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Posts Tagged ‘Victor Martinez’

So, if last time out we saw the better Buchholz, then last night we must have seen the best Buchholz.  Only we didn’t see the best Buchholz, because Buchholz is even better than last night’s outing, which was already better than his previous outing.  Basically, what all this comes down to is that this is what we’ve been waiting for from him.

It wasn’t just the four hits or the seven strikeouts that confirmed it.  The fact that he only walked one and allowed zero runs by themselves don’t even tell the whole story.  It’s the fact that he allowed only four hits while walking only one and striking out seven over seven shutout innings while throwing 127 pitches, seventy-nine for strikes.  Obviously, he still has work to do in the efficiency department.

That pitch count of 127 is a new career high.  I’m surprised that Tito let Buchholz stay in the game for so many, but when you’re hot, you’re hot, and Buchholz was hot.  His first inning? One-two-three.  Two back-to-back swinging strikeouts on fastballs.  His second inning? One-two-three with a swinging strike on a cutter to end it.  He opened the third with a strikeout on three pitches (and later gave up his only walk).  He notched another K in the fourth, when he allowed his first hit.  He put up his last two strikeout in his last inning; the first was his only called strike, also on three pitches, also on a cutter.

But his last strikeout was by far the most epic.  After starting the inning by inducing a groundout from who but Victor Martinez, back for the first time since walking in the offseason (and may I say that the ovation was a very nice touch; naturally Red Sox Nation always does it right), he hit a batter and allowed a single.  Then the called strike.  Then he hit another batter to load the bases with two out.  Given his pitch count and the fact that he was clearly losing his sense of the strike zone, it was obvious that, for better or worse, this would be his last inning.  The question was whether he’d be able to get out of it.  Before Austin Jackson even got up there, Buchholz had already surpassed his career-high pitch count by one.  But Buchholz put his head down and took care of business.  First, a cutter for a called strike.  Then he took a changeup for a ball.  Then Buchholz threw a fastball in the dirt.  Then a cutter for a swinging strike.  What followed were five straight fastballs.  The first two were fouled off.  Then a ball.  Then a foul with a runner going.  And then finally, finally, a swinging strike.  Even after all those pitches, he threw that last one at ninety-four miles per hour.  First base umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled that Jackson went around on what otherwise would’ve been a ball, and that was it.  Fist pump.  Inning over.  Exit Buchholz just in time for a twenty-six-minute rain delay.  And yes, he did go around.

The fact that he threw that many pitches over that many innings showed us that he’s getting back on track.  He can get deep into ballgames and throw a lot of pitches.  You don’t want to see a lot of pitches thrown, but you want to know that he can throw them.  And he did.  Like it was the easiest thing in the world.

More than half of his four-seams as well as his two-seams were thrown for strikes.  Almost three quarters of his changeups were thrown for strikes.  Exactly three quarters of his cutters were thrown for strikes.  And eighty-two percent of his curveballs were thrown for strikes.  His stuff was absolutely filthy.  Even though his innings were efficient in terms of batter count, his lowest pitch count was thirteen in the second; he threw fourteen in the fifth.  His highest pitch count was twenty-six in the first.  Those first two strikeouts of his were incredibly long; the first one took eight pitches, and the second took seven.

In short, the start was easily his best of the year so far.  Hands down.  It was awesome.  But even though it had win written all over it, he never received a decision.

Nobody scored until the eighth inning.  It was wet, visibility was low, and nobody scored until the eighth inning.  Our first four innings at the plate were all one-two-three.  We didn’t send out more than the minimum until the fifth, when we sent out only one above.  The sixth was one-two-three, the seventh was again only four batters, and finally in the eighth we put up our only threat.

If you can’t hit the starter, just wait him out and then pounce on the reliever.  And if you can’t hit the reliever, just wait him out and then pounce on another reliever.  And that’s exactly what we did.  Ryan Perry came on for Phil Coke.  Lowrie grounded out and Cameron popped up.  Daniel Schlereth then replaced Perry, and then things got offensively interesting.  Crawford walked on a full count and Salty hit a double off the Monster.  With Crawford’s speed, that was all it took.  I can’t even believe they thought firing the ball back into the infield would keep him from scoring.  Fitting of course that, on the night when V-Mart returned to Fenway, his replacement drove in the winning run.  Ellsbury was hit by a pitch after that, but the Tigers made another pitching change and Pedroia grounded into a force out.

