Results tagged ‘ Josh Beckett ’

Aggravation to Rejuvenation

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This past week was not the most fun week to be a Red Sox fan (and I know Indians and Orioles fans are having a tough time too). The Sox didn’t exactly look like a team that had just clinched playoff berth with the way that the pitching was coming apart. In fact, they didn’t even clinch the wildcard with a win, they were merely graced with a Texas loss to secure their spot. 

The Yankees clinched the division on their home turf, against the Sox, which partially fulfills their goal of the 2009 season. With the additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett, many predicted that the Yankees would win the division, though everyone knew not to count the Red Sox out with what seemed like the best pitching staff in baseball at the start of the season–in fact, many predicted the Red Sox to win it. 
Clinching the division on their home turf would have been satisfying enough, but clinching against the Red Sox? That must have made it even better for them, and I turned off ESPN as soon as Jacoby Ellsbury’s soft grounder to Mariano Rivera ended the ninth. 
This final season series sweep by the Yankees made the season series even. After the Red Sox won the first eight of the season, they either got swept, or lost the rest of the series. In what very well could be the American League Championship Series matchup, all Red Sox fans are hoping that we can pull it together, and make every game in that series unforgettable–all fights to the finish. And with the Red Sox and Yankees, it always is. 
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I was hoping for a bit of rejuvenation against the Blue Jays. I always like going into the playoffs with lots of momentum, and I wanted to secure a spot already! No such luck Monday night. Josh Beckett was scratched from his start with mild back spasms (but he is pitching tonight, so all is well). When I first heard the story, memories flooded back to me of Spring Training 2008. I was excited to finally see Beckett pitch, because I had never seen him live before (and I still have not). He was even warming up with Jason Varitek down in left field at City of Palms Park–but he didn’t make the start. Manny Delcarmen did, and Beckett started that season on the DL, and had a mediocre season according to his standards (as well as my high standards for him). Thankfully, these spasms are nothing to be concerned about. 
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I was very excited to see Michael Bowden take the mound, since he is my favorite pitching prospect. To say that he didn’t have the best night would be an understatement. He lasted only three innings and was tagged for seven runs. Bowden was obviously very disappointed in himself, but he made no excuses. He said that he could have been told five minutes before the game that he would be starting, and still this outcome would have remained inexcusable. I appreciate the fact that he didn’t make up excuses, and I won’t make up any for him either. 
The fact of the matter is though, that we can’t judge September call-ups simply by their one month of play, that would be unfair. Bowden was missing his spots, and he was getting behind in counts–something that can easily be fixed. Plus, he is not used to Victor Martinez, and practice makes perfect. I would like to see him follow a path similar to Clay Buchholz–because look how effective that extra time in the minors was for him: he is going to be a starting pitcher in our playoff rotation. 
In fact, if Bowden works really hard this winter (I am not sure if he will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League), I think that he could be a legitimate contender for a spot in the starting rotation for 2010. Dustin Richardson has impressed me, and I am very excited to see more of him next year in Spring Training. He is a legitimate contender to be a project next year, as is Fernando Cabrera. I think that what we have to remember is that it is a big transition from the minors to the majors, and it would be unfair to expect anyone to flawlessly make that transition. 
The last two games against the Blue Jays weren’t much better. The second game seemed like a recurring dream as Buchholz also gave up seven runs. And if it wasn’t for Joey Gathright in the third game, Halladay could have no-hit the Red Sox instead of just pitching a complete game shutout. 
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Speaking of Joey Gathright, I want to get to playoff rosters. We are less than a week way from what I like to consider the first day of “Soxtober”. While there are many “lock-ins” for the roster, there are still some spots that are up for grabs.
I would like the starting rotation to look like this:
1. Jon Lester
2. Clay Buchholz
3. Josh Beckett
4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
I am so proud of how far Clay Buchholz has come this season. I think that he has truly earned that spot. And who knew that Dice-K would come back and pitch as well as he has? Sometimes, it is worth giving people a second chance. 
As for the bullpen, Papelbon, Wagner, Okajima, Saito, Bard (whom I refer to as ‘Baby Bard’ on twitter), and Ramon Ramirez should be locks. With the way that Manny Delcarmen has been pitching as of late, his spot is no longer secure. 
The possibilities for that eleventh spot could range from guys like Byrd and Wakefield, to guys like Bowden, Cabrera and Richardson. I love Tim Wakefield, but I really don’t think that he is healthy enough to pitch in the playoffs. And even though the bird is the word, I don’t think that Paul Byrd has been consistent enough to earn a spot on the roster. And much as I like Bowden, I don’t think that he is ready for the postseason this season. Next season? I have no doubt. 
I know it may sound crazy, but I think it should be between Richardson, Cabrera and Delcarmen. 
As for position players, most of them are locked in. The main question marks are the utility infielder and the reserve outfielder. Alex Gonzalez was hit in the hand last night and he was forced to leave the game. Not good timing at all, and I think we’re all praying that he is not injured. I would like to see Gonzalez as the starting shortstop with Lowrie or Woodward as the  backup. 
So the question is: Lowrie or Woodwa
rd? This one is the toughest for me to figure out since we have seen so little of both of these guys this season. The second spot to fill is the reserve outfielder, and I think that Joey Gathright has the best shot because of his speed. Think Dave Roberts, 2004 and you’ll know why. 
I am working on playoff brackets this weekend, and what I think should be the roster, so I will do my best to get back to you guys by Tuesday as to who should make the roster. 

Why I cheered for Derek Jeter

As a Red Sox fan, I have been brought up to hate the Yankees. The timeless rivalry dates back to the beginnings of baseball, and has been augmented numerous times thanks to trades we want to forget, home runs we wish had never been hit, and bench clearing brawls. 

