Results tagged ‘ Daisuke Matsuzaka ’

Friday from the Fort

Manager Terry Francona was in the middle of his post-game session with the media, when Ron Gardenhire spotted him.

“Tito!” the Twins’ manager yelled.

“Gardy!” Francona shouted back.

“One and one, baby!” Gardenhire said, as Francona howled with laughter.

Yes, the riveting Mayor’s Cup — a best-of-seven series this spring — is now tied at 1-1. This on a day the Twins beat the Red Sox, 5-0.

The day started at City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox went through a normal pre-game routine at their own park before taking the seven-mile jaunt to the Twins’ complex.

“It’s like a Spring Training day in Arizona,” quipped Francona, who was definitely talking about the proximity and not the weather, which is still chillier than Floridians are accustomed to at this time of year.

Daisuke Matsuzaka reeled off 58 pitches in the bullpen, the last 10 of which came with the catcher in a full crouch. Yes, the Red Sox are easing the righty back into a full throwing program after the back woes that plagued him at the start of camp. But all systems are now go for Matsuzaka, who will throw a full side session on Sunday and then progress to game action at some point in the near future. There is no official word yet, but judging by the timing alone, it’s doubtful Dice-K will be ready for the very start of the season. But this isn’t big news when you consider the Red Sox have three off-days before they play their eighth game. Do some quick math and you realize Francona doesn’t even need a fifth starter until April 18. Expect the club not to rush Dice-K and keep the long term as the priority.

Third baseman Mike Lowell is also feeling quite well in his recovery from right thumb surgery, and he told Francona he could play in a game next Wednesday. But it doesn’t sound like that will happen. I’m sure Lowell is antsy to get back out there, so his situation can start getting resolved. Obviously he wants to prove his health and possibly land an every-day job somewhere else.

“He was pushing today to play Wednesday so obviously he’s feeling pretty good,” Francona said. “I still think that’s pretty quick.”

The Red Sox have long road trips on Thursday an Friday of next week, so the home game on March 13 against the Pirates could be a more realistic date for Lowell to make his spring debut.

The game itself — other than the drop in the Mayor’s Cup standings — was pretty uneventful. Jon Lester had a rocky first inning — three hits, four runs —  but nobody was concerned about it. Tim Wakefield dazzled in his first two innings since back surgery, giving up one hit and no other baserunners. The knuckleballer threw 22 pitches, 16 for strikes.

Saturday, the stage will belong to John Lackey. The $82.5 million man will throw his first game pitches in a Red Sox uniform, which will be a soft launch of sorts for his real debut next month, likely against the Yankees at Fenway.

Dice-K has a mound date

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw his first full-fledged side session of camp on Friday morning. Dice-K, who had a minor back issue earlier in camp that forced his delayed program, played long toss again on Wednesday morning, and finished by throwing some pitches off the mound, with the catcher standing up.

 “Dice-K had a real good day and he’ll have a side on Friday,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “[Wednesday] was the same as last time. Catcher didn’t get down yet but it’s a way of progressing. Once you get out there to 180, 190 feet and you’re fully loose, then you get on the mound and create that angle, but not as much as when you have the catcher down. He’ll go right to the bullpen Friday.”

The Red Sox are confident Matsuzaka is completely over the injury.

“I think he’s done it the right way,” Francona said. “There’s no way you can get out and throw as far as he has [and not be healthy], that’s hard to do. It’s impressive, actually. He’s ready to go. He’s ready to go. The timing, I think we did it right.”

In other nuts and bolts-type news:

Casey Kelly’s first game action in a Red Sox uniform was productive and brief. He threw 10 pitches, seven of them strikes, in setting Northeastern down 1-2-3.

“I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound,” said Kelly. “It was a good first outing. To have the crowd, and some of the people behind me playing defense behind me was a tremendous honor.”

Center fielder Mike Cameron, bothered by minor tightness in his left groin this week, will likely take his first “game swings” in a Sox uniform in Friday’s game against the Twins. J.D. Drew is expected to make his spring debut that day also, serving as the DH.

Francona said that nothing is wrong with Drew physically.

“I think I’m probably slowing him down,” Francona said. “He stayed indoors a day and a half.
I just don’t think it makes sense to rush him. I think I’ve been around him long enough that I think I know what works for him, and that’s why we have spring training. I don’t think it’s a huge big deal that we run our everyday lineup out there today or tomorrow.”

