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Posts Tagged ‘Florida Marlins’

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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Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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We’re seeing good things from the pitchers as well as the hitters this week.  Lester has a bit of a ways to go shaking the offseason rust off, but Beckett seems to be right on track.  Papi and Pedroia, among others, delivered at the plate this week as well.  We also made our first round of cuts, with no major surprises.  We saw some cases for the role of fifth starter, and we saw Bard hiccup in his latest step on the road to becoming a starter, which one American League scout seems to think is not the greatest of ideas.  Bobby V. also says he’s working with the pitchers to develop a new approach that incorporates a little more focus on the first-base runner in order to avoid the rampant running that we experienced last season.  All in all, it was a great week, and we’re starting to look like a team again.

We beat the Orioles, 6-1, on Sunday.  It was better than his previous outing, but still not what you expect from him.  In four innings, he threw sixty-six pitches and gave up one run and one hit and struck out two but walked four.  That’s never something you want to hear.  He bounced back, though, to retire seven of his last eight batters.  Shoppach caught him for the first time in seven years.  His cutter was really nice.  Pedroia went two for three with two RBIs, and Ross hit and scored twice each.  Cook, competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, delivered two scoreless frames.  His sinker was good.

We beat the Marlins, 5-3, on Monday, ironically on Beckett’s watch.  In total, he pitched four innings.  In total, he struck out three, gave up one run, one hit, and one walk and hit two batters.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  His first inning was horrible.  He hit both batters that inning; allowed that one hit, a double; and allowed one of his walks, which came with the bases loaded to allow his only run.  He threw twenty-one pitches that inning.  But he turned it around, and it was smooth sailing after that; he retired the last seven batters he faced and threw thirty-six pitches for the remainder of his outing.  Melacon delivered a perfect fifth; Bailey delivered a not-so-perfect sixth, giving up three straight hits and a run before finishing his work.  Ozzie Guillen received his first rejection as manager of the Florida Marlins.  That really didn’t take him long at all; honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t come sooner.  Finally, Pedro Ciriaco, a non-roster invitee to camp, blasted a two-run walkoff home run in the tenth inning to win it for us.

I don’t care if it’s the regular season, the postseason, or Spring Training; for me, beating the Yankees is always in season.  And that’s what we did on Tuesday.  By a score of 1-0.  Ciriaco again delivered; he singled to lead off the ninth and came home on two errors.  Doubront started and delivered four shutout innings during which he gave up two hits, walked one, balked one, and struck out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-five pitches were strikes.  Obviously he threw way too many pitches, but what he was throwing looked good.  Bowden struck out three of his four batters and delivered a scoreless fifth.  Padilla also appeared and pitched three innings, striking out four.  Meanwhile, Buchholz started a simulation game and pitched four simulated innings; he walked two, struck out two, and gave up five hits, two of which were for extra bases.  He also picked off Punto.

The Cards beat us on Thursday, 9-6.  It wasn’t pretty.  Bobby V.’s statement that Bard’s been better was an understatement.  Bard was originally supposed to pitch four innings in relief, but he only lasted two and two-thirds innings.  He gave up seven runs on six hits, one of which was a home run.  He struck out four but also walked four.  There was also a sixteen-minute rain delay in the middle of his first inning, which supposedly wasn’t helpful either.  Meanwhile, Aceves started the game and actually delivered four full innings, and his four innings were awesome: one run on three hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.  McDonald and Pedroia each hit home runs, McDonald’s a two-runner and Pedroia’s a leadoff shot.  Papi and Lavarnway each hit doubles.

The Twins squeaked by us on Thursday, 2-1.  Lester was not good.  He threw eighty-one pitches in four innings.  Only forty-seven of those eighty-one pitches were strikes.  He hit two, walked one, struck out one, and gave up five hits, all of them to the last third of the order.  No control, no command, and no curveball.  Miller pitched a scoreless inning and struck out two; his two strikeouts came from the stretch, while a walk in the inning came from the windup.  Bobby V. told him to only pitch out of the stretch.  We’ll see how that works out.  Bailey bounced back to strike out two in a one-two-three inning.

