Tagged: Jason Varitek

Oh My!

By Chris Cue
April 26, 2009

     With over  5 months to go in the baseball season, it’s probably a little too early to go jumping up and down with 2 game lead over the Yankees and a 4.5 game lead over the Rays heading into today……BUT……if you want to do a little cheering, I’m certainly not going to mock you for it 🙂

     The last 2 games vs the pinstriped brigade have been just about everything a baseball fan could expect. So far, we’ve witnessed some of the very best baseball we’re likely to see. Granted, yesterday’s game was far from what most expected. With Josh Beckett on the hill for the Sox and AJ Burnett pitching for the Yankees, most felt we would be in for a real old fashioned pitchers duel. With a final score of 16-11, the Red Sox had another win in what turned out to be an offensive battle and not a toe to toe 9 round fight between elite pitchers at all. It’s funny how baseball is tricky like that sometimes. On paper everything looked like it was going to be a low scoring game, but then Wham! Here came the Yankees with 6 runs in 4 innings. Not to be out done, the Sox then returned the favor by putting up 5 runs of their own in the 4th inning lead by a Grand Slam from Jason Varitek.  The Sox then followed that up with 3 runs in the 5th, 1 in the 6th, 3 in the 7th and finally 4 runs in the 8th inning. While yesterday wasn’t a classic pitching matchup, it certainly was an impressive display of offensive power from both sides. Another hard fought game by both teams and another win for the Red Sox. There’s not much to complain about there.

     Yesterday’s win for the Red Sox gives them a league leading 9 game winning streak and pulled them within 1 game of tying the Blue Jays for the lead in the AL East. For all you baseball historians, yesterday’s comeback from six runs down was Boston’s largest comeback in a game against the Yankees since May 16, 1968 (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). Today, the Red Sox go for their 10th win in a row and third consecutive home stand ____ (I don’t want to jinx it by saying it) of an opposing team after defeating the Orioles in a 4 game series and the Twins in a 2 game series at Fenway.

     Justin Masterson will take the hill for the Sox hoping to secure the win and veteran Andy Pettitte will be trying to stop the bleeding for the Yankees. You wait and see. Today will end up being the pitchers duel. Why? Because baseball is tricky that way 🙂

Game time is set for 8:05pm est on ESPN.

Enjoy the game

and

GO SOX!!!!!

Advertisements

Busy, Busy, Busy

By Chris Cue
April 23, 2009

     Boy I’ve been busy. Sorry for not posting in a while and thank you to those of you who e-mailed wondering if I’d fallen off the face of the Earth. Obviously I haven’t, but I have to admit, there were a few times when that seemed like a pretty good option. 🙂

     On to Baseball…….How about them SOX huh? Reeling off seven victories in a row! Wow, that’s pretty good. In fact it’s the best run so far this season in all of MLB. That puts the Red Sox tied for 2nd place in the AL East with the NY Yankees.

Speaking of the Yankees…..

     “Hey Mom, look who’s coming to dinner.”

!Sox-yanks.jpg

     That’s right, Baseballs best rivalry gets underway once again starting this Friday night. I don’t want to say that there is a lot of interest generated when these 2 teams get together, but when compared to others, well……

!Bus Stop.jpgI know it’s probably not fair to compare 2 teams that have had an intense rivalry for decades to others, but who cares about being fair? It’s the truth. While we no longer have the Fisk – Munson matchup and seeing how it’s going to be impossible for even a little A-Rod Varitek dust up, what are we left with?

!Youk-Joba.jpgHa Ha! That’s right. A little Youkilis – Chamberlain love-fest! We’ll see how much chin music Joba thinks he can get away with before our first baseman decides it’s time to color up one of his eyes. This mini drama kicks things off Friday night as Joba Chamberlain is the scheduled starter for the Yankees. As hot as Youk is at the plate right now, I can see Mr “I didn’t mean to throw at his head” look to try and cool him off a bit. We’ll see how that works out.

The game times, networks and scheduled starters for this weekend are:
Friday: 7:10pm est – NESN / Lester – Chamberlain
Saturday: 4:10pm est – FOX / Beckett – Burnett
Sunday: 8:05pm est – ESPN / Masterson – Pettitte

     As usual, this looks like it’s going to be one heck of a series. The pitching match ups look good and both teams are playing pretty well right now. Even some of the players appear to be getting up for this one.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“Obviously, they have a great team and we feel we do too. Anytime you
play those guys, they’re going to be long games and exciting games. I
think everyone is looking forward to it.”

