Results tagged ‘ Lars Anderson ’

The Ticket to Heaven

“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella asks as he takes in the flawless baseball field. 

“It’s Iowa,” Ray Kinsella answers. 
“Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.” John responds. 
“Is there a heaven?” 
“Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.” 
“Maybe this is heaven…” 
All my life, I’ve been hearing about this one, absolute heaven that everyone seems to be striving for. If you follow certain guidelines, and if you are an all around good humanitarian, the idea is that you will probably get there. 
I’m not trying to offend anyone who is devoutly religious–I respect that–but I don’t believe in one absolute heaven (or hell for that matter). That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a heaven though; I think I just mean that “heaven” is a subjective word. I agree with John Kinsella: heaven is the “place where dreams come true,” but not everyone’s dream is the same. 
I also used to believe that there was no such thing as heaven on earth. I thought that being at a baseball game came pretty close, but my dream was not coming true as I sat and watched a game. Many of you know that my dream is to leave my mark on the baseball world. I think my ultimate goal might be to put the love that we have for baseball into words. My dream, in the most simplest terms, is to be surrounded by baseball all day long. 
The week that I spent shadowing people associated with the media reaffirmed my passion. That week shattered my belief that heaven did not exist on earth. If heaven is the place where dreams come true, then I found heaven because my dreams came true. 
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On Monday, I was afforded the opportunity to shadow the radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Steve Hyder. I arrived at the ballpark around 4 pm, and he met me in the lobby. We immediately walked down to the field for the team picture. After that, we went down to the locker room so that we could do the pregame press conference with the manager, Torey Lovullo. 
The conference was in Mr. Lovullo’s office, and a handful of reporters gathered and asked him questions. Many players had done their rehab assignments that week, so many of the questions focused on that. Lovullo described Josh Beckett’s pre-game routine as “impressive” and possibly the best that he has seen. 
I think that Red Sox fans can be really hard on Josh Beckett sometimes–especially this year since he started out poorly, and then went on to miss ten weeks after signing a four year, $68 million contract. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve been disappointed with Beckett’s situation, but just hearing the way that Lovullo spoke about Beckett’s routine on a game day really gave me a new perspective. 
Adam Mills was supposed to start that game, but he was scratched, and Mark Holliman was called up from Single-A for a spot start. When asked about that, Lovullo said that Adam Mills had been a “horse,” and that he hadn’t missed a start this season, so it was basically a way to give him a rest since everyone is a little beat up at that point in the season. 
When asked about Jed Lowrie, Lovullo said that he “look[ed] like a major leaguer.” One of the things I found the most interesting was that Lovullo had Mr. Hyder stay behind after the conference (so I was able to stay too). The biggest difference between the broadcasters and the writers, as I learned, is that the broadcasters are literally part of the team. Steve and Dan (Hoard) literally travel with the team, so a large sense of trust develops among them and the players. I found out from that conversation that Lowrie was going to get called up the next day, but I had to keep my mouth shut about it. That was a really cool experience to have inside information like that. 
As we were leaving the locker room, Lars Anderson turned to me and said, “the girl with the sunglasses!” I couldn’t believe that he remembered me all the way back from Spring Training. We had a great time catching up, talking about my “Johnny Cash” sunglasses, as he calls them. He seemed to be in a bit of a time warp because he seemed fairly convinced that it was still May. He asked me if I was still in school. 
Steven’s usual broadcasting partner, Dan Hoard, was doing a television segment for Monday and Tuesday night, so Steve was joined by Mike Logan. I swear I learned more in my two days in Pawtucket then I did my entire junior year (except for English class, because I learned how to write). 
When I walked over to the television area of the press box to see Dan, I was really surprised to see Jim Lonborg in the press box. I only got to meet him for a brief second, but I couldn’t believe that I was meeting Red Sox royalty. 
If I learned how to write my junior year, I learned how to watch a baseball game this summer. I’ll never watch a baseball game in the same way. I did not know that the writers and broadcasters scored the games. You watch baseball in a completely different way as a writer or a broadcaster. It’s almost like you’re looking for certain things, and that’s why scoring helps so much. If you see that someone is having a multi-hit game, then you can go back to old box scores online and see if anything correlates because that adds something interesting to the story or to the broadcast. 
Before the game, Steve was going through the game notes and highlighting interesting tidbits so that he could talk about it on the radio. After sitting in for a game in the press box with him and Mike, I gained even more respect for radio broadcasters than I already had. If you’re a TV broadcaster, it’s more of filling in the blanks, but on the radio, you have to paint the picture; you have to describe everything. Steve was saying that he kind of does a stream of consciousness thing when he broadcasts. It can get even tougher if your team is getting killed because, according to Steve, those games are the hardest to broadcast. 
The next day, ProJo writer Brian MacPherson was kind enough to take me under his wing. I got to the ballpark at 4 pm again, and after we set up in the press box, we walked down to the field. It was really great to be able to talk to him about UNC Chapel Hill because at first, I wasn’t whether I wanted to apply or not, but now it’s among my top schools. He said that being a writer involves a lot of waiting, which makes it kind of like getting autographs for me. Brian was the first reporter on the field, and he said that he likes to get there early because the players see you, and know that you’re dedicated. 
Sportswriting and getting autographs share some of the same qualities in that sense. When I’m seeking autographs, I always try and arrive as early as possible so that the players see me and know that I’m dedicated. It also involves a lot of waiting because you never want to interrupt a player’s routine. 
Brian also said that spending time in both Pawtucket and with the big league club helps because when guys get called up, they remember him, so they feel more comfortable around him.
I’ve experienced a similar scenario with speaking with players. When guys like Dustin Richardson and Michael Bowden are called up, they still remember me from spring training, and I think that really helps with the trust/comfort factor. 
When setting up interviews with players (which is all a matter of asking), Brian is really specific about the time, so that the player doesn’t blow him off, or if he does–he feels bad about it. 
As we were standing on the field, watching batting practice in an otherwise empty stadium, Lars came over to say hello, and asked how I liked the view from the press box. 
Brian was kind enough to share the best advice that he had received, which was basically to try new things and to be innovative. It sounds simple, but being innovative can be very daunting. At the same time, though, trying new things sets you apart from the other mainstream writers. He also stressed the importance of asking questions and how it is an underrated art. 
He also stressed the importance of never finishing somebody’s sentence when you’re interviewing them. Your word isn’t necessarily the right word, or the word that the player is looking for. He also said that while he does prepare some topics to discuss before an interview, that a lot of it involves follow up questions too. 
Brian taught me even more about watching a baseball game. You see, he doesn’t just score a game. He literally writes down every pitch, its speed, its location, and whether it was a ball or strike. I was absolutely amazed by how intricately he watches a game, and it took me a couple of games to get it down, but it truly helps when you’re writing a game story. 
When we were in the locker room doing interviews, he encouraged me to ask questions, and he considered my suggestions for questions to ask Josh Reddick. For his interview with Josh Reddick, he didn’t just ask Reddick about his mechanics. He also asked the hitting coach and the manager. I think that he got a really solid perspective on Josh Reddick from asking multiple sources, including Reddick himself. 
Reddick said that the “was just what I needed, to go home and get baseball out of my mind and forget everything.” He “went back home and turned the cell phone off and did some fishing and did some kneeboarding and wakeboarding and did the redneck thing.” 
Here is what he had to say about his spring training experience: “If you set your expectations too high and you don’t succeed, it’s not going to work out for you and you’re going to be disappointed. I just tried to go in there and, when I played, play hard and have good at-bats and hit the ball hard, hopefully. If I made the team, great. But if it didn’t work out for like it did, I was still going to be happy because I was the last one sent down and on the last day, so that was a huge accomplishment for a 23-year-old, I feel like.”
Talking with Reddick really made me realize how much baseball has to do with luck. Sometimes you have really good at-bats, but you don’t get a good break. A big part about being a baseball player is being able to bounce back and not get frustrated: “Early on, it was rough. I got out of my rhythm a lot. After April, even though the numbers don’t show, I’ve had really great at-bats. I’ve hit a lot of balls hard, and it just hasn’t worked out for me. It’s going to do that. Then you go to last night where I didn’t hit one single ball hard and got jammed three times and got three hits out of it. Hopefully that’s a sign of things evening out for me. You can’t get mad about having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard.”
He changed his mechanics about two and a half weeks before the interview. When you hear from the player himself about exactly what he was doing wrong, and exactly how he fixed it really just helped me understand the game of baseball more. This is what Josh had to say about his mechanics: “My big problem is jumping at the ball. When I was wide and bent down more, I felt myself toe-tapping and coming straight up as opposed to staying down on the ball. I’ve always been a guy who’s been a straight-up hitter, standing up, bending the knees very, very slightly, and then just driving into it. Two weeks ago, my mental skills coach, Bob Tewksbury, talked to me and was like, ‘What are you doing? I’m used to seeing you stand straight up and throwing your hands (at the ball).’ It’s not the stance that’s going to change the thing. It’s all about where you finish. But I feel a lot more comfortable standing straight up because I feel like I see the pitches a lot better.”
If Reddick has a significantly better second half than his first, you will know why. After the game, we went down for the post-game press conference with Lovullo, and I worked up the courage to ask him a question. I was the only female “reporter” for those two days, and I’m only 17-years old. To be completely honest, it was slightly intimidating, but mainly because I didn’t want to sound stupid. I asked him about Kason Gabbard’s mechanics and how they have changed over the years, or in this year in particular. He said it was a good question, but he didn’t really know the answer since this was his first year with the organization.
Brian and I also spoke with Hermida (who has just been DFA’d). He is not the most charismatic of folks, but he was still very nice about everything. He had provided the team with a really nice spread. I asked him again about his first major league at-bat, and this time I was able to hear him when he said that he hit the grand slam on the third pitch.  
As you can see, I don’t have many pictures from my two days in Pawtucket. To be honest, the reason was that it didn’t feel right to be snapping pictures in the press box or in the locker room. I wasn’t there as a fan, I was there as an observer, as a writer. 
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The view from the press box was practically surreal for me. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it. What I appreciated most from both Steve and Brian was that they truly let me shadow them. They never said, “stay here while I go interview this guy.” They encouraged me, and included me in every respect. 
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My dreams came true on not only those two nights in Pawtucket, but also during the four days I worked in Portland, which I will address next time. Press passes are the ticket to my heaven. I was given a taste of heaven–I lived my dream. If heaven is the place where dreams come true, then I found it. I’m going to live my dream. 

A National League Team in the American League East

Amidst all of the stress that I’m dealing with right now, I figure writing about baseball is the best way to relieve it. Most of you who read my blog seem to be a bit older than me, so let me ask you something: Was May of your junior year the worst time of your life? Or is that just me? 