We played two split-squad games against the Orioles yesterday.  We tied one at three and won the other, 7-4.  In the former, Cook pitched three and one-third innings and gave up a hit and a walk but struck out one and induced a double play.  In the latter, Beckett pitched a fine five innings; he gave up one run on two hits while walking one and striking out two.  Forty of his fifty-nine pitches were strikes.  Yup, that’s a mighty fine five innings.  Ross hit a home run in a full count.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Pens, Bolts, and Sens but beat the Flyers.

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We won and all, but there was more badness, more disappointment, and more fear and suspense than anything else.  It wasn’t because anyone did anything wrong.  It was because bad things happened to the people who weren’t doing anything wrong.

Lester had a no-no going through four innings.  His start was shaping up to be almost immaculate.  Take away the seven-pitch walk he issued to start the third, and you’re looking at a pitcher who’s halfway through a perfect game.  Due to that walk, that third inning was the only inning during which he faced more than the minimum; that inning, he faced four batters instead of three.  He had only thrown fifty pitches through four innings, thirty-five of which were strikes.  So he was on pace to sustain his performance, and he could have pitched a complete game if necessary.  And he was on pace to do it with the utmost nastiness and filth.  He had all of his pitches going; his sinker, changeup, and curveball were thrown with deadly precision and deception, and his cut fastball was as good as I’ve ever seen it.

Except that he was removed due to a strained left latissimus, a muscle around his left shoulder.  This news is as terrible as Lackey’s start on Monday.  How do we know? Because he was taken out smack-dab in the middle of a no-no bid that looked like it had every intention of continuing.  In that situation, you don’t talk to the pitcher, you don’t look at the pitcher, you don’t touch the pitcher, and you don’t even breathe the same air as the pitcher.  And you definitely do not, under any non-emergency circumstances, remove the pitcher from the no-no situation.  Even if he’s about to end the shutout with a string of walks, you leave him in there to finish what’s his.  Even if he’s about to throw two hundred pitches, you leave him in there to finish what’s his.  You do not ever take him out of there unless there’s something so incredibly urgent that it absolutely can not wait for history-making to take place.  And yet Lester had to leave in the middle of a no-no bid.  Given the fact that Dice-K is out for the rest of the season and Lackey may be right behind him, this is the absolute worst conceivable time for Lester to have any sort of ailment or injury.

The relief corps, with the exception of Paps, was outstanding, especially given the fact that they had to work overtime to try to clean up Lackey’s mess.  Albers pitched the fifth and sixth and got the win; Morales pitched the seventh, and Bard pitched the eighth.

Meanwhile, Papi led off the second with a double and scored on a double by Tek, who scored on a single by Drew.  Then, Pedroia hit a solo shot in the third.  It was huge.  I think Pedroia knew he was going to hit a home run the instant he saw the ball leave the hand.  It was a monster blast, both literally and figuratively.  It completely cleared that wall.  It was his fourth home run from the cleanup spot this year.

So you can imagine the collective exasperation when Paps almost blew everything in the ninth.  He gave up a single and a home run to completely destroy the shutout and allow the Jays to pull within one.  Luckily, the defense stepped up and locked it down.  A textbook outfield throw home by McDonald that made you forget his massive lack of offensive production this year as well as an equally textbook plate-blocking mission by Tek sealed the deal.  That play was clutch.  Without it, we go into extra innings, and being that we rolled out the bullpen already, there’s no telling who would have had to pitch and for how long.  In that situation, we probably would have lost just because we wouldn’t have had pitching to support the runs we’d score, if any.  Tek was a rock at home plate.  John Farrell can claim all he wants that the call was bad, but we all know that that was the final out.  Game over.  The final score was 3-2.  Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one.  There’s no way Paps deserved that save.  As far as I’m concerned, that save belongs to Tek.  It was the defense version of a walk-off, and it was just as supremely awesome as any walkoff hit.

Youk was out of the lineup, by the way; he has a stiff neck and expects to be back today.  We traded Cameron to the Marlins for cash considerations or a play to be named later.  Gonzalez was voted the American League Player of the Month.  And the team won.

