Results tagged ‘ Michael Bowden ’

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.

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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. 

Aggravation to Rejuvenation

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

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

The Beauty of September Baseball

Right after Derek Jeter gets his historic hit, Ichiro takes the pen from Jeter to write his page in the eternal textbook of baseball, or maybe just continue his own chapter. Everyone knows who Ichiro Suzuki is, the hitting phenom from Japan, who happened to snag both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in his rookie season. It’s not that he is underrated; I think that everyone respects and acknowledges what he has done, and what he continues to do. However, I kind of see him as the unsung hero of Major League Baseball. A man who always shines, yet remains in the shadows. 

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I wonder why it is that Suzuki has only won one MVP award, even though he has had over 200 hits and batted above .300 in all nine of his Major League seasons. In a way, I think baseball fans take advantage of Ichiro’s consistent skill. When do we take advantage of things in everyday life? When we know that they’re always there. I for one take advantage of electricity. It is always there, I expect it to be there, and I am surprised and annoyed when it is not. Ichiro is the same way for Major League Baseball: He has been around for a while, he is always present, we expect him to be there, and I for one would be surprised and annoyed if he was not. When it comes to MVP voting, I understand that the voters look for outstanding years, it’s only natural. But I think that Ichiro needs to be recognized a bit more often for an outstanding career. 
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September: the grind of the baseball season. It is considered to be the time where teams really kick it into gear. They try to retain their playoff spot, or they play their hearts out for a spot. It may just be the most enjoyable month of the season. However, when people say, “these are the games that count”, that kind of throws me off. Every single game counts just as much as the next one, and they all lead to the one collective goal for every single team: playoff berth. 
Nonetheless, September provides very enjoyable baseball. One of my favorite parts of it is the September call-ups. This is when my projects are called up, I get to see if my scouting reports from way back in March were right. It really warms my heart to see them out there because I know they’re excited. This is their chance to prove to the speculative world of Major League Baseball that they are the future, and that they can perform in the demanding September atmosphere. They are playing a part in steering the ship into the harbor, the harbor being the playoffs. 
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A couple of my projects have already been called up: Josh Reddick and Michael Bowden. I am really proud of how much Josh Reddick has progressed. I don’t think he was one of the original spring training invitees, but he really proved himself when he joined the squad at the beautiful City of Palms Park. He gained confidence in his swing, and as you may have noticed, he’s a great hitter. 
I know that Michael Bowden had a pretty terrible outing against the Yankees, but I think he redeemed himself in his last outing of relief. I really enjoy his delivery, and I think he will really grow as a pitcher during this month because he has so much potential. I had such a great time talking to him a few months ago, but I would love to be able to talk to him again, after this experience. 
The Red Sox start their series against the Angels tonight, and Dice-K is on the mound for the first time since June. It has been a while, and I am really hoping that all of his training has paid off. I don’t know who to blame for his terrible start to the season. Certainly not the organization, I think that they were quite surprised as well. I think what happened was that Dice-K overestimated the amount of stamina he had. He had just gotten through a rigorous and demanding season with the Red Sox, which included his second year of appearing in the playoffs. However, he was not eased into the season like the rest of the pitchers were. He was thrown into the mix of yet another playoff like atmosphere. The World Baseball Classic may not seem like the playoffs for some fans, but it really is. It was not the way to go into the season. 
Dice-K has had extensive training, and the Red Sox are confident in his abilities. I’m a bit afraid that June Dice-K is going to show up and give up lots of hits and runs. I’m also afraid that 2008 Dice-K is going to show up and be like me when it comes to my homework: inefficient. I think I speak for all Red Sox fans (excluding the masochistic ones) when I say that I’m hoping for the Dice-K that the Red Sox somewhat blindly invested money on. 
After a delightful series against the Rays, I am hoping for a just as delightful one against the Angels. It is essential that the Red Sox use that positive momentum from that series, and carry it over against the Angels, who may be our opponent in the ALDS (again!). I was especially pleased with our pitching staff over the weekend, specifically back to back gems from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Clay has really turned it around this season, and I hope that Dice-K can follow in a similar fashion. 

