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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Westmoreland’

It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans
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What did I tell you? I said that Clay Buchholz is currently an ace in the hole.  Last night, he proved me right.  I hate to say, “I told you so,” but not when being right means we win.

We won by a final score of 2-1.  So we continue to rack up the close wins; that’s our sixth consecutive one-run game.  But it takes a pitcher with some skills to preserve a win like that.  (Apparently, it takes a pitcher with some skills to pitch at all, but that’s not the point.)

Clay Buchholz fulfilled a big responsibility last night, despite his age and despite his usual MO.  He did two very, equally important things: he gave the bullpen a rest to recharge and he won us the ballgame.  And I can say that absolutely because it was a pitcher’s duel, not a slugfest.  And Buchholz won out, besting Shaun Marcum to carry home the W.  Buchholz pitched eight innings.  Eight.  He threw 117 pitches, eighty of them strikes.  One run on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, three swinging and one looking.  He now has an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.30.  This was undoubtedly his best outing of the season, and one of the best of his career.  No, seriously.  His next-closest pitch count was 115, which he threw on September 1, 2007 during his no-no.  Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the return of the kid who threw the no-no.  If there was an off-speed pitch that can be thrown in baseball, he threw it effectively.  Maybe a handful of his breaking balls stayed up with righties at the plate, but that’s really the only complaint.  A singe and double in the first resulted in the Jays’ lone run, but that was it.  His two-seam and changeup were stellar.  His command was fantastic.  He worked calmly and efficiently and alertly; how about that line drive right into his glove in the second? He got the job done better than any of our starters this season.  I think that was our best outing from a starter so far, period.

Ramirez followed that spectacular performance with one of his own.  A clean, one-inning, eleven-pitch save.  Finally.

We manufactured our two runs ourselves; for the offense, this was really a grind-it-out type of contest.  In the first, we tied it when Ortiz worked a two-out walk, and he came around to score via singles by Beltre and Hermida.  Lowell worked a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  My, that’s embarrassing.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to lose a ballgame.  Trust me, I know.  Eric Gagne was an expert at it.

In the eighth, Wells singled and reached second on Beltre’s throwing error.  He clutched at the ball twice before firing wide to first.  That could have been it.  But naturally Buchholz caught Overbay looking at a four-seam and got Gonzalez to fly out on an off-speed.

We have good news: Ryan Westmoreland was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Saturday.  He’ll continue rehabbing as an outpatient.  He’s doing well, which is a relief.  Hang in there, buddy.  Embree is coming up to the bullpen from the minors today.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I was expecting that type of outing left and right from Beckett or Lester or Lackey, but we haven’t gotten that at all, which is why the bullpen’s been fried this week.  We needed someone to get in there and give them a rest.  Buchholz did that and more because, not only did he secure the win, but he secured the win without much input from the offense.  (That had more to do with Marcum being on than the offense being off.) Our other starters need to take a page from Buchholz’s book after that outing.  That was absolutely fantastic.  He just blew everyone out of the water.  I don’t really know what else to say.  That was a rock-solid performance.  Rock-solid.  I mean, way to go, kid! Lester is starting tonight.  I have a feeling that there’ll be quite the contrast between the two outings, but that’s one thing about which I hope I can’t say, “I told you so.”

Reuters Photo

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Entering this week, I seriously felt like I was watching the Sox in the middle of the season.  You know, that time when all the aches and pains start to set in.  And it’s not exactly the world’s most comforting feeling to see a team affected like they’ve played eighty-plus games when they’ve only played eleven.

Beckett got sick.  And it showed on Friday, when the Pirates had their way with him while he coughed up a lung between pitches.  Although he’ll probably get the nod to start Opening Day.  Also during Friday’s game, John Farrell got to watch his son get a hit.  I’m not happy that the Pirates made contact off of one of our pitchers, but I have to admit that that must have been pretty awesome for Farrell.

