Tagged: Tim Wakefield

Ode to Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Dice-K Matsuzaka

Over the past week, the Red Sox have been doing what they need to do to ensure themselves a spot in the playoffs (and the Rangers have been helping us out a bit). However, at the beginning of the week, we had a much bigger chance at maybe taking the division than we do at this point. If we had but swept the Royals (or even won the series), we would be in a much different position than we are now. 

What happened Monday night against the Royals was simply unacceptable. If that was the small hiccup before the big show, than that’s fine, but a solid bullpen is essential during the playoffs, and I think that Manny Delcarmen plays a very important role in our bullpen. This game was obviously not very enjoyable to watch, but it just wasn’t the Red Sox’s night. A bullpen, no matter how strong it is, always has a meltdown every now and then. 
As the playoffs approach, one has to start wondering what the starting rotation is going to look like, and I think it is getting more and more solidified with every quality start that Dice-K Matsuzaka makes. I think we would have a formidable four man rotation in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, and Matsuzaka. That is the more obvious part, the more obscure part is how, if at all, Tim Wakefield would fit into the postseason roster. 
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As of right now, I do not think that it would be a good idea to have him pitching into October. Every time he goes on the mound, he looks like he is in pain. Wakefield could be in the bullpen as a reserve, but I am not sure if I would put him on the roster. What would you do? 
The next night against the Royals, I almost didn’t want to watch. Zack Greinke pitching against anyone is scary, but against Paul Byrd? We might as well forfeit!! Greinke didn’t even have to throw a pitch and we were already behind thanks to a beyond shaky first inning by Paul Byrd. 
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Greinke pitched absolutely beautifully, so beautifully that he inspired me to write a poem. In my English class, we are learning about Romantic poetry (and we are really mutilating an already dead horse). William Wordsworth described Romantic poetry and the “spontaneous overflow of feelings”, so I’m pretty sure that the following poem can fit under that category: 
Ode to Zack Greinke
O how Zack Greinke colors the crowd, 

With his ethereal pitches, by which batters are wowed. 

A work of art whose exhibit is the mound, 

An artist as well–sculpting his pitches from the ground. 

A phenom in the making, 

A pitcher who is fragile, and not worth breaking. 

Knocking down the pins of every part of the strikezone, 

To an abundance of strikeouts, batters are inevitably prone. 

The fielders are lonely, for base runners are rare. 

Yet in Zack Greinke’s presence, they are honored to be there. 

Crossing home plate is an impossible feat, 

This is a man no one can defeat. 

I am highly considering sending this to him. During the next two games, we were finally able to cool down the Royals, or at least score more runs than them. Beckett gave up 12 hits, but thanks to some well deserved run support, the Sox were able to pull through. Buchholz followed with a stellar outing, and I was getting a bit scared that the bullpen was going to meltdown again when Ram-Ram came in and gave up three runs. 
You know, there was really no better weekend for the Red Sox vs Yankees series than this one. Thanks to my lovely Jewish brothers and sisters, no homework was to be given this weekend since it is Yom Kippour. Yet somehow, I know that I still have to do stuff for English. 
Anyway, the only thing I could think about all of Friday was the game. Plans this weekend? I think not, it is the last regular season series!!! While it would not have decided the division winner if the Red Sox were to have won or swept the series (now we’re the ones trying not to get swept), it would have made it a much closer race. Regardless of what happens, this could very well be the preview of the ALCS. 
1999, 2003, and 2004. There couldn’t be a better matchup in postseason baseball. It is a series where all of my nails are bitten off by the end of the first inning of the first game. It is virtually impossible to multi-task and do homework. It is stressful, frustrating, exhilarating, and beautiful all at the same time. 
However, my confidence, as well as the Red Sox’s confidence was nearly shattered on Friday night in the bottom of the third inning. Melky Cabrera hit a sharp line drive just above Lester’s right knee cap. At first I didn’t realize what had happened. I wondered how the ball had returned so suddenly to the third base line, and then I saw Lester fall to his back. Horrific memories of an immobile Matt Clement came rushing back, and the stories of Bryce Florie as well (I was not yet a baseball fan when that happened). 
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I was almost as petrified as Jon Lester was. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the potential consequences. The ball ricocheted off of what looked like his knee cap, and it did not sound pretty. It could have been a season ending second, and a season altering one. Lester was not carried off of the field, he limped into the clubhouse as the classy Yankee crowd stood for him, and he could barely make it down the stairs. 
The minutes following the accident were filled with agonizing hypothetical situations. It was impossible for me to imagine the Red Sox pitching staff without our consistent ace in Jon Lester. But when I heard the report that the x-rays were negative and that it was merely a right contusion, I truly breathed a sigh of relief. The fact that he wants to make his next start, albeit a bit unrealistically ambitious, is truly admirable. He is a soldier. The Red Sox may have lost that game, but I think we gained even more from the fact that Lester is okay, and will be able to pitch again this season. 
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Yesterday’s game truly embo
died what each and every Red Sox vs Yankee game is all about. It exemplified the notion of a true pitcher’s duel with absolutely stellar performances by both Daisuke Matsuzaka and CC Sabathia. Sabathia stymied the Red Sox offense for seven incredible innings of one hit ball. 
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Daisuke Matsuzaka somehow evaded the irrevocable damage of a bases loaded situation with no outs thanks in part to an absolutely stunning play by Victor Martinez. If giving up one run over seven innings is indicative of the type of pitcher that Dice-K has turned to, then I think he truly deserves a spot in the postseason rotation. If he wants to make up for what he has missed, this is the way to do it. 
In one hour, the last regular season of the game will take place. The Yankees can clinch the division with a win, but I think I speak on behalf of all Red Sox fans in the following understatement: I don’t want them to. We don’t give up here. Even if Paul Byrd is pitching, we can still win. We don’t go down with out one hell of a fight. Go Red Sox!! 

