Tuesday, June 30

Jon Lester: See How Much He Poured?

Quick lunchtime post just to say Jon Lester is on fire. I mean, the guy friggin beat cancer, like shutting down the Orioles is going to be that tough for him? Last night's performance was a dominate one, but you can't help feeling that it was a routine outting for the 25 year old. Just another day at the office for Lester, you know, punch in, go 7 strong innings without surrendering a run, then punch out. Done.

Teams are lookign at their schedules against the Sox and praying they don't get both Beckett and Lester right now, because if they do, they're going to lose that series (ITM note, no matter what, the Sox apparently don't like to sweep anymore, they give away the final game of the series in pitty).

The early season struggles for Lester seem to be long gone and hard to find.....Consider Lester's last six starts...... 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA. Add that in with his money wife and his recent sweet long term contract with the Sox...and Lester on a roll for sure.

Round 2 for Smoltz tonight. It seems like there is something "big" to look forward to every night as a Sox fan. Something my fiance` is quickly starting to hate. God forbid I help with the weddign planning, "this is Smoltz' second start, it's a huge game".

Go Sox.

Monday, June 29

Shifting Concerns

It was only a few days ago that we were all stressing over the concept of having too much pitching, floating trade ideas for Brad Penny, and wondering if Smoltz's arm would fall off pitching on a major league mound. Well with Dice-K going to the DL, Smoltz still being alive, and Brad Penny producing quality start after quality start, the stress has somewhat subsided.

Enter Mike Lowell's surgically-repaired hip. Since waking up with stiffness on June 18, Lowell is just 1 for 14 and has started just four games for the Sox. Right now, the Red Sox are in Baltimore, ready to kick off a three game series against the O's, but Lowell sits up here in the rainy paradise that is Boston. He is scheduled to have a shot of a lubricating gel today, which may help to coat the joint and relieve some of his stiffness. The key word there is MAY. The gel has been known to work for some, while doing absolutely nothing for others (including Tito himself).

Tito has not ruled out a stint on the DL for Lowell, and the longer this stiffness goes on, the more likely it seems to occur. Lowell's bat is certainly a significant one in a lineup that prides itself on its depth.

Sure Mark Kotsay has been playing pretty well in as a filer, but he's a role player for a reason, and constant starts may expose his weaknesses. With Kotsay at first, the outfield depth suddenly becomes an issue, especially with the seemingly constant band aids of JD Drew and Rocco roaming around out there (ITM note, Drew has been relatively healthy this year, but his production numbers are concerning).

The last related concern with Mike Lowell's hip to consider is Kevin Youkilis and his recent struggles to hit while manning the hot corner. He is hitting just .250 in 11 games while playing third base, managing to whiff 14 times in 36 at bats.....not very Youkilis-like. It could just be a individual slump regardless of position, but it's something to keep an eye on for sure.

This might be ITM making a mountain out of a mole hill, hopefully Lowell needs a week or two to get himself right, but if this becomes an extended issue, the Sox may have different needs come the trade deadline.

Saturday, June 27

Ellsbury and Pedroia

What else does Jacoby Ellsbury need to do to win his job back? And what else does Dustin Pedroia need to do to help him out? A month into the experiment, and the results are a little troubling, even if a little ambivalent.

Hitting in the bottom third of the lineup over the span of June, Ellsbury is hitting .328 (21 for 64), with a .413 OBP and a .500 SLG.

Hitting leadoff, Pedroia has fallen into a well-publicized slump, hitting .207 (18 for 87), with only a .266 OBP. Those are a drastic fall from the April and May numbers.

Add onto that their respective numbers with runners in scoring position. This is, in fact, one of the few areas that Pedey has not seen a big-time drop-off. His season RISP number is still an impressive .357, whereas Ellsbury has been unable, despite his success over the last month, to crank his RISP up over .273. Respectable, but not overwhelming. Even where they flip the good for the bad, the numbers suggest that they're in their placement in the lineup is off.

Even the theory that Ellsbury's speed might be better utilized low in the lineup, where he can feel free to run without destroying situations for the 2-5 big dogs, has failed to pan out. Ellsbury's steal numbers, despite the increased on-base percentage, are exactly even with his numbers out of the lead-off spo, if not a little lower.

In fact, there's really only one stat that seems to offer empirical proof in favor of the move. 17-6. That's the Sox record over the month of June. Talk about playing a trump card.