Because both teams have so much history, there are many stories that have been passed down, and players that are glorified by having their numbers retired. Hate and love may be considered opposite feelings, but they are felt with similar passions. I love the Red Sox with all my heart and soul. I indulge in their history, and I revel at the accomplishments that past players have made, I watch history in the making as the present players play, and I dream of the accomplishments that future players will make. 
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I hate the Yankees. I hate the fact that they lead the American League East by 9 games even though the Red Sox were in first place for the first half of the season. I hate that they are so good. I hate that they go out and buy the best players on the market every single year, and rub it in our faces, and I hate the fact that they cut the hair and shaved the beard of who used to be one of my favorite players. And when I continue to think about all of these things, I realize something: I love to hate them. 
Just because I hate the Yankees, it doesn’t mean I wish they didn’t exist. What fun would the AL East be if the Yankees weren’t in it? The Red Sox and the Yankees need each other in order to exist in the way that they do. Baseball would not be the same if the Yankees didn’t exist, it would be much, much worse. 
Furthermore, just because I hate the Yankees, that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire some of their players. There are many players that I dislike, such as Alex Rodriguez. But I dislike A-Rod because of how he has cheated the game. Baseball figures like Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Bera, and so many others remind us of the beauty of baseball that is sometimes overshadowed by the scandals that are so evident today. I don’t know if anyone is every going to be able to catch Dimaggio’s immortal 56 game hit streak. Lou Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium is a classic piece of baseball history. 
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The fact of the matter is, in order to be a fan of the Red Sox, you have to be a fan of baseball, and this applies for any team. Baseball is a beautiful thing. There is something very tangible and very intangible about it at the same time. Regardless of whom you root for, at the end of the day, we are all baseball fans, and that is why we should admire and respect the great players of the game who write another page in the eternal textbook of baseball. 
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That is why I cheered for Derek Jeter when he tied, and broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time Yankees hit record. I cheered because I love baseball, and Derek Jeter is one of prototypical players of the game. He is someone that will be remembered forever in baseball history. 
When I think about some of the goals I want to accomplish in my life, there is one that is the most important to me. I want to bring a smile to people’s faces when I talk and write about baseball. I want to change the minds of those who find baseball boring, and show them how beautiful it really is. My goal is not to convert people to Red Sox fans, my goal is to convert people to baseball fans because that is the essential basis. 
Going further on this goal, I want to create a program for people with disabilities to get into baseball. I want people who are blind to be able to listen to and love the beauty of the game, and I want people who are deaf to see the beauty of the game. Our senses play such an important role in the way we experience the game, that we should give the gift of them to those who are not fortunate enough to experience the game in the same way that we do. We are lucky enough to see the beautiful ballparks, to see unbelievable plays being made, and to see the looks on players’ faces when they have won the World Series. We are lucky enough to hear the crack of a baseball bat, and the roar of the crowd after a walk-off shot has been hit. We can taste the different kinds of specialties that are made at each park, and taste the hotdogs that are a staple of every park. We are able to feel the lines and dirt on the foul ball we caught. And we can smell the dirt on the baseball field, and the fresh cut grass. We should share this experience with those who are not fortunate enough
I have a few things that I want to get to on my Red Sox agenda as well. It looks like we are going to be the wildcard team, if we can hold Texas back. The Rays are not as much of a problem considering they have been in a massive slump (and they lost a huge part of their lineup in Carlos Peña). 
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There are two main things that the Red Sox need to focus on right now: their starting pitching rotation, and the “best” starting lineup that they can put out there. If Josh Beckett can return to his dominant Cy Young like May-August form, that may just determine how long the Red Sox will last. He has such an impact on postseason teams when he is strong: the 2003 Marlins and the 2007 Red Sox. If Jon Lester can keep up his dominant lefty reputation, and if Clay Buchholz can remain the young phenom that he is, then a three man rotation will be fine for the playoffs. 
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However, there is one main lineup thing that I have been having a bit of an issue with as of late. Ever since the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez, both Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell’s playing time have been limited. Is it really fair that these two are the ones sitting when Big Papi is the one who isn’t even batting .230 on the season? I know the impact that Big Papi has had on our recent playoff runs, and I’m not asking anyone to forget that. But if we dwell on the past and hope that it can repeat itself for too long, it may be too late to focus on the problems of the present. I think that Mike Lowell deserves to be in the lineup everyday with the way that he has been hitting since the All-Star break, which is why I would have him as the designat
ed hitter, and have Martinez at first with Jason Varitek catching.I know that Varitek’s average is worse than Big Papi’s, but he has more of an impact on the game with his defense than Papi does. I think that would be the best offensive lineup that the Red Sox can put out there. 
I want to conclude this by going back to what I said before about Derek Jeter. I have told you that I cheer for him, but I want to know what you guys think. No matter who you root for, did you cheer for him, or didn’t you? Why or why not? If you are a Red Sox fan, and you wouldn’t cheer for him, do you think I am a bad Red Sox fan for appreciating his accomplishment? Please drop me a comment or an e-mail. 

Hindsight (Biases)

During my sophomore year, I tried to make connections between baseball with some of my classes to help myself understand it better. As my junior year starts up, I’ll try to do the same. I have a feeling that physics will relate a lot more to baseball than chemistry did (but then again, what does chemistry relate to that is of any importance at all?), and I already have a way that psychology can relate to our perspectives on the game. Though I’m sure Emily is a lot more qualified to talk about that than I am. 

