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Yaz on triple crown: Someone is going to do it

With Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera perhaps being closer to winning the Triple Crown than any player in the last 45 years, it was the perfect timing for Carl Yastrzemski to be available for comment.

The former Red Sox icon was unveiled Wednesday night as the backup left fielder — behind Ted Williams — on the All-Fenway team.

When Yaz led the 1967 Red Sox to the Impossible Dream, winning the pennant on the final day of the season, the triple crown couldn’t have been any further from his mind.

But in all the years that have followed, with nobody else winning it, Yaz feels that the next Triple Crown winner is all but inevitable.

“Someone is going to do it,” Yaz said. “Whether it’s Cabrera this year or next year. I’m surprised it’s gone on this long to be perfectly honest. When Rose broke Cobb’s hit record I never thought that was going to happen and when Ripken broke Gehrig’s consecutive game record I never thought that would happen either. So it’s going to happen.

“One thing that’s going to help him is he’s in a pennant race. Of course there’s so much more publicity now a days, people calling and everything else. In ’67 the Triple Crown was never even mentioned once we were so involved in the pennant race. I didn’t know I won the Triple Crown until the next day when I read it in the paper. That’s how involved we were in the pennant race.”

“Like I said, I thought somebody would win it a long time ago. The surprising thing about it is in the 50s and when Mantle won and Williams and Frank, we had the higher mound. I’d like to see what some of the pitchers would throw today, what their speeds would be, if they came off a higher mound. I could see Verlander probably throwing 100 mph or more on every pitch. Like I said, I’m surprised it’s lasted so long.”

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.”

 

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

Atchison avoids surgery, eyes September return

While a visit to noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews is often a precursor to surgery, Red Sox right-hander Scott Atchison was delighted to hear the opposite during his visit to Pensacola, Fla.

Though the 36-year-old Atchison, as the Red Sox previous said, does have a ligament injury, Andrews recommended that surgery isn’t necessary at this point.

So instead, Atchison will spend the next couple of weeks rehabbing his elbow with the hope he can help the Red Sox down the stretch.

“I’m hoping at some point probably in September, maybe be in a game and pitch and hopefully help this team down the stretch,” said Atchison, who was one of Boston’s best pitchers in the first half of the season, going 2-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 37 games.

There seemed to be a near inevitability that Atchison would need surgery once Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine revealed last week that there was a tear in his UCL.

But the truth is, nearly every pitcher Atchison’s age — and with his amount of professional innings — has some degree of tear in the elbow and shoulder.

“You never want to have surgery. I didn’t want to rush into anything,” Atchison said. “Obviously you hear tear and it automatically makes people think that. This is –  unfortunately everybody probably has a little bit of something going on. You just don’t ever know. It was good to hear and I feel like, at this point in my career, I can get through this.”

If the conservative treatment of rehab doesn’t work, Atchison understands that there’s still a possibility he could need surgery.

“If I come back and I start throwing, and it all doesn’t allow me to do it or there’s too much pain, then we have to sit back down and re-assess everything,” Atchison said. “There’s always risk. Any time you pick up that ball out there, even if you’re healthy, there’s always a risk. It’s not necessarily a natural thing to throw overhand that hard. You know, it’s nothing I’m worried about. I’m just going to go forward with it and keep a positive mindset and hopefully I can get back before the end of the year.”

Was Atchison expecting the worst when he visited Andrews? “Kind of. I don’t know. We had discussed things. I had already kind of discussed a few things with our staff here and everything and they said there would be an outside chance he would say you could rest and get through this. So I tried to take those thoughts with me. I didn’t present any of that [negative thought]. I kind of listened to him first and let him present his side of it and what his case was and that was kind of where he went with it. Once he kind of went with it from there, I was ready to jump on board. I feel like there’s been multiple guys who have pitched with ligament injuries and have done very well. I’m going to go with that in my mind and go with the feeling in my body that I feel alright and it’s calmed down a ton since it happened. I don’t feel it anymore doing things so hopefully the rest will be enough.”

Red Sox load up on pitchers on Draft Day 2

The Red Sox loaded up on arms rather than bats on Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft.

The Sox selected Jamie Callahan, a right-handed pitcher from Dillon High School (S.C), in the second round with the 87th overall pick.

Callahan, 17, was the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in South Carolina this season and is committed to the University of South Carolina. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds.

He has a chance to develop three plus pitches and has a fastball that can reach 95 mph. Callahan’s best pitch is his curveball and he also has a solid changeup. He had 113 strikeouts in 50 innings this season, going 7-1 with a 0.89 ERA and one save.

The Red Sox selected righty Austin Maddox from the University of Florida in the third round with the 118th overall pick.