Post Trade Deadline Analyses

I think that I have realized something about myself during the summers, and perhaps you all have too: I don’t have too much time to blog during summer vacation. I am fortunate enough to do a lot during the summers, and whether I’m at camp, or on a family vacation, I don’t have good quality time to compose a thoughtful blog, so I apologize for that. 

I wish I had been a more active blogger during the trade deadline, and the days following it, but I was in Maine, removed from electronics and mlb.tv and just appreciating nature. However, there was a radio that was available, and every night we would sit in the living room and listen to the Red Sox. It was such a different perspective for me, because I have always been provided with the luxury of watching baseball on TV, on a computer, or my favorite location: in person. I really loved listening to it on the radio, it was a different way of seeing… or maybe hearing baseball. 
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So the trade deadline came and went, and if you remember my last entry (which was quite a while ago), I thought that it would be best if the Red Sox had just quietly backed out of the trade deadline, and make do with what they have. Retrospectively, the trades that were made, most importantly the Victor Martinez one, was quite necessary. I had said that shortstop and catcher were our weakest positions, and we have vastly improved that situation (mainly the catcher one). 
The problem for me was that I was very hesitant to give away any of our star prospects, but all-star catchers like Victor Martinez don’t come cheap. In order to improve a weaker aspect of the team, we had to take from probably our strongest aspect of the team: the bullpen. It was hard to part with Justin Masterson because I saw so much potential in him, but I think that in order for a team to be good, they need to be proportional. 
The Red Sox had a stellar, almost impeccable bullpen, but the offense was slumping and not scoring runs. A bullpen cannot be effective if it does not have runs to protect. Thus, the Red Sox were disproportional in that sense. Without Justin Masterson, our bullpen is without a doubt weakened. Masterson was a guy that could go many innings when our starters didn’t do their jobs; he could thrive in the starting rotation as well. Is our bullpen still legitimate? Absolutely. Is our starting rotation still legitimate? Absolutely. Is our offense improved? Yes, and that is exactly what we needed. 
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That expression: “We hardly knew ya” can seriously apply to the Adam LaRoche situation, but I am satisfied with the solid defensive abilities of Casey Kotchman. It seems that the Red Sox have an abundance of first basemen now considering that Victor Martinez is a man of may occupations and can play first base. This makes Terry Francona’s job as a manager a bit more difficult, and the lineup is not as predictable as it used to be. It means that some players’ playing time will be less, and not everyone may be happy with that. Guys like Kevin Youkilis pout when they have the day off, and he’d rather play left field than sit on the bench. As a baseball fan, I think you have to love that mentality that a player wants to help his team every single day, even if you don’t like Kevin Youkilis’ personality. 
I think that one of the biggest questions the Red Sox face will come when Tim Wakefield returns from the disabled list. I have not fully educated myself on Victor Martinez’s capabilities, but I am wondering if he is educated in the art of catching a knuckleball. I am not a very big George Kottaras fan because for me, his only use is the fact that he can catch Tim Wakefield (and not that well), and his offensive abilities are mediocre at best. If Victor Martinez can catch a knuckleball, then I think George Kottaras is no longer needed. 
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I like the acquisition of Alex Gonzalez as a defensive shortstop since Jed Lowrie is on the disabled list. It’s funny how there have been a turn of events since the start of the season: the Red Sox went from having three shortstops to one. It’s nice to see Gonzalez back in a Red Sox uniform since he was a wonderful defensive shortstop in 2006. A question that will come soon is: What will be the next move when Jed Lowrie returns? 
Going back to the pitching situation, I found out that John Smoltz was designated for assignment while I was on my trip. I have a lot of respect for John Smoltz, and what he has done over the course of his career. It is unfortunate that he didn’t do what the Red Sox hoped he would. I think that the acquisition during the offseason was a very wise one. It was very similar to what the Red Sox hoped Curt Schilling would have done in 2008. Unfortunately, neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were obvious. 
I haven’t forgotten about Dice-K either, and the comments that he issued about the Red Sox pitching procedures. I don’t think that he was right, but I’m going to go for a little empathy here. He was phenomenal when he was in Japan, and he was very good his first two years with the Red Sox. There is obviously some gray areas when it comes to training. Dice-K has his way, and the Red Sox have their way. Dice-K should have trained better for the 2009 season, the World Baseball Classic was not the way to go because technically, that is the true World Series, and it has a playoff atmosphere. Dice-K didn’t have the more lax spring training that others went through. He went from the 2008 playoffs to pre-season 2009 playoffs. I think that he has to accept responsibility for that, and conform (for now) to what the Red Sox want him to do. 
By the way, while I was on my trip I was lucky enough to have some baseball experiences. I have some analyses on the Portland Sea Dogs to share with you, and some great pictures from the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The Bullpen Savior, and Future Saviors

