Results tagged ‘ Terry Francona ’

Gut check time starts tonight at Fenway

What is easily the biggest series of Boston’s baseball season starts tonight at Fenway, as the Rays come in for the first of a four-game series. Obviously this series is huge because the Sox didn’t take care of business last weekend at Tropicana Field, losing three straight.

The Rays deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the way they’ve hung in this thing, beating the Red Sox head on nine out of 14 times entering tonight.

“Against us, their pitching – they have a plan and they follow through with it,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “They’ve really done a good job against our hitters for the most part. They have very good pitching. They’re a hard team to play because they’re so aggressive and if you give them an opening they make you pay for it. Saying that, I’m kind of looking forward to this series. It’ll be fun to play. Because they are – they feel good about themselves. So this will be fun to play.”

This game is going to be the hardest of the four for the Sox to win, with Kyle Weiland facing a talented pitcher in Jeremy Hellickson.

“The kid tonight pitches beyond his years as far as maturity and his changeup. And he has enough velocity,” Francona said of Hellickson.

Here are all the permutations possible by the end of the weekend.

Sox win all four. They lead the Rays by eight with 10 to go.

Sox win three out of four. They lead the Rays by six with 10 to go.

Sox and Rays split the series. Sox still lead the Rays by four with 10 to go.

Rays win three out of four. They leave town two games behind the Sox with 10 to go.

Rays sweep. The teams are tied with 10 to play.

The Red Sox had some good news on the injury front today, as Clay Buchholz pitched off a mound for the first time since being shut down two months ago. Buchholz threw 15 pitches in front of the mound and 15 off of it. The righty’s big test will come Saturday, when he is scheduled to have a full-blown side session.

The other good news is that the lineup has both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, who have recovered enough from their nagging injuries to play in this one.

Red Sox remembrances of 9/11

It is a day none of us will ever forget. Here is what the Red Sox remember.

The Red Sox were in New York getting ready to face Roger Clemens the night of 9/10, but that game was rained out, enabling the team to fly to Tampa a little earlier than planned for their series that was scheduled to begin in St. Petersburg — ironically where the Sox are right now — on 9/11/01.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield:

“[My girlfriend and now wife Stacy]  was actually in New York with me.  She got out because we got rained out.  She got the last flight out and beat me [to Tampa] so when we got in at 4 in the morning, she was already sleeping. She was up when all this was taking place and woke me up and said, ‘hey, you need to wake up.’ I started watching it and like 10 minutes later, we saw the second plane hit and we were like, ‘oh god, something bad is happening right now.”’

“To watch stuff on television now, the documentaries about how everything unfolded and how whoever was in charge of grounding all the airplanes made the hardest, right decision anyone could have made.  Knowing it would costs the airlines millions and millions of dollars if they stopped all flights immediately, they’d have to ground the planes and all the passengers would have to switch flights. That’s when they found out about United 93. The game was meaningless [compared to what was going on] but we needed to get back playing.”

Wakefield on Ground Zero:  “In 2002, I drove by. I took a cab and jus drove by. I didn’t want to get out. in ’05, we went and opened the stock market, me, trot and somebody else, we rang the bell at the American Stock Exchange. We went to somebody’s office that overlooked Ground Zero. He was part of that whole thing. He kept telling us how the building was shaking and all that stuff.  The chaos.”

Jason Varitek was out for the remainder of 2001 with a fractured right elbow.

“Actually I didn’t arrive in Tampa. I was on the DL, I was in rehab. I actually arrived that morning to rehab when it all happened. It’s like, once you realize what happened, everybody dropped what they were doing and took off and left.”

“There’s a heightened awareness to everything that goes on around you for one. Appreciation for the people that tried to save lives and to do those things and you reach out to those people who have lost family, friends, etc., in the most tragic thing that’s ever happened here.”

Jacoby Ellsbury, now an All-Star and an MVP candidate, turned 18 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. He was a junior at Madras (Oregon) High School.

“I just remember going to school and waking up that morning and hearing something happened. At school, we turned on all the TV’s and saw everything unfold. At the beginning, I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on. But yeah, I just remember watching things unfold from Madras (ore.) High. I was on my way to school when I kind of heard everything. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years.”

The 2001 season was basically the only year of Terry Francona’s youth or adult life that he wasn’t wearing a baseball uniform. Francona was a scout for the Indians in 2001, and was on assignment in Pittsburgh when the terrorist attacks happened. His best friend Brad Mills was also scouting for the Cubs at that time, and was in Pittsburgh, at the same hotel as Francona when everything happened.