But as Pedey continues to struggle (though come on, don't you love him even more when you see him making something out of nothing, desperate to get out of this slump, turning an infield hopper into a double, drawing balks, scoring on passed balls?), and Ellsbury continues to climb, it's going to be harder and harder for Francona to brush it off and say why mess with a good thing. It's a long season, and it's all about making the right adjustments at the right time.

Update (4:35 pm):  According to the Fox broadcasting team, Terry Francona told them that he plans on keeping Pedroia and Ellsbury in their current lineup spots for the remainder of the season.  Big surprise.  Not sure if this information was accurately relayed, as the the guys definitely didn't seem to think it much of a story.  Wonder if there'll be any follow up on that in the post-game.

Thursday, June 25

Going Around the Horn

It's a big night for Red Sox Nation as the long awaited John Smoltz show begins. Let's quickly go around the horn before tuning into NESN and waiting for a sideline report from Heidi....

--John Smoltz returns to major league baseball tonight after tossing just 28 innings last year prior to his injury. Gone are the days of an overpowering pitcher, so I expect to see a guy spotting fastballs around 90 or 91 while emphasizing his change up. NESN has been pumping up this game ever since his start date was decided, we should all expect to be able to write Smotlz's wikipedia page by the time the game is over.

--David "I'm so back" Ortiz is batting cleanup tonight with Youk sitting out. I've got to hand it to Ortiz, we were all calling for his head just 3 weeks ago, but ever since he hooked that 304 foot home run around Pesky's pole, he's been the Big Papi of old. Speaking of old, perhaps he really isn't 37 like I've been telling everyone.

--Jason Bay is not a US citizen (although he'll be one soon). I find this absolutely hilarious for some reason. I'm not sure why, but Canadians just make me laugh. I don't care where he's from so long as he keeps hitting .340+ with RISP.

--Red Sox minor leaguers Casey Kelly and Junichi Tazawa were named to the All-Star Futures Game.....if you remember, ITM had a hint of man love for Tazawa....which will continue until he makes it to the big leagues and gives up a tater late and close.

--The Red Sox are over .500 on the road right now....which hasn't happened in ITM's relatively brief existence.....combine that with the first sign of sunshine since May...and that's cause for celebration.

--Just a general note here....maybe it's just me, but I'm at that point where I go into every single Sox game fully expecting to win. I know it's an unreasonable expectation, but I felt the same way for a lot of 2007 too, and that season turned out pretty well.

--Lastly, I'm running in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge tonight. Which unfortunately starts at 7:15pm.....honestly.....when they heard John Smoltz was making his Red Sox debut, why not reschedule the race? 12,000 people would understand. Dumb.

So long as I get through the race without re-rupturing my Achilles, I'll be flying home to ice down and get behind Smoltz.....provided he's still in the game. Go Sox.

Tuesday, June 23

Das Capitol

Here are a few notes picked up from watching the away broadcast of tonight's 11-3 Sox victory over the Nationals. Always nice to get another angle (at least when you don't have to deal with Ron *$#@ing Singleton), especially when we're talking about a city that has to get worked up for a Sox visit, since they don't get to actually vote in Congress. (You know, I love you, DC.)

---The Nats are predicting that Thursday's game will be the highest attendance ever at the park. That includes the night they unveiled the new stadium.

---The Nationals brass was 'hoping' that the fan balance would be 50-50. They were expecting it to be more like 60-40. The District is abuzz with the Boston visit. Call anyone you know in DC. Everyone's talking about it, not just New England expats.

---This was the Aflac trivia tonight, and it was pretty crazy. What two pitchers have the all-time lowest ERAs through their first 3 full seasons? Nationals broadcaster Rob Dibble and Sox reliever Takashi Saito. Okay, who, in a million years, would have guessed that?

---Another piece of trivia: the Sox 9th inning catcher, Dusty Brown, was the 1052nd pick in the 2004 draft. And the Nationals guys were pretty damn excited for him getting in there. (Brown is currently listed on ESPN as making $0 this year. That can't be right, can it? Are the Sox taking volunteers? I'm going to DC.)

---Play-by-play man Bob Carpenter and color commentator Dibble had a lengthy discussion during the Sox eighth inning rally about the main differences they've seen in the Sox and the Yankees. (Remember, the Nats just took 2 out of 3 from the Yanks before Boston arrived. Not to mention the same from Toronto.) With the bases loaded and Jason Bay at the plate, Dibble said the following: 'The Sox are situational hitters. It seems like the Yankees pop out or strike out in this position because they're going for a grand slam.' What happened? A little bingle. The consensus between the broadcast team was that the Yankees just don't seem to play like a team, whereas the Sox, in their opinion, are filled with guys who 'play the game right' and enjoy doing it together. That was all said during a Sox rally, so take it with a grain of salt, but I still enjoyed hearing it from disinterested observers.