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They should call him the ‘bullpen savior’, Tim Wakefield that is. Not only does Jason Varitek get an off day when he pitches, but as of late, the bullpen has gotten one as well. No wonder the Red Sox picked up his option for this year. 

He may be one of the oldest guys on the team, but he is pretty durable. He is always able to go pretty deep into games whether he is effective or not. There are only a few instances when he has really short Dice-K like outings, but that’s when the knuckleball is completely missing the strike zone, or if the opposing team is able to time the knuckleball and… hit it.   
I like when the knuckleball is dancing, and I love that I can rely on it while I am at school. I wasn’t completely resourceless though. In English class, we were in the computer lab researching the background of a novel that we were about to read. 
Computers=internet=Red Sox. 
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I opened everything that I possibly could: the live box score, gameday, and MLB.TV. By the grace of God, both Gameday and MLB.TV were working (they weren’t the other days that I had tried it). Too bad I am inept when it comes to the school computers, so I couldn’t figure out how to turn the volume down. I realized this when I heard a low mumbling coming from my computer, which happened to be MLB.TV. I quickly turned it off before my teacher could notice.
I watched the game on Gameday, and I received periodic text messages from my father as well. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to see Nick Green’s first homer of the season, since he is my project and all, but at least he finally hit it, and he wasn’t the only one.  
It only took us one day to sweep the Twins, and once again, one of my projects led the way. Jeff Bailey got the Sox to a 3-0 lead with a nice home run, in his first at-bat of the season, over the green monster. Yeah, that’s not Chris Carter, my other project. 
I’m pretty sad that Carter is being optioned to Triple-AAA Pawtucket. I feel like he didn’t get a fair chance. He only had five at-bats, four of which he struck out in. I know that isn’t very good, but if Papi says that we can’t judge him by fifty at-bats (believe me buddy, I don’t), then we can’t judge Carter in five. He didn’t even play in a full game this season. 
It’s not like we are getting short changed with Bailey though. There is a reason that he was the guy competing with Carter for the roster spot, and honestly, I would have been happy with either of them. Plus, Bailey is the veteran of the two… over 1,000 minor league games, and only 31 major league games. I know there’s no sympathy in baseball, but this guy has to be rewarded for what he has done, and I know what he is able to do. 
I’m just wondering why we couldn’t keep Carter. With Baldelli on the 15-Day DL with a hamstring problem, there’s no reason that the Sox couldn’t have Carter as the backup outfielder, and Bailey as the backup first baseman. That would have meant three projects on one team! The replacement could be a project though… perhaps Lars Anderson, though, I was thinking that he would be in AAA for at least a little while longer. Wakefield may be the bullpen savior, but my projects are in the process of becoming saviors themselves. 
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I bet you guys don’t know where I was July 16, 2007 because if you did, that would be incredibly creepy. I was at the Royals vs Red Sox game, at Fenway Park– the third Fenway Park experience of my life. A guy named Kason Gabbard was pitching that night, and I had never heard of him before that night. 
After that night, it was all about Kason Gabbard for me. He pitched a complete game shutout, and I was impressed. My project program was not established back then, but if it was, he would have been a late addition. 
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I bet some of you know where Kason Gabbard went by the trade deadline of that year. Texas. And who did the Red Sox get? Eric Gagne. Eric let-me-blow-a-save Gagne. I missed my Gabbard, and as soon as that trade happened, I said, “The Red Sox are going to regret this… he’s something special”
I lied. The Red Sox no longer have anything to regret because guess who’s back? Kason Gabbard! I know that he has struggled in Texas, but he is definitely a potential late addition project. 
Tonight is the night. The first Red Sox-Yankees game of the year, the thing that I have been waiting for–craving in fact. In honor of this sacred series, my math teacher did not give homework this weekend. In honor of this series, Julia and Scott are having an epic bet. And in honor of Julia, the Red Sox will win. 