If I were a General Manager…

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of us our familiar with the musical: Fiddler on the Roof. At one point, the main character, Tevye day dreams about what he would do “if he were a rich man”. I’m starting to get the feeling that it may be a bad thing if I don’t remember the ending of the play considering I was a villager (with no lines) in the play when I was in seventh grade. I’m getting the feeling that he doesn’t become rich, but everyone ends up happy. 
Maybe the same can I apply as I share with you my daydreams about what I would do if I was Theo Epstein for a day. I doubt that I’m cut out for the general manager business though. I can only imagine the amount of stress and responsibility Theo has with putting together a team like the Red Sox each season. Nonetheless, it is a fun idea to entertain considering I’m constantly making suggestions as to what should be done. I wonder if I have enough stamina to be a general manager, a journalist, and a broadcaster (or even enough time). 
Before I talk about my fantastical crusade as a general manager, I have a few other things to get to. 
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I realized that I neglected to mention my thoughts on Casey Kelly in my last blog. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 not only as a pitcher, but as a shortstop as well. He spent the first half of this season pitching, and he will be spending the second half as a shortstop (from what I can remember of the report). I would actually be completely okay with him training as a shortstop, and holding off on the pitching aspect. The Red Sox organization is already full of great pitchers with a lot of potential. Shortstops? Not so much. 
I’m pretty convinced that ever since Nomar Garciaparra left in 2004, that there is a minor curse when it comes to shortstops. Hanley Ramirez, the star of the Marlins, was homegrown talent, but he isn’t playing for the Red Sox. Was it a mutually beneficial trade? Yes. Would I do the trade again? Absolutely. 
We signed Julio Lugo expecting him to be a pesky leadoff hitter like he was with the Rays. Unfortunately, that did not work out as he was designated for assignment and traded to the Cardinals a couple of days ago. Jed Lowrie is homegrown talent, but he has barely had a season. Nick Green (who must have been thoroughly exorcised considering he came from the Yankees) has been a pleasant surprise, but nothing outstanding, though I shouldn’t try to compare anyone to Nomar. 
Shortstop is currently our weakest position in my opinion, catching (I will address this later) coming in second. We need to have a legitimate “shortstop for the future” developing in the minors. 
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I really wish I had seen Mark Buehrle’s perfect game live, but as I am not a fan of the White Sox or Rays, I didn’t have some sort of crazy premonition that compelled me to watch the game. To put this feat in a historical context is really incredible, all of the statistics that come up amaze me. It’s kind of funny how people consider perfect games to be so exciting, yet technically speaking, nothing happens since the opposing team is literally shut down. It’s the beauty of the pitching though, and the fact that it is so rare and precious that makes it beautiful to me. 
I don’t have to be a White Sox fan to appreciate this, I think that every baseball fan should find this to be beautiful and stunning. I can understand that it must have been embarrassing for the Rays to be shut out like that, but it’s really just something you tip your cap to. It is something that I will always remember. 
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I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Hall of Fame inductions, which I was delighted to watch on MLB Network. I was in absolute awe to see 50 living legends all in one place, and I’ll be completely honest with you: there was a good portion of them that I hadn’t heard of, but that just makes me even more excited to go to the Hall of Fame in a few weeks. 
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It was really inspiring to see Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice give their speeches. Henderson was so humbled by it, and I loved the way that he got into the game, and the part about following your dreams. Jim Rice just looked euphoric– it was great to see him drop his usual demeanor and just laugh. 
Watching the whole Hall of Fame induction ceremony inspired me even more to begin my crusade to enshrine Pete Rose there. I will save my argument for another post, but I would really like to have a makeshift plaque made for him, and bring it to Cooperstown myself. Believe me my friends, I am getting him in there. 
So with the trade deadline coming up, there are plenty of trade rumors going around. I nearly spit my water everywhere when I read that Bronson Arroyo may be headed to the Yankees (this rumor has been squelched for the record). I couldn’t imagine my Arroyo in pinstripes. But this brings me to my main point (I guess?), what I would be doing if I was Theo Epstein. 
I am actually very happy with the Adam LaRoche trade, not because he is adjusting extraordinarily well to Pittsburgh, but because he is a significant upgrade from Mark Kotsay. I never thought Kotsay was anything unique, in fact I was a bit upset when we re-signed him because I thought Chris Carter or Jeff Bailey would be sufficient, if not better. Plus, we didn’t lose any significant prospects (if I don’t talk about them, they aren’t significant). 
We all knew that we had to get Julio Lugo off of our hands. Nice a guy as he may be, he just simply hasn’t been living up to the organization’s expectations, and regardless of his contract, it was for the greater good of the team that he is gone. Chris Duncan is in Triple-A right now, and I am dying to scout him. 
I am actually perfectly content with our roster right now. We don’t need to be involved in a break-the-headlines trade like last year because our left fielder isn’t complaining
about his lifestyle. Poor Manny, $20 million a year and adored by fans– tough life. Yet we still are involved in trade talks. 
I have heard the Roy Halladay rumors, and I was not attracted to him for a second (same thing happened with Mark Teixeira). I know what kind of pitcher he is, but I know what kind of pitching we have in the minors. Would Halladay solidify what has been perhaps a somewhat disappointing rotation (specifically Dice-K and Penny’s lack of depth)? Sure, and I’m pretty sure his contract is locked up for a few years. 
Think about what we might have to give up for him though. They asked the Yankees for Joba, Phil Hughes and two more prospects. I am very protective of our bullpen, and even more so of our prospects because the good ones (that are likely to go in a trade) are my projects. Roy Halladay may be the ace of the American League, but I’d be willing to say that Michael Bowden is the next Roy Halladay. That is how much I believe in our prospects. Think about how important Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden could be in the future. 
I have also heard the Victor Martinez rumors. When I said that I think catching is our second weakest position, I do not mean currently. Most of you know how hard I lobbied for Jason Varitek’s return, and I for one have not been disappointed. When I say catching is our weakest position, I mean for the future. George Kottaras is only around because he can catch a knuckleball, and I personally prefer Dusty Brown. I’d rather stick around and wait for Joe Mauer to become available. Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek are both legitimate catchers, who both deserve a lot of playing time. Should Martinez come to the Red Sox, I would think that someone’s playing time would be significantly impacted. 
I think we should stay right where we are right now. We are still very legitimate contenders, but we have to look to future acquisitions too. 

Interview from the Press Box; Amateur Scouting

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Continuing the tales of my baseball journey, Tuesday night was packed with even more adventures. The offensively slumping PawSox were finishing a series against the Durham Bulls (the AAA team for the Rays, as Michael told me). Mr. Steve Hyder was kind enough to meet with me that night, but this time, it wasn’t in an office. 

