Posts Tagged ‘Calgary Flames’

Victorino’s thumb surgery was successful, and he should be good to go for Spring Training.  Andrew Miller’s looking forward to starting the season without a hitch as well.  We traded Franklin Morales and farm pitcher Chris Martin to the Rockies for infielder Jonathan Herrera.  And we signed Shunsuke Watanabe, a veteran submariner from Japan.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Flames and lost to the Sabres this week.

I’ll be taking a break of about two weeks.  I think we’re all looking forward to seeing the team take shape.

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So we went from a week of huge news to a week of basically no news.  Papi wants a one-year contract extension, and Ben is maintaining a firm but low-key presence at the Winter Meetings.  And that’s pretty much it.

In other news, the B’s beat the Flames, 2-1, and Oilers, 4-2, but the Canucks gave us a beating yesterday, 6-2.  And the Pats dropped a close nailbiter to the Dolphins, 24-20.  I’d really like to have a landslide win.  We haven’t had one of those in a while.

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The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

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Okay.  Spring Training is officially in full swing.  We can say that because now the entire roster is officially in Fort Myers.  In reality, most of the entire roster has been down there for some time because they were early.  Like I said, this is a good thing.  It may have made Tuesday, when all the position players were supposed to report which would mark the definitive moment when the team started preparing for what is supposed to be a championship season, pretty anticlimactic, but it means they’ll get some extra training in, which is obviously good.

But now that everyone’s there and ready to get going, it’s finally time to talk about what we want to see from each of them this year.

I want to see at least thirty starts from Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K.  Lester and Buchholz absolutely can not be expected to shoulder the load of an entire season.  So at least thirty starts each.  Especially from Beckett.  Beckett decided to tweak is offseason training regimen, focusing this winter on core stability.  He lost some weight, he feels great, and he looks good, which is a huge relief, because his last season was abysmal.  Lackey also switched up his offseason routine; he got a new trainer, and ran more and focused on cardio exercises.  So he’s also lost some weight, he’s moving around better, and of course he’s heading into his sophomore season with us, which is when new Boston pitchers really get going.  So I expect some seriously stellar stuff from him.  He’s starting our first Grapefruit League game today.  As far as Dice-K is concerned, there’s not much to say.  2007 was a miracle year for him.  I call it a miracle year because he hasn’t been able to duplicate it in Boston since.  He’s had about as many issues with durability and consistency as anyone could possibly tolerate, and all I want to see from him this year is health.  I only want to see him not go on the DL.  That’s all I want.  At this point, that really shouldn’t be too much to ask.  He looks good in camp as well so far.  Most of the rotation threw thirty pitches in their first side session.  He threw forty-five.  If he can support that work, that’s fine.  I just want to see him penciled into every fifth start for an entire year.

As far as Lester and Buchholz are concerned, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  From Lester, I want to see two things: a better month of April and a lower walk total.  Every year without fail, his Aprils are terrible.  And last season may have been a good one for him overall, but it also was marked by eighty-three walks, a career high.  He’s going to fix that problem with brute focus.  In baseball, you can never afford to take it easy and assume an out.  So turn up the voltage in April and turn down the walks, and we’re talking Cy Young.  And while he’s at it, twenty wins would be nice too.  Regarding Buchholz, like I said, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  He’s not setting any statistical goals for himself this year.  But I’m not him, so I say twenty wins from him as well also be nice.

I want to see at least forty-five saves from Paps.  He’s had a sub-par year, but he’s still an elite closer.  But if he wants to keep that title, he’s got some work to do.  He blew too many saves we couldn’t afford to blow.  He’s surpassed the forty-save mark before, in 2008 with forty-one, but after some of the numbers he put up last season, in an ideal world I’d like to see something spectacular from him.

From the bullpen collectively, I want to see it pick up slack.  I want it to be a sturdy, viable go-to option for Tito in any scenario.  Our bullpen is powerful, capable, and diverse, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be able to sustain a season’s worth of work, giving starters and closer a day off here and there, bailing them out when necessary, and still have plenty of health in the tank.  This year, I want to not hold my breath when I see Tito pick up that phone.

From Adrian Gonzalez, I want to see everything we’re hoping for: good defense and good offense over the long term.  It’s pretty basic.  We acquired him for a reason.  This is his first year with us, and he had the surgery on his right shoulder, so he may not be at his one-hundred-percent best, but I want to see something pretty close.  Something in the ballpark (pun intended) of upwards of 130 RBIs.  This is obviously a stretch.  Obviously.  But at Fenway, I don’t think it’s as much of a stretch as it would be elsewhere.  Adrian Gonzalez was born to step up to the plate in a close game and just take batting practice off the Green Monster.

From Pedroia, I’m going for playing time.  He’s one of our toughest players, and I want to see him spend as much time as he possibly can on the field and at the plate.  I still don’t even like thinking about that foul ball that just happened to hit that one spot on the top of his foot (what are the chances?), and all I want is for him to be back and action.  Let’s say 650 plate appearances.  He’s done it before, and he can do it again.

