Posts Tagged ‘Matt Cassel’

Spring Training officially began on Wednesday.  We’ll play eighteen home games in the Grapefruit League this year, and as always Red Sox Nation makes a good showing in Fort Myers; we’ve sold out every game at City of Palms Park since March 16, 2003.  After a season ends the start of Spring Training is one of the greatest days of the year because it means baseball season is just around the corner.  On Wednesday I watched baseball for the first time since October and it felt awesome.  It felt great.  I’m so psyched for the regular season.  But as a spectator I’m not so sure I’m a fan of Spring Training.  It’s impossible to take these games seriously because the starters never stay in.  So it’s not a good gauge of the team’s performance down the stretch.  Not to mention the fact that you’re always worrying about injuries; look at what happened to Josh Beckett last year.  He threw his back out in Spring Training and it completely threw off his season.  Still, it’s a good opportunity for the team to warm up, get the kinks out, and scout the competition, and we get to see glimpses of how the guys are doing.  So it depends on how you look at it, I guess.  If you look at Spring Training as an indication of how the team will do during the season, it’s definitely lacking.  But if you look at Spring Training as an opportunity to get back in the groove, it’s not bad.

Wakefield got rocked by the Twins, but Bard handled him really well, so that was a relief.  Beckett pitched two perfect innings and struck out two against Boston College on Wednesday.  Yes, it was only a college team, but pitching is pitching, and Beckett’s form looked pretty sweet.  And what an experience that must’ve been for BC.  I’m telling you, that’s the thrill of a lifetime for those boys.  I mean what an opportunity for the team.  Buchholz made two starts and luckily he’s looking pretty good.  He pitched two innings on Saturday night, allowing only one hit and striking out one against the Reds.  He got the win in our first Spring Training victory against Major League opposition.  Doesn’t seem like much for Buchholz, but if you consider the fact that this time last year he was 1-3 with a 10.03 ERA.  At that time he owned a spot in the rotation.  Now he’ll have to earn it.  Sure, it’s only two innings, but with the way he pitched last season it’s better than nothing.

Rehab’s going well for everyone.  Mikey Lowell should be playing by the middle of the month, Mark Kotsay should be swinging a bat by the time we break camp, pitcher Miguel Gonzalez will visit an arm specialist for his elbow, and Jeff Bailey is good to go after fouling a pitch off his foot.

Dice-K isn’t camping with us because he’s prepping with Japan for the World Baseball Classic.  He struggled through about two innings of a warmup game in Osaka against Australia.  Japan eventually won it, but it wasn’t pleasant to see the Dice-K of ’07 instead of the Dice-K of ’08.  He gave up two runs on five hits and struck out three which, over two innings, isn’t as great as it could be.  But hey, that’s what warmups are for.  No use getting nervous over a contest in March; the only way to go is up.  There’s nothing left to do but improve, and he has the whole month to get it back.

Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, Boston is sending six: Dice-K for Japan, Jason Bay for Canada, Big Papi for the Dominican Republic, Dustin Pedroia and Youk for the US, and Javier Lopez for Puerto Rico.  The World Baseball Classic does interfere with Spring Training, but baseball is baseball.  As long as they play, they’ll be in good shape.  I’m not concerned.  Papelbon won’t be playing in the Classic this year.  Smart move.

News from Curt Schilling.  What else is new.  You’ll never believe this.  Remember how he said last offseason that he wanted to pitch with us for one more year and then retire? Yeah.  No.  Looks like he’s changed his mind.  He’d like to pitch for the Cubs this season.  That came totally out of left field (no pun intended).  The Cubs? The dude likes to break curses, I guess.  He won’t be hurting anybody in Chicago, that’s for sure.  I mean he’s a fantastic pitcher, but I don’t know how much he has left.  He’s aged, and he continues to age.  And we wouldn’t want his pitching to get in the way of his new hobby: expressing all of his…opinions.  It’s been interesting listening to his views on the proceedings during the offseason, that’s for sure.

