April 30, 2006

G23-24-25: Red Sox at Devil Rays

0430, 2:00 PM -- By striking out the side in the ninth inning on Saturday for his 10th save (in 10 chances), Jonathan Papelbon became the first pitcher in history to get 10 saves in April after beginning the season without any career saves. He has also pitched 20.1 consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to last season.

As Yaz-Tex notes in comments, how long can Francona "trot a tomato can out to the bump every fifth day" before moving Pap and his now-shaved head into the rotation? In a related note, reliever Craig Hansen -- just promoted from Portland -- pitched 2.1 hitless innings in his AAA debut on Friday.

A new x-ray shows that Coco Crisp´s fractured left index finger has improved significantly and Terry Francona reports that a mid-May return to the lineup is possible.

0429 7:10 PM -- Hello from Aguas Calientes, a small village down the road from Machu Picchu. We spent about 6 hours at the ancient Inca site today -- it is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen -- and we are going back at 6 AM tomorrow morning.

Clearly, I am not missing much Sox fun while on vacation (although I would like it if you guys left more comments about the games/team that I may not see when I skim the papers).

Noodle Bats: Last night's loss to Tampa Bay was the 10th time this season that the Red Sox scored three or fewer runs. ... Over the last 13 games, the Red Sox are hitting .243. ... In the first seven games of the current road trip, the hitters are 12-for-75 (.160) with runners in scoring position and the starting pitchers have a 8.36 ERA.

Other things I read this evening: If Lenny DiNardo is replaced in the rotation, it will likely be with righty Matt Ginter. ... Josh Bard will catch Tim Wakefield on Monday against New York. ... Coco Crisp is looking at a mid-May return.

Back in 2004, Dodger Alex Cora had an 18-pitch at-bat against Cub Matt Clement. He ended the 13:56 AB with a two-run home run. On Thursday night, Cora worked a 15-pitch walk against Paul Byrd: called strike, ball, called strike, ball, foul, ball, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, ball.

Arrggh: The Yankees scored in every inning (8) -- one of my favourite things in baseball -- beating Toronto 17-5 this afternoon. 412 231 31x. Bastards. At least they didn't score in all nine. (The Tigers missed it by one inning, as many teams do: 324 204 21x)

Probables:
Friday, April 28:   Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 2
Saturday, April 29: Red Sox 9, Devil Rays 6
Sunday, April 30:   Schilling / Kazmir

April 27, 2006

G20-21-22: Red Sox at Cleveland

0427, 6 PM - Was hoping to find a bar with the Sox game on ESPN, but it turns out we have to get up at about 4:45 tomorrow/Friday morning to take a four-hour train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. So it´ll be an early night.

0426, 7 PM: We are in Cuzco tonight and Thursday. Maybe we´ll find a bar with ESPN for tomorrow nights game.

Nice to see Manny come through last night, after Schilling was left in for the seventh. I was following along for the 7th via Gameday and it seemed like a mistake even before the game-tying hits. 133 pitches -- WTF? ... Tonight: Go Timmy!

0425, 9:30 AM - We have landed safely in Peru. I thought the country was in the eastern time zone, but apparently it is one hour west/earlier. And you know what time that is, right?



Probables:
Tuesday: Red Sox 8,Cleveland 6
Wednesday: Cleveland 7, Red Sox 1
Thursday: Cleveland 15, Red Sox 3
Schilling:
          IP  H  R ER BB  K  PIT
0403 @TEX 7 5 2 2 1 5 117
0408 @BAL 7 3 1 1 2 4 114
0414 SEA 8 3 1 1 0 7 104
0419 TB 6 6 1 1 1 7 108

28 17 5 5 4 23 443 1.61
Keep it going.

April 24, 2006

Peru

So we're off. Driving this afternoon to Buffalo, flying to New York, then an overnight flight to Lima. I'll be checking in every couple of days -- whenever we get to an internet cafe.

Two highlights will be:

Machu Picchu (we'll be there next weekend!)


and flying over the Nazca lines (on May 8).


Laura's travel journal -- as we go from Lima to Cusco to Aguas Calientes to Juliaca to Puno to Arequipa to Nazca to Trujillo to Chiclato to Sipan -- will be here.

April 23, 2006

G19: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 3

Red Sox   - 300 100 011 - 6 12 1
Blue Jays - 000 300 000 - 3 10 0

I can't take the Red Sox radio announcers (Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano) more than a couple times a year -- they chat about college sports way too much, make the game seem as exciting as watching paint dry, and just irritate the hell out of me -- so today I listened to the game online with the Jays announcers.

They were decent (I guess one of them was Jerry Howarth), calling the game simply with just a touch of homerism, and kept the stupid comments to a real minimum (though they did praise Jason Varitek for his mind-numbingly stupid bunt in the fifth inning as though he had cured cancer). (Reports from home indicate that the Jays TV announcers are okay until their team gets the lead, then they become insufferable dicks.) I'll probably check in with the visiting teams' radio guys on the weekends all summer. Well, every team but the Yankees.

A game of missed chances on both sides, especially in the middle innings -- Boston left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth inning (and had a total of 14 LOB) and Toronto left three on in the fifth and two on in the sixth.

But after Matt Clement left after a shaky outing (5.1-7-3-2-4), Keith Foulke retired all five batters he faced (striking out three), Mike Timlin allowed only a one-out single in the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon, after the first two Jays got on to bring the tying run to the plate, toughened up and struck out Vernon Wells and got Troy Glaus to hit into a double play.

11:50 AM -- The Herald's Tony Massarotti reports that "Manny Ramirez spent part of his pre-game prep time doing imitations of Kevin Youkilis' batting stance, an act that had teammates in stitches." ... That's making me chuckle just thinking about it.

Youkilis, 1b
Loretta, 2b
Ortiz, dh
Ramirez, lf
Nixon, rf
Varitek, c
Lowell, 3b
Harris, cf
Gonzalez, ss
11:00 AM -- How 'bout we win one, hmm?

Team Stats And Standings

In 18 games, the Red Sox are hitting only .256 (11th in the AL, ahead of only Seattle, KC and Oakland (.224!)). Toronto leads the league at .314. However, Boston is 6th in on-base percentage at .344 (the Yankees are #1 at .388) and 10th in slugging percentage (though 5th in extra-base hits).

The Sox lead the league in pitches seen per plate appearance with 4.02 (Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez are #2 and #3, behind Jason Giambi).

In a slightly more important category, they are 10th in runs scored. They have scored three runs or fewer in 7 of their 18 games (they are 4-3 in those games). They are 8th in Runs Created Per 27 Outs (4.95); New York is tops with 6.65.

Here are the current standings, total runs scored and runs allowed and each team's expected record based on RS/RA.
           W  L  GB   RS   RA  ExW/L  GB
Boston 11 7 -- 84 80 9- 9 3
Baltimore 11 8 ½ 110 110 10-10 3
Toronto 9 7 1 98 84 9- 7 2
New York 8 8 2 99 70 11- 5 --
Tampa Bay 8 10 3 95 113 7-11 5
It looks like the Yankees have been the victims of some bad luck, but this early in the season, I think the RS/RA difference is skewed because of two blowout wins (15-2 on Opening Day and 10-1 on April 9). Subtract those games and New York's RS/RA is 74-67, which projectes to a .549 winning percentage.

Keith Foulke on his role and workload:
My whole career, I've always told everybody, the more I pitch the better I am ... That's how I get into my grooves and become a very good pitcher. ... I'm not going to fool myself, thinking that I'm better than he [Papelbon] is. At the point right now, I'm not. If I've got to pitch in a different role to help this team win, I've got no problem with that. ... The thing I have to make sure everybody understands is that it's [his knees] not affecting my pitching. That's the one thing that's different this year. They may ache in everyday life, but it doesn't affect my pitching this year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a story on Jonathan Papelbon. ... Catching up with Gabe Kapler and Jeffrey Maier. ... And the 2004 Final Out Ball is being sent to the Hall of Fame.

Manny Delcarmen Joins Sox

Manny Delcarmen is up from Pawtucket (where he has pitched 10 scoreless innings in five appearances), replacing Jermaine Van Buren.

Jonathan Papelbon has a mohawk.

April 22, 2006

G18: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 1

Red Sox   - 000 100 000 - 1  6  0
Blue Jays - 410 300 00x - 8 13 0
Bah. Five of the first six Blue Jays reached base against DiNardo (the one that didn't crushed a ball to deep center field). Four of them scored.