“I was in Pittsburgh scouting and coincidentally Millsy was scouting for the Cubs. He was advancing. He was upstairs in the concierge room because he never pays for coffee. So he called me and he was like, ‘hey, you need to come up here, man. I went upstairs and I sat there with him. Kind of watched it and then rented a car and drove back to Philly because obviously there weren’t going to be games. I remember driving by Shanksville (Pennsylvania) on the turnpike. The exit was closed. I remember being glad I was with Millsy. Times like that, it’s nice to have maybe your best friend in the whole world with you.”

Francona is glad that soldiers can take some enjoyment out of being around baseball: “I hope it does. If you like baseball, I don’t know that it matters what you do. obviously I hope what we do, people get enjoyment out of it. I think it’s cool that they bring soldiers and people like that around and they honor them at the ballparks. I think everybody enjoys that. I think it’s a really neat thing. If they get some enjoyment out of what we’re doing, that’s terrific.”

Of course, perhaps nobody affiliated with the Red Sox had a more compelling 9/11 story than Trot Nixon, whose wife Kathryn gave birth to the couple’s first son on 9/11/01. Today, Chase Nixon turned 10 years old. Here is an in-depth story I did with Trot and Kathryn back in 2002.

http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20020907&content_id=123690&vkey=news_bos&fext=.jsp&c_id=bos

When it rains, it pours

Not only was John Lackey getting hit hard tonight, but then he joined the seemingly unending barrage of injuries that have inflicted the Sox of late.

Lackey left tonight’s game at Tropicana Field after being belted on the left calf by an inning-ending groundout by John Jaso. Lackey actually made a nice play to get Jaso out, but had to be taped in the dugout after that and could not continue.

So Lackey joins Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard and Clay Buchholz as Sox starting pitchers who can be classified as the walking wounded. And that’s without mentioning Kevin Youkilis, who is back in Boston having his ailing left hip looked at.

Just a few days ago, the Red Sox were hoping to win the division. Now a large chunk of Terry Francona’s focus has to be just getting his team to the postseason in one piece.

Youk getting tested back in Boston

Kevin Youkilis hadn’t really looked right the past few days from a mobility standpoint and we found out why today. While the Red Sox flew from Toronto to Florida, Youkilis flew back to Boston to have his left hip checked out. The exam included an MRI.

Youkilis had been on the DL from Aug.  18-Sept. 2 with a lower back strain. Is this latest development alarming? That all depends on what the test results show.

“We were going to give Youk the day off today most likely,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “He was really limping last couple of days, especially last night, so his hip started bothering him a little bit, so we got him back to Boston to get looked at, he’s probably getting looked at right now. just rying to figure out what, when, where why so he doesn’t have to limp through the last couple of weeks because we need him. Hopefully we’ll have news here pretty soon.
It’s been – trying to figure out if it’s connected. Hopefully we’ll get some answers.”

Youkilis isn’t alone on the banged-up list. Erik Bedard, who had his start skipped this week anyway because of knee stiffness, went back to Boston to get some discomfort in his left lat checked out.

“Erik went back to Boston,” Francona said. “After the other day, he talked about his knee bothering him and it was, he was throwing all arm as he got through that start, his lat started flaring up on him so we got him back to Boston, he’s got a mild lat strain. I think he’s flying back tonight to join us. We’ll slot him in when we think it’s appropriate, I don’t know when that is.’’

As for Josh Beckett, there is still no word on when he will return from his sprained ankle.

“Well, he gets looked at every day, and he’s doing much better today,” Francona said.  “He can do his throwing, so he’s not going to get set back and then we all kind of know how important his five-day schedule is so when we get to that point we’ll kind of slot him in.”

Jenks to the DL; Buchholz waiting for more progress

In an alarming development,  Bobby Jenks went to the DL today for the third time this season. The injury? The same as the last one.

“Bobby experienced pain in his left mid back area when he was warming up last night, similar to the past injury,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “He’s going to fly back to Boston today and we’ll get him checked over the weekend.”

The Red Sox have called up lefty reliever Randy Williams from Pawtucket to take the spot of Jenks on the roster.

Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz felt a little progress when he threw yesterday, but he knows that his back is still not fully healed.

“Obviously I want to be pitching, I want to help the team in any way I can,” Buchholz said. “Me going out there not 100 percent, or not 80 percent, I don’t think is going to help the team any. I think if I rush back into it, it will be something that will be here for the rest of the season and I don’t want that. I’d rather be ready to pitch at 100 percent and I feel like that’s the way that I can help this team win.”

