Category Archives: Boston Red Sox

red sox

news from Red Sox camp

AL BEast Notebook – March 19

- It all starts with pitching, and the top of the Red Sox rotation is looking good this spring. Jon Lester threw six perfect innings against Tampa Bay on Sunday and has a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings in the preseason. Clay Buchholz has been just as sharp, allowing just one run in 13.1 Grapefruit League innings for a 0.68 ERA, including just one hit (a home run by Neil Walker) in five innings on Monday.

- Like the Yankees, there are a lot of injury concerns in the start the year in Boston. David Ortiz is not progressing. He did pick up a bat and do some batting practice in the cage on Tuesday but both heels have been bothering since his Achilles injury last summer.

Stephen Drew is still dealing with concussion symptoms and was sent to a concussion center in Pittsburgh on Tuesday for evaluation. Drew has not played since being struck in the helmet by a pitch on March 7.

A couple lefties are still hurting. Franklin Morales is in the Bulging Disk (disc/disk?) Club and Craig Breslow has been sidelined with weakness in his left shoulder.

The four of them (Ortiz, Drew, Morales and Breslow) are expected to start the season on the DL.

- The injuries open up opportunities for some young guns, including the hot-hitting Jackie Bradley, Jr. On Tuesday he got his 18th  base hit in 41 at bats of the spring for a .439 clip. With Ortiz out, Jonny Gomes will likely start as the designated hitter, giving Bradley some space in left field. Napoli could DH, but backup first basemen Mike Carp and Mauro Gomez haven’t hit a lick and veteran Lyle Overbay hasn’t been much better. With Stephen Drew out, slick fielding Jose Iglesias should join Bradley in the starting lineup at shortstop hitting in the #9 spot.

curtis granderson

early injuries to know about approaching Opening Day

AL BEast Notebook – March 8

It is no surprise that players sit out preseason games, pull out of the WBC or end up on the injury report with sore arms, sore legs, sore backs, etc. before such a long season. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is resting and who is actually injured. Whether it is preparing for your fantasy league draft or just keeping tabs on your team, here are the situations in the AL East that you need to be aware of as Spring Training rolls along.

- Blue Jays. Third baseman Brett Lawrie is out a couple weeks with strained rib and intercostal muscles. That puts him up against Opening Day without much prep time.

- Yankees. Yes, there are a lot of names that you’ve heard about. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are both out until mid-May.

Derek Jeter has finally been medically cleared to resume baseball activities. He was initially hoping to play in a Spring game March 10 but that is being pushed back. He will probably not be playing shortstop the first week of the season, although he is likely to start at designated hitter.

Phil Hughes is recovering nicely from the bulging disk in his back, says he experiencing “no problems,” and “feels good,” and may be ready for his first turn in the rotation when the season starts.

The bullpen is dealing with a bunch of minor issues. David Robertson slept on his shoulder wrong and Boone Logan has a sore elbow. But the other lefty in the bullpen Clay Rapada has been shut down for a couple weeks due to shoulder bursitis, making him a likely candidate to start the season on the DL.

- Red Sox. David Ortiz still feels pain in his right Achilles, seven months after suffering the injury. Before and after running around the bases a few times he is feeling soreness in both lower legs. With just a few weeks before the start of the season it is a cause for concern, even for a guy that won’t play the field.

Franklin Morales (back), right now slated as the Sox #6 starter or long reliever, played “catch” Thursday, but is still a ways off. Middle reliever Craig Breslow has a bad shoulder and is still working to develop his arm strength. Both Morales and Breslow are likely to start the season on the DL.

- Orioles and Rays: no injury concerns heading into the season.

francisco cervelli

quick and relevant Stats from Spring

AL BEast Notebook – March 2

There is plenty of news off the field. A week into Spring Training, here is what is happening on the field.

- Blue Jays’ second base battle is off to a thrilling start. Maicer Izturis is 0-12 while Emilio Bonifacio has committed three errors (Izturis has two).

- Jose Bautista homered in his first game this spring. Since then he’s 0-11.

- Joe Maddon says he’d like to see Sean Rodriguez play some in the outfield. Well, the utility player is still looking for his first hit (0-11) so he won’t be playing anywhere but AAA if that continues. Especially as Leslie Anderson is off to a hot start, 7-15 with a double, triple, home run, and 7 RBI in seven games.

- Rays’ Chris Archer, a candidate for a rotation spot, has pitched four scoreless innings. Steve Johnson has a leg up for a spot in the Orioles rotation. In two games he has given up 1 hit and no runs in three innings.

