Results tagged ‘ Terry Francona ’
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.
Here we are in Cleveland, where the Red Sox, after a month and a half in Fort Myers and then a weekend in Texas, are now faced with cold weather for the first time.
At gametime, it is expected to be 42 degrees, but weather.com says that it will “feel like 35”.
At any rate, manager Terry Francona has made another adjustment to the lineup.
Carl Crawford will bat second and Dustin Pedroia moves to the three-hole.
Here is the new entire alignment:
Usually an Opening Day lineup is pretty simple for a manager. You put your best nine players out there in the order you expect them to hit in for most of the season. But Terry Francona is faced with a bit of a different situation this year, in that his team is going against Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson.
How good is Wilson against lefties? Well, last year, they hit .144 against him with no homers and 12 RBIs. Yes, that is filthy.
“It’s not just the lefty, it’s who the lefty is,” Francona told reporters today from City of Palms Park. “This is something, that’s why I’ve been so hesitant to talk about the lineup. C.J. Wilson is one of those lefties, where on normal days, if it’s July, that’s the day you give your righties a shot. Now, it’s Opening Day. There’s some thought that needs to go into that.”
Here is a breakdown of Sox lefties lifetime vs. Wilson: Crawford 2-for-12, 1 HR, 4 RBIs; Ortiz 1-for-10, 1 RBI; J.D. Drew 1-for-6, 0 RBIs; Jacoby Ellsbury 0-for-1; Adrian Gonzalez 0-for-1.
So Francona has several dilemmas: Does he hit Ellsbury leadoff or put him at the bottom of the order? Does Drew start, or does Tito insert Mike Cameron?
Even though Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter, is going to be the primary catcher this season, does Francona give Jason Varitek the honor of starting Opening Day? His motive in that situation, aside from Varitek’s strong history with starting pitcher Jon Lester, is that ‘Tek is a stronger right-handed hitter and Salty is better from the left side.
What order do Youkilis and Gonzalez hit in? Does he hit Youk fourth and Gonzo fifth or vice versa?
If you work under the assumption that Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Tim Wakefield are the 10 pitchers who are sure to make the team, that leaves two spots open.
There are a barrage of lefties in the mix for those spots, including Hideki Okajima, Dennys Reyes, Andrew Miller and Rich Hill. Righies Alfredo Aceves, Scott Atchision and Matt Albers are also in the competition.
With so many pitchers going for so few spots, the Red Sox will huddle after Tuesday’s game to determine how best to utilize the innings for the final week the team is in Fort Myers.
“After the game tonight, I think [pitching coach] Curt [Young] and I, and [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and some guys from the front office will kind of sit and talk and not just talk about how we feel about things, but maybe map out the next couple of days. We’re getting to a point where innings are going to be at a premium so certainly there are going to have to be some innings at the minor league complex and innings in big league games. we’ll sit and map that out tonight.”
Francona isn’t sure exactly when the pitching staff will be finalized.
“I’d rather do it right than have to set an arbitrary deadline,” Francona said.
The news is hardly surprising, but it is fitting. Jon Lester, Boston’s best starting pitcher and one of the best in baseball, will pitch Opening Day on April 1 against the Rangers in Arlington.
Josh Beckett pitched Opening Day for the Red Sox the last two years, but Lester has been Boston’s most productive starting pitcher since 2008.
Still just 27 years old, you wonder how many Opening Day starts are in Lester’s career. Quite a few, I’m sure.
Last season, Lester became an All-Star for the first time. He finished 2009 with a 19-9 record and a 3.25 ERA. Lester has notched 225 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons.
He has been a machine over the last three years, averaging 17 wins, 207 1/3 innings and a 3.30 ERA.
Since entering the Major Leagues in 2006, Lester is 61-25 in 124 games, all but one of those outings starts.
Lester’s rookie season came to an abrupt halt when he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After undergoing six chemotherapy treatments, Lester was declared cancer free in Dec., 2006.
He fired a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals on May 19, 2008.
And now he can add an Opening Day start to the list of his already impressive accomplishments.
Major League managers don’t worry about the same things as the general public when it comes to Spring Training. For example, the fact that Daisuke Matsuzaka has given up 10 earned runs over his last two Grapefruilt League starts isn’t keeping Terry Francona awake at night.
“I’m not real concerned about anyone in camp,” Francona said. “We want to leave here healthy and have guys feeling good about themselves. I haven’t looked at anyone’s ERA. I know Daisuke got hit around a little bit the other day. I know if we took Daisuke out of the rotation tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to play for me. We’ve got to let these guys get ready.”
