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Posts Tagged ‘World Baseball Classic’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as thrilled as anybody about the comeback.  We may struggle and we may slump, but at the end of the day we did what we do best: we score the runs that needed to be scored, we got ourselves back in it, and we won big.  10-8.  The moral of the story? Never count us out.  I think we’ve more than proven that with our performances in recent Octobers.  The ability to come back from big deficits is one of the most valuable skills a baseball team can have.  But even more valuable is the ability to not need to use that skill.  And that’s where Brad Penny comes in.

Penny pitched only three innings and during that time gave up eight runs on six hits with five walks.  Only one strikeout.  Markakis hit a grand slam in the Orioles’ seven-run second inning.  It was very ugly.  Very, very ugly.  So not only did Penny dig a huge hole and throw the lineup into it, he was also pulled early enough to have to leave it to the bullpen to pull it out.  Which they did in spectacular fashion.  Our five relievers combined to give up five hits in six innings with four strikeouts and only one walk.  No runs.  Ramirez, who still has an ERA of 0.00, got the win, and Paps picked up his third save.  So the bullpen’s been doing some fantastic work lately.  They’re really stepping up to the plate, shouldering some hefty workloads, and getting the job done.  But that’s not the point.  The bullpen shouldn’t have to.  Penny may be our fifth starter, but a starter is a starter, and starters shouldn’t give up eight runs on six hits, including a grand slam.  Yes, the bullpen came in and was perfect.  Yes, the lineup turned it on and was brilliant.  But we can’t forget that that perfection and that brilliance weren’t a luxury yesterday.  They were a necessity because Penny had to be bailed out.

With that said, there’s still plenty to celebrate about our offensive assault.  I think it’s safe to say the lineup is coming around.  The last three games (I’m including that extra-innings loss because as I said there were some high points) have really turned things toward a better direction.  We scored four in the second to answer Baltimore’s seven, one in the third courtesy of a solo home run by who but JD Drew, three in the fifth, and two in the sixth.  Bay hit a monstrous two-run shot in the second inning.  Ellsbury went two for five with an RBI, so he’s finally coming around.  Lowell was perfect at the plate.  Pedroia the Destroyah was perfect at the plate.  Drew went two for two and walked not once, not  twice, but three times.  And Nick Green went two for four.  So not only did we come back from a seven-run deficit, and not only did we throw in a couple of long balls, we did all of that with some timely hitting from a few slumping guys, none of whom were David Ortiz.  You might say that’s a bad thing, and you’d be right, but hey, at least we know some key members of the lineup are finding their rhythm, and at least we know we’re not dependent on any one bat to get it done.  So that’s three RBIs for Bay, two for Green, and one each for Drew, Ellsbury, Lowell, and Ortiz.  Yeah, I’d say that’s something to smile about.

With Dice-K on the DL, Justin Masterson will get the call to start on Monday.  Finally.  I’ve been itching to see him in the rotation since he began relieving.  I really hope he gets a win.  And apparently Dice-K’s on the DL with a “shoulder strain,” not arm fatigue, but really the damage has been done.  I’m not a fan of the World Baseball Classic.  Most definitely not a fan.

In other news, the Bruins took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals from the Habs.  A 4-2 victory in the TD Banknorth Garden, and the crowd was feeling it.  I’m telling you, it’s great to see Boston’s hockey town tradition again.  Game 2 tonight at 8:00PM, and then it’s off to Montreal.

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Let’s set the stage.  We’re on a losing streak and in last place.  Wakefield takes the mound hoping to end that against a team that always gives us trouble.  This is after a twelve-inning loss pitched almost exclusively by the bullpen, so the relief pitchers are shot.  So the longer Wake can pitch the better, and if he holds the A’s at bay that’s good too.  And if the lineup gives him run support that’s great.  But the priority is for Wake to go deep and give the ‘pen a much-needed and well-deserved rest.