From Scutaro, I want to see an increase in offensive production across the board.  I want him to not be a weak link in the otherwise strong chain of our lineup.  I don’t want him to be a sigh of relief for opposing pitchers, especially since his durability is really solid; he made a career-high 632 plate appearances last season, and that with his own fair share of various ailments.  From Scutaro and also from Varitek, I want to see an OPS close to .800.  From Salty, I want to see reassurance in some form that he’ll be able to not only do his job but do his job well.  Because, to be honest with you, he worries me.

From Youk on the field, I want to see what I saw at first base, at third.  And I want to see him reach his self-set goal of posting a .980 OPS this year.  He was close last year.  This isn’t an unrealistic expectation.

Papi needs to increase his production on southpaws.  Last season, this was a noticeable fault, and it created problems not just for the team and its ability to win but also for his own ability to succeed.  If he continues to be weak against lefties, he’ll have to be taken out of the lineup against lefties.  That means that any roll he happens to be on at the moment will be interrupted.  That happened last season, and it wasn’t good.  With everyone pressuring him with all their negative expectations, he’s fighting a psychological battle that won’t be helped by time on the bench.

When it comes to Crawford, I’m thinking about runs scored.  Runs scored is an interesting statistic because it’s affected by so many things: hits, walks, and steals.  With the emphasis on that last one for this guy.  His speed will play a very intriguing role in his ability to score runs, and I’m looking for at least a hundred.  He scored 110 last season, good for seventh in the Majors.  Put someone like that on the base paths with a potent lineup like ours, and it should be a walk in the park.  Pun obviously intended.  He’ll be debuting Monday against the Twins.

Let’s talk about Ellsbury.  Ellsbury had the entire season and offseason to rest, recover, and recoup from his injury.  And he is now officially completely healthy.  He has absolutely no restrictions on his movement and is fully prepared for Spring Training.  He’s going back to center field where he belongs, so I want to see plenty of classic diving catches on the run.  He’ll probably bat first, so I want to see good production in leadoff right out of the gate.  And, since no conversation about Ellsbury would ever be complete without a mention of steals, I’d like to see him steal something like sixty bags this year.

Put together my goals for Dice-K and Papi and you have my goal for Drew: stay off the disabled list and increase production against southpaws.  He has the potential to be a great hitter; he’s shown himself to be such in the past.  But he’s not going to have much of an impact if he spends a lot of time on the bench or if he doesn’t seize at-bats against lefties as his times to shine.  By the way, his left hamstring is doing much better, and he’s out on the field, which is a good sign.  Also, this year is actually a contract year.  He’s at the end of his five-year deal.  So maybe he’ll pick it up a notch.

Last but certainly not least, from the team as a whole I want to see a picture of health, at least fifty wins at home, at least one hundred wins overall, and a World Series.  Boom.  Done.  What could be better than that?

The team has already had its first official full workout.  It went very well.  And it started with a standing ovation for the ownership group, honoring the moves they made this winter.  That’s extremely unusual.  Players don’t give standing ovations to the front office and the brass just because they went out and made some acquisitions.  But as usual, in Boston we know how to do it right, and that was right.  We one-hit Boston College, beating them for the twenty-first time yesterday, and we crushed Northeastern, 13-2, in the nightcap.  Clearly we’re off to a proper start.

In other news, the Bruins signed defenseman Shane Hnidy.  And we won both of our games this week, the first against the Flames, the last against the Canucks, and we’re playing the Oilers tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Two huge news items this week: the rotation and Mauer.  I’ll talk about the rotation first because it’s awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting five: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wakefield, Buchholz.  In that order.  Beckett gets the nod to start the fifth Opening Day game of his career, the second of his career with us.  And let me tell you that I am looking forward to some serious, ice-cold domination over the Evil Empire because it’s going to be real interesting to see exactly how they intend to beat him.  He’s Beckett.  Beckett the Unbeatable, if you will.  He’ll start opposite Sabathia.  Then we get a day off before Lester’s start, and Lackey will make his Boston debut in the third and hopefully final sweeping game in that series against New York.  Then it’s off to Kansas City (a city I’m still having serious trouble thinking of without the 2012 All-Star Game coming to mind), where Wake will open the series, followed by Beckett who’ll be on regular rest due to the day off, followed by Buchholz, who’ll close it out.  After that it’s back to a regular rotation.

If I weren’t a Red Sox fan, I would be shaking in my shoes when I read about that rotation.  Make no mistake: that is, hands down, without a doubt, the best starting rotation in all of Major League Baseball.  If I sound confident, it’s because I am.  With a rotation like that, who wouldn’t be? Beyond that, I really don’t think there’s much to say.  Except to expect us in the World Series, which has “Boston” written all over it.

But seriously, folks: I like this rotation.  Last season was a fluke for Beckett; if he’s right this year, he belongs at the top of the rotation.  The one-two punch of Beckett and Lester has been proven deadly for the opposition, and I like having a lefty between Beckett and Lackey.  Wake is of course tried and true, and we’ll see how Buchholz fairs.  Overall, one of the strengths of this rotation is its versatility.  It includes heat, power, cunning, and some nasty off-speeds.  We’re going to win some games with these arms, trust me.

