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Posts Tagged ‘AJ Pierzynski’

Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first.  We non-tendered Bailey and Kalish.  Also, congratulations to Lackey on a well-deserved Tony Conigliaro Award.  Not that that’s a small achievement, but it’s not disturbing and alarming like the big news of the week.

This week, we’ve had to deal with some significant departures.  This is going to be rough.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is our first departure.  He is now a Florida Marlin, having signed a deal for three years and twenty-one million dollars.  We acquired him as a veteran, and now he leaves as a veteran having helped us win the World Series.

Last year, Salty batted .273 with fourteen homers and sixty-five RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .994 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.88.  But as with all great catchers, he contributed innumerable qualities like leadership and work ethic and skill with calling games and managing pitchers.  Needless to say, the last three years, including October, would have looked very different without him, and he will certainly be missed.  Salty, we thank you, and we salute you.

We welcome AJ Pierzynski, who has signed a one-year deal pending a physical.  Last year, he batted .272 with seventeen homers and seventy RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .998 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.63.  He’s gritty, and he’ll fit in just fine.  We also welcome Edward Mujica, the righty reliever, who signed a two-year deal for $9.5 million.

Our other departure is different.  This isn’t someone we brought in who has now decided to leave for a three-year contract.  We say goodbye to someone we raised, who spent his entire career thus far with us, and who didn’t go to just any team.  Jacoby Ellsbury is now a New York Yankee.  It’s basically the same old story.  They lured him over there with the type of contract that only the New York Yankees could provide: seven years and $153 million.  So the Evil Empire offers these contracts like it’s made of money, since it basically is, and no other team can compete with that.  I mean, it’s not like we haven’t seen this before.  A star center fielder who bats leadoff and makes spectacular catches and helped us win the World Series and who is a Boston icon leaving for the dark side; where have I seen that before?

It’s just awful.  Our job is to raise players in the farm so they can stay here.  Out job is not to raise players in the farm so they can win a ring and then just leave and give their services to the highest bidder.  That was never what baseball was supposed to be about.  But that’s the reality in which we and the game find ourselves now.

It’s not our fault that we choose to be a responsible team that conducts itself in a responsible way.  A contract worth that many years and that much money does not allow for much flexibility, which is what you need if you’re going to win.  Think about our performance over the course of the past decade. Think about our performance over the course of the past year, about the acquisitions we made last offseason and where they led us in October.  We should feel good about our success and about the business model and strategies that got us there.  Hindering our flexibility by committing almost a whole decade’s worth of years and millions of dollars in three digits has not, historically, been one of those strategies.  That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. It means there’s something wrong with them.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate Ellsbury’s achievements in Boston.  He’s been hurt, but he has always powered through in true dirt-dog fashion, never shying away from making the tough plays no matter what mind kind of pain waited as a consequence.  In his career, he’s bagged .297 with sixty-five homers and 314 RBIs.  He has led the American League three times in steals.  And he made only three errors last year.  He helped us win not one but two World Series championships, making his presence  seen and felt in both.  I don’t think we’ll ever forget the way he patrolled Fenway’s center field with ease and made it look as easy as it really was for him to make catches that didn’t even seem to be humanly possible.

His seven years are up, and now he’s joined the darkness. Ellsbury, we thank you, and we salute you.  But we feel disappointed, insulted, and betrayed.

Fortunately, Napoli is coming back.  So there’s that sign of hope and optimism.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1, but beat the Penguins, 3-2, and the Leafs, 5-2.  The Pats just barely, and I mean that in every sense of the phrase, eked out a win against the Browns, 27-26.  It really went down to the wire.  Seriously.

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Isn’t that convenient.  People work all day from nine to five just so they can come home and watch the Red Sox lose, 9-5.  What a nice ending to the day: a loss and a brand-new batch of worries.

Tazawa barely lasted four innings.  He gave up nine runs on ten hits with a walk and two K’s.  A two-run shot by Carlos Quentin was involved.  And this is worrisome because Tazawa is so young.  As a pitcher, he’s very impressionable.  The last thing we need is for this loss to mess with his psyche and confidence to the point where winning becomes difficult.  Or this could be the first of a string of losses; a pitcher’s slump, if you will.  Either way, it’s bad, and it can not happen.  On the bright side, it only took him eighty-five pitches to tank, so at least he’ll be well-rested for his next start.

The relief core was fine and included…Nick Green? He pitched the eighth and ninth.  Delcarmen had already pitched the fifth and sixth, and Ramirez pitched the seventh.  Nobody else was available.  Saito’s neck was sore, Wagner threw a session on Wednesday, and Bard and Okajima would’ve been unavailable against the Jays because of their workload the previous two games.  Youk had to tell him that, at the Major League level as opposed to high school, you’ll be called for a ball if you lick your fingers between pitches.  He threw thirty-five pitches, thirteen of them strikes.  Three groundouts, three flyouts.  He threw mostly cutters with quite a few four-seams, with a few two-seams and sliders here and there.  He walked three but didn’t allow a hit or a run.  More importantly, he kept the bullpen also well-rested for its next appearance.  Green was the first position player to pitch multiple innings since Dave McCarty in 2004.

That’s the key to losses like this.  If you’re losing by a fairly wide margin late in the game and you get the sense that it’s pretty much over, you want to do things that give your aces and big bats a rest.  If you can’t win this one, win the next one, and the best way to ensure that that happens is to ensure that everyone is firing on all cylinders.  So you take your young starter out after four innings and put your backup shortstop on the mound for two innings of relief.

