, throw some sliders from the lower slot and had success with it. When I stopped kind of lowering on that, it’s been kind of a tough change for me to be as consistent as I can, and things are better.

Was trying to become a starter a mistake?

“I think it was trying to morph myself into a starter too much, trying to change, throw my changeup, frontdoor cutters, backdoor sinkers, just trying to do things I hadn’t done in the past. It worked some days and didn’t work other days. I kind of lost the pitcher that I felt like I was the last three years. I had to kind of do what I had to do to rediscover that.

“I mean, you look at any video from the last three years, I was pretty much fastball-slider, attack the zone and hit it if you can. That’s the mentality that I’m back to now.”

Weird to be back with the Red Sox and see so many familiar faces gone?

“It’s weird. Definitely different. I’ve been following the last couple weeks everything that’s gone on. It’s sad to see those guys go. I’m close with them, and I wish them the best. But it’s an opportunity for the organization.”

Playing out the string is also different.

“Yeah. We’ve either been in the playoffs or in the race well past this point the last two, three years. It’s different, I guess, but I think everyone here still wants to win. We still have a lot to prove that we can be a good team without those guys, so I think there’s plenty of motivation here to win.”

 

Winter of ’10-11 about to be undone

If the Red Sox-Dodgers blockbuster trade clears the final hurdles and gets consummated, it will effectively eliminate one of the most dramatic 72-hour periods in team history.

Remember all that buzz at the Winter Meetings in Dallas in December of 2010? On the eve of the Meetings, then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein finally acquired his long sought-after prize — slugger Adrian Gonzalez — in a blockbuster with the Padres. And just three days later, Epstein was at it again, striking a seven-year, $142-million deal with free agent Carl Crawford.

One epic September collapse of 2011 and highly disappointing 2012 season later, and it appears Gonzalez and Crawford will again be linked together — this time in a trade that sends them to Los Angeles, along with underachieving righty Josh Beckett.

Though Gonzalez was largely the hitter the Red Sox expected him to be (.321, 42 homers, 203 RBIs, .895 OPS in 1,114 at-bats), he didn’t always seem thrilled with the attention that came with playing in this market.

Ditto for Crawford, who was often surprised to be swarmed by media members, whether it was for an injury update or something else newsworthy.

As for Beckett — who will also be in the deal assuming he doesn’t exercise his 10-5 rights —  I think it had become pretty obvious that his time had run its course here in recent weeks and months.

The Red Sox will be able to re-allocate the money they would have paid those three players next year — which would have been well in excess of $200 million — and have a highly interesting offseason.

Covering the team this season, it seems that the baggage that came with last year’s collapse never really went away. So if this trade does go down, perhaps there will be a cleansing of sorts.

 

Papi could be back in lineup Friday night

David Ortiz’s prolonged rehab from a right Achilles strain might finally be coming to an end, as Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine revealed that the big slugger might be activated for Friday night’s game against the Royals.

“It looked like David got through everything perfectly today,” said Valentine. “He was running the bases. Today was the day he was going to run the bases, which he hadn’t done yet. He had run sprints and done other things. Today he ran the bases. They’re going to see how he gets through it. If he gets through it, we’re planning on hopefully activating him tomorrow, but that’s the update of updates.”

Ortiz last played for the Red Sox on July 16. The Red Sox are 13-21 without him.

In other news, Felix Doubront will make his return to the rotation on Sunday. Daisuke Matsuzaka will take the ball Monday, but it sounds like  that will be for Triple-A Pawtucket instead of the Red Sox.

Adrian Gonzalez will take a night to rest his legs and serve as the DH. Mauro Gomez is starting at first base. Ryan Lavarnway is behind the plate against lefty C.J. Wilson.

Shoppach denies involvement in text-gate

Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach denied a New York Daily News report that stated he sent a text message to team ownership from Adrian Gonzalez’s phone, complaining, among other things, that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine allowed Jon Lester to stay in the game long enough to allow 11 earned runs on July 22.

“I wasn’t behind any texts, I actually didn’t even attend the meeting,” Shoppach told reporters following the Mets-Nationals game in Washington D.C. “It was on an off day in New York, and I stayed back in Texas with my family. I’ve already gotten a few text messages from some of my former teammates apologizing that my name was even brought up in it. Everybody that’s involved with that whole situation knows that I had nothing to do with it. So like I said, I’m a Met now and I’m really excited to be here. We’re on a fun group of guys, and I wish the Red Sox nothing but well. I had a great time while I was there, but I’m a Met now and I’m excited about the opportunity here.”