Thankfully, Bard had had an easy inning in the eighth.  Paps came on and promptly gave up a double to V-Mart, and suddenly that one run was looking pretty shaky.  But it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  A groundout and back-to-back K’s later, Paps picked up his eighth save and the game was over.  1-0, most definitely in our favor.

We are now nursing the longest winning streak we’ve had all year: five games.  Not too shabby.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that two of our starters are on the DL: Dice-K has a sprained ligament in his right elbow and will be out for at least a month, and Lackey has a regular right elbow strain that he wanted to pitch through but wasn’t allowed.  So Lackey will obviously get better soon.  Dice-K is a different story, but having him on the DL for a while may not necessarily be a bad thing.  Wheeler should be back on Friday, and Michael Bowden has joined the bullpen; whether that news is good or bad remains to be seen.  Back to the bright side, we have moved up in the standings and are now two and a half games out of first, good for a tie for second (with the Yankees, which I obviously don’t appreciate, but like I said, we’re moving up).  So clearly things are starting to improve.  The better Buchholz is becoming even better.  And the better Red Sox are becoming even better.  This is good.  This is very good.  We must continue in this direction.  Let’s win ourselves another series.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 6-5, thanks in large part to Tyler Seguin, who scored four points in the second period alone.  So now the series stands even at one apiece.  We got this.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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Okay, so we were swept by the Texas Rangers.  It was one series, and it was the first series.  Not at all how I would have liked to start out, but hey, I’ll live.  We drop our first game to Cleveland.  Technically, I’ll still live.  But I won’t be happy.  Not even remotely.

Let me start off by saying that Beckett was definitely not the problem.  Beckett wasn’t absolutely stellar, but he was good enough to secure the win.  He went on record and didn’t leave an ocean of runs in his wake, which is more than I can say for some of our starters who purportedly earned a higher spot in the rotation.  He may have gotten the loss, but he was by no means the only one, or maybe even the one, at fault.

He pitched an even five innings.  He gave up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out four.  He cruised early.  His first three innings were straight-up shutout ball.  Batters up, batters down.  Sixteen pitches in the first, ten for strikes, and only eight pitches in the second, seven for strikes.  But in the third, his pitch count started to climb.  He threw thirty-five pitches that inning.  His next two innings weren’t easy, and he wasted a lot of pitches.  It took him twenty-four pitches to escape a double and two singles in the fourth with only two runs allowed.  It took him only one pitch less to escape a double, move-up groundout, and sac fly in the fifth, with one less run allowed.  By the time he left, the final score had already been established: 3-1, and not in our favor.

In total, he threw 106 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  His most effective pitches were both fastballs as well as his curveball; all three pitches were thrown with about the same frequency and about the same strike percentage.  He mixed in some curveballs and cutters.  His fastest fastball was a four-seam clocked at about ninety-three miles per hour, and his average changeup speed was about eighty-seven miles per hour.  And he pounded the zone and had a tight release point.  Three of his five hits were for extra bases; they were all doubles.  It’s not like every other batter was hitting a home run.  Think about it.  A team that’s supposed to be as offensively potent as ours should have been able to get the job done behind a starter who only allowed three runs.  Three runs should have been nothing for our lineup.  Our lineup should be able to eat three runs for breakfast.  We should have buried those three runs under a run total of our own so large that all of Red Sox Nation would be thinking, “If only we could have taken some of those and distributed them over the course of our series with Texas.  Then we would be undefeated.”

But we only mustered one run.  And you can thank Salty for it, who remained in the lineup even after heading into the game 0 for 10 so far.  We committed to making Salty our starter.  Texas gave up on him, but we refused to do so.  And with players like that, it’s crucial to make sure that they get their first hit out of the way as quickly as possible so that they can relax and find a groove, just like with Crawford, who was bumped to the two-spot in the order while Pedroia was shifted down to number three.  That first third of the order was specifically designed to put runners in scoring position: Ellsbury and Crawford both get on base, they double-steal like nobody’s business, and all Pedroia has to do to bring them both home is make any kind of contact.  The latter occurred without the former.