If it wasn’t for baseball, I don’t know where I would be right now. Not only do I have my two AP exams next week (Psychology and English Language), but the administration decided it would be a good idea to also make quarter testing next week, which further ruins my life. Not to mention the fact that I still have to worry about standardized testing because–like the Red Sox’s overall performance so far this season–my scores are mediocre and not good enough to get me into the schools that I would like to attend. I just can’t wait until the summer. 
On a significantly brighter note, I’m going to be president of my senior class next year. I only share this with you because the entire premise of my speech was baseball. Being a baseball fan gives you some of the qualities that are necessary to hold a position like that: dedication, persistence audacity, loyalty, hope, etc. 
Minor League Roundup: 
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The Pawtucket Red Sox moved Kris Johnson back to the starting rotation, and that has certainly paid off. In his first start of the season, he pitched five innings without allowing a run and struck out three. In his last outing, he went five innings and gave up three runs. I personally think that he is more of a starter, so I would like to see him continue for at least a while in this role. This will help the organization decide whether or not he will be a starter or a long-term relief guy. I think they need to decide his role relatively quickly so that he can continue his development without ambiguity. 
In Pawtucket’s relief department, both Dustin Richardson and Robert Manuel have fared exceptionally well. I have no doubt that Richardson will be called up at some point this season; hopefully sooner rather than later! I don’t hear about Robert Manuel as often even though he has pitched spectacularly. I think that he could also positively impact the Red Sox’s bullpen as well. 
Lars Anderson was recently promoted to Triple-A! He was quite literally destroying Eastern League pitching, so a call-up was inevitable! When he was called up to Portland last year, he struggled with the adjustment, so I was a bit nervous that he would have some problems in Pawtucket. Of course, an adjustment period is necessary with a promotion to any level, but Lars has fared well so far. 
Daniel Nava is someone you should keep your eye on. With a powerful bat, he his hitting .305 on the season with 29 hits, 5 doubles, a triple, and four home runs. I don’t hear as much about him as I do Josh Reddick, but his performance certainly warrants a call up soon! I would really like to see Ryan Khoury with more playing time in Pawtucket. I think he is a great player, but he has only played in nine games so far. The Paw Sox designated Kevin Fransden for assignment, so I hope we see more of Khoury. 
In Double-A, reliever Eamonn Portice has been very impressive. Starter and top prospect Casey Kelly has also been doing well, though he is on a very tight leash because his innings are being limited (since this is his first full year as a starter). 
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Catcher Luis Exposito has been on fire during the past week or so after going through a minor slump. Ryan Kalish has also been very consistent at the plate. 
In Salem (High-A), Will Middlebrooks and Tim Federowicz have had a great week and a half. Anthony Rizzo has been consistent at the plate for the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got promoted soon. 
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Daisuke Matsuzaka is finally back in the Red Sox starting rotation. In his first outing, he pitched fairly well until the fifth inning. In his most recent outing, his first inning was atrocious, but the rest of his outing was virtually flawless. 
While having a couple of solid innings are certainly commendable, it’s tough to say that I feel completely confident in Matsuzaka when he has barely pitched into the sixth, and he still has problems with walking tons of people. First of all, Terry Francona should have been more aware of the situation in Dice-K’s first outing. Typically, Dice-K starts struggling around the fifth or sixth inning, but it was also his first start of the season. That was just an ugly game, and Wakefield’s first appearance out of the bullpen since 2004 did not stop the bleeding. 
Like I’ve said, Francona always waits a batter too long to take his starter’s out. When your starter is around 100 pitches and he puts two men on, it’s a sign to take him out! Is it just me, or is that especially evident this year? 
This is also the first year of Francona’s stint with the Red Sox that he really has to put deep thought into the lineup and the pitching staff. It isn’t obvious where everyone should hit this year, especially with the demise of David Ortiz. The Red Sox look more like a national league team this year. Some of you may take this as a negative connotation, but I actually think it has a positive one! Admittedly, assembling a team like this in the American League East is a bit risky, but I do think it has the potential to work if it is managed in the correct way. 
Just because Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup with an injury, doesn’t mean the Red Sox should stop running. Dustin Pedroia has stolen a couple of bags, and Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald certainly have speed as well. And honestly, Big Papi should start bunting more because his presence in the lineup will be much more effective. I would also like to see Jeremy Hermida in the lineup over Bill Hall. Hermida has been pretty effective as the plate and Bill Hall has not. 
Jon Lester has certainly started to turn it around in his past couple of starts by turning out very dominant performances. Buchholz has also been spectacular, which I love to see. I just hope Beckett can find his consistency, because he is an essential part to the starting rotation. 
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Lincecum struck out his season high of 13 batters. His slider and changeup are probably the most beautiful pitches I’ve ever seen. He might just be my favorite pitcher in the league. He is also one of the better hitting pitchers I’ve seen. He can lay down a perfect bunt! Maybe the Red Sox should take some lessons. 
I must say, I feel much more complete as a person now that I’ve seen Lincecum pitch in person. His delivery is one of a kind. I have heard that when he was drafted, one of the conditions was that the Giants would not change his delivery or his routine. Retrospectively, maybe the Red Sox should have done this with Dice-K. He was so dominant in Japan, but besides his 2007 season, his others have been subpar. I know that American baseball is different from Japanese baseball, but perhaps Dice-K would have fared better if he was allowed to do it his way. 
The Red Sox dropped the first game of the series to the Yankees last night. Beckett looked fantastic until the sixth inning. His only mistake was the hanging curve to Nick Swisher. Beckett simply lost his command. He should have been out after he hit Francisco Cervelli, not four batter later and five runs too late. I do not understand the rationale behind that! 
I fear that the Yankees might retaliate today, especially because Sabathia seemed to take personal offense when Jeter was hit by a pitch. Beckett clearly wasn’t doing that on purpose, so I hope he realizes that. Nevertheless, it’s all a part of the rivalry, and I’m ready for part two!
One last thing before I go. I would like to share with you all that I have been recruited to be a reporter for KidPitch, a show that airs every week on FSN. I filmed a report from about David Ortiz’s slow start to the season, and it will be debuting this Sunday. All of the other reporters are much younger than I am, but you have to start somewhere, right? If you would like to check it out, you can find your local listing here

There and Back Again

After all the fun that I had during Spring Training talking to some of the best Red Sox prospects, how could I not keep up with them during their respective seasons? From Single-A to Triple-A, I’ve been keeping up with these guys. The Lowell Spinners (Single-A) do not start their season until June, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of them are still in Florida at the minor league complex (I might just have to go back). 

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I will start with the Greenville Drive, the Single-A team in South Carolina (not that far of a drive, right?). This team includes prospects like Derrik Gibson, Reymond Fuentes, and Jeremy Hazelbaker. He started off the season pretty strongly, but he seems to be in a bit of a slump right now. He spent his entire season with Lowell last year, so I think that this might just be a small adjustment period. I have no doubt that he will be a big contributor for this team. I think the same goes for Fuentes and Hazelbaker. Fuentes was in the Gulf Coast League last year, and Hazelbaker was in Lowell for the most part. It’s the beginning of the season, and these guys are in the next level of the season. It’s normal that they are adjusting. 
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The Red Sox might have a 3-4-5 combination of the future with the Salem Red Sox. Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Lavarnway, and Will Middlebrooks have been tearing up the Carolina League. Rizzo is a fantastic clutch hitter, and has already collected eight RBIs on the season. Ryan Lavarnway leads the Carolina League with his powerful bat, collecting 21 RBIs, and has hit five home runs already. Middlebrooks also has eight RBIs with seven doubles. Tim Federowicz is a player to keep your eyes on. He is another great catcher that the Red Sox have in their minor league system, and he has also collected eight RBIs on the season. Pete Hissey and Ryan Dent have also been hitting well. Stolmy Pimentel is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA.
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Remember how Lars Anderson had a “disappointing” season when he advanced to Double-A last season? Well, he is back and better than ever! He is batting .321 with four home runs, five triples, and 12 RBIs. He has only gone hitless once during his last ten games. Luis Exposito has collected 10 RBIs, with two doubles and a home run so far this season. Despite having only one RBI, Jose Iglesias is able to get on base pretty consistently. Remember this is his first year in professional baseball. He never played in Single-A. Ryan Kalish has three home runs, seven RBIs, and a .391 OBP. As far as pitchers go, Felix Doubront is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA; Stephen Fife is 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA; Casey Kelly is 0-0 with a 1.08 ERA (he is on an inning count so he hasn’t gone more than 3.1 innings). Kyle Weiland struggled in his last start, but has pitched well otherwise. Eammon Portice and Tommy Hottovy have both been solid in relief, and TJ Large, who just joined Portland, worked 2.1 innings of solid relief last night. 
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The Pawtucket Red Sox are having Star Wars Day today. Star Wars and minor league baseball are pretty much my two favorite things in the world, so it deeply saddens me that I cannot be there. Darnell McDonald was tearing up Triple-A, so his call up to the show was appropriate, and he certainly made an impact (which I’ll get to later). Aaron Bates and Daniel Nava have both been hitting very well. Josh Reddick was struggling at the plate, but I honestly think that comes from how far he got during Spring Training. He’s on the 40-man roster, but he was pretty much the last man in Spring Training to be sent down. Even if he knew it was coming, that has to be very hard. He was also called up to the show recently (which I will address later). Michael Bowden has pitched effectively in his starts, though he hasn’t been getting much run support. Adam Mills’ last start was absolutely incredible: he pitched five shutout innings. Robert Manuel has been a star out of the bullpen. In nine innings over seven appearances, he has yet to give up a run. Dustin Richardson has also been effective out of the ‘pen. He is a lefty, so I think he will be up very soon. Kris Johnson has struggled out of the bullpen, but I think we have to remember that he was a starter last year. Now he is a reliever, and that’s a pretty big transition. I think it was a smart move to make him a reliever, but still, that transition takes time. 
On another note, Ryan Khoury is up with Pawtucket, which is great, but he hasn’t been getting many at-bats. I hope he gets more at-bats; he deserves it! 
With the unfortunate injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, some of my favorite prospects had their chances to shine. 
The five game losing streak that includes sloppy playing and terrible situational hitting prompted me to stage a hunger strike. I did have to sneak a bowl of cereal in the morning because I felt like I was going to faint. It was Darnell McDonald who allowed me to eat again. In his debut in a Red Sox uniform, he hit a home run to tie the game, and a single off the monster to win it. I have known the name Darnell McDonald since the spring of 2009 when he was playing for the Reds. Walk off wins are always fantastic, but they’re even better when they come from prospects (in my opinion, at least). 
Josh Reddick also collected a two run double that night. He has already been sent back down, but I think he should have gotten more playing time. Although he is not used to the monster in left field, I think he can still provide better defense than Bill Hall can because Reddick has an incredible arm. And although he has a powerful bat, he is also good for small ball purposes because he is a great bunter. I have no doubt that Reddick will return soon. 
Jonathan Van Evry has returned to the Red Sox. He started with the Pirates this Spring, and he was part of that amazing triple play against the Pirates. I’m glad that he has returned. He has done really well for the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate, and I think he can serve the Red Sox well. 
I’m pretty sure three teams have had back-to-back walk offs this year–and April is not even over yet! The Pirates,
the Red Sox, and the White Sox have all had back to back walk off wins. While the first of the Red Sox’s walk off win was definitely cause of celebration, it was not the cure. Think about who had all of the RBIs: Jeremy Hermida, Josh Reddick, and Darnell McDonald. Either a bench player, or minor league call ups. We still weren’t getting production from the everyday lineup.That has started to change as of late; the Red Sox are starting to be more productive with runners in scoring position. 
Someone whom I didn’t address with Pawtucket was Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K has been very effective for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He only walked one batter in his three outings. His excessive walks have characterized him the past two years. He will be added to the Boston rotation this week, and Tim Wakefield will be going to the bullpen. 
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I think this move is smart. Wakefield is a versatile guy, and he provides the long-term relief that we have been lacking in the bullpen. Having a knuckleballer coming out of the ‘pen who can go 2-3 innings is quite valuable. His knuckleball simply hasn’t been effective in the starting rotation, though I think part of that comes from rushing to get the ball to the plate because so many runners steal on him. I also think this is a good move because Buchholz simply does not belong in the bullpen; he belongs in the rotation. 
*Update after finale to Orioles series* Wakefield’s knuckleball looked great today, and he should have been able to finish the seventh. His knuckleball was effective today, but like I said, he could be really valuable out of the ‘pen. You have hitters who are used to seeing fastballs in the 90′s with spin, and then suddenly, a guy comes in throwing knuckleballs. And since he is a reliever, opposing hitters won’t be able to tie him down. This could work. 
Despite Buchholz’s latest loss, he still turned out a stellar performance; including a career high ten strikeouts. I think that Terry Francona has to be a little more conscious of when to take his starters out. He always waits too long. When it’s the seventh inning and your starter has just put two men on and is over 100 pitches, it might be time to take him out. 
Finally I want to address David Ortiz. After constant frustrations and struggles, Francona finally pinch hit for him, and even kept him out of the lineup for consecutive days. Ortiz is despondent, embarrassed, and frustrated among other things. I have no doubt that he is trying his hardest, but sometimes it is simply necessary to bench players despite their efforts if they are not being effective. After being benched for two games, Papi responded with a home run in his first at-bat off of Jeremy Guthrie. Again, this does not mean that everything is OK, but it is an improvement from last year’s home run drought. I think the fact that he was pinch hit for signals the start experimentation at the designated hitter position. We are going to see a lot of different lineups. 
The finale of the Orioles vs Red Sox series is going to start in about 20 minutes. While I wait for the game to start, I would just like to share with you the latest baseball statistic. There is a fascinating negative correlation between the start of baseball season and my grades (especially Physics). This is especially remarkable in Physics because afternoon games tend to fall around the same time that Physics does. Not to mention I hate Physics almost as much as I hate the Yankees. 

