The Red Sox honored Jason Varitek with a nice tribute before tonight’s game at Fenway against the Blue Jays. Without question, being away from the game is still an adjustment. But he seemed in good spirits on a night he was accompanied by his wife, four children, his parents and several friends from the various chapters of his life.
In the mid-innings, Varitek conducted an interview with the Boston press core in which he spoke about a variety of different subjects.
on the emotional ceremony: “I’m really trying to absorb what just happened. I think I spent a lot of time out there trying to absorb but I don’t think i fully can because on my mind is, you’re there, they’re doing this for you, and I in turn want to say thank you. How do you say thank you for 15 years? How do you say thank you to a fan base that has been nothing but support, and a fan base that I fit with with my style of play and what they demanded? To say thank you for that. It was bothering me for quite a while. I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of emotions going into today.”
Coming on to the field as a retired player instead of an active one: “It’s just different. Instead of preparing, you’re just in and out. It’s a sacred place. It’s a place you appreciate. Especially this field.”
Has he gotten rid of the itch to play? “I probably never will, but I’ll be all right.”
On the development of Saltalamacchia: “Everybody started to appreciate what Salty’s doing more when he had 10, 12, 13, 14 home runs. He was catching the ball, throwing the ball and doing the right things behidn the plate well before that. The offensive recognition gave him recognition for something that he was doing superbly behind the plate, but those aren’t statistics. Those aren’t things that allow people to hold onto. To see those things is such a joy, just watching him catch at the beginning of the season. The way he’s catching the ball, the way he’s moving, the way he’s doing things, it’s nice. His work and everything he’s gone through the last year and a half and before that, it looks good.”
The first pitch to Wakefield was a second-rate knuckleball: “I tried to. Should have warmed up. I used to mess around and throw it days Wake would pitch, Salty and I would finish with, like, 10-15 knuckleballs. I have the worst knuckleball in baseball. Once in a blue moon I’d throw a good one. But it would be maybe one out of a hundred. I saw the movie Knuckleball and it didn’t help me.”
Life as a fan? “I felt like a fan the other night. I had the girls all in rally caps, hats backwards and inside out going into the ninth inning, and it worked. Cody hit the three-run homer, and they’re just lit up, happy. That’s the first time I’ve been able to do stuff like that with my kids. It’s weird for them — ‘What are you doing watching a game with us? You’re supposed to be out there. Who are these guys? Why aren’t you out there?’ Yeah, I’m a fan.”
Thoughts on the struggles of Lester and Beckett? “The detail, I haven’t watched in that much detail. I know the outing before last, Josh threw pretty doggone well. His last one wasn’t too, too good, but everybody has the tendency to look at what was most recent. Josh, for the most part, you put the majority together, has done pretty well. Jonny, it hasn’t been easy for him, but sometimes when things aren’t easy, maybe the next two months could be. It looks like he’s got good stuff. It’s execution. If they’re executing 1-4, they’re going to be fine. They’ll start with No. 1 and execute that and work everything, the ability to work everything off that, they’ll be fine. If we stay in the moment of negativity, so to speak, we can all catch ourselves in that same turmoil of ‘What’s wrong?’ instead of ‘What’s right?’ and through that, continue to focus themselves on what’s right and not what’s wrong.”
While David Ortiz was the only Red Sox All-Star this season, there was a familiar face in the room during the availability for National League All-Stars on Monday afternoon.
Jonathan Papelbon, a four-time All-Star with Boston, was back on the big stage again, this time for the Philadelphia Phillies.
As was always the case during his years with the Red Sox, Papelbon had plenty to say on a variety of subjects.
Has Papelbon’s newfound wealth changed him? “It hasn’t changed my life at all. I’m good, man. I bought two four-wheelers for hunting camp. That’s about it, man. I went from a Back Bay penthouse to a Renthouse Square penthouse. That’s about it, man. When it’s all said and done, man, I’m easy breezy. I mean, the contract for me, it never real was about money. I’ve said this from the beginning. If it was about money for me, I would have tried to stay and start.
“It was a pride thing for me. It was a thing that I felt like, what can I do to go enjoy myself every day man. But the contract for me and wanting to go year to year like I did, and into the free agency like I did, was, I think, more just the competitive thing for me. Like, I’m going to try to be the best on the field and if I can be best on the field, why not be the best off the field? You know what I mean? It’s just kind of the way I tick.”