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I was invited to go up into the Press Box for the interview, which made me practically overflow with excitement. While I didn’t spend the entire game up there, it was a nice taste of what to expect for the future. Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the seats that Mr. Hyder provided us with: once again, they were right behind home plate, and sitting there on the night that my resurfacing project, Clay Buchholz, is pitching is quite the treat. 
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Mr. Hyder is also a radio broadcaster for the PawSox, and just to remind you, he and Mr. Hoard are partners. Hyder is actually a Rhode Island native, so as you can imagine, he grew up as a Red Sox fan. I don’t have his exact words written down because a) I can’t write that fast and b) my handwriting is hideous. 
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1. Did you always know that you wanted to be a sports broadcaster? 

Hyder said that he actually got started a bit late, he didn’t always know that he wanted to do it. He actually received a bit of help from his partner, while he was down at Syracuse. 
2. What or who was your inspiration? 

His answer to this question was actually one of my favorites. He said that he was inspired by the movie ‘Field of Dreams’. The first time I ever saw that movie, it really moved me. That is the movie to use if you want to get your friends into baseball. The problem is, when I suggest it, none of them want to watch a movie about baseball. It is easy for me to see how that would inspire him to go into broadcasting. 
3. Growing up as a fan of the Red Sox, did you like and/or follow the Paw Sox? 
Hyder explained to me that it was different when he was growing up. No one really followed the prospects the way that they do today. I don’t know if people follow it the way that I do, but as he was explaining this to me, I could see that today, there is more of an emphasis on how they will impact the future. 
4. You must have witnessed a bunch of great moments growing up as a Sox fan. If you could broadcast one moment in Red Sox history, or baseball history, which would you pick? If you could interview anyone, who would it be? 

Hyder’s favorite player growing up was Carlton Fisk, so I’m sure you can imagine how excited he was during the 1975 World Series. He said that if he could interview anyone, that it would be Babe Ruth. That took me by surprise at first, considering the impact that Babe Ruth has had on Red Sox history. As he went on, it became more clear to me why he chose Ruth: Hyder said that he was an American icon, one of the most famous Americans in history, and that he would love to spend a couple of days just chatting with him. 
As I mature as a baseball fan, this isn’t as shocking. I know that if I want to work for MLB, I have to reduce my animosity towards the Yankees, and regard them with respect. Ever since I started this blog, this has happened, and now I am able to talk to fans of any team and have intelligent conversations, rather than the traditional “You Suck” type of conversations. 
5. What makes the Paw Sox unique from other minor league organizations? 

I asked this question because it seems that whenever players come up from our minor league system, it doesn’t take them long to adjust to the Major League level. It seems that there is an extra element in this organization, but it’s hard for anybody to put their finger on it. 
Both Hyder and Hoard admitted that they had no idea that Pedroia was going to be the MVP, and Hyder said that he could see that Youkilis would be a solid player, but he didn’t see him being what he is today. Although Hyder couldn’t put a finger on exactly what this extra element was, he said that a lot of other teams are modeling their systems after ours, which says something is special about the Paw Sox. 
6. Which PawSox players do you think will have a significant impact in the future and in which ways? 

Like Hoard, he could also see the potential in people like Bowden and Buchholz, as well as people like Bailey and Carter. However, sometimes there isn’t always a spot for guys even if they do have the potential. 
7. Do you ever make it down to Spring Training. What makes it special, how is it different? 

I absolutely loved his response to this one too, because he was actually able to relate it to something that I am very familiar with. He said that Spring Training is great because it’s like the first day back at school: you’re seeing everyone again, and there’s so much excitement for what this year could bring. 
8. Do you have any advice for an aspiring sportswriter or broadcaster? 