The Pursuit of Happiness

I didn’t think Spring Training could get any more intimate than City of Palms Park. Autographs are more of a commodity than they are during the regular season, and no matter where you sit (from my experience, at least), you’ve got a pretty nice view. I thought that way until I decided to take a left on Edison Avenue rather than a right, and I was headed down to the Players’ Development Complex. 

I could have just gone to the ballpark: making vain attempts at getting autographs, and getting the “give me a second” finger from the more renowned stars. I had been pretty comfortable with doing that in the past: I knew the best places to get autographs, and even if I only got a couple, it was still fun talking to the fans I was with. I decided to step out of the box when I went down to the complex, and do some exploring.
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I didn’t really know what to expect down at the complex. I had only been there once before when it was the common practice to go down there and watch the workouts. There were hundreds of fans, but it had been an incredible day nonetheless. This time, the only people walking around the complex when I arrived were the players. I was armed with a batch of delicious oreo cupcakes that I thought the players, staff, and security guards might appreciate considering it had probably been weeks since they have had homemade goods. 
It didn’t take long for me to feel right at home at the complex: as soon as I walked through the gate and onto the premises, Dustin Richardson gave me a warm welcome. He asked how I was doing, and he even asked me about this website, which he mentioned he had checked out. He was interested in my cupcakes, but declined on one until later. 
There was a practice on every field, so I strolled around taking it all in. I don’t know why, but I felt it would have been weird to take pictures. It just didn’t feel right; I felt like it would have been invasive. 
I sat down on the bleachers and watched some of the Double AA guys take batting practice. Ryan Kalish, Jose Iglesias, Lars Andreson, and Ryan Khoury were among the guys taking swings. I talked to Khoury for a quick second, who remembered me from last time, and he also declined on a cupcake until later. I also caught up with Lars Anderson when he was done, and I’m sure you can guess the first words out of his mouth: “Hey, I like the glasses!” 
We had a bit more time to talk, so I finally told him my name so he would know me as someone other than glasses girl. I also ran into Casey Kelly for a quick second, and I complimented him on his fantastic start against the Rays earlier in the week. 
Then I had the chance to meet Stolmy Pimentel, a highly ranked pitching prospect in the organization. I had a nice time talking to him, and his favorite pitcher is Erwin Santana. I also had the chance to meet Juan Apodaca (his brother, Luis, plays for the Rockies). He was really nice as well, and his favorite catcher is Pudge Rodriguez. 
There was a big bus in the parking lot for the Single A guys, and I noticed Pete Hissey getting on. He was kind enough to stay and talk for a second. I mentioned to him how impressed I had been with him when he had come up, and I gave him one of my cards. 
Ryan Khoury told me that the icing on the cupcake that I gave him was fantastic. Robert Manuel thought they were muffins, but hey, close enough. I also had the chance to talk to Gil Velazquez, who remembered both me and my father from last time. He is rehabbing his broken thumb right now. As I said goodbye to Ryan after talking to him for a bit, I told him I’d be in Portland during July and August, but instead of telling him that I hoped I would see him there, I told him that I hoped that I wouldn’t see him there (because hopefully he’d be at the next level). 
Towards the end of my day there, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike, Kim, and their adorable daughter Elizabeth. They are from Greenville, SC, and it was a pleasure meeting them! They go to nearly every game in Greenville, and they are great baseball fans. 
We left with about fifteen minutes to game time, and let me tell you something, we had the most incredible seats in the world. We were in the first row behind the Red Sox dugout, thanks to John Ruzanski, a security guard in both Fort Myers and in Pawtucket. John is such a great guy, and hopefully I’ll see him over the sumer in Pawtucket. 
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The field was even more breathtakingly beautiful from these seats. John Lackey looked pretty good in his final start of the Spring. It was pretty cool to have seen him in his first start in a Red Sox uniform, and his final tuneup before it counts. After allowing a second inning home run to Jim Thome, Lackey pitched a pretty decent game. Manny Delcarmen, on the other hand, struggled. He lacked both his command and his control, and he hit two batters in his 1.2 innings. Scott Schoeneweis picked up the win, and he looked really solid in his outing. 
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It was my projects who made the difference in this game. They always make me proud. I had seen Ryan Kalish earlier at the complex, so he must have been a last minute call-up. It was so great to see him there though, and he had a nice bloop single. The ladies sitting behind me gave Nate Spears a great nickname: the Nate-er-ator! The Nate-er-ator had a tie-breaking RBI triple.
Since it was Spring Break, my dad and I were able to go to two games in a row, and we spent the night in Fort Myers. That didn’t mean there wasn’t an early wake up call though. City of Palms Park may open at 10:30, but the complex opens even earlier. How could I not go back after the day I had had there? 
The coffee provided at our hotel tasted like brown water, so we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts before heading to the complex. We arrived so early that players were still walking out. I had the pleasure of meeting Dave: a security guard for the Sea Dogs. It was great talking with him. 
As I continued to walk in, Ryan Dent asked why there were no cupcakes today. I watched the Pawtucket Red Sox warm up on their field, and I ran into Kris Johnson. He will be starting the season in Pawtucket, and we are both on a quest to make sure we spell analysis correctly in the future. I also told him that I hoped I wouldn’t see him in Pawtucket when I was there. 
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Brock Huntzinger was pitching in a Single A game that day, and we talked for a bit. He is from Indiana, and has been with the organization since 2007. He was a really nice guy, and I look forward to watching him during the year. He had to take the picture since I was too short.
Then I had the chance to meet Derrik Gibson, and we walked across the complex talking. I found out he is from Delaware, which is where my mother was born, and I still have lots of cousins over there. It was great to talk to him, and I told him that he is a project. 
I ran into Dustin again, and I had a nice chat with him walking across the complex. I told him that if I had it my way, he’d be in Boston right now, but I really liked what he had to say. Instead of just saying, something like, “Yeah, I should be in Boston”, he said that he still had stuff to work on in Pawtucket. That really showed me how meticulous he is being with his approach. Still, I told him I hoped I wouldn’t see him in Pawtucket when I’ll be there. I also caught up with Michael Bowden a bit more extensively,and it was great talking with him. Like I’ve said before, he will be up in Boston real soon, potentially even by the time I’m in Boston. He said if he wasn’t that he would be in the stands like last time.
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Then I had the pleasure of meeting Cesare Angeloni, and he showed me how to throw a splitter. He is from Philadelphia, so he grew up a big Phillies fan. He played in the Gulf Coast League and in Lowell last year. He’s really nice, and I look forward to watching that splitter this year. 
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Finally, I ran into Pete Hissey again. He told me that if he wasn’t playing baseball, he probably would have gone to law school. He is primarily an outfielder because he is left handed, and left handed guys can’t play the infield (I had never even thought of that!!). 
With all these guys I’ve met, I’m making a couple additions to the projects. Add Derrik Gibson, Ryan Khoury, Pete Hissey, Cesare Angeloni, Ryne Miller, Adam Mills, and Stolmy Pimentel to the list. 
Then it was time for the final grapefruit league game of the season. I’m sure a bunch of the players are sick of Florida, but the ending of spring training is bittersweet for me. I’ve had an unforgettable time down here. 
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After a shaky first inning, Clay Buchholz pitched a fantastic game. His only problem in the first inning was that he was getting a bit distracted by the runners. It was not only great seeing him, but also meeting his wife, Lindsey. She is so nice, and I wish her and Clay nothing but the best. 
It was great to see a bases clearing double from Jason Varitek (and from the same, incredible seats as well). It was also great to see Reddick get a hit to finish off an incredible spring. Kevin Youkilis even threw me a ball! Sitting behind the dugout, you can hear a lot more things: like the profanities coming out of Dustin Pedroia’s mouth as he comes back into the dugout after getting out. Too bad he hasn’t signed my salsa yet.   
As I bid farewell to Spring Training, I have to give a couple of shout outs. First and foremost, to Merrill, a season ticket holder for both spring training and the regular season. He has been helping us out with tickets since 2008, and he is such a nice guy to watch a ball game with. Another big shout out to Tom, a security guard at the park who helps out the handicapped people. It was great seeing him all Spring. 
I have one more thing before I go. They say that Spring Training statistics don’t matter, but I have some stats of my own: 
Total miles traveled: 1860
Trips made over to Fort Myers: 6 
Hours spent traveling: 30 
Games attended: 6 (including the B game that followed the game on March 13)
Hours spent watching games in person: approx. 17
Autographs: 54
Conversations with prospects: 21 
The pursuit of happiness is priceless. 

