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Tag:Julian Tavarez
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:43 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-12-08

The Red Sox offense jumped out early but the starting pitching put them in a deficit they would not recover from as they lost three out of four to the Twins. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz has a serious problem. He has been the classic “Jekyll and Hyde” example of a young pitcher who has no confidence pitching on the road. Buchholz’s numbers coming into the game were decent for a rookie starter in the A.L., but after tonight’s performance, there is a definite trend, and it is not a good one. While the rookie’s number are sparkling at home, 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA, his road numbers are ghastly, 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA. It is not unusual for a young starter, and all starters for that matter, to find better success at home, but rarely does any pitcher go from near perfect numbers at home to completely unreliable on the road. (And those road numbers include the eight inning, three hit performance in Tampa) Certainly, most players find it easier to perform at home (just ask the Celtics), but Buchholz needs to figure some thing out in his mechanics, because he looks like a completely different pitcher. It seemed like every change-up he threw tonight was above the belt, and since his change-up is his best pitch, he was in for trouble. He had to go to his fastball on more occasions, which was better tonight than in his last outing, but was still not something that he can put away opposing batters with like he can with his change-up. He did feature a good curveball, which he was forced to go to when the change was staying up. Buchholz has good enough secondary pitches, but since his fastball has been proven to be the weakest of his four pitches, he tends to throw the change-up in hitters counts. On most days, what makes him successful is his ability to throw those off-speed pitches for strikes when he gets behind hitters and that keeps them off-balance. But tonight, the Twins saw his change-up was off, and were able to lay off and simply go after his fastball. It will be interesting to see if he makes some adjustment the next time he starts on the road, because the Sox cannot afford this type of disaster every time he pitches away from Fenway.

In what seems like a somewhat unexpected move, Julian Tavarez was designated for assignment to make room for Sean Casey. The Sox made this move for a number of reasons. First, Tavarez has been struggling, but it was more likely do to the fact that he has not been used often. Terry Francona has shown before how he is uncomfortable to have a pitcher in the bullpen who is a “long”-reliever, and that he likely thinks that to have a pitcher who does not pitch well in one inning, back-to-back game type situations is somewhat of a waste. It is true that Tavarez does need at least two or three days to recover after pitching, no matter if he pitches one inning, or four. Simply, the Sox did not have a need for a long reliever. Secondly, the Sox are running out of players with options. Craig Hansen has some left, but the Sox felt like he deserved to be with the club and he had something to prove. Jed Lowrie was already sent down when Alex Cora was activated. Manny Delcarmen likely has a few, but the Sox seem intent on keeping him with the club. And lastly, the Sox have been involved with trade rumors for a few weeks regarding Tavarez, primarily with the Rockies. What has probably happened is that the Sox are close to a trade with some team, but the logistics have to still be worked out. By designating Tavarez, it gives the Sox ten days to trade him, or he can either accept an assignment to the minor leagues, or opt for free agency. The Sox are probably close to a trade, and Tavarez will probably be sent to another club within the next few days. Do not look for the Sox to get much in return, probably a player to be named later. Tavarez’s end in Boston comes as a disappointment to many, as he was one of the best personalities in the clubhouse. He was always willing to do whatever it took to win, and he was very valuable for the Sox last year, making 18 starts until returning to the bullpen when Jon Lester returned. At least Sox fans will have some great memories, like Tavarez petting Manny Ramirez’s head, or bowling a groundball to get a runner out at first base.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox begin a brief two game series against the Orioles for the end of this ten game road trip. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 11, 2008 11:52 pm
 

Red Sox Recap and 1st Quarter Report Card

As promised, here is the Red Sox first quarter report card for this season after 40 games.