Maddox, 21, was a former two-way standout at Florida but his future is as a reliever. Currently playing in the NCAA tournament for the Gators, Maddox is 3-3 with a 2.24 ERA. The closer has 12 saves and 55 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings over 30 appearances.

The Red Sox opted for another hurler in the fourth round, taking right-hander Ty Buttrey from Providence Senior High School (N.C.) with the 151st overall pick.

Buttrey impressed scouts with his fastball, which was up to the mid-90s for most of the season. He’s effective when throwing inside and improved his breaking ball as a senior. Buttrey, 19, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds and is committed to the University of Arkansas.

Mike Augliera became the sixth pitcher drafted by the Red Sox when the Binghamton University righty came off the board in the fifth round with the 181st overall selection.

Augliera, 21, went 6-7 with a 3.16 ERA as a senior, striking out 83 in 82 2/3 innings over 13 starts. He tossed seven complete games, including two shutouts. Augliera issued just seven walks this season and held opponents to a .221 batting average.

He is Binghamton’s all-time leader in wins (23), complete games (13), innings (298 1/3) and starts (50).

The Red Sox spent their first six picks on right-handed pitchers on Tuesday, with Fresno State’s Justin Haley going in the sixth round and Kyle Kraus from the University of Portland in the seventh. They also used their final three selections on hurlers, including lefty reliever Dylan Chavez from Ole Miss.

“You want to develop pitchers, especially power pitchers,” said Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. “You need to do it within your own organization and that’s what we looked for. Certainly we got a handful of guys that fit that mold.”

When the Red Sox weren’t busy drafting pitchers, they selected two shortstops, one first baseman, one catcher and one center fielder during rounds 8-12.

J.T Watkins, the son of area scout Danny Watkins, went in the 10th round. The catcher from Army was one of two players from the service academies drafted on Tuesday. The other was Navy outfielder Alex Azor, who went to Toronto.

“J.T. is a really good player,” Sawdaye said. “He’s a big catch-and-throw guy, spent some time on the Cape this past summer and had a pretty good year. He’s a solid guy who can really catch and throw for us in the Minors.”

Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard named fourth, fifth starters

Lefty Felix Doubront said he was told Sunday morning he has been named the Red Sox’s No. 4 starter. Daniel Bard is the No. 5.

“That’s for me what I was looking for all spring,” Doubront said. “Even when I start my offseason, to hear that news. That’s pretty amazing.”

Manager Bobby Valentine announced Bard had the fifth starter’s job in Valentine’s morning meeting with reporters. Alfredo Aceves was not happy with the news, Valentine said.

In three Grapefruit League starts and four appearances this spring, the 24-year-old Doubront has given up five runs on 18 hits in 16 2/3 innings (a 2.70 ERA), with a 1-0 record, 10 strikeouts and six walks.

– Evan Drellich

Papi holds court

One of the most entertaining parts of Spring Training is always the annual state of David Ortiz address. Entering his 10th season with the Sox, Papi was in good spirits as he met with the press for 29 minutes and 20 seconds this morning.

Here are the highlights:

“Based on what happened the last month of the season last year it seemed like everything was going south. It didn’t matter what we did, it seemed like everything was going to end up the way it did. Now this year we’ve changed things around. You learn from your mistakes. You learn from your struggles. So I’m pretty sure everybody is on same page now and things are going to be different. We have a new manager, Bobby, and he has an idea what he wants to do with all of us and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to take over and try and do his job his best.”

Beer and chicken-gate? “Well, I don’t think … not because of the beer or the chicken. The problem was when they did it. If they come out and apologize, that means they’re not going to do it again. Because of that, you need to turn the page. We’re going to be thinking of the fried chicken and the beer that they had last September and March and February of 2012? No. you’re not going to resolve any problems with that. Now, we have a new skipper, he is aware of all this stuff and he’s going to try to change things around. That’s all you can do about it.”

Playing on a one-year contract? “I’ve been playing on one year contract for the past few years, right? Of course, you want not to have to worry about contracts. That ain’t for everybody. You know what I’m saying? I tried my best to sign for the next few years. It didn’t work out. But I’m happy with what I got. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m happy with it. I want to get over it. I’m back, I’m here, at least for another year. Like I always tell you guys, I’m going to try my best. I always try to change things around when I’m on the field. I think I’ve been a well representative of this organization for years. That’s what matters to me.”

Could Ortiz have done anything better last year? “Not hitting .340? I don’t know. I mean, I think, whatever happened between me and my manager, he called me into the office and told me what I did wrong [disputing an official scorer's decision publicly]. I think that’s the best thing that can ever happen to a human being in general. And it’s because, like I say, you do things, that you think you’re doing the right thing but you ain’t. I didn’t do anything that reflected on some of the guys. Pretty much most of the things I do, when Tito used to call me into the office to say something to me, it wasn’t something that was affecting the team. It was something that I should not do because I have young guys looking out for me. So he didn’t want them to get the wrong idea about things. But it wasn’t a big deal.”