2010 Projects & Contract Extensions

Well, a week of spring training has gone by without my physical presence at a Grapefruit League game (now spiritually, that’s another story). Luckily, hope is not lost; in fact,hope is never lost in spring training because of Alexander Pope’s immortal words: “hope springs eternal”. Everyone thinks they have a shot of making the playoffs, and everyone does. You never know what could happen throughout the course of the season. The most unlikely of heroes could emerge and carry his team to the playoffs. Spring Training is where it all begins. 

After 12 straight, agonizing weeks of school, I am on spring break. I have baseball to thank for my survival. Its return late February has been therapeutic among the daunting tasks of being a second semester junior. From a research paper to building a bridge to taking the SAT to starting to think about where I want to go to college: I’ve had a lot on my plate. 
Going to a baseball game almost every weekend in March has been a big help. As many of you have probably guessed, spring training is my favorite time of year. I know that statistically, the games are worthless, but they mean the world to me. It may be a different atmosphere than the regular season, but that’s another reason why I love it. It is so much more intimate and laid-back. I can trespass without severe legal consequences, and I can get closer to the players than I ever could during the regular season. Perhaps my favorite part is that I can watch the present players and the players of the future at the same time. I have to say, right now, my heart is with the prospects. I feel like I can relate to them a bit more. They want to make it to the big leagues; I want to make it to the big leagues of sports journalism and broadcasting. 
As some of you know, I make a list of projects every year during Spring Training. These projects are the guys who have impressed me the most throughout Spring Training. I have been doing this since the 2008 season. Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson were my first projects. I have made some minor refinements to the program though. Originally, the projects were limited to the guys whom I thought would make a significant impact on the team during that specific season. Well, as I have become more enthralled with spring training, I have realized that some of these guys might not make a significant impact until the next year or the year after that. Sometimes the Red Sox just don’t have the spots available for these guys yet; sometimes they just need more development in the minors. In other words, I am going to divide up my projects into sections. 
Being my project is a very special honor, and I highly recommend that you choose a project or two yourself. Not to mention the fact that they love the fact that they’re my projects, especially once I tell them how venerable the program is. 
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Projects who will significantly impact the Red Sox in 2010: 
1. Michael Bowden 
2. Dustin Richardson
3. Josh Reddick
4. Aaron Bates
I think Bowden and Richardson could both serve huge roles in the bullpen. As of right now, the Red Sox are set on finding another lefty specialist for their bullpen, but none of the candidates have performed promisingly. Why do we (or anybody for that matter) need a lefty specialist? How about just a specialist: a guy who can simply get outs? What’s the difference if the batter is a lefty or a righty? It doesn’t matter for guys like Jonathan Papelbon or Daniel Bard. Bard doesn’t discriminate! He blows 100 mph by lefties and righties alike! In other words, I don’t think the Red Sox should be wasting their time looking for a lefty specialist. They should be looking for a solid relief pitcher who can simply get batters out. As of right now, I think Scott Atchinson can fill that role the best. Bowden and Richardson still need some seasoning in the minors (especially Richardson since he didn’t get a lot of spring training action because of a fatigued left quad). In the long run, my intuition says Bowden and Richardson. 
Josh Reddick has had a fantastic spring to say the least. I would be crazy if I didn’t make him my project! The Red Sox already have four outfielders in Ellsbury, Cameron, Drew, and Hermida, but injuries are inevitable. Mark my words: the first guy to get a call-up for an outfield spot will be Josh Reddick. 
Aaron Bates worked hard in the winter leagues, and has had a pretty solid spring as well. He even had a few short stints in the bigs last season. The Red Sox have a lot of options when it comes to first base in Youkilis, Victor Martinez, and Lowell. If there is ever an opening for a first baseman, Aaron Bates should get the call. 
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Projects who will be September Call-Ups in 2010
1. Kyle Weiland
2. Ryan Kalish
3. Lars Anderson 
4. Felix Doubront
5. Junichi Tazawa
6. Luis Exposito
7. Jose Iglesias
8. Anthony Rizzo
I think that Weiland will take a path similar to Richardson’s last year: he will come up and impress when rosters are expanded in September, and then will make a significant impact in the 2011 season. Ryan Kalish will take a path similar to Reddick’s. Doubront and Tazawa will take a path similar to Michael Bowden’s. Anderson needs to build up his confidence and have a nice comeback year. Easier said than done, right? I have confidence in him though. 
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Projects to keep your eyes on
1. Casey Kelly
2. Kris Johnson
3. Jeremy Hazelbaker
4. Nate Spears 
The only reason I don’t mention Casey Kelly in the September call-ups portion is that I really think we need to take it slowly with him. Remember this is his first full year as a pitcher. I’m sure he is going to blow everyone away in Portland; I’m just especially hesitant with pitchers because I think the transition from the minors to the majors is the biggest for them, and it’s so tough mentally too. I feel like the organization rushed Buchholz, and he was just not mentally ready yet. I suppose this is why they’re taking it slow with Bowden now. 
Buchholz was brought up as a September call-up in 2007 and threw a no-hitter. Unfortunately, he was in for a bit of a reality check the next year when he struggled the first half of the 2008 season after after making the rotation out of Spring Training. Bowden made his major league debut in August of 2008, but he saw more a
ction last year as a September call-up. He also had a bit of a rude awakening (and I say rude because he was thrown into the bullpen–a totally different mentality–after being raised as a starter). Now, he’s trying to regain his confidence. He will be the first guy to be called up when the Red Sox need an emergency starter or another arm in the bullpen. 
Obviously, Casey Kelly’s confidence is going to be shattered at some point. It happens to everybody. It happened to Bard last year, it’s going to happen to Richardson, Weiland, Johnson, Doubront, and the rest of them. All I’m saying is that the Red Sox need to be cautious with these guys and not rush them along too quickly. 
I’ve seen Kris Johnson both start and relieve a game, so I would like to see what he is going to do in Pawtucket before I move him any further in the project program. 
I have really liked what I’ve seen so far in Nate Spears. I feel like he could be what Nick Green was to the team last year. I understand that the Red Sox picked up Frandsen from the Giants because he’s a utility infielder and Jed Lowrie has mono and Bill Hall hasn’t been all that impressive in the infield. I think Spears is perfectly capable though. 
Hazelbaker is very young, but expect him to be a non-roster invitee next year! 
*The only reason Ryan Westmoreland is not on this list is because I think that it is important for him to simply recover before he even thinks about baseball. Like I’ve said before, he will always have my support; I just want him to get better right now. There is no timetable for his return yet. The most anybody knows is that the surgery was as successful as it could have been… it’s just a long road to recovery. If anybody can do it, he can. 
The Red Sox have had a pretty uneventful spring. No big roster battles like last year at shortstop, or the battle between Jeff Bailey and Chris Carter for the last bench spot. By the way, both Carter and Bailey are having fantastic springs for the Diamondbacks and Mets, respectively. The biggest thing in my opinion is the potential contract extension with Josh Beckett. 
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Long story short: he was offered four years (money figures are unknown as of right now). I don’t know what to think of him being offered only four years. Look at some of the recent contract offers to pitchers: Dice-K, the phenom turned health liability from Japan, was given six years before he had even thrown a pitch in Major League Baseball (granted he was very successful in Japanese pro-ball). Lackey, arguably the best free agent pitcher on the market was given five years. 
Beckett, the 2007 ALCS MVP and should-have-been Cy Young award winner has given a lot to the Red Sox. Inconsistent at times, but a workhorse overall. That being said, only four years?? This is a contract extension, not an entirely new contract (that would result from free agency). Thus, it does not include the 2010 season, so technically the Red Sox would have him for five more years, but ever since Burnett signed with the Yankees for five years, that seems to have become the standard for pitchers. Just look at King Felix and Justin Verlander: both guys signed five year contract extensions if I am not mistaken. Beckett is 30 years old; he’s still a very young guy with a lot to offer. If the Red Sox mess up negotiations with him, we all know that he is going to end up in pinstripes, and that is the last thing we want to see. 
Beckett is a key component to the future. If the Red Sox can pull this off, this is what our rotation could look like in two years or less: 
1. Josh Beckett
2. Jon Lester
3. John Lackey
4. Clay Buchholz
5. Casey Kelly
Intimidating right? Look, all I’m saying is to give Beckett what he deserves, and I think that he deserves five years. It’s kind of a similar situation with choosing the Opening Day (or in this case, night) starter: you give it to the guy who has paid his dues for the team. Josh Becket is starting opening night because he has earned the honor. Similarly, he deserves the standard “five-year contract extension” because he has earned it from paying his dues. He is going to pitch his heart out in this contract year, so I sincerely hope that the Red Sox can secure him before free agency starts. 
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A similar situation applies to Victor Martinez. Joe Mauer signed that 8-year $184 million deal with the Twins earlier this week. Much as I would have loved to have Mauer in a Red Sox uniform, I have to say that I’m really happy that he is staying with the Twins. He is their hometown hero. That’s what baseball should be about: playing where your heart is, not going for the money. 
Martinez will be a free agent after this season, and he is still relatively young as well (31, I believe). I think that a two to four year extension for V-Mart would be very nice. He doesn’t even have to catch all of those years. Martinez could move to first (with Youk moving to third) and Luis Exposito could catch. Martinez is one of the few good hitting catchers out there, so he is definitely a valuable asset to have in the coming years. 
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Much as I love spring training, opening day/night is the holiest holiday in baseball. I obviously cannot go to school on Monday, that would be sacrilege! I’m so excited for the regular season to start; the end of spring training is just bittersweet for me. I should be getting back to you guys sometime on Saturday with my stories from Thursday and Friday. 