Starting Pitching: A-
The Red Sox starting pitching has been better than anticipated, with the younger pitchers delivering better performances than was predicted. Josh Beckett missed a few starts, but has rounded into All-Star form and seems poised for another run for the Cy Young Award. Daisuke Matsuzaka has made a lot of improvements from his first year in the majors and has jumped out to a 6-0, but, leading the league in walks, he has still been shaky at times. But together, they look to be as dominant as any 1-2 punch in the A.L. Tim Wakefield has had a typical season thus far, and at 41 years old, that is all the Red Sox had hoped for. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have both flashed the signs that they are ready to be front end of the rotation starters, but also showed that they are in their first full season in the majors. There is no question about their stuff, but if the Sox want to go deep into the playoffs, they need more consistency from the back end of the rotation.

Relief Pitching: C
And this may be generous. The Sox have had very few arms in the bullpen where they feel secure that they can hold the lead. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon have been very good for most of the season, although they are likely being overused due to the lack of any other relievers stepping up and getting outs. Manny Delcarmen was supposed to help with the late innings, but he has struggled heavily and has fallen from Terry Francona’s repertoire for tight contests. David Aardsma has been a pleasant surprise, but has struggled with his command. Javier Lopez has also performed well, albeit in very limited duty as a primarily left-handed specialist. A rotation of Craig Hansen and Bryan Corey (who the Sox traded to the Padres today) has shown that neither was ready for major league duty to this point. Mike Timlin started the year on the disabled list and has shown that he has in fact pitched in more games in the history of the major league with the expectation of about a dozen players. Julian Tavarez has been used very sparingly in long relief and has struggled because of his lack of work. The starters have produced a good number of seven inning starts, but that will not always be the case. Someone needs to fill in the middle innings and pitch when Okajima and Papelbon cannot, and those pitchers have not yet distinguished themselves.

Offense: A
The Red Sox have had the best offense in the majors through the first quarter of the season. Their team batting average is above .290 and they have a very good balance of power, run production and speed. Jacoby Ellsbury is doing everything that a leadoff hitter must do, which is get on base and score runs, and Dustin Pedroia leads the league in hits. David Ortiz was the only player to start slow, but he has gotten his swing back. Manny Ramirez should have been the player of the month, and Kevin Youkilis capped the first quarter by having a ridiculous week that vaulted him into the top ten in virtually every offensive category. J.D. Drew has played better so far, and Mike Lowell has come back well from the disabled list. Jason Varitek is, as he should be, focusing on the pitching staff, and the Sox have never looked for much production from him anyway. Julio Lugo has played better at times, but still continues to undercut expectations. If Ellsbury and Pedroia can continue to set the table, the Sox will have an excellent year offensively.

Bench: A
The bench players have been one of the strengths of the team this year. Coco Crisp has been sharing time with Ellsbury in center, and has played with good intensity and has hit over .300. Sean Casey filled in exceptionally when Lowell was on the disabled list, and his replacement, Jed Lowrie, also showed that he was capable of playing on the major league level. Brandon Moss did nothing wrong during his time, and should be able looking for another call-up before the year is over. Even Kevin Cash has performed very well, both in his first year handling Wakefield’s knuckleball, but also at the plate, batting near .400. It is a very comforting luxury for Francona to be able to look to his bench whenever he needs and still feel confident, and also in the young call-ups in the chance of injuries.

Defense: B+
The Sox defense has been good, expect for one man, and that would be Julio Lugo. The Sox have 21 errors, and Lugo has 11 of them. He just seems very reluctant fielding grounders. Most of Lugo’s errors before this season were due to his throws over to first, but this year’s errors have been fielding balls hit to him. Other than Lugo, the rest of the infield’s defense has been good, and Youkilis has been perfect as usual. In the outfield, there have been few mistakes. Ellsbury and Crisp provide Gold-Glove caliber defense and the ability to cover a lot of ground. Drew plays right field well, and Ramirez’s defense in left is sometimes convoluted but for the most part satisfactory. Without Lugo’s errors, the Sox would have a much more respectable overall fielding percentage near the league lead.