In the second with two outs, Papi walked, Drew doubled, and Salty singled.  Papi scored.  Drew was thrown out at the plate; his slide was late.  By the way, leaving Salty in the lineup was significant for another reason: Tek is awesome at catching Beckett.  Sometimes, from the way he calls games, it looks like Tek knows Beckett better than Beckett knows Beckett.  I look at Tek when he catches Beckett and I see a pitching coach in the making.  It’s a beautiful thing.  But Tito decided against it.  And that brings up another issue.  Some fingers have begun to be pointed at Salty for his pitch-calling ability.  Let us remind ourselves of the predicament in which Salty finds himself.  The most games he started as a catcher in a single season in his career was eighty-two in 2009.  That was two years ago, and a lot has happened to him, specifically his shoulder, since then.  And it’s a long way down from the top mentally as well in that situation.  Last year, he started a grand total of six games at catcher at the Major League level.  He goes from that to being the number one starter, day in and day out, for a team that competes in an intensely competitive environment.  Whether that was a good decision on Theo’s part is a completely different discussion.

And then, there are the verifiable facts.  It’s one thing for a catcher to make a bad call; it’s another thing when a catcher calls for a pitch that the pitcher doesn’t locate and that therefore ends up in the seats.  So far, we may or may not have evidence for the former, but we unfortunately have heaps of evidence for the latter, which has nothing to do with a catcher’s call and everything to do with a pitcher’s ability to simply execute.  V-Mart’s catcher’s ERA after the 2010 season was 4.28; after that 2009 season when he started the most games as a catcher, Salty’s ERA was lower: 4.08.  His career ERA is 4.66, only slightly higher than V-Mart’s 4.43.  Tek’s career ERA is lower but right in that ballpark at 4.21.  I am not saying that Salty is perfect; far from it.  All I’m saying is that, at this point, Salty can do nothing but improve, and that goes for the rest of the team as well.  It’s too early to make a definitive statement on anybody.  Salty’s ability to call pitches, or lack thereof, had nothing to do with the fact that we only posted four hits against the Indians, Drew’s double being the only one for extra bases.

Pedroia went two for four for the only multi-hit game in the lineup, and he stole a base.  Those two hits were the only two hits the entire team hit during the last six innings of the game.  Youk went 0 for 2 but walked twice.  And speaking of Salty, he made a throwing error and allowed three stolen bases.  That’s way too many.  But V-Mart had trouble with throwing out base-stealers too.  In fact, that was publicized pretty highly and was thought of by many as his one and only weakness.

We did not play our game.  We were not as patient or discerning at the plate as we should have been.  Six of our starters have batting averages under .200 so far.  So we’re 0-4 for the first time since 1996.  New Balance is now the team’s official footwear and apparel sponsor.  Great.  But that doesn’t win us ballgames.  We could debate who has the best start so far, Beckett or Buchholz, since Buchholz pitched longer with less pitches but allowed one more run, but what difference does it make? We’re four games into the season, and we’ve lost all of them.  I’m not going to announce that the season has imploded only four games into it.  Our team is championship-caliber.  On paper.  Sometimes there are teams that are so good on paper that it’s only a matter of time before they’re also good routinely in practice.  Again, think about it.  Is it realistic that Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, and Dice-K are all going to be mediocre for the rest of the year? Is it realistic that Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youk, Papi, Scutaro, Crawford, Salty, and Drew are all going to be in one gigantic slump for an entire season? Absolutely not.  It’s only a matter of time.  In this situation, very, very good things will come to those who wait.  Although so far that hasn’t necessarily been true for Dice-K.  I hope he delivers tonight.  We need that first win before the floodgates open and the goodness comes pouring in.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Rangers.

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Let’s start with a recap of the end of two weeks ago.  On Thursday, Andrew Miller turned in his third quality outing of Spring Training against the Rays.  One hit and one K over one and a third innings.  Good for him; his previous outing wasn’t so quality.  Cameron returned to the lineup after sitting out with tendonitis in his left knee.  Obviously the biggest story was Crawford’s debut against his former team; he got a hit and made a spectacular diving catch to end the fourth.  Crawford even stole the show from Damon, who claims that he would have approved a trade to Boston if he knew that Detroit wouldn’t re-sign him.  I think he’s just saying that now because he sees a World Series-winning team.  Anyway, we lost, 8-6, and the rest of the game was a different story.  Dice-K gave up five hits and as many runs over three and two-thirds innings with two walks to lead off the game and two K’s.  Over his last six and two-thirds innings, he’s given up ten earned runs.  In three outings, he’s got an ERA of 11.42.  He is not concerned.  Tito isn’t concerned.  And if this were any time of the baseball-playing year besides Spring Training, they would be about the only two people not concerned.  But it is Spring Training, and Dice-K is taking some liberties that he otherwise wouldn’t.  I would suggest bearing with him.  He’s working on his changeup and cutter a lot this spring, and he wants to be more aggressive with the zone this year, so while he works on that, it could look ugly.  But now is not the time to worry.