Spring Training Odyssey: Pirates vs Red Sox 3/13/10

You guys will be proud of me (or maybe disappointed): I did not trespass onto “private” property, nor did I climb fences nor did I open doors that said “authorized personnel only”. That’s not to say the day wasn’t filled with adventures, stories, and a farmer’s tan. My agenda was much more similar to what you’re used to: autograph hunting. For those of you who are new to this blog, I am not one of those autograph sellers; I am merely a collector. For me, there is a story behind every autograph, and a story behind the baseball that the autograph is on. 

The gates open two-and-a-half hours before the game, and it takes two-and-a-half hours to get to the park. If you do the math right, we had to leave at 8 a.m. to arrive when the gates opened. We parked about a block away from the park outside of a church; the money was benefitting the Salvation Army. We were the first car in the parking lot. 
My normal spot (or should I say, last year’s spot), which was at the corner of this lower level area right next to the dugout was already completely full of fans. I guess I should not have been too shocked considering it was a sold-out game on a Saturday. Hope was not lost though, so I parked myself right behind the dugout. The weather was beautiful, much better than Friday’s, which caused rainouts all across Florida and attacked my car. The sun was shining, and I had of course overestimated my skin’s immunity to sunburns. 
One of my favorite parts about getting autographs is the fans you meet. I had the pleasure of meeting Kip, Julie, and their son Zack. They were down from Massachusetts to see a couple of Red Sox games. We were side-by-side identifying players’ numbers and calling their names. 
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The first autograph of the day was from Mike Cameron. He signed for a lot of people before his turn in the cages. His signature is a work of art. He is surely one of the nicest guys on the team, and he has a big characteristic smile that is indicative of his personality. 
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Then, Marco Scutaro came jogging in, and he signed for about three people. He was in a rush, so it was really nice that he signed. 
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Then I noticed Tug Hulett all the way at the end of the dugout. So I employed my vocal abilities and called to him. He came right over and signed for everyone who wanted a signature. Then he really went beyond his call of duty and literally signed for every single fan down the line in that lower level area. When he came back, he continued to sign for people along the dugout and he even threw bubble gum to a couple of fans. I had never seen anything like it! I told him that I awarded him with the good guy award. 
I spotted Darnell McDonald in the dugout, so I called to him, and he signed for a few people. I also spotted Gil Velazquez in the dugout, so he signed for a few people too. 
Then my sunglasses buddy, Lars Anderson, came back into the dugout after stretches, and after signing for some fans down the line. I knew that he was going to come over because as he was signing down the line, I called his name and he waved. I think it was then that he recognized me because I didn’t even have to say anything at the dugout and he remembered me. Of course we talked about my sunglasses! I told him we could trade, or that he could just have the glasses. As he was walking back into the dugout after he had finished signing, I offered one more time, and he came back up smiling and said that it was OK. 
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The game was about to start, but I wasn’t ready to go back to my seat just yet. One of my friends, Colleen, was at the game, so I finally got the chance to meet her! We became friends on Facebook through this site, actually. Colleen is a fantastic Red Sox fan who made the long trek across the state with her family to see the game. It was so great to meet her, and I hope we can talk for longer next time. Baseball really does bring people together. 
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Clay Buchholz was the starting pitcher, and he looked as confident as I had ever seen him. There was a big difference in his presence on the mound from last year to this year. He truly proved himself during the second half of the season last year, and I think that he belongs in the rotation. His first start of the Spring was a little bit shaky, but like I have said, that is completely normal and to be expected. That was all out of his system, and he had a good, dominant demeanor on the mound, and he simply exuded confidence. He focused on his fastball and changeup, but he also worked on his slider and curveball. He hit his spots for the most part, but you could still notice that he would get a bit discouraged if he walked someone. 
Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Boof Bonser, Brian Shouse, and Michael Bowden also got their work in. Papelbon and Delcarmen looked solid, Boof’s only hiccup was the leadoff home run that he gave up, and Brian Shouse had a nice inning of work. 
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To me, Michael Bowden is at the stage that Clay Buchholz was at last Spring. I don’t think that he fully trusts himself yet, so he is not completely confident. It’s not like he had a bad outing (he only gave up one run), but you could tell that he was struggling a bit. He was missing low, he was more often behind in the count, and he was getting frustrated with men on. He has an interesting delivery that seems to work for him, but he really doesn’t use his legs. I feel like pitchers get a lot of power from those leg kicks, and his kick is more like a step. Then again, he has never had a big leg kick, and when you’re a pitcher, you do what works for you. When I IMG_3680.JPG
Then I walked over to where the pitchers were warming up. Daniel Bard, Robert Manuel, and Casey Kelly were warming up. “Hey, Casey, did you ever tell Kris Johnson how to spell analysis?” I asked. He smiled, laughed, and said, “Yeah, I did!” I then proceeded to thank him for arranging to pitch on Saturdays. 
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Kris Johnson and Kyle Weiland emerged from the bullpen area to warm up. “Hey Kris, have we learned how to spell analysis yet?” I asked. He smiled a bit and said, “Nope”. Kyle asked how I was doing before they started to warm up. After they finished, Kris tossed me the ball. 
The “B” game was a totally different atmosphere. Fans were invited to stay, but only about 200 did. There was not assigned seating, so my father and I sat right behind the dugout. It was really quiet, so you could really hear the echo of the ball being caught, or the crack of the bat against the ball. The scoreboard was off, the concessions were closed–there wasn’t even an umpire. The scene was serene and sacred: I was attending a special sermon at my church, the church of baseball. 
Hideki Okajima, Fernando Cabrera and Daniel Bard looked solid in their outings. Bard has a nice Papelbon-esque stare. Ramon Ramirez pitched well, but he gave up a home run to Nate Spears. 
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Let me talk about Nate Spears for a second. He may not be one of the non-roster invitees this Spring, but I believe that he will be next year. He was fantastic on defense, and he certainly demonstrated power behind the plate. Keep your eye on him during the year.
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Casey Kelly pitched, and he looked real good. He was working quickly and effectively, and he was consistently getting ahead in the count. He also displayed a fantastic breaking ball.  
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One of my favorite moments of that B game was when catching prospect Luis Exposito hit a home run off of Kelly. Like I have said, Exposito has a very powerful bat, and he also has a gun for an arm. I think he has the potential to throw out a lot of runners. 
Robert Manuel pitched and he got ahead of the count, had good pacing and good placement. He pitched excellently. 
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My buddy Kris came in, and his only problem was that he left a couple of pitches up. Other than that, he looked really good. 
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Then Kyle Weiland came in, and I really liked what I saw from him. I like the way he keeps his glove tucked in for his delivery. He knows how to use the corners, he hit his spots, and he exhibited a good fastball. His only problem was that he looked a little uncomfortable pitching from the stretch. 
After the B game, I was able to get three autographs. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who played in the game last Saturday signed. 
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Ryan Khoury was kind enough to sign, and he even posed for a picture with me. I told him that I had seen him in Portland, and that I was excited to see him this year as well. 
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I was also able to get Luis Exposito’s signature, and he posed for a picture as well. We talked about Twitter.  We were the last car to leave. 
Before I end, I need to address some very serious news that the Red Sox released Saturday night. The Red Sox’s top position-player prospect, Ryan Westmoreland, was diagnosed with cavernous malformation in his brain, and will be having brain surgery on Tuesday. This is especially hard for me to hear because I have become somewhat close with him. It is an unprecedented event like this one that makes you realize that there are things beyond baseball. We realize that regardless of whom we root for, we are baseball fans, and we come together to support Ryan. This was out of his control, and all we can do is keep him in our thoughts and prayers. There is not a lot of news out there, so I do not know how soon he will be back on the diamond, but that should not be in any of our minds right now, especially not his. He needs to focus on getting healthy again before he thinks about playing baseball. He has my full support (as he always will), and I truly admire him for his courage. I will always be a fan of his no matter what, and I wish him the best of luck. I actually heard about this via Twitter on my way back from the game. Five minutes after finding out about this, I saw a shooting star. I think you all know what I wished for, and I think I made it on behalf of Major League Baseball fans everywhere. 