Overall: A-
They do have the best record in the A.L., and are likely the best team in the majors right now. They get a minus next to that A because the Diamondbacks have a better record, and because their relievers have struggled so much. They have good enough offense and starting pitching to get them through a seven game playoff series right now, but that could change come October. If they can add another reliever at the trading deadline, it would go great lengths to help the Sox out, but we saw that backfire last year. Considering the injuries, the illnesses and beginning the year in Japan, the Sox are sitting in a pretty good spot right now.

I am putting this report card on my blog, which I do with every recap, and you can access at the last link at the bottom of the recap. Feel free to respond to this report card here, or go to my blog.

Concerning tonight’s game, the Sox received their worst start of the year. Tim Wakefield did not make it out of the third inning. While he normally does well in indoor stadiums, he struggled mightly in the Metrodome. His knuckleballs were frequently left up in the zone, and the control of his fastball was off all night. Wakefield threw an astonishing amount of fastballs, or as Joe Morgan aptly called them “straightballs” because, at 74 MPH, they are hardly blistering. One of the home runs he gave up was on one such fastball that was nicely grooved, belt high. But, Wakefield looked like he was laboring from the first inning, and in this case, the knuckleball just did not flutter in the Sox favor.

Look for this recap following the series finale against the Twins as the Sox go for the split. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link to my blog.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 9, 2008 10:53 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-7-08

The Red Sox rallied back against a struggling Tigers’ bullpen only to have their bullpen falter and loose the game in the ninth. Some thoughts on the game:

After three great starts where it looked like he was turning out to be a solid reliable starter, Clay Buchholz took a big step back today. He got battered around for ten hits and five runs in just four innings. He was attacking the strike-zone, and even though the Tigers’ lineup has been the benchmark for futility this season, they do have a lot of fire power, so while he only walked one and threw 51 of 82 pitches for strikes, they were able to get solid contact off of him. Buchholz has not the issues with walks (only 15 in 38 innings this year) that some of the other Sox starters have had, but there is one difference between the starts where he looks like the kid who threw a no hitter last year, and the Red Sox version of the YankeesIan Kennedy and Phil Hughes. When Buchholz succeeds, it is because he is effective with his fastball, and his fastball is off, he struggles. His fastball is by no means his best pitch (in fact, it is probably his fourth best, after his change-up, curveball and slider), and is not overpowering (hovers in the low 90s), but no pitcher can be effective if he cannot locate his fastball at least to give hitters a different look. If he does not locate his fastball, they will wait on the breaking pitches and take their shots in hitters’ counts. A lot of the damage that opposing hitters do against Buchholz is off of his fastball, but his command will improve as he becomes more comfortable and begins to know hitters strengths and weaknesses. It was a little surprising to see him not come out to start the fifth inning, because even though he was struggling, he had only thrown 82 pitches, and Julian Tavarez had not pitched in several weeks, and it showed. Also, Buchholz seems to be developing a troublesome habit of pitching well at home, but being much worse away from Fenway. The Sox are hopeful that he will even out as the season wears on, but he needs to show that he can beat contending big league teams away from Fenway.