Like I mentioned earlier, Hyder actually got some help from Hoard to get into the industry, so he gave me the same advice that Hoard gave him: do absolutely everything you can to get in. 
Buchholz Breakdown
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It’s one thing to look at his record in the minors and say, “Wow, he’s doing so well this year, why don’t we bring him up?”. It’s another thing to watch his interview and either accuse him of wanting to be traded, or like Terry Francona, praise him for wanting to be in the big leagues. 
I’m not doing either of those things here. I was fortunate enough to see him pitch on Tuesday night in some ridiculously cold weather. Luckily, I had my new, oversized Paw Sox sweatshirt. 
While I am no scout, I think I have a pretty good knack for picking projects, and seeing the potential that each player has. I’d like to call myself an amateur scout. 
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The night before, I actually talked to some scouts. They were really nice, one of the guys had actually been doing it for 22 years. What they do is they get different Minor League assignments (to go see teams) and then they see five straight games. I was telling them how I love going to Spring Training and about my prospects/projects and what not, and they actually asked me who I liked. I told them who to watch out for. 
Anyway, if you looked at the box score of that game, you’d see that Buchholz had given up one run over six innings. Not bad, right? He exited to a lot of cheers, but probably not quite the standing ovation that Smoltz got last night for giving up one run over four innings. 
Still though, I wasn’t all that satisfied with Clay’s outing because I noticed some little things. If he can work on these things and fix them up, then he is going to be an absolute monster. 
The fact that he walked the first batter only bothered me a little bit because he started off throwing two beautiful strikes, and then got himself behind in the count. He was getting behind in counts throughout the night, and occasionally he would miss his spots. 
While this could have been blamed on the cold weather conditions, I don’t want to make up excuses for him, and I’m sure he doesn’t either. I noticed something a bit more concerning to me though, something that hurt him last year as well. 
He gets very frustrated after mistakes. I could see the frown plastered on his face after the home run he gave up. It is all mental with him. I think that he needs to learn to shake off his mistakes. Ramon Ramirez is a great example of that. That one outing of his when he gave up two home runs, his expression didn’t change. 
I said this with Lester, and I’ll say this with Buchholz too because they are both young pitchers. Buchholz needs to ignore the expectations that everyone has for him. The “he’s going to be so great” and “he is the future” expectations. He can’t get ahead of himself, he needs to focus on pitch by pitch, at-bt by at-bat, inning by inning. 
He just needs to be confident with himself too. He gave up a home run but so what? He can still have a nice outing. I said this about Josh Reddick when I first saw him in Spring Training. I was talking about hitting confidence, but regardless, after I said that he really picked up. I have no doubt that Buchholz has the potential to be part of our future, but he just has to focus on the game. 
I talked to Bowden about the mental aspect of the game as well. He says that he always tries to block everything out. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not– especially when he’s in the small ballpark and there’s the one, annoying, obnoxious fan. He said he never changes his stuff when he gets called up. I also asked him if there was a difference pitching against the White Sox and pitching against the Yankees. He said that the atmosphere was different because of the crazy rivalry when he was pitching against the Yankees, but other than that, he uses the same approach. 
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I also wanted to talk about Aaron Bates a little bit. He was just recently called up from AA-Portland, but he didn’t get a hit in either of the nights I was there. That obviously does not mean that we send him back down though. I think that there is an adjustment period with every level, and even Bowden said this (I swear I learned so much from this guy… more than I did in chemistry all year). Bates looks AAA material: he’s big, and he has a nice swing and makes good contact. The problem is that he still has that AA eye. My best friend, Marissa, has decided to make him her project. 
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I noticed something very interesting about Dusty Brown (from downtown of great renown…). He reminds me of Jason Varitek because of his great sense of surroundings. Varitek always knows where the play is, and I can notice that with Brown as well. I think that is one of the most important things with a catcher. 

My Perspective, A Broadcaster’s Perspective, and a Project’s Perspective

They say that all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, that tends to happen a bit too often to me over the summer. My stay in Boston has come to an end, but the one bright spot is that I finally get to share some of my baseball adventures with you. 

I had quite a lot of adventures this time around in Boston, and the vast majority of them were related to baseball. I’ll give you a quick summary of what I did over the week, but I have two things that I want to focus on tonight. 
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I had the opportunity to meet Dan Hoard, the radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox in case you were wondering). He was kind enough to let me interview him. 
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At that same game, I spent the entire time talking to one of my projects, Michael Bowden. He is a huge prospect in the Red Sox organization. He pitched last year against the White Sox and he pitched this year against the Yankees: the game that Jacoby Ellsbury stole home. It was a once  in a lifetime opportunity to hear his perspective on baseball. 
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The next night, Steve Hyder, the radio broadcaster for the PawSox (he and Mr. Hoard are partners) let me interview him in the press box! He was a Rhode Island native, so of course he grew up a fan of the Red Sox. More on that tomorrow. 
On Wednesday, I met one of our fellow MLBloggers, Julia. I can’t put a picture of her up though– this was all explained to me. We went to the famous Bleacher Bar at Fenway Park (don’t worry, it’s a restaurant), and I went through “Boston initiation” (more on that later). 
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For those of you who tuned in to the Yankees vs Red Sox game on Thursday night, you know that it was not only the most exciting game of the series, but of the year as well. It rained all night long, which made the temperature even colder. By the end of the night I could see my breath, and I was only in a light, black cardigan. I wasn’t going to move though. 
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Leaving my favorite city is never an easy task, but the situation was lightened thanks to Jerry Remy’s restaurant. There was a bit of a problem with the dining situation though, and I thought I could bring it to the attention of baseball fans everywhere. 
My Perspective
In June 2008, Rem-Dawg’s Nation voted on their “All-Time Nine”: the nine best position players in Red Sox history. Some of them are fairly obvious, others get into some ‘dirty water’ (this has a negative connotation though), and one of them is just a disgrace. 
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I’ll begin with the recipient of the third base honor: Wade Boggs. Just looking at numbers, Boggs deserves to be on this wall. Yet his baseball career had a little bit of scandal, and he pulled what I like to call a ‘Johnny Damon’ (even though Johnny Damon was just a kid when Boggs was playing). I think that Mike Lowell is a definite runner up for this category considering that he embodies what baseball is all about and the fact that he has the best fielding percentage of third basemen in history. Not to mention he was the MVP of the ’07 World Series. Anyway, my argument for Boggs would be that he really is the best of all time even if he did pull a Johnny Damon. Johnny Damon wouldn’t even come close in the voting not because of the amount of hearts he broke in New England, but because he isn’t even comparable with Fred Lynn. 
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The other man that stumbled into a bit of dirty water when I was looking at the recipients was Nomar Garciaparra. Sure Nomar was a “plague” in the clubhouse and his departure has seemingly cursed the subsequent shortstops, but his numbers from 1997-2000 are unbelievable. Nobody gets the MVP and the Rookie of the Year award in one season. The only other Red Sox shortstop that is even comparable is Johnny Pesky. 
The disgrace is Manny Ramirez. His name has become synonymous with “disgrace” and “bum” ever since his rude departure almost a year ago. I don’t need to go into detail with him. We all know the disrespectful words he has issued towards the Red Sox organization, and the reasons behind his temporary ban. Granted, there is no denying the fact that he is probably the most impressive hitter since Ted Williams, but I would be willing to bet that many Red Sox fans have changed their mind about who they want representing their “All-Time 9″ players. 
The other two fielders were, quite sensibly, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. The only problem I have with this is that they are both left fielders. If we are to represent our “All-Time 9″ properly, than shouldn’t we represent each position? I know that in the All-Star voting that it is just classified as “outfielders”, but I still think that we should represent our best center fielder of all-time: Fred Lynn, and our best right fielder of all-time: Dwight Evans. What do you think? 
Broadcaster’s Perspective
Dan Hoard grew up as a fan of the New York Mets, which was appropriate because he grew up in New York. He is currently the radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox, but his professional goal is to broadcast Major League Baseball. He has experience doing that, as he has also worked with the Reds, and he has called games for the Mets,
and Blue Jays. I wasn’t able to write down everything that he said, but I do have a fairly good memory. 
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1. When did you realize that sports broadcasting was something you were interested in pursuing? What/who was your motivation? 