Taking you Behind the Scenes of a Red Sox Spring Training Workout

32 autographs and Spring Training games haven’t even started yet; I guess I’ve gotten kind of good at this. You guys know how I got six of them, but here is a refresher if you need one. Tonight, I will share with you the stories behind the other 26 autographs. 20 of them occurred today at the Players’ Development Complex, and five occurred quite unexpectedly (I think I’ll share those on another day though). 
Today was probably the most fantastic, unforgettable day of my life. There was supposedly an open house at City of Palms Park, with family events, tours, and autographs. As many of you can probably guess, the latter was my inspiration. I didn’t really know what to expect at this event, especially with the autographs situation. Were the players really going to take an entire day off just to sign autographs for the fans? The answer was no, so it was a good thing that my father and I arrived early. There were lots of big buses around the stadium that were shuttling fans to and from the Players’ Development Complex right down the street. I had never been there before considering parking is absolutely forbidden, and I didn’t really know what exactly went on around there. I had never been to a workout before; in the past, I had only gone to games. Hopefully this will become a yearly ritual though because the workouts are almost as fun as the games. 
The emotions I’m feeling right now can’t be put into words: I’m on cloud nine. So I’ll just take you through my day, and hopefully, you can live vicariously through me, and experience the kind of elation that I feel right now. 
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When you think of Spring Training, you normally think of warm, sunny Florida or Arizona, right? Well, that was certainly not the case today. It was cold and rainy, but as most of you know, that wasn’t going to stop me. My teeth were chattering the entire time, my lips were probably blue, but I didn’t care because there was no place on earth that I would have rather been. So we walked in, and I immediately recognized one of the security guards, John. He had worked at Spring Training last season, and he is a security guard for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He’s a great guy! We got to talking a bit, and as we got on to the topic of Spring Training games, he mentioned that he had some extra tickets to games on April 1 and 2. They are the first row behind the dugout, and he offered them to us at face value. Not only that, but he also trusted us enough to send him a check because we didn’t have enough cash on us to cover both tickets. 
After that, I wandered around a bit to try and find the best spot for collecting autographs. It was very hard because unfortunately, I can’t be in three different places at once. Unfortunately, guys like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, and Jed Lowrie weren’t too into signing at that point. They went straight from the field to the cages, but I guess we remember that they have a job to do. So I moved to a small, uncrowded path between Fields 1 and 2. Perfect! All of the players had to walk to the other field at some point, so most of them stopped to sign. 
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It all started as Ramon Ramirez (the one you’re familiar with, not the non-roster invitee) walked off the field. He quickly signed for me, as well as some of the people around me. I met an especially nice, young couple from MA, who had been living in the Ft. Myers area for the past few years, but were moving back soon. The woman was having the players sign her “Wally the Green Monster” book for her baby. 
Then, Daniel Bard came jogging along. He signed for a couple of people quickly, but had to move on. 
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Adam Mills followed, a guy who I am very excited to watch this spring. Well, I let him know what I thought about him, and he certainly appreciated it. Not many people around me knew who he was though, so I was boasting about him as he was signing, and he had a big grin on his face. 
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Hope was not lost for a photo with Daniel Bard. On his way out, he was kind enough to pose for a quick photo with me. He seems to be twice my height, much taller than I thought he would be. 
We watched Dustin Richardson throw some batting practice, and I told everyone how excited I was to see him pitch this spring. It was great that I was getting all of these pitchers’ autographs because I rarely have a chance during the actual games since the bullpen is hard to get to. Dustin Richardson jogged by despite my “You’re my favorite pitcher!” plea. I haven’t decided if he’s officially my favorite pitcher, but he’s certainly up there. He said he had to run, but that he would come back. I was determined to hold him to his word, but I was worried for a bit because a lot of the players were leaving through an alternative exit. 
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Well as he finished up his drills, I called to him. He came right over, and I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed watching him during the spring last year, and how well he did during September, and how excited I was to see him this spring. He definitely appreciated it, and I gave him my card with the link to this site. 
Then, the guys from Single-A and Double-AA who weren’t invited to spring training started warming up for their practice. I got autographs from some of them, and even a few pictures. Before their practice, they watched the big league guys practice. Hopefully they’ll be up there soon. 
I looked to my right and saw that s
ome of the big leaguers were signing on their way out. I ran over to Field 3, grabbed my Dustin Pedroia salsa, and stood in what was probably the most inconvenient spot possible. “Dustin, I have your salsa!!” I yelled. He looked over and chuckled, and that’s all that I needed. 
Then Victor Martinez started to walk out with his two, adorable children. He was kind enough to sign, but somehow managed to skip over my ball. The fence was so high, so it was hard to get a good angle. Autographs are much better when you can see the player’s face anyway. 
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I gave up on that endeavor when I noticed that Kevin Youkilis was signing. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, so I ran over to what I think was Field 4, and patiently waited. He was great about signing! Not only did he sign for me, but he also posed for a picture! 
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I walked over to the area outside of Field 2, and I managed to snag Luis Exposito’s signature on his way out. He has promised me before, so he kept his word as well! 
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Then, I noticed that Lars Anderson, Zach Daeges, and a few other guys were standing in a circle talking. I asked them to come around the fence for a second to chat, and they obliged. Lars said that he liked my glasses, I told him that he could have them, but he said they looked better on me. He was happy to wear them for the picture though. 
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Zach Daeges remembered me from when I last met him, and he said that he was real excited to start the season. He had yet to check out this site though, even after I informally interviewed him! 
It seemed like it was over after that, but it was a good thing we stayed because a few more players were coming out. I was able to catch some of Josh Reddick’s batting practice, and he said he would meet me at the bleachers afterwards to sign and talk for a bit. 
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Meanwhile, I was able to catch Tug Hutlett, Gil Velazquez and Aaron Bates on their way out. Tug said I deserved an autograph for waiting in the rain. 
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Perhaps my favorite conversation was the one I had with Josh. For some reason, I remember his very first at-bat during Spring Training of last season, so I asked if he remembered it. We talked about it, and I told him that I knew that he was going to be my project just from watching that at-bat. He seemed to enjoy that, and I also gave him my card. 
Practice seemed to be over for the day, so we hopped on the bus back to City of Palms Park to see what was going on. Most of the activities were cancelled because of the rain, but it was mostly stuff for the little kids anyway. Then again, I’d go in a bounce house if one of the players went with me. 
We were allowed to check out the dugouts though, so I thought that would be pretty cool. I didn’t stop at just the dugout though. I noticed the little path that leads to the clubhouse, and so I decided to check it out. 
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It’s not my fault if people leave doors open. That’s right folks, I went inside the Red Sox clubhouse. The clubhouse: the final frontier. Well, that frontier didn’t last very long. The clubhouse guy, Sgt, (he used to be in the military) asked me to leave, but he let me take a quick picture. 
I was thinking about leaving until I saw a long line of people. They were waiting for Kris Johnson, Casey Kelly, Kyle Weiland, and Ryan Kalish. It took a while for things to get started, and apparently we weren’t allowed to pose for photos. Really? I had just snuck into the clubhouse; I could easily get a photo. 
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These were actually the most amusing guys of the day. They signed my baseball (a new one, because I filled my others and the hat up) and smiled for pictures. I gave them the link to my blog and Kris Johnson said, “What is this? Are you writing good things about me?” “Yes, yes of course!” I said. “Oh that’s what they all say,” Kalish said jokingly. Well, if they do end up checking it out, then they’ll see all the nice things that I say about them. 
It was real nice meeting them, but they were the only autographers for the event. I went back down to the field and decided to check out the visitor’s clubhouse, and to see which doors were open down there. 
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Sgt. was there again! We actually talked for a bit, and he let me stay for a bit longer that time. I have officially been in both clubhouses. 
Then we started talking to this really nice security guard, Tom. He showed us the bullpen area, and he mentioned that I should try and get a press pass for Spring Training. I’m definitely going to get on that. You see, I don’t just want it as a fan, or anything like that. I’m really serious about this. 
Then we saw those Single-A and Double-AA guys, and I spotted Ryan Westmoreland, or rather, he spotted me. He waved to me, so I went down and talked to him for a second. He was real nice! 
As we were getting ready to go, I spotted Ryan Kalish and Casey Kelly walking around with some italian ices. I stopped them to talk to them. “Kris was looking for you…” Casey said. “You spelled analysis wrong on your card”. 
“Analyses is the plural of analysis!” I said. “Can you please tell him that? Make sure he knows!” Kelly promised me he would, but then I got to talking to him a little longer, and he was really down to earth. 
“How was it deciding between being a shortstop and a pitcher?” I wanted to hear it from him. 
He said it was easy once he sat down with the guys and talked about it. They said he would rise faster as a pitcher, so it was easy from there. I asked him if he knew when he was going to be starting during the Spring, but he didn’t. I asked him to start on Saturdays though so that I could see him, and he said that he would ask the organization if he could start on Saturdays for me. 
Well folks, that was the day! I hope that you were able to live vicariously through me, and I hope that my words were able to bring my experience to life–at least to an extent. I know that many of you live up North, so I hope that I can be your vehicle to Spring Training. You can read the recaps and the story lines, but this is one of the only places where you’ll get the true experience of the spring. 
I’ll end this entry by quoting Star Trek: These are my voyages. My ongoing mission: to boldly go to strange new worlds (the clubhouse), to seek out new life-forms (discover prospects) and new civilizations (?); to boldly go where no one has gone before. 

Spring Training Minor League Prospects Preview

With the start of Spring Training quite literally right around the corner, the general media seems to be focusing on the obvious questions that the Red Sox are facing going into Spring Training. Of course there are a lot of “ifs” going into this season, but that’s not just for the Red Sox, that’s for all of Major League Baseball. So instead of trying to answer the same questions that everyone else is focusing on, I’ve got something a little bit different up my sleeves. 

At first, I thought that Spring Training was all about the Major Leaguers getting back into shape and preparing for the season. While it is certainly exciting to watch the Major Leaguers get warmed up for the regular season, we are forgetting a very important aspect of the team: the non-roster invitees. They are perhaps the most important part of Spring Training. The Major Leaguers already know their role with the team, but the Minor Leaguers are trying to find one. 
As many of you know, I have chosen “projects” for the past couple of years during Spring Training. These are the minor leaguers/prospects that I think will make it up to the big leagues sometime during the year… be it early on to substitute for an injury, or as a September call-up. Either way, it is so gratifying to see them finally make it to the Majors (and even more so to succeed), and it breaks your heart when they have a tough night. I encourage you all to choose projects. I’ll start with the prospects that I am familiar with that will be present during Spring Training.
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Among the pitchers I am familiar with (that were September call-ups or on the 40-man roster) are Michael Bowden, Fernando Cabrera, Felix Doubront, Dustin Richardson, and Junichi Tazawa.Bowden made his Major League debut against the Chicago White Sox in August 2008. He also made a start against the Yankees on April 26, 2009; the night Jacoby Ellsbury stole home. He struggled a bit when he was called up during the later part of the year, but I do not think that we can blame him for this. Bowden has been treated as a starter for his whole career in the minors, but he was put in the bullpen during his short tenure at the end of the season. He was brought in at stressful situations to “stop the bleeding”, and he struggled. Think about how starters are treated in the postseason: if they are available in the bullpen, they are ONLY brought in at the beginning of innings, when it’s clean. So please don’t judge Michael Bowden too harshly. He’s a great guy whom I have a lot of confidence in. Nevertheless, I think that he should be prepared to handle bullpen situations because he could end up following a path similar to Justin Masterson’s. 
Fernando Cabrera and Dustin Richardson’s names might also be vaguely familiar to you. They were also September call-ups, and both saw some Major League action, albeit short. I was very impressed with the both of them, and I have been excited to watch the two of them in Spring Training since the end of last season. I noted last year during Spring Training that Richardson had great mechanics, throws hard, and has good command. He gave up a walk-off home run against the Orioles at a Spring Training game I was at, but this is a guy that we seriously need to keep our eyes on. Although Boof Bonser seems to be the favorite to get the bullpen spot, don’t be surprised if Richardson surprises everybody. 
I don’t have many notes on Felix Doubront, but I do remember being impressed with him last year during the Spring. He is one of the top ranked pitching prospects in the organization. I will certainly be keeping my eyes on him during the Spring. I noted last spring that Tazawa had great form and a fast delivery; he was already pitching at a Major League level. He also has a nice breaking ball. 
I am familiar with both Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner; the former was a September call-up. During my time in Pawtucket last summer, I noted that Brown reminds me of Varitek in the way that he has a great sense of his surroundings. I think Brown has a lot of potential; especially if he can become more consistent at the plate. I don’t have much on Wagner, but I know that Bowden is very comfortable throwing to him since he’s just like a target behind the plate, and he has a great arm. 
As for the rest of the fielders that are on the 40-man roster (but not the 25-man roster) that I am familiar with are Aaron Bates, Jose Iglesias, and Josh Reddick. Aaron Bates got a bit of Major League action last season, but not enough that we can judge him by. Remember that we have to give all of the call-ups a bit of time to adjust. When I was in Pawtucket, Bates had just been promoted from Double-AA. He had a Triple-AAA swing with at Double-AA eye, which was OK because it was literally his first day. Bates is big, has a nice swing, and makes good contact on the ball. Trust me, keep your eye on him during the Spring. 
Jose Iglesias is a name that many of us are familiar with, but it is his abilities that we are not yet acquainted with. His defensive abilities have been raved about–he has even been compared to a young Nomar Garciaparra. I am very excited to watch him during Spring Training. Josh Reddick is a guy that I have liked since I saw his first at-bat last year during Spring Training. I don’t think he was one of the original Spring Training invitees, but I noticed something special about him in his very first at-bat. He is a fantastic hitter. The main thing he was lacking was confidence, and I think that has definitely built up. He is also really good at bunting, and a great defensive outfielder. 
On to the non-roster invitees! I’ll start with the pitchers again. Technically, Fernando Cabrera is on this list, but I included him with the September call-ups because he was there. I remember watching Kris Johnson and Adam Mills pitch last season, and virtually everyone is familiar with Casey Kelly. Adam Mills looked pretty good last Spring, but he’s definitely someone I need to see more of this year. I didn’t see much of Kris Johnson last spring, but I did like what I saw, and I hope to see more of him. Kelly is arguably the top ranked pitching prospect in the organization, but he needs to focus on fighting for a spot in Double-AA Portland. He is nowhere near ready for the Majors yet because he is still so young. We will see a lot of raw talent out there, and I can’t wait. 
I am vaguely familiar with Luis Exposito. I haven’t seen him play yet, but I have heard great things about him. He is a young catcher, and he is supposed to be very good. In a few years, he could be the backstop, and V-Mart could move to first. 
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I am familiar with infielders Lars Anderson and Gil Velazquez. Anderson did not have the year he was “supposed” to have in the minors, but I hope it’s just a minor set back. He may be perceived as a “power” hitter, but he is more of a doubles kind of guy. He’ll hit for a high average, which is better than those guys who hit for a subpar average,
with lots of home runs, but lots of strikeouts. Anderson had a nice Spring, and he’ll be a great guy to have in the future… he could serve as a fine designated hitter or a great first baseman. Velazquez is a fantastic infielder, and a utility one at that. I can tell he is very hard working, so keep an eye on him during Spring Training. 
Finally, the two outfielders with whom I’m familiar are Zach Daeges and Ryan Kalish. Daeges is a utility outfielder, which is a great attribute to have. He has an interesting batting stance, but I like it. I’ve never seen Ryan Kalish play, but I’ve heard fantastic things about him. Some of you may be wondering where Ryan Westmoreland is. After all, he is the 27th ranked prospect in MLB and arguably the top prospect in the organization. Despite this, he is still only 19. He does not need all the speculation that will come with being in Spring Training yet. He’ll be there next season though.
I cannot wait to watch all of these guys play during the Spring. Pitchers and catchers reported to their respective camps today, which is a sure sign that Spring Training games are right around the corner! For the Red Sox fans who read this blog, I hope that you will keep an eye out for these guys. For those of you who are fans of other teams, like I said before, I hope you pick your own projects! 