Dice-K strained his neck.  But progress is promising: he threw forty batting-practice pitches on Wednesday, and another ten to a still batter.  The best part is that all of them were strikes.  He’s scheduled to start a minor league game today, so I’m hopeful.  Also, congratulations to him and his family on the birth of his third child and second daughter.

Jed Lowrie contracted mono.  What is this, the All-Star break? It’s only Spring Training, and the team already looked like it was feeling it.  That’s not good news.

And that’s not even mentioning Ryan Westmoreland’s surgery on Wednesday to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain.  (Basically, that’s a mass of tangled blood cells in his brain stem.) He’s only nineteen years old and was in the process of living the dream: being one of his favorite team’s top prospects.  Thankfully, the surgery went well, and he has started his recovery.  But the recovery won’t be easy.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say he’s in our thoughts, and we hope he’ll be better soon.

On Wednesday, Beltre showed us what he’s working with.  He made a play that was basically the exact reason why we signed him.  Cora hit a ball that nailed Lackey in the bottom of his shoe.  It rolled away from him, so Beltre barehanded it while in the air to first, and the throw was a lot more powerful than it normally would have been given the circumstances.  It was one of those critics-silencing, leather-flashing, worth-proving plays you see in Spring Training that finally convinces you that, as usual, Theo Epstein knew exactly what he was doing.  Lackey was fantastic for four (it’s a joy to watch him, partly because works really quickly) but Ramon Ramirez squandered it.  I don’t care if it’s only Spring Training and the results technically don’t count: you never want to hear that your bullpen squandered it.  Ever.  Thankfully, the squandering did not involve Paps.  On the bright side, Big Papi has a hitting streak going, which included a homer on Monday.  I’m telling you, I think he’s going to come back.

Thursday was big.  The Major League squad got the day off, so Buchholz went down the street to pitch in a minor league contest.  He did so to keep on a five-day schedule, to see if he could handle joining the rotation.  Trust me, he handled it.  Forty-five pitches over four innings of one-hit ball with four K’s and no walks.  What this means is that we currently have six options for a five-man rotation.  Folks, this is about to get really interesting, really quickly.

No, seriously.  You might be thinking the decision will be easy because Wake is running out of steam, especially after he got lit up on Monday, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  He threw five shutout innings yesterday and threw another simulated two in the bullpen afterwards.  He is really on pace to put up a fight for that fifth starting spot.  (Delcarmen threw shutout frame.  What a relief, no pun intended.) Having too many starters is a very good problem to have, and this year it looks like that’s more concrete than last year.  Our abundance of starters at the beginning of ’09 didn’t exactly pan out like we thought it would, but this year all six are proven, solid, and capable, and that translates to options come playoff time.  Also, Youk and Scutaro both homered in the contest, which we won, not surprisingly.

John Smoltz has been hired by TBS and MLB Network as an analyst even though he claims that he’s not ready to retire yet.  Yeah, right.  We’ve seen this a million times, and I bet he’ll announce his retirement pretty soon anyway.  We welcome back Alan Embree, who recorded the final out in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, with a minor league contract and Major League invite.  Ah, memories.  He had a tough season last year: a line drive broke his leg and that was the end of it.  But if he can bounce back and maybe pitch effectively a bit in Fenway, that’s something I’d like to see during a slugfest or something.  Just for old times’ sake.

So the week did end up improving, with plenty of flashes of brilliance to go around.  And the best part? Opening Day is only two weeks away! And with the weather warming up like it has been recently and the first day of spring yesterday, baseball is definitely in the air.  It’s only a matter of time before we’re tuning in for that first pitch.  (Which will be thrown in the dark.  Thank you once again, ESPN.  And like I said, if I sound bitter, it’s because I am.  It’s Opening Day, not Opening Night, but apparently somebody missed that memo.) And from what I’ve seen in Spring Training so far, I really like our chances this year.  So bring it.

The Bruins lost two and won one this week.  Savard is on the injured reserve.  Thomas has no idea what’s going on.  Meanwhile, we’re four points below the Habs and one point above the Thrashers barely clinging to the last seed in the conference.  Something must be done.

Kelly O’Connor

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