Mr. Hoard said that he knew since the very beginning that he wanted to be a sports broadcaster. His favorite broadcaster wasn’t even who many consider to be baseball’s greatest voice, Vin Scully, he enjoyed listening to a Buffalo, NY sports broadcaster. 
2. How does broadcasting in the minors differ from broadcasting in the majors? 

Hoard responded, “Everything is bigger in the majors”, which may seemed obvious at first, but with that there are a few other things that we may not notice. The fact that there is not a huge spotlight on minor league baseball contributes to what he followed up with, “It’s easier to get to know the players”. I can actually notice this myself in Spring Training because it’s the minor league players who may come over for a chat, not the big name major league players. 
3. You grew up in New York, and you’ve worked with a few different teams. Do you have a preference for any teams? 

He said that growing up in New York, he was a Mets fan: “as obsessed with the Mets as [I] seem to be with the Red Sox”. He thought that he could never change his favorite team. But when he worked for the Reds he started rooting for them, and now that he’s with the Red Sox organization, he half roots for the Reds, half for the Red Sox and doesn’t even keep up with the Mets anymore. It is hard for me to imagine changing my favorite team considering my current level of admiration for them. 
4. Which players do you think are going to be a significant part of the Red Sox in the future, and in what ways? 

Hoard said that he can see Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden contributing to the starting pitching staff, and he said that guys like Jeff Bailey or Chris Carter could also have a significant impact. 
5. You are also a football broadcaster (and basketball) which do you prefer broadcasting, and why? 

He responded with baseball, and I loved his reasoning behind it. He talked about how in basketball and football, broadcasters follow the ball for their commentary. In baseball, it’s an entirely different scene. Once a play resulting in an out is made, it could be several minutes before the next one is made. So what do you do during that time, during the many times in which there is a pause in action? You fill it up with the history of the game, statistics, etc. 
6. As a fan of the Reds, what do you think about Pete Rose and his inability to get into the Hall of Fame, and what are your opinions on the players of the steroids era getting into the Hall of Fame? 

I really liked what Mr. Hoard had to say about this issue, and it was great hearing this opinion from a broadcaster. He basically supports the asterisk method for both situations. While I am really adamant about players who have used steroids not being allowed into the Hall, their numbers are worthy of getting in to the Hall of Fame. Every era has it’s mark, and every era needs to be remembered. 
7. What advice could you give to an aspiring sportswriter/broadcaster? 

