Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Sweeney’

It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

Boston Globe Staff

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Still nothing to write home about yet.  Arnie Beyeler, who’s been managing the PawSox, is our new first base coach.  Greg Colbrunn, formerly of the Evil Empire, is our new hitting coach.  Victor Rodriguez, our former minor league coordinator, is our new assistant hitting coach.

As far as players are concerned, we’ve non-tendered Ryan Sweeney, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison.  We traded Zach Stewart, who we got from the Other Sox for Kevin Youkilis, to the Pirates for a player to be named later.  Last but not least, although we claim that we’re still working on resigning Cody Ross, we worked out a two-year deal worth ten million dollars for Johnny Gomes pending a physical.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 59-24, and the Jets, 49-19.




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That, my friends, was incredible.

In keeping with the recent close-game tradition, we were really biting our nails in this one.  It was close.  It was really close.  It was almost really close in the worst way.  Fortunately, we handled ourselves well.

We scored two runs in the second; Gonzalez singled, Ross struck out, Salty walked, Middlebrooks struck out, and Sweeney doubled in two.  But we really have to thank the pitchers for carrying us, because pitching, not hitting, is how you get through games in which you score only two runs in the second inning.

Doubront gave up nothing through six.  The Yanks finally got to him in the seventh when he made a mistake and gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning.  One single and one strikeout later, he was relieved by Albers.  Albers gave up a single and was relieved by Miller.  Miller pitched the rest of the seventh and then secured the first two outs of the eighth before allowing a double.  Then he was relieved by Aceves, who blew his save completely by giving up an RBI single that tied the game.

It was beyond infuriating.  Here we’d managed to take a one-run lead to the ninth, and the pitcher who blows the lead is the closer.  It’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that.  Actually, it’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that, ever.  And there he was, allowing RBI singles like somebody told him to do it.

Anyway, he got through the ninth and ended up pitching the tenth.  The offense fortunately bailed him and the entire team out.  In the top of the tenth, Salty walked, and Bobby V. and Beckett were both ejected by two different umpires for maintaining that Middlebrooks got hit.  The umpires thought he was faking it, but Middlebrooks was hit in the wrist, and you could clearly see afterwards that his wrist was bruised.  I mean, he was trying to bunt; it’s natural for his wrist to be in the line of fire.  If it wasn’t hit by the baseball, what was it hit with? I’d really like to know.  The irony is that home plate umpire Brian O’Nora went down with Middlebrooks on that pitch because he was hit by it as well.  So he should have known what it felt like.  To claim that all you have to do is listen for the sound of impact of the pitch on the batter is nothing short of absurd.

Anyway, Middlebrooks ended up singling after that and was out on a force out by Sweeney.  Ciriaco was the big hero yet again, delivering a single in the clutch that scored one run.  Just enough to get the W.

The final score was 3-2.  All told, Doubront gave up one run on four hits over six and one-third innings while walking five and striking out eight.  Aceves received both a blown save and the win.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury each had two hits, and Salty was the only member of the lineup who went hitless, although he did walk twice.

If you have to beat the Yanks, one of the best scenarios in which to do it is a late-inning situation on their soil.  That really gives them a taste of their own medicine.  It was beyond awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.

AP Photo

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Alright.  We may be way behind in the division standings.  We may be way behind in the Wild Card standings.  And we may even be behind .500.  But just like the Yanks are the absolute worst team in the world to lose to, they’re also the absolute best team in the world to beat.  Because when we beat the Yankees, there is a derivative satisfaction unparalleled by any other victory against any team ever, unless of course a particular game against another team is critically important in deciding our fate or something.  Other than that, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that beating the Yanks is one of our favorite things to do.  It’s really a ton of fun.

Especially when they help you do it.  Which they did.  It was awesome.  And lucky.  We scored a good amount of runs but spent too much time letting the Yankees get them back to have been able to have won without some help from them as well.  That’s the only thing I didn’t like about last night’s victory, even though the humiliation of having handed over the win to us was nice.

Last night, it wasn’t always clear that we were going to win.  First of all, it wasn’t even clear we were going to play; the game started two hours and four minutes late due to rain.  But when it did start, it started with us scoring three runs.  Not a bad way to start if you ask me.  After Ellsbury struck out, Ciriaco and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, and Gonzalez doubled in one, while Middlebrooks doubled in two more one out later.  Then we turned it over to Lester, who had a one-two-three first.  Not a bad start to his start, either.  Both teams went down in order until the bottom of the third, when Lester gave up a solo shot with two out.  But we answered in a big way in the fifth.  With two out, Ciriaco singled, and Pedroia walked.  And then Gonzalez completely unleashed on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, a slider.  It was going eighty-one miles per hour, but he saw it as clear as day all the way.  And he sent that ball all the way out to right center field.  And we doubled our run total with one swing of the bat, just like that.

Unfortunately, Lester let the Yanks answer back; he gave up a walk in the fifth followed by another home run.  Then he put two more runners on base and, after securing another out, secured the second out with a groundout that scored another run.

Neither team scored again until the bottom of the eighth; Albers had pitched the seventh, and Padilla came on as the setup man and allowed a single and then a home run with two out.  That tied the game at six, and clearly I was not happy.  We’d played solid ball and had a chance to beat them only to have a setup man erase our lead.  A setup man is not supposed to erase leads.  A setup man is supposed to preserve leads for the closer so we can win and get out of there.  Miller replaced Padilla after that.

Fortunately, the hitters bailed him out in the ninth.  After Sweeney flied out, Ellsbury walked and scored on a triple by Ciriaco, made possible by a bumbling Curtis Granderson who couldn’t field it.  If it had to be anyone on their team who messed up the play, I’m glad it was Granderson after Friday’s grand slam.  Ciriaco then scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  And Aceves picked up the save.

So Lester gave up four runs on four hits, two of them home runs, while walking two and striking out six.  He threw 101 pitches and didn’t get the win.  He was solid early and not late; mostly it was just a labor.  Albers got a hold, Padilla got a very well-deserved blown save, Miller got the win which is ironic because he pitched the least of all our staff who made appearances last night, and then, as I said, Aceves got the save.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Ciriaco and Gonzalez went three for five.  We posted eleven hits to their six, and the final score was 8-6.  And that’s a wrap.  Isn’t it sweet?

Getty Images

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