Papelbon hasn’t lost any motivation just because he has financial security, right? “No, man, I’m always ready to go, ready to rock. I think, when that starts happening, you really have to ask yourself: should I keep playing this game? When your work ethic changes and you start getting lazy and stuff like that … I’m one of those guys, I don’t do anything [less than full speed]. That’s just what I do.”
It would have been tough for Papelbon to stay in Boston without the only manager he ever had there — Terry Francona. “Yeah. I truly do believe that. Tito told me how to play big league baseball. I tell you what, that [guy ripped into me] sometimes. He did. But a lot of times also, he picked me up when I was falling down. He told me the ins and outs of how to prepare, how to be successful, how to succeed. He told me something one day when I was a rookie, he said, I had Michael Jordan in Birmingham and he said, you’ve got to learn how to fail before you succeed. And man, something just clicked in my head.
“It’s things like that, when I was a young kid coming up, everything, from the first Spring Training I had in Baltimore, sitting down with me and explaining how it works and how to be successful and everything. He was like a father figure to me sometimes. A to Z, to go from having him for a manager from ’05 to 2011, it’s just, him being gone, that wouldn’t have been easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for Dustin [Pedroia], and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone in that clubhouse. There are adjustments you have to make. “
Was Papelbon gone pretty much the moment Tito left? “I’d say it pretty much closed the door, yeah. Not 100 percent but I wasn’t going to go there and not know what manager I was going to playing for. Even when Philadelphia showed interest in me, I asked around about Charlie, you know, because I think as manager has a lot to do with the way a player ticks and a way a player can go. It did – it had a whole lot. And then Theo bounces, ding, ding, ding, lightbulb went off in my head and I say to myself, Theo bounces, he created all of this. He wouldn’t just leave this behind if … so the wheels started turning.”
How weird would it have been to stay under the new regime? “I think it would be. I don’t think that would be an experience that I could really handle too well.”
The Red Sox never made an offer. “They wanted to see if I could go out and test the market and maybe come back. I don’t know if they would [have countered], but I don’t go back. I go forward. go full steam ahead, man. I don’t look back. I’ve got a car that don’t have rearview mirrors in it, man. I just go.”
Charlie Manuel reminds Papelbon of Francona. “Charlie’s a really good manager. Charlie’s very similar to Tito. Charlie gets on you when he needs to get on you and lets you be who you need to be.”
Papelbon is thrilled for his close friend and former teammate David Ortiz. “I was saying that earlier. I’m excited for him, I’m happy for him. I mean, I think sometimes he gets his feelings get in the way but that’s Papi, man. Papi, he gets a little emotionally fired up sometimes. You guys know. I mean, I’m happy for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Lack of security for Ortiz, similar to Papelbon’s final years in Boston? “I think it fuels him. He just talks about it a little bit more. David, he’s an emotional guy. He puts his heart and soul into this. I find nothing wrong with what David says. I don’t find … you’ve got a small window, bro. a small window to try to succeed. And what David said and what he’s trying to do, I don’t find nothing wrong with that. no, it don’t surprise me, man.”
“Like I said, you have a small window to do your thing in this game. I’m so happy for him, man.”
Should the Red Sox weigh in intangibles more for a player like Ortiz? “Yeah, I think they should weigh it in. you’re talking about, in my opinion, the Red Sox are not the Red Sox without him, period. I don’t care what he asks for. I’m trying to make that big man happy.”
Papelbon is well aware that his former bullpen mate Daniel Bard, who is now in Triple-A, is having a rough time of it. “I have. I haven’t talked to him. I’ve been meaning to actually talk to him here lately but, you know, Daniel’s the kind of guy, he’s a mature athlete and he knows what it’s about. He’s going to be fine. I really do think he’s going to be fine. He’s taking some bumps and some bruises right now but who doesn’t. You’re not in the big leagues if you’re not taking bumps and bruises. I took my bumps and bruises in 2010. You’re going to take some bumps and bruises. I think he’ll become better.”
Papelbon thinks Bard will be OK. “He’s a pretty mentally strong kid. He really is. I saw that in the bullpen. I saw the days he got beat up and the way he came back. I saw him have success the way he handled that. I think he’ll be fine.”
Dustin Pedroia was not in manager Bobby Valentine’s lineup on the Fourth of July, thanks to some soreness in a different spot of his thumb than what had previous been bothering him.