So Wake considered all that and went out and did his job.  He said after the fact that the only thing he was thinking about going into the game was that he needed to go deep because of what happened two nights ago.  That’s a real team player.  This is the guy who refused to pitch in the 2007 World Series because he was hurt and knew he wouldn’t be on.  That was what he wanted to do.  And that’s exactly what he did.  It just so happens that it was a no-hitter bid into the eighth inning.  Kurt Suzuki quickly took care of that with a base hit into left field.  At least it was a clean hit and not the result of some questionable play.  But it was a no-hitter bid into the eighth.  The knuckleball was dancing and everything.  We’ve seen him do this before but not as deep; he had a bid going last year in Tropicana Field against the Rays that ended in the sixth or seventh.  But he really deserved that no-hitter.  Like I said, he’s a team player, and he continues to be Boston’s unsung hero year in and year out.  If you ever seriously need a pitcher to step up, Wakefield’s always right there.  He went the distance.  It was his first complete game in exactly three years; his last was on April 15, 2006.  He ended up giving up two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts to bring his ERA down to 3.00.

And I give a lot of credit to George Kottaras.  He hasn’t even made five Major League Starts, and he already was well on his way to calling a no-no.

The other great thing about yesterday was that, finally, we batted around.  I’m telling you, we looked like ourselves again.  Bay went two for four with a walk, and Lowell was perfect at the plate.  An RBI for Nick Green, two RBIs each for Lowell and Ellsbury,  and three for Drew.  Lowell hit a two-run homer in the second, and Drew hit a three-run homer in the eighth.  We scored six runs in that inning.  When a no-hitter is in progress, there is nothing more irritating than having your team bat around, but in retrospect it was fantastic.  This could be the break-out of some of our slumping guys.  I mean Lowell and Drew found their slugging strokes, and Ellsbury batted one in.  For once, we batted .500 with runners in scoring position.  The only possible downside this is that it takes time to put together all those runs, and Wakefield had a twenty-five-minute wait before going out to pitch the bottom of the eighth.  It’s possible that’s what cost him the no-hitter.  When a pitcher’s in the middle of a no-no, they sit in the dugout and nobody talks to them.  Baseball is a very superstitious game.  It’s possible that, with all that time to himself, Wakefield thought things over a little too much.  But like I said, either way he did his job.  Takashi Saito sat down as soon as he got up, and Wakefield went right back out there and pitched the ninth.  One thing is most definitely for sure: ladies and gentlemen, Tim Wakefield’s still got it!

There were some scary defensive moments before the eighth.  One of the A’s reached on an error by Lowell, so that scoring saved the bid.  Then Nick Green made a phenomenal catch in the seventh to save it; he jumped up and twisted to grab the ball.  And of course Ellsbury was very busy in center field and chased down a fast-flying ball in the eighth.  Did the same thing for Buchholz.  An interesting statistic down the road will be how many no-hitters Ellsbury started for.

But really we can’t complain.  Wakefield did exactly what he wanted to do: rest the ‘pen.  Anything else was just a bonus.  But what is it about The Coliseum? Schilling had a bid going into the ninth inning but couldn’t close the deal.  (That was a bit different, though, because he shook Tek off, but still.) On the bright side, there were a lot of Sox fans in the crowd, so it felt a little like home in that respect.

Lowrie will not need wrist surgery, Lugo could start his rehab next week, and Smoltz is scheduled to start his rehab on Saturday.  Dice-K is on the DL with arm fatigue.  No surprise there.  The World Baseball Classic is obviously at fault.  Why else would arm fatigue start to kick in during his second start of the season? And because Bud Selig is responsible for instituting the World Baseball Classic, you could argue that Bud Selig is at fault.  So thank you very much, Bud, for knocking out our Number 2 starter less than a month into the season while we’re trying to emerge from one of the worst season starts we’ve ever had.

In other news, the TD Banknorth Garden will be called simply the TD Garden starting in July.  But what I really like is the fact that TD is keeping “Garden” in the name.  That’s key.  And the Bruins start their playoff run today at 7:00PM against the Canadiens in Boston.  We’re coming off a great win against the Islanders, and we’ve played well all season long, especially against the Canadiens.  I’m so psyched.  Let’s see what we can do.

Everyday Weekender

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I’m not going to say “Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong,” because we all know what happens when people say that.  But it’s coming close.  This is probably the worst way we could start off the season.  We’re two and six and four games out of first place.  Seriously.  This time last year I’m pretty sure we were at least above .500.  I know in 2007 we were absolutely above .500.  As we were in 2006 and 2005 and 2004 and 2003.  See a pattern here?