Kept in touch with Tito? “We talked a few times after the season, and I think he was just tired. He needs a break. He was in a good mood. I guess they agreed to be on the same page at a time. Tito was a close friend to me when he was the manager, and we got along pretty good. He called me the other day to congratulate me when I finalized my deal with the Red Sox. He was like, ‘You know, I don’t see you wearing another uniform.’ He was happy that we got into an agreement after anything, and he wished me good luck.”

Would Ortiz have made any wardrobe changes for the arbitration hearing, had their been one? “They told me not to wear my earrings in front of the judge. I was like, ‘Did I kill someone or something? What did I do that I’m not allowed to wear them in front of a judge?’ They were like, ‘You don’t want to have that much bling bling coming in and this and that, start on the wrong foot.”

Disbelief that the 2011 Red Sox didn’t make it to the playoffs: “I remember at one point during the season, I was like, ‘Man, this is the best ballclub that I have ever been into,’ because we were playing so good. When you’re playing that good in July, August, me personally, I already made up my mind that we would be  in the playoffs. And having the kind of drought that we had and moving forward towards the end of the season when you know that you’re running out of chances, that wears you out. That wears you out. I’m telling you, I was like having all this pressure that we’ve got to win to get to the playoffs, that’s something extra that you’ve got to bring to the table. After all, it was like, you know, I don’t know if you guys know, but I was very disappointed. But there’s nothing you can do about it this year. You have to pull yourself together and be ready to do damage next year.”

Everyone weighs in on Wake

Outstanding job by the Red Sox PR staff today by getting reaction from all kinds of people about Tim Wakefield’s retirement. Here you go.

STATEMENTS ON TIM WAKEFIELD
JASON VARITEK, former teammate
There is so much to say about Wake. He has been a part of so many things and he‟s meant so much to the game, the organization, the community, and personally as a friend and teammate for 14 years. He is a consummate professional with a one-of-a-kind talent that allowed this team flexibility, dependability, and endurance for 17 years. His competitiveness will be missed but his legacy and friendship will last a lifetime. It‟s sad to see it end but this will be an exciting new chapter for him in his life.

DOUG MIRABELLI, former teammate
Wakey has been a wonderful teammate and friend, and a great representative of his family and the Red Sox. When you think about the Red Sox you can‟t help but think of Wakey. What a tremendous success. He‟ll now have a chance to look back and see what he‟s accomplished from his days at Florida Tech to pitching 19 years in the Major Leagues.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA, former teammate
It‟s truly been an honor to play with him for so many years. Every game he gave it his all, supported his teammates, and his professionalism was second to none. For me to play with him was an honor, but it‟s even a better honor to know him as a friend.
CURT SCHILLING, former teammate
A consummate professional, I‟m very proud to call Tim Wakefield a former teammate and more importantly a friend. Anyone that wonders how far they can go in life only needs to look at what Tim overcame and accomplished in his long and storied career. I can honestly say I have all my fingers, toes and teeth today, because I never had to catch his knuckleball. Tim proved time and again that class and perseverance DO matter, and Shonda and I wish him much health and happiness after baseball.
MIKE STANLEY, former teammate
You always hear the term „professional hitter,‟ but you don‟t hear that about pitchers. For me, „professional pitcher‟ is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Tim and his career. He started, was a spot starter, worked out of the bullpen and even closed for us for a short time when I was with Boston. A consummate team player, he always put his nose to grindstone for the betterment of the team and did what he was asked. That to me is what Tim Wakefield is all about. Selfishly, I‟m excited because I‟ve got my fishing partner and golfing buddy back.