We scored five runs in the first two innings of Fridays’ game against the Astros and won it, 9-3.  Scutaro and Pedroia were the only regulars in the game because the squad was split, but they took care of business.  Pedroia went two for three, both for extra bases, plus two RBIs, and a walk.  Meanwhile, it took Paps twenty-nine pitches to record one out and three walks and give up one hit and three runs.  And that’s how the Twins won, 3-2.  Crawford made an error.  Lester, however, fired off four spotless innings; he allowed four hits and struck out five.

Adrian Gonzalez batted third and manned first on Saturday in his debut against the Marlins.  He turned his first pitch into a single.  His second and last at-bat resulted in a sac fly.  And his goal is to play in every single game this year.  If he continues his good work, that’s fine with me.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for three, the former with two doubles and a homer and the latter with a single.  Lackey gave up a run on six hits over four and two-thirds innings with three K’s and no walks.  Lackey threw forty-nine of seventy-five pitches for strikes.  We won, 9-2.  Saturday also marked the premiere of “Down the Line,” a documentary on MLB Network at Fenway’s staff.  Make no mistake; that is where the magic happens.  And according to a Major League source, the team has let it be known that they’re willing to trade Dice-K for a young catcher and Wakefield for a southpaw reliever.  Cameron and McDonald, in light of the options on Kalish and Reddick, could also be on the block, and the team may entertain offers for Scutaro.  Theo has denied all accuracy of this report, explicitly labeling it as false.  I’m going to listen to Theo for now.  At the very least, you can be confident that, given his full no-trade clause and salary and performance (or lack thereof), Dice-K will not be moving anytime soon.  Meanwhile, he’s changing his side schedule; instead of throwing both a long toss and his side session two days after each start, he’s going to throw a long toss the first day after his start, another the second, and his side session on the third.  This idea, of course, is courtesy of Curt Young.  At this point, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it’s all well and good to know everything that’s going on with his various training adjustments and throwing adjustments and workout adjustments, but I just want them to find the problem with him and fix it as soon as possible.

The Pirates beat us, 9-4, on Sunday.  Beckett gave up a run on four hits through his first four innings.  Then he gave up a homer, a walk, a double, and a bases-loading hit-by-pitch in the fifth, and that was the end of that.  Fortunately for everybody, Beckett made an extra effort to incorporate his changeup, which has been the distinguishing feature of each of the best years of his career.  Unfortunately for everybody, he lost it last year.  So he’s trying to get it back this year.  Atchison then proceeded to allow all his inherited runners to score.  Bard’s inning was scoreless.

Buchholz and Wake both threw productive simulated games on Monday rather than face the Yankees for the second time this spring.  Meanwhile, we beat the Yankees, 2-1; Paps turned in a scoreless frame.

We beat the Tigers by the same score on Tuesday.  Dice-K two-hit Detroit through five innings while striking out five.  His curveball was absolutely unhittable.  On the field and at the plate, Ellsbury stole the show with a homer and a spectacular catch.  McDonald also homered as well as DH.

We barely lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 3-4.  Lester allowed three runs on eight hits over four and two-thirds innings.  He walked two and led off the game with three consecutive singles.  Scutaro went deep on the Braves’ second pitch of the game.  Salty hit an RBI double, and Reddick hit an RBI single.  V-Mart expressed thanks for his time in Boston and believes that Salty and Tek will do well.

We beat the Mets on Thursday, 8-5.  Lackey allowed a run on five hits over five and a third innings with two strikeouts and his first walk of Spring Training.  Paps got rocked; he gave up two consecutive doubles and four runs.  He insists that he knows exactly what his problem is.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out: he’s not locating the zone right now.  Crawford went two for three with a steal.

We lost to the Tigers yesterday, 3-8.  Buchholz was not his best.  He gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.  That one earned run was the product of a homer that led off the second.  He retired the side in the fourth, but that was it for ease.  His mechanics were just off.  And you can thank Youk and Gonzalez for the unearned runs.  Pedroia homered for the first time this spring.