As the season progresses, many of us have come to realize that many of our offseason acquisitions have not performed in the way that we expected them too. It may be easy to point fingers at our brilliant general manager, Theo Epstein, but before any of us do any such thing, I think it is important to experiment with empathy, travel back in time a bit, and use our imaginations. 
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You are now sitting in Theo Epstein’s office, sipping some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and constantly making phone calls with agents. It’s late December, and you are reflecting over the 2008 season, and looking at areas where you can improve. Clay Buchholz was not quite ready for the 2008 season, so it is evident that the Red Sox need a fifth starter. It is certainly wise to consider the options of signing a high profile free agent such as CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett, but would such an acquisition truly be necessary with aces already in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K (remember, we have no idea yet that Dice-K’s season would look nothing like 2008’s 18-3 record). 
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Let me go on a quick tangent on Dice-K before I make any significant phone calls. On paper, his 18-3 record looks stellar, a Cy Young contender if you didn’t look at how many innings he pitched per game. Dice-K got really lucky during the 2008 season. He had a knack for loading the bases with no outs, and getting out of it unscathed. In other words, he got really lucky. Sure the Red Sox may have won most of the time, but it is inefficient to have your starter go only five or six innings because he racks up his pitch count early on. Not to mention it puts a massive strain on the bullpen. I think that Dice-K’s case is very similar to the “downfall” that Brad Lidge is experiencing in Philadelphia. I’m not trying to take away any credibility from his perfect season, but I think that it is a valid comparison. 
Back to the phone calls. Considering the Red Sox have four quality starters, it is unnecessary to sign a high profile free agent. It would be more wise to sign a “low risk” acquisition in a veteran pitcher that could guarantee a lot of success. The problem with signing high profile free agents is their massive contracts. What if they don’t perform? What if AJ Burnett continues his injury woes, and he can’t pitch effectively? 
This is why I like incentive contracts so much. Too bad they are mainly used with these low risk acquisitions, and when I think of these, I tend to think of veteran players who are coming back from injuries or bad seasons who are looking for another chance. Obviously, signing them is a gamble, but it could turn out to be very beneficial. And regardless of their contributions on the field, I think that their contributions equate that or even surpass it. Having a veteran voice in the clubhouse for the younger players to talk to is always an advantage. 
In psychology, we learned a bit about ‘hindsight biases’, which basically means that when we look back on events, many of the consequences seem much more obvious than they actually were at the time. Think about who we signed. 
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John Smoltz is obviously a Hall of Fame pitcher, who had a great twenty year career with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, his stint with the Red Sox did not work out, but was it really a bad signing? No. Would I have done it? Yes. Another thing to remember about this deal was that it was very similar to the deal that Curt Schilling signed for 2008. Neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were valid. Plus, if Randy Johnson is still pitching, why can’t they? 
Another offseason acquisition that didn’t work out: Brad Penny. The same theory applied when signing him, but his history isn’t as convincing. However, it was only but 2007 that he came in second for the NL Cy Young. His 2008 season was anything but spectacular, but given an incentive laden contract, there is the opportunity for success. And if they incentives aren’t met? No big deal in the big picture. Penny was released, and both he and the Red Sox are moving on. 
Some have been disappointed with Rocco Baldelli also because he has spent a considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Granted it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s not like we expected him to play every single day because we were well aware of his channelopathy disorder. The reason for acquiring him was so that he could be a valuable player coming off the bench. 
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In other words, I just think that these offseason acquisitions are very justifiable even if they didn’t work out. But now instead of looking at the offseason acquisitions, I’d like to look at our most recent acquisition: Billy Wagner. 
This trade reminded me a lot of the Eric Gagne one of 2007, a trade that I absolutely hated because I didn’t want to part with Kason Gabbard (luckily, we have him back now). However, I am much more open to this Billy Wagner acquisition because our bullpen band could really use an extra hand, the chorus is sounding a little shabby. 
Oh, and the bullpen could use some help too. After Justin Masterson left, it kind of threw off the bullpen in my opinion. We were calling a bunch of guys up from Pawtucket who simply weren’t ready yet. I think that this acquisition solidifies the bullpen and gives us a more definite notion of an eighth inning set up man. In a way, it will be redefining everyone’s role. 
I am very excited for September call ups–I am very anxious to see who will be up. I am really hoping that Michael Bowden gets another chance. I really don’t think that we can judge him on that poor outing against the Yankees. I am also very interested to see what is going to go on with who will be catching Tim Wakefield, because I think that Victor Martinez did a very solid job the other night. And if V-Mart can do the job, what use is George Kottaras? 

Shipping Up to Boston

The song that signals Jonathan Papelbon’s entrance into a game at Fenway Park can also be applied to what I did the other day. I did not fly up to Boston like I normally do. Nor did I literally “ship” up to Boston (though I thinkthat we all wish that we were ‘on a boat’). In fact, I drove up to Boston.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with a map of the continental United States can tell you that it is not a short drive. We trekked through some serious torrential downpours. I’m pretty sure that the storms came down form DC and Atlanta. I only say that because I know that those games were delayed Thursday night because of rain. We basically spent 28 straight hours in the car making stops for food, and rest stops to take a quick nap.

As far as the agenda goes for the week, I’m pretty excited. On Monday and Tuesday, I will be going down to Pawtuket to see some PawSox games. The thing is, I won’t just be getting there two hours early for autographs this time. I’ll be getting two hours early because Dan Hoard and Steve Hyder, a radio broadcaster and a beat writer for the PawSox, have agreed to let me interview them. I look forward to interviewing them about their careers as well as what they see as far as the future goes.

I think a lot of people disregard minor league baseball because it is seemingly insignificant and it is full of raw, not-yet-perfected talent.. Admittedly, I used to be that way too. But once you go to a few Spring Training games, and you see the kind of work these guys do, and the mentality that they approach the game with, you really being to appreciate that aspect of the game.

Plus, as you watch it, you have to realize that you might be looking at the next Josh Beckett, the next Jonathan Papelbon or the next Dustin Pedroia. Maybe it’s just because I’m the “future blog of the Red Sox” that I’m interested in the “future of the Red Sox” because I want to know who I’ll be writing about (hopefully), but I think that these guys are the real deal.

So even though the Sox cooled down a bit during the middle of May and towards the end, they are begining to turn it around thanks to Terry Francona’s brilliance when it comes to the everyday lineup. Plus the fact that the starting rotation is starting to come together.

Slowly but surely, Big Papi is starting to come out of his funk. I think that the most impressive part of this entire situation is the perpetual support that he is receiving from Red Sox fans. I know that there is a lot of “underground” criticism, which there should be, but every time he comes up to the plate, I hear cheers. Only in Boston. When Mark Teixeira got off to his terrible start in April, he was getting booed in New York.

It’s not like Boston is the paragon of mercy though. I hear vicious complaints about Julio Lugo everyday. So why aren’t fans becoming hostile towards Papi? Personally, I think it’s because we can never forget what he did for us in 2004. If it wasn’t for him, I honestly believe that we would not have broken the curse. His formidable bat, and his clutch hitting was such an essential part. We cannot just abandon our love for him after what he did for urs.