The Red Sox forced Roy Halladay to throw 90 pitches in five innings, but left five runners on base over the third, fourth and fifth innings. Kevin Youkilis's single with one out in the fifth was the team's last hit of the afternoon.

Good News: Trot Nixon went 2-for-3 (though, in a bonehead move, he was tagged out in the second inning when he turned towards second base and then was slow wandering back to the bag) and Josh Bard doubled, singled and walked.

12:00 PM -- Lenny DiNardo makes his second start of the season.

Kevin Youkilis moves across the infield to third today and JT Snow gets a start at first. Also, Josh Bard is catching and hitting 9th. It's raining in Toronto, so the roof will be closed.

April 21, 2006

G17: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6 (12)

Red Sox   - 003 001 020 000 - 6  9 1
Blue Jays - 000 200 040 001 - 7 10 0
I think I'm glad I missed this one. Followed along for the first five or six innings, then got busy, and could only check in every 15 minutes or so.

Nice to see Manny is back to being Manny.

And please, Theo, either leave Rudy Seanez at the border or toss him out of the plans over Lake Ontario. RSN thanks you in advance.

5:30 PM -- Back at work today after missing all of last weekend with the flu. The Red Sox start a three-game series at the Skydome, maybe 10 blocks from where I'm typing this. With luck, I'll be able to follow along on line.

Wells In Pain; Crisp Will Miss Road Trip

We probably shouldn't expect too much more from David Wells.

He received his second injection of Synvisc yesterday and after playing catch, said his right knee "still hurts. I could feel it on almost every [throw]. If I struggle to play catch, imagine pitching. ... If [the shots] don't work, then I don't pitch and I go home. There really isn't anything you can do. ... If I knew (in the offseason) that this was going to happen, I would have said goodbye last year."

Coco Crisp is now wearing a more flexible splint on his left index finger, but he's still two weeks away from working out. Terry Francona said "the hope is that when we get home off this trip, another 10 days, he'll be able to start ... hit[ting] off a tee, then soft-tossing [batting practice] and that progression will lead up to him playing in games."

Ex-Marlins teammates Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett face off at Skydome tonight. Beckett: "You know what's great about the American League? I don't even have to face him [at the plate]. It's going to be fun. ... He's a friend of mine, and I hope he does well. I just hope I do better." ... Burnett: "I wish we could hit. Beckett-Burnett? That would be cool, man. I've always been a big Josh fan, whether we got along or not."

Personal Note: I'll be leaving for a three-week vacation in Peru this Monday night (back May 18). With luck, I'll be able to visit internet cafes every other day or so. Ideally, I'll have open threads for each series -- including the Return of Johnny to Fenway! -- for game comments and news.

April 20, 2006

G16: Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 1

Devil Rays - 000 200 102 - 5  7  1
Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1 6 0

Not our night. Wakefield started out strong (3.1 perfect innings on only 31 pitches) before faltering in the fourth; Gomes hit first-pitch, leadoff home runs in both the 7th and 9th innings; and the Red Sox bats just couldn't get going against either Scott Kazmir (5.2-4-1-1-7) or Travis Harper (2.2-2-0-0-1).

Kevin Youkilis opened the first with a double but died at third; Dustan Mohr bopped a solo shot in the 2nd; a 2-on, 2-out rally in the the 6th fizzled; Boston loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but (as the game-tying runs) Trot Nixon struck out and Jason Varitek flied to left.

Today was the 94th anniversary of the first official game at Fenway Park (April 20, 1912, Boston beat the New York Highlanders, 7-6).

6:00 PM -- Willie Harris is with the team, having replaced Adam Stern -- one of his closest friends on the team. Harris: "Stern's an awesome guy. The first thing I said to him was I'm sorry. You don't want anything like that to happen to a good guy like that."

Tonight's lineup:

Youkilis, 1B
Loretta, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Lowell, 3B
Pena, RF
Mohr, CF
Bard, C
Gonzalez, SS
Hoping for a 7-3 homestand.

Stern Sent Down; Rays Get Shifty

It was inevitable. Having fulfilled his Rule 5 requirements, Adam Stern -- the pride of London, Ontario -- was sent down to Pawtucket and Willie Harris was called up. "I'm not going to sulk ... I realize why they're doing this. You've got to play. You don't want to be a young outfielder and be the fourth outfielder and not get many at-bats."

Tampa Bay has employed an extreme shift against David Ortiz in these two games. The third baseman moved out to left field, and all three usual outfielders shifted over to the right. The second baseman went into shallow right field and the shortstop was in shallow center, to the right field side of second base. It gave the Devil Rays, in effect, six outfielders. Ortiz: "Man that's crazy. But whatever they do, they can't catch the ball if you hit it off the Green Monster."

Here's a crude drawing of the shift that someone posted to the SoSH Game Thread:

Ortiz has yet to lay down a bunt, but he has doubled twice off the Wall.

Steven Krasner of the Providence Journal has been writing a cool sidebar called "Inside the Game" in which he dissects several plays from the previous night's game.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jonathan Papelbon watched as Mariano Rivera closed out the Yankees' 3-1 win in Toronto. "I don't try to pattern myself after any closer. But I watch how other guys get guys out. I'm a student. I'm learning every day out here." ... Herald readers' choice for Papelbon's closer theme? AC/DC's "Thunderstruck".

Blabbermouth

In his posts at Sons of Sam Horn, Curt Schilling maintains that, in response to his reputation as a blabbermouth, he never chases after reporters to give his opinion, that he is simply answers the questions he is asked. For example, On March 17, 2006, he wrote:
... as I was telling multiple members of the media yesterday, if they don't come to my locker and ask questions, I don't get quoted, you don't hear from me, ever. Those wanting to piss and moan about the WEEI calls, np, but I've never called in to discuss me, every call I've made has been to defend some idiotic comments being made by someone that knows zilch about one of my teammates.

After I pitch the media comes to my locker, they ask me questions and I answer them. Not hard to figure out I am not a yes/no kinda guy, never have been, but what I say, whether I am right or wrong, is who I am. You don't like it, tough, don't read it. I don't speak to make peoples opinions of me change, I speak what's on my mind given the question asked. I don't try to make an 'impact' by saying things, but I do think I've not considered that impact at times in the past and spoken on things that would have been better left unsaid. If that was the case, sue me, I'm human.
My point has always been that once the question is asked, it is under Schilling's absolute control whether he will answer that question, and if so, how long and detailed that answer will be.

I guess this is where I "piss and moan" -- because this week, he opened his yap again, on WEEI. (Maybe Curt was a guest on the show, I don't know. But if he called in, it was a situation in which he was clearly not being asked a question by a reporter.)

Anyway, Schilling mouthed off about tonight's Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir and the numerous HBP and bench-clearing incidents between the Rays and Sox over the years.

Schilling claimed Kazmir was
hitting multiple batters every time he threw against us. I don't know if any of it was intentional, but he kept hitting players. ... We made it clear to them, for the most part, that we were only throwing at guys on their team because their young pitchers couldn't throw inside. Obviously, he's getting better and he's learning. But you don't learn to pitch in the big leagues inside, you learn how to do that in the minor leagues. And you can't do that here because you get people hurt.
First of all, this stuff between the teams started a long time (1999?) before Schilling came to Boston, and it pisses me off when he tries to come off as Mr. Red Sox Nation.

Second, according to the St. Petersburg Times, in seven games against Boston, Kazmir has hit five batters, while in those same games, Boston pitchers hit 10 Devil Rays.

Kazmir responded: "I was looking at a video before of past things with the Red Sox and Devil Rays, and they had all this other stuff before I was even in pro ball. And all of a sudden it's all because of me? ... It doesn't make too much sense. It's his opinion. He wants to be heard."

If I recall, Schilling spoke out about this stuff last season, as well. Unless he is actually involved in an incident, this is one of those topics on which he should keep his opinions to himself.

April 19, 2006

G15: Red Sox 9, Devil Rays 1

Devil Rays - 000 010 000 - 1  7  4
Red Sox - 107 010 00x - 9 9 0

Ah, there's that laugher we were all hoping (waiting) for.

Twelve Red Sox batters came to the plate in the third inning -- taking advantage of five hits (two from Kevin Youkilis) and two errors -- and turning a 1-0 lead into a 8-0 bulge.