“Do everything you can to get in” was his main response. Whether it be sweeping the floors at the local radio station, or working for free somewhere else, it gets your name out. He told me to join my school newspaper and write about the school baseball team (they all hate the Red Sox, by the way). 
Mr. Hoard was also kind enough to give us seats– right behind home plate! I even talked to some scouts before the game. Not only was I able to have a different perspective for myself on the game, I was able to hear someone else’s perspective on the game. 
Project’s Perspective
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For those of you who don’t know him, Michael Bowden is the highest ranked pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization, and a project of mine. Most of you who read this blog know about my projects and how special they are to me. So you must be able to imagine what it was like to spend an entire baseball game talking to one of my projects. The night after you pitch in Pawtucket, you have to do the radar gun and score the game the next day.
Bowden, or “Bowdie-Miller” as Jacoby Ellsbury calls him is a Chicago native who always knew that he wanted to be a baseball player. In fact, he wrote about it when he was in third grade. His family was always supportive of him, and he had a pretty cool draft party. He threw a perfect game in high school, and struck out 19 of 21 in the process. I didn’t do a formal interview with him, so it was more of a mutually engaging conversation. 
I learned so much about pitching from him, it made me see a lot of things differently. For example, I never realized how important that guy on first base can be to a pitcher. It’s almost “half the game” for Bowden. If that guy gets to second, it eliminates the opportunity of the double play, and it puts the runner into scoring position. I never would have imagined that could be so important. 
He also told me that Angel Chavez has the “best glove that [he has] ever seen”. That’s a pretty strong statement, especially coming from a guy that has been around baseball his whole life. He said that he feels really comfortable when he has Chavez at third and Gil Velazquez at shortstop. A strong defense always helps a pitcher relax. 
I had always wanted to know if the catcher makes a difference, and according to Michael, it does. It’s a matter of comfort for them. He loves throwing to Jason Varitek because not only is he a great def
ender, he is so knowledgeable and intelligent. All of us in Red Sox Nation should breathe a sigh of relief that Jason Varitek was re-signed not only because of his abilities, but because of what could have been lost. Had he not signed, Theo Epstein would have been in the market for a catcher. Who would we have traded? Probably our biggest prospects: Bowden and Buchholz. That could have been a big mistake. 
As I was telling him about my dreams to become a sportswriter/broadcaster, I also happened to mention that I can’t tell the difference between a breaking ball, a changeup, and a slider for the life of me. He suggested that I learn the difference if I want to go into broadcasting. 
I asked him if I tried to emulate the style of any pitchers, and he said ‘no’ right away. He has his own style, and quite the arsenal of pitches as well. He said that sometimes younger pitchers try to copy a style, but that goes away quickly. He doesn’t have a Papelbon stare either, and he doesn’t even have a song to enter to yet. 
He doesn’t know this yet, but I am resolved to find a song for him. He told me that he wants to learn how to play the piano, so if he ever does, I think his song should be Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’. 
Bowden also told me that his record, as well as his teammates, is not always indicative of how he is actually pitching. Offensively, the PawSox have struggled a lot this season, so Bowden has been getting a slim amount of run support. Some of his losses should have been wins (he can tell you the exact game too) and he’s had a few no decisions too. 
I could tell just by talking to Bowden how much he loves the game and how much he loves playing in the Red Sox organization. When I asked him if it was his dream to pitch in October baseball, he looked at me like I was crazy. He loves playing with a team that will give him this opportunity. He cannot wait to come back to Fenway, and I hope that it is sooner rather than later, and I hope that he plays in the “Futures at Fenway” game. 
At the end of the night, we both wished each other luck. I’d like to think that we both have a future in the Red Sox organization. I know for a fact he does. 

2009 Red Sox Pitching Preview

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

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

Buckner Filter

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Chemists have a sense of humor, although it is a bit cruel. Today in my chemistry class, we were working on a lab, the biggest lab of the year. We have to identify an unknown substance, and so far I am convinced that it is crack. Today, we were doing gravimetric analysis (I still don’t know what that is) and we had to filter out our precipitate (the thing that went to the bottom of the beaker after the reaction) and we used a ‘Buckner Filter’. 

When my teacher first described the procedure, my friend Kathleen (another Red Sox fan) and I looked at each other when we heard ‘Buckner’. A little while later, I let out a small laugh during the procedure. 
Me: ‘Ha, that’s clever. Buckner filter. Because things go right through filters. Just like that ball went right through Buckner’s legs’.
Kathleen: ‘It looks like chemists actually have a small sense of humor. Although, this one could have either been a bitter Cubs fan or a Yankee fan’. 
I don’t know if this is actually named after Bill Buckner, but when you think of the similarities, it’s almost undoubtedly named after him. 
Motivation by Failure
It is becoming more evident that blogging is becoming a significant new sphere to bring news and opinions to an audience. This is how Curt Schilling announced his retirement– on his blog, ’38 Pitches’. 
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Believe me, I am not surprised that he retired. In fact, I thought that he would retire after the 2007 season. That look on his face when he was leaving Game 2, and then when he tipped his cap– I knew (or at least, I thought) that would be his last pitch. 
We all know how incredible Schilling was, and he will mainly be remembered for his outstanding performances in the postseason. He went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts during the postseason. 
One of the most interesting things to me about Schilling is the fact that he is motivated by his intense fear of failure. I don’t know if I could be motivated by a fear of failure, I think it would make me too anxious. I mean, I fear failing chemistry but if I think about that too much than I perform poorly on the tests. So I think that it is really admirable that Schilling can be motivated by his fear of failure. 
I know that everyone is probably pretty tired of the ‘Bloody Sock Story’, but I am still pretty impressed that Schilling had surgery on his ankle only two days before one of the most important games in Red Sox history. 
I am really going to miss Curt’s presence, and I hope that he will return someday as some sort of coach for the Red Sox. 
Saturday’s Game
Although my bag was completely soaked, I was still able to pry apart the wet pages of my legal pad to take notes on the game– from behind the dugout. 
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Our seats were great to begin with anyway, but since so many people had left already, how could I deny myself the opportunity to sit right behind the dugout? I was very well behaved too, I wasn’t obnoxiously yelling at the players. 
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I was able to refresh everyone’s memory about who exactly Michael Bowden was, then I went on to describing some of my dear projects. Then, one of the guys behind me asked,
‘So you seem pretty knowledgeable, what are your opinions on how the Red Sox will matchup against the Yankees this year?’
I gave him a concise (yet still thorough) breakdown on how I thought we matched up. Pretty evenly if I do say so myself. After I finished talking he said, ‘Alright! Let’s go to Vegas!’. 
I bet a lot of people at the game were disappointed with the fact that Jason Bay was the only regular starter playing. But I wasn’t. I have come to love the minor leaguers with their work ethics, and their willingness to sign autographs. 
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Michael Bowden looked amazing, definitely his best outing of the Spring. He was exhibiting great command and has a great fastball and a beautiful changeup. I cannot wait to see more of him in the Majors. I am thinking the Justin Masterson process: Come up a few times during the year, and then stay with us during September. 
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Junichi Tazawa (this is for you Jacobyluvr!) continued to show some great form, and a fast delivery. It is incredible how quickly he is assimilating to the big change between Japan and America. He doesn’t seem to be struggling, and I think that the Red Sox are going to want to hang on to him. He is already pitching at a Major League level so can you imagine how he will be after a year of extra work in the minors? It’s very important not to move too fast, we learned that lesson with Clay Buchholz last year. 
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Overall, this game was all about the defense. George Kottaras is stepping up to the plate (or rather behind). He has a great throw down to second, and that is becoming increasingly important in what we want in catchers. I think that the Red Sox are looking more for a defensively sound catcher than an offensively sound catcher right now. 
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The
outfield, which consisted of Jason Bay, Brad Wilkerson, and Jeff Bailey all showed off some great arms. A lot of the time, I think that defense is underrated because as of late, everything has been measured on lots and lots of hitting. We have to remember that it is important. 
I have to say, Anibal Sanchez (the starting pitcher for the Marlins) looked great. He had a no hitter for five innings until my project, Nick Green, broke it with a single. Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the whole game. We had to meet my grandparents for dinner, and I didn’t really want to persist seeing that my mother agreed to go to the game two and a half hours early, sat through the rain delay, and through the game. 
What a great finish to the WBC, but more on that later. I have got to go consume as many vitamins as possible to avoid being sick!