But wait; it gets worse.  Dice-K was pulled after allowing five runs in the first inning.  Five runs on five hits with two walks.  No strikeouts or anything like that.  And he was pulled after the first inning.  Of all the mistakes he could’ve made, of all the pitcher-related issues he could’ve had, the one thing you do not want your starter to do is be pulled after the first inning.  Because then you’re looking at a long, long night for the bullpen which’ll pretty much knock it out for half a week.  But check out what he was pulled for: arm fatigue.  That has World Baseball Classic written all over it.  There’s a reason why he hasn’t won either of his starts and why both of those losses involved giving up quite a few runs.  He’s tired because he basically just returned from playing a sort of miniature baseball season.  We wanted him to get playing time to brush the dust off in the spring, but we weren’t talking about an all-out pitching marathon.  I don’t know what the best strategy would be to get him back into his groove.  I want to say just sit him for a while, give him an extended rest, but we need him in there.  Either way, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are furious with Bud Selig right now.  The World Baseball Classic is not something our ballplayers can let interfere with their performance during the regular season.

So Dice-K was pulled after the first inning and Tito pretty much emptied the ‘pen.  I can’t blame him.  We needed that win.  We didn’t get it, but that’s a different story.  Masterson pitched four innings, Delcarmen pitched 1.2 innings, Ramirez pitched 1.1 innings, Okajima pitched two innings with a walk and a couple of strikeouts for once, Papelbon pitched an inning, and Lopez pitched 0.2 innings, during which he gave up a hit, walked three, and allowed the winning run.  By the way, the game lasted twelve innings.  So Papelbon actually pitched the eleventh.  On the bright side, his inning was perfect.  Matter of fact, so was everybody’s.  Masterson and Delcarmen each allowed a few hits, but other than that the bullpen really held this one together nicely.  If I were Dice-K I’d be giving them an enormous round of applause followed by a very sincere apology.  I mean the bullpen was called on to do something major: pitch at least the length of a full baseball game.  And they did it, up to a point, but still.  Does it surprise me that Lopez was the one who ended it? Sadly, no.  But Tito was running out of options, and sooner or later someone has to give.  Why it had to be us has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not surprise it was Lopez who ended it.  At least we know our bullpen is as deep as it looks.

We started the game off on the right foot, scoring three in our half of the first.  We then scored two in the fifth to tie it.  Youk went two for five with a walk and an RBI.  Pedroia went two for six.  And who but JD Drew went three for six with an RBI.  Drew coming around is a big key for this lineup.  When Ortiz was out with his wrist injury last year, we saw Drew heat up, but we also saw that act as a catalyst for the rest of the lineup.  When you get some extra production from one of your middle-of-the-order guys, it can do wonders for the rest.  And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get the run support for whoever’s on the mound.  Bay was perfect at the plate with an RBI, and Lowell went two for six with two RBIs.  We went four for ten with runners in scoring position last night.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  I’d say that was one of our best-played ballgames of the year.  Which makes it all the more frustrating that they edged us, 6-5, in extra innings.  Ellsbury stole, and Drew made a throwing error.

In other news, Josh Beckett was suspended for six games for throwing the ball at Bobby Abreu’s head.  If I said it once in defense of Beckett, I said it a thousand times: he did not throw the ball at Bobby Abreu’s head.  He was not going to stop himself in the middle of his delivery and risk injury, so he let fly without exercising much control and the ball slipped out of his hand at a weird angle.  And for that he’s suspended for six games? Just because the Angels have four men out doesn’t mean they have to fish for reasons to exact revenge on us.  Just because their four men were in the wrong doesn’t automatically translate to Beckett being wrong, too.  The umpires had it right when they left us alone.  And what’s worse is that it’s Beckett.  If there’s any pitcher we can’t afford to lose for six games, it’s Beckett.  Great.  Also, Lowrie’s having his wrist examined today by a specialist.  Hopefully this time off is just what the doctor ordered as far as his slump is concerned.

It’s Wakefield at Anderson this afternoon.  We’re counting on Wakefield at this point to deliver us out of this decidedly non-Red-Sox-like losing streak we’ve got going.  We haven’t been in the position of counting on Wakefield for a long time.  Usually we save that for October.  But it’s April, and I don’t want to say we’re desperate, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to be desperate so early in the season (unless you’re the Yankees with no bullpen so you put an outfielder on the mound who pitches better than your starter), but the phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” comes to mind.