****

“It’s always fun to play those guys,” said Red Sox closer Jonathan
Papelbon. “When you put two competitive teams on the field, it’s always
going to make for an interesting game. We definitely have two teams
that are going to compete, and two teams that have a lot of talent on
them. It should be a fun series like always.”

(quotes taken from Ian Browne’s story on MLB.com)

So, even though we’ll have to endure and off day today, it appears that this weekend will more then make up for it. Regardless of how this series ends up, we’re sure to once again be treated to baseball at it’s best. I for one am looking forward to it!

Let’s try for 10 in a row…..

GO SOX!!

Francona’s Unique Approach

By Chris Cue
February 23, 2009

     Red Sox manager Terry Francona introduced a few new conditioning tools to the team yesterday. Many of the new approaches to training are a bit unorthodox, but the players appeared to embrace them without any questions or complaints. When asked why he decided to institute these new measures now, Francona responded with, “Well, we all heard about the suck-up session that Joe Girardi had with his players yesterday, so the Theo and I decided to do something a little different for our guys too.”  Francona then went on to introduce a few of the new idea’s to the media during his afternoon press gathering.

     “This was originally designed for Pitchers. We hope that by using this they will become much better in pinpointing their accuracy when it comes to locating their pitches. When I installed it in the club house, I was surprised to see the entire team line up to try it out.”

“The Location Drill”

Pitching drill.jpg     “They’re all getting their work in by using this.” Francona said. “I think right now, Beckett has the team record, but we’ll keep track of it and update you on the current standings.” 

     Another motivational piece introduced yesterday is a first of it’s kind when it comes to preparing ball players. When asked about the next item shown to the press, Tito said, “You know, ever since Coco’s incident last season, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to prepare players mentally when they are hit by a pitch. All the guys have to do is look at this and I think it gets the message across.”

“The Hit By Pitch Approach”

Hit by pitch drill.jpg     Francona was asked if he had any special idea’s regarding how to approach Tampa this season. He responded by saying, “We kind of had to think out of the box to address that, so what we ended up doing was bringing in someone we felt was an expert at tackling situations like that.”

“The Fishing Instructor”

fishing_drill.jpg       “This next picture shows you something that I can’t take credit for.” Francona said, “It’s something that Tek came up with. He noticed that a number of the guys like Bard, Kottaras and even Dusty Brown don’t really spend a lot of time in the weight room. So, to increase stamina and to test their will power, he had the guys doing this exercise yesterday.”

“The Sam Adams Indurance Test”

Catching drill.jpg      “The guys really seemed to enjoy it. I saw them doing this over and over. It must be really challenging because at the end of the day, most of them couldn’t seem to be able to stand up.”
    
     “Another challange we had was how to help some of the younger pitchers learn how to hold runners at first base. As you can see in this shot, Michael Bowden got really into it.” Francona labeled this next exercise….

“The Pick Off Drill”

Pickoff_drill.jpg
     Time will tell if Francona’s unique approach will have any real benefits to the players this season. It certainly seems like the Red Sox organization is pulling out all stops to get the team prepared for any eventuality that could occur. When asked if he had any other idea’s that he planned to try out, Francona said, “I have a few. Right now we’ve been trying out a plan to help Julio Lugo reduce the amount of errors he has in the field. It involves a metal ball and a high powered magnet inserted into his glove. Lugo hasn’t got all the kinks worked out of it yet and right now he’s pretty bruised up, so we’ll wait until he heals up and try some more.”

     Good Luck Tito…..

Varitek Happy-Backup Job Now the Question

By Chris Cue
February 15, 2009

     Red Sox captain Jason Varitek met with the press yesterday to answer questions on the ordeal of the off season and his thoughts on what transpired. The Boston Globe’s web site (Boston.com) has the entire video of that interview HERE.