“Baseball Bubble”

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Today, I realized something– I can tell you more about baseball than I can about global issues– way more. I honestly did not know the name of the North Korean dictator until this afternoon. Is this bad? I remember Jane mentioning a story similar to this in her book. She was reading the newspaper and some kind of headline like ‘The Tribe is Suffering’ came up, and she thought it was about the Cleveland Indians. I’m not going to lie to you, upon reading it, I thought she was referencing the Cleveland Indians as well. I live in my own little baseball bubble as well. 

For example, in math today, when my teacher asked me the scores of the World Baseball Classic from Sunday, I was perfectly able to recite that. When he asked me to find the external arc of a circle, I was clueless. 

During my Life Skills class, we began learning about drugs; so we were each assigned a drug to research and present to the class. I kindly forced asked the student next to me to switch topics with me so I could write about steroids. Don’t get me wrong, I will talk about steroids in my project, but I think I’m going to go on a long tangent about steroids in baseball, and then go on to talk about Pete Rose and how it’s ridiculous that he is not in the Hall of Fame. 
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I had heard about the rumored Jon Lester deal yesterday, but it wasn’t until I was watching Team USA beat up on Team Venezuela that I heard that the deal was finalized. It was a five year deal worth $30 million, with a $14 million option for 2014! This is what the Red Sox have been doing all offseason: locking up their proven young players! We all know that Jon Lester had a breakout year last year. I don’t need to re-emphasize his no-hitter and that great comeback story of his. The bottom line is: he is a good pitcher. He has great command of his fastball, and is even working on a changeup! At this pace, he is on the track to becoming one of the most feared left handed pitchers of the game. 
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A-Rod is officially having surgery, though, not the same surgery that Mike Lowell had on his torn labrum. I think this is “arthroscopic surgery” and they few medical terms that I know are the ones that I have heard of on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. This is not one of them. However, from what I have gathered, this surgery will allow A-Rod to return in 6-9 weeks rather than 12-16 weeks. This was the right decision.
Like I’ve said before, it was painful for me to watch Mike Lowell play last season, and it was painful for him. If it’s already painful for Alex, it was only going to get worse. This surgery will minimize the damage, and he will have the rest of the surgery after the season. Plus, this gives A-Rod some down time. With this steroid scandal, and his inability to keep a straight story, and all Torre’s blows to him– he needs some time off. 
So what are the Yankees to do in the meantime without their cleanup batter? Alright so they have Cody Ransom to fill the void at third base, but that does not fill the offensive void. The Yankees are going to have to totally re-work their lineup. Sure Mark Teixeira has a bat, but other than him, the offense is a tad on the mediocre side. Luckily they have some serious pitching to balance that. 
World Baseball Classic 
The USA is redeeming itself after the 2006 tournament as it did not falter after its first win. They beat Team Venezuela 15-6 thanks to some key hits off of the shaky Venezuelan bullpen, and some strong relief pitching. 
Roy Oswalt had a decent outing, but definitely not the best. The problem is, these games actually matter (in a sense). This is still Spring Training to some of these guys. The guys on international teams have been playing Winter Ball. These guys? This is just the start of stuff for them. 
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The US broke it open in the sixth inning by scoring eight runs. Mark DeRosa hit a triple and batted in a total of four runs. Chris Iannetta had a great bases clearing double and also had four RBIs. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with Ianetta. Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn hit their second home runs of the classic, and Ryan Braun hit his first. Dustin Pedroia had a great play at second base if you guys didn’t get to see it. It was one of those plays that NO ONE should make. 
The bullpen was backed by some great run support so Ziegler’s two earned runs and Bell’s one were not that significant. Matt Lindstrom of the Florida Marlins picked up the win. 
Red Sox Spring Training
On Sunday I had to go to school for an American History catch up day– didn’t mind too much because I love that class. Anyway, the class started at one, and there was a Red Sox vs Rays game at one. Luckily, my friend lent me his iPhone so I was periodically refreshing the play-by-play throughout the whole class. 
Julio Lugo had a great day as he went 3-3 with two RBIs and two doubles. My project, Nick Green, hit a home run, as did Zach Daeges (despite his weird batting stance) and Jonathan Van Every. 
Justin Masterson pitched three beautiful innings of one hit ball and was followed by Jonathan Papelbon, who threw a scoreless inning but allowed two runs. Did I mention that he is working on a slider? Yet another pitch to vanquish victims. Daniel Bard (potential project) struck out the side, and Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden each allowed one run. 
I have now set a goal for Michael Bowden: one outing without any earned runs! 
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The Red Sox played an exciting game today against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which the Red Sox won on an RBI double by Josh Reddick in the bottom of the tenth. I watched the first two innings during my Life Skills class while “researching” steroids. I wasn’t just going to pass up that opportunity.
One of my projects, Jeff Bailey, went 3-4 with a double and an RBI. Project Nick Green hit another home run as did Dusty Brown. I remember Dusty Brown from last year’s Spring Training and from a Pawtucket game. I like him, but I need to see a bit more of him to decide his project potential. 
Josh Bard continued to
make his presence known by hitting another home run today and collecting three RBIs. I’m thinking that this whole competition thing is making Lowrie a little nervous. I just want him to be himself, because I know he can do well either starting on off the bench. 

