Category: News (page 9 of 9)

Joshua Patrick Beckett – “The Prick”

The Prick

Let me start off by letting you know it would be hard to find a bigger fan of
Joshua Patrick Beckett than myself, to the point where I have wondered if asking my girlfriend to toss in a dip and wear like fifteen Phiten necklaces would be out of line. It began with his domination of the Yankees in the 2003 World Series at the ripe age of 23 and only grew during his early Sox career while anchoring the Red Sox to their second World Championship in four years during 2007. His love for smokeless tobacco, the cocky attitude which often irritated the opposition (leading my dad to nickname him “The Prick”), and hilarious post game interviews were the perfect
recipe for a Boston athlete man crush.

After struggling towards the end of 2009 season and his disgusting showing
fresh off a 4 year $68 million dollar contract extension during an injury plagued 2010, Beckett had even his biggest fan wondering if the best years were behind him. Just like any tumultuous relationship I had to give him one more chance. When it’s good its really good, and that is exactly what Beckett was on April 10th against the Yankees and their ace C.C. (don’t call me Captain Crunch) Sabathia. The new look (and very expensive) Red Sox were 1-7 and on a national stage Joshua Patrick dominated the rivals in Beckett like fashion tossing 8 strong 2 hit innings while fanning 10 and only issuing 1 walk.

Excluding his first start at Cleveland, Beckett is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA (with a
career best 19 1/3 scoreless innings streak during that stretch to go along with
couple wins coughed up by the bullpen) early in his 2011 campaign. Beckett is no longer the 23 year old flame flower who could dominate hitters with an upper 90’s fastball, his early success has been the result of being healthy and developing four plus pitches he can throw in any count. His effective use of the change-up and cut fastball (a pitch that created a lot of problems for Beckett last year) are the most notable changes to his arsenal.

Combining the 31 year old Texan’s change of approach on the mound (a
must if he wanted to be successful in the later years of his career) with his cocky demeanor and leadership qualities gives me reason to believe “The Prick” is back. Beckett has restored my faith and I could not be more excited to watch him take the bump every fifth day and continue to be the Ace of a staff many consider to be the best in the American League. If Beckett’s success continues (and I think it will) I am confident he will take these Red Sox deep into October (maybe even picking up some hardware that begins with “Cy”) and most certainly lead to a pretty awkward conversation between the Boss Lady and myself.

Who Are You More Excited About Heating Up?

Look I don’t want to jinx things, but I know I am excited to see Salty show some power (4 HR’s in the last week). Then today out of no where we see Carl Crawford become the Crawford of old (6-for-11 w/ 2 HR, 6 R and 3 RBI against the Indians). Now the questions is who are we more excited to see heating up?

Now the easy answer is obviously Crawford because of the investment, but I think we have to look past that. His numbers were going to come and he was going to be a key contributor one way or another.

The glaring weakness on the Red Sox this season (offensively and defensively) has been the Catcher. Both Salty and Tek have been brutal, which might be an understatement. (Two weeks ago combined BA .187 0-HR 11-RBI’s) Salty is now batting an impressive (relatively speaking) .240  with 4 HR’s and 15 RBI’s. He has shown a lot more confidence at the plate and is starting to show the power that scouts were drooling over when he was drafted 36th overall by the Braves.

I knew Crawford would be a huge contributor one way or another, be it with his defense or wreaking havoc on the base path (which he better start doing soon). I was unsure of Salty and I am most excited about him starting to swing the bat with some confidence.

Who Are You More Excited About Heating Up? Leave your choice in the comment section.

Lackey Feels Good After Throwing

CLEVELAND — John Lackey threw 40 fastballs without discomfort in the Red Sox bullpen on Tuesday.

The right-hander, sidelined since May 12 with a strained right elbow, said he was encouraged and eager to give it another test soon.

“I felt pretty good and it was a step in the right direction,” Lackey said. “I was happy with how I was finishing. I was able to let it go.”

Lackey admitted he had pain in the elbow for “a little longer” than his last two starts, when he was touched for 17 earned runs in only 10 2/3 innings in losses to the Angels (11-0 on May 5) and Blue Jays (9-3 on May 11).

“It hurt when I fully extended — but not today,” Lackey reported. Asked if he’s experienced anything like this injury in his career, he said, “I’m in my 10th year, so I’ve had a little of everything.”

Manager Terry Francona said that pitching coach Curt Young was encouraged by Lackey’s session.

“Curt said the ball was coming out of his hand real nice and easy,” Francona said.