Though there aren’t many positional battles in camp, one to watch is for the final slot(s) in the bullpen. Right-hander Joe Nelson and lefty Brian Shouse are two veteran contenders who are in the running. It is a fine line because the Red Sox have never been big on evaluating specific results from Spring Training games.

“It’s not easy,” Francona said. “It’s really not. That’s why, as we get into this, we watch how they’re throwing the ball. You can make some mistakes. Shouse is a good example. If he goes through a day where a couple of righties take him over the palm trees, that doesn’t mean he can’t help your team. We try to make good decisions on what can help your ballclub.”

Mike Lowell continues to get closer to game action, though no official date has been set.

“Mikey was already in the cage. He’s going to take BP again today,” Francona said. “He actually, [hitting coach Dave Magadan] made a comment that he looked pretty good – the ball was coming off his bat pretty good. I think Mikey was happy about it.”

A clean bill of health

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The weather was crisp, the sun was beaming and the crowds were healthy. It was a good day at Red Sox camp on Monday — and the injury report reflected that.

Here are some camp tidbits on the ailing Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Lowell and Mike Cameron, plus some other stuff …
* Red Sox manager Terry Francona was pretty giddy about Matsuzaka’s progress on returning from tightness in his upper back, saying the Japanese right-hander “had a great day.” Matsuzaka, who threw from 150 feet on Sunday, increased the distance to 180-200 feet — Francona said he got “real aggressive” — and finished up throwing a bit off the mound, with the catcher standing up. 
Matsuzaka said through his interpreter that he threw about 25-30 pitches off the mound and would ideally like to throw his bullpen on Thursday. 
“That was about as good a day, I think, as you could have,” Francona said. “I don’t think you can throw the ball like that and not be totally healthy. So, probably start thinking about towards the end of the week, getting him some real mound work where he’s throwing some sides and throwing to hitters and going through that progression. But that was a real, real good day.”
* Lowell (right thumb) hit some actual pitches in the batting cage, taking in three rounds of about 15 pitches each. Lowell said, “It went OK,” and Francona said he’ll take batting practice on the field on Tuesday. “Sounds like it went real well,” Francona added. There’s still no timetable as to when Lowell — pictured below by Brita Meng Outzen with Adrian Beltre — will actually play in a Spring Training game.

* Cameron  didn’t do any of the outfield drills, but he took batting practice, as pictured below. “He has improved,” Francona said.
* Utility man Bill Hall took some grounders at shortstop today. If Lowell isn’t traded before Opening Day, they’ll need him to be able to play the position because Jed Lowrie likely wouldn’t find a place on the 25-man roster. If Lowell stays with the team, the bench would likely be composed of Jason Varitek, Hall, Jeremy Hermida (more on him later) and Lowell. 
Hall is obviously the only one with shortstop experience in that group, having played 261 career games there but none since 2006. So, can he work out at shortstop again?
“I hope so,” Francona said. “That’s something we’ll find out this spring.”
* Jonathan Papelbon’s first game action will come Thursday, in the Grapefruit League opener against the nearby Twins. 
— Alden Gonzalez

Cameron injury minor; Sctuaro earns rave reviews

Red Sox center fielder Mike Cameron came off the field early in Sunday’s workout with tightness in his left groin, but it is the definition of a nagging Spring Training injury.

“Because we were getting pretty active with the relays, I told him to come in and get treatment,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I don’t think it’s anything. He tested it out, his strength was good, his range of motion was good. But it’s not something we want to make worse now.”

Though Cameron, pictured below by photographer Brita Meng Outzen conferring with trainers, might not be back in time for game action on Wednesday, when the Sox open their exhibition slate with a day-night doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College, he had no concern whatsoever.


“I’ll be fine. If I had to play a game, I could play a game,” said Cameron. “I just didn’t want to push it you know with the body just starting to get shocked and starting to do a lot, didn’t want to get too far behind and get tired and really hurt something. It’s precautionary, we jumped on things quickly. It’s kind of good to sit back and let the body catch up with the mind and listen to it for a change.”

One player who seems to be winning everyone over early in camp is diminutive shortstop Marco Scutaro. Yes, you can already count Dustin Pedroia as a huge fan of his new double-play partner. Here they are below walking off the field together today.