Curt Schilling looked a little less effective than in his previous three starts, but still posted a 6-6-1-1-7 line and went to 4-0 for the first time in his career. The relief trio of Rudy Seanez, Julian Tavarez and Keith Foulke pitched three innings, allowing only one hit and striking out five Tampa hitters.

At 11-4, Boston has the best record in the major leagues.

April 18, 2006

G14: Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 4

Devil Rays - 000 000 220 - 4 11 0
Red Sox - 001 000 33x - 7 11 0
In which Manny Ramirez's first extra-base hit of the season gives Boston a 1-0 lead, and Matt Clement pitches six near-perfect innings before quickly losing the lead in the seventh, and Ramirez's second and third RBI of the night (behind an opposite field double from David Ortiz) put Boston back in front 4-2, and Terry Francona makes an inexplicably delayed call to the bullpen, and Mike Timlin throws away the lead on back-to-back doubles before bearing down with a man on third and one out and maintaining the 4-4 tie, and clutch hits from Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta give the Sox a 7-4 lead in the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon is tested for the first time this season, throwing a whopping 34 pitches to six batters in the ninth inning, allowing a single and two walks, before a sprinting Adam Stern gambles in short center field and dives and gloves the final out, the ball secure in his glove only an inch or two off the Fenway grass to preserve the win.

Maybe I should pay more attention to the second-place Orioles, but ... down the road from Redsock Manor, at the Skydome, the Yankees gave Randy Johnson a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, before the Big Ugly allowed seven runs in three innings to the Blue Jays, who won the game 10-5, pushing New York (6-7) into the East cellar, 3½ games behind Boston.

Oh, Baltimore lost to Cleveland 15-1.

***

Preview.

Book Review: The Last Nine Innings

In The Last Nine Innings (Sourcebooks), Charles Euchner examines several aspects of the modern revolution in baseball.

Using Game 7 of the Yankees-Diamondbacks 2001 World Series as a backdrop, Euchner explores: (a) how the use of psychology, modern science and computer imaging at places like the American Sports Medicine Institute helps break down hitting and pitching mechanics to uncover better ways to train (and in turn teaches us how the body, including the brain's rostromedial prefrontal cortex, operates during a game), (b) the ever-growing influence and use of statistical analysis, and (c) the globalization of the game, and its affects on business, scouting and on-field strategies.

I am most fascinated by the thousands of in-game questions and how new ways of analyzing the game has changed, and continues to change, both the questions and the answers, and how fans connect to the game on the field.

The first key moment in the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning. There is no score and Steve Finley has just singled off Roger Clemens. Danny Bautista is walking to the plate. Euchner then spends the next 13 pages discussing possible strategies (for both teams) and how the Bautista at-bat developed.

First, should Bautista bunt? Euchner shows that during the entire 2001 season, teams scored fewer runs with a man on second and one out (.7026) than with a man on first and no outs (.9227) -- meaning that the act of successfully bunting the runner to second in that situation actually hurt a team's chance to score. (It is no small point to understand that this runs counter to what most people in the game believe.) And those numbers shouldn't be taken as an iron-clad rule against bunting, but they do show that teams should carefully chose their spots for a sacrifice.

So will Bautista bunt? Will he swing away? Maybe Finley will try to steal, or just take a long lead to distract Clemens? Would a throw over to first base (or a waste pitch for ball 1) cause Finley or Bautista to briefly reveal what they are planning to do? Each of Arizona's possible decisions will affect which pitches Clemens decides to throw, and where to throw them, which will in turn affect how the Yankees decide to position their fielders, which could affect Finley's decisions on the basepaths, and so on. And some or all of these decisions may change as Bautista's at-bat continues.

Also, Clemens had thrown 92 pitches at that point -- and as soon as Finley singled, Ramiro Mendoza began warming up in the New York bullpen. There was no DH in this game, but Clemens had made the last out in the top of the sixth, so his spot in the lineup would not be up for approximately two innings, removing one topic of consideration from Joe Torre's mind.

Euchner does an excellent job of weaving in quotes from many of the players, as well as Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenley, as he discusses Bautista's batting average against certain pitches in certain areas of the strike zone and how a runner dancing off first base might help or hinder a batter's performance. It's tough to pull off these digressions -- while often following the game pitch-by-pitch -- without losing causal readers in a maze of strategy and yet Euchner gets deep enough to also engage those fans who understand OPS+ and linear weights. I would have liked Euchner to get into all of his topics a bit more, but he may have lost that important balance in the process.

I actually grew a little nervous about the outcome as I was reading (and following along on my scorecard from November 4, 2001) about the last two innings. Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, in one of the book's blurbs, says Euchner "educat[es] the serious fan while entertaining the serious one". The reverse is also true. The Last Nine Innings will entertain the serious fan while educating the causal one.

Pedro Wins #200


Pedro Martinez won his 200th career game last night as the Mets beat Atlanta. New York's best team is now 10-2. ... Gotham Coverage: Daily News (1 and 2); Post (1 and 2); Newsday (1 and 2); and Times.

Euphoric and Ecstatic

Lenny DiNardo:
I'm ecstatic right now, more for the 'W' than anything else. I felt my stuff was getting better throughout the game. I was just trying to put the ball in play and give it to the defense and let them take over.
Terry Francona:
As the game progressed, he got a little more comfortable. It probably helped that when he got into the flow of the game, the ball started sinking a little better. I thought he did a good job -- five innings and keeping us right in the game is what we needed today.
Kevin Youkilis:
I saw [Seattle second baseman Jose Lopez] dive. At that point, you have to just bury your head and go. If you watch the ball and try and track it, it might slow you down. Once I got a foot from the bag, I knew I was safe. But you never know how they're going to call it.
Mark Loretta:
I figured even a double may score Youk in that situation with the right bounce. Eddie's a guy that comes right at you. I had a pinch hit [at-bat] off him a couple days ago where I probably saw six or seven pitches. I think that really helped me today because I hadn't faced him in a quite a while.
David Ortiz:
I'm just glad that somebody else could do the job, so it doesn't have to be me all the time.
Loretta:
I did think about [taking off his batting helmet to decrease the chances of a headache] rounding the bases but having it be my first time, I felt I wanted the entire experience.
DiNardo:
I did get some tears in my eyes and I can't say that happens very often.
Loretta:
It was euphoric. What's struck me about Fenway was there wasn't any drop-off [in excitement] from Opening Day to the next day to the next day to the next. I've played in a lot of places where we'd have 55,000 people Opening Day and have about 8,000 the next day. If anything, the intensity here just continues to build. That's what people told me it was going to be like but until you experience it, you have no idea.
Dave Loretta (Mark's father):
I've been here six games now, I gotta tell you this is a totally different feel. This is really the major, major leagues. Red Sox Nation, you can't describe it. It's one thing to say 'Red Sox Nation' as a term, but it's another thing to just feel the vibrancy, the energy this whole thing has. ... Oh my God, this was one of the greatest events of my life.
Youkilis:
That's what we live for in this game, to see walkoff home runs and walkoff hits. That's what we live for, when dire times come and guys answer it.
Jason Varitek was obviously hobbling on the basepaths yesterday, but he says it's nothing more than a pain in the ass.

Jonathan Papelbon is looking for suggestions for a new "entrance theme". The Herald has set up an email address: sportspoll@bostonherald.com. It won't happen, but I'd like to see a closer forget about death metal and pick some wimpy pop tune -- Barry Manilow, maybe (he did write a song called "Weekend In New England"). Hearing something like that blasting through the PA might really distract the hitter.

April 17, 2006

Iggy Suarez Report #1

I chose Iggy Suarez for SoSH's Adopt-A-Prospect forum. Suarez is a 2B-SS playing for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Advanced Class A). He's only playing part-time, but has started off the season well.

Suarez is second on the Blue Rocks in batting average (although that is not likely to continue). His .368 average -- helped out by a great two-day stretch (3-for-3 on April 10 and 2-for-3 on April 11) -- trails only Jacoby Ellsbury (.381) after 11 games. All of his hits have been singles. He's also walked three times.

Iggy had been a shortstop, but one of Boston's better propsects, Jed Lowrie, is at that position in Wilmington, so Suarez has been playing second base, splitting time with Dominic Ramos (who is hitting only .095, 2-for-21). However, Iggy did play short on April 11, giving Lowrie a day off.