Fantastical Meetings, Fantastic Games

My sources got back to me today about our pitching staff’s little competition. According to Melissa, the Indians are the ones that introduced us to the game. 

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My fantastical imagination wandered during my French class, and it took me to my meeting with the Red Sox starting rotation. 
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Apparently, there was still some bad blood between the Red Sox and Indians, neither of them got over the 2007 ALCS. In 2007, the mentality was: ‘If you can be good, I can get better’; in 2009, the mentality has shifted to: ‘If you can be bad, I can be worse”
I wasn’t aware of the rules though. It was only a game between Dice-K, Penny, and Beckett. Jon Lester was disqualified because he started the game too early, this was supposed to start AFTER the first start of the season. Tim Wakefield was automatically disqualified because of the knuckleball, and Justin Masterson is still not allowed to play because of his age. 
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“I wanted to motivate the offense,” Daisuke Matsuzaka said through his translator. “It was pretty quiet, so I thought that I could simply destroy the three run lead, and put us in a two run deficit,” he confessed. 
I turned to Brad Penny, who had a guilty look on his face. “I got jealous,” he began as he shook his head. “I’m the new guy here. Dice-K gave up those five runs, and I guess I just took it overboard. I didn’t even let the offense score to begin with… I just… wanted to impress them,”
“I *&^%$#@ hate Cleveland! I beat CC twice and I still didn’t get the !@#$%^& Cy Young! What the hell do they expect me to do–” Josh Beckett was cut off. 
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“I wanted to play! They wouldn’t let me!” Justin Masterson interrupted. “I was a rookie LAST year–“
Beckett glared at Masterson, and I could tell that Masterson was thankful that it wasn’t Jonathan Papelbon who was staring at him. “Anyway, these guys gave up five or more runs in their outing, and I knew that I could give Baltimore eight runs, but I only &^%*$#@ got four… !@#$^%&%&*&$^%^^&&*&…..” 
The Red Sox realized that this game was dangerous though, so they stopped playing it. Dice-K is now on the 15-Day DL with a fatigued shoulder. They tried to add an amendment to the rules that would disqualify pitchers who had pitched in the World Baseball Classic, but something changed. 
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In Sunday’s game, Jon Lester went seven innings and struck out nine– which made Josh Beckett a bit uneasy. In his Opening Day start, he had gone seven innings with ten strikeouts, but nine was just too close. Lester has motivated Beckett to do even better. 
It was great to see Lester get back into his “vintage” form, as Ian Browne called it in his article. I wasn’t worried, I was merely… frustrated. 
11 am start. On a Monday. Where was I at 11 am Monday? I had just gotten out of Chemistry, and most of you know how I feel about chemistry: badly, to say the least. By the middle of fifth period, I couldn’t take it anymore. I marched with haste to the library. 
I probably had some sort of look of determination on my face because when I came out of the library, my friend reported the score: 3-1 (at that time)
I whirled around… I needed to know more. 
“How? How’s Masterson? What about Jacoby? What about–“
“Masterson is doing OK, Jacoby and Dustin both got hits, and I think Big Papi too,”
I sighed with relief, said ‘thank you’ and marched right into the library to watch the boxscore refresh every 30 seconds. 
This lasted throughout the next period too. I was unable to watch for the next two, but after I got out of my last class, Life Skills, I marched straight over to my friends and demanded an iPhone. 
“Whoever has an iPhone, give it to me now,”
No questions asked, I got one, and read the recap aloud, despite protests from my friends. Besides Masterson’s… masterful… start, I was happy to see that Big Papi had partially broken out of his slump. I say partially only because in my book, home runs are the only remedy for slumps. And last season, in his terrible beginning-of-the-season drought, he had a few hits the night before, and the next night? Grand slam. Oh yeah, and we slammed the O’s. Just like our offense is supposed to. 
Tonight’s game may be canceled postponed delayed, but we all know that my chemistry test won’t be. Though, I do wish it would be cancelled, postponed, or delayed. 