We followed that loss with two more today.  Wake allowed four homers, six runs on seven hits in total, and one walk in only three innings en route to a 3-7 loss to Tampa Bay.  Meanwhile, Beckett allowed one earned run and four unearned over four and two-thirds innings en route to a 5-7 loss to the Pirates.  Scutaro and Pedroia posted multi-hit games, and Wheeler’s appearance was scoreless.

We also completed our first round of roster cuts this past week, sending five down.  Our lineup, by the way, has more or less quietly taken shape: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youk, Papi, Drew, Salty, and Scutaro have batted in that order during almost all full squad games this spring.  That’s not a real surprise; it follows my prediction pretty closely, and it’s a lineup built for success.  Tito is doing his best not to cluster the lefties too much and to spread the tools evenly.  Not to mention the fact that we are so stacked, it’s not even funny.  And we have officially finalized our pitching staff.  Lester got the nod to start on Opening Day.  As it should be.  Given his general sub-par game lately, not only should Beckett not be offended by that, but he should also not be surprised that he was dropped to fourth.  And Tito had his other reasons: he’d rather have Beckett start his season against the Indians than against the Rangers.  He is not happy.  He wanted the Opening Day nod, and he explicitly disagreed with the drop.  He doesn’t think that the extra time will matter much, and he’s a competitor, so naturally he doesn’t want to accept the fact that lately he’s been not good in a general sense.  Lackey is the Number Two, followed by Buchholz, and Dice-K of course will start fifth.  So as it stands now, Lackey will be pitching our home opener against the Yanks.  I’m just wondering why it’s Lackey followed by Buchholz and not the other way around.  I’m sure Tito has his reasons, but that one-two punch was almost unbeatable last year.  I wouldn’t want to split it up.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres in overtime on Thursday and to the Islanders on Friday.  We beat the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Tuesday but lost to the Predators in overtime on Thursday and to the Leafs today.

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Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

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We claimed outfielder Jordan Parraz off waivers from Kansas City.  That officially fills out our forty-man roster.  He’s going straight to Triple-A, where he’ll stay unless an injury hits.

And that’s as simple as this week’s news is going to get, so hold onto your hats.  We offered arbitration to Beltre, Felipe Lopez, and V-Mart.  They have until Tuesday to decline.

Beltre is going to decline.  That’s basically a fact.  He has a five-year offer from the A’s on the table, and Theo will not come close to that in terms of years, and that’s not even talking about the cash.  So we’re going to get two draft picks for him.  I was ready for this.  I knew Beltre wouldn’t return.  He was only here for one year, and he had too good a season.  Between those two facts, he was bound to test the market.  And his good season inflated his value.  I say “inflated” and not “increased” because, as I’ve said before, I think a big part of why his season was so good was Fenway Park.  He’s a terrific athlete at the plate and in the field, but if you take away Fenway Park, I doubt you’ll get the same production numbers from him.  And I think Theo also knew he wouldn’t return.  So this is an unfortunate but not surprising turn of events.

Lopez is a Type B free agent, so we’re going to get a sandwich-round draft pick if he signs with someone else.  If he accepts, he’d get a better salary than he would ever be able to get on the open market.  But if we cut him during Spring Training, he’s got nothing.  So he’s going to decline.  A wise move given his poor season last year.

V-Mart will not be returning to Boston.  He’s going to sign a four-year deal worth fifty million dollars with the Tigers.  So he got what he wanted: years with cash.  So the question becomes whether he would have been worth a better offer from us.  We offered him four years for forty-two million dollars.  There’s no question that that should have been enough, so the question then becomes whether we should have matched the Tigers.  A part of me does sort of wish that Theo just offered the extra eight million.  V-Mart is a hitting catcher who also plays first base, and he’s starter material in all three.  There is probably no other active player right now for whom that is true.  We already have a first baseman, but we need a hitter, and we need a catcher, and rare is the opportunity to consolidate the two into one player.  He’s improved his throwing, he’s gotten to know our staff really well, and we just spent all of last season grooming him to take on the starter’s role and be our catcher of the future.  This is not Mark Teixeira; we can revisit the Mark Teixeira episode when we start talking about Adrian Gonzalez.  We’ve kept our fair share of catchers in the starter’s role well beyond the point where they ceased to merit it.  And the reason why I brought up Mark Teixeira is that he’s an example of us in the past offering loads of cash and loads of years to a player who may or may not have been worth it.  (Again, that’s a separate issue, and I’m sure it’ll come up when we get to Adrian Gonzalez.) So given those two facts, it just seems like, if there were ever a time or a player that merited an extra eight million dollars, it would be right now and V-Mart.  There are only maybe three other catchers in the Majors who can hit like he can, and none of them are on the radar.  So we’re going to have to go with a catcher who’s solid behind the plate and compensate for the loss of production with another position.  That would explain our interest in Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and recently Justin Upton from the D-Backs.