In other news, Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing won the Daytona 500! Mike Dee, our chief operating officer and the president of Fenway Sports Group, partnered with NASCAR owner Jack Roush to form the five-car team in 2007.  And as you can see John Henry and Mike Dee have a penchant for championships.  Let’s hope it continues.  I have a good feeling about 2009.  The Patriots gambled by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a draft pick.  That means the team is confident that Tom Brady will return, which is awesome news, but if Brady gets injured again we’re toast.  The Bruins are still fighting for supremacy over the league.  We’re tied with the Sharks right now with 93 points, and the Capitals, the team closest to us in the Eastern Conference, only have 85.  The Canadiens only have 75.  We have 93 points, and the Habs have 75.  Us, 93; Habs, 75.  Nuff ced.  Anyway, we routed the Panthers on Tuesday, 6-1, and shut out the Ducks on Thursday, 6-0.  So our offense is good.  We just need to stay with it.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Four years ago last night, a team was redeemed and a Nation was delivered.  Four years ago last night was the greatest day in the life of an entire region.  Four years ago last night the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, snapping the Curse of the Bambino like a twig and becoming the team of the decade.  I believe Joe Buck said it best at the time:

Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!

Saying that was a great day would be the understatement of the century.  That was a win for the team, the city, the Nation, and all the players and fans who came before that great year in history.  Congratulations again to the 2004 Boston Red Sox on completing the greatest comeback in the history of sports and taking it all the way.  I still can’t think about ’04 without getting chills.  And to think it all started with a stolen base.

Unfortunately the 2008 World Series is out of our hands.  To recap, the series stands at 3-1 in favor of Philadelphia.  Last night, with rain pouring, the field absolutely drenched, and a one-run lead, the Phillies managed to play long enough to get the game in the books.  But the conditions on the field were so bad (the infield was basically mud) that Bud Selig had to call it after the Rays tied it, 2-2.  Questioned afterwards, Selig stated he would’ve definitely called the game eventually.  This begs the question of why he waited until right after the Rays tied it up.  I mean Jimmy Rollins was making error after error, so it was pretty clear that play couldn’t continue.  I’m not one to play around with conspiracy theories, but something just doesn’t seem right here.

In other news, the Pats defeated the Rams, 23-16.  You have to admit, Matt Cassel is improving and improving fast.  The Bruins played their best game of the season against the Oilers last night.  Tim Thomas was Superman in goal.  No score through regulation, and we went on to win it in sudden death, 1-0, courtesy of Dennis Wideman’s power play goal.  Not bad for our first overtime victory this year.  Not bad at all.  Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs and our own Kevin Youkilis received the Hank Aaron Award, and Dustin Pedroia was named to “The Sporting News” All-Star team.  We’re bringing back five coaches: John Farrell, Brad Mills, Dave Magadan, DeMarlo Hale, and Gary Tuck.  Luis Alicea was not offered a new contract and will not be returning in 2009.

Sons of Sam Horn

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I don’t know who was on the mound last night, but it wasn’t Josh Beckett, that’s for sure.  The Josh Beckett I know is a force in the postseason.  He’s unstoppable.  He’s a road block.  He’s not someone who walks in a run in the first, allows a two-run home run in the third, and allows a solo home run in the fifth for the same batter.  I guess the road block that is Josh Beckett wasn’t even a speed bump.  The only other postseason start he lost was his first, in the 2003 NLDS.  He actually didn’t technically lose this one because Lopez got the loss, but you know what I mean.  I’m telling you, I never thought I’d see this day.  He said he was fine, the Red Sox said he was fine, everyone said he was fine.  So if he was fine and that was just his start for the day, it’s a pretty scary thought.  No, it’s not pretty scary, it’s terrifying.

Beckett only lasted five innings and in that time managed to give up four runs on nine hits.  He struck out six and walked four.  By the end of the first inning, he’d thrown thirty pitches.  In the first inning alone.  By the end of the third he’d thrown 65.  There is no way that was the real Josh Beckett.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more inefficient.  I mean, he had his moments of brilliance, like when he fanned Juan Rivera with three pitches to start the fifth inning, but those moments were so few and far between that in the long run they didn’t help much.

The relief pitched the last seven innings of the game, which ended in the twelfth.  Delcarmen, Okajima, Masterson, and Papelbon were all perfect.  Spotless.  Delcarmen especially made easy work of the Angels, and Papelbon was in there for two innings and did an excellent job.  But in the twelfth, Lopez allowed a run on three hits and that was the end of that.  We lost, 4-5, and we were out-hit, 7-16.