Cbssports.com baseball writer Scott Miller wrote a good article today about the Sox decisions with Jacoby Ellsbury and the playing time he has received. Miller’s main point was that even though Coco Crisp could start on most teams, Ellsbury brings an edge to the Sox lineup that precious few players are able to do. The Red Sox have not started Ellsbury every day for a few reasons. The first is that they have another starting center-fielder with a decent bat and an outstanding glove. Crisp is not going to be on the Red Sox lineup after come August. But, in order for the Sox to get a good return for Crisp's value, which is better than most Sox fans would think, Crisp has to play. He is not driving up his value by sitting on the bench. Crisp knows that his days in Boston are numbered, and that if he is traded, it will likely not be temporary, and Crisp wants to land a long-term extension. Crisp, much like Manny Ramirez, seems to be playing with a little more intensity with the prospect of such a deal all but assured. Another reason that Crisp is playing more may be to keep him at least marginally satisfied, because he is probably better than any other team's number four outfielder (the Tiger's Brandon Inge would give him the biggest competition). Red Sox fans saw how valuable Dave Roberts was to the 2004 World Series win, and Crisp is simply a better Dave Roberts. He is just as fast, a smart base-runner, a better center fielder and a better hitter who can do the little things like bunting and moving runners up. Crisp is also a switch hitter, which gives Terry Francona a great option off of the bench late in the game. Also, if the Sox have both Ellsbury and J.D. Drew as two of their starting outfielders, they are both left-handed batters, and when the opposing starter is a southpaw, it could create problems. So Crisp has a lot of value, but Ellsbury's value is simply better. There are several teams, like San Diego for example, who are in need of some offense and a center fielder. But Crisp needs to play if the Sox hope to get a good deal from him because, as other teams will notice, the Sox would like to deal him away simply to give them an excuse to play Ellsbury more. There is no question that Ellsbury's plusses out stripe Crisp's. The Sox are as astonishing 15-2 when Ellsbury scores a run. For those who follow my recaps after each Sox game, it was clear to see that the Sox offense was struggling, and getting shutout by guys like James Shields, at precisely the same time that Ellsbury was out. The rest of the Sox lineup clearly feels the most comfortable when he is at the top of the list and they like the consistency that he brings. Before an 0-5 the other night, he had some incredibly statistic where for every game that he had had at least one at-bat, he reached base in 50 of 51 of those games, dating back from his debut last year. He is the first player the Sox have had in several decades who get on base, and come around to score, without a hit having been recorded. Also Ellsbury, with two stolen bases tonight, now has successfully stolen 22 straight bases to begin his major league career. The major league record was set by Tim Raines, who stole his first 27 bases to begin his career before being caught.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox close out the four game series in Detroit. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.
Posted on: May 5, 2008 11:53 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-5-08

The Red Sox won the series opener against the Tigers on the heels of timely hitting and an up-and-down pitching effort.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had one of the most bizarre pitching lines of the season. He only allowed one run on two hits, but his pitch count soared to 109 because of the eight walks he allowed. Usually when a pitcher’s command is as off as his was tonight, the pitcher generally pays for his mistakes. But he got help from his defense and was able to limit the damage as only one of the batters he walked came around to score. It goes without saying that Matsuzaka had very little in the tank for tonight’s game, but it has to be encouraging that he only gave up one run while being so wild. It shows that when his pitches do find their way over the plate, opposing hitters have a tough time making good contact. Matsuzaka has been wild this season, and now leads the A.L. in walks (Jon Lester is tied for second), but there was very clearly something wrong with him. This was the first night since he has been with the Sox that he looked visibly upset on the mound. He was not getting squeezed by the home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, but he was very frustrated with himself, being unable to throw strikes consistently. He was stellar in his last start, although he had skipped the start previous to that because of flu-like symptoms, but whether there was something wrong with him tonight, or because of something he did during the week, tonight was almost brutal to watch.