     Varitek looked to be in great shape and had mostly positive things to say regarding his role with the organization. He noted that it was his goal during the off season to persue a multi-year deal with the Red Sox first, then look elsewhere if he had to. He added that he instructed his agent Scott Boras to exhaust every opportunity with the Red Sox before he offered Varitek’s services to other teams. Boras never had the opportunity to peruse those other teams because it was Varitek’s intention to hold out (as we know) for as long as he could to get something done with the only team he has ever played for. He wanted more then anything else to get those years and to eventually retire with the team. Money matters aside, both Varitek and the organization got what they wanted and both are apparently very happy with the final outcome.

     With Varitek’s and the teams goals regarding him completed, the attention now turns to who will replace Kevin Cash as the Backup Catcher for the 2009 season. The Red Sox currently have 4 candidates in house to compete for that spot and they are: Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner. It is widely believed by most that Bard is the front runner, but just as the Sox plan to give each a fair look, so should we.

Here is how the competition stacks up:

Josh Bard – Most will recall Bard’s failed attempt to serve in this role back in 2006. Unable at the time to handle Tim Wakefield’s knuckle ball, he was traded to the Padres for the return of Doug Mirabelli. Bard went on with the rest of that season batting .338 with 40 RBI’s and 9 Home Runs in 93 games for San Diego. In 2007, he posted a respectable .285/51/5 in 118 games, but he had an injury plagued year in 2008 that limited his playing time to just 57 games. Bard’s strength is clearly his potential offensive contributions. While he is not considered a poor receiver, his inability in the past to successfully catch Tim Wakefield, coupled with his poor Stolen base/Caught stealing numbers (288/67 lifetime) is certainly enough to give one pause before handing the job over to him. Runners like to run on Wakefield and Bard’s poor ability to throw them out could be a deciding factor.

George Kottaras – Has spent 6 years in the Minor Leagues, 2 of which were spent with the Red Sox AAA affiliate in Pawtucket RI. Kottaras has experience catching the Paw Sox knuckle ball pitcher Charlie Zink. Zink however, throws a much different type of pitch then Wakefield and is regarded as the easier one of the 2 to catch. Kottaras saw very limited time with the Red Sox in 2008. His 3 games last season represent his entire Major League career. The one factor which may play in his favor is that he is out of options. Simply put, that means if he doesn’t get the backup role, the Red Sox can not demote him back to AAA without first putting him on waivers. It would seem likely that with the shortage of quality catchers across MLB, some team would pick him up before the Red Sox had the opportunity to re-assign him. Kottaras is seen as a decent backstop, however many have questions regarding his ability to compete at the Major League level. He has some pop in his bat. Despite his .243 Batting Average, he hit 22 Home Runs with 65 RBI’s in 107 games last season with Pawtucket.

Dusty Brown –  Brown might just be the big surprise in this race. He’s a quality Catcher with a strong arm and an improving bat. Like Kottaras, Brown also has experience catching Charlie Zink, so he’s not unfamilar with catching a knuckle ball. At 26 years old, he may well be coming into his own. Last season when Theo Epstein stated that he didn’t think the future Catcher for the Red Sox was yet inside the organization, Brown took those remarks as a personal challenge and went on to improve his offensive numbers posting a .290 Batting Average along with 12 Home Runs and 55 RBI’s in 84 games for the Paw Sox last season. Of the 4 candidates, Brown may well be regarded as the most complete Catcher in the group. Watch this guy he may just surprise everyone.

Mark Wagner – Not many give Wagner a real shot at making the club this year. He’s young, only 24 years old and viewed as needing some more experience to reach his potential. Wagner spent last season with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox AA affiliate. While there, he showed that his biggest attribute was behind the plate. Wagner was not an offensive threat last season. He batted just .219 with 10 Home Runs and 48 RBI’s in 94 games for the Sea Dogs. Still young, his place in this years Spring Training camp is being looked at as a learning experience. An opportunity to observe and work with Jason Varitek is something that Wagner himself say’s is his goal while in camp.. “You can learn a lot by watching him. He’s not a bad guy to try to
follow in his footsteps and hopefully I can continue to open up more
eyes.”
The Red Sox, always eager to expose young talent to the Major League atmosphere, are giving him that opportunity this year.