---A lot of questions are being asked about what the Nationals need to do to fill up that park on a more consistent basis. Only the Marlins and the Pirates are averaging a smaller attendance this year, apparently. It's early still in the team's DC history, but they've got to start building some momentum. They're in a great city, but in a way they're vulnerable in the same way the Florida teams are. DC is dominated by people who grew up somewhere else. Like Miami. Like Tampa. Let's hope they avoid the south Florida phenomenon, and get something more along the lines of that Redskins pride. It's a beautiful park and a big market. They just need to put together some consistent winning. There's gonna be a lot of pressure on Strasburg and, potentially, Bryce Harper, to build this into a marquee NL franchise.

Monday, June 22

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

Not a lot of panic in New York. Not nearly as much as followed the last Boston sweep. But still, we thought you might like a few headlines and snippets after a weekend that put the Sox 4 up in late June. Enjoy.

NY Post - CC Ya Later. (Nice twist of the Michael Kay call. I can't help but find that signature damn annoying. Otherwise, Michael Kay is pretty good. Still, with Ken Singleton on the color commentary, I don't wish the YES network on any of you.) "It took a $161 million arm to bark for the spotlight to dim on Alex Rodriguez's return from a two-game starting hiatus. With all eyes on Rodriguez to see how his fatigued body would respond to the first start since Thursday, Yankees ace CC Sabathia left the mound in the second inning with what was diagnosed by Dr. Dan Kanell as biceps tendinitis."

NY Post - Yankees Protest Lineup Snafu. (I mean, sure you've gotta get every game you can, but still, I enjoyed the smell of desperation in this.) "With pitcher Leo Nunez in the leadoff spot after Alejandro De Aza hit for Renyel Pinto in the seventh, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez doubled-switched left fielder and leadoff man Chris Coghlan out of the game. But with Coghlan in left as Nunez warmed up, Girardi told plate umpire Tim Timmons that Nunez couldn't be hitting first if Coghlan was in the game. And Girardi told Timmons not to warn the Marlins. After Nunez's first pitch, Girardi went back to Timmons, who gathered the umpires to discuss a situation Timmons told Girardi he never had seen before...It likely will fall into the laps of Joe Garagiola, senior VP of baseball operations, or Ed Burns, VP of baseball operations.
According to Girardi, if the protest is upheld, the game would be resumed with the Marlins leading 6-3 at the start of the eighth inning." (Pretty interesting. Wonder if the Yankees will come back within a base hit again.)

NY Daily News, A-Rod to Sit out One Day a Week. "Joe Girardi plans to rest A-Rod once a week for the next month, a plan Rodriguez said was devised by Dr. Marc Phillipon, the Colorado surgeon who operated on his hip in March. 'That sounds like a good plan,' A-Rod said Sunday. 'From what I understand, that comes from Vail (Colo.) and Dr. Philippon. We'll follow his instructions and regroup in a month. The idea is that I'll get stronger each month.'" (I understand doctor's orders and everything, but isn't your franchise player supposed to at least pretend like he doesn't want a day off every week, like it's tearing him up inside?)

NY Daily News, The Manager doth Protest too Much. "There's an old saying that every day you go to the ballpark, you might see something you’ve never seen before. That was certainly the case Sunday night. I saw CC Sabathia leave a game in the second inning, and while that has actually happened twice before, the last time was 2004, so I had personally never seen it...I saw two separate fights in the stands during the eighth inning, and while I’ve certainly seen my share of those, one of them involved two women who were fighting like Wendi Richter and the Fabulous Moolah. These two women weren’t having a stereotypical slap fight - they were throwing haymakers, essentially shifting all eyes in the ballpark in their direction. I had definitely never seen that before. But the most interesting thing that I had never seen before actually took place at the same time as the aforementioned fight. It was Joe Girardi halting the game in the top of the eighth to protest something to the umpires, apparently believing that the Marlins had taken part in some type of illegal substitution."