Pedroia thinks he tweaked his thumb on a diving play in short right field in Tuesday’s loss.
“I was fine during the game and then after the game, I was sore and then today, I’m pretty sore. It’s not in the area I first got hurt. I think when I dove for that ball in right field, I don’t know what happened. Bobby wanted me to not play today, because we have an off-day tomorrow. Hopefully everything [will be OK].”
Still the thumb that hurts? “Yeah, like the back side. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the doctors or anybody. I don’t know, man. I’m just pretty frustrated. It stinks.”
Are you worried? “I don’t know, I kind of have a high pain tolerance so I don’t know. I hope I’m alright.”
Bother you to swing a bat? “I haven’t tried. They told me not to do anything but if they need me to hit, I’ll hit. Whatever they need me to do.”
Pedroia confirmed he will see team doctors in Boston on Thursday, when the team returns home.
Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, one day after he was shelled during an abbreviated outing against the Athletics in which he lasted one-plus innings and threw a career-low of 28 pitches. Matsuzaka gave up four hits and five runs.
Clearly, Matsuzaka was hampered by a neck injury which prevented him from making a side session between starts. It is the same injury — to the trap muscle on the right side — that caused him discomfort during Spring Training and in late May, when he was on his Minor League rehab assignment.
To replace Matsuzaka on the roster, the Red Sox recalled corner infielder Mauro Gomez from Triple-A Pawtucket. Gomez, who had one short stint with the Red Sox earlier this season, is having a monster year at Pawtucket, hitting .311 with 19 homers and 55 RBIs. He has a .980 OPS.
Some good news on the injury front. Red Sox righty Josh Beckett had an MRI Monday and there are no structural problems with his right shoulder.
Beckett said he should miss just one more start, and return to the rotation by the end of next week.
“We did an MRI yesterday and everything looks pretty good,” Beckett said. “Took the steps necessary. I think we’ll miss a start and maybe push me back a day.”
The discomfort Beckett felt wasn’t unfamiliar.
“I just had some pain that I was dealing within my shoulder,” Beckett said. “It’s stuff that I’ve dealt with before. But whenever it starts taking away from strength, that’s kind of where we got to, and the trainers made the decision that they made.”
Franklin Morales will again take Beckett’s spot in the rotation on Saturday against the Marlins.
In other news, the Red Sox activated Cody Ross before Monday’s game and put Scott Podsednik (left groin strain) on the disabled list.
The injury-ravaged outfield of the Red Sox could get a reinforcement as early as Monday, assuming Ryan Sweeney comes off the disabled list the first day he is eligible. Sweeney suffered a mild concussion last week.
“Hit, run, throw, field — all baseball activities to get ready to see if he’s going to be activated for tomorrow,” manager Bobby Valentine said of Sweeney’s Sunday morning activites. “He’s doing it as we speak.”
Sweeney was idled for a few days as he let the concussion symptoms subside.
“It’s just getting that baseball feeling back now,” Sweeney said.
Darnell McDonald will likely come back on Tuesday as he is over the nagging oblique injury that kept him sidelined. McDonald will play at Pawtucket Sunday and Monday. He opened his rehab there Friday and took a day off on Saturday.
A very nice moment unfolded during the Mother’s Day home game against the Indians on Sunday, one that, in my humble opinion, was long overdue.
Between innings, as the Indians were getting ready to hit, the Red Sox placed one of their memorable moment montages on the scoreboard in center field. With Johnny B. Goode playing on the sound system, the highlights of choice came from Johnny Damon’s monster Game 7 against the Yankees in 2004. Damon had two homers — including a grand slam — and six RBIs in that game helping the Red Sox complete their historic comeback from 0-3.
After the highlight was over, the Jumbotron camera panned to Damon standing in the Indians’ dugout. The fans gave a nice applause and Damon actually stepped out of the dugout and waved to the fans.
It was a great moment — one that was not possible in 2006 when Damon took a better offer from the Yankees and left Boston.
Damon received boos at Fenway during his entire time in New York. When he came back with the Tigers in 2010, he had an injury and didn’t play. Last year, Damon was back in town several times with the Rays — another division rival — and continued to get boos, though not as hash as the ones he received in New York.