“He’s real steady over there. He’s a baseball player. He makes all the plays. He’s going to make my job real easy,” said Pedroia. “Everyone I’ve talked to who I’ve asked about Marco, they say the same thing. What a great teammate he is, great guy. So we’re excited to have him. I can see why everyone loves him. He works hard. He’s going to be a huge help to this team.”

Pedroia also had some praise for top prospect Casey Kelly, who he faced during batting practice.

“The command, his presence, he’s got a real good idea of what he wants to do and you never really see that at that age,” said Pedroia. “There’s a reason why he’s talked about a lot. A lot of teams want him. He’s got good stuff.”

In other newws, Daisuke Matsuzaka played catch at about 150 feet. Still no precise word on wehther he will ramp up to a bullpen session. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is Tuesday or Wednesday.

Lowell works out at first

For the second time in three days, Mike Lowell, a career third baseman, spent time at first base during Boston’s workouts.

Lowell is trying to gain comfort at first this spring, which could help his market value and also make him more viable to the Red Sox if he stays with the club.

Manager Terry Francona said that Lowell seemed to make the transition to the other side of the diamond “pretty good”. Here he is taking a grounder down the line, in a photo by Brita Meng Outzen.
“For everybody, it’s different,” Francona said. “From my standpoint, you’re seeing the ball off the bat from a completely different angle. It’s like left field, right field. I think as you get comfortable, if you can play third, you’re going to be able to catch the ball at first. But when it’s not to you at third, you can stand there. When it’s not hit to you at first, you better get to first. It’s just different real estate. But once you get comfortable over there, then the natural instincts take over.”

The Red Sox managed to get all their work in on Saturday, despite a downpour that started almost immediately when they came off the field.

“Everything, which was very fortunate,” Francona said. “Right when Pap took the mound, the groundskeeper came out and said, ‘you’ve got 10 more minutes’ which would have been a little different. But no, we got everything in. It wasn’t the best day ever but we got everything in. Guys got their throwing in, guys got their hitting and we’re OK.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to climb back to full health in his recovery from a minor back injury.

“Dice-K today, he threw off the mound — just tossed off the mound. Today was kind of his down day because tomorrow is going to be 150 feet,” Francona said. “But he did it off the mound so he could at least be at that angle. He wasn’t throwing hard but just so he could get the feel of that angle because you can’t do that off the flatground. Tomorrow will be a pretty aggressive day, probably out to 140 or 150.”

Matuzaka should have a full-out bullpen session by early next week, perhaps Tuesday.

In case you missed it, the here is how the pitching lines up for the exhibition games.

Wednesday vs. Northeastern and Boston College — Casey Kelly and Boof Bonser.

Thursday at home vs. the Twins. Josh Beckett; Friday at the Twins complex. Jon Lester, piggybacked by Tim Wakefield. Saturday split squad at home vs. the Twins. John Lackey. Saturday on the road split squad. Felix Doubront; Sunday at Sarasota vs. the Orioles. Clay Buchholz.

The first workout

There were about 900 fans there — and surely many more watching the live coverage at home on NESN — for Saturday’s first official Red Sox workout of Spring Training.

Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester threw on the side at the same time. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie took some hacks.  Terry Francona pelted line drives at his pitchers — called the rag ball drill — to make sure the reflexes were sharp.

And after that, there were press conferences galore. Wakefield and Jason Varitek talked about their expectations this spring. Francona and Theo Epstein gave their state of camp address, as captured below by photographer Brita Meng Outzen.


The offense? Don’t worry about the offense, urges Epstein. Look at the big picture, he says.

“I think we still have a chance to be a really good offensive club,” said Epstein. “I think there’s been a lot of skepticism out there about our offense. I think we still feel like we can be one of the top handful of offenses in the league. What we’re really striving for is balance.

“We want to do be one of the best pitching teams in the league. We want to be one of the best defensive clubs in the league. We want to be one of the best offensive clubs in the league. The years that we’ve accomplished that are the years that we tend to do better. 2004, by the end of the year, we had accomplished that. 2007 we had accomplished that. We’re really looking to be well rounded. Looking back at last year’s club, we were one of the better pitching clubs, we were one of the better offensive clubs. We were sub-par defensively. The goal this year is for us to achieve better balance.”

Two of the players who figure most prominently in this year’s offense? Ellsbury and Pedroia, shown here by Brita from today’s workout.


The pitching? Yes, that looks loaded. But Epstein preaches caution.