Unless otherwise noted, Suarez is at second base and batting 9th:
0406 Myrtle Beach  DNP
0407 Myrtle Beach 1-4, run scored
0408 Myrtle Beach DNP
0409 Myrtle Beach DNP
0410 Kinston 3-3, run scored, batted 8th
0411 Kinston 2-3, walk, run scored; played SS
0412 Kinston 0-3
0413 Kinston DNP
0414 Salem 1-3, walk, run scored
0415 Salem DNP
0416 Salem 0-3, 2 K
Totals: 7-for-19, 4 runs scored, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts. Suarez has made no errors in the field.

You can find Wilmington team stats here and box scores and game logs here. After 11 games, Wilmington is 4-7, including having been swept in a four-game series against Kinston (1-4, 3-4, 1-3 and 1-4).

Red Sox Player Turnover

Although the season is already a few weeks old, you still should buy a copy of The 2006 Red Sox Annual, published by Maple Street Press in partnership with the Sons of Sam Horn. The book's webpage is here; a few of the articles:

Breaking Down The Red Sox's Approach To The Sacrifice Bunt by Pete Palmer

Building The 2006 Red Sox -- Misconceptions Of The Moneyball Approach by James Tetreault

A Look Into The Future -- Red Sox Minor League Report by Brandon Magee

The Enigmatic Candidacy of Jim Rice by Mark A. Brown
One small piece caught my eye. We've read countless stories about how the 2004 championship team was dismantled in near-record time, that the front office has done a huge disservice to fans by breaking up this special group of 25 guys.

Steve Mastroyin, in an introduction to his article "Examining The Reign Of Theo", looks at the five World Series champions from 2000-2004 and charts their roster retention. He lists the players remaining on Opening Day the year after winning the series (ODY1), the end of that season (EY1), Opening Day the following season (ODY2) and currently (Now).
           ODY1  EY1  ODY2  Now
2000 NYY 17 16 11 4
2001 ARZ 22 22 15 2
2002 ANA 21 19 15 9
2003 FLA 17 16 15 5
2004 BOS 16 15 10 10
One thing to remember is that the 2004 team had a number of big-name players at the end of their contracts and the departure of most of these players created a greater sense of loss. But Boston has not acted much differently than past World Series winners.

Also, the 2004 team was a mere three outs from being swept in the ALCS and if that had happened, few fans would have objected to "blowing up" the team having seen the much talked about (but now apparently forgotten) window of opportunity slammed shut.

G13: Red Sox 7, Mariners 6

Mariners - 110 002 101 - 6 10 0
Red Sox - 110 002 012 - 7 12 1



Boston came from behind five times to grab the win -- the team's 18th straight one-run victory at home. Great hustle by Kevin Youkilis to beat out an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (on a 1-2 count) before Mark Loretta's game-winning blast.

Right after he was mobbed at home plate, Loretta was asked by NESN how this ranks in his career highlights: "Probably #1. I've never had a walk off homer at any level." Then: "Most places you have a big crowd for opening day, then it drops off. Not here. It's a playoff atmosphere every day."

Fuckin' A right!

Seems like a long time ago, but Lenny DiNardo also threw a serviceable five innings. Throw in two (almost three!) home runs from David Ortiz, two stinging hits off the left field wall from Manny Ramirez, and three hits from Trot Nixon -- and ignore for now home plate ump Rick Reed's disgraceful excuse for a strike zone -- and everyone's happy.

***

Major league baseball has done away with a lot of traditions -- holiday doubleheaders and having the first game of the season played in Cincinnati -- but we've still got Patriots Day!

April 16, 2006

G12: Red Sox 3, Mariners 2

Mariners - 002 000 000 - 2 7 2
Red Sox - 200 100 00x - 3 5 1
The bats remain MIA -- 29-for-125, .232 with runners in scoring position (10-for-64, .156 at home) -- but Josh Beckett still got credit for his third win of the season with another great performance (7-6-2-1-1-5).

It was a strange game. Boston needed a blown call at first base to score its second run in the first inning. Based on the two triples Seattle hit into the right field corner, Wily Mo Pena is not the answer, so it's good news to hear Francona say there's "a decent chance" Trot Nixon will play on Monday.

Manny Ramirez went 1-for-3 with a walk, and of his five putouts in left, three were fairly difficult catches. And the worst thing about Jonathan Papelbon's 1-2-3 ninth inning was that he somehow slipped up and went to a 3-1 count on his final batter. Horrors!

Lenny DiNardo gets the start (the second of his big league career) Monday morning. Francona says he could throw 80-90 pitches. I'm really hopeful that he'll make the most of his starts in David Wells's absence.

As far as Saturday's lineup, Francona said this:
I wrestle with that [when to rest his starters] a lot. I just come to the conclusion that 162 games is a long time, and if I try to do something I'm not supposed to do, it will end up catching up with us. I just think that if you do things against what you think is right you are going to end up causing more problems. You might win one game and lose 10 down the road.
He has yet to explain why everyone got the day off together.

***

Beckett has a clean first inning. A good start!

April 15, 2006

G11: Mariners 3, Red Sox 0

Mariners - 003 000 000 - 3  9  0
Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0 5 0
So ... anyone know how the other split squad did today?

Tito puts out the JV lineup, holds his pinch-hitters until after they can help, and wastes what turns out to be a pretty decent complete game from Tim Wakefield.

Why do Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell both need the day off? And why give them some rest (after only 10 games) on the same afternoon Jason Varitek has the day off? It makes no sense. Plus Francona moves Kevin Youkilis out of the leadoff spot and writes in Adam Stern and Alex Cora (?!) at the top of the lineup.

In the bottom of the 8th, down by three and with two men on, Francona lets Stern (who was over-matched and looked pathetic all day long) and Cora make feeble outs to end a potential rally. Tito did send up Loretta and Varitek in the 9th, but then he allowed Alex Gonzalez to make the final out on a dismal afternoon.

I had been thinking last night how nice Francona's moves had been this year, both in the lineup and the bullpen. I hadn't had any complaints at all. Well, that has changed. I don't expect his post-game comments to shed much light on the matter, but it sure seems like Francona threw up the white flag on this one.


Previews: Seattle / Boston.

Saturday's lineup:
Stern    CF
Cora 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 3B
Snow 1B
Pena RF
Bard C
Gonzalez SS

Schilling Surprised; Ramirez Slumping

Even Schilling has been a bit surprised about his performance this season:
I feel like I'm better than I've ever been. I have a slider now, I have a changeup now, I'm pitching in, drastically more than I've ever pitched in my career. The numbers are showing it. ... My first two starts, I haven't felt like I've been consistently burying the [splitter] well and I didn't think I was throwing it on a very good angle. I threw it [against Seattle] and it was exactly what I wanted it to be, from a feel standpoint. ... [W]e are such a tremendous defensive ballclub. There is a very different feel about contact from a pitcher's standpoint than there has ever been for me. It's the best defense that I have ever pitched in front of, our infield defense.
The flip side of the Sox' wonderful (including three victories by a 2-1 score) is that the offense is a bit less than expected. Among the 14 AL teams, Boston is 4th in OBP, 6th in slugging, 6th in batting average, but 10th in runs scored. (They are 3rd in ERA, after New York and Detroit).

Manny Ramirez has just one hit in his last 18 at-bats and is hitting a paltry .200 through 10 games. All of his hits have been singles. One note on the slump: Dave Heuschkel of the Courant notes that this is "the first time in Ramirez's career he had not had an extra-base hit in the first nine games. That streak is now 10." Over in the Globe, however, Chris Snow makes a slightly different point: "Never before, in 13 previous seasons in what someday will be a Hall of Fame career, had Ramirez gone 10 games without an extra-base hit."

I don't know if either of those statements is inaccurate. Has Manny had a similar 10-game stretch before in his career? Snow says he hasn't had a similar singles-only slump, but I'll bet he's hit .200 over 10 games a few times. Of course, having it at the very beginning of the season makes it far more visible. I'd rather have Manny mashing the ball, obviously, but I'm not concerned. (Reminder: he was batting .224 on May 27, 2005).

By the way, Ramirez's next home run will be #200 for the Red Sox and he'll become the fourth player to hit more than 200 taters for two teams, joining Jimmie Foxx (A's: 302, Red Sox: 222), Mark McGwire (A's: 363, Cardinals: 220) and Rafael Palmeiro (Rangers: 321, Orioles: 223).