Buchholz did feel a little better when he played catch yesterday.

“It definitely did,” Buchholz said. “Went out there, just basically wanted to play catch at 50 percent and I actually went a little bit harder than that because I didn’t feel anything like I thought I was going to. Throwing has never really been the issue. It’s been pitching when throwing off the mound. I don’t think I’m at that point yet but yesterday was a step in the right direction for sure.”

Old Home Night at Fenway

Is this a baseball game or a family reunion? There is definitely a different feel tonight at Fenway, where Adrian Gonzalez is playing against the Padres for the first time and Anthony Rizzo — one of the centerpieces of the trade — is making his Fenway debut against the team that drafted him and helped him through his recovery from cancer.

Then there is Dave Roberts coaching first base, Jed Hoyer back in town as Padres GM and Jason McLeod, the mastermind behind the drafting of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard etc., back as San Diego’s assistant GM.

“It’s old home week,” Francona said.

One fact is that it will be special for Dave Roberts and the Red Sox every time he walks into Fenway Park for the rest of his life. Roberts now coaches first for the Padres.

“If it wasn’t for Dave, you’d be talking to somebody else [instead of me],” quipped Francona.

There is also a human interest element to the return of Roberts, as he recently overcame lymphoma, undergoing his treatments at the Jimmy Fund.

“It’s great. Obviously, I’m in a different capacity. I’m not playing for the Sox. I’m not coming here for treatments. I’m a coach now. But it’s fun. I’m trying to live through these guys and let them know how special this place is,” Roberts said.

As for the low-key Gonzalez, he took the day for what it was. And then he bashed a hard single to left in his first at-bat.

“Yeah, I had lunch with a few of [my ex-teammates], we hung out a ltitle bit. We walked to the ballpark. It was a good afternoon. Now it’s about playuing the game,” said Gonzalez.

Rizzo, on the other hand, figured to have a lot more in the nerves department.

“My emotions? I don’t know. It’s a blessing in disguise, maybe, that I’m playing here with everything they helped me through. Just going to come out and try to play good baseball,” Rizzo said.

It was one of those nights when everyone was happy to see each other. Francona put it best.

“This is kind of a win-win for everybody,” Francona said. “To get Gonzi, you’ve got to give up some pretty special people and he certainly is and has a chance to be, not just as a player but as a person. He’s a pretty solid kid.”

Start of a road trip in Cleveland

The Red Sox arrived in Cleveland without Daisuke Matsuzaka. The injured starter is currently in Japan tending to personal business. On his way back, he will stop in Southern California and see the renowned Dr. Lewis Yocum to get a second opinion on his ailing right elbow. At this point, Dice-K and the Red Sox hope surgery can be avoided. There will be more information on that front after the visit with Yocum, which will take place before the end of May. If Dice-K needed to have Tommy John Surgery, it would take him out for all of this season and at least a large portion of 2012. His contract with the Red Sox ends after the 2012 season.

Being back in Cleveland, I can’t help but think of how much things have changed since the last visit here. The Red Sox, lacking in confidence and execution at the time, dropped to 0-6. They left on that hearbreaking loss, when Darnell McDonald fell down rounding second to end the game. It was quite a way to enter the Home Opener the next day.

As it turns out, getting swept by the Indians was not quite as bad as it looked at the time. After all, these are the same Indians who have a 29-15 record, the best in the Majors.

“I was just thinking about getting introduced on that first-base line [for the home opener] and wondering if they were going to shoot us,” quipped Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Obviously they’re playing good and they feel good about themselves and it happens every year to a team. You start out well. Guys get confident. You get a couple of guys that really click.”

The Red Sox are in far better position to go toe to toe with the Indians this time around, because they are clicking, with eight wins in their last nine games going into tonight.

“Well, when we were here, nothing was going right,” Francona said. “The day Lester pitched well, we didn’t get any runs. we got blown out every so often. We would lose a close one. We were inconsistent in all areas. Now, it seems like we’re sort of stringing together maybe that game where we spread it out a little bit and we’ve won a lot of close games. I just think things have settled down a little bit.

“Like Salty, which is such a huge position, things were going kind of quick for him, now I think it’s slowed down for him. Tek’s taken a little bit off his plate, which has helped. Pitching is keeping us in games where if we don’t swing the bat early, like last night, it gives us a chance to get into the game and not have to fight our way back so much. and then there’s been a couple of games where we’ve fought back. Gonzalez has been maybe the best hitter in the game.”