Monday meeting should determine Crawford’s fate

The Red Sox will have a summit meeting of sorts on Monday to determine whether Carl Crawford should continue to play, or undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair the UCL injury he’s been playing with in his left elbow.

“Ben and I just talked about it and you know, when he can’t play, he tells me he can’t play and I haven’t heard that today,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “Tomorrow, we have an off-day and we’ll take that time to talk with Carl and the doctors and kind of get to the bottom of this entire situation.”

Cherington: Crawford surgery not inevitable yet

Though it has been widely assumed that Carl Crawford will undergo Tommy John Surgery for his left elbow, perhaps even before the end of the season, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said that nothing has been decided.

Cherington spoke to reporters shortly after Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted, according to a source, that Crawford will ask to undergo surgery next week.

“He hasn’t asked about that,” Cherington said. “Carl’s playing through an elbow injury. He’s been trying to help the team win. It’s a situation we’re monitoring. We’ve been in close contact with him. We’ll continue to talk to him and determine a course that’s best for him and the team. There’s nothing more than that right now.”

While Crawford has been one of Boston’s best hitters in recent days, Cherington was asked if the injury has worsened since the left fielder came off the disabled list.

“I’m not going to get into detail on the nature of the injury,” Cherington said. “He’s got an injury that he’s been playing through, and playing well and, you know, gutting it out to help the team. Again, we’re monitoring it, we’re keeping in touch with him and seeing how he’s doing with it. We’ll continue to do that and focus on what’s best for him and the team.”

Cherington also downplayed the notion that the timing of surgery for Crawford would be based on where the Red Sox are in the standings.

“It’s going to be focused on him, mostly,” Cherington said. “We’re not going to ask a player to go out there and they’re having symptoms that don’t allow them to be who they want to be on the field. That’s not fair. It’s going to be a lot more about Carl and less about where the team is.”

Isn’t surgery for Crawford inevitable at this point?

“Well, it’s not inevitable until it happens,” Cherington said. “We’ve felt earlier this summer that it was something we had a chance to manage conservatively and Carl was on board for that. As I said, we’ll continue to monitor it and if it gets to the point where it’s not something he feels he can play with safely, then we’ll consider the next step. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

A pitcher is usually out a minimum of 11 to 12 calendar months following Tommy John. How about an outfielder?

“It’s shorter. It’s shorter, I’ve heard, anywhere from seven to nine months. It’s case by case and depends on the individual,” Cherington said.

Crawford is in manager Bobby Valentine’s lineup today against the Yankees, batting second and playing left field.

Lucchino vows owners will fix what ails Red Sox

With their team suffering through yet another slump in a season that has a lot more of them than expected, the Red Sox’ ownership trio of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino appeared on the field at Camden Yards less than an hour before Thursday night’s game against the Orioles.

Though these are hardly the glory days of 2004 or 2007, Lucchino vowed that the Red Sox will do whatever it takes to restore the franchise back to where the ravenous fans expect it to be.

“Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. No one is immune to the hills and valleys,” Lucchino said. “We’ve had a long run of success. We’ve created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base. If it’s broke, we’ll fix it.”

In eight of the first 10 seasons the team has been under the current ownership group, the Red Sox have won 90-plus games. The two seasons they didn’t hit that mark, they came close, winning 86 games in 2006 and 89 in ’10.

With 44 games left in 2012, the Red Sox are 57-61, and trailing the Yankees by 13 games in the American League East and are 6 ½ games back in the Wild Card standings.

Lucchino hasn’t given up hope for ’12. At the same time, he knows what his team is up against.

“Backs to the wall? Yeah, that’s all I would say,” Lucchino said. “Obviously time is expiring. There’s still 44 games left, so technically we are still alive. I said to someone recently that you can go to St. Louis and Tampa to get a sense of what can happen after this point of the season. I know it’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s still interesting baseball [left].”

Injuries have played a major role, Lucchino said in multiple interviews on Thursday. But he hasn’t seen anyone short-change the team on effort.

“I haven’t seen anything to the contrary,” Lucchino said. “I’ve watched this games and often times, a lack of hitting when we face a tough pitcher can misconstrue some kind of lackadaisical effort. That’s not what I see. I see intense competitiveness night after night and anger and team disappointment. That’s my take on it.”