Anyway, I’m starting to like this lineup. It’s weird not seeing Ellsbury at the top because he seems like the prototypical leadoff guy: consistent bat, speed, run scorer. The problem was the lack of that at the bottom of the order, which was why we weren’t scoring runs. And while I’m generally a supporter of the Youkilis-Drew punch, I enjoy Bay hitting in the four hole.

I’ve talked about Bay being Mr. Dependable and the new Mr. Clutch-Hitter, but it’s not like he just came out of no where. His numbers were quite comparable during his Pittsburgh years, it’s just that Pittsburgh doesn’t get the kind of media attention that it deserves. I know that they just aren’t that good, and that they just traded away Nate McLouth, but they deserve attention. They’ve got that young, raw talent that I like. Maybe I’ll start calling it future talent.

I am also thrilled that Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are starting to have consistently solid outings. They both flirted with no-hitters quite recently (in fact, Lester was flirting with a perfect game). I’m done with flirting though, it’s time to court that perfect game! Lester’s ERA and record is not truly indicative of how his year has been, though. Like I’ve said, it’s just been that one annoying inning that has ruined the first part of his season.

Recently, Lester has been having the kind of outings that everyone said that he was going to have. I think our little talk really paid off: he is concentrating on making each and every pitch. And have you seen the number of strikeouts that he has been racking up? 12 K’s in 6 innings and then 11 in 7 I believe was the last one. And Josh Beckett has just been dominant his past few starts. It is all coming together now. All we have to do is get Dice-K away from these mediocre outings. I have no complaints about Wakefield– only praise for his durability. As for Brad Penny, what can I say? The guy has a winning record. I don’t like him very much because I think he only has decent outings, if that, and he just gets very lucky with the run support.

I think that covers what I haven’t been covering as often, and I am sorry for my lack of presence. I think you’ll like the next few entries though. My friend will be guest blogging and writing a “Top Ten Reasons Never to Watch or Go To a Baseball Game with Elizabeth’. I will also be blogging about the PawSox game and the Yankee vs Red Sox game I will be attending on Thursday night.

Fantastical Meetings, Fantastic Games

My sources got back to me today about our pitching staff’s little competition. According to Melissa, the Indians are the ones that introduced us to the game. 

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My fantastical imagination wandered during my French class, and it took me to my meeting with the Red Sox starting rotation. 
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Apparently, there was still some bad blood between the Red Sox and Indians, neither of them got over the 2007 ALCS. In 2007, the mentality was: ‘If you can be good, I can get better'; in 2009, the mentality has shifted to: ‘If you can be bad, I can be worse”
I wasn’t aware of the rules though. It was only a game between Dice-K, Penny, and Beckett. Jon Lester was disqualified because he started the game too early, this was supposed to start AFTER the first start of the season. Tim Wakefield was automatically disqualified because of the knuckleball, and Justin Masterson is still not allowed to play because of his age. 
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“I wanted to motivate the offense,” Daisuke Matsuzaka said through his translator. “It was pretty quiet, so I thought that I could simply destroy the three run lead, and put us in a two run deficit,” he confessed. 
I turned to Brad Penny, who had a guilty look on his face. “I got jealous,” he began as he shook his head. “I’m the new guy here. Dice-K gave up those five runs, and I guess I just took it overboard. I didn’t even let the offense score to begin with… I just… wanted to impress them,”
“I *&^%$#@ hate Cleveland! I beat CC twice and I still didn’t get the !@#$%^& Cy Young! What the hell do they expect me to do–” Josh Beckett was cut off. 
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“I wanted to play! They wouldn’t let me!” Justin Masterson interrupted. “I was a rookie LAST year–“
Beckett glared at Masterson, and I could tell that Masterson was thankful that it wasn’t Jonathan Papelbon who was staring at him. “Anyway, these guys gave up five or more runs in their outing, and I knew that I could give Baltimore eight runs, but I only &^%*$#@ got four… !@#$^%&%&*&$^%^^&&*&…..” 
The Red Sox realized that this game was dangerous though, so they stopped playing it. Dice-K is now on the 15-Day DL with a fatigued shoulder. They tried to add an amendment to the rules that would disqualify pitchers who had pitched in the World Baseball Classic, but something changed. 
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In Sunday’s game, Jon Lester went seven innings and struck out nine– which made Josh Beckett a bit uneasy. In his Opening Day start, he had gone seven innings with ten strikeouts, but nine was just too close. Lester has motivated Beckett to do even better. 
It was great to see Lester get back into his “vintage” form, as Ian Browne called it in his article. I wasn’t worried, I was merely… frustrated. 
11 am start. On a Monday. Where was I at 11 am Monday? I had just gotten out of Chemistry, and most of you know how I feel about chemistry: badly, to say the least. By the middle of fifth period, I couldn’t take it anymore. I marched with haste to the library. 
I probably had some sort of look of determination on my face because when I came out of the library, my friend reported the score: 3-1 (at that time)
I whirled around… I needed to know more. 
“How? How’s Masterson? What about Jacoby? What about–“
“Masterson is doing OK, Jacoby and Dustin both got hits, and I think Big Papi too,”
I sighed with relief, said ‘thank you’ and marched right into the library to watch the boxscore refresh every 30 seconds. 
This lasted throughout the next period too. I was unable to watch for the next two, but after I got out of my last class, Life Skills, I marched straight over to my friends and demanded an iPhone. 
“Whoever has an iPhone, give it to me now,”
No questions asked, I got one, and read the recap aloud, despite protests from my friends. Besides Masterson’s… masterful… start, I was happy to see that Big Papi had partially broken out of his slump. I say partially only because in my book, home runs are the only remedy for slumps. And last season, in his terrible beginning-of-the-season drought, he had a few hits the night before, and the next night? Grand slam. Oh yeah, and we slammed the O’s. Just like our offense is supposed to. 
Tonight’s game may be canceled postponed delayed, but we all know that my chemistry test won’t be. Though, I do wish it would be cancelled, postponed, or delayed. 

The Competition Within the Starting Rotation

Friends, I have discovered something, and I feel the need to share it with you: The Boston Red Sox starting rotation is playing a game. 