     While Theo Epstein continues to say that a main goal for the organization is to find Varitek’s eventual replacement, those 4 players have a smaller, but still difficult goal to achieve first. Each is looking to just become this seasons backup to Varitek. Can one of them eventually step forward and become the player Epstein is looking for? Anything is possible, but the current goal for each of them is to be given an opportunity to show what they have and to learn from one of the best. Varitek has stated that he is eager to mentor whomever the Red Sox decide upon. Whether it is Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown, Mark Wagner or someone outside the organization, that individual will have to make it on the 25 man roster first. The competition for that spot is now underway. 4 players, one spot to fill. May the best man win.

Varitek Admits to Using “Cream”


Posted by Nick Cafraudo – Boston staff writer
February 12, 2009

FORT
MYERS, FL: Earlier today, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek met with
reporters after he let it be known that he wanted to “Make a full
disclosure”. Shortly after 11am this morning, Varitek, standing at a
podium inside the club house of the player development facility, said
the following:

     “Thank you for coming. I thought it best to
step forward at this time and clear the air. I have indeed used a cream
type substance in the past to improve my physical condition. I wanted
to be upfront about the situation and not hide any longer. I am
uncomfortable discussing this issue, but I do feel somewhat relieved to
know that 103 other Major League players tested positive for this as
well back in 2003. For the longest time I hid this from everyone. I
suffered alone and as it turns out, I didn’t have to. It was a
performance itch that I couldn’t help but scratch….a burning painful
itch that just wouldn’t go away and I didn’t know what to do about it,
so I turned to a cream to help me. I’m ashamed of my behavior and I
want the world to know I’m sorry for it.”

Immediately after his
statement, Varitek opened the news conference up to questioning. Dan
Shaughnessy from the Boston Globe asked Varitek if he would state the
name of the cream he used and if he would also disclose who he got it
from. Varitek responded by saying:
“I got it at a local Supermarket and bought it in one of those self-checkout lines to avoid embarrassment”
Shaughnessy followed up his questioning with:
“You bought a Steroid at a local supermarket?”
“Steriod?” Varitek asked.
“No
I had hemorrhoids. I got a cream to help me out. I honestly didn’t know
hemorrhoids were banned from MLB, so I never said anything. I used a
cream to relieve the itch and I’m sorry for it.”
Shaughnessy blurted out “Wrong Roids Tek”

The
press conference ended shortly after that, but this reporter can’t help
but wonder if a smelly ball with a greasy substance may have helped
Varitek and his pitchers achieve those no hitters he’s credited for…..
One thing is for certain, from this day forth, Varitek will be known as the
undisputed king of “Preparation…. H”

🙂

A Little “This and That”

By Chris Cue

February 5, 2009

     Call it “Tid Bits” or just a “Red Sox Run Down”, here are a few blurbs that are worth taking note of today…..

     Kevin Millar is reportedly about to ink a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays. Good for Kevin! While I’m not much of a “Cowboy Up” kinda guy, Kevin was one of the “Idiots” and I’m glad to see he’ll have a home next season.

     Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo appear to be at the center of what will be this years Spring Training drama. Terry Francona would not commit to either player having the full time Short Stop position locked down. A little competition never hurt anyone, but will the Red Sox fan base that lost confidence in Lugo be willing to support him once again if he wins the starting job?

     Health Watch: Another story Red Sox fans will be closely following this Sping is the performances of Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. Both are reportedly doing fine, but the proof will be in their productivity. Lowell, who is hoping to be ready for opening day, is coming off hip surgery and Ortiz, who was bothered last season by a wrist injury, will each be watched closely. The Red Sox have a lot riding on both of these players being healthy and productive, so it’s safe to assume that until opening day, Theo Epstein won’t know if he’s done with the trade or free agent market.

     Jon Lester, who showed up at camp 2 days ago, was recently tested and was shown to have one of the strongest shoulders in the Red Sox organization. It might be time to put away those worries about his innings increase last season.

     Sub-Plot “C”: With Jason Varitek all but signed, sealed and delivered, further down on the “watchful eye” list will be who will win the backup catchers role. Honestly, this little battle should attract more attention then it will likely get from the press. It’s widely believed that Varitek’s role will be somewhat deminished from previous years making the backup catcher a little more important then just being Wakefields personal caddy. If Varitek is only going to see action for 100 or so games, then the #2 guy will be counted on for roughly 1/3 of the season. That’s nothing to take lightly.