With Brandon Moss headed to the disabled list because of an appendectomy, the Sox recalled reliever Craig Hansen from triple-A Pawtucket. This is Hansen’s second stint with the Sox this season, as he pitched in the April 23 game against the Angels. Hansen’s health problems and subsequent struggles with the Sox have been well publicized, but he is trying to prove that he has come a long way and that he deserves a permanent spot on the 25 man roster. With the recent struggles of the bullpen, Hansen may in fact be playing for a spot. However, he gave up two runs today in 1 and two thirds innings pitched, which did little to help his cause. But it seems highly questionable the way the Sox have chose to use Hansen in the brief stints he has had with the big league club. Even going back to 2006 (he did not pitch in Boston in 2007), the Sox seemed intent on using him for multiple innings, as they have done for both of his appearances this year. This is similar treatment for what they tried with Manny Delcarmen at the beginning of his appearances last year. He struggled in that role, but performed better when he was coming in at the start of an inning, and pitching just the one inning. It seems that Hansen is a very similar pitcher to Delcarmen, and it is puzzling why they are sending him back out to pitch multiple innings. He recorded the first 1-2-3 inning of the day for Sox pitchers in the sixth, but gave up two runs when they sent him back out for the seventh. With Hansen’s addition, the Sox now have 13 pitchers, and given the deep starts that the Sox starters have been providing, the Sox middle relief is pretty well rested (Julian Tavarez has not pitched since April 24, a span of 11 games). There was no need for the Sox to bring him out to pitch the seventh as his future with the club will be as a one inning set-up man and substitute closer, neither of which will require him to pitch for more than one inning. With Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon both pitching now in consecqutive games, they will likely be unavailable for tomorrow’s game, meaning that the team will have to fill in without them if they have the lead late. With Hansen having thrown 29 pitches, he will also likely be unavailable. Hansen is still a good young prospect, but the Sox have got to use him correctly.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game against the Tigers as the Sox go for five straight wins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 26, 2008 10:30 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-25-08

The Red Sox lost their first extra inning game of the season, and now have lost a season long three straight games. Some thoughts on today’s game:

Kevin Cash had a lot trouble handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball tonight. Wakefield had a good start, but did get into trouble by giving up too many walks. In his last start, the Rangers were taking the philosophy of simply swinging early and often against Wakefield, and while they did put up some runs against him, he was able to cover eight innings. Tonight was much different for Wakefield, who has an excellent record pitching in the Tropicana Field, seemed to have more control issues than usual. Cash looked reminiscent of Josh Bard’s attempts to field Wakefield knuckleball, as even when the pitches were strikes, the balls were still bouncing out of Cash’s glove. It was the first time that Cash has caught Wakefield indoors, where Wakefield says that he is more comfortable and he gets more movement on his pitches, and Cash was probably having trouble picking up the knuckleball in the lights on the top of the dome. It is generally accepted that when a knuckleball is dancing so much that even the catcher cannot handle the strikes, it is that much more effective, but that was not the case tonight. In addition to Cash’s struggles, Wakefield had poor command all night, often looking as if he lost the grip on his pitches. He also reverted to throwing more fastballs than is wise.

The early season ineffectiveness of the relief corps and the short starts delivered by the starters has heavily taxed the Sox bullpen. Javier Lopez, though he recorded a big out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the night to send the game into extra innings, is very much over worked. Mike Timlin was seen going back and forth from the Sox clubhouse to the bullpen, and he may not be completely healthy. Through in the fact that the Sox’s two best starters, and two pitchers most likely to eat up innings, were missed in their last two starts, the Sox bullpen desperately needs a respite. The Sox have a strange mix of pitchers in their bullpen, being compiled of either stars, or aging veterans, or younger and inexperienced pitchers who seem on the verge of always being out of a job. However, this bullpen will find success if the starters can string together multiple starts of seven innings or better, so that pitchers that could use a day off do not even have to start to warm up. Also, the Sox have seemed very reluctant to use Julian Tavarez. True, he may be the least effective one-inning man the Sox have, although Timlin is trying hard to take that away from him, but a well-rested Julian Tavarez is certainly more effective than an overworked David Aardsma. Tavarez is the Sox long-relief man, and the only one they have in the bullpen, but if the starter only goes five innings, and especially if the game is tied or they are losing, the first man out of the bullpen should be Tavarez. He believes that he has a rubber arm and can pitch as often as the Sox need him to, but while the Sox struggle to find their rhythm as a complete pitching staff, Tavarez may be more effective in one inning duties rather than long relief work.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to end this recent skid. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:39 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter’s and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up rookie Jed Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:38 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up the rookie Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 14, 2008 11:16 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-14-08