Sitting Still

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All of Dice-K’s pitches were off.  We can ask ourselves, was it the World Baseball Classic, was it not the World Baseball Classic? Only time will tell.  But one thing’s for sure: last season he was perpetually on.  It’s a commonly known fact that a player’s first year in Boston is not necessarily his best, and last year Dice-K resolved many of the issues he had in 2007.  The last thing we need now is for new issues to crop up and give him trouble.  Yesterday it was the long ball that did him in; four runs on nine hits, three of them homers, in just over five innings pitched.  Joyce, Longoria, and Riggans.  Four runs on three mistakes.  Dice-K will take the loss.

The bullpen did okay yesterday.  Delcarmen, Ramirez, and Masterson all did fine; all still have ERAs of 0.00.  Hideki Okajima is another story.  He posted another shaky outing.  He got out of it, but not before allowing a hit and two walks.  Something’s up, and it’s not just his ERA.  I know, I know, it’s only the second game, but really? Is he ever coming around? Because if he isn’t, I’d like to know sooner rather than later.

Offense.  There’s a bit of an interesting story.  This game had walk-off home run written all over it.  After Papi walked, that responsibility fell to Youkilis who, sadly, did not deliver.  He did, however, have a very good day at the plate; three for four with a walk and two runs.  The only multi-hit performance in the lineup.  An RBI for Bay, coming on a triple in the sixth inning.  You don’t see triples too often, especially not “true triples,” the ones you don’t have to leg out.  He got to third easily.  Too bad we stranded him.  Also an RBI for Lowell, who robbed Iwamura of extra bases in the eighth by making a spectacular catch.  He dove to his left and picked the ball out of thin air.  That was a play he would never have been able to make before the surgery, and with every game he’s becoming more and more comfortable in the field.  Speaking of spectacular catches, in the ninth Jacoby Ellsbury kept us in the game by hauling in a well-hit ball by Gabe Kapler with the bases loaded.  If it falls it’s three runs for sure.  And sometimes a play like that is worth the RBIs Ellsbury could’ve or should’ve batted in himself.  And who comes to the plate in the ninth but Jason Varitek, who proceeds to hit a long ball of his own to bring us within one! Two home runs for the captain, and it’s only our first series.  I’m telling you, comeback year.  But, alas, at the end of the day we lost, 4-3, dropping our opening series for the first time since 1988.

But I did notice a crack in the Rays’ pitching staff: Troy Percival.  He pitched the ninth and gave up the homer to Tek and a walk to Papi.  If Longoria hadn’t taken a base hit away from Pedroia, we probably would’ve won.  So this wasn’t exactly his best outing.  Reports have it that, since last year, his endurance is down, and it’s a big question for the Rays whether he’ll be able to fill the closer’s role, or any role, effectively for an entire season.  And when he starts to fall, we’ll be ready.

It’ll be Wakefield at Weaver in the late start tonight, something I’m not looking forward to if we continue to play like we did in our last two games.  On the bright side, this is one of only two road trips to the West Coast this year, so we’ll be done with those by May.

In other news, the Bruins edged the Habs in overtime, 5-4.  Only the Sabres and Islanders left.

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One more week of Spring Training and then it’s go time.  It’s going to be a good season for us.  I can feel it.  And this year our home opener is also our Opening Day.  Against the Rays.  It’s going to be epic.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.  We don’t have starters yet, but I venture to guess Josh Beckett will get the call.  We’ll see.  Anyway, a lot’s happened this past week.  First of all, on Monday Curt Schilling announced his retirement.  I read that and the first thing I experienced was relief.  I think he knew it was time for him to hang up his spikes, and I’m glad he retired with dignity.  The second thing I experienced was gratitude.  We owe him a lot.  He was one of the most dominant pitchers of our time, especially in the postseason, and we know that first-hand.  We continue to celebrate his achievements in October, and we’ll be forever thankful for what he did with our team in 2004 and 2007.  I don’t think we could’ve done it without him.  So here’s to you, Curt, for all your hard work and bloody socks and playoff gems.  Thanks from a city that’ll never forget, and we look forward to seeing you in the Hall of Fame!