- Jon Lester has pitched five shutout innings so far, yielding just 1 hit and 1 walk. David Phelps is showing the Yankees that they can be patient with Phil Hughes’ back; he has also pitched five scoreless innings.

- Francisco Cervelli is doing his best to help Yankees fans forget Russell Martin behind the plate: he’s already thrown out 5 would-be base stealers (in 6 attempts).

- Cody Eppley has pitched in 3 games (3 innings) and given up runs in each one (7 total). He pitched okay in the Yankees ‘pen last year but he won’t make the team at this rate.

And the ever-oh-so-important stat of the spring:

- Orioles are 6-1, Yankees are 1-7

curtis granderson

Concern Springs for Yankees and Red Sox?

AL BEast Notebook – March 1

There’s an old cliché that says “being there is half the battle.” In sports it’s more. There is no greater determinant of success than health, especially in baseball. And not just being healthy enough to, well, play, but healthy enough to play well. It’s ‘a game of inches’ where even slight adjustments can create problems hitting or pitching. Aches and pains add up during a 162-game schedule, so you hope, at least, in the beginning of Spring Training your guys are starting on a healthy slate with no injury concerns to tweak and aggravate.

People tend to be doubters of the Orioles and after all, their 29-9 record in one-run games will be impossible to duplicate. But a good sign for the Baltimore Orioles: no players in the lineup, rotation or bullpen are dealing with injuries right now. Brian Roberts has missed much of the last three seasons and Nolan Reimold was out for most of last year but both of those are already playing in Grapefruit League games. They also have zero players on the roster older than 35. The same cannot be said of other teams.

Like the team three hours north up I-95. For New York, three of the most important pieces of their season are entering their 19th season in the Bronx. Not many players in history have ever been effective after that many years. Then realize that Derek Jeter, the starting shortstop, is recovering from a broken ankle in October and only started running on the field a few days ago. Closer Mariano Rivera, born in the ‘60s, is recovering from a torn ACL. Rafael Soriano is gone so the Yankees are going all-in with Mo. Andy Pettitte (40) came back after a broken ankle, and in his previous stint in 2010 he missed two summer months with a groin injury. They all say they are fine, but that is three senior citizens with recent significant injuries

Unfortunately, that’s not all for the Yankees. Now they are faced with the absence of their center fielder Curtis Granderson until at least mid-May with a broken arm suffered a week ago. Phil Hughes has a bulging disk in his back and is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. Ace C.C. Sabathia is “ready,” but coming off offseason elbow surgery. Kevin Youkilis says he would be playing through the oblique he’s experiencing now if it was the regular season but hey, he’s missed at least 40 games each of the last three seasons; this minor soreness could be a sign of things to come. And speaking of missing games, slugger Travis Hafner has made seven trips to the disabled list the last five seasons.

There’s still a lot of talent on the Yankees. The pitcher between C.C. and Pettitte in the rotation is Hiroki Kuroda and he’s good enough to be a staff leader. But is it worth mentioning he just turned 38? His Japanese teammate (Ichiro) has averaged 159 games a year for his entire career but he joins the Forty Club in October. And while I’m at it what the heck; the other outfielder Brett Gardner is off to a nice start this spring and is young and totally healthy, but I couldn’t help but notice that he missed 146 games in 2012.

And that’s excusing Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda who will both be missing at least half the season. But at least we expected that.

I’m not being pessimistic; just observing the facts. Joe Girardi thinks the Yankees can win 95 games (or he did before Granderson went down) like they did last year. Many of the guys I mentioned are not on the current injury report. But on March 1, just one month before Opening Day the risks and red flags are already being signaled for this team and there are a lot of them. And unlike last year there is significant lack of depth at every position.

And what about the team three hours up I-95 from there? The Boston Red Sox are trying to shake off their 93-loss season and already have had a significant amount of time examined by doctors. David “Big Papi” Ortiz is still dealing with a strained right Achilles that caused him to miss half of 2012 and has not even started running the bases. His rehab is progressing but the 37-year old may not be ready for the start of April. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was taken out of Wednesday’s game after appearing to re-aggravate his surgically repaired right wrist that he broke last year. Newly acquired Mike Napoli has avascular necrosis in his hips (I’m no doctor, but that doesn’t sound good), which may not affect him too much this year but it was enough to turn a three year, $39 million deal into $5 million for one.  As for the pitchers, oft-injured Clay Buchholz hopes his tweaked hamstring cooperates while John Lackey pitches for the first time since Tommy John surgery. Those five guys may be fine, but it’s a lot of smoke for the end of February.