Lackey said he will try to throw all his pitches in his next session and is eager to get out on a minor-league rehab assignment and then back into Boston’s rotation.

The Red Sox have him penciled in to start on June 5 at home against Oakland.

“I definitely need to face some hitters,” he said. “Next time, I want to throw everything, sit down, then get back up again to simulate a game — then go out somewhere” on rehab assignment.

Lackey said a cortisone shot stopped the swelling in his elbow, and that he went three or four days without even playing catch.

“I only had one shot, but they stuck me in a couple different places,” he said.

Planning ahead: Francona said he was tempted to move Carl Crawford into Pedroia’s No. 2 spot in the batting order behind leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury, but thought better of it.

Francona said he didn’t want three lefties in a row in the lineup, even though Cleveland was starting right-hander Fausto Carmona. Francona was more concerned about facing the Indians’ bullpen, where setup man Tony Sipp is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA.

“Sipp has been getting out every lefty in the world,” Francona said. ” I didn’t want to invite that.”

Left-handed batters are 1-for-25 (.040) against Sipp this year.

Francona also said he would try to avoid using right-hander Daniel Bard, who worked the previous two games and was the loser Monday night.

“I’ll stay away from Bard, even though he said he feels good,” Francona said. “But we won’t use him.

“He’s so good, so durable, but he has such a career ahead of him and we want to watch it with him. It isn’t about innings only with him. Some of his are high-level innings and when he goes over an inning, those are the ones you have to look at.”

Okajima gives OK: Left-hander Hideki Okajima has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket. The left-hander was designated for assignment on May 19 to clear roster space when lefty Franklin Morales was acquired from the Colorado Rockies.

Okajima went 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in seven relief outings for the Red Sox this year. He burst upon the big-league scene as a 31-year-old rookie in 2007, going 3-2 with five saves and a 2.22 ERA and making the AL All-Star team. In 261 games, all in relief, he has a 17-8 record and 3.11 ERA for Boston.

Late payoff: The Indians are just now reaping the rewards of trading Victor Martinez to the Red Sox in July 2009 for right-handers Justin Masterson and Bryan Price along with lefty Nick Hagadone.

Masterson is a valuable member of Cleveland’s rotation, going 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 10 starts.

Hagadone, 25, has been converted to relief. In 14 outings combined at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, he is 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA. He could be a valuable addition to the Indians’ bullpen if Cleveland continues its breakneck pace atop the AL Central and needs relief help down the stretch.

Price, 24, was moved to the bullpen a year ago in the minors and is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA at Akron.

Pedroia Feeling Better After Injury

CLEVELAND — Dustin Pedroia got to Progressive Field ahead of most of his teammates on Tuesday, even though he knew he would not be in Terry Francona’s starting lineup.

Even before he tweaked his left leg and left Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in the eighth inning, Pedroia was told by Boston’s manager that he would be getting a well-deserved night off.

“He showed up pretty early, came to the park to get some treatment on it,” Francona said. “He’s just a little sore. I think he’s a little relieved, too, as we all are.”

Pedroia jammed his left foot while rounding second base, felt a sharp pain in his leg and left the game. Afterward, he said he wasn’t concerned that he had done any damage to his foot, which had a screw inserted during surgery last September. He said the problem Monday was a nerve that gave him a stinger similar to what football players encounter.

Pedroia was limited to 75 games a year ago after fracturing a bone in the foot in June. He played in 46 of Boston’s first 47 games this year, and while he’s been struggling at the plate of late, he’s been stalwart as usual in the field.

The sure-handed second baseman wasn’t out of Monday night’s game for five minutes before his defensive presence was missed. Pedroia’s replacement, Drew Sutton, could not quite reach a ball hit to his left by Cleveland’s Jack Hannahan that went for a single. The hit sparked the Indians’ winning two-run rally.

“Nothing against Sutton, but [Pedroia] gets that ball,” Francona said.

Francona marveled at Pedroia’s work ethic even when not in the lineup. He noted that the veteran has been diligent about taking care of himself all season in an effort to stay strong.

“He’s like a champ,” he said. “It’s what he does. He’s not a big training room guy, but he’s been in there every day, doing what he needs to do to get ready.”

Red Sox Fall to Indians 3-2

CLEVELAND — The Red Sox’ pregame worries were in the wrong place. Their post-game concerns may be more significant after losing Dustin Pedroia.

Concerned with mustering some offense against former Boston right-hander Justin Masterson, they should have focused on hot-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera homered and had three hits, including a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth off Daniel Bard (1-4) that gave the Cleveland Indians a 3-2 win Monday night.