Trot Nixon might be available to pinch hit Sunday or Monday.

Wells Back On DL

David Wells is back on the disabled list.

Michael Silverman of the Herald says it's "being termed a sprained right knee". His expected start on Monday morning (Patriots Day) will likely go to Lenny DiNardo. RHP Jermaine Van Buren was called up to take Wells's spot on the roster.

April 14, 2006

G10: Red Sox 2, Mariners 1

Mariners - 000 010 000 - 1  4  0
Red Sox - 000 200 00x - 2 10 0
And it's raining dirty water tonight in Boston!

Curt Schilling was spectacular (8-3-1-0-7) for the third straight start. In the spring, I figured he had to be better than in '05, but in no way did I expect this kind of success (command, velocity, stamina) right out of the gate. Jonathan Papelbon finished it off.

And on a night when Manny Ramirez continued to slump and David Ortiz couldn't hit the ball out of the infield, #9 hitter Alex Gonzalez went 3-for-4, including two doubles, the second of which drove in the two runs needed to win this game.

Pitch of the Game: Schilling's nasty outside splitter to Ichiro in the top of the sixth. With the tying run at third and one out, that strikeout snuffed out Seattle's budding rally. Schilling then got Jose Lopez swinging to end the inning.



Previews: Seattle / Boston.

Foulke Has Been Impressive

Keith Foulke pitched two innings last night -- and looked fantastic. Six batters, 21 pitches, only one ball hit out of the infield. Good location of his pitches and a very nice velocity differential between the change and fastball.

It's obviously too early to make any kind of determination, but I wonder what timetable the club has for moving Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. Terry Francona says the team does not want to "start shuttling him back and forth" from the pen to the rotation, which makes perfect sense.

If Wells and/or Clement continues to struggle, perhaps we'll see Pap get stretched out, coming in for the 8th and 9th innings, then maybe the final three frames. Ideally, lefty Jon Lester would fill the role Papelbon did last year in the second half (Hansen may also come up), freeing Pap to move into the rotation. I can't recall any quotes about it, but I'm positive Papelbon will put into the rotation next season no matter what.

Wily Mo Pena says David Ortiz "was one of the first people to help me, and I feel good about it. ... He's on me all the time, and I need that. And I go to the cage with Papa Jack every day and it's work, work, work. That's how (Ortiz) got better, working hard. And that's what I'm going to do." Pena's line-drive home run to dead center on Wednesday night was impressive, but more encouraging was his opposite field single earlier in that game and his eight-pitch walk in the bottom of the ninth last night.

Bob Ryan talked to Red Sox pitchers about their hitting exploits. ... Trot Nixon could be back in the lineup on Tuesday. ... Don't tell Sheff: Chris House has his season tickets back.

Lilly's Numbers Against Sox

Thanks to David Pinto's amazing Day by Day Database, here are Ted Lilly's appearances against Boston (all starts except for the first game):
             IP    H  R BB   K
09/11/00 NYY 1 0 0 0 1
04/22/01 NYY 6.2 7 2 2 10
05/23/02 NYY 5 6 3 1 3
06/02/02 NYY 4 5 4 2 1

08/14/03 OAK 6 3 1 2 5
08/20/03 OAK 3.1 10 6 3 2

04/09/04 TOR 5.1 5 4 2 3
04/21/04 TOR 5.2 6 3 3 6
05/22/04 TOR 5.2 5 2 2 10
08/17/04 TOR 7 6 4 4 5
08/23/04 TOR 9 3 0 2 13
04/10/05 TOR 5 6 1 1 6
05/25/05 TOR 6.2 4 1 3 4
07/01/05 TOR 6 7 1 2 3
09/12/05 TOR 5.2 5 3 1 3
09/28/05 TOR 6.2 6 2 5 3
04/13/06 TOR 7 6 1 0 10

95.2 90 38 35 88 3.57
In his last seven starts against Boston, Lilly is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA. Of his six career double-digit strikeout games, four have come against the Sox.

In several recent starts, the Jays have gotten out to big early leads, as they did last night, perhaps taking some pressure off Lilly to be perfect and leading the Sox hitters to hack away more than usual. Or it's just "one of those things".

April 13, 2006

G9: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 6

Blue Jays - 060 011 000 - 8 12 1
Red Sox - 100 000 023 - 6 9 0
Ted Lilly. You could take Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds, put them in Red Sox uniforms, and Ted Freakin' Lilly would mow them down. Shut them out. Make 'em look like blind Little Leaguers.

The seasons change, but all Boston batters go limp against Lilly (7-6-1-0-10). Once he left the game, the Red Sox suddenly started hitting. They came oh so close -- Ortiz up as the tying run against BJ Ryan in the ninth -- but Tiz skied the first pitch to medium right to end the game.

And on the back of Matt Clement's weak outing (4-8-7-4-1) that nice 6-1 start receeds further into the distance. We're now 6-3 and Toronto and the MFY are both 5-4. Bah.




Previews: Blue Jays / Red Sox.

On Comments On Wells And Nixon

In the Game 8 comments, Jack Marshall makes two points about my calling Wells a fat tub of goo:
"It's more than a little strange for a blog that is hypersensitive to perceived racial or ethnic slights to resort to denigration of other personal characteristics"
and
"Wells [has] outlasted 98% of his thinner contemporaries, plus an awful lot of the "fit" starters much his junior. He won 15 game at age 41 last year ... How can you question his conditioning? Obviously, however he looks, what he's been doing has worked ... when he says he knows his body, the record says he's right."
First, I admit that my post-game comments were more pejorative than informative. But Wells is overweight -- and I believe that his refusal to lose any excess pounds (and general casual attitude towards training) has impacted his performance for the Red Sox.

Knowing his own body? Perhaps. But I also recall Wells joking with the media during the 2003 World Series about how he rarely worked out -- then the next night, he had to leave Game 5 after only one inning with a bad back, possibly costing the Yankees a shot at beating the Marlins.

By contrast, a player's skin colour or place of birth does not affect his game for better or worse. None of us (I hope) say "Player X pitched poorly because he's black" or "Hitter Y is worthless because he was born in Country Z". However, most fans do make wisecracks about players' physical imperfections, things they cannot change about themselves. Maybe it's frustration at slow runners like Millar or Mirabelli, noodle arms like Damon, unattractive players or players with various personality quirks. Yelling at Wells through the TV screen to "have another jelly doughnut" is right in line with that.

It is impressive that Wells has pitched for so long -- at any weight -- and his body size may have aided him through the years in some way. We can both name other successful heavy pitchers. But I also think Wells took a very lazy approach to getting into shape this spring. He meandered through camp (after knee surgery), called his manager an idiot for not naming him the #2 starter, got battered in AAA, and threw several innings of BP in Fenway. Simply, I don't think he's ready for the big leagues this year.

And so I got pissed -- both at Wells and at the front office for giving him an undeserved start -- and made a crack about his weight as short hand for my annoyance. It wasn't very analytical, but I don't think it was on par with a racial or ethnic slur, either.

And while Wells was credited with 15 wins last year, he also led the AL in run support. The fact is Wells was a below average pitcher in 2005 -- his ERA+ was 99, his worst season since 1996.

A clarification on Teflon Trot: All I wanted to say was that I knew Wily Mo Pena's fumble would get a lot of attention, but that Nixon's attempted catch earlier in the game was a much dumber play. And I knew no one in the press would make a big deal about it. That's all. Pena at least got his glove on the ball, while Nixon gave away an extra base and took his bat out of the team's lineup for about a week because of a completely pointless dive.

My point wasn't that this discrepancy in reporting was race-related, but that Nixon simply seems impervious to media criticism. Plenty of white guys get hammered by the Boston press also, but Trot just skates on by. ... I note that Pena is taking extra fielding practice in right field.

Front Office Smarts

Isn't it great to follow a baseball team whose front office doesn't make you want to bang your head against a wall every other day?

The Epstein Era is unique in Red Sox history -- not only for the 2004 World Series championship -- but for a remarkable string of decisions that are intelligent, are not made in haste or panic, and address both the present as well as the future of the team.

In that regard, the Coco Crisp extension -- 3 years/$15.5 million -- has the potential to be a real steal. Crisp will be paid $2.75 this year, $3.5 in 2007, $4.75 in 2008 and $5.75 in 2009. The Red Sox have an $8 option for 2010, with a $500,000 buyout. It may not end up being an Ortizian bargain, but it could work out extremely well for the Sox.

