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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Spring Training: Day 6 

Lots of Sox nuggets from the past couple of days. Firstly, Terry Francona has made it clear that Trot Nixon will be placed in the heart of the batting order.

"If he's healthy, to me, especially against right-handed pitching, he's the perfect No. 5 hitter in our batting order, because you can't throw it past him," said Francona. "You got David [Ortiz] and Manny [Ramirez] in front of him. He's a big guy in the batting order and he knows it."

One would assume that Jason Varitek and his .997 OPS vs. southpaws over the past three seasons will be the No. 5 hitter versus lefties.

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Despite reports that Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa will skip the World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic has included both on the preliminary 37-man roster and expects them to both be present for the start of the tournament. "We have not talked with Manny or Sammy, but we are confident they will be with us," Dominican general manager Stan Javier said. There have been reports that both players will skip the tourney.

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There still is no clear favorite in the race to become Tim Wakefield's personal catcher. Josh Bard has absolutely no experience catching the knuckleball. As soon as he was traded to Boston, he had an oversized catcher's mitt overnighted to him. John Flaherty caught Dennis Springer's knuckleball in several games when they were teammates on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Ken Huckaby caught both Springer and Tom Candiotti in Spring Training bullpen sessions when he was in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system.

The selection of a new catcher will be difficult for both Francona and Wakefield. "It will be a huge challenge," Francona said. As for Wakefield, "It's going to be different for me. I've gotten so used to throwing to Dougie. I was comfortable with him back there, and with Tek, too. It's nice to know you have someone back there who knows you."

Personally, I feel that if Josh Bard can handle the knuckler, he will make the trip north with the team.

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Wonder what the pitching rotation is going to look like? Well, Francona is strongly considering slotting Tim Wakefield in between Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett into the season-opening rotation. Wakefield would serve as an excellent change of pace. I see Matt Clement as the fourth starter, which Papelbon hopefully closing out the rotation.

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As for the Opening Day starter, Francona said he won't make an official announcement, but the plan is for Curt Schilling to pitch the opener April 3 in Texas. It will be Schill's first opener as a member of the Sox. Pedro pitched the '04 opener and David Wells went last year. However, things could always change due to injuries.

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Wondering how did Tom Werner's video pitch to Roger Clemens turned out?''Brilliant," Werner said. Asked if it's going to work, Werned replied, ''I don't know. It's up to him." Clemens is expected to choose a team or retirement shortly after the World Baseball Classic ends on March 20.

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The funeral procession for former Sox broadcaster Curt Gowdy passed by Fenway Park at approximately 11 a.m. today on the way to Trinity Church in Copley Square for the 1 p.m. service. Excellent touch.

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Pitching coach Dave Wallace was ''stable and in good spirits" a day after surgery on his hip, according to Sox public relations official Peter Chase. The procedure was step one of two in replacing Wallace's hip and was done to address the infection. Dennis Burke, the same doctor who did Francona's right knee replacement surgery in November, performed the operation at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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There's a 70 percent chance of rain in Fort Myers tomorrow, which won't cancel workouts, but could mean that the rest of the Sox will have to pull a David Wells and work inside.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Wallace likely out for the year 

Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald is reporting this morning that Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace could miss half or even more of the upcoming season after apparently having his right hip replaced. It is the second such procedure for Wallace.

As reported earlier, the team wouldn'’t confirm the surgery, but is expected to announce Wallace'’s condition today. However, rumors spread through camp that Wallace underwent a "delicate, multi-day procedure" and that he will remain in the Massachusetts General Hospital intensive care unit for several days.

"From what I heard, if he'’s back before the All-Star break, they'’ll be shocked," pitcher Bronson Arroyo said.

Just terrible, terrible news. It's tough to really rate a pitching coach's impact (unless you're Leo Mazzone) aside just looking at anecdotal evidence. The players seem to really appreciate Wally's "calming" presence, and the front office certainly has faith in him, so that's good enough for me.