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No, not cribbage, but Dustin Pedroia and Terry Francona play that almost everyday. Dustin always loses, and he doesn’t like losing; so I guess he takes it out on the field with his hits, diving plays, and sprawl/slides into first base.
The game that our starting rotation is playing is more of a competition: Who can screw up the most in one inning. Josh Beckett is in last place right now, he only gave up four runs in the fourth yesterday, and still came out with the lead. 
My sources have yet to get back to me, but I asked them if relinquishing the lead is in the rules. Apparently, Dice-K thought so. You all remember him giving up five runs in the first inning and relinquishing the lead. 
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Brad Penny is the winner oft his week’s edition of the game. He gave up seven runs in the second inning on Friday night. It looked pretty bleak after that, but the bottom of the second inning rekindled hope. Our offense has finally awakened. JD Drew and Jason Bay were definitely the highlights of that game. I mean, coming back from a 7-0 deficit? The last time we did that…
And our bullpen wasn’t half bad either, in fact, they were great! I love how Manny Delcarmen can go two or three innings, that is quite helpful. Ramon Ramirez picked up his first win, and Papelbon had a great ninth. Our poor bullpen has been working so hard lately. I think the game needs to end. Brad Penny is the winner. 
I was watching the Marlins game as well, and both games actually ended within seconds of each other. Both Papelbon and Lindstrom struck out their victims. 
The second game of the series, I was unable to watch. I actually went to the movies with my friends… yes… I went out during a baseball game. Crazy. Well, I wasn’t totally resourceless. I got periodic updates from my father on what was going on. 
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Kevin Youkilis had a monster game, I think he’s going to change that third place to first place for the MVP. Or at least he wants to. The guy almost hit for the cycle, and hasn’t that been done three times already this year? That’s pretty cool. I heard that Kubes of the Twins did it, and also Orlando Hudson (fantasy team.. yay!!) and Ian Kinsler did it also. 
Once again, this game is evidence that our offense is finally waking up. But my biggest fear is Big Papi. 
I really am wondering what is up with him. My father and I have speculated that his timing is all off, and he’s just not the formidable hitter he was of say, 2004. I miss that fear that he would instill in pitchers when he would come up in the ninth inning with a tied score. I want that to come back. 
I think I may need to ask Emily about this one, because she is going into sports psychology. You all know what happened with Manny last season, and I don’t really want to talk about it. 
But I think that most of us could tell that Papi and Manny were pretty much best friends. They were a fearsome 3-4 combo, and they would kind of keep each other going. 
Manny seems to be a selfish person, he doesn’t care about us Red Sox fans… believe me, we loved him too! But Papi is a very caring person, and us Red Sox fans care about him! I think his hitting drought can be partially blamed on the absence of Manny Ramirez. 
Papi has even mentioned that he would like to have some more protection, and 30 HR type of guy… but this year our offense is catered more towards small ball (or at least I think so). I have decided to make some lineup changes… well one. 
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. JASON BAY 
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. JD Drew
6. Big Papi
7. Mike Lowell
8. Jason Varitek
9. NIck Green
I might try this because Jason Bay has been hitting really well lately, and I really like the Youkilis-Drew punch. If not, I would put Drew third, Youk fourth, Papi fifth, and keep Bay at sixth. I don’t really know though. 
The Red Sox game just started, and Jon Lester just struck out Brian Roberts. Jon, the competition between the rotation is over. 

Beginning of the Season Blues

As fans, I think that we tend to expect the best from our teams, especially at the beginning of the season–it’s only natural. There have been so many predictions that I think they eventually go to our heads, and we get ahead of ourselves because we focus on the end result rather than each and every game. 

This doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with starting out at 2-5 at all, the Red Sox worst start to the season since 1996. In fact, I barely shut up about it today. I guess that’s just a mix of me being tired from staying up late to watch all the West Coast games, and trying to figure out why we can’t score runs. 
Speaking of West Coast games, it seems like the Red Sox are getting a nice early dosage of those. That doesn’t really help me get my sleeping pattern back in order after Spring Break, but the games are obviously more important to me. 
The Almost-Brawl 
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It did not take long for this game to get exciting. In fact, it started in the bottom of the first. Chone Figgins has just hit a double (I think) and Bobby Abreu was at-bat. I really dislike Bobby Abreu, but not for the reason you think. In 2004, I wanted Juan Pierre to go to the All-Star game, and it was between him and Abreu (who was on the Phillies at this time). I spent an hour voting for Pierre over and over again, but Abreu was the one who went. I never forgave him, and going to the Yankees didn’t really help his case. 
Anyway, Beckett was taking forever to make the pitch because he kept looking back at Figgins. I was expecting Abreu to call time any second now, and I bet Beckett was waiting for Abreu to call time too– maybe even provoking him with the long wait. 
But Abreu decided to wait until the last possible second to make the call, and by last possible second I mean that Beckett was already in his windup. I hate it when batters do that. Beckett ended up throwing in the vicinity of Bobby Abreu’s head, even though Varitek called for the pitch low and away. 
First of all, I think that Abreu has been in the league long enough to know that Beckett isn’t the calmest guy in the world. He’s got a temper. It’s just not wise to call time on a guy like Beckett. 
Second, anything can happen when you call time in the middle of someone’s windup. It’s not like he can stop in the middle of his windup, I cannot have this man injured for the sake of my own personal health. When a pitcher’s concentration is broken, the ball can go anywhere. 
Abreu started mouthing off at Beckett first, and you don’t want to get Beckett angry by any means. Luckily, no punches were thrown but both sides were out on the field. A few Angels got tossed including Torii Hunter, Spier, and Sciosia. And according to Torii Hunter, what upset him wasn’t something said by the Red Sox. 
Beckett was not as dominating as his first start, but I wasn’t too disappointed with the outing itself. The Sox continued to frustrate me when they could not do anything about the runners that they had on base. I wasn’t able to see the last couple of innings though, I had to go out to dinner. But luckily, my dad found Gameday on his phone, so I was able to read that JD Drew struck out looking to end the ninth. Apparently, it was outside… but I did not watch so I can’t go on a rant. 
Late West Coast Games
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Baseball games aren’t really convenient when they start at 10:05 pm. I’ve figured out my whole ‘how-to-stay-awake’ routine. Two cups of coffee and keeping the light on normally works. Plus, tweeting away my woes helps out too. 
I think I’ve figured out that Jon Lester really isn’t an April guy. I remember not being very impressed with him at the beginning of last year, but then in May… well, you know the rest. It’s not like Jon Lester isn’t talented… it’s just one bad inning that kind of takes away from the rest of the night. 
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The worst was Nomar’s home run. The best way to describe my feelings towards Nomar is “emotional attachment”. It’s hard to let it all go, especially after everything he did with the Red Sox. His first career home run in September of 1996 happened to be against the Oakland A’s. And now, his first time playing against the Red Sox he hits a home run as a member of the A’s. 
And as Ian Browne pointed out in his blog, it was a bit eerie seeing him and Orlando Cabrera playing on the same side of the field. For those of you who don’t know the story, Orlando Cabrera was the shortstop that replaced took over for Nomar. And the Red Sox have never had a solid shortstop since. 