Even though Crisp signed a one-year deal in January, both he and the Red Sox were discussing a long-term contract right away. They had completed talks just before Opening Day, but wanted to break the news after announcing the Ortiz extension on Monday.

Theo: "We've made a concerted effort to reach agreement with players who we feel are on the upswing." ... Coco: "When I grew up, I always wanted to play for the Red Sox." (Really? Not sure if I've heard that before.)

To make room for Wells on the roster, David Riske was put on the 15-day DL (lower back strain). ... Julian Tavarez is eligible to pitch as of tonight. Francona: "He's a nice bridge at times. He can get righties out. ... He brings a lot of positives. If we can just keep him from slugging guys."

April 12, 2006

G8: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 4

Blue Jays - 320 020 010 - 8 16 1
Red Sox - 000 211 000 - 4 6 0
Tubby McFatty made another rehab start last night. Unfortunately it was at Fenway Park, where the Blue Jays slapped his flat pitches around for five runs in the first two innings -- and the subsequent loss counted in the AL East standings.

And this tub of goo bitched to Tito about not being given the #2 starter spot? Bah.

Dustan Mohr and Wily Mo Pena hit home runs -- as did Ortizzle -- but it was not enough.

Crisp Signs Three-Year Extension

Locked up through the end of 2009. Sweet.

Teflon Trot

Wily Mo Pena's play on F-Cat's home run is getting a bunch of ink today -- Welcome to Fenway, WMP! -- but Trot Nixon's worthless bellyflop on Aaron Hill's double in the second inning was a worse play. First, he misread the fly ball, then he didn't just concede a single on the play. While it didn't lead to any runs, it left Mr. Dirty Hat with a mild left groin strain that could keep him out of the lineup for a week.

It amazes me that the Boston media and many fans forget Nixon's bone-headed baserunning and misadventures in the outfield almost as soon as they happen, while certain other Red Sox outfielders (who by the way hit much better and miss fewer games than Nixon does) get raked over the coals for stuff they did (or didn't do) years ago.

Trot can fall asleep at second base, dive for balls 25 feet in front of him, and hand baseballs to kids in the stands when there are only two outs, but as long as his shirt is dirty or he has some stubble or eye black, well, then, he's a gritty, grimy, gamer who gives his all. Is it against the law in Boston to criticize Nixon?

And what's with Josh Beckett yelling at Shea Hillenbrand for starting to head to first base on what he thought was ball 4 in the first inning? The 3-1 pitch was on the outside corner and the umpire was in no hurry to actually make a call. Oh, and Beckett had walked three of the last four Jays. 99.9% of all big leaguers are going to move towards first. ... I'm thrilled with having Beckett on the staff, but this stupid outburst, coming so soon after his encounter with Ryan Howard, seems to mark Beckett as a bit of a tool. Ah, well, he'll be fine. He's white.

Both Wily Mo Pena and Dustan Mohr will start tonight against lefty Gustavo Chacin. ... Rachel Ray looks into Big Papi's fridge.

April 11, 2006

G7: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Blue Jays - 100 000 020 - 3  5 0
Red Sox - 040 000 10x - 5 10 0
Josh Beckett had another shaky beginning (three walks and 36 pitches in the first, though he was getting squeezed here and there), but he settled down, kept his pitch count low and again went deep into the game: 7-3-1-4-2. His pitches: 36-15-12 14-13-5 10 = 105.

Boston batted around and scored four times off Josh Towers in the second, with Adam Stern doubling home two of the runs (he then stole third). David Ortiz crushed a 3-0 pitch for a solo shot in the 8th; he now has as many HR this season as Bronson Arroyo (who also hit his 2nd today).

Mike Lowell went 4-for-4, with three doubles, Kevin Youkilis had two hits and an RBI at the leadoff spot, and Jon Papelbon was again lights out in the 9th.

Keith Foulke pitched the 8th and gave up a two-run home run to Frank Catalanotto. Wily Mo Pena, who took over in right for Trot Nixon (mild groin strain), had a bead on it, but the ball hit off his glove when he banged into the low bullpen wall and went over the fence. It was certainly catchable -- but Foulke's pitch was a batting practice fastball. Pena ended up catching three more flies in the next 1.2 innings and got a nice hand for all of them.

The Yankees battled back to beat the mighty Royals in their home opener, 9-7. As I type, the Red Sox are 6-1 and the other four AL East teams are 3-4.

*****

1:15 PM -- Happy Birthdays to Jason Varitek (34) and Trot Nixon (32)! ... A few other big leaguers born on April 11: Mark Teixeira, Kelvim Escobar, Bret Saberhagen and Ossee Schreckengost.

Opening Ceremonies webcast on CBS4 (or some clips, anyway).

Slight edit to the Sox lineup -- Youkilis goes to the top, Stern to 8th:
Youkilis 1B    Adams SS
Loretta 2B Catalanotto LF
Ortiz DH Wells CF
Ramirez LF Glaus 3B
Nixon RF Overbay 1B
Varitek C Hillenbrand DH
Lowell 3B Molina C
Stern CF Hinske RF
Gonzalez SS Hill 2B
Also, Crisp was put on the 15-day DL (retroactive to April 9) and Dustan Mohr (#18) was called up from Pawtucket.


10:00 AM -- David Ortiz's contract extension calls for an annual salary of $12.5 million from 2007 to 2010 (plus a $2-million signing bonus). There is no buyout for the club's $12.5 option for 2011.

Keith Foulke pitched a quick and perfect eigthth inning on Sunday in Baltimore, striking out Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson and getting David Newhan to pop out to first base. ... Foulke: "My velocity's back up in the high 80's but more importantly, it's getting in on hitters pretty quick and that's what I need to do. I need to get the ball to the catcher's mitt more by keeping hitters off balance and guessing and making defensive swings." ... Francona: "That's as good as I've seen Foulke throw in a long time. If he throws like that, we're going to have some kind of bullpen."


The Red Sox are set to begin their 95th season at Fenway Park.

Previews: Toronto / Boston.

April 10, 2006

Ortiz Signs Four-Year Extension


He should get quite an ovation tomorrow afternoon. As he said during the press conference: "This is my house."

In speaking about the fans in Boston, Ortiz said:
I keep telling the new guys "Wait until you play your first game at Fenway Park. You might need a diaper. ... You might need a diaper, homey. It's gonna be like that every day." It's outstanding.

Coco Update

Extra Bases quotes Red Sox Medical Director Dr. Thomas Gill:
"Coco has a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left index finger," said Gill. "He will be placed in a splint for 10 days and reevaluated at that time. Once sufficient healing has occurred, Coco can begin batting and return to baseball activities. No surgery is indicated at this time."
There may be more news at the Ortiz 3:00 pm press conference.

Crisp: Minor Injury or Out 8 Weeks?

Although an Ortiz contract extension announcement is apparently right around the corner, the various reports about Coco Crisp's left hand will be the talk of the Nation on the off-day Monday. From the SoSH thread:
6:31 PM
According to Amorosino on WHDH Crisp broke his hand on the left knuckle yesterday. Out about a month.

6:44 PM
There is a quote from Coco on the Redsox.com about how it swelled up after the game but there was no pain and they didn't even x-ray it. The entire article is about how it wasn't a big deal.

8:42 PM
Update from Redsox.com:
"WHDH-TV in Boston reported on Sunday evening that starting center fielder Coco Crisp could miss up to one month as the result of a broken knuckle in his left index finger. Reached by phone on Sunday night, team spokesman John Blake told MLB.com that the club could not confirm the report and that there was no immediate change to the original diagnosis of a jammed finger. Crisp will be examined by the team's medical staff on Monday."

10:10 PM
No mention on Red Sox This Week from Dan Roche or Tony Massarotti, will have to wait for the 11 pm news or Sports Extra/Sports Final.

11:07 PM
Perlow said on Sportsdesk that Crisp should be in the lineup Tuesday. Said injury was "jammed finger".

11:08 PM
WHDH still says it's broken knuckle in his left index finger. Out up to four weeks. Will have testing done tomorrow by the medical staff.

11:27 PM
WCVB reports that Crisp likely won't be in the lineup until May.

11:31 PM
Michael Silverman (Herald) is on WHDH right now and says he's surprised by the report and that Coco said, "I'll be ready on Tuesday."