Obviously, I'm not a doctor, but I'm aware of the inherent dangers of hip replacement surgery. If the surgery causes a blood clot in the leg, it can travel up the lung, resulting in pulmonary embolism, in which the blood supply is cut off to a portion of the lung.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Wallace family.

UPDATE: Chris Snow of the Boston Globe is reporting that it is unlikely that Wallace will be with the team this season, if ever again.

Wallace's condition, according to Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, had deteriorated last week to the point that ''he literally almost died."

A team source confirmed that Wallace had undergone another hip replacement operation and that it would take several months to recover.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spring Training: Day 5 



Not a whole lot of news to report from today's workout; however, there are several Sox-related tidbits out there. Firstly, Enrique Wilson, in camp as a non-roster invitee, says that he spoke to Manny Ramirez last week and that Manny says he wants to stay in Boston. Hmm, this doesn't really jibe with the phone call that Orlando Cabrera reportedly received.

"He wants to play here. That's what he told me."
--Enrique Wilson on Manny Ramirez remaining in Boston

According to interim pitching coach Al Nipper, rumors were circulating throughout camp that pitching coach Dave Wallace, sidelined with a hip infection, underwent hip replacement surgery on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gordon Edes and Chris Snow of the Boston Globe are reporting that Wallace has again been hospitalized and that it's a strong possibility that he misses all of camp. They speculate that if Wallace does undergo hip replacement surgery, he will be forced to miss the entire season. The Red Sox have said that they will not have an update on Wallace's status until tomorrow at the earliest.

Also, for those hoping that Nipper, a longtime friend of former teammate Roger Clemens, will give the Sox the inside track on obtaining his services will be sorely disappointed. Nipper says that he has not spoken to Clemens in nearly two months.

Bill Lajoie, who worked as the Red Sox' de facto general manager at the Winter Meetings in December has ended his relationship with the Boston Red Sox by exercising a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out after Jan. 31. The 71-year-old most notably closed the deal that sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for Andy Marte. He said he has contemplated retirement, but is undecided about his plans. He did not rule out the possibility of joining another club.

Friday will be an important day for several Red Sox pitchers. A total of 12 pitchers will face hitters for the first time this spring. The list includes Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo and top prospect Jon Lester. Each pitcher is expected to throw for roughly eight minutes, totaling roughly 4o to 50 pitches.

Stepping away from the Red Sox for a moment, I want to pass along the story of Jason McElwain, a senior at Greece Athena High School in Rochester, New York. J-Mac, as he's known, is autistic and has been the team manager for the varsity basketball team for the past three seasons. He was recently added to the roster by coach Jim Johnson so he could be given a jersey and get to sit on the bench in the team's last game of the year.

Johnson hoped the situation would allow him to get McElwain into the game for a little playing time. Sure enough, he got the chance, with Greece Athena up by double-digits with four minutes go to, and J-Mac didn't disappoint. Words won't do his performance any justice, so I will let the this video and this video take care of it. Goosebumps.

Manny bows out of World Baseball Classic 

Chris Snow of the Boston Globe is reporting what we've all been speculating about -- Manny Ramirez has officially withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic.

Red Sox owner John W. Henry confirmed the report today. Henry also added that the team did not ask Manny to pull out of the event, but that Manny made the decision not to play for the Dominican Republic on his own.

Had Manny decided to participate in the WBC, he would have had to report to his WBC team on March 2, meaning he would have spent exactly one day in Sox camp before returning on March 20, when the event ends. Instead, if Manny arrives on March 1, as expected, he will spend the entire month of March with the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Spring Training: Day 4 

Today was reporting day for the rest of the position players, and besides Manny, all arrived. The most notable arrival was that of Mark Loretta and J.T. Snow (pictured left).

As for my comment on David Wells looking "jovial" at yesterday's workout, it was based on this photo. Hey, at least he's smiling. Although some reports have mentioned that Boomer looks even boomier this season, it's apparently overblown. Wells hasn't thrown off of a mound yet this spring, but today he threw in the outfield briefly before heading back into the clubhouse. Besides declining all interview requests, he's been spending some time in the weight room.