Matsuzaka will take the ball on Tuesday afternoon against Victor Martinez and the Detroit Tigers.
The Red Sox look forward to seeing Martinez again. In particular, Francona looks forward to seeing Martinez’s son Victor Jose, who was a regular in the clubhouse throughout last season.
“I’m actually looking forward to seeing Victor Jose. I’m hoping he’s going to be there. If you see a little kid walking around naked wearing shower shoes, that’s Victor Jose,” laughed Francona.
As for Victor Jose’s dad, the Red Sox fully appreciate what he brought to the table during his year and a half as the team’s primary catcher.
“All the things people said about him came true in a hurry,” Francona said. “Great kid, solid professional, really good hitter. That won’t change because he went to another team.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia won’t be on tomorrow’s trip, but he enjoyed his short time as teammates with Martinez.
“It was fun,” Saltalamacchia said. “The guy plays the game every single day. He never took a day off. He worked hard, loved the game. it was cool to actually see a guy like him do that.”
And once Martinez accepted Detroit’s offer over Boston’s, it opened up a starting job for Saltalamacchia.
“I think it worked out,” Saltalamacchia said. “He went over to Detroit. I don’t know how much catching he’s going to do, but he’s set as far as knowing where he’s going to be for the next four or five years. That’s good for him and obviously it will help me out here.”
Andrew Miller was dominant in his first two spring outings but struggled quite a bit in his third one. That doesn’t change anything about how Red Sox are evaluating him.
If he makes the team, that’s great. If not, the club is invested in him for the long haul.
The lanky lefty offers big potential as both a starter or a reliever. Obviously the latter job would get him to the Red Sox faster.
“Well, he came to spring training with the idea that he’s in competition for a bullpen slot with the idea that Opening Day isn’t the cutoff for him,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That’s part of the reason we wanted to get him off the roster and then sign him back so we weren’t held hostage by somebody that looks really good but maybe needs a few more weeks or a month, so we need to watch him pitch and see where it takes him. He’s been terrific about it. He’s been really mature about, ‘hey, this is long term’. That’s part of the reason we did it the way we did it.”
On the official day that pitchers and catchers reported, there was a scarce group at the park today. Nearly every key pitcher and catcher had already been at the complex this week, so there was no presence was required today. Many of the players spent part of the weekend in Miami at Mike Lowell’s retirement party, which is why there was such a small contingent today.
Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Hideki Okaima were among those who did workout.
And Terry Francona had his first media session of camp. Here are some bullet points from Tito’s session.
Is J.D. Drew’s hamstring going to be an issue this spring?
” We’re going to try not to let it be,” Francona said. “It’s something that he has voiced some concern about. He went to Dr. Andrews, he came up to Boston. I don’t think he’s real concerned about it, but it’s been there. I don’t think we want it to be a concern, so we’ll certainly monitor it.”
Will Beckett and Lackey bounce back?
“If I wasn’t [expecting that], I would be a horrible manager,” Francona said. “What a thing to do, to sit here and go, ‘Nah, I don’t think our guys can do well.’ Lack looks like he really worked. He’s thin, even in his face. Beckett looks strong. I was really pleased. Regardless of who you are, there’s a lot of pride that comes in with this. Both guys obviously went home and kind of got after it. Hopefully it’ll pay dividends with their ERA or their won-loss record. But they obviously both worked really hard.”
What will the plan be for Tim Wakefield this spring?
“For Wake, we’ll stretch him out just because that will serve him best, build his innings and arm strength, then if need be, that availability is there.”
As I get ready to snowblow my driveway and sidewalk for the 900th time this winter, I thought all of you might be in the mood for some Red Sox fodder.
Theo Epstein and Terry Francona both provided updates on several areas of the team at Monday night’s town hall event.
How is Dustin Pedroia doing? “Pretty good,” Epstein said. “He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot, and doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot immobile for so long. That was reassuring. It didn’t have anything to do with the fracture or the surgery. He’s healing really well, working out. He’s not wearing cleats yet, but we’re going to be smart about it. We don’t expect him to be limited by the time the season starts.”
The reports on Beckett have been positive: “Very positive,” Epstein said. “He’s been attacking the offseason, working really hard, getting in good shape, doing workouts. He has a personal trainer that he hired. The trainer and Mike Reinold have been in very frequent contact. Mike made a visit recently to see him, as he does with some of the other pitchers. He’s raring to go.”