12:06 AM
Steve Burton reports that Crisp has a fractured left index finger and could miss six-to-eight weeks.

12:20 AM
Gordon Edes (Globe) reports that an Orioles doctor looked at it and preliminary reports are that it's fractured. Coco said earlier that if it was October, he'd be playing.
A story in this morning's Herald reports "up to four weeks".

Stay tuned.

April 9, 2006

G6: Red Sox 4, Orioles 1

Red Sox - 000 022 000 - 4 9 2
Orioles - 100 000 000 - 1 7 1
Three subs provided much of the offense -- CF Adam Stern (2 hits, 2 RBI), 1B JT Snow (2 hits, 1 run), and C Josh Bard (1 hit, 2 runs and 0 PB) -- but again, it was the pitching that was the highlight.
IP H R ER W K PIT
Wakefield 6 5 1 0 2 4 93
Timlin 1 1 0 0 1 1 14
Foulke 1 0 0 0 0 2 12
Papelbon 1 1 0 0 0 0 16
Stern got the start in center and at the top of the order because Coco Crisp injured his left index finger (nothing serious) when he tried to steal third base on Saturday.

Next game for the 5-1 Red Sox -- Tuesday afternoon at glorious Fenway Park.



Previews: Boston / Baltimore.

April 8, 2006

G5: Red Sox 2, Orioles 1

Red Sox - 000 101 000 - 2 7 0
Orioles - 000 001 000 - 1 4 0
The Sox improved to 4-1 with their second victory of the season by a 2-1 score. Jason Varitek doubled and scored the first run in the fourth, then drove in the second with another double in the sixth. Manny Ramirez had two hits and the Red Sox drew six more walks, but the pitching was the story.
          IP  H  R BB  K  BF PIT  ERA
Schilling 7 3 1 2 4 26 114 1.93
Timlin 1 1 0 0 0 4 19 0.00
Papelbon 1 0 0 0 1 3 13 0.00
Schilling had velocity and command all day. His last pitch was a 96 mph fastball to struck out Jeff Conine with two men on. In the ninth, Papelbon hit 97 while also throwing a nasty slider and splitter.

Ian Browne notes that in 2005, the Red Sox were 3-22 when they scored fewer than three runs. This year, they are already 2-0.


Previews: Boston & Baltimore.

Meanwhile, in New York ...

Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gansta

A few fun facts from last night:

Boston had 14 at-bats with the bases loaded -- 14! -- and four of their runs scored on bases-loaded walks. The Red Sox drew 14 walks, one short of the club record (1939, 1992); that total was four shy of the Orioles' franchise record. Baltimore pitchers threw 107 strikes and 116 balls. (Game stories from the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.)

Keith Foulke worked with pitching coach Al Nipper and made a few tweaks to his delivery. He looked, and said he felt, much better last night than on Opening Day. Foulke continues to insist that he doesn't care if he's the closer -- which, while it might sound like he's simply trying to defuse the situation, is right in line with everything he's said since coming to Boston:
The thing that's great about being a closer is the fact that you get paid a lot more. Besides that, I have never asked to be a closer. I want to be a starter. So if you're asking me what I'd rather do, I'd rather start. But obviously we know that's not going to be possible. ... If we have a serious closer controversy on this team, that means the bullpen is pretty strong. ... I'm not going to play this game until I'm 45 years old. So, yeah, at some point I will be pushed aside. ... I don't know how else to tell you. I don't need to be a closer to play this game.
David Wells says he likes pitching in cold weather, but he didn't do so well in Pawtucket's damp chill last night. What went wrong? "Everything. Physically, I felt great, nothing like that, but just the conditions -- I had no feel for the ball at all. ... You can't throw a curveball or anything else, I just stuck to the changeup and fastball and you saw the results of that ... it's a bad night. No excuses."

Manny Ramirez spent a long time looking at video before the game. After going 1-for-10 in Texas, he was 3-for-4 last night. ... Wily Mo Pena -- who gets a start today -- is getting batting tips from Ortiz and Ramirez. Hard to do better than that.

Finagle A Bagel (which has 20 stores in the Boston area) is now selling the Coco Bagel: a cocoa-flavored bagel with chocolate chips and a coating of rice crisps.

Prior to the game, Kevin Millar wore a black and orange t-shirt with "Gansta [expletive]" on the front and "Cowboy Up" on the back. Apparently, "Gansta" is some strange pronunciation of Ramirez's. ... Speaking of gansta, I went here and typed in my first and last name and got "Cow-Tippin Canadian". No shit!

April 7, 2006

G4: Red Sox 14, Orioles 8

Red Sox - 430 310 030 - 14 16 1
Orioles - 000 000 440 - 8 15 0
This game had no business being this close. ... But we're 3-1 now and in sole possession of first place. As I type this, the Yankees are alone in the cellar.

After a bunt single by Coco Crisp to start the game, Daniel Cabrera walked six of the next eight Boston hitters. He faced 10 batters in the first and threw 42 pitches; the Red Sox scored four times, yet hit three fair balls. ... In the second, Cabrera threw another 18 pitches (double, popup, single, walk) before getting the hook.

With 16 hits and 14 walks and 2 HBP, everyone had a hand: Youkilis reached base five times; Lowell had two hits and a walk; Loretta walked twice, singled and doubled; Nixon homered and drive in four; Manny had three hits and scored three times; Crisp, Loretta and Nixon each scored twice; and Alex Cora came off the bench to stroke a first-pitch, two-run double.

In his first start of the new season, Matt Clement was economical -- at least until the seventh inning. I followed the game online, so I can't say how his stuff was.
              H  R  W  K  PIT
Innings 1-6: 4 0 1 6 69
Inning 7: 5 4 0 1 31
Rudy Seanez pitched the 8th. His first six pitches: ball 1, double, single, foul, single, home run. It's almost impossible to give up four runs any quicker than that. (Thanks for playing, Rudy. Bye-bye.) ... Keith Foulke allowed a one-out single in the 9th, then got a game-ending double play. SoSH reports he looked much better.
Pitches Thrown

Orioles P - 42 33 15 22 31 24 6 31 21 - 223
Red Sox P - 14 11 6 13 13 12 31 32 10 - 142
David Wells's line for Pawtucket: 5-6-7-3-1. He allowed two HR and the Pawsox lost 9-1.



Previews: Boston - Baltimore.

It's All Right Now ...

... in fact, it's a gas!

95 mph fastball gas, that is. Even after the day off, I'm still a bit giddy about watching Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon on Wednesday night.

Against the Rangers, once Beckett stopped shaking off Varitek, he started throwing much, much better. Whether that was the young pitcher agreeing with Varitek's pitch selection or some compromise they worked out on the bench, I don't know. But everything about his game improved as a result.

Beckett turns 26 in May and because of blister problems, he has thrown 107, 142, 156 and 178 innings. If he can overcome the blisters, that lighter workload in his early 20s should work in his favour years from now. ... Beckett will pitch the Fenway home opener on Tuesday afternoon.

And Papelbon took the mound in the bottom of the ninth like he owned the place. He wasted no time in dispatching three Texas hitters with ease. It's not clear when he'll make the move into the rotation, but until then, we should have absolutely no worries about the "closer" spot.

And if/when Keith Foulke returns to his 2004 form, then we'll have one more good arm in the pen. Nothing wrong with that.

Crisp is everything we thought/knew he'd be, Loretta has been impressive at the plate, Lowell's bat looks quick, Gonzalez is showing some serious range at short, Schilling seems strong (more gas (and hot air!)) ... only three games in and I'm very excited about this season.

April 6, 2006

The Right Man For The Job

Terry Francona had it all mapped out before the game. If Josh Beckett pitched seven innings, he'd go with Mike Timlin in the 8th and Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th. He also explained his decision to Keith Foulke. And that's exactly how things turned out.

I fully expected to see Foulke in the 9th. In the SoSH Game Thread, I said I'd eat my shoes if we didn't see Keith. ... Errr, those laces were a little chewy.