Although I personally don't care, many are wondering why Manny is arriving late to Spring Training in the first place. The Red Sox press release claimed it was so he could finish an extensive workout program. Yes, Manny is a hard worker, but he's known for a while now that players were to report by today, so it's not as if he just ran out of time.

Theo Epstein, quoted in an Associated Press article, said, "There are a lot of factors involved, some of them are personal, some are family related." I hate speculating on a player's personal life, so I'm going to just take Theo and Manny at their word. Manny is a complicated fellow and there must be a reason for his request. As long as he stands by his word to show up on March 1st, I won't complain.

It doesn't appear that Manny's teammates have a problem with his late arrival either. As far as they are concerned, Manny is an exceptional player and has earned the right to be cut some slack. Do I necessarily agree with this? Not completely. But I'm not a major leaguer, so it isn't up to me.

"I don'’t give two (expletive) when Manny shows up. He'’ll be ready to play. I don'’t care. He'll be ready. One thing Manny does is put in his time and effort into getting ready. On April 3, he'’ll be here and ready to hit."
--Curt Schilling on Manny arriving late to Spring Training

As for Schilling himself, reports have noted that he's definitely been pacing himself thus far. Many have noticed that he isn't exploding off the rubber nearly as strongly as Papelbon or Beckett, but he claims the ankle is healthy, and that right now his only concern is fine-tuning his pitches. However, Schilling did "go all out" in today's pitchers-cover-first-base drill. Still, in other exercises, he definitely eased up.

Is Rob Bradford of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune the next great Boston baseball writer or what? On a day when he easily could have mailed it in and written the typical drivel about Manny's late arrival, he actually went out and reported.

He tracked down Manny's personal trainer for the past five years, Juan Carlos Santana, and inquired about why Manny has chosen to remain in Boca Raton, rather than coming to Fort Myers. Santana was overwhelmingly forthcoming, and gave a clear explanation for Manny's late entrance.

"He wants the MVP this year in the worst way. The one thing people don't know about Manny, and that Manny doesn't get enough credit for, is his work ethic. He is one of the hardest workers, most deliberate guys that I have here. He shows up. And when he shows up, it is game time and he gives you everything he's got."
--Juan Carlos Santana on Manny Ramirez

WMUR of New Hampshire managed to track down Jed Hoyer, Jonathan Papelbon, Coco Crisp, and Bronson Arroyo for some video interviews. Nothing groundbreaking, but I'm a sucker for Spring Training interviews, especially from the youngsters and new guys.

As usual, the interviewer compares Papelbon to Clemens and Crisp to Damon. When will this end? These guys are their own people. Let them make a name for themselves. Would you like it if your girlfriend compared you to her ex every waking moment? Probably not. Papelbon and Crisp have the oportunity to be special. Let's let them do that.

Lastly, for those who have been kind enough to take a moment and offer feedback, I'd like to apologize. This entire time I was under the impression that I just wasn't receiving comments, but it turns out that I had my comments set to "moderate." I've since changed the setting and all posts should show up immediately after you submit them, so please feel free to agree, disagree, or just chime in with your ideas!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Spring Training: Day 3 

Still just pitchers and catchers working out, with the position players "informally" working out. Curt Schilling's pitching group is himself, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester. Let me tell you, I love typing all four of those names in the same sentence. Reportedly, Schill has already taken Beckett under his wing. Hopefully, his good habits will rub off on the rest of the bunch.

Craig Hansen claims that he has added a changeup to his arsenal. If he can master a changeup to go along with his high-90s heater and his high-80s slider, this kid will be unhittable.