Almost, Almost, Almost

‘Almost’ seems to sum up the first nine games that the Red Sox played. Except for the two blowout games that Jon Lester just happened to pitch in, the Red Sox came within striking distance in almost every game (and by that I mean we were down by two runs or less). Those games are the frustrating ones. 

That was a pretty tough road trip, and I don’t think the late night West Coast games were much fun for anyone (except for Oakland). If I’m tired watching West Coast games, I can’t imagine how the players must be… they actually have to do stuff. 
‘Almost Game’ #1
I was ready for the second West Coast game of the series. I had finished my homework, and I was in the process of drinking my two cups of coffee. For those of you who made comments about drinking coffee on my last post, I’m somewhat addicted myself. I know, it’s bad, it stunts my growth. Maybe that explains Pedroia’s lack of height. 
The top of the first made me happy. I thought that maybe our offense had finally woken up. The Red Sox finally stringed together a bunch of hits in the first inning to score three runs, and normally, run support works pretty well for Dice-K. 
Not that night. It was one thing when the game was tied. ‘Okay, back to 0-0’ I thought, deflated. Then Dice-K gave up two MORE runs. Five runs. In one inning. I no longer felt deflated, I felt dejected. 45 pitches in one inning– that’s basically how many Wakefield had after five innings the day after. 
I was scared too, because I wasn’t fully trusting our offense yet. In the games before that night’s, we would score a run in the first, and then leave absolutely everyone on. At least we tied the game back up in the top of the fifth thanks to more hits strung together. 
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That wasn’t my favorite part of the story. My favorite part was the bullpen, especially Justin Masterson. Thank God he continued to train like a starter throughout the offseason, and during Spring Training. Whosever idea that was, you are brilliant. This man oozes versatility, and I dream about it. Of course, when he came in, I proceeded to ask um… myself: WHERE THE HELL DID DICE-K GO??? And after him, another six shutout inning by that bullpen that everyone has been talking about: the best one in baseball. 
It stayed tied for… a while. The three hour mark passed. ‘Oh crap’ I thought, ‘This is going to be a long night,’. 
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I won’t lie to you though, I did fall asleep from the bottom of the ninth to the top of the tenth. I missed Okajima’s 1-2-3 ninth. But I did wake up for Dustin Pedroia’s incredible catch in the bottom of the tenth. It woke me up. 2 AM passed, and that meant less than four hours of sleep, and I like sleeping. 
Again, I won’t lie to you. Javier Lopez makes me nervous when he’s in without anyone on base. He loaded up the bases. I don’t think I could feel my anxiety though, my exhaustion was overwhelming. There are two outs though, so I’m feeling kind of good. 
Then, a sharp grounder that bounces into the air… but my Dustin is charginggggg andddd safe. The A’s won. I stayed up until 2:30 AM to watch the Red Sox lose. 
I could barely get up the next morning, and I probably couldn’t walk in a straight line either. My friend, Kathleen (the other Red Sox fan) and I just shook our heads when we saw each other. We went over to other benches (in the area that my friends and I hang out) to go sleep. 
My other friends came over, and started talking. I told them to ‘go away’ because I needed sleep, and I proceeded to sleep every opportunity that I got. 
Almost Game #2
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Wednesday’s game was perfect timing– it was on a day that I had early dismissal, so I got home in time to see the first pitch. It’s not like I don’t get nervous when Wakefield pitches– like I’ve said, he’s either really on, or really off. Yesterday, he was REALLY on, and so was our offense. 
I noticed “it” after four innings. We had a comfortable two run lead thanks to Mike Lowell’s two run homer, and Wakefield was cruising. I looked at the score: zero hits for the A’s. 
My thoughts would not shut up. I wanted them to so badly, but they just wouldn’t. Mike Lowell made an error in the fifth that would have ruined the perfect game, which Wakefield would have had going into the 8th inning had it not been for that error. 
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The Sox even got more insurance runs in the 8th because we went through our entire lineup. I like doing that, and I hope we do it again soon. I was a very happy camper, even though I was ridiculously tired. At the beginning of the 8th inning, Don Orsillo finally talks about it. 
‘Wakefield has allowed no hits to A’s hitters through seven.’
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‘Why would you say that?’ I asked him through my computer. I know he’s an announcer, and maybe he has to… but aren’t we all ridiculously superstitious? Maybe I would be a crappy announcer, then. I would not even mention hits if I noticed it, and I would threaten my partner if they even thought about it. 
I had MLB Network on mute too, and I see a ‘Special Report’, so naturally, I turned it up. Just guess what they talked about: 
‘History may be in the process of being made over in Oakland…’
TURN IT OFF! My father and I both scream at the same time. I fumble with the remote and change the channel, only to have it go to the same thing but not in HD. I finally just turn the TV off. 
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Kurt Suzuki got the hit, and he is the one that reached on the error too. You know how Jane mentions kidnapping players over in her blog? I want to kidnap Kurt Suzuki, and I wouldn’t mind kidnapping
Travis Buck either (the guy with the walk off hit). 
There were some remarkable defensive plays during that game though. Jacoby Ellsbury had two beautiful catches in the outfield where he bounced gracefully off the wall each time. Nick Green also had an incredible catch to rob Jack Cust (?) of a hit. 
I saw MIke Lowell in the dugout in the top of the ninth semi-joking with Wakefield about that error, and I could see that he was basically saying,
“I was thinking about that error, and how it could have ruined a perfect game. I was also thinking about how Elizabeth Dreeson would have come and killed me,”
I took a three hour nap after that– caught up on my sleep, and I needed it! 