But with the Red Sox celebrating the 100th anniversary at Fenway this season, people can’t help but get a little nostalgic. One of the central figures from the most memorable season in team history is Damon, and I think fans are finally feeling that again. There were two players who drastically changed the culture of the clubhouse in the middle of the last decade. They were Damon and Kevin Millar. Players like that loosened everyone up and played a huge role in the success of the team. And while Millar was a nice player for those teams, Damon was one of the most valuable. He always played, no matter what injury he had. He worked great at-bats. He came through with hits when needed. But it just ended so badly for him when the market dried up for him and the one team that offered him a big deal happened to be the Yankees, who trumped Boston’s 4-year, $40 million contract with a 4-year, $52-million deal.
Damon truly appreciated the kind gesture by the Red Sox on Sunday, and the nice reaction from the fans.
“That was very special. It’s the first time since I’ve been back that they’ve given me recognition for what I did with the Red Sox. It’s the first highlights that I’ve seen of me doing something good. It was definitely very special,” Damon said. “Obviously, I would like to thank the Red Sox for putting it up and I’d like to thank the fans who did applaud me, the fans that really appreciate how I go about my business and play baseball.
Damon doesn’t dispute the notion that playing for the Yankees — and maybe even the Rays — prevented such a display of gratitude before Sunday.
“Possibly. I knew there were hard feelings on both sides for a while,” Damon said. It seems like everything is getting back to normal. I really wanted to come back here when I became a free agent. They failed to sign me. Unfortunately, the only other option was New York, but I’m still happy I had that experience, because I think I know better than anybody now how both sides are. I’m just very appreciative that I’ve been able to play for both sides and also to be able to be playing on my seventh team right now.”
Thanks to MLB.com Indians scribe Jordan Bastian for the quotes from Damon.
The Red Sox have an old-fashioned quarterback controversy developing here. Well, make that a third base controversy.
Will Middlebrooks, the prized prospect, is hitting the cover off the ball. Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list, resting his ailing back.
So what happens when Youkilis comes back? The earliest Youk can play is next Monday at home against the Indians. Given that he had just started a walking program the other day, it sounds ambitious that he would return that soon.
In other words, Middlebrooks will get a chance to keep proving himself, like he did Monday night, when he put on a Tour De Force of power at Kauffman Stadium. He curled one around the RF foul pole. He smashed one off the wall in center. He clanged one off the LF foul pole. For those keeping score at home, Middlebrooks has nine RBIs in the last two games.
To take it a step further, Youkilis has nine RBIs in 64 at-bats. Middlebrooks has had 21 at-bats.
Can Youkilis revert back to the star he was before injuries started taking a toll on him in August of 2010? In his last 143 at-bats dating back to Aug. 1 of last season, Youkilis is hitting .203 with four homers and 15 RBIs.
But what happens when scouting reports start to develop on Middlebrooks? Does he then tail off or does he adjust quickly?
There is a lot to think about for the Red Sox. Youkilis obviously doesn’t have a lot of trade value at the moment, given his $12 million salary for this season. He is a free agent following the year, and the Red Sox hold a $13 million option on him with a $1 million buyout.
Could a situation develop where Youkilis is the veteran stuck on the bench, like Mike Lowell in 2010?
Or do the Red Sox deal Youkilis, in which case they will likely have to eat a lot of the salary.
This is yet another tough decision for Ben Cherington to be faced with in his first season as general manager.
Middlebrooks and the Red Sox are back out there tonight in an 8:05 p.m. ET contest at Kauffman Stadium.
The Red Sox are going to have a decision to make on Aaron Cook, who makes his final start at Triple-A Pawtucket tonight. The righty has an opt-out clause he can exercise if he’s not activated by the early portion of next week.
With no vacancies in the starting rotation, manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure said that Cook might be an option out of the bullpen, something that didn’t seem feasible back in Spring Training.
“Bob McClure thinks that after talking with him that it’s feasible,” said Valentine. “Initially there was no [consideration]. I think I told you guys initially in Spring Training, that was a nonfactor. It was a non consideration. Reports are that he’s never felt better about his shoulder, or he hasn’t felt this good about his shoulder in a long time.”
Lefty Rich Hill has made it back to the Red Sox less than a year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Hill, the pride of Milton, Mass., will be activated by the Red Sox for tonight’s game in Chicago.
Justin Thomas will be taken off the roster.
If Hill can pitch for the Red Sox like he did last year, it could be a big boost for a bullpen that has struggled much of the season. Before injuring his elbow in 2011, Hill pitched nine times for the Red Sox, striking out 12 and not allowing a run over eight inning.