Our pitching this season is looking pretty good.  Theo did a masterful job during the offseason.  In fact, it’s possible that our pitching staff is too deep.  We have five starting spots and the usual handful in the bullpen, so we might not have a regular place for everybody.  But that’s fine too; if someone gets hurt, we’ve got a man waiting in the wings.  Brad Penny made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday against the Tigers.  He pitched three innings; no hits, no runs, one walk, three K’s.  On Wednesday, Clay Buchholz pitched six innings against the Reds; one unearned run, only three hits, three K’s.  He even retired twelve batters in a row at one point.  I’m telling you, with every outing this spring he’s looking more and more like he did in ’07.  And let’s not forget that Masterson is still very much in the mix.  Last year he was primarily a reliever but, like I always say, that’s a waste because he’s starter material.  This season his fate seems to be closely tied to that of Penny.  If Penny isn’t ready to start, it’ll probably be Masterson who fills in.  So we know that we have one of the deepest staffs in the league.  We also know that we need another man in the rotation.  We’ll first need a fifth starter for the Angels game on April 12, and we have three pitchers who could conceivably fill that role well.  This should be interesting.

Dice-K returned to camp on Wednesday after having been named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic again.  So definitely congratulations to him.  And after his return, he got right back to throwing and didn’t miss a beat, which is a good sign.  What I’d like to see is him retaining his composure with runners in scoring position while improving his efficiency by cutting down on balls and walks.  As for the World Baseball Classic, it’s finally over.  The USA lost to Japan, 9-4, on Sunday, courtesy of Derek Jeter, whose fielding error cost us three runs.  Figures.  Anyway, Japan went on to win the finals.  And by the way, Jeter finished the night one for five.

Perhaps most uplifting, we’re getting healthy.  Dustin Pedroia played his second game since his left abdominal strain on Sunday and went two for three with a double.  Mikey Lowell hit his second home run of Spring Training in the first inning of that game, a powerful two-run shot.  Big Papi hit a double and scored a run on Lowell’s homer.  Even Chris Carter got in on the action, belting one out in the eighth.  Then on Monday, Youk played four innings in the field and had two at-bats, walking once.  Lowell was also in the lineup, marking his first set of consecutive games since his hip surgery.  In fact, he, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa homered consecutively.  It was beautiful.  Brought back memories of April 22, 2007, when we tied the Yankees at four the same way.  Of course, we went on to win that game, 7-6.  Dice-K started and got the win, and it was the third and final game of that series.  Our first sweep of the Yanks since the 1990s.  That was a great game.  Anyway, point being that Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, and Papi all looked smooth and comfortable, which is a great sign.  We just need JD Drew to find his rhythm and we’re in business.

The only downside to this health trend is that it includes Julio Lugo.  It’s been a little more than ten days since his knee surgery, so he’ll be returning to the lineup soon.  Not that I want him to stay injured.  I just want to see Lowrie start.  Or I want to see Lugo’s offense and defense undergo a drastic overhaul.  I don’t think we can afford to carry Lugo in the lineup, at least not for his speed, because we have Ellsbury.

Lastly, it seems that Mark Teixeira would like to be the “bad guy” in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.  That’s fine with me.  In fact, I say bring it.  The Yankees’ bad guys haven’t been doing a very good job.  Jeter hasn’t been making much of a dent in the scoreboard lately, A-Rod hasn’t been hitting in the clutch, and Johnny Damon’s average is dropping steadily.  Besides, we have more pitching than we know what to do with, and our lineup is coming together.  So I doubt that, in the long run, Mark Teixeira will prove to be much of a threat.  Besides, we have an offense of our own.  The Yankees may try to throw us a bad guy, but we come to the Yankees with a lineup full of bad guys.

So we’ve got a week left until the season starts.  I love this time of year.  The speculations, the predictions, the optimism, the clean slate, the opening of Fenway, the team’s return.  Eight more days until Opening Day, my friends.  Eight more days.  As always, it’s been a long winter, but the season is just around the corner.  And we’re ready.