     The Nervous Nelly Club: Many finger nail biting members of the Red Sox fan base have turned their attention to what the team 100+ miles to the Southwest have done this offseason. It might calm their nerves a little bit if they remembered that in 2007, the Yankees actually won the head to head match ups with the Red Sox. The Sox however, won the AL East, the ALDS, the ALCS and The World Series that year. This also might be a good time to remember that there are 162 games in the season. The Red Sox only play the Yankees in 18 of those.

     Final note: Truck Day is tomorrow. The long absense of Baseball being played is almost over. Close your eyes, use your imagination and you can almost smell the grass and hear the balls being hit off the bats. This is a great time to be a Baseball fan. Think about it, even the Pittsburg Pirates will be in first place on opening day!….Enjoy!

Tito Talks Shop Heading Into Spring Training

By Chris Cue
February 4, 2009

     Terry Francona sat down for a little question and answer session with MLB.com’s Ian Browne recently. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, you’ll find the complete interview HERE.

     There are a few answers that Tito gave that I’d like to put my 2 cents in on. The first is his response to the Short Stop position heading into Spring Training.

Francona: Well, I would say right now it’s pretty wide open. I’ve never really been in that situation here. It’s kind of a unique situation. You’ve got a guy who you give a four-year deal to for a lot of money and he gets hurt. A guy comes in and plays really well for a while and then he kind of tails off — but again, he handled himself really well and I think his future is really bright. He was also injured, to boot. Saying that, I don’t know if I believe in competing in Spring Training. What we’ll do is we’ll sit down with both of them the first day, we’ll explain to them how we feel. And we’ll try to put the best team out on the field. I’m also a firm believer that things take care of themselves. We’re not going to look at their batting average every day and things like that. We’re just going to try to put our ballclub in the best position to win. However that ends up, it will be my responsibility.

My take: I think I would rather have heard him say something along the lines of “It’s Lowrie’s position to lose”, but knowing Tito, he gave the politically correct answer as usual. I’m fairly sure that the job is indeed Jed’s to lose, however Tito wouldn’t have said “It’s wide open” if Lugo didn’t have a shot at winning his spot back. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Either way, you can expect Lugo to get a fair amount of playing time. $9 million sitting on the bench isn’t easy to trade away. He’ll have to see action if the club intends to explore trade opportunities for Julio’s services.

Tito also had this to say regarding Jason Varitek’s possible reduced role in 2009:

Francona: I’ve heard all the talk but I’ve never had anyone ask me before. I think it’s unfair to say that before the season starts. Knowing Tek, he works so hard. Just for me to come right out before the season starts and say, yeah, we’re going to do this or do that … you know what? That’s not the case. The season will take care of itself.

If Tek needs rest, that’s my responsibility, to know that he needs rest. But again, that’s like saying you’re going to pinch-hit for a guy in February. I really don’t want to. That’s like saying a guy is going to have a tough year before the year starts. We’re talking about the captain of our team, and he means a lot. I just have to be a believer in him so we’ll let it play itself out. If he needs rest, we’ll give it to him. And again, you have to realize, he will be 37 years old. I understand that. I don’t want to run him into the ground because I’ve probably done that before because we rely on him so much. We’ll try to use good judgment.

My take: Again, I think we’re seeing the politically correct answers from Tito regarding Varitek. Reading between the lines here is what I think is important. Tito wouldn’t have brought up his age, pinch hitting for him or the fact that they have used him too much in the past if it wasn’t a concern. What is clear is that Tito is willing to let the season and Jason’s play dictate what he will and won’t do. If Varitek is batting .280 into July, I’m pretty sure Tito isn’t going to be thinking about pinch hitting for him. The converse of that is if he’s batting .220 at that time. If that’s the case, then I think the Captain will need to sit down during the late innngs of close games.

     The entire Q&A is worth reading and I would encourage you to do so. Tito also covers other topic’s and players such as: John Smoltz, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell’s health concerns, Jacoby Ellsbury’s need for consistency, Clay Buccholz and Michael Bowden’s possible 2009 contributions, Daisuke’s involvement in the WBC, the addition of Rocco Baldelli to the club and he discusses his own health situation as well.

     Just as a side note: Truck Day is this Friday and Jon Lester is already in Ft. Myers!

     Go Baseball!!