Awoke this morning, a bit earlier than the last, and with a springier step than the previous day. Small changes that mean nothing, when melded-together….mean everything. Spring is on our doorstep, we can almost touch it.
The boys have been down in Florida preparing for the grind of daily games in the most intense media spotlight ever seen in these parts. The 2009 season ended abruptly, and not the way it should have….so the team and their fans have a chip the size of Oregon on their shoulder after watching rival team, the zillion-dollar New York Yankees take home the World Series trophy last fall. Closer and obvious fall guy Jonathan Papelbon re-signed with the Red Sox in the offseason, and returns a humbler, more mature and focused competitor. We have a new starting shortstop Marco Scutaro, who I believe will only help the lineup, and should be a great fielder, with young Jed Lowrie still available for play time also. Ortiz showed-up to the Fort Myers Training Facility early, as did Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, and 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia. They showed-up early to show eachother that they mean business, they want to win (not place or show) in 2010.
Victor Martinez will get the bulk of the time behind Home Plate as lead catcher in 2010, but will rely heavily on direction from team mate Jason Varitek and coach Gary Tuck. Victor is an exceptional bat for the middle of our lineup, but does not throw too many base-stealers out, and does not call a game anywhere near what our Captain is capable of. You can check your stats on that one. But with Varitek only catching 2 of every 5 or 6 games, his strength will be preserved more effectively for the long season ahead. I watched the man play game after game, with hardly a break or day off because Kottaras’ bat was so weak, until he could no longer be effective in his at-bats in August/September of 2009. The man who was hitting home runs like crazy in Spring Training, into April/May/June (including a Grand Slam in late April at Fenway against the Yankees) was not the same man at summer’s end.
The addition of what some consider to be a third Ace in John Lackey, was one of the biggest offseason stories. Lackey has power, and came to Boston to win a championship….and will hopefully be just the addition needed to get us over the large hump and into the final stretch of the post season. You can never have too much pitching. Just ask Theo, he’ll tell you. I am sure that Clay Buchholz was not pleased at the addition of Lackey to the pitching staff, because he felt that he put his time in, and deserved to be lit-up at last. Let’s not forget our very expensive import, Japan’s MVP of the WBC….Mr. Daisuke Matsuzaka….who also needs a spot in the rotation. And oddly enough (and surprising to me) the front office decided to offer a pitching spot to returning veteran Tim Wakefield.
There is lots of talk of young Casey Kelly, the addition of Boof Bonser to the pen and another Ramon Ramirez !! Can’t wait to watch the guys throw for myself. Reliable lefty Hideki Okajima also returned to the team with a contract this offseason. Wagner and Saito are gone, both to the Atlanta Braves. Just hope there’s enough pitching in that pen to last us through a whole season. Any way we can buy-back Justin Masterson ? Young Daniel Bard should be quite effective as a setup guy in the 8th, or as an alternate closer when Papelbon has a night off.
Young Jacoby Ellsbury will become our LF guy, as Mike Siverman predicted in his Boston Herald article way back in late November/early December of 2009. Jason Bay left us for more money from the NY Mets, so we are left with a need that Jack-Rabbit Jacoby will fill at LF, and his previous position of CF will be played by veteran newcomer Mike Cameron. I am not sure if I agree with that move, because Ellsbury was so quick and limber, and jumped and stretched and caught almost everything that was thrown near him in that huge outfield in 2009. How will an aging Cameron do ? J.D. Drew will return in RF, and be a reliable bat in our lineup once again. I welcome young Jeremy Hermida as a utility outfielder, and effective bat.
2009 3B Mike Lowell is being replaced on an everyday basis by Adrian Beltre. Not a popular move on Theo’s part, but we have to remain competitive, and Mike Lowell’s injuries keep him from playing everyday, whether he wants to admit it or not. Don’t get me wrong, Mikey has a great feel for the game, he is a great 3rd baseman, and an exceptional hitter who knows how to send a ball over the Monster….but he is no longer an everyday player of the caliber that we need to compete for a World Championship title in 2010. The poor guy can barely walk without limping (and he’s not the only one). Sadly, this will be the last full playing year for several of our favorite heroes in the Red Sox uniform.