The Red Sox last made it to the postseason in 2009, meaning they need a somewhat monumental comeback to avoid being spectators in October for the third straight year. He acknowledged that the Red Sox’ brand isn’t as powerful at the moment as it was, say, even in 2010.

“I think it really can’t be because so much of the brand is a reflection of the competitive success we’ve had over the last 10 years,” Lucchino said. “And a few years ago, we were coming off a not too distant World [Series] championship; we were coming off playoff participation.

“The brand, a significant component of it is on-field success. We’ve taken a few hits but there are still passionate Red Sox fans everywhere. I ran into one walking out of Coors Field last night. A woman who worked for the Rockies lived in Worcester came up and hugged me and said ‘I still love my Red Sox. I said, ‘you’re wearing a Rockies shirt.’ She said, ‘I work for the Rockies, I’m from Worcester. I still love my Red Sox.’ We have to be sure we remember the cynical jaded media does not speak for … they don’t necessarily capture the voice of the fanbase.”

In recent weeks, media outlets – most of them national – have cited unnamed sources in painting the picture of a deteriorating clubhouse in which players, manager Bobby Valentine and ownership haven’t all been on the same page.

Given the fact perception can be reality in the minds of some, is Lucchino worried that the negativity that has engulfed the team lately will discourage free agents from wanting to play in Boston?

“I don’t think that’s a long-term danger,” Lucchino said. “We’ve been relatively lucky in recent years in changing the image of Fenway first of all. It’s not an old and inadequate place to play. We’ve been able to fix it up for players. I do think there’s probably a little bit of a reservation on the part of some players perhaps with respect to the grueling media coverage. You’ve just got to make sure you pick the right people and personalities to come here to be able to withstand that.”

When the Henry-Lucchino-Werner group took over the Red Sox in February, 2002, the team was coming off a season that might have been more tumultuous than this year.

Players like Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and current Red Sox slugger David Ortiz helped change that culture. Lucchino is confident that ownership and front office will again do whatever it takes to make Boston a top destination.

“It was helpful,” Lucchino said of having that experience to fall back on. “We recognized that no organization is consistently positive, winning [all the] time. There’s going to be some tough times, some difficult seasons. We just haven’t had that many of them. We don’t have to look back that far for us to see some of those things in the recent past. If it’s broke, we’ll fix it. We have the baseball experience and the passion to do it and the organization.”

Lucchino: Valentine’s job safe for rest of ’12

Red Sox ownership has given manager Bobby Valentine multiple votes of confidence over the last week, but team president/CEO Larry Lucchino was most definitive when he said that there won’t be a managerial change before the end of the 2012 season.

Lucchino, doing a radio interview for WEEI on Thursday morning, answered with one word when asked unequivocally if Valentine will manage the team for the rest of the season: “Yes.”

One thing Lucchino was clearly upset about during the interview is that someone leaked details of a round-table meeting that owners had with players back on July 26 in New York.

“Whatever report came out about it is the first of its kind over 10 and a half years,” Lucchino said. “More than that, the report’s exaggerated and inaccurate. Beyond that, I would be violating our code or our principals if I talked about the content of it and what was said and what was not said by whom.”

Lucchino hasn’t given up on the Red Sox making it to the postseason, even if they are 6 1/2 games out in the Wild Card stands with 44 to play.

“If that happens, we’ll be talking about a comeback for the ages, so let’s be realistic about it,” Lucchino told WEEI. “I want to see us play winning, intense, competitive baseball for the rest of this season as well and let the record develop as it does. We need to start fixing what’s wrong with this club and need all the data we’re going to get over the next 44 games.”

Remembering a legend

The Red Sox lost a true legend today when Johnny Pesky died. He was truly a one-of-a-kind ambassador for all things Red Sox.

I’m not sure people outside of New England fully grasped what he meant to Boston and the Red Sox until he brought down the house with that ovation on Ring Day in April of 2005.

Here are a sampling of remembrances provided by the Red Sox’ Public Relations department.

WADE BOGGS

“The number one thing everyone has to understand is that there wasn’t a greater gentleman of the game. Johnny was loved by everyone. He would light up your day when he walked in the room. I have to give him credit for hitting me all those ground balls every day at 3:17. I have to attribute those two gold gloves that I won to the hard work that he and I put in.”
BOO FERRISS

“You can sum Johnny up as a great player, a great teammate, but best of all, a great friend. I remember coming back from the service and I was anxious to get to know him, and he was just a friendly, lovable guy from the start. He was a great encourager in my 1946 season and through my career in Boston, helping me and encouraging in any way he could. He could swing that bat and spray that ball over the field. He was one of the all-time greatest guys as a player and as a person.”