The Morning After
I probably came to school today with the most desolate look that I have had since the Red Sox lost the ALCS. Kathleen, the only Red Sox fan friend I have at my school, and I raved and raved about being 2-5. We wrote a haiku, and created our own lineups during classes. 
First period math today, I was forced to talk about the poor start to the season. I reported the scores to my teacher, and told him about Nick Swisher pitching (which I find hilarious, by the way). 
“How did the Red Sox do?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Another person in the class offers to look it up on his phone, but it’s not like I need him reciting the grim box score out loud. 
My teacher claims he is going to look it up anyway: “Fine. It was 8-2″ I conceded
“Oh, I see why you didn’t want to talk about it. Nomar hit the home–” 
I sighed… Nomar, Nomar, Nomar. I am sorry. 
Suspensions
I found out after school today that Beckett got suspended for six games, for throwing at Abreu’s head. I don’t remember Joba Chamberlain getting suspended for six games after throwing at Kevin Youkilis’ head. In fact, I don’t even remember Youkilis charging the mound. And I don’t remember Terry Francona being difficult and refusing to go back to the dugout the way that Mike Sciosia did. 
Two cups of coffee again for me tonight, but hopefully I’ll be able to report happier news to my first period class tomorrow. 

Opening Week Thoughts

After Josh Beckett’s stellar performance on Opening Day, I was excited to see what the rest of the pitching staff was going to offer. I can’t say that I was thrilled with the three games that followed Josh Beckett’s, but I can say that I’m optimistic for the rest of the season. It is obvious that the Red Sox are still coming together as a whole, and transitioning from the Spring Training atmosphere to the regular season atmosphere. But as Kevin Youkilis pointed out, I’d rather be off to a slow start than have a bad finish. “There are bright things to come”. 

I was very excited for Wednesday’s game because I knew that it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Those always keep me on the edge of my seat, even if they are a bit nerve racking. It seems to me that Lester and Kazmir serve the same purpose on their respective teams– dominant lefties. Then again, when I was in Tampa last year I did see Kazmir pitch nine straight balls. It was quite a game until around the fifth inning where the Rays exploded for four runs. I bet Carlos Pena’s home run was pretty “deflating” as Jon Lester called it. I’m trying to remember the situation, but maybe he could have put Pena on instead of pitching to him at a 3-1 count. Then there was that really weird play where Jason Bartlett had that suicide safety squeeze or whatever you call it. Poor Lester looked so lost, but at least these looks of confusion are happening at the beginning of the season rather than the middle. 
Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez looked good that game, and Takashi Saito did alright after giving up that home run on the second pitch. As soon as he gave up that home run, I thought back to that game in 2007 where Okajima gave up a home run on his very first pitch. Frustrating for sure, but then he was completely dominant the rest of the season. Perhaps there will be a similar pattern to Saito’s performance this year. The main thing that I noted about Lester though was that he wasn’t really hitting his spots. He would shake off Varitek a lot and after the first two innings, the command just wasn’t really there. If I was a pitcher on the Red Sox, I wouldn’t shake off Varitek too much. He definitely knows what he’s doing. 
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The final game of the series offered another great matchup between Matt Garza and Dice-K Matsuzaka. I swear, Matt Garza looks and acts like a snake. His tongue is always out! Whenever Dice-K pitches, I’m always a nervous wreck. This time, it wasn’t because he walked the bases loaded, he only walked three. His command wasn’t really present and he gave up three home runs.
My incessant hunger became overwhelming as I watched this game, and I needed something to munch on. Eventually, dry roasted peanuts and sunflower seeds became available. Pretty good baseball food. The more nervous I became, the more inclined I was to munch, but for the most part I was able to restrain myself… until Justin Masterson loaded up the bases in the top of the ninth. Luckily, Jacoby Ellsbury squelched my anxiety as he made a beautiful running catch.
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The next night, the Red Sox played the Angels… the first game the Angels would be playing after the tragedy. That game, I wasn’t as compulsively rooting for the Red Sox as I usually do. I was comfortable with watching a good baseball game, and I was comfortable with the fact that the Red Sox lost. There were much bigger things going on that night than winning and losing. I did rush home though, and I was the one driving so it was a lot easier to put the pedal to the metal and run those yellow lights that may have been transitioning into red. I made myself coffee because I tend to have trouble staying awake for the West Coast games, especially in a dark room. 
It must have been hard for Jered Weaver to pitch that night. I didn’t even realize until after the game that Nick Adenhart was supposed to move in with him that Friday. Weaver had 8 strikeouts in 6.2 innings, and as he walked off the mound, he pointed to the sky. That was beyond baseball. 
Brad Penny started the next game (yesterday’s) and even though his command wasn’t totally there, he still looked pretty healthy, which made me happy. I started watching this game in the third inning because I was at my grandparents house and I didn’t really expect the game to be on TV. If Brad Penny was feeling healthy, than that’s pretty good news because he will be great to have on the rotation if he is healthy. His velocity was up there, so for a guy coming off the worst season of his career, I would say that he did pretty well.
The offense finally woke up during this game. After the very first game where almost everyone got a hit, a few people fell off the radar. Kevin Youkilis was basically on fire until yesterday (still hitting .526 though) and Jacoby was just starting to wake up and get on base. Unfortunately, Pedroia and Big Papi haven’t been producing much. Big Papi is definitely due to say the least. Jason Bay came out of the gate swinging so that has made me pretty happy. Especially for a guy who generally has a pretty crappy April. I think that Mike Lowell is starting to wake up too. And where is Jed Lowrie?? He had a monster Spring, and here I am waiting for him to transition. I hope that he and Papi have big days today. 
Jonathan Palebon gave me a heart attack in the bottom of the ninth inning. First the home run to Torii Hunter, and then the bases are loaded. My grandparents are laughing at me as I bury my face in my hands and peek through them. Howard Kendrick hit something like seven foul balls in a row. Papelbon claimed to be “giggling” but I sure wasn’t– not with the bases loaded. My mother came over wondering what was going on since I had promised her that it was one more out five minutes ago. 
“Are you bad luck?” I asked somewhat accusingly as she came over. Last time she was near the vicinity, Papelbon had walked a guy, and we were not walking in the tying run. Luckily, she wasn’t bad luck, and Papelbon miraculously got out of it. I was able to breathe again. 
Last game of the Red Sox vs Angels series coming on in a little while. Can’t wait to watch Beckett pitch again, and I kind of want to see Chris Carter in this game. 