The Red Sox pulled off an improbable comeback win to the first game of a two game series against the Indians. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester’s night began very promising, having not allowed a hit through the first three innings. However, when he did begin to give up hits, he started to pay for the walks he gave up. Although this is now his third season in the big leagues, it is first to start the season with the major league club. Lester still shows a lot of issues prevalent among young starters, but it is almost getting to the point that Lester should be beyond these issues. He did hold the Indians hitless over the first three innings, so he clearly has the stuff to compete. But, Lester has always shown issues on the mound once he has gone through the line-up once. He seems to get extremely timid on the mound, and starts to labor by throwing too many pitches off of the plate and trying to get hitters to bite on balls that are out of the strike zone. This is a situation where Jason Varitek needs to take some time aside and rework Lester’s game plan. Lester needs to focus back on the basics: first pitch strikes and changing speeds during the second time through the lineup. Otherwise Lester’s fastball, while effective and has good movement, is not enough on its own, and he will continue to aim rather than pitch.

Since Lester’s struggles will provide the Sox with big problems, let’s take sometime to analyze a few more of his trouble spots. Lester has shown a strange reluctance while facing left-handed hitters, which is saying something considering his reputation for nit-picking against most hitters. He rarely throws inside against any lefties. If it is Travis Hafner, it is understandable, but he has to pound his fastball inside against left-handed batters and then go away with his cut-fastball, probably his best pitch. But, he is in the habit of throwing straight fastballs on the outside corner, which lefties rarely chase, especially with less than two strikes. Here’s where the issue of changing speed comes into play, and seeing as Lester’s change-up is at 87 MPH, when his straight fastball might touch 93 on occasion, there are clear issues here, and Lester needs a greater disparage of speed between the pitches.

Not meaning to overlook the most exciting part of the game, the Sox picked up a very impressive come from behind win. Manny Ramirez is clearly locked in at this early point in the season, which we have not been saying about David Ortiz, who picked up two hits, though of much lesser fanfare. For others who have been struggling, Mike Timlin worked an inning of effective relief, and was credited with the win when the Sox came back in the ninth. The performance, in which Timlin did not surrender a hit and recorded a strikeout, lowers his ERA from an absurd 81.00 to a still ghastly 20.25. But, all jesting aside, Timlin needs to have performances like this, because this will be his primary job: keep closes games close. If Timlin implodes like he had done in his only two appearances this year, the Sox may not have come back. Also good notes from the bullpen, the performance of Julian Tavarez should not be overlooked. He came in with the bases loaded and got two strikeouts, and wound up with four in total in two and two-thirds innings. There is a reason that the Sox resigned Tavarez this past off-season, and it was for Tavarez to be able to warm up quickly, come in, stop the damage, and eat up good innings. Needless to say, he is a very valuable player on the team, and the Sox made the right decision to hold onto him.

Watching the Sox come back against Indians closer Joe Borowski, and then Jonathan Papelbon close the game out for the Sox, simply made fans scratch their heads. No disrespect to Borowski, who led the A.L. in saves last year, but he is a junk ball pitcher, at best. The fastball he threw to Ramirez was clocked at a less than mediocre 82 MPH. Some pitchers can be effective without an overpowering fastball (Greg Maddux is going to win over 350 games as such), but a closer can not hope to use off-speed pitches to step up a fastball in the low 80s. Then, in stark contrast, Papelbon absolutely overmatched the Indians in the ninth, save a good swing by Hafner. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera had no hope to even make contact with Papelbon’s fastball. It is also worth pointing out that because of the reputation of Papelbon’s stuff, he does not have to throw his splitter and yet hitters still have to anticipate it, which is why even above average hitters are always late on his fastball. If Borowski is going to continue to be relied on, the Indians may find themselves in trouble in September.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox rap up this short trip to Cleveland. (To view previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

 
 
 
 
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