Tonight, the Red Sox see Justin Masterson, who made a great impression during his years in Boston’s farm system, and the parts of two seasons (2008-09) he spent on the Major League roster. Masteron has done a great job, going 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA in his first nine starts.

“I know, it’s hard not to love him,” Francona said. “We all do. I hope we beat his brains out. Yeah, he’s everybody’s favorite. How can he not be?”

What has Masterson done to take his game to the next level?

“He’s pitching in very aggressively, especially to lefties, and he always needed to do that,” Francona said. “Because of his arm slot, lefties are always going to get a better look than righties. He’s pitching in aggressively. Because he’s such an easygoing guy, I don’t think people realize how much he competes. But he’s a really good competitor. I just think he’s good. We used him out of the bullpen because we could. It was kind of a luxury. When you go into starting, you need to have that other pitch or locate a little bit to get through the second time through the order. Now he’s got that, and he’s really good.”

As for the Red Sox, they have a pretty good one of their own going in Clay Buchholz, who is coming off a career-high of 127 pitches.

“You won’t see him go that again, I guarantee you that,” Francona said. “He bounced back really well. A pitch count is a tool, and I agree with it. We need to know what it is. But he stayed in his delivery so well, he didn’t really tax himself. If he would’ve, we would’ve taken him out. I think he’ll be okay. But we recognize it and we’ll keep an eye on it. We keep an eye on workload pretty good. “

Tito in a catch-22

It was the third game of the season, a day game after a night game, and manager Terry Francona was asked if he had thought about giving Jason Varitek his first start of the season.

Francona’s answer that day was, “We’re trying to get Salty going a little bit here.”

More than three weeks later, Saltalamacchia hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm and now Varitek is starting between two to three of every five games.

Sure, the Red Sox want Jarrod Saltalamacchia to gain some confidence.  But thanks to a 2-10 start, they spend tonight at last in the position to get back to .500.

So Francona finds himself balancing the short term vs. the long term. Right now, Varitek seems to be a better short term answer. Coincidence or not, the club is 6-2 when he catches and 4-9 with Saltalamacchia.

Will Saltalamacchia be able to get his confidence back enough so that he can play more regularly?

The story is still evolving, and one of the more interesting ones to watch. Varitek also hasn’t been able to get anything going offensively, but there’s no doubt that he has done a strong job handling the pitching staff.

Varitek wowed by Beckett

Jason Varitek isn’t prone to hyberbole. If anything, he is usually pretty guarded with praise, just like he is with criticism. So it means something when he is as impressed as he was with Josh Beckett’s performance on Sunday night against the Yankees.

Where did the performance rate in terms of pure stuff?

“Best I’ve seen him. As far as complete, absolutely,” said Varitek.

Beckett is at his best when his power can be off-set with his non-power stuff. He had all that stuff going against the Yankees.

“Very good,” Varitek said. “He had a good feel for his curveball. I think the power on his four-seamer set all that up.”

Did Varitek see a game like this coming?

“Some outings, you saw the power out of him in spring,” Varitek said. “It was no secret he was making some adjustments, making some mechanical adjustments and doing things. It’s not always an adjustment you can snap your fingers and make overnight. It’s a very good lineup. They were one man down [Alex Rodriguez], but the guy who took his place is pretty good himself. It was a very big start for us.”

Of course, with Varitek behind the plate for Beckett’s masterpiece, there will probably be public obsession now with whether the captain should handle all of Beckett’s starts. But manager Terry Francona doesn’t seem inclined to go in that direction. Instead, he will work in whatever direction gives him the best matchups, and also provides the most rest for the starting catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Captain debuts for 0-4 Sox

Headed to the park with an 0-4 lineup, the Red Sox have made one change to the lineup tonight, giving captain Jason Varitek his first start of the season behind the plate.

It is adverse moments like these when the Red Sox probably benefit most from still having Varitek around. He has a way of holding the team together, particularly the pitching staff.

Red Sox starters are 0-for-4 in quality starts, and perhaps Varitek’s presence can help Daisuke Matsuzaka change that trend tonight.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is clearly struggling at the plate right now, and he’s probably feeling the burden of what is taking place from the mound, so his day off is well-timed by manager Terry Francona.

According to research done by ESPN, no team has ever won the World Series after going 0-4. I wouldn’t read much, or really anything, into that stat. For starters, there aren’t a ton of teams that get off to 0-4 starts, and even less with the caliber of players this roster has. How many World Series teams have had at least one four-game losing streak? I would venture to say, almost all of them.

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