We should be focusing on the positive.  We had a great series against Houston.  We came home and lost on Monday but won yesterday.  Our ace almost fired off the second no-hitter of his career.  But between all the confusing diagnoses and the various ailments that seem to be befalling us at every turn, it’s way too hard to forget the predicament in which we find ourselves in the standings.  Like I always say, the key will be getting on a roll and using our momentum, not squandering it.  And not having all of our starters be injured.  We should have more information on Lester’s status today.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Things did not start out too well for either pitcher.  We threatened in the first; Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and Pedroia singled.  (Despite the fact that Ellsbury has taken some bumps and bruises lately, he’s still fine.) Then CC Sabathia put up three consecutive swinging strikes.  Similarly, Beckett allowed two consecutive singles before securing two swinging strikes and a groundout.

Both Sabathia and Beckett settled down after that; nobody scored until the fifth.  With the bases loaded, Ellsbury smacked a double that brought in two.  That was it until the seventh, when we put up a four-spot.  Cameron led off the inning with a walk and scored on a single by Tek.  Two batters later, Pedroia singled and Gonzalez walloped a massive three-run shot into the seats behind the bullpen in right field.  It was a high fastball, and he had that ball’s number right from the beginning.  It was a blast to watch, both literally and figuratively.  He assumed his stance earlier, so he had more space over the plate.  By doing so, he had more room on the inside, which mean that Sabathia couldn’t pitch inside, which he had been wont to do with lefties.  Gonzalez has now hit five home runs in four consecutive games.  His longest home run streak, which he two years ago today, is five.  Coincidence? I think not.  It was his ninth of the season and eighth this month.  Even with two out, that pitch never stood a chance.  He is just on fire.  Right now, I would say he’s probably the hitter to beat in all of Major League Baseball.  You would never have known it from his two at-bats before that, but he smoked that ball all the way.

And that was the final score right there.  6-0.  We win.  Ellsbury went two for four; Pedroia went three for four with a steal.  Joe Girardi was ejected, and Jorge Posada took a mental health day that may or may not have coincided with a bad back day yesterday.  He claimed it had nothing to do with the fact that he was dropped to the number nine spot.  Oh, the drama.

So obviously the other really awesome part of the game was that zero.  Beckett was phenomenal.  Six shutout innings.  Four hits, two walks, nine strikeouts.  (Incidentally, he also struck out nine during the complete game he pitched in the 2003 World Series, also against the Yankees.  Coincidence? I think not.) 105 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  He wasn’t able to use the two-seam as effectively as he wanted to, especially against lefties, but he worked a filthy changeup, and his cutter and four-seam were comparably unhittable.  He even threw in some nasty curveballs.  But that changeup and that cutter were just absolutely filthy.  He may have thrown twenty-one pitches in his first inning, but he threw only nine in his last.

As I said, he notched two K’s in the first, the last of which was a three-pitch strikeout of Robinson Cano put away with the changeup.  His second inning was one-two-three but he didn’t strike out anybody.  He notched two more swinging strikeouts in the third to open and end the inning, both ending with cutters.  The fourth was also one-two-three and featured back-to-back K’s, the first a swing and a miss on a cutter and the second a called strikeout on a cutter.  The fifth opened and ended with two five-pitch swinging strikeouts, the first on the curveball and the second on the changeup.  The sixth was one-two-three and began when A-Rod struck out on a cutter.  Beckett just mowed through the lineup.  He was dominant.  He was not somebody you wanted to mess with.  The Yankee lineup didn’t mess with him.  He got the win.  The only complaint anyone could possibly have with his outing is that he was slightly inefficient; had his work been more streamlined, he could have pitched at least another inning.  But in his two starts against New York this year, he has pitched fourteen shutout innings, given up only six hits, and struck out nineteen batters.  In general, he is currently nursing a shutout streak of eighteen and a third innings.  And his ERA is 1.75.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Albers pitched the seventh and eighth.  Hill pitched the ninth.  Done.

That was awesome.  It was just awesome.  We did everything the Yankees didn’t.  We manufactured runs.  We hit for power.  We also just out-pitched them completely.  So it’s pretty simple.  The worst we can do now is win the series.  But obviously what we really want to do is sweep.  The way the pitching matchups worked out, I’d say that’s a good possibility.

In other news, the Bruins dropped the first game of the series with the Lightning, 5-2.  Ouch.

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