“Ask that in about eight months,” Epstein said. “On paper, I think we have a chance to be as solid a 1-5 pitching staff as we’ve been here and a chance to be pretty top heavy too if things go right. You’ll have guys vying to be called the number one on this staff, some pretty talented pitchers. It’s all theoretical this time of year. It doesn’t’ really matter how it looks on paper until we go out and do it.

“Just keeping a single pitcher healthy and effective from this point through September and hopefully through October in the American League East is a chore, let alone doing it with five guys or 11 or 12 on the pitching staff so we know we have our work cut out for us. Certainly there are some guys here who’ve had very effective seasons before in this league and if we can have them all do that at the same time, we could go pretty far.”

One pitcher who will be one of those five at some point, probably within a couple of years, is phenom Casey Kelly, who is experiencing his first spring at Major League camp.

“I’d actually like to be a little bit guarded in that,” Francona said. “The reason I say that, he just turned 20 years old. This kid is in a major league camp and we don’t want him to try to do more than he needs to. What we really want him to be is a sponge and soak up everything he can. He’s got a great feel for a young kid. Watch the way Beckett and Lester and those guys do things and just soak up as much as he can. He needs to prepare for his year, wherever that ends up being. Just have a real good experience and see how we do things here in our Major League camp.”

Daily Dice-K update? The righty is doing just fine, and his back injury is anything but significant. Matsuzaka will start playing catch again on Saturday.

“Dice will start playing catch tomorrow. Sixty feet,” Francona said. “Again, now, because of some of the downtime, we need build a base as we’re going to do with everybody. He was looked at by Dr. Gill, we got a very productive report through that, so now we’re going to start back up again and get him strong.”

The boys are back in town

Sure, it was cool by Florida standards, as the temperature hovered in the low 50s for John Lackey’s first side session with the Sox.

But baseball was in the air. In the morning, it was all about Lackey, who participated in his first workout with his new team and then spoke to the media. Lackey reeled off about 40 pitches — all heaters — and’s own Brita Meng Outzen was there to capture the action.


For a while, Dice-K took the stage, speaking openly about how it wasn’t all that wise of him to conceal injuries last year. Then, Victor Martinez, embarking on his first full season in Boston, held court with a small group of reporters.

Here are some snippets from pitchers and catchers reporting day.

Dice-K on his increased comfort with the Sox:

“I think I’m able to approach the season and come to work here just as I was able to do in Japan, so I think that I’ve definitely gotten used to things over here. With each passing year, as I’ve become more and more accustomed to how things work, I think I look forward to the season just that much more every year,” Matsuzaka said.

Lackey on the competition that could build among Boston’s packed starting rotation:

“I think I’ll fit in good. [Beckett’s]  a competitor,” said Lackey. “He gets after it on the mound. I’ve got a little bit of that in me too. I think if we all get rolling a little bit, you can kind of have a healthy competition between starters and it turns into kind of a relay race kind of thing. You don’t want to drop the baton from the next guy. It’s fun when you get into that sort of situation.”

Victor Martinez on whether he’d like to stay with the Red Sox after his current contract expires following the season:

“Obviously,” Martinez said. “Who wouldn’t want to be here in the long term? This is the organization, this is the team that everybody wishes to play here, especially a team that is always in the race, always in the playoffs. As a baseball player, that’s what you want. That’s what you work for. You work really hard to make it to the playoffs and get a ring.” 

Those were the main storylines today. Tomorrow, all pitchers and catchers will undergo physicals. Saturday is the first full-squad workout.

That’s all for now.

Day 1 in the Fort

I’m back to my home away from home. After a 1,400 mile trek with my wife, the kids and my sister-in-law, I have returned to Fort Myers, which feels as familiar as that comfortable pair of sweat pants I wore almost every day during the winter.

At any rate, it was a fairly quiet day at Early Bird camp, highlighted by Jonathan Papelbon’s first mound session — and media session — since Game 3 of last October’s Division Series. Daisuke Matsuzaka, looking lean and mean, did a car-side interview in the parking lot with Japanese reporters and will hopefully meet with the Boston press on Wednesday.

There were a ton of players participating in the informal workouts, including Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, Manny Delcarmen and Tim Wakefield, who kicked off season No. 16 in Boston with his arrival this morning.

Pitchers and catchers are all due to be in Fort Myers by Thursday, with physicals set for Friday and the first full-squad workout on Saturday.

Papelbon spoke to the media for 19 minutes, taking all topics head-on. Here were some snippets.