FRED LYNN

“Johnny bleeds Red Sox red. He couldn’t do enough to help you out. I know he worked with Jimmy (Rice) a lot; he must have hit Jimmy eight million balls off that wall to help him learn how to play it. John was our hitting coach and he was almost like a dad to me. When I’d line out he’d say “Hey, you see that guy standing there? Don’t hit it there. You’re a college guy.” Being with Johnny was like being with my dad all day. I always joked that Johnny hit 200 singles in a year, and I hit 200 in my career.”

FRANK MALZONE

“All the great things that I’ve heard people say about him in the last few hours on the news are all true. I played for him for two years in 1963 and 1964. Ballplayers always loved him. He was always there to hit fungos and wanted to make players better. John was a survivor. He just wouldn’t take that Red Sox uniform off. I admire him for that. It was great to see him at the 100th year anniversary with Bobby (Doerr). That was a plus for me. It was great that he was given special recognition that day. He was always there for people. It meant a lot to the fans and it meant a lot to all of us.”

PEDRO MARTINEZ

“From the bottom of my heart I am extremely sad. I feel like part of the Red Sox tradition just died because when I think of Johnny I think of him hitting fungos at Spring Training. We will all miss him so much. I was embraced by Johnny and he was always there at every event. He was such a representative of everything that happened in Boston. It’s hard to think of the success, defeat, and all we went through without Johnny. You couldn’t do anything without Johnny Pesky.”

KEVIN MILLAR

“Johnny is the greatest man I have ever met in this wonderful game we are so blessed to play. He will truly be missed in the Red Sox family.”

BILL MONBOUQUETTE

“I had my best year ever when Johnny was managing in 1963. I went 20-10 that season. We used to talk a lot – sit on the bench and talk baseball for hours. He was like a father to me. He was a wonderful guy and a heck of a player. I really am surprised that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He was a lifetime .300 hitter. He loved the Red Sox and he loved going to the ballpark each day to see his former teammates, the guys that played for him and the new players on the team.”

JERRY REMY

“He was fortunate enough to live his life the way he wanted to– and that was to be a part of the Red Sox organization. He did everything you could possibly do for the team…he is what the Red Sox are all about. He’s one of the very few people who truly loved what they did and he loved being a member of the Red Sox family. I will never forget the tears in his eyes when they retired number 6.”

JIM RICE

“It’s a great loss, not only for the Sox but all of New England. Johnny’s been around for so long, you think about all the greats that have played with the Red Sox over the years, and he was still there. He was a legend with Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio, and when you think of the Red Sox, you always think of Johnny Pesky. He was a great ambassador for the Red Sox.”

LUIS TIANT

“He was like my father when I came here in 1971. He was a great, great friend, always good to my family when we’d go to Spring Training. We were like a family, together for so many years. He really was a great man, a baseball man all his life, and he was good to everybody. You learned a lot from him, and being around him for so many years was a great experience. You’re not going to find many people like him. Everyone who knew him will miss him.”

JASON VARITEK

“I’m almost speechless. This is a very sad day for me and for anyone who has ever spent any time with Mr. Pesky. He was the most positive influence I ever came across who wore the Red Sox uniform. He was always there through the good and bad times with the same smile and passion for his team. “Hello my honeysuckle, hello my honey bee, my ever lovin’ Jason just got three,” Johnny used to say, wishing me three hits that night. The game, the team, the organization, and Red Sox Nation will truly miss Mr. Pesky. Love you, Pesky!”

TIM WAKEFIELD

“Today is a very sad day. Johnny was a mentor to me early in my career and later became more than that – he became a friend and father figure. His legacy will live forever in my heart and in the hearts of all of Red Sox Nation. He will be missed.”

Answering your questions on Monday

Given all that has happened with the Red Sox of late, it seems like a good time to answer all of your questions. So please ask anything you want regarding the team. Send me an e-mail at redsoxinbox@yahoo.com

I will answer as many as I can on the site on Monday. Please include first name, last name and hometown with your question. If it’s easier for you to just leave your question in the comments section of this blog, that’s also fine.

I look forward to the return of the inbox on Monday.

Ian

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