2009 Red Sox Pitching Preview

I guess I could just give you guys the same predictions that everyone else has… but I don’t really want to do that. I’m going to break down each position, and briefly look at every player. Tonight, I want to look at pitching. I’ll tell you guys how I think their 2009 season will be, and what they will need to do to either come over the 2008 woes, or maintain their 2008 heights. 

Starting Pitching: This year, the Red Sox have some familiar faces in the first four slots for the rotation. The only thing that is different is their fifth spot– they didn’t just hand it over to Clay Buchholz like they did last year (not that they had much of a choice). In fact, despite an impressive spring, Clay won’t even be starting the season with the Red Sox! During the offseason, the Red Sox picked up Brad Penny and John Smoltz. Sure Brad Penny is no CC Sabbathia, but he can sure matchup with AJ Burnett pretty well. And John Smoltz may not be in the prime of his career, but I think that he has some words of wisdom that he can pass down to the guys. Justin Masterson could have filled the fifth starting spot very nicely, but I’ll tell you guys why I think he’ll work out very nicely in the bullpen. 
Josh Beckett: We all know that Beckett has the stuff that can put him in the realm of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but whenever he is injured, he spends so much time recovering, that he isn’t really that dominant. Luckily, Beckett will be starting the season with the Red Sox, and Opening Day for that matter. In 2007 he went 20-7, and in 2008 he went 12-10. So what happened? I agree with the people who have said that he was catching up to himself that entire year. He got injured during Spring Training so he didn’t have a lot of time to get into his rhythm. When he was ready to return, he was thrown right out into a high pressure atmosphere. Guys need Spring Training… just look at Jake Peavy! 
Jon Lester: Lester’s comeback from cancer story is really nice and inspiring and all, but honestly, it’s time to get over it, and he thinks so too. He has said that he wants to be known as a pitcher, not the kid that came back from cancer. Nonetheless, every time he pitches I’m sure we’ll be hearing the story. Anyway, we saw what this guy could do in 2008, his stuff is lethal. Not to mention the fact that he has added a changeup to his arsenal, and oh yeah his performance in the playoffs. There are two things that he needs to remember, and that we need to remember about him.
1. He cannot get overconfident with himself. In the ALCS, everyone had penciled him in for a win because of his performance in the ALDS. I think we let ourselves get a little to confident, and I think he got a little too confident. He needs to focus on executing his pitches, not the fact that statistically, he will probably win this game.
2. He is still really young, so he is still growing. We can’t expect him to be perfect. He’s going to go through some ups and downs. Luckily, he has got Jason Varitek behind the plate, and John Smoltz for some guidance. 
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Dice-K obviously performed really well last year: going 18-3 with an ERA under 3.00. The thing is, he wouldn’t usually go that deep. And the reason that he wouldn’t go that deep: walks. I know that he has a remarkable ability to get out of jams (that he creates with his walks), but I would much rather him try to impress me by going into the seventh inning more often. When he would only go five innings last year, that would put extra stress on our not so deep bullpen. This year, if he can go a bit deeper, and put not so much stress on our much deeper bullpen… well, wouldn’t that be a lot better? 
Tim Wakefield: Everything is better at 62 mph right? Well, that is until the batters time down the knuckle ball and start hitting it all over the place. The good thing about Wakefield is that he can go pretty deep into games. The uncertain part is that he is either on or off… there is very little middle ground. Some nights he’ll have great command, and other nights it’s just not there. Still, it is really fun to watch Wakefield baffle hitters with that knuckleball. 
Brad Penny: The fact that he was 6-9 last year definitely reduced his free agent worth. On the other hand, in 2007 he went 16-4. AJ Burnett on the other hand was one of the must valuable free agents out there. Yet if you compare their numbers, I’d consider them equals. 