However, from a sabermetrics standpoint, Theo’s decision makes sense.  We all know that Theo has that line, different for every player given our situation at the time, that he absolutely under any circumstances will not cross.  And I guess that was the line for V-Mart.  It’s easy to say that Theo should’ve just kicked in an extra eight million, but it’s possible that that would’ve set off some sort of bidding war, although very small in scale because this is the Tigers we’re talking about, and the Tigers would’ve gone above that, and we wouldn’t have matched that new offer anyway.  The Tigers’ situation is completely different than ours.  They finished the season at .500 exactly, and they’re looking for shining stars around which to construct a team that can compete.  But we need V-Mart more than they do because V-Mart won’t get them to the World Series.  He might get us to the World Series.  But he’s thirty-two years old, so he’s approaching that age, which we all know comes sooner for catchers than it does for other position players.  He’ll probably only be able to catch consistently for the first half of that contract.  And let’s not forget that there are draft picks involved, something that in the past has led to the likes of Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Lowrie, and Ellsbury.  So, as you can see, there are all sorts of variables involved that Theo obviously didn’t think merited that kind of money for those years, perhaps because the last one or two of them would see an obvious decrease in performance.

I always say that in Theo we must trust, so we’re going to have to wait and see.  He thinks of every angle.  He places a value on a player before negotiations and sticks to it.  He doesn’t like bidding wars, and honestly neither do I.  All I know is that Salty can not handle the starter’s role.  He just can’t.  That’s confirmed by the fact that we’re already looking for replacements, who could include Bengie Molina, Mike Napoli, and Chris Iannetta.  Ultimately, we need to put a good team on the field every year.  Not just this year and next year.  So if that ability would have been hindered by offering V-Mart extra money, we can’t have that.  As long as the catcher can catch and the hitters can hit, it doesn’t technically matter whether the catcher is the one hitting or the hitter is the one catching.

Speaking of catchers, we didn’t offer arbitration to Tek because we didn’t want to pay three million dollars to a Type B backup catcher.  If he signs with someone else, we won’t get draft picks.  But he won’t sign with someone else.  He’s coming back.

We didn’t offer arbitration to Hall, who wants to go somewhere with more playing time.  Speaking of versatility, there is arguably no player more versatile than Hall.  His average keeps him from starting regularly, but he has played almost every position for us this past year: second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field, even pitcher.  That, my friends, is a dirt dog answering the call of duty.

As always with arbitration, the week leaves us with lots of questions and almost no answers.  That’s the beauty of the offseason.  It’s a time when teams get the chance to overhaul, and you never know what you’re going to get.  Stay tuned.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Lightning, 1-3, but then beat the Panthers by the same score.  The Devils shut us out, and we’re playing the Thrashers this evening.  The Thrashers are hot right now, so this would be a great time for us to bounce back.  The Pats crushed the Lions, 45-24.

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Congratulations to Beltre for winning a Silver Slugger! He most definitely deserved it.  I wish I could say the same for Vlad Guerrero, who won it instead of Big Papi, which is ridiculous.  Guerrero hit .300 with twenty-nine homers, 115 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .496.  Sounds great.  Until you consider the fact that he only hit nine homers after the All-Star break and posted a measly OPS of .748.  Papi hit thirty-two homers and posted a slugging percentage of .529 and OPS of .899.  Notice that all of Papi’s numbers are higher than Vlad’s.  Theoretically, this should result in his fifth Silver Slugger at DH, but for some absurd and unknown reason, it didn’t.  He and Josh Beckett can commiserate this offseason, because that’s just not right.