It actually took Tazawa only three innings to lose the game, because he allowed four runs in the second, four in the third, and one in the fourth.  As usual, we made a valiant effort to come back.  We scored two in the fifth, two in the eighth, and one in the ninth, but we were still four runs short.  Ellsbury went two for three before exiting in the fifth due to a high left ankle sprain sustained after colliding with AJ Pierzynski’s shin guard at home.  Rocco Baldelli replaced him.  Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be anything serious, and while he may not start tonight, he’ll be as good as new in a couple of days.  Ortiz went two for four, and V-Mart made another throwing error.  Gonzalez hit a home run in the fifth.  The big night was unquestionably Drew’s, who went two for three with two home runs.  And don’t look now, but his average is starting to climb.  A solo shot in the fifth around the Pesky Pole, and another in the ninth out to center field.

If only the score had been reversed.  If only we’d been on the receiving end of the win.  It would’ve been a sweep of the White Sox, and it wouldn’t have mattered what the Yankees or the Rangers were doing.  But, just our luck, on a night we lose, the Yankees are playing the Rangers.  See, this is why I don’t like chasing the Wild Card.  It gets very awkward, very quickly.  We’re supposed to root for the Yankees to beat the Rangers so we can maintain our Wild Card lead.  We can’t take our usual course of action by rooting for the Rangers to beat the Yankees because of the Wild Card lead.  (The Yankees lost, by the way.  2-7.  I really don’t know how I feel about that.) Yeah.  Awkward.  Well, the only thing we can do at this point is move on to tomorrow.  The White Sox are out of Boston and the Blue Jays are back in.  This could potentially be a very difficult series.  Remember that, for some reason, the Jays always manage to play well against us in September.  I hope this year is an exception.  I really do.  It’s Scott Richmond at Beckett, and hopefully this start will be nothing like his last two.

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All in all, that was a very strange game.  How we came out of it with only one error is completely beyond me, because we displayed just about every blooper you could possibly imagine.  It was a full nine innings of weirdness, let me tell you, but if we win I don’t care how weird it is.  It’s the third win in four days.  Keep ’em coming.

Basically, heading into the eighth inning, we were tied at three.  Jon Lester had exited with two outs in the seventh and gave up three runs on four hits with two walks, six K’s, and a long ball by Jayson Nix to lead off the third.  And he was just about to record that final out, with two men on and an 0-2 count on Alexei Ramirez, when his curveball bounced off Tek and one of the runners scored.  Then Nix struck again, literally and figuratively, as he hit a line drive that hit Lowell’s glove and that batted in their third run.  Even with those two runs, Lester delivered his eighteenth quality start of the season, putting him ahead of Josh Beckett and in the lead of the entire pitching staff.  So he may have gotten a no-decision, but at least he didn’t lose (Delcarmen got the win, and Paps got the save, which was completely clean.  Sixteen pitches in the inning, thirteen of them strikes, a hit but no walks and two K’s.).

It didn’t end there.  In the top of the eighth, Carlos Quentin popped up just behind the mound, and despite Okajima’s best efforts at a catch, the ball landed behind him.  Later in the frame, V-Mart botched the routine throw back to the mound, and the ball ended up in center field, moving Quentin to second.  Paul Konerko singled to put runners at the corners, Jermaine Dye popped to short, AJ Pierzynski struck out, and that was the end of the night for Okajima.  Delcarmen came in and got Alex Rios to pop to second to end the top half of the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, the game was pretty much over.  We scored three runs and basically won it, 6-3, right then and there.  Jason Bay hit a solo shot with one out.  His twenty-eighth of the season, and what a blast it was.  Probably one of his most important home runs of the year.  Definitely one of his farthest.  It didn’t even touch the Monster.  Huge.  And hit with two strikes, too.  After that the White Sox had no chance.  Period.  End of story.

Other RBIs came courtesy of Youk, Pedroia, Martinez (perfect at the plate, going two for two with a double and two RBIs), and Jacoby Ellsbury, who went three for five with a double, an RBI, and a stolen base, thereby officially leading the franchise in single-season stolen bases! Congratulations, kid.  Can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

Turns out that Billy Wagner will, in fact, be pitching in Boston.  He ended up waiving his no-trade clause to win a World Series.  And you hear something like that and it makes you marvel at how far we’ve come.  Until about five years ago we were a temporary stop, not a destination, for baseball’s best, because the expectation was obviously that a World Series wasn’t coming to Boston any time soon.  How the tables have turned.  We’ve come so far from that it’s ridiculous, and I have to say it feels pretty good.  Papelbon is psyched, by the way.  If you take his comments literally, what he said was simply that the bullpen has clearly defined roles and he just wasn’t sure how Wagner’s role would fit in from a purely organizational standpoint.  But he’s psyched.  And if Wagner works out, that would be one seriously formidable one-two punch.

Wakfield returns to the mound tonight opposite Gavin Floyd, but this game is important for reasons other than Wakefield’s return and its status as a must-win (as is basically every game from this point on).  It’s important because Victor Martinez is catching.  He’s been practicing with a pitching machine rigged to throw knuckleballs and was even using in on our last road trip.  This game, with its relatively low-pressure opponent, will be a good introductory diagnostic of V-Mart’s abilities in that vein.  On the bright side, when it comes to catching knuckleballs, he couldn’t possibly be worse than Tek.

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