TERRY FRANCONA, managed Wakefield with the Red Sox from 2004-11
I think Wake‟s career can be embodied by Game 3 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. With the team down, he came to me in the fourth inning and asked what he could do. He pitched more than three innings that game, sacrificing his start the next day for the good of the team. A lot of what he did went under the radar. I wish him congratulations on a wonderful career and hope his second career is as good as his first.
JIM LEYLAND, managed Wakefield with the Pirates from 1992-93
Tim had a long and tremendous career. I’m proud to have been his first manager and I’ve enjoyed watching his success over the years. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.
JOE CASTIGLIONE, longtime Red Sox broadcaster
Congratulations to Tim Wakefield on a marvelous career. I feel honored to have called all of his 186 wins for the Red Sox from his amazing 14-1 start in 1995 when he pitched the Red Sox to a division title to his 200th career win last September and all the great games in between, including his unselfish performance in the 2004 ALCS that made the comeback possible. I will miss Tim and his wonderful wife Stacy and family and will always cherish his friendship.
PHIL NIEKRO, Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher
We have been friends from the first day we met. I don‟t know where the Red Sox would have been without him.
THOMAS M. MENINO, Mayor of Boston since 1993
It has been a pleasure to watch Tim Wakefield play baseball in Boston for the last 17 years. There is something to be said for longevity in a profession – and Wake is one of the few people in this town who managed to keep the same job almost as long as I have! He has been not only a legendary pitcher and teammate on the mound, but in the community as well. I thank him for everything he has done for Boston and wish him well in the future. We are going to miss this class act.
MIKE ANDREWS, Dana-Farber Trustee and Former Chairman of the Jimmy Fund
To me, Tim is everything a professional athlete should be. He handled himself in such a professional way as far as his baseball career goes and he has done what I would hope and what most people would hope professional athletes would do off the field in his charitable endeavors. What he did for the Jimmy Fund is second to none. He is beloved by so many kids and adults alike at the jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It‟s awesome what he did for the kids. I know he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do going forward.

CAROL TROXELL, Co-Founder of Pitching in for Kids
Blessed with an incredible career on the field, Tim Wakefield has also done many incredible things off the field. Never selfish with his time, Tim has raised millions of dollars through his charities to help others in need. Our organization, Pitching in for Kids, which was named for Tim’s job on the mound, is proud of him today and we are looking forward to working with him as he continues to pitch in and serve the community. Today, we not only honor a baseball champion, we honor our friend.

 

Youk’s night to bring out Bobby V, Gavin DeGraw

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and performing artist Gavin DeGraw — he of “Not Over You” top-40 radio fame — are slated to spend Thursday night at the State Room in Boston in support of Kevin Youkilis.

The second annual Not Your Average Idol event supports Youk’s Kids, the charity Youkilis founded that supports and advocates for youth needs both in Massachusetts and in Ohio, where Youkilis is from, with a tremendous view of Boston’s harbor as the backdrop.

DeGraw headlines the musical performances, and the night is hosted hosted by Sarah Colonna and Josh Wolf of the TV show Chelsea Lately. There’s also a silent and live auction and food tastings from some of Boston’s top restaurants.

Tickets are $250 and $500 and can be purchased online at www.youkskids.org or by phone at (617) 964-9685 (YOUK). Doors open at 6 p.m., the program is scheduled to begin at 7.

– Evan Drellich

Pedro unsure of Ortiz’s landing spot

BOSTON – David Ortiz’s prediction for Pedro Martinez’s free agency landing spot after the 2004 season was well off the mark: “He ain’t going to no Mets,” Ortiz said at the time.

Martinez, of course, signed with New York. Now, with Ortiz facing his own decision about his playing future, Martinez on Saturday didn’t offer a firm guess about where his former Red Sox teammate would end up.

“I have no idea, but baseball has a dark side, and that’s negotiations,” Martinez said Martinez at a HomeGoods store in Beford, Mass., where he was signing autographs to promote a holiday toy drive. “I think David is going to look for some good in his family, and I think the baseball people are going to try to look for what’s more convenient for the team and fill their pockets. And it’s sad to say it that way, but both of them have to look out for what David wants, what’s more convenient to them, and hopefully they will finish like I did, on good terms, and have a friendship relationship, and actually not to have any sour grapes after everything’s said and done.”

Pedro Martinez signs autographs at a HomeGoods in Bedford, Mass.

Martinez, 40, signed autographs for three and a half hours on Saturday, 90 minutes more than he signed up for. In exchange, fans donated two toys: one to support pediatric cancer patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and another that went to underprivileged youth in the Dominican Republic through the Pedro Martinez and Brothers Foundation. About 450 people came through in all.

Charity work has always been a hallmark of Martinez’s, and the decision to hold the drive was Martinez’s himself.

“Three weeks ago, he called me and said, ‘I’d really like to do a toy drive,’” said Scott Shuster, president of the Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston. “It’s pretty remarkable just because he was that generous with his time.”

“I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed dealing with the people and the people here in New England, they love me and I love them,” Martinez said. “I figured Boston was a perfect place to come and do something like this and also help the kids, I love the kids.”

As respected a former player as there is, Martinez weighed on Boston’s hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager, saying he believes the new skipper will succeed.

“I think he’ll do OK,” Martinez said. “He’s experienced, he knows he has a lot of stars on that team and that he needs to keeps his composure. I think he’s going to be a role model as well, just like those players, and at the same time I think he’s going to be well respected by the players.”

Transparency and respect from his players, Martinez said, were the two things Valentine needs off the bat.

– Evan Drellich

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