In other news, the Bruins played two games this past week and won both.  We beat the Devils, 4-1, on Sunday and the Leafs, 7-5, yesterday.  So we enjoyed a nice break between those, and we’ll need the rest heading into the playoffs.  We have 104 points, third behind the Sharks’ 109 and the Red Wings’ 107.  We clinched our division.  We have eight games left in the season.  All we have to do is play steadily, conserve our energy, and go into the playoffs with some momentum.  This could be it.  I’ve said it all along, but seriously, this could be it.  This could be the year we win.

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It never stops.  It’s remarkable.  Just when you think we’re going to barely escape the World Baseball Classic without another injury, Youk drops out with a left ankle sprain and Achilles’ tendinitis in his left foot.  Yes, both of those were diagnosed as mild, but still.  The man was in a boot.  He took batting practice without the boot yesterday and looked fine, and he should have the boot off for good today, but that’s not the point.  It’s unbelievable.  It’s absolutely infuriating.  We send our guys to play for their countries and they come back to us with injuries right before the season starts.  The World Baseball Classic occurs during Spring Training.  Not before.  Not after.  During.  Not only do participants miss Spring Training, but if they’re injured they’re laid out through the beginning of the season, and that’s a pretty crucial time, especially for a team that started its pennant race yesterday.  The only one of us left in the Classic is Dice-K, and he’ll be done tonight after the semifinal Japan-USA game.  (Incidentally, it should be an epic contest, especially because after all the injuries we don’t have anyone left.  Even David Wright is playing through pain at this point.) Dice-K will have missed almost all of Spring Training, having spent his time up to now with Team Japan.  On the upside, he’ll enter tonight’s start with a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA in the Classic; he allowed only nine hits and two walks while striking out nine.  So at least we know he’s ready.  But still.  World Baseball Classic? Not a fan.  Definitely not a fan.

And speaking of injuries, as unfortunately we’re doing quite often these days, JD Drew was hit by a pitch on his right hand.  Luckily the X-rays came back negative and it’s only a contusion and he’s not expected to miss playing time, but he dodged a major bullet there.  Breaking a bone in a hand can lay a batter out.  Proof: Big Papi last year, and Drew was the one who picked up the slack.  While we’re on the subject, I’d just like to say that Drew should bat clean-up.  His numbers were insane from the No. 4 spot last year.  Anyway, Tito says Drew is day-to-day and should have no lasting effects of the injury.

Pedroia returned to the field and the lineup against the Pirates on Friday; he played second for three innings and went one for two.  Nice.  Also nice was that Tek launched a three-run homer into the street behind right field in that game.  He ended up with four RBIs.  But the most impressive aspect of our win over the Pirates was Clay Buchholz’s five-inning outing, during which he threw seventy pitches, gave up only four hits and one walk, and struck out three.  The run incurred during those five innings was unearned.  I’m telling you, if he can keep this up, he’ll start for sure.  Seems like last season was just a blip on the radar.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

Some more good news: during our game against the Twins (which we won also), Jason Bay jacked a moon shot over the 410-foot center field wall.  Cleared it completely.  The ball is estimated to have traveled 450 feet.  Wow.  That, my friends, is power.

We sent down six and waived one.  First baseman Lars Anderson and outfielders Josh Reddick and Zach Daeges were assigned, pitchers Hunter Jones and Felix Doubront and catcher Mark Wagner were optioned, and Josh Bard was placed on unconditional release waivers to make room for George Kottaras.  I’m telling you, the dude just can’t seem to stick.

In other news, the Bruins only played two games this past week, and we lost them both: 4-6 to the Penguins and an overtime loss to the Kings.  Yes, the Kings.  I’d rather not talk about it.  On the upside, we’ve finally reached 100 points, we’re still on top of the Eastern Conference by a wide margin, and we’ve clinched a playoff spot! On the downside, we’re now third in the league, behind the surging Red Wings and the ever-present Sharks.  And the only silver lining to that is that, in recent years, the top team in the league hasn’t necessarily done well in the playoffs.  Whatever.  We’ll be fine.  The Stanley Cup is coming to Boston; we’ll be fine.