Pedroia’s rehab is progressing ahead of schedule.  I’m not surprised by that.  I am relieved, not just for the team and for Red Sox Nation but also for Pedroia, who’s been itching to play for months now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stove is finally starting to heat up.  Finally.  We have confirmed official contact with Werth’s agent.  We are supposedly interested in Zack Greinke and Justin Duchsherer.  We have statements from Theo about his commitment to re-sign Beltre and V-Mart, with the obvious emphasis on V-Mart.  Meanwhile, Peter Gammons is convinced that Theo is going to move on without V-Mart because he says the Sox are sure Salty can handle the job.  I’m going to take Theo’s word on this instead.

Perhaps the ultimate free agent, or at least the one everyone’s talking about these days, is Cliff Lee.  Everyone thought Lee is going to be a Yankee for sure.  Nothing would please me less, but I don’t think that’s as likely as people think.  He’s thirty-two years old, and if New York decides to give him a Sabathia-like contract with heaps of money and, less intelligently, heaps of years, I will lose negative respect for their organization, because trust me, there isn’t any there to begin with now.  My next guess would be the Angels, but they’ve already set their sights on Carl Crawford, although that could change since the Giants proved that, yes, you can win with pitching.  (Which only confirms the fact that we’re going to win the World Series this year, by the way.  Just sayin’.) Detroit could be an option since they’ve made payroll room.  The most likely competitor for New York right now appears to be the Rangers, who are in hot pursuit, and offers could come in from the Phillies and Brewers as well.

The Mets won’t spend this offseason, the Cubs want youth, the Reds are in the process of offering Arroyo an extension, and I’m so sorry to say this, but I don’t think we’re going to be in the mix for this one.  A sizeable chunk of our payroll is currently devoted to our starting rotation, and on top of that we just don’t have the space for Lee right now.  So it makes sense to leave him alone.  Otherwise, we basically wouldn’t be able to do anything else.  Lee is absolutely awesome, so again, it hurts to say so, but we’re making the right move here.

An interesting question to ask is whether the acquisition of Lackey kept us from Lee.  I think the answer would have to be yes, but I think we’ll get more bang for our buck with Lackey than we would have with Lee.  Lackey is a competitive workhorse.  He absorbs innings like a sponge.  We need a guy like that in there, especially if we’ve got another guy on whom you can’t necessarily depend to go deep.  (That would be Dice-K.) Lackey complements that, and that way the bullpen knows it’s going to have a light night for each overtime it works.  Depending on how this season goes, I’d be ready to say we made the right decision.  That’s the key right there.  Lee is a competitive workhorse too, and he also absorbs innings like a sponge.  But he won’t be absorbing anyone’s innings like anything unless they’re ready to fork over substantial coin and years.  Provided that my predictions about Lackey returning to top form his sophomore season come true, Lackey is the better option because he’ll probably end up being cheaper than both.  I have a feeling that Lee’s next contract is going to be huge.  So Lackey gives us more flexibility that way.  Sure, Lee arguably would be better, but like I said, if Lackey is back to his stellar self as of now, the difference in quality won’t be that large; meanwhile, we spend less money and don’t have to commit the better part of an entire decade.

We traded Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for Andrew Miller.  The Jays just hired PawSox manager Torey Lovullo as their new first base coach.  Our minor league infield coordinator, Gary DiSarcina, is now the assistant to the Angels’ general manager.  DeMarlo Hale will interview with the Mets for their managerial position.  The disadvantage of having a top-flight staff is that everyone wants a piece.  Hopefully for us, this goes nowhere.

In a spectacular combination of divine intervention and rational thought, ESPN will not renew the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.  Oh, happy day.  Twenty-one years of suffering through commentary that was anything but insightful and unbiased is officially over.  Dan Shulman will replace Miller.  At this point, anything is an improvement.

In other news, the Bruins started the week with a victory over the Penguins, 7-4.  Seven goals in a single game.  Wow.  Then we just had to lose to the Habs, 3-1.  Yesterday’s game didn’t bode too well either; the Sens shut us out, 2-0.  Those were not the same Senators we shut out, 4-0.  That was a completely different team.  On behalf of Bruins fans everywhere, I’d like to extend condolences to the family of Pat Burns, who coached us in the late ’90s.  Last Sunday, the Pats delivered one of the absolute worst performances I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.  We lost, 34-14, to none other than the Cleveland Browns.  The Cleveland Browns! I was seeing Super Bowl glory, and then all of a sudden we lost by twenty points to the Cleveland Browns? To make matters worse, Stephen Gostkowski will probably be out for two games with a quad strain.  The only silver lining I can possibly muster in this situation is that the Pats have a tendency to bounce back from big losses in a big way.  Right on time for us to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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The Giants won the World Series.  That in and of itself has absolutely nothing to do with us, other than two facts: we were one of only four teams to post a winning record against them this past season, and free agency has finally begun.