Indescribable Feeling

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We had all waited a really long time, and I’m not sure about you guys, but in general I hate waiting. Baseball was worth the wait. Spring Training was the longest it had even been, but we waited. I didn’t realize how deprived I was. I guess the withdrawal symptoms simply subside after a while. But as soon as Fenway Park appeared on my television I let out a squeal, my eyes teared up, and a shot of adrenaline ran through me. I wish I could put what I was feeling into words, but I can’t. I think that we need to come up with a word that describes the feelings that baseball evokes in us, because I’m getting pretty frustrated without one. 

Feeling this way, it was tough watching the game on FSN rather than NESN. I didn’t get to watch the pre-game ceremonies, nor did I get to watch the reserves coming through the stands. 
I saw the starting lineup come through the stands, and I really liked the fact that they actually came through the stands. It made the baseball players seem more tangible even as baseball itself becomes less and less tangible. They all looked so happy to be there, but at the same time, they knew that they would be there since day one of Spring Training. I wanted to see the look on Chris Carter’s face, my project. He didn’t know that he was going to be there, so that must have been unreal for him. 
I had almost gone over to my friend’s house to watch the game, but I declined knowing that 
a) She doesn’t like baseball, and I didn’t want to force her to sit through a game for three hours. I can’t concentrate on converting people on Opening Day for obvious reasons.
 
b) I don’t really need my friends to see the way I am during a baseball game. They already think I’m obsessed, I don’t need them to think I’m crazy too. I was actually on the phone with one of them during Jason Bay’s first at-bat, and I was talking to them a bit absentmindedly. 
“THAT WAS NOT A STRIKE!” I suddenly called out (the ump had called it a ball, but a bit too slowly for my taste). My friend proceeded to laugh.
“Elizabeth, is anyone at your house?” she asked.
“No…” I replied
“So, you’re talking to yourself?”
“I’m talking to the umpire, Mindy!”
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When I watch baseball, I tend to be under the impression that I am the umpire, and that my calls are the right calls. I try and find ways of calling defensive interferences on the other team on routine groundouts, every Red Sox pitch is a strike. Don’t worry, when I’m watching other games, I can be completely objective. And I’m working on my “I-totally-control-every-aspect-of-the-game”. 
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Josh Beckett made me really happy [insert that non-existent word here]. I loved his first pitch strikes, and I loved his ability to work quickly through most of his innings. Ten strikeouts in seven innings. Do I have to say anything other than dominance? He helped the Red Sox show the Rays who’s boss. And speaking objectively as possible, I think that he had the best start out of all the pitchers on Opening Day. 
Overall, I was very happy with the Red Sox performance that day. Almost everyone in the lineup had a hit except for our dear leadoff man, Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m not TOO worried though. It’s not like he struck out every single time. He did get SOME wood on the ball, but it only went as far as Akinori Iwamura. I loved seeing Pedroia’s home run, but I was especially happy with Jason Varitek’s home run. As they were introducing the lineup, I loved hearing “and behind the plate, our captain, Jason Varitek”. 
After Papelbon wrapped that game up, I finally obliged and went to my friend’s house. 
“Elizabeth, you haven’t been out of your house for days!” she told me. It’s hard to handle the truth sometimes. 
“Andrea, Monday night, yesterday and today were all very sacred days!” 
“You’ve done nothing but watch baseball for the past two days! COME OVER!”. Well… the Marlins WERE leading the Nationals 8-0, so I didn’t feel that bad. 
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I did give them a fair warning at the end of February though. Like Jane, I do schedule everything around my team. And according to my friend, I’m planning my life around them. But she meant that in a good way because after all, I am planning to become a sports writer. 
So just because the Red Sox showed the Rays who’s boss yesterday, it doesn’t mean that tonight is going to be easy. I mean, we’ve got Lester vs Kazmir tonight, and Rocco will be making his first start in center field with the Red Sox. 

2009 Red Sox Pitching Preview

I guess I could just give you guys the same predictions that everyone else has… but I don’t really want to do that. I’m going to break down each position, and briefly look at every player. Tonight, I want to look at pitching. I’ll tell you guys how I think their 2009 season will be, and what they will need to do to either come over the 2008 woes, or maintain their 2008 heights. 