They will bond as a team this month, and return to us at Fenway Park on Sunday April 4th eager, and powerful, and hungry for another great year. We will cheer, and pray for warmth, and chant as we watch them from our Blackberries, our slingboxes, our expensive HDTV hookups, Direct TV dishes, even 3D televisions !! We will collectively gather on Easter night and each night after in our dens, recreation rooms, corner bars, fancy living rooms, computer screens, backyard radios, social clubs, and everywhere people gather to be amazed and entertained by these amazing and entertaining men….who happen to be in a Red Sox uniform.
I will make my pilgrimages down to Boston to watch them play, from my little perch behind the net as often as I am able…..because I am a Red Sox fan….and can think of no better way to spend my precious time than to watch them play ball right at my toes, as I scream at the umpire and opposing players….please stop-by and say hello to me whenever you can, you will be greeted with a big smile.
– Fenway Fruitgirl “Behind The Net” 2010
Young Speedy Reliever Daniel Bard Practice Pitches In Sox Pen (Fenway)
Toronto Star Pitcher Roy Halladay Warms (Fenway)
Toronto Blue Jays Shortstop Marco Scutaro Returns Sun.8/30 After Being Hit In Head 8/28.
Blue Jays Ace Roy Halladay Could Not Hold Back The Red Sox From A Shut Out Win.
And Sox Starter Paul Byrd’s Debut Is A Success. (Pitched 6 scoreless innings)
In this past Homestand at Fenway Park, the Sox have managed 6 wins in 7 games ! The Boston Red Sox had 50 Homeruns in August, that’s a club record for August.
Newly added Sox pitcher Billy Wagner also debuted 8/30 at Fenway with 3 K’s.
Currently the Red Sox seem to have a hold on the Wild Card spot in the American League.
Mother’s Day 2009 May 10th 8:05pm at Fenway Red Sox vs. Tampa Rays
Joshua Patrick Beckett’s 200 Career Start
Red Sox won 4-3 against Tampa (Ramon Ramirez recorded the Win)
David Ortiz (DH) is only 10 homeruns away from his 300th. He’s currently at 290.
Big Papi is also close to another career milestone, only 17 RBI’s away from 1,000 !!
Terry Francona(manager) not only wisked over to Chapel Hill North Carolina yesterday to attend his daughter’s college graduation, and came back in time for Batting Practice before the game, but he also tied Bill Carrigan’s career managerial win record of 489 wins. 500 is right around the corner Tito, congrats on all milestones.
23 year old RHP Daniel Bard was brought-up from triple-A Pawtucket yesterday and will wear the number 60. LHP Javier Lopez has been designated for assignment. Bard is last year’s Minor League Rookie Of The Year, and a pitching phenom with a “wicked” 100-mile an hour fastball.
The Sox have their first “Off” day in 18 days. But they must also find time to travel to the West Coast for Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim CA. Justin Masterson will be starting pitcher (Filling-in for Matsuzaka) against the Angels’ J. Weaver. Game start is at a cruel 10:05pm (Eastern time). Coffee ! Coffee !
Sox have the AL best winning at home record at .750 winning percentage. 2nd in MLB behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I was in an extreme state of Nirvana in Florida for the past week,using my time there very wisely observing Boston Red Sox pitching and catching,as well as Batting Practices. I think I actually made it to the field before the players and coaches did.
OK,so my favorite subject in baseball,especially Red Sox baseball is PITCHING. And after making so many field observations, and speaking to some pitchers and coaches, I will share my Preseason Pitching Ponderings with you. I am fairly straightforward on this subject,and realize that this is a very touchy subject…..and everyone has their favorites – but here goes.