Instead of Dwelling, let’s evaluate

The Red Sox lost their game to the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday (2/26) 3-2, and they lost today’s game to the Rays 10-4. Their record may be 0-3, but instead of dwelling on the losses, at this point, it’s probably better to analyze why the Red Sox lost. 

Pittsburgh: 
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Jon Lester made the start, and in his two innings he gave up two hits, and struck out one and gave up no runs. The important thing to know about Lester right now, is that he’s working on a new pitch to add to his “arsenal”– a changeup! As a former softball pitcher, I can tell you that it’s hard enough to pitch: to find the spots, and stay in the strikezone is hard! But I can’t imagine trying to have a changeup. But if Lester can master it, or at least get a good grip on it, it would definitely benefit him in the long run, as Terry Francona pointed out. The reason that Lester didn’t do this last year was because he was still trying to find his fastball command, and that’s important as we all know. 
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Takashi Saito, one of the Red Sox acquisitions of the offseason pitched one inning in which he gave up one hit and struck out two. That’s impressive for a guy just coming off surgery. Hideki Okajima and Wes Littleton (acquired from Texas) threw a combined two innings of perfect relief, each striking out one. 
These next three guys I have admittedly never heard of, but tomorrow (when I get my program at the game) I will be writing notes everywhere! Anyway, “Mills” and “James” did fine, not striking out anyone, but not giving up hits either. It was merely “Lentz” who gave up three runs, in the top of the ninth. 
This is what Spring Training is for. It is the time for pitchers to go out and work on their pitches, without having to worry, and to give a chance to the minor leaguers, to have a look at the future. The record itself doesn’t matter, but in a sense the statistics do. I don’t know if that makes sense. 
At the plate, my almost official project, Jeff Bailey, batted in the two runs that the Red Sox scored on a two run single (although it may have been a double, not sure). If he looks good tomorrow when I’m there, I will officially announce my first project. Nick Green and “Ambres” also got hits. 
Tampa Bay
During eighth period, I demanded my friend’s iPhone to check the score. My face dropped when I realized the score was 10-0 and I started asking rhetorical questions to my friends. ‘Why is this happening?’ I moaned. So instead of why, I should have asked what. What was happening? 
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Michael Bowden, that pitching prospect of ours, gave up four earned runs in 1.2 innings. I’m wondering what exactly happened to him. I would now like to interview him. Maybe all that talk about him went to his head, and he “outthought himself” as I said a long time ago when I was analyzing Lester’s shortcomings in Game 3 (I think) of the ALCS. I’m beyond willing to give Bowden a second chance, in fact, let him pitch tomorrow! I want to see him!!! He needs to focus on placing his pitches, and having command of them. He may have been thinking about the future, being on the Red Sox, making the team. That’s scary. We’ll see how it goes next time. Emily, please help him! 
It did not help much that “Gonzalez” gave up another five earned runs, and the two errors didn’t help much either. In two innings, Hansack struck out four, which was very impressive, and Green had one perfect inning without any strikeouts. Charlie Zink gave up the other two runs. You may remember him from that explosive game against Texas– the one where the Red Sox scored 10 runs in the first inning (Big Papi hit two home runs). I’m pretty sure we ended up winning, but regardless, Zink was pitching. He gave up ten runs in the first inning to the Rangers too! I am almost positive that Zink is a knuckle ball pitcher. 
At the plate, Baldelli got an RBI against his former team, as did Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jed Lowrie. Nice to see Jacoby get a hit, and I hope that he plays tomorrow. 
As you guys know, I will be going to Fort Myers tomorrow. I’m heading out at 8:30 to get to the ballpark at 11 am for batting practice. I would love to get some autographs, and I have so much that I want to say to each and every player. I have tickets for the game against Northeastern University at 1:05, which is where our fellow blogger, Julia, went. And I recently got tickets to the 7:05 game against Cincinnati, which Clay Buchholz will start. 
It would make me really happy if the Red Sox got their first win tomorrow :). It would make me even happier if I got an autograph. And I will die of happiness if something even better than that happens. Do they need me to do play-by-play?? I’ll be carrying a legal pad around, writing down everything that I need. 
You guys can expect full game reports and analyses as well as scouting reports on Sunday. I’ll also share my pictures with anyone who wants them! Just send me an e-mail here, and I’ll get them right to you. 
-Elizabeth
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