Starting Pitching: This year, the Red Sox have some familiar faces in the first four slots for the rotation. The only thing that is different is their fifth spot– they didn’t just hand it over to Clay Buchholz like they did last year (not that they had much of a choice). In fact, despite an impressive spring, Clay won’t even be starting the season with the Red Sox! During the offseason, the Red Sox picked up Brad Penny and John Smoltz. Sure Brad Penny is no CC Sabbathia, but he can sure matchup with AJ Burnett pretty well. And John Smoltz may not be in the prime of his career, but I think that he has some words of wisdom that he can pass down to the guys. Justin Masterson could have filled the fifth starting spot very nicely, but I’ll tell you guys why I think he’ll work out very nicely in the bullpen. 
Josh Beckett: We all know that Beckett has the stuff that can put him in the realm of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but whenever he is injured, he spends so much time recovering, that he isn’t really that dominant. Luckily, Beckett will be starting the season with the Red Sox, and Opening Day for that matter. In 2007 he went 20-7, and in 2008 he went 12-10. So what happened? I agree with the people who have said that he was catching up to himself that entire year. He got injured during Spring Training so he didn’t have a lot of time to get into his rhythm. When he was ready to return, he was thrown right out into a high pressure atmosphere. Guys need Spring Training… just look at Jake Peavy! 
Jon Lester: Lester’s comeback from cancer story is really nice and inspiring and all, but honestly, it’s time to get over it, and he thinks so too. He has said that he wants to be known as a pitcher, not the kid that came back from cancer. Nonetheless, every time he pitches I’m sure we’ll be hearing the story. Anyway, we saw what this guy could do in 2008, his stuff is lethal. Not to mention the fact that he has added a changeup to his arsenal, and oh yeah his performance in the playoffs. There are two things that he needs to remember, and that we need to remember about him.
1. He cannot get overconfident with himself. In the ALCS, everyone had penciled him in for a win because of his performance in the ALDS. I think we let ourselves get a little to confident, and I think he got a little too confident. He needs to focus on executing his pitches, not the fact that statistically, he will probably win this game.
2. He is still really young, so he is still growing. We can’t expect him to be perfect. He’s going to go through some ups and downs. Luckily, he has got Jason Varitek behind the plate, and John Smoltz for some guidance. 
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Dice-K obviously performed really well last year: going 18-3 with an ERA under 3.00. The thing is, he wouldn’t usually go that deep. And the reason that he wouldn’t go that deep: walks. I know that he has a remarkable ability to get out of jams (that he creates with his walks), but I would much rather him try to impress me by going into the seventh inning more often. When he would only go five innings last year, that would put extra stress on our not so deep bullpen. This year, if he can go a bit deeper, and put not so much stress on our much deeper bullpen… well, wouldn’t that be a lot better? 
Tim Wakefield: Everything is better at 62 mph right? Well, that is until the batters time down the knuckle ball and start hitting it all over the place. The good thing about Wakefield is that he can go pretty deep into games. The uncertain part is that he is either on or off… there is very little middle ground. Some nights he’ll have great command, and other nights it’s just not there. Still, it is really fun to watch Wakefield baffle hitters with that knuckleball. 
Brad Penny: The fact that he was 6-9 last year definitely reduced his free agent worth. On the other hand, in 2007 he went 16-4. AJ Burnett on the other hand was one of the must valuable free agents out there. Yet if you compare their numbers, I’d consider them equals. 
John Smoltz: I honestly am not really sure as to how John Smoltz’s numbers will be this season. His role is obviously quite similar to what Curt Schilling’s was supposed to be last season. So where the heck is he going to fit into the rotation when he returns in June? Good question, because I have the same one. I don’t think that the Red Sox would put him or Brad Penny in the bullpen because they could both serve very effectively as starters. So could the Red Sox have a six man rotation? This could work out very well when various injuries start happening throughout the season. 
Bullpen: Last year, the bullpen tended to be a problem for the Red Sox. This year, it could be what makes the difference in October. With some very nice additions this bullpen could be considered one of the best in baseball. 
Manny Delcarmen: This guy definitely improved last year, and I think I had under appreciated him in past years. Last year, he appeared in 73 games (74 innings) with a 3.74 ERA. I don’t really consider him a set up man, but I love having him as a true middle reliever. 
Javier Lopez: He is another one of those guys that is either totally on or totally off. So sometimes, I start pacing my living room when he comes in. I see him come in for only one batter a lot, but that’s because he is a lefty specialist. He pitched great in the World Baseball Classic, and I think I underrate him too because his highest ERA in a Boston uniform is 3.10. 
Justin Masterson: I am so excited to have him here for Opening Day! Last year, he showed us that he can be effective both as a starter and a reliever. So why isn’t he starting then? If he gets the fifth slot, than where would we put Brad Penny? Brad obviously has more experience as a starter, and Justin honestly makes a difference in that bullpen. In the postseason, I loved having either Okajima-Masteron-Papelbon, or Masterson-Okajima-Papelbon. I think he’ll have a really nice year in the bullpen. 
Hideki Okajima: Although Okajima was not as consistent last year as he was in 2007, he still did pretty well. Like I’ve said, inconsistency is bound to happen, and I still think that he can be really effective this year. The good part is, we won’t have to rely on him that much seeing that we picked up Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito. 
Ramon Ramirez: An extra set up man for the Red Sox! He was the set-up guy for the Royals, and he had a great season last year. I know that he has the stuff, but from what I’ve not
iced this spring, he just needs to maintain his command. The biggest thing will be the transition from Kansas City to Boston. There is always a lot more scrutiny and attention in places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but as long as he stays focused, I’m not concerned. 
Takashi Saito: So this guy posted some pretty spectacular numbers as a closer for the Dodgers, and now he’s coming to the Red Sox just as a set-up man? That’s pretty awesome. But I think that we can still use him to close some games–in fact, I think that we should. At the end of last season… the very end, I’m talking Game 7 of the ALCS… Papelbon wasn’t even available to pitch. He was worn out, and I think we used him way too much throughout the entire season. I’m not saying that he and Saito should split time, but if Papelbon has been working a lot, I think that Saito is definitely qualified to close out a game. 
Jonathan Papelbon: We all know that Papelbon is a very dominant guy, but he did blow a few saves last season. In fact, he blew two in a row. I remember thinking that he needed some rest! We work this poor guy to death (not that we had any other option). But now, I feel much more comfortable that we have guys that will be able to fill in when he needs an off day. Papelbon obviously has a great mentality, so he definitely needs to maintain that, and if he does, I think that he will have a great season. 
Keep your eyes open for: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Daniel Bard. I think that we will see all of them throughout the entire season. Also, keep tabs on Junichi Tazawa’s progress. 
Offensive/Defensive preview to come either late tomorrow, or early Monday!! 
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