Clay Buchholz started as a bright light, that eventually partially fades in order to join the masses. He is newly buff,and confident and steady, now that’s important!! He is calmer on the mound,and is learning to trust Varitek’s calls more. He wants to be successful this time around, so he is working hard. I still believe in my gut that they are putting him out there to be seen (“Highlighted”) to use him in a trade sometime this year. Clay’s not stupid,he knows it too. Whatever happens,as he ages,he will gain the experience he needs to succeed.
Justin Masterson is a SUPERSTAR. He is the Future Horse of the Boston Red Sox, no question. He is strong and well-grounded, a real clubhouse guy. He will pay his dues and go wherever they want him, starting or bullpen, because he knows it will pay-off in the end. The kid is so powerful, and has so much time to hone his skills and take his aggression down a few steps. I look forward to seeing him pitch for many years to come, and there should be a fat paycheck soon for that boy. I still remember seeing him stare-down A-Rod in September.
Daniel Bard is a lanky kid with a spitfire fastball that you can’t even see!! And it’s consistent too, he will go down to the minors to work hard and put his time in,and I think that they will be using him a bit at Fenway this summer too. The kid has great stuff, very exciting to watch.
Junichi Tazawa is a phenom, a gifted boy that will learn to control his arm and hit his spots in the minors this year. I think he may have been dissappointed to be sent down, but we are so loaded with pitching,we can afford to take our time to get these kids game-ready.
Michael Bowden is an intense power pitcher that has been great as a starter in the minors,but may be used in the Sox bullpen before year’s end. He, like Masterson needs to control the aggression impulse and take things more calmly. He will be extremely valuable.
I cannot speak of pitchers without mentioning my elation of personally observing the gifts that both of our new veteran pitchers on my happy list have to give to us as fans. Watching Takashi Saito pitch in last Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was a thrill. The man has some very powerful stuff, and is very healthy and ready to go. I have no doubt that he will be instrumental to us earning a top spot in the AL East in 2009.
And Brad Penny, my other top pick will be another strong addition to the Red Sox starting lineup. What a powerhouse arm, I find myself worrying that he may dislocate something in his pitches!! If he can stay healthy, it will not only be a great year for him, but for our Red Sox.
As always, I enjoyed watching the funky throws of Okajima and Lopez, and it’s a religious experience watching Beckett and Lester throw lights-out stuff. Our Captain surely has his workload full this year wrangling all these studs and colts together to create a winning season. (And I predict that John Smoltz will be quite a handful.)
This year will prove to be a thrilling grind for players and fans alike, so enjoy!!!!
May the Sox be with you all.
Back to the cold March days in New England.It seemed like yesterday that the hot sun was on me and I was watching the Boys of Summer while sipping an ice cold lemonade and cheering my heart out from my dugout seats at City of Palms Park.It was yesterday!!
Arrived in sunny Florida on the 1st day of spring (Vernal Equinox) and scored an upgrade in my car rental. Drove straight to City of Palms Park so I could catch BP and team warm-ups for some great photos.We all cheered in the concrete shade as the woman wrote in the day’s lineup on the wall. Excellent!! Went back to my seat and met Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard. For all the fans who watched the St.Patrick’s Day game on tv, the Leprechan who was in Jerry’s booth…works at the park !!
Pedroia and Youkilis and Drew and Papi were all in great form at Batting Practice. Youk did not play until Monday though. I was excited to see Brandon Moss play,even though he was on the opposing team. He was such a good kid, not his fault he was traded so they could get rid of Manny. Clay Buchholz was great on Friday,he seems to have a lot more confidence now,and more power to his pitches too. Varitek’s stance is different now,less movement,more hits…great!! JD Drew was hit in the wrist by a pitch and had to leave the game. Later on in the game when the kids came in for the veterans,Kottaras was on fire. Some older guy in the stands got hit in the head by a ball,and had to be taken out by ambulance. Final score was Red Sox 11, Pittsburgh Pirates 4.
I noticed that Terry Francona was not at the game and thought it was strange. Turns out that he was in Quantico, VA. to watch his son graduate from the U.S. Marine Corps. Officer Candidate School. Congrats to the Francona family.
City of Palms park sold out 83 straight games as of Friday and keeps breaking attendance records daily.