The Road Less Traveled By

I always seem to start off an entry by lamenting about the lack thereof. There are a multitude of reasons regarding my sporadic entries, but that would require my making of a list of excuses, and I don’t want to do that. Oscar Wilde, my favorite author, once wrote, “The pleasure that one has in creating a work of art is purely personal pleasure, and it is for the sake of this pleasure that one creates… I write because it gives me the greatest possible artistic pleasure to write. If my work pleases the few, I am gratified. If it does not, it causes me no pain.” I write because I want to, and I am certainly happy some people who read this blog enjoy it. I do not write everyday, but that doesn’t bother me. I try to say what I mean and mean what I say. 

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I guess the main point is that junior year is like a dementor: it sucks the fun out of everything, and is very draining. Plus, I have a pretty hefty research paper that is unfortunately NOT on baseball this year (but if any of you are wilde about Oscar Wilde, I could use your help). 
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Not to mention the ubiquitous topic of college that intrudes itself into seemingly every single one of my conversations. I will cease my discussion of college here, and let baseball encompass this entry because that’s what baseball does; it allows you to forget about your problems for a good three hours. I recently read the book, ‘Shoeless Joe’, upon which every baseball fan’s favorite movie was based, “Field of Dreams”. I’ll really delve into it in another entry, but to keep a long story short, it was able to put my love for baseball into words, a task that I tend to fail at. But one quote is really quite relevant to the situation I’m in right now: “Growing up is a ritual, but baseball can soothe even those pains, for it is stable and permanent…” That being said, it would be really nice if baseball season came back because the offseason is cold and lonely. 

Though baseball may not be in its physical form right now, it is still at the forefront of many of our minds on a daily basis. The Red Sox have decided to indulge in a defensive makeover, which I think was a very wise move considering the Sox were second to last in the American League despite their accumulation of 95 wins. 


Makeovers are always entertaining, risky and a little bit awkward at
first. You might be familiar with some of the following scenarios: Glinda giving Elphaba a makeover in Wicked, Kurt Hummel giving Rachel Berry a makeover in Glee, and Mia Thermopolis’ makeover in The Princess Diaries. The thing about Elpheba’s makeover was that she didn’t exactly need it, nor did she want it. Similarly, Rachel Berry’s makeover was unnecessary because the boy whom she was trying to impress, Finn Hudson, liked her for who she was. Neither of these scenarios apply to the Red Sox though. 
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In Mia Thermopolis’ case, her makeover was necessary because she was not living up to her full potential yet. Sometimes, a new look can really kick things into gear, and I think this is the case for the Red Sox. And the offseason is the perfect time to find the best way to make a team fulfill it’s ultimate potential. 

They say that the pen is mightier in the sword, and in baseball terms, perhaps the glove is mightier than the bat. Good offense is one thing, but a lack of solid defense could stifle the efforts of that good offense. So even if the offense is depleted a little bit, a better defense will certainly compensate for it. 

Re-signing Jason Bay was at the top of Mr. Epstein’s priorities at the start of this offseason. This was a noble goal considering Jason Bay provided a good majority of the offense throughout the season. I thought that the Red Sox offered him a very fair price: $60 million for four years. That’s $15 million a year! To be honest, he is not worth more than that. Even his bat became anemic throughout the course of the season. 

I understand that he wanted to explore the market, but really, who does he think he is? I cannot deny that the loss of his bat is of some significance, but I don’t think that the Red Sox are going to be struggling offensively. People misconstrued Theo’s comment that this year would be a “bridge year”. The fact of the matter is, we are waiting on the next batch of minor leaguers, whom I refer to as babies. I call some of these signing temporary fill-ins. Think about it, if we had signed Jason Bay to a four year deal, we would be blocking the talent of guys like Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, and Ryan Westmoreland. 

Don’t forget about the infield either. The Red Sox have Lars Anderson in the minors, and he will be flourishing at first base in a couple of years. So in order to allow these guys to come up at the proper time, the Red Sox signed Mike Cameron to a two year deal, and Adrian Beltre to a one year deal. 
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I haven’t talked about Adrian Beltre much. Many of you know my undying affection for Mike Lowell. Part of me still thinks that the Red Sox should just let him ride out his contract because he is one year removed from that surgery. That being said, his defensive range should be improved, and there is nothing wrong with his offense. Nonetheless, he is still a bit of a liability as far as injuries go, and Adrian Beltre is a healthier option. 

That signing basically ensures that Mike Lowell will be traded. Don’t get me wrong, I love having Lowell on the Sox, it’s just economically unfeasible to have him on the bench. Plus, it would be much better for him to play on another team where he will have the chance to play every single day. The truth of the matter is, he just doesn’t fit into the Red Sox’s plans right now. 

The main question is, will the Red Sox be able to perform offensively? I think the answer is yes. All of the players who we have acquired throughout this offseason will compensate for the loss of Jason Bay’s bat. There is Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron, and now Adrian Beltre. Not to mention the fact that we’ll have Victor Martinez around for the whole season. They will be able to pick up the slack. As I was watching MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” segment, broadcaster Mitch Williams said, “good pitching will always beat good hitting”. 

What does that have to do with defense though? Well, a pitcher can’t do anything without solid defense. When I was talking to Michael Bowden, he told me that defense makes all the difference in the world. 

So the Red Sox seem to be taking a bit of a different route than other teams. We didn’t sign a power bat like the Yankees did last offseason; we are certainly not an offensive powerhouse. But fear not my dear friends, because it looks like the Red Sox are taking Robert Frost’s advice: they’re taking the road less traveled by, and it will make all the difference. 

The Sizzling Stove

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When
the last pitch is thrown, and the last out is secured, most people believe that
baseball season is over. They sit in the darkness of their living rooms and
watch the rapturous celebration on the field, even if it isn’t their own team because they are savoring the last moments of the season. Normally I enjoy watching
teams getting their turn to celebrate, but this was obviously not the case this
year. I refused to watch the Yankees take their 27th championship. I
knew it was over as soon as Mariano Rivera was brought in. He is, without a doubt,
the greatest closer of all time, and I have no problem admitting that even as a
Red Sox fan. I try my best to be an objective and respectful baseball fan, but
I just couldn’t bear watching the Yankees celebrate because I just don’t do
self-torture.

Anyway,
I feel like most baseball fans turn off the television, sit there for a second,
and think to themselves: ‘Now what?’ We sink into the baseball fan’s proverbial lent. It may be a bit different than the traditional lent since we don’t willingly give up baseball, but it’s a sacrifice nonetheless. They might pick up another hobby, and let
baseball slowly slip into the back of their minds; we need something to distract something from the offseason blues. If not, we make sink into depression considering the lack of baseball becomes as dormant as the
winter, yet the interest always blooms just when the flowers start to, and
baseball season returns.

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That’s
not me. As soon as the postseason ended, another season began: the Hot Stove
season. Winter may be imminent, but baseball is certainly still the predominant
presence in my life. My hobbies? This blog, and incessantly refreshing every
Hot Stove source I can find. The leaves don’t fall off of my tree of baseball,
it is kept warm by my Hot Stove: the rumors that swirl around teams and
players, the drama that Scott Boras causes… I’m almost as anxious as I am
during the regular season.

There
certainly are some premier free agents out there this Hot Stove season (what is
this ‘offseason’ people keep speaking of?), but what keeps me up late at night
isn’t only my English homework, it’s how the Red Sox fit into this complicated
puzzle. There is a multitude of things that the Red Sox could do to improve
upon, even though they had a commendable 2009 season. I am briefly going to speculate
on each aspect of the team (starting pitching, relief, offense, defense) and
speculate on what we can improve upon, if any, and what to look for in the
future.