Afterwards, everyone said all the right things. Francona noted that with an off-day today,
we didn't want to not use a guy that's throwing as good as anybody ... in a game of consequence. You don't want to waste him. I told Foulkie that was what I was going to do. ... This is by no means an indictment of Foulke. But it's so hard in April to get wins, I don't think Foulke is ready to be the guy we need. I think he'll get there. ... [W]e've got to win and I think we did it right. I can live with myself. Sometimes you just have to do what you think is right.
Foulke:
Francona said "that I could be throwing the ball better ... He's not Keith Foulke's dad. He's not going to do what's best for me. He's going to do what's best for the team. The kid's been throwing the ball great. ... The Sox won. That's always my first concern. ... I tell you guys all the time -- I'm a bullpen guy. I don't wake up in the morning and go to the grocery store and tell everybody I'm a closer. ... I have to prove myself to Terry, the 24 other guys in here, to the front office.
Tony Massarotti, Herald:
Terry Francona is playing for keeps. ... If Foulke is going to close again for the Red Sox, he is going to have to win his job back. Papelbon was a better pitcher last fall and he is a better pitcher now. And the manager of the Red Sox isn't about to start blowing games in April so that he can rebuild the confidence of a man coming off the worst year of his career.
What few writers seem to understand is that this is exactly what the "closer by committee" idea is all about. Assess the situation -- whether it is the 6th inning or the 9th -- and use the best pitcher available for that situation. One night that pitcher might be Papelbon, the next day it might be Foulke ... hell, it might be Rudy Seanez. But that's it.

If Francona decides that the game could be decided in the 7th and he needs to shut down the other team's rally, then he should go with his best arm, and not save that guy for the "closer's" spot in the 9th. A lesser pitcher might have given the game away by then. Last night's pre-game thinking and decision shows me that Francona might be ready to put this plan into effect.

EE Update: Errors from Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano and another crappy bullpen performance helped Oakland beat the Yankees for the second straight night. ... Capt. Intangibles: "Everyone keeps talking about our offense, but that doesn't win games; pitching and defense does." Well, that's going to be a problem. The Yankees defense is poor and their pitching staff is either old, unlikely to repeat their surprising 2005 performances, or just plain bad.

Yesterday, BP's Will Carroll wrote: "There have been whispers from some in Yankee camp that [Carl] Pavano will likely need surgery, almost certainly season-ending and perhaps career-ending." ... Today, however, Carroll downplays the whispers. Still, Pavano "has looked terrible this spring in one new regard -- he appears winded and out of shape, as early as the first inning of his start. Whether this is conditioning or pain that's showing is unclear; what is clear is that the Yankees shouldn't have much expectation of a positive contribution from last year's big signing."

April 5, 2006

G3: Red Sox 2, Rangers 1

Red Sox - 000 000 200 - 2  6  0
Rangers - 100 000 000 - 1 9 0

Josh Beckett had a rough 3+ innings -- six hits, one walk, one wild pitch, 81 pitches through four innings -- but he trailed only 1-0. He pulled it together midway through the fourth, and ended up retiring 12 of his last 13 batters, throwing 6-10-12 pitches in his final three frames.

Kameron "Cy" Loe got almost nothing but groundball outs until Manny Ramirez walked to start the 7th and Trot Nixon followed with a home run to right.

Mike Timlin had a very shaky eighth -- and didn't allow the tying run only because of the supreme idiocy of the Rangers' third base coach. He sent Mark Teixeira from second on a bullet single to left field by Kevin Mench. Teixeira hesitated around the bag -- although the coach was waving him around the entire time -- and he was out easily at the plate, Manny-Lowell-Varitek. Sveumed!

Then, with three outs to go, Terry Francona went with Jonathan Papelbon, not Keith Foulke. In fact, I don't think Foulke ever warmed up. Gutsy move, but it paid off. Pap pitched like a man possessed, working quickly, throwing 93-95 with pinpoint control. He got Texas in order: strikeout, pop to short, strikeout. Very, very impressive.

Fact: Foulke is in no way our best option in the 9th -- Papelbon is. Big tip of the cap to Tito for (not only realizing that in his own mind, but) putting it into effect immediately. Foulke is still part of the pen, but perhaps he's a 6th-7th-8th inning guy instead. We shall see.

6:15 PM: Mike Timlin -- the only player not to have seen action in the first two games -- should pitch tonight. Lineups.

3:00 PM: In his first at-bat this afternoon, Bronson Arroyo hit his first career home run, a solo shot on an 0-2 pitch, and got credit for the win as the Reds beat the Cubs 8-6. His line: 6.2-6-5-3-0-7.



Previews: Red Sox and Rangers. 8:00 PM.

"Career Numbers" And Early Panic

The morning papers are annoying me.

The Red Sox have scored 11 runs and smacked 22 hits in two games, but Tony Massarotti is already worrying about an allegedly weak offense. Because the Red Sox featured Alex Cora, Kevin Youkilis and Josh Bard in the 7-8-9 spots, Mazz believes "the lineup looks a little thin." Oh, come on. Cora and Bard are bench players. This is not the regular starting lineup.

Some facts:
     Runs 2G  W/L  End of Season
2003 13* 1-1 Led MLB in runs
2004 6 1-1 Led MLB in runs
2005 5 0-2 Led MLB in runs
2006 11 1-1


(* - G2 went 16 innings)
Is the "hold" the most useless stat in baseball? Perhaps. My vote goes to "career numbers" against a team, batting or pitching (or fielding, for that matter). After his short stint last night, we learned that Tim Wakefield is 7-13, 6.29 against the Rangers. Does the media just spew this stuff out without thinking? Is it in the paper to help the writer reach word length?

Wakefield has been pitching in the American League since 1995. What do the Rangers he faced on July 14, 1995 -- Will Clark, Jeff Frye, Mike Pagliarulo, Mickey Tettleton -- have in common with last night's lineup (Ian Kinsler had just turned 13 when Wake first faced the Rangers)? Nothing. The team doesn't even play in the same stadium anymore. ... It's no more insightful than reporting how a pitcher does on Thursdays.

And what would an annoying morning be without the CHB?:
The Red Sox are not going to go 162-0, and Boston's sports-talk jocks have new cause to fret. ... [O]ne can only wonder whether [Wakefield] feels abandoned by Theo and all the minions who decided it would not matter who they got to catch knuckleballs in the absence of Doug Mirabelli. ... Might be time to panic. First Foulkie. Now Bard. And the Sox are one out in the loss column. How soon before somebody says they're playing for the wild card?
The scary thing is that based on his past writings, he's more than a little serious. How soon? Probably your next column, Dan.

Notes: JT Snow gets a start tonight at first and Wily Mo Pena will likely play against Baltimore left Bruce Chen this weekend. ... Manny Ramirez struck out three times last night -- he needs to stop trying to pull outside fastballs -- for only the 53rd time in 1,689 games. ... Wakefield is the 12th player in Red Sox history to play 12 seasons and only the third pitcher (Roger Clemens, 1984-96 and Bob Stanley, 1977-89).

Gordon Edes chats about the Ortiz Extension Talks:
[Y]esterday was the first indication I'd gotten all spring that negotiations might not be going as smoothly as we might have all assumed. David seemed disappointed to me that a deal didn't get done this spring ... We're operating a little in the dark here. We don't know what Papi is seeking, nor what the Red Sox are willing to pay.
Ex-Sox: Bronson Arroyo makes his Reds debut this afternoon against the Cubs. ... Depositions from Derek Lowe's divorce case were made public. As reported by LA Observed:
Trinka Lowe alleged in her deposition that the pitcher's agent, Scott Boras, suggested an "intervention" to deal with the player's drinking and told her the Red Sox did not re-sign Lowe after the 2004 season because of his alcohol problem. ... [T]he alcohol issue got so bad when Boston was in the playoffs in 2004 that bullpen catcher Dana Lavangie phoned [Trinka] at home in Fort Meyers, Florida "and told me that I needed to come up to Boston because Derek was falling apart....He was depressed. They had taken him out of the starting rotation."
Amusing news from New York: On Opening Day, new Mets closer Billy Wagner jogged in from the bullpen with Metallica's "Enter Sandman" playing over the Shea Stadium loudspeakers. Wagner has been using the song as his entrance music since 1999, but it's obviously identified with Mariano Rivera. The Yankees also started playing the song in 1999, although Rivera had never heard it before. Rivera laughed at the controversy: "I don't mind it at all. If the guy feels comfortable using the song, let him be."

Over at mlb.com, beatwriters for both the Red Sox (Ian Browne, Brownie Points) and Yankees (Mark Feinsand, (Mark It Down) have started blogs. Browne has a great story about Ortiz, wine, adult entertainment and Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.