On the upside we showed our depth by producing more or less the same amount of offense with less than half the effort.  Youkilis collected an RBI when he chased Ellsbury home with a double and went two for five on the night.  But Ellsbury was the big story last night.  The kid went two for five with a walk, a run, and three (count ’em: three) RBIs.  All of those came on a bloop single in the second inning.  It was a regular routine popup that three Angels were chasing when all of a sudden all three just stopped and let the ball fall between them.  The bases were loaded with two outs, so everyone ran, and Jacoby not only cleared the bases but made it to first as well.  It was the first three-run single in postseason history.  He was caught stealing second, though.  He had it stolen in the seventh but overslid the bag and was tagged out.  It was a real shame.  Crisp recorded a successful steal.  Pedroia is hitless in this series but flashed his leather in the fourth last night to make a play that saved a run, not to mention the fact that he was hit with a nasty pitch that got him right on the edge of his shin guard.  That was painful.  I mean, he went down.  But he stayed in the game.  I know I say this all the time, but this is a dirt dog.  Right here.  It’s been a long regular season, but it’s now the postseason, and the postseason is no time to let pain bother you.  Postseason or not, that’s a great attitude and he’s an MVP all the way.  Drew had the day off, but Lowell was in, and he really needs to mind that right hip when he’s on defense.

Needless to say, that was 2008’s most intense game, hands down.  But it was also the strangest.  Twelve innings in an elimination game at home with Beckett on the mound and we couldn’t close the deal.  True, it’s a bigger win for the Angels than it is a loss for us, but it still doesn’t bode well for us.  It doesn’t bode well for us at all.  We need to get this done and get this done now.  It’ll be a rematch tonight between Lackey and Lester and if Lester wins it I say he’s officially the new ace of our staff, at least for 2008.

In other news, the Rays lost to the other Sox last night, 3-5.  That’s a good sign.  Matt Cassel and the Patriots defeated the 49ers, 30-21, after never having won a single game in San Francisco.  So you win some, you lose some.  You snap a winning streak against the Dolphins, you snap a losing streak in San Francisco.  After that loss to the Dolphins I’ll definitely take this win.

MLB.com Images

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It was a duel after all.  That’s not surprising, considering who the starters were.  In fact, another Cy Young might be coming Halladay’s way this year.  But in the end, Lester won out.  He pitched eight outstanding innings, allowing one run on four hits, walking two, and fanning six.  The one run came courtesy of Jose Bautista’s solo shot in the first inning.  After that, nothing.  At least not on Lester’s watch.  It was Papelbon who scared everybody, and even scarier is that he’s been doing it a lot lately.  In the ninth inning he allowed two runs on three hits to record one of the sloppiest saves of his career.  According to him, he needs to work on his fastball command and he’s pitched four times in the last six days.  Whatever change needs to take place has to happen fast.  If he needs more work to sort out his fastball, commit to using him as often as possible.  If he needs rest, give him rest and use a trusty reliever for the ninth.  That’s even more doable this days since Devern Hansack’s been called up.  I don’t know if giving Pap a long rest and then suddenly making him work frequently was the best course of action, but time will tell.  One thing’s for sure.  We can’t have him saving games like this, especially not in St. Petersburg and especially not in October.  I mean, you call that a save? What’s in a save? That save in any other game could be a loss.  Plain and simple.

Luckily the offense was in top form, or as best as you could possibly be with Halladay on the mound.  RBIs for Ortiz and Youkilis and two for Crisp.  Ortiz’s only hit of the afternoon was an extra-base hit he legged into a triple.  I mean he was hustling.  And you don’t see Big Papi hustle like that very often.  And as for Crisp, he’s still on fire.  It’s incredible.  He’s batted .452 over his last ten games.  This month alone is a better indication of what he’s capable of than his past two years in a Red Sox uniform.  He was the only member of the lineup to have a multi-hit game; he went two for three without striking out.  Pedroia was held hitless.  Ellsbury stole second and now has 48 on the season.  Bay racked up an outstanding outfield assist.  He threw Lyle Overbay out at second, and Overbay was livid.  But such is the defense of Jason Bay.

In other news, Julio Lugo is feeling better and will be traveling with the team on this road trip, but I’d be very surprised if he sees much playing time at all for the rest of the season and in October.  Jed Lowrie outplays him on both fronts, offense and defense, and he adds some spark to the bottom half of the lineup.  As I’ve said many times, a lineup that’s top-heavy won’t do well in October.  Don’t believe me? Look at Games 2 through 4 of the 2007 ALCS.  Matt Cassel and the Pats won yesterday and continue their dominance over the Jets.  And Cassel held his own.  Always a good thing to see when your starting quarterback is out for the season.

Anyway, even though the save needed a lot of work, a win is a win is a win, and that was definitely a win.  Our 4-3 victory puts us only a game behind the Rays.  Matsuzaka at Kazmir tonight.  Can’t wait.