The Red Sox hope they haven’t lost second baseman Pedroia as well. He walked off with an apparent leg injury in the top of the eighth. He appeared to jam or twist his left foot — the one that was injured last season — while rounding second base. Pedroia decided not to test strong-armed Cleveland right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and go from first to third on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. He put on the brakes while rounding second as Choo fired behind him and then went down after getting back to the bag safely. He walked to the dugout and was replaced by Drew Sutton.

Just when it appeared Carl Crawford may start contributing in a big way, he bounced into a game-ending double play with runners on first and third. It kept Boston from tying the score and possibly rallying for a win that could have put them in first place in the AL East.

Crawford hit his first homer since April 24 and also singled and scored, but the Red Sox are now 0-4 in Cleveland this season. A three-game sweep at Progressive Field five weeks ago left them with an 0-6 record — and did a great deal toward supplying the Indians with the confidence to go on a long run. The Indians have baseball’s best record at 30-15, including 19-4 at home.

Manager Terry Francona loaded his lineup with five lefties and two switch-hitters against Masterson. The ploy worked — sort of — as Crawford got two of the group’s four hits in 21 at-bats against him.

Entering the game, Masterson had held right-handed batters to a .141 average, lowest in the majors, but lefties had hit .326 against him.

As preoccupied as the Red Sox were with trying to muster some offense against Masterson, they were confident that Clay Buchholz could earn his fourth straight win and fifth in six decisions since April 20.

Buchholz had thrown a season-high 127 pitches in a seven-inning no-decision against Detroit last Wednesday, but Francona said he thought the right-hander would still give the Red Sox a strong start.

“He won’t do that again,” Francona said before the game of the high pitch count. “But he bounces back very well. We’ll keep on eye on his workload.”

Despite making first-pitch strikes to only 13 of the first 26 batters he faced, Buchholz gave up only four hits — two of them to Cabrera. The right-hander made 94 pitches and gave up two runs and four hits over 7 1-3 innings.

Each starter had fully warmed up when showers hit Progressive Field five minutes before the scheduled first pitch. After a 61-minute delay, both had to do it all over again. Neither seemed to be affected.

Cabrera, the hottest hitter in the AL not named Adrian Gonzalez, hit a 408-foot homer leading off the fourth to tie the score at 1. It was the seventh consecutive hit for the switch-hitting shortstop, who went 5-for-5 with 5 RBIs Sunday in a 12-4 win over Cincinnati, and singled his first time up against Buchholz.

Pedroia put the Red Sox ahead 1-0 in the third with a hit-and-run single.

Crawford got Boston’s first hit when he beat out a grounder into the hole at shortstop for a one-out single. One out later, Masterson hit Jacoby Ellsbury with a pitch. Francona put both speedsters in motion and Pedroia showed great bat control by poking a pitch between first and second. Crawford scored easily, Ellsbury went to third, but Masterson limited the damage by getting Gonzalez to ground meekly to first.

Crawford opened the fifth with his second homer, a shot into the right-field seats on a 1-1 pitch to put Boston ahead 2-1. It gave Boston’s big offseason free-agent signing two runs in a game for the first time this year. He scored 80 or more in seven of his eight full seasons in Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox caught a huge break in the fifth when Jack Hannahan walked on four pitches and stole second _ but was called out for oversliding the bag and being tagged out by shortstop Jed Lowrie. Austin Kearns banged the next pitch off the right-field wall for a double that would have easily scored Hannahan.

Lowrie was unlucky in the seventh when his sharp grounder up the middle was snagged by second baseman Orlando Cabrera with a diving backhanded effort. Cabrera threw while laying on the outfield grass and his one-hop throw was in time for the out. Cabrera then made a nice play on a line drive off the bat of Crawford to end the inning.

Masterson, traded to Cleveland in the deal that sent Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, gave up four hits and two runs over 7 2-3 innings. He walked two, hit Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis with pitches, and struck out three.

Joe Smith (2-1) retired the only batter he faced to end the eighth and get the win. Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 14 tries.

Dice-K Will Seek Second Opinion

After being diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor in his pitching elbow, Boston Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka has decided to get another opinion.

Manager Terry Francona confirmed after Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians that Matsuzaka is in Japan rather than with the team in Cleveland, and that the pitcher has plans to meet with Angels physician Dr. Lewis Yocum.

“He has an appointment scheduled with Dr. Yocum coming up,” Francona said in Cleveland. “Diasuke has been really good about all this.”