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Starting Pitching: At
the beginning of the 2009 season, the starting pitching rotation was considered
one of the Red Sox’s strongest assets, if not the strongest one. However,
Dice-K’s lack of proper preparation, the failure of Penny and Smoltz to pitch
effectively in the American League, Wakefield’s back woes, and Beckett’s
relative inconsistency combined to make a strong starting rotation on paper struggle throughout the course of the season. So what is there to improve
upon? We don’t need to be concerned about Jon Lester considering he was
phenomenal from May-September and we inked him to a six-year deal last season.
Josh Beckett, on the other hand, is not as secure: he is going into the final
year of his contract with the Red Sox. Beckett has had a nice tenure with the
Red Sox thus far, despite an ERA being near 4.00. His consistency seems to
fluctuate each year, but the fact remains: he is a very dominant pitcher. I
have heard rumors that the Red Sox are seeking a contract extension with him,
and I think that would be a wise move.

I
know that Dice-K had a sub-par, at best, 2009 season, but I think the Red Sox
Organization was very wise in the way they handled it. They paid big bucks for
this Japanese phenom, and I think their systematic approach this year was very
profitable. His 2009 season was short, not very cost-effective, but just
imagine how good he could be for the next two years. If his last few starts
were indicative in any way of how he may perform, then I think that there is a
lot to look forward to.

 Tim
Wakefield’s 2009 season was cut short due to persistent back woes. Nevertheless, the
first half of his season was so good that he was elected to his first All-Star
game. His surgery was quite successful, so I think that the Red Sox were very
wise to sign him to a two-year deal. Wakefield is a very durable guy, and his
knuckleball can be devastating (against every team except the Yankees, it
seems). Last but certainly not least, we have the absolutely fabulous, and much
improved, Clay Buchholz. Again, the Red Sox’s systematic approach with him was
seemingly flawless, and he had a much smoother transition into the Majors this
year. I am very proud to have called him my project, and he will be receiving
an award when they graduate (yes, I am implementing a graduating ceremony).

 That
right there is a pretty strong starting five without even changing anything.
2009 was a tough season for some of those guys, but I have faith that they can
bounce back. There is a lot that we can do externally. John Lackey is up for
grabs, perhaps we can pry King Felix from Seattle’s hands (a girl can dream,
right?), and Roy Halladay is in trade talks, as usual. The thing with trades is
that normally they include prospects, and I am very possessive of the
prospects. I think that if the Red Sox could sign John Lackey for a reasonable
price, that they should do it. I know, “DUH!” Every team would love John Lackey
because he would solidify any starting rotation. I am just concerned that if we were to sign Lackey, we may not be able to keep Beckett. 

There
have also been some serious rumors regarding Roy Halladay. If I had to choose
between Halladay and Felix Hernandez, I’d probably go with the latter because
he is a bit younger, but I wouldn’t complain about having Halladay! He’d
probably be even better to have than Lackey. Unfortunately, Halladay will not
come cheap. I’ve heard rumors regarding Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly being
dangled. Much as I love these two guys, I do think this would be a mutually
beneficial trade. I may have dreams about what Clay can do in the future, but
having “Doc” in our rotation would be perfectly fine by me. The thing that
concerns me more is the status of Casey Kelly. Obviously, he is a huge key to
our future considering the fact that he could be a big shortstop or pitcher.
This would be the blockbuster trade of the offseason if this were to happen,
and as hard as it is to part with our hopes and dreams for the future, I think
Roy Halladay is a worthy investment.

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Relief:

I think that Boston’s bullpen was probably their strongest
asset during the 2009 season, for the most part. However, at times it was
simply atrocious; specifically, Manny Delcarmen’s meltdown during the second
half of the season. It was great to see projects like Daniel Bard come through,
I was so proud of him in so many ways. I knew he was something special the
moment I saw him in Spring Training. I was also very impressed with Ramon
Ramirez for the entire season, and overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with
Takashi Saito (despite his low ERA). And even though our last memory of
Jonathan Papelbon is of him destroying our lead, he still had a fabulous season
overall. Plus, every closer was terrible during the postseason (except for
Mariano Rivera). Picking up Billy Wagner ended up being an excellent move, and
it seems as though he would be willing to accept a lesser role as a set-up man
through arbitration. I would be glad to have him back. Like Wagner, Jose
Valverde is a Type-A free agent who posted the best ERA of his career with the
Astros this past season. He would certainly be worth looking at, but he is not
a necessary asset considering we have a lot of talent in the minors.

 I hope you guys
remember our September call-ups too. I really liked the way Fernando Cabrera
and Dustin Richardson looked. Cabrera is a free agent right now, and I think it
would be wise if the Red Sox signed him. Michael Bowden also did some relief
pitching, but I think he is more effective as a starter (he prefers it too). If
the Red Sox cannot work anything out with Halladay, Lackey or Hernandez, than
Bowden can certainly compete for a spot this upcoming spring. If you want my
advice (being the amateur scout that I am), I suggest keeping an eye out for
Cabrera, Richardson, and Bowden.

adriangonzalez.jpg

Around the Diamond:

I was a bit surprised this 2009 season at how the offense
would go into collective slumps at really inconvenient times. Take the end of
July for example, before the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez (whose
option the Red Sox picked up, if you didn’t know), the Red Sox offense was
pretty much dead. The Red Sox may have the best right side of the diamond in
baseball with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia: two gold glovers and silver
sluggers, MVP caliber men, the Red Sox could not possibly ask for more (I will
talk about Adrian Gonzalez when I get to third base).

The left side of the diamond? Not so much. As usual, perhaps
the biggest question the Red Sox face this offseason is the shortstop position.
Nick Green, my project, was a pleasant surprise. He is a great hitter and a
solid defender for the most part. I sincerely hope that the Red Sox re-sign him
in the offseason. Jed Lowrie, my first project ever, was plagued with injuries
again, but hopefully he can exercise his full potential in 2010. However,
because he is so unreliable at this point, the Red Sox need a shortstop that
they can count on. Alex Gonzalez is no longer an option because he signed with
the Toronto Blue Jays last night. Gonzalez is a great guy, probably one of the
best defensive shortstops in the game, but his offense is sub-par at best.
There are two other shortstops I’m interested in, and one that I will love
forever. I think that the Red Sox should look into acquiring either Marco
Scutaro or Orlando Cabrera (the one that I still love is Nomar Garciaparra, but
I do not see him coming back). I have been saying to acquire Marco Scutaro
since the middle of this season. I think that he would be great insurance, and
I certainly wouldn’t mind swapping shortstops with the Blue Jays.

I am a huge Mike Lowell fan. I have grown up loving him and
I think that he is the prototypical baseball guy. I thought that he was pretty
solid offensively, but defensively, his range was deterred a bit due to his
surgery. I would be completely fine with keeping Mike Lowell, but this is an
area that we can improve in. The name Adrian Gonzalez has been tossed around,
the gold glover first baseman of the Padres. First of all, I don’t think that
the new Padres GM (and former Red Sox assistant GM), Jed Hoyer, would be too
keen on giving a guy like him up. Secondly, this situation is quite similar to
the Mark Teixeira one last year. If Adrian Gonzalez was acquired, Kevin Youkilis
would move across the diamond, which would certainly make Mike Lowell
attractive trade bait, but could he also serve as a DH? I will address that
point in a bit. There have also been rumors regarding Mariners third baseman,
Adrian Beltre, who is coming off of a down season. I would prefer the Adrian
Gonzalez scenario, but Adrian Beltre would not be a bad acquisition.

I’ll expand on what I said before about the designated
hitter situation. Much as I love David Ortiz for what he did for us in 2004,
and all of the walk-off home runs that he has hit, his last two seasons have
been pretty bad. He improved after a poor start in 2008, but his 2009 numbers
were even worse. I know he was near 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but I do weight a
lot in batting average, and he didn’t even bat .240. Believe me, I love David
Ortiz, but from an objective standpoint, I think the Red Sox should look at
other options (within the organization that is). If the Adrian Gonzalez
situation were to happen, Mike Lowell would obviously be the odd-man out, but I
wouldn’t have him sitting on the bench. His defense may not be as good, but his
offensive numbers are actually great! I don’t think anyone can complain about a
.290 batting average. If I am not mistaken, David Ortiz is going into the last
year of his contract, and I don’t think that we can move him around. I guess we
just have to hope that he comes around (for the second year in a row). If the
Red Sox do end up acquiring someone like Adrian Gonzalez or Adrian Beltre, I
don’t think that it would be a feasible option to keep Mike Lowell on the
bench. I have heard a rumor that the Red Sox have been dangling Lowell for
Oakland’s Justin Duscherer, but I don’t feel comfortable giving up an asset as
valuable as Lowell before the Red Sox have a reliable replacement (and by
replacement, I mean improvement).

As for the up-and-coming, continue to keep your eye out for
power-hitter and first baseman Lars Anderson (didn’t have the best 2009, but I
have faith for his 2010). Also, look out for Jose Iglesias and Casey Kelly,
more hope for our shortstop position. The Red Sox have also secured their
backstops for next season when they picked up Victor Martinez’s option for
2010, and Jason Varitek picked up his player option. Picking up Martinez’s
option was an obvious move, but I am glad to see that Varitek is coming back.
He will be great to have during Spring Training, and he is invaluable towards
our pitching staff.

Outfield

Save the most important for last, right? Jacoby Ellsbury’s
spot in center field is perfectly secure for next season, but I would love to
secure him for even longer. In my opinion, I think that he is the best center
fielder in the league. His numbers in 2009 were fabulous, and his fielding was
nearly impeccable. I know a lot of people tend to hate on JD Drew, but I really
enjoy having him on the team. Sure he slumps sometimes, but he is a fabulous
right fielder, and he can be great at the plate. Plus, as soon as his contract
is up, we have some fine up-and-comers, but I’ll get to that later.

The most important void that the Red Sox need to fill this
offseason is left field, and our left fielder is one of the most coveted men on
the market along with Matt Holliday. Obviously, either one of them would be a
great pickup, but I, like many Red Sox fans as well as the organization, would
prefer Bay. Even though Matt Holliday has a higher batting average, I really
like what Bay has brought to the organization. He is such a nice guy, great
with autographs, and he has really thrived in Boston. I don’t blame him for
wanting to explore other options; it would not be fair to him if the Red Sox
tried to prevent him from doing that. In the same sense, I think the Red Sox
should explore their options as well (and by options, I mean Matt Holliday).

There are three big prospects that you should keep your eyes
on: Ryan Westmoreland, Ryan Kalish, and Josh Reddick. I was really proud of
Reddick for his time up in Boston, and I know that there will be more
opportunities for him to do so. There are a lot of complicated situations
created for the Red Sox this offseason, but I am quite confident that the front
office will do everything in its power to create the best Red Sox team
possible.

Before I go, I would like to offer my sincerest
congratulations to Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Joe Mauer, and Albert Pujols.
Relatively obvious choices for the recipients, but they all had spectacular
seasons. It is quite admirable to me that Greinke overcame a depression
disorder, and I hope that other players can overcome this disorder as well
(Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, etc.). I hope to hold a sort of graduation
ceremony over here for the projects that have completed their program. 

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