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Posts Tagged ‘Terry Francona’

The black arm bands and the ceremonial uniforms in solidarity with the city following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon were a very appropriate touch and a reminder of the gravity of the situation.  But baseball has always had a positive effect on fans; that’s probably one of the reasons why it’s the national pastime.  I suppose that one of the best things that the team did for us today was play.

So, we got to say hello to Terry Francona once again.  He said he didn’t want this series to be about him.  So far, it hasn’t been.  It’s been about how we won and all.  Still, it was good to see him.

Doubront turned in a great start.  Still brief at five innings, but he gave up only two runs on four hits while walking four and striking out seven.  In the second, there was a single, then a runner on third base thanks to another single, and then a run on a sac fly.  I’d like to see him go deeper into games, but fortunately, with a relief corps like ours, we can support him if he doesn’t.  Mortensen pitched two shutout frames following his start, and Alex Wilson pitched two more.

Both teams scored in the second, but since we were away, we played first and scored first, and in a big, big way.  Napoli doubled to lead it off, Middlebrooks walked, Nava struck out, and then Gomes walked to load the bases.  And then the opposing pitcher allowed a run in one of the most embarrassing ways possible: he walked it in.  It was great.  We scored a run, and the bases were still loaded.  Middlebrooks scored on a sac fly by Ciriaco, and Ellsbury singled in Gomes and stole second base.  Victorino walked to reload the bases, and as if it weren’t embarrassing enough having walked in one run, our generous opponents walked in yet another.  It was awesome.  How often do you see pitchers walk in runs? And how often do you see pitchers walk in runs more than once in a single game? And how often do you see pitchers walk in runs more than once in a single inning? Wow.  I would not want to be Cleveland right now.

But we weren’t done.  Napoli hit a bases clearing double that brought home three in one swing.  Then we were done.  One inning.  Seven runs.  We sent eleven batters to the plate during that inning alone, and Napoli took two turns at the bat, doubling in both.  We didn’t score again in the whole game, but seven runs was all we needed.  So we were really lucky that that held up, because we struck out sixteen times.  So the rest of the game was not something to necessarily be proud of.  But in addition to the seven runs, we walked nine times.  And the final score was 7-2.  So I guess it all worked out.

USA Today Staff/David Richard

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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

AP Photo

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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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The wait is finally over; Mike Napoli is officially ours, but for a lot less, in terms of both time and money.  The original deal was three years worth thirty-nine million dollars.  The new deal is one year worth five million plus incentives to thirteen million.  The problem, as I and probably anyone else suspected, was physical.  During a physical, our doctors noticed something with his hip that caused some concern.  Though a catcher by trade, he’ll be our first baseman.  That’s certainly a better fit for his hip anyway.  So now we can stop wondering and get on with the rest of our baseball lives.

As usual, we avoided arbitration with quite a few guys.  Salty signed a one-year contract with no guarantee.  Ellsbury signed a one-year deal worth nine million dollars, which is an extra-criminal steal.  He’ll be a free agent after this year, so this is probably the last time in his career that he’ll earn less than ten million dollars per year, and even that’s low.  Breslow signed a multi-year deal.

Vicente Padilla has signed a one-year deal to pitch in Japan.  Lastly, Terry Francona, who now manages the Cleveland Indians, will have a memoir coming out tomorrow about his time with us.  It’s called “Francona: The Red Sox Years” and was co-written with Dan Shaughnessy.  An excerpt published earlier painted a less-than-rosy picture of Francona’s relationship with the brass, which he now says is a misrepresentation of his book overall.  Oh, the drama.

In other news, our Super Bowl drought continues.  The Pats beat the Texans in the division playoff, 41-28, but lost the conference championship to the Ravens last night, 28-13.  So that’s it.  Our season is over.  Yet another example of the fact that our offense, outstanding as it is, was a bad match against Baltimore’s defense, and our defense a bad match against Baltimore’s offense.  It was agonizing to watch and painful to recall.  On the bright side, the Bruins have come to the rescue! We beat the Rangers, 3-1, on Saturday in the first game of the shortened season.

The Joy of Sox

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We officially have our new manager, and this shouldn’t be a surprise either.  It’s John Farrell! Honestly, it was supposed to be John Farrell all along, but last year he had two years left on his contract and the Jays instituted that rule that their employees couldn’t make lateral moves to other clubs.  Now, he already managed the Jays for two years and had one year left on his contract so we’ll have to compensate the Jays; look for Mike Aviles and Adam Lind to be included in the deal.  There isn’t much to say by way of introduction because we already know him.  Over the last two years, Toronto’s record has been 154-170.  Obviously that’s not great.  But if the whole Bobby Valentine fiasco taught us something, it’s the value of the intangible factors that come into play when one is managing.  Farrell has been with us through plenty of good, bad, and ugly, and if we can’t have Terry Francona, then Farrell is probably the next-best thing.  Obviously he has a ridiculous amount of work to do, but I believe that he can take the first step down the long road of recovery that’s facing us right now.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick either.  It’s not going to happen overnight.  But it’ll be that much better with the right man on board.  Welcome back!

Unfortunately, Dave Magadan was lured away by the Rangers; he’s now their hitting coach.

Speaking of the Yankees, the Tigers swept them right out of October.  That was pretty sweet.  It still hurts that we weren’t the ones doing the sweeping, but at least somebody did it.

In other news, the Pats experienced another nailbiter loss, this one to the Seahawks, 24-23.

AP Photo

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