The type of injury Matsuzaka has could result in Tommy John surgery if his rehab fails, but Francona said that is not in the cards yet.

“[He is in Japan for] a personal matter … He had permission from us to go back home,” Francona said. “He is not going to have surgery. We made that decision for him to go home a while back.”

In each of the past two seasons, Matsuzaka had landed on the DL twice. Last year, he made only 25 starts because of neck strain and a strained right forearm.

In 2009, he made just 12 starts and pitched only 59 1/3 innings. He was sidelined with a strained shoulder early in the season and again with the same injury that June.

In 2008, Matsuzaka set a career-high with 18 wins despite missing some time with a strained rotator cuff.

Matsuzaka, for whom Boston paid $103 million ($51 million posting fee, plus $52 million contract) to acquire from Japan before the 2007 season, is in the fifth year of a six-year contract.

Information from contributor Chuck Murr and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Wakefield Leads Sox Past Cubs 5-1

BOSTON — This was not Tim Wakefield’s first rodeo, of course.

The knuckleballer has been a member of the Red Sox’s pitching staff forever, or at least it seems that way. The truth is Wakefield has been wearing a Boston uniform for more than 17 years.

Wakefield has been a starter for the Sox. He has been a long reliever. He has even been a closer. And he has bounced back and forth between roles.

Now, at the age of 44 (he turns 45 on Aug. 2), Wakefield is the oldest active player in the majors. When John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka went down with injuries, manager Terry Francona knew where to look for a replacement starter for Sunday night’s game against the Cubs at Fenway Park.

He gave the ball to Wakefield, who boasted 193 career wins, tops among active big leaguers. Wakefield has notched 179 wins for Boston, the third-highest total on the team’s all-time list.

And Wakefield responded with a superlative, efficient outing. In his third spot start of the season, Wakefield blanked the Cubs on two hits over the first six innings before being nicked for a run on a pair of doubles in the seventh.

He wound up going 6 2/3 innings, throwing only 75 pitches. He fanned three and did not walk a batter, going to three balls on only one hitter. Wakefield left to a huge ovation with a 3-1 lead.

Wakefield wound up with his first win of the season, the 194th of his career and 180th for the Sox, and Boston took the rubber game of the series 5-1, finishing the homestand with a 5-1 mark.

So this is why: On Saturday night, with the game in the balance, Francona elected not to use Daniel Bard, his flame-throwing setup man, to protect a 3-1 advantage in the eighth inning. Francona thought Bard need a second straight night off, and despite the game’s circumstances, he stuck with that decision.

Francona instead called on Matt Albers, who had a tough night, leading to an eight-run uprising by the Cubs and a 9-3 Chicago win.

On Sunday night, with the game again in the balance and Boston again leading, 3-1, Francona called in Bard with a runner at second and two outs in the seventh.

Bard came in throwing bullets. He whiffed Alfonso Soriano, sizzling a 98-mile-an-hour fastball past Soriano’s late swing.

In the eighth, with Boston on top 5-1, Bard made Kosuke Fukudome look sick on an 84-mile-an-hour slider for an inning-ending strikeout.

Sweet stroke: Adrian Gonzalez is such a pleasure to watch hit, the consummate professional hitter.

His first two at-bats Sunday night offered more evidence of that.

In his first trip to the plate, facing left-hander James Russell, Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, fell behind in the count at 0-and-2. But there was no panic in his approach. It was almost as if Gonzalez was in charge of the at-bat, even with the count 0-and-2.

Gonzalez calmly dropped the bat head on Russell’s next pitch, which was on the outer half of the plate, and dunked a single into shallow left. He didn’t hit the ball hard, but Gonzalez put the ball in play and found a hole.

His second at-bat was almost a carbon copy of the first. Again he fell behind 0-and-2. But once again, Gonzalez calmly went with an outside pitch, this time lacing a single between third and short for a leadoff single in the fourth that sparked a two-run flurry that gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

Gonzalez has had at least two hits in eight of his last 13 games, giving him a league-leading 20 multiple-hit games.

He added on to his batting average by crushing a double off the wall in left-center off right-hander Justin Berg and dribbling a single up the middle in the seventh. Gonzalez’s 4-for-4 night vaulted his average from .328 to .342.

“I’m swinging at pitches I want to swing at,” Gonzalez said matter-of-factly after his second four-hit game of the season. “I don’t chase too many pitches out of the zone. I’m just trying to execute my game plan. You have the same thought process all the time. It’s just about execution.”