“I’ve been throwing it in a couple of bullpens down here and it feels great. It’s got a lot of movement. I’m pretty happy with it right now.”
--Craig Hansen on the development of his changeup

Jonathan Papelbon has also added a new pitch. After throwing mostly four-seamer fastballs last year, Papelbon returned to Jacksonville this offseason and fine-tuned his two-seamer. According to Papelbon, the "two-seam is going to be the next pitch that really takes me to the next level." He definitely needs to add another pitch to his repertoire if he consistently wants to be successful as a starter. Mastering a changeup would do wonders.

Multiple reports on SoSH claim that Dustin Pedroia (pictured left) looks larger this year. Supposedly, he hit the weights big time this offseason and put on approximately 15 pounds of muscle, mainly in the upper body. The kid has an incredible worth ethic. No doubt in my mind that he's going be successful at the Major League level (hopefully beginning in Boston in April).

David Wells is in camp, and seems to be pretty jovial. While I disagree with his trade demand, he's going about it the best way possible. Just get to camp, do your work, and let the team take care of you. No distractions. I'm still confident the Sox work something out with a west-coast club. An outfield prospect in return would be
terrific. The fact that he stiffed Dan Shaughnessy's lame request for an interview on Monday is also alright by me.

Is there anything better than Spring Training photos? I didn't think so. Thus far, the Boston Globe has done an excellent job with photos from the workouts. New photos should be added to this link daily, so make sure to bookmark it and check back often -- The Boston Red Sox at Spring Training.

Although many position players have already arrived, the rest (sans Manny) are due to arrive tomorrow. Let's all hope no one shows up 17 pounds overweight like former Sox farmhand Josh Hancock.

Manny by March, Petagine to Seattle, Nunez added 

The Red Sox and Manny Ramirez released the following joint statement today:

"With the permission of the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez will report to Spring Training in Fort Myers on March 1, 2006. Manny is in Florida completing an extensive training regimen and is prepared to have an exceptional season."

There's been some speculation that Manny may have dropped out of the World Baseball Classic, so he will arrive in camp on March 1st and will remain with the team, rather than leaving for the tournament on the 2nd.

Who knows. It's good that the team released a statement before the rumor mongering began, completely avoiding the "Day 4: Where Is Manny?" updates on the local news. Get him into camp on the 1st, and get down to business. I don't care what his reasons are for coming late, but as long as he complies with the Basic Agreement, which states that he must be in camp by March 1st, I'm not worried.

In other news, the Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners have signed Roberto Petagine to a minor league contract. Petagine (pictured left) will be given a chance to win the backup 1B job and get some time at DH, spelling Carl Everett. It's too bad Tito never really gave Petagine a shot in Boston, especially with Millar struggling. Hopefully he can prove that he is a capable major league hitter.

The Sox also invited a 61st player to camp over the weekend by signing right-handed reliever Franklin Nunez to a minor league contract. Nunez, 29, is a hard thrower who has spent parts of the last two seasons with Tampa Bay. His chances of making the club are infinitely small, but with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 100 MPH, he will serve as solid depth in Pawtucket.

I'll update later as more info on today's workout is made available.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Spring Training: Day 1 & 2 

Just got back in from my long weekend in Maryland. It was enjoyable, except for the drives there and back. It took us 10.5 hours to get there on Friday and 7.5 hours on our return today. Not fun. Anyways, moving on to the Sox...

I've done my best to keep up with Sox news while away, but it's been hard. It looks as if Keith Foulke is already throwing side sessions and is very impressed with his progress. Says he is back in the 92+ MPH range with his fastball, allowing for the proper differential between his heater and changeup to get batters off balance. I'm on record as predicting a HUGE year from Foulke. We could be looking at numbers better than 2004.

Ortiz said (joked?) that Manny is in Italy. Who knows. The Sox claim he's still in the States. Hopefully, he arrives on Wednesday or Thursday and we can avoid the drama.

Reports are that Schilling and Varitek both look skinny (Youkilis too?). Good stuff. For whatever reason, I get psyched when the guys come into camp in great shape. Shows dedication.

I'll have more later as I continue to catch up.

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