The Yankees and Red Sox have less depth on their roster than they’ve had in over a decade. And with the young and healthy Orioles and Rays pressing and revamped Blue Jays expected to make a splash, spring injuries are the last thing you want to hear at camp. And if anything worse happens, this could be the first time since the strike of 1994 without a playoff game in Fenway or the Bronx.

jon lester

an Early Starting-Five Eval: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have been Major League Baseball’s biggest disappointment the last two seasons as a club with one of the highest payrolls had all sorts of problems on and off the field. One of the reasons this was so strange is that before 2011 they were projected to have one of the strongest starting rotations in the league. Funny how that worked out, because last year they finished nearly dead last in starters’ ERA.

Starting Rotation

1. Jon Lester (B-)

2.Clay Buchholz (B-)

3. Ryan Dempster (C+)

4. Felix Doubront (C-)

5. John Lackey (D+)

In the mix: Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves

Down the road: Rubby De La Rosa

The field has definitely thinned out. It all starts with Lester and Buchholz, especially now that Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield are long gone. Jon Lester was outstanding from 2008-11, going 65-32 with an ERA around 3.3, but along with the rest of the Red Sox staff he did not have it in 2012, going just 9-14 with an ERA more than a full run above his career average. Lester has really good stuff. And since overcoming lymphoma in 2007 he has been remarkably healthy, starting at least 31 games five straight years. His strikeout rate has decreased for three consecutive seasons so that is cause for concern, but especially with Coach and former pitcher John Ferrell as the new sheriff in town, Lester is a prime comeback candidate.

As for Clay Buchholz, I don’t really think he is a great pitcher or much different than Joba Chamberlain, so Boston’s and many people’s expectation of him as a staff leader are pretty unrealistic. When you look at it, he’s only had one good year, 2010 (it was a really good one; 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA). Other than that since 2007 he has only started more than 16 games once (last year, when he was terrible) and while he shows flashes of brilliance, his combined stats outside of ’10 are pedestrian at best (29-25, 4.51 ERA). He is always injured; a torn fingernail, pulled hamstring, stress fracture in his back, esophagitis and/or gastrointestinal problems, so he is hard to depend on. Perhaps the no-hitter he threw in his second career start was more of a testament about his opponent (the terrible Orioles) than his own stardom. He is only 28 so he’s still got plenty of time to reach his potential, but one season out of five is not a good percentage.

The one offseason acquisition in the rotation is Ryan Dempster, a 35 year old that has spent his whole career in the National League. His career record is 124-124 with a 4.33 ERA. He did get a brief whiff of the AL last year as he made 12 starts for the Texas Rangers, picking up a 5.09 ERA. He had a pretty good half-year (though injured part-time) in 2012 with the Cubs and again in 2008, but for a 15-year veteran, one and a half years isn’t much. Now jumping to the AL East, I can’t believe that he will keep that ERA below 4.80 and be better than a below-average starting pitcher.

Today in the Grapefruit League opener, John Lackey is getting his first start in 517 days since Tommy John surgery. The 517 days with the Red Sox before that were forgettable, as Lackey was the AL’s worst starting pitcher in 2011 and not much better in 2010. So what are the expectations for the 34 year old? Well, pretty low for a guy slated to earn close to $16 million. But at least he seems recovered, healthy and in better shape. Before his surgery Lackey’s strikeout-to-walk ratio had declined five straight years and he missed some starts each season, so he’s far from a certainty but at least his paycheck practically guarantees they’ll give him plenty of shots.

Felix Doubront was one of few bright spots for the Red Sox last year, although a 4.86 ERA with high walk and homer rates aren’t too bright. Doubront, 25, is a strikeout pitcher, the only Red Sox with more than 1K/inning ratio. Unfortunately, the lefty showed up to camp with a sore shoulder and out of shape for the second time in three years, so he’s not off to a good start.

Sorry, but there’s not a lot of optimism looking at this rotation in Boston, unless Lester and Buchholz both bust out with great years. And the depth is pretty poor, too. Rubby De La Rosa, the top pickup from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford deal, is recovered from Tommy John surgery (seems like everybody on the team is: Lackey, De La Rosa, Lester, Dempster, even Coach Farrell) and has impressed the staff in Spring; he will likely be called upon during the season. Franklin Morales is a lefty that will get stretched this Spring to be available as a starter. But that’s about it.

The Red Sox beefed up their bullpen, but they are still a team with a weaker lineup, low-potential rotation, and little backup for emergencies. They are in rebuilding mode, but even that is questionable as their rotation includes Dempster and Lackey in their mid-30s.

Overall Grade:C+

Pitching Depth: D

Biggest Strength: Jon Lester

Biggest Concern: Injury risks