“He’s such a professional hitter,” Francona said. “He hits the ball to left field, fights off pitches. He’s a really good hitter in a really good period. I hope it lasts a long time.”

Catching fire: Francona’s roster manipulation of his catchers is paying off at the plate for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek.

Up until a few weeks ago, each catcher was saddled with a batting average well south of the Mendoza Line. Lately, though, their offense has picked up.

Sunday night, Saltalamacchia clubbed his third homer in his last four games, which is saying something because his first one, coming against the Yankees last Sunday, snapped a 121-at-bat homerless streak that had stretched back to Aug. 2, 2009.

Sunday’s fifth-inning blast over the Green Monster stretched Saltalamacchia’s hitting streak to five games, (.389, 7-for-18), boosting his overall average to .237.

“It’s nice to get a pitch you want to hit hard and be able to do it,” Saltalamacchia said.

“He looks more confident,” Francona said. “And he should be because he’s playing better.”

Varitek, meanwhile, has a four-game hitting streak (.357, 5-for-14) that has lifted his average to .197. And while that doesn’t seem like much, before the streak he was batting .154.

Evened up? On Saturday night, Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves drilled Fukudome with a pitch leading off the game. He also beaned Marlon Byrd in the face in the second inning, sending Byrd to the hospital with facial fractures.

In the fifth, the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano seemingly retaliated, hitting Kevin Youkilis in the rear end, prompting the plate umpire, Alfonso Marquez, to issue warnings to each bench. That led Chicago manager Mike Quade to hold up his fingers and say “2 to 1,” for those able to read lips. That meant two Cubs hit, one Red Sox.

On Sunday night the score was evened up.

Kerry Wood jackknifed Jed Lowrie away from the plate with an eighth-inning fastball that just missed Lowrie’s right thigh. Wood’s next pitch drilled Lowrie in the rear end, prompting plate umpire Ed Hickox to issue warnings to both benches.

“I don’t know, after you missed once,” Youkilis said with a shrug, intimating that a second attempt didn’t seem to be necessary.,

“I guess they felt like they needed another one,” Youkilis added. “I know the other day they were saying it was 2-1. I guess now we’re even until we play them again in another 100 years.”

The visit to Fenway by Chicago this past weekend was the Cubs’ first appearance in Boston since the 1918 World Series, which Boston won in six games.

Seen him before: The Red Sox will be hitting against a familiar face when they open a seven-game road trip in Cleveland on Monday night.

Justin Masterson, a top prospect who pitched for the Red Sox in 2008 and 2009 before being traded to Cleveland as part of the deal that brought Victor Martinez to Boston, will be starting for the Indians. Masterson has begun fulfilling the promise he showed in the Sox organization. He is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA for the Indians, who surprisingly boast the best record in the American League.

Clay Buchholz (4-3, 3.42) who was in the Boston farm system with Masterson, will start for the Sox.

Sox, Cubs Show Off Throwbacks

BOSTON — The ceremonial pitches at Fenway Park on Saturday were thrown out by Dr. Louis Zamperini, a 1936 United States Olympian, and Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s daughter, in keeping with the nostalgic theme of the Boston Red SoxChicago Cubs weekend, with the teams meeting in Boston for the first time since the 1918 World Series.

The teams wore throwback uniforms, the types worn in 1918. The Sox’s uniform was all white with nothing on the front of the jerseys. Numbers were on the back. Numbers were not on the uniforms backs in 1918, so this was a bow to the present identification of the players.

Boston’s hats were all white, again with no team insignia.

Each member of the Sox will sign his uniform, which will be auctioned to benefit the Red Sox Foundation.

While David Ortiz wasn’t a fan of the throwbacks (“I don’t like it,” he said. “I’m not used to those, but it’s OK, I guess.”), others enjoyed the change.

“I thought it was a cool look,” Jed Lowrie said. “For all the things we do during the year [with uniforms], I think this was a pretty good one.”

The Cubs’ uniforms were gray with blue lettering and numbers. The “C” on the jersey was rectangular in shape with the rest of the team’s name — “ubs” — in block letters.

“I always like the throwback uniforms,” Carl Crawford said. “I like the baggy pants and the old-school look. You can see – I’m taking my hat home.”

Also, in homage to the 1918 Series, the video message boards are to be dark during the third inning. No music is going to be played as the batters walk to the plate, and two people each with a megaphone will be stationed in the walkway between the Field Box and the Loge Box seats, announcing the hitters in the inning.

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