John Smoltz: I honestly am not really sure as to how John Smoltz’s numbers will be this season. His role is obviously quite similar to what Curt Schilling’s was supposed to be last season. So where the heck is he going to fit into the rotation when he returns in June? Good question, because I have the same one. I don’t think that the Red Sox would put him or Brad Penny in the bullpen because they could both serve very effectively as starters. So could the Red Sox have a six man rotation? This could work out very well when various injuries start happening throughout the season. 
Bullpen: Last year, the bullpen tended to be a problem for the Red Sox. This year, it could be what makes the difference in October. With some very nice additions this bullpen could be considered one of the best in baseball. 
Manny Delcarmen: This guy definitely improved last year, and I think I had under appreciated him in past years. Last year, he appeared in 73 games (74 innings) with a 3.74 ERA. I don’t really consider him a set up man, but I love having him as a true middle reliever. 
Javier Lopez: He is another one of those guys that is either totally on or totally off. So sometimes, I start pacing my living room when he comes in. I see him come in for only one batter a lot, but that’s because he is a lefty specialist. He pitched great in the World Baseball Classic, and I think I underrate him too because his highest ERA in a Boston uniform is 3.10. 
Justin Masterson: I am so excited to have him here for Opening Day! Last year, he showed us that he can be effective both as a starter and a reliever. So why isn’t he starting then? If he gets the fifth slot, than where would we put Brad Penny? Brad obviously has more experience as a starter, and Justin honestly makes a difference in that bullpen. In the postseason, I loved having either Okajima-Masteron-Papelbon, or Masterson-Okajima-Papelbon. I think he’ll have a really nice year in the bullpen. 
Hideki Okajima: Although Okajima was not as consistent last year as he was in 2007, he still did pretty well. Like I’ve said, inconsistency is bound to happen, and I still think that he can be really effective this year. The good part is, we won’t have to rely on him that much seeing that we picked up Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito. 
Ramon Ramirez: An extra set up man for the Red Sox! He was the set-up guy for the Royals, and he had a great season last year. I know that he has the stuff, but from what I’ve not
iced this spring, he just needs to maintain his command. The biggest thing will be the transition from Kansas City to Boston. There is always a lot more scrutiny and attention in places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but as long as he stays focused, I’m not concerned. 
Takashi Saito: So this guy posted some pretty spectacular numbers as a closer for the Dodgers, and now he’s coming to the Red Sox just as a set-up man? That’s pretty awesome. But I think that we can still use him to close some games–in fact, I think that we should. At the end of last season… the very end, I’m talking Game 7 of the ALCS… Papelbon wasn’t even available to pitch. He was worn out, and I think we used him way too much throughout the entire season. I’m not saying that he and Saito should split time, but if Papelbon has been working a lot, I think that Saito is definitely qualified to close out a game. 
Jonathan Papelbon: We all know that Papelbon is a very dominant guy, but he did blow a few saves last season. In fact, he blew two in a row. I remember thinking that he needed some rest! We work this poor guy to death (not that we had any other option). But now, I feel much more comfortable that we have guys that will be able to fill in when he needs an off day. Papelbon obviously has a great mentality, so he definitely needs to maintain that, and if he does, I think that he will have a great season. 
Keep your eyes open for: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Daniel Bard. I think that we will see all of them throughout the entire season. Also, keep tabs on Junichi Tazawa’s progress. 
Offensive/Defensive preview to come either late tomorrow, or early Monday!! 

#5: Nomar Garciaparra

Continuing in the tradition started by Jimmy Curran over at Baseball, the Yankees, and Life; I am dedicating my latest ranking, number five, to a former Red Sox player that has a very special place in my heart. 