What about some people thinking it’s a foregone conclusion the righty will leave Boston as soon as he is eligible for free agency?

“I think that’s the perception, that I’m going to go somewhere else, but it’s all a perception. Right now this is the way it’s working out. It’s that simple. It’s one year at a time, it’s working out and both sides are happy. Why would you try to do anything else is my way of thinking. Of course I’d love to be with Boston for a long term,” Papelbon said.

That painful outing against the Angels?

“It’s something that I used for motivation for me this offseason. What else can you do with it? It’s something that you’ve got to learn from and be able to move on. You’re always going to learn [more] from the innings that you struggle in than the ones you’re successful at.”

What happened to the splitter?

“That’s such a feel pitch. It’s a pitch that you have to throw a lot, just like a curveball. Any kind of offspeed pitch, it’s a feel pitch. There were times when I was choking it down a little too much and overthrowing it, and there were times when I was throwing it perfect. But like I said, that comes with experience, and this year I’ll be able to take that into the season right from the get-go.”

The goal for Papelbon now is to start a new postseason streak much like the 26 innings without allowing an earned run that didn’t end until Game 3 against the Angels.

“I’m looking forward to starting that streak all over again for another four or five years, hopefully. That’s how I set my goals – to go on streaks. You go on those long streaks, not get in a rut, come out of them quick, that’s what it’s all about for me in my role.”

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It’s good to be back!

Dice-K ready, team will line up a spot

Now that Daisuke Matsuzaka has completed his rehab, the Red Sox, perhaps by later tonight, will slot in a spot for him in the rotation. Right now, it seems logical to think he will pitch Tuesday night against the Angels. Do they push everyone back or do they skip Paul Byrd? That seems to be the question at the moment.

The Red Sox got very good reports on Dice-K’s performance — 6 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER — from his performance in Winston Salem the other night.

“Very [encouraged],” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Sounded like he held his velocity, had some depth to his slider. Later into the game, as he accumulated some pitches, his fastball stayed, which was great. We know, it’s Winston Salem. But it’s a heck of a lot better than – pitching good is better than pitching bad. And we wanted him to get deep into the game and compete a little bit and he did all that.”

Tim Wakefield had the third cortisone shot of the last couple of months for his ailing back during Thursday’s off-day.

Wakefield isn’t worried that he is putting his long-term health in jeopardy with so many cortisone shots in a short amount of time.

“No, the doctor said it’s not going to do any harm. It’s not like a shoulder, where it can be potentially harmful, so I trust the doctors,” said Wakefield.

The Red Sox hope the knuckleballer can step back into the rotation next weekend at Baltimore.

A bad roll of the Dice

The Red Sox were hoping Daisuke Matsuzaka would take another encouraging step forward on Sunday, when he pitched for Double-A Portland in a game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

But the right-hander had a sluggish first inning, throwing 49 pitches and giving up five runs. Matsuzaka did have a strong second inning, retiring the side in order.

His overall pitching line was two innings, four hits, five runs, three walks and two strikeouts. Matsuzaka threw 58 pitches.

Matsuzaka estimated that he was only throwing at 65 to 70 percent intensity in the first inning, as he was “just working on certain things.”

He had to ask to get another inning of work.

“I didn’t expect the first inning to be hit that hard. They said I was done but I asked them for 10 pitches and they said yes,” Matsuzaka told reporters in Manchester, N.H.

“I was able to do things in the second inning like I wanted to and I was 100 percent.”

Matsuzaka will make his next start on Friday at Triple-A Pawtucket. After that, with the Minor League season coming to an end, Matsuzaka is expected to return to the Red Sox for a start on Sept. 9 against the Orioles.

The right-hander has had two stints on the disabled list this season. He is hoping to turn his season around when he returns. In eight starts for Boston this season, Matsuzaka is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA.

He has worked hard to get himself back in shape the last couple of months. Matsuzaka last pitched for the Red Sox on June 19.

They are hopeful that the hard work Matsuzaka has done on his rehab will pay off.

“It remains to be seen what we’ll get,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said earlier this week. “I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty. I will say that he’s worked as hard as a human being can possibly work under the circumstances to get back. He’s lost some bad weight, added some good core weight, some good core muscle strength and he’s getting through his delivery a lot better.

“We’ll see how he does as he works his way up. I don’t think we’re counting on him to be a savior. But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to hope that he can contribute in some way in September.”