AP Photo

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It’s there.  It’s right there.  It’s so close you can taste it.  Yesterday’s well-played victory puts us only half a game behind the Rays (the Wild Card’s been locked up for some time).  I’m telling you, the stars are aligning for this series.  We’re starting all our best pitchers: Lester last night, Dice-K tonight, and Beckett tomorrow.  And speaking of Lester, let’s talk about what a bang-up job he did.  He shut out Tampa Bay, pitching almost eight innings and giving up only six hits.  He walked three and struck out nine to tie his season high.  So that means he’s undefeated in seven career starts against the Rays.  I mean, before last night’s game he was 2-0 against the Rays with a 1.46 ERA this season alone.  After last night’s game his stats are so good I don’t even want to know about it.  Last night his cut fastball was absolutely filthy.  He improves to a 9-1 record at home in 2008.

Papelbon came in in the eighth to get the last four outs, and he did so with three Ks and only one hit allowed.  It’s good to see him in there, even if a middle reliever could do just as well, because we’ll need him in top form for the postseason.  Tito worked him a bit in Texas and it paid off; you could tell he was much more spot-on last night.  Besides, Pap’s never been known to let us down when it matters the most.

RBIs for Youk, Ortiz, and Bay.  Youk’s been kind of quiet with the bat lately; currently he’s five for his last twenty.  Ortiz continues to produce (clicking? What clicking?), and Bay went two for three with a solo home run off Jackson with two out in the first.  It’s his sixth in Red Sox letters.  But he also showed some leather last night, holding Zobrist’s high eighth-inning hit off the Monster to a single.  The shock is that Pedroia went 0 for 4.  Lately I didn’t even know that was possible.  I didn’t even know he knew how to swing and not get a hit.  On the bright side, he never struck out.  The real story centers on Coco Crisp.  Last night he went three for three to extend his hitting streak to ten games and is currently batting .291.  He recorded a theft and a CS and was successfully picked off.  But I think this is definitely the Coco we were supposed to see when he came over from Cleveland.  He sparks the bottom half of the lineup, and with Ellsbury having a tight quad it’s good to know his replacement is someone not shy with the hits.  It’s interesting how someone will always take his game to the next level this time of year.  Someone always does.  It never fails.

Speaking of injuries, BJ Upton left the game in the fifth with a strained left quad, and JD Drew was activated before this series, but Kotsay’s been doing fine, last night going two for three with a walk and a run.

In other news, Tom Brady’s left knee was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.  It’ll require season-ending surgery.  Matt Cassel will take his place.  I was hoping for something comparable to last year’s season, but I think it’s safe to say it seems almost impossible.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not counting that out, I’m just saying it’ll be very difficult to do damage to other teams without your stare quarterback.  The Yankees lost, 1-12, to the Angels and got into a bench-clearing brawl to boot.  Pudge and Torii Hunter collided at home, Torii gave Pudge a push, Pudge pushed back, Torii gave Pudge a two-handed shove in the back, and that was it.  Cleared the benches.  Pudge and Torii were both thrown out.

And now for news on baseball’s latest record.  Last night’s contest was the 456th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park! That means that we, Red Sox Nation, broke the all-time Major League Baseball record for most consecutive sellouts! May 15, 2008 through September 8, 2008.  What a run, and it isn’t even over yet.  We’re number one in baseball but fourth overall, behind three NBA teams: the Portland Trailblazers, the Celtics, and the Bulls.  But what a difference it must make.  The team plays for a full house every night, and we’re behind the team 100%, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  All those walk-off wins, the cheering, the sitting in the cold or heat or rain until the last out; it makes a difference in the team’s performance.  Don’t believe me? Check our home record; we’re 49-19.  It’s official: we are the best fans in baseball.  But a lot of credit has to go to the Red Sox brass.  This ownership group has done wonders for Fenway.  They improved it, renovated it, added things to it that blend right in, and generally made it a great place to be.  And they know how to make the team better.  As a fan, I love seeing the money I spend at a baseball game or on a hat or shirt or something go directly to improving the club.  In Boston the fans matter.  It’s that simple.  Without Fenway Park, without the legends and lore, without that Boston atmosphere, and without Red Sox Nation, the team just wouldn’t be the same.  So I’d like to advise a pat on the back for my fellow diehards.  We watch our guys set records, and now we’ve set one of our own.  Nice!

Getty Images

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