On the Rays after adding two guys you might have heard of — Manny and Damon. ” Good moves,” Epstein said. “Those are guys that can probably still hit a little bit, to say the least. It makes for some interesting head-to-head matchups. But those guys, the demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar. They’re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and stay and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball given the strength of their farm system. They lose Garza, they have Hellickson ready to step in. They lose Crawford, they have Jennings and Joyce ready to step in. They’re going to be really tough.”
Tito on whether Saltalamacchia is finished with boot camp with catching instructor extraordinaire Gary Tuck:
“I think it’s the other way around. Camp Tuck may have finished him. DeMarlo said he went down to check on him, say hi to the Tuckster, wanted to see Salty. He thought it would be running through the motions, but after two hours, he felt bad for Salty. They’ve done a terrific job. I’m really proud of them, both of them. How many guys do you see do that? It’ll be interesting to see where he’s at because obviously it’s an important position for us. We’re showing an awful lot of confidence in him. At the same time, I think it’s kind of neat that Tek’s worked to be at the point he is where we feel good about this. Tek’s probably going to catch more than an average backup catcher does.”
An impactful move by the Red Sox is one that makes the Yankees take notice. Yes, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is fully aware of the type of damage Gonzalez might do against his team for the next several years.
“It makes them a great team,” Cashman said. “He’s a heck of a hitter. That’s a huge addition for Boston. We know what our areas of weaknesses are that we need to tackle, and that’s what we need to continue to focus on. But they just obviously improved themselves in a significant way. He’s one of the premier players at that position in the game.”
Gonzalez showed good sensibility in his greeting with the Boston press, immediately talking about his goal of helping the Red Sox topple the Yankees.
“It was very emotional and very up and down,” said Gonzalez. “But I’m very excited that everything was able to be worked out and I’m very excited to be here in Boston. And I’m ready to beat the Yanks.”
He’s also like to help the Red Sox raise some more of those banners — like the ones from 2004 and 2007.
“I’ve had five incredible years in San Diego. My dream as a kid was to play in the Major Leagues and be a Padre and my second dream was to be a Red Sox. So I’m very excited, God has been very, very good to me and I’m just very excited to start the season and look forward to a lot of world championships,” Gonzalez said.
“It was one of the things where you grow up and you always root for a National League team and an American League team and the Red Sox have always been the American League team that I rooted for and I think with Ted Williams and all those things and him being from San Diego and seeing what he did here, everyone knows he’s one of the greatest of all time, there’s always been a lot of connections between me and my heart and the Red Sox.”
Watching Gonzalez hit at Fenway figures to become a must-watch experience, much like Manny Ramirez during his prime years.
“He’s one of the very best hitters in the game, a left-handed hitter with a
tremendous ability to control the strike zone, hit, hit for power, has power to all fields. His natural stroke is probably to the opposite field which is a great fit for our ballpark,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “He hits the ball the other way with ease, so we
think he’s going to wear the wall out. Just going from PETCO to Fenway Park should do wonders for his overall production, not that it needs any help. He likes the ball away from him a little bit. He’s a thinking man’s hitter who controls the at-bats and knows what he wants to do up there and goes up to the plate with a plan every time.
“Defensively, he’s a plus fielder with great hands, good feet around the bag, and he can really throw. He’s a playmaker on defense and has outstanding makeup. He’s a high-character person who leads by example and wants to win. That and he’s working on his speed, he said, this winter, so he can get a lot of doubles to left.”
By the way, Gonzalez did not have a number on his jersey during his unveiling, but Mike Cameron will give him 23 once some friendly high-stakes negotiations are complete.
“We’re in discussion,” laughed Cameron. “You know, I’m going to get something nice for Christmas.”
As for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, his early Christmas present is getting to pencil Gonzalez into his lineup every day.
“This is one of the best hitters in baseball,” Francona said in an interview with WEEI radio in Boston. “This is a big move for us. We’re getting a middle of the order bat, a guy that’s won a couple of Gold Gloves. He’s still young. This is exciting. We gave up some good players to get him, but that’s the only way you can get a guy of his caliber.”
Francona could sense how much Epstein wanted to make the deal happen.
“This was an important one,” Francona said. “I could tell that Theo was really digging his heels in on this one. And I’m glad he did because when he feels that strongly it’s got a chance to really be good for us.”