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Nomar went to Georgia Tech, along with Jason Varitek (who had his number retired), and helped the “Yellow Jackets” get to the College World Series in 1994. He was a first round pick for the Red Sox in 1994, and played three years in their minor league system. He made his Major League debut in August 1, 1996, and his first major league hit, which happened to be a home run, came on September 1. It’s not like he was playing everyday though, John Valentin was the starting shortstop at the time, but not for long. By late 1996, Nomar had taken the job– Valentin moved to second base. 
Garciaparra’s rookie year was 1997, and he hit 30 home runs, and had 98 RBIs, which set a Major League record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter. He also set the record for leadoff home runs by a rookie. Do you guys know who broke it? (Hint: It was another shortstop). He had a 30 game hit streak which also set an American League rookie record. He was unanimously voted Rookie of the Year and even finished eighth in MVP voting. 
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In 1998 he finished with 35 home runs and 122 RBIs, and runner up for MVP. For the next two years, he led the American League in batting average. .357 in 1999, and .372 in 2000. He didn’t even win MVP those years. 
In 2001, the injuries began. His season was ended when he came into Spring Training with a wrist injury and returned in 2002 to bat .310. It was the beginning of the end. 
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Following a dreadful end to the 2003 season (Nomar did okay, but the Red Sox didn’t), the relatively new Red Sox ownership was investigating the idea of trading Manny to Texas for A-Rod, and Nomar to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. This obviously upset Nomar, and he became very unhappy. 
He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2004 for Orlando Cabrera and Doug (not even going to attempt his last name). Nonetheless, he was given a World Series ring from that year. God, I miss Nomar. 
Projects
For those of you that do not know, I have started a tradition of having “project players”. These are players that I see in Spring Training, or who may have a brief stint with the Red Sox, that I really like. Last year, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson were my projects. 
I would now like to declare to you my projects for 2009: 
Jeff Bailey
Lars Anderson
Chris Carter
Nick Green
Junichi Tazawa
All of them are minor league players– you can check out my reports on them in my previous entry. Angel Chavez might make the list as well, he’s been looking great. 
Jacobyluvr asked some questions that are really important to look at right now in my last post: 
Initial Intake on Starting Rotation: 
Thus far, we have seen three out of five of our starting rotation: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield. 
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Josh Beckett has been looking great according to reports. The fact that he may look like his 2007 self is very pleasant to hear. Against Boston College, Beckett fired two innings and two strikeouts and didn’t allow any hits. Against the Twins, he also fired two perfect innings, but didn’t strike out anyone. The main thing for Beckett is to stay healthy. Some years he is incredible, others he is mediocre. Last season, he was always “catching up”– ever since that Spring Training game where he had the back spasms. 
Jon Lester pitched against Pittsburgh and earlier today against the Reds. Against Pittsburgh, he pitched two innings, allowed two hits, and struck out one. Today, against the Reds, he pitched two perfect innings and struck out two in the process. Lester is working on adding a changeup to his arsenal of pitches. He is so young that he can continue to learn and really develop. 
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Wakefield, in his start against the Twins, gave up two earned runs on five runs in two innings. Coming out of the bullpen (after Beckett) in the second game against the Twins, he walked one, gave up one hit and no earned runs in two innings. The thing about Wakefield is that he is either on or off– there is very little middle ground. He basically has one pitch, and even though the knuckle ball may be pretty hard to hit for some teams– all it takes is two pitches to time it down. The great thing about Wakefield is that he goes very deep into games. 
We can’t tell much about Dice-K because he has been training in Japan this entire time for the World Baseball Classic, which is starting this weekend. I hope that they don’t overwork him. I know how much he means to Japan and his country, but there are 162 games in the season, and he has to pitch every five days for seven innings ideally. The thing about Dice-K is that even though he went 18-3, he walked tons of people, but got tons of run support. He needs to cut down on the walks (I know he can get out of jams, but I would rather him to deep into games). I’ll be closely watching him in the World Baseball Classic. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi say they have some plans to hit home runs off him. 
Brad Penny will most likely be the fifth starter. He has not pitched in Spring Training yet, and he will not be starting against Puerto Rico. The biggest thing for him is also to stay healthy, because when he is healthy, he is great. After all, in 2007 he did finish third in Cy Young Award voting. Justin Masterson did a great job starting though.  
Mike Lowell Situation
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In order for Lowell to be re
ady for Opening Day, he needs to take it a bit slower than everyone else simply because he is coming off surgery. I definitely would like to see him in a couple of exhibition games though because it would be tough just to come back without any practice. That’s kind of what happened to Josh Beckett. If Lowell is not ready for Opening Day, he should not play. The last thing I want is for him to push anything too far. If he is not ready for Opening Day, I have some ideas:
Kevin Youkilis could move to third, and either Lars Anderson, Jeff Bailey, or Chris Carter could come up to play first base. It would not be the end of the world if he can’t start on Opening Day. The main priority is for him to completely rehab. He is working out in Fort Myers right now with everyone else, but I would guess that if he is not ready for Opening Day, he should probably start out in Triple AAA just to get a feel for things. 

I can’t watch Spring Training games, which really upsets me. They’re always during school, so I can only check the score so often. Today, as I checked the score, I noticed that we were losing. Instead of freaking out, I checked the box score and checked out who hit and who pitched. Jed Lowrie had a good day, and Chris Carter got a hit too. As I was scrolling through the pitchers to see who had earned the runs, I noticed that Ramon Ramirez had three of the earned runs and four of the hits. He had looked so good before! Was it just a bad day? 
Thank you all for reading!
-Elizabeth