By the way, we’re officially not offering Beckett a fifth year in his contract extension.  Faced with a right shoulder like his, I agree with that.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t pay him well, though.  We probably will, but for not as much time.

Big news item number two: In what was perhaps the greatest display of loyalty in the last decade, Joe Mauer, born and raised in Minnesota, signed an eight-year contract extension with a full no-trade clause that averages about $23 million a year.  Personally, I was surprised that the Twins can afford that.  It’s the fourth-largest contract in the history of the Major Leagues, but don’t let that fool you: if he pursued free agency, he almost certainly would’ve been able to command more.  It’s safe to say that he would’ve set off a bidding war between us and New York that could’ve raised his total salary to above $200 million.  But he didn’t, and there wasn’t.  I mean, you can’t get much more loyal than an extension with a no-trade clause.  Would I have loved to see the dynamic offensive catching duo of V-Mart and Mauer split time behind the dish at Fenway Park? You bet.  But this is the next-best thing, and not just because it keeps him out of the division.  And not just because it saves us considerable money since a bidding war with the Yankees is now moot.  It means there’s some hope yet in this game for loyalty like that, even with free agency.  You have to be some special stuff to exercise it, but at least we know it’s still there.  His standing ovation on Tuesday was pretty impressive.

What does this mean for us? It means we’re going to have to get ready to shell out to V-Mart when the time comes, provided he spends more time behind the dish than at the bag and still maintains his high level of play.  Keep in mind that we haven’t yet seen him be our starting catcher for a full season.  For starters, he really needs to work on throwing people out.  But even with that current shortcoming, his high offensive output at a position notorious for week hitters makes him worth it.  Besides, he knows he’ll never be able to serve a team at first or DH as well as he can at catcher, and his price decreases significantly if he pursues either of those routes, so either way he has an incentive to improve.

And now for the usual schedule recap.

On Sunday, we lost to Houston, 7-10.  Six of those ten runs were allowed by Paps, and to top it all off, the game was cut short by rain.  Apparently, he had a migraine before he went out there, so he took some medication and felt a bit drowsy.  He had no energy and proceeded to look like he was pitching to, well, not Major Leaguers.  At least it’s nothing serious, but it would be really great if this doesn’t become some sort of recurring problem.

On Tuesday, we lost to Minnesota, 7-2.  This one was on Buchholz.  In a decidedly 2008-esque performance, he allowed six runs, three walks, and three wild pitches in less than two innings.  Only half of his pitches were strikes.  Not that the offense was any help at all; we scored our first run in the eighth.  Paps did pitch a scoreless inning, though, to bounce back.  Delcmaren enjoyed a nice inning of his own, a one-two-three frame, amidst repeated delivery changes.  But Pedroia left in the bottom of the second with a sprained left wrist.  He’s fine; they benched him on Friday to be cautious, and he started yesterday.

On Wednesday, we beat the Pirates by two.  V-Mart smashed his first Spring Training home run.  Beckett completed his longest start of Spring Training: five innings of dominance during which he relinquished only one run on three hits with two walks.  Also on Wednesday, Embree debuted in a minor league contest and threw a scoreless inning.  Eleven of his twelve pitches were strikes.  It’s good to have you back, buddy.

On Thursday, we beat the Marlins, 6-4, and there were plenty of good offensive performances to go around.  Wake threw six frames and gave up three runs on six hits with two walks and five punchouts.  Fifty-one of his seventy-three pitches were strikes.  I think he’s some kind of Benjamin Button of baseball because it’s uncanny how he keeps it up every year.  I mean, he’s a knuckleballer, but still.  The bigger news was Dice-K’s successful two innings of work.  He gave up a run on two hits with no walks or punchouts in twenty-five pitches.  And he looked good! Cue: sigh of relief.  He’ll miss the first few weeks of the season because the Red Sox want pitchers to throw twenty-five innings before beginning regular season work.  But I’ll live if it means he won’t be a total bust this year.

On Friday, we barely beat the Jays.  Tek and Reddick had our only hits until a three-run ninth that included an RBI single by Papi.  Lowell fouled a ball off his knee in the first; x-rays were negative but he’s day-to-day.  He’s confident he’ll be ready by Opening Day, though.  And this just as he was getting comfortable at first base.  Lester gave up no unearned runs over six innings with five punchouts.  Paps allowed two hits and a walk but no runs.

Yesterday, we lost to the Orioles.  Pedroia and Lackey both looked fantastic, but Embree didn’t.  Hermida left with a tight hamstring.

Opening Day is one week away.  Only one week away.  That means that in one week, we’ll be in the process of watching the first win of a season that’ll probably take us all the way to the top.  (Provided everyone stops thinking our offense is non-existent, of course.) After all, we are Red Sox Nation, and that means we gotta believe.  And it all starts on Sunday at Fenway against New York.  Seven days.  Only seven days.

The Bruins lost to the Rangers and Lightning and shut out the Thrashers and Flames.  This means we’ve moved up to the seventh seed and are currently tied with the Flyers.  Savard is still on the injured reserve.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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