We declined options on Felipe Lopez and Bill Hall.  I like that move on Hall.  He proved to be an incredibly key asset this season with all the injuries, but it makes more sense to defer action on him until we get more of a sense of the direction we’ll be taking this winter.  We did exercise our option on Atchison.  I’m fine with that.  He’s not the best reliever in the world, but he is a reliever, and we need those.

Beltre declined his option.  That’s about the most surprising news I’ve heard in the last minute.  He’s actually not in as good of a spot as he thinks he is.  His value is up this offseason because of the awesome season he just had with us.  But one of the reasons why he had that awesome season with us is Fenway.  As soon as he signs with another team, he doesn’t play in Fenway, and his bat changes.  I’m not saying Fenway made him the great slugger he was this past year, but I’m saying it was certainly helpful.

V-Mart and Tek both filed.  V-Mart and Tek will, in all likelihood, both be back.

We picked up Papi’s option.  There’s an interesting story.  Papi spent this past week very publicly expressing a desire for an extension.  He didn’t want to return only for one year because all the speculation about the possibility of his decline would return.  I see where he’s coming from, and I believe him.  We probably will spend all of the first half of next season reading the exact same articles that say the exact same thing they said last year before, lo and behold, he returned to form and a good time was had by all.  So if I were him, I’d be tired of all that too.  At the same time, I respect Theo’s decision.  Theo has his own reasons for only wanting to lock Papi for a year, and he can’t abandon those reasons just because of the media’s obsessive tendencies.  Extensions were discussed, but the parties couldn’t agree.  Now that the option has been picked up, Papi isn’t upset about it.  He told Theo he’s cool with it, in those words.  And Theo basically said afterwards that they wouldn’t have picked up the option if Papi weren’t cool with it.  The man hasn’t been a free agent since 2002.  I don’t think he’s going to be a free agent any time soon.  He’ll have another monster year this year, and again, a good time will be had by all.

We picked up Brent Dlugach from Detroit for cash considerations or a player to be named later.  He’s basically a career minor league shortstop.  He gives us depth, and the transaction isn’t even finalized until April 15, so we get all of Spring Training to see how he does.

Meanwhile, Youk continues to be the picture of versatility and teamwork.  He said he doesn’t care where he plays – first base, third base, even shortstop – as long as the team’s needs are met and as long as he gets to stay in the infield.  I personally would love to see him just stay put at first.  He’s also excellent at third, but at first he’s a cut above everybody.

What could complicate that is the fact that the Padres are going to trade Adrian Gonzalez.  That is a verifiable fact.  And we are going to be interested.  That is another verifiable fact.  The problem is that Gonzalez wants a Teixeira-like contract: lots of money and lots of years.  The question is whether he’d be worth it, and that depends on how our offseason goes.

Finally, last but most definitely not least, we have our new pitching coach: Curt Young.  For all intents and purposes, Tito knew Farrell would be gone, so he and Farrell independently compiled their own lists of good fits.  Young was at the top of both lists, and I’m going to trust in whoever makes the top of two different lists like that.  Young leaves one sabermetrics-obsessed team for another.  He coached for the A’s for the last seven seasons but turned down their extension in favor of free agency to come here.  Last year, Oakland had the best ERA in the American League with 3.58.  During his seven years, Oakland has an AL-best ERA of 4.03 and an AL-best OPP AVG of .257.  They allowed an AL-low 1,062 home runs.  John Farrell will be sorely missed, and I really wish he’d stayed on with us because he’s basically the best, period, but if I had to pick someone to replace him, I’d agree with him and Tito.  There really isn’t much more to say.  Farrell left, we needed a pitching coach, and Young it is.  Welcome to Boston.

In other news, the Bruins had a record game this week.  We beat the Sabres, 5-2, on Wednesday in an epic contest.  But then we lost to the Caps and to the Blues in overtime, which shattered our status as undefeated on the road, which did set a new franchise record.  Thomas is undefeated in eight starts this season and is the first goalie in franchise history to be so.  We are seven, two, and one overall, second in the division behind the Habs whom we will surely soon surpass.  The Pats killed the Vikings, 28-18.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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