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Not gonna lie.  I was never a fan of the World Baseball Classic.  When I said I wasn’t concerned about it, I meant that I wasn’t worried about it interfering with players’ ability to get playing time.  I did not mean that I wasn’t worried that players would come back with a host of injuries.  And guess what.  That’s exactly what’s happening now.  Quite frankly, it’s one of our worst nightmares come true, because we’re not just talking injured prospects here.  We’re talking Dustin Pedroia, who strained his left abdominal.  That’s bad.  That’s really bad.  We need him in there.  I’m telling you, if he misses playing time in the beginning of the season, or if his rhythm throughout the season is completely thrown off like Beckett last year, it won’t be the end of the world but it’ll be one epically uphill battle.  The World Baseball Classic is fun and all, but once injuries come into the picture, I could do without it.  Bud Selig had good intentions, I’m sure, but baseball is baseball.  If a guy is going to get injured, let him get injured during the regular season after he’s at least got a game or two under his belt.

Very unfortunately for us, the injury list doesn’t stop there.  Jacoby Ellsbury tweaked his hamstring last weekend, and Jonathan Van Every sprained his right ankle on Thursday.  But these are pretty minor; Tito isn’t concerned about Ellsbury at all, so that’s good.  There is only one positive in all of this, and I hate to say it, but it’s that Lugo will have surgery on his right knee on Tuesday.  No timetable for his return, and that surgery usually requires weeks of rehab.  And we all know what that means: Jed Lowrie at short! Definitely something to smile about.  And by this time, we all know why.  Who knows? Maybe if he handles the job well, he’ll start permanently, and we’ll be able to find another home for Lugo while bringing up one of our other prospects to serve as Lowrie’s back up.  Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Brad Penny’s throwing again, and Mikey Lowell is making an excellent recovery.  In his debut against the Orioles, he went one for three with a nice single, and he started at third for the first time since the playoffs on Friday against the Yankees, homering, singling, and executing his first defensive play more or less without incident.  I’d also like to mention that we clobbered the Yankees, 8-4.  Yeah, I know, Spring Training games don’t matter, but if we beat the Yankees in any context, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation that we are most definitely going to be happy about it.  We’re also going to be happy when we beat Tampa Bay, which we did, burying them, 8-2, last weekend.  Masterson pitched three fantastic innings, allowing one hit, striking out three, and throwing 43 pitches, 27 of which were strikes.  We’ll probably end up using him in relief this year, which I personally think is a total waste, but that’s where we’ll need him most.  But if we need another starter, it’s great to know he’s ready for that role as well.

As far as roster moves go, we reassigned knuckleballer Charlie Zink, catcher Carlos Maldanado, and pitchers Kris Johnson and Dustin Richardson, and we optioned shortstop Argenis Diaz.  Nothing too groundbreaking.  Zink and the others had good camps, but at the end of the day we just didn’t have the space.  And Zink I think could use more time in development.

Probably the best piece of news all weeks is that we locked up Jon Lester for five more seasons.  He signed a five-year contract extension worth $30 million, with a $13 million option for 2014.  And get this: he’s only 25 years old.  This is the third long extension granted by the Red Sox to homegrown talent in the past three months (Pedroia was first, followed by Youk).  Good job, Theo, in keeping our boys home.

Last but certainly not least, Paps had some words for Manny Ramirez.  He described Manny as a “cancer” in the clubhouse.  I mean, I get what he was trying to say, and I agree, and I think that describing it as a cancer was a good analogy, but we know Paps, and we know that he doesn’t always say things as tactfully or as gently as possible.  So while I think the cancer analogy was a good way to explain the fact that Manny was infecting the clubhouse like a virus and it just kept spreading and spreading until it finally had to be eliminated altogether, I also think that if Paps explained the analogy a little more, he would’ve seemed less brash.  Those are my two cents, anyway.

In other news, the Bruins didn’t fare much better this week, collecting two losses and two wins to bring their point total to 99, still good for first in the Eastern Conference but tied for best overall with the Red Wings, who have overtaken the Sharks’ 98 points.  So the plot thickens, as they say.  Looks like we’ll have to do battle with Detroit as well.  Again, I’m not worried.  There are only twelve games left in the regular season, which ends for us on April 12.  We’re comfortably in first place in our division, we’re comfortably in first place in our Conference, we’re tied for first place in the League, and we are absolutely going to the playoffs.  All we have to do is maintain our momentum and finish the season in style.

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