NY Times, Humble Josh Johnson Humbles the Yanks. (This one's from yesterday, but I thought the angle was pompous enough to include anyway.) The Florida Marlins’ Josh Johnson is 25 years old, young enough to still be awed to share a field with the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. At least, after the game he was awed. During it he was thrilled to strike out Jeter with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Johnson punctuated the moment with a rare fist pump. 'Striking out Derek Jeter, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life, I’m sure,' Johnson said. 'One of the best players in the game, one of the best players of all-time, I think. One of the most respected players, too. That’s when I got a little emotional, when I struck him out.'" (Yup, a story about how the Yankees are so great it humbles young ballplayers to beat them up. Well done, New York Times.)

Sunday, June 21

Sunday Night Takeaways

Just thought I'd share a few quick takeaways on my mind as I get ready to wrap up another blur of a weekend:

-Anyone else think that Nick Green looks just like Wes Welker? Seriously, google image it.

-Walk off celebrations are the best. There is nothing like it, especially for the Red Sox. Since 2004 it has turned into a chance to absolutely pound on the guy who just won the game for you. Today for example saw Youk, Dusty, and even Mike Lowell throwing punches at Greenie after crossing the plate. I love it. (also, not sure if you saw it, but on their way out of the dugout to meet Green, Youk whacked Dusty in the back of the head just because....it's like someone hits a walk off and they can get away with beating on anyone).

-Isn't it amazing how you really can't have too much pitching? Dice-K appears to be shelved for an extended period of time. You gotta think that something will happen over the next few weeks that will require Buchholz to come up from Pawtucket as well. That's just how things work.

-Papelbon continues to annoy me. Not only has he not pitched a clean 9th since Nam', he stomped his feet and yelled at the umpire on his way off the mound after loading the bases. Sure it was a close call that could have easily been called a strike, but the next thing you know Papelbon will be holding his breath threatening to tell mom.

-Ortiz crushed one to the opposite field today.....a great sign. Combine that with the fact the terrible weather conditions and you've got to be excited for Ortiz. Of course I didn't start him in my fantasy league, dumb.

-Ramon Ramirez is getting racked around lately. I don't think it's a result of overuse or the word of the week "fatigued", but something is definitely up with Ramon. He's gone from absolutely lights out to always finding too much of the plate. I'm assuming he'll be taking Youk out for dinner since he saved his ass in the 7th today.

-The weekend concludes with the Sox now 4 full games up on the Yanks in the AL East (assuming the Yanks "protest" doesn't pan out). There is something calming about being 4 games up as opposed to 3. I'm sure it's all in my head, but 4 seems like an actual division lead....and with the Nationals up next, that lead shouldn't diminish.

Saturday, June 20

Let's Hope It's Physical and Not Mental

I didn't see every pitch, but I certainly saw enough of Dice-K last night to hope that there is something physically wrong with him. At 28, we're certainly not scared of him being on the decline, which leaves us to wonder if it's physical or mental. We should consider ourselves lucky if it's only a case of tired arm or a shoulder strain. However if Dice-K is pulling a Dontrelle Willis, where it's a mental case, the Sox will take heat for the huge investment they made in the Japanese god of full counts.

Was it me, or did he appear to be short-arming some pitches, resulting in a lack of velocity and many balls to dive low and away? (juuuust a bit outside...all night) Hopefully he's over-thinking his mechanics and a trip to Pawtucket will go a long way in bringing him back to form.

However, combine a potential mental issue with the whole Japanese thing and forget it, John Farrell would rank just behind the South Koreans in the last people I would want to trade places with poll.

One thing is for sure, Dice-k needs to be open to a full evaluation and a possible trip to either triple A, or the DL. At least he appears to know he's been terrible..."If I keep going like this, I have no right to be a part of this rotation"....Damn straight Dice-K...because in your most important start of the year you just made the decision to keep Penny and Smotlz in the rotation an easy one.

Friday, June 19


(I've got it on good authority that that's real slang in the D.R. - I didn't just make it up for the convenience of this headline.)

Pedro Martinez is throwing for scouts from several M.L.B. clubs today in the Dominican Republic. So far, the Rays and Cubs have been thought to be the most interested potential suitors. Moreno's Angels have also joined the fray. But there's rumored to be a surprise guest at today's demonstration.

Word in New York is that the Yankees will also be sending their man in Santo Domingo to watch. No one knows whether there is real interest from the squad - although their starting pitching has struggled at times, they have plenty of numbers for the rotation (think Phil Hughes trying to force his way back in a la Clay Buchholz). Some think that the Yankees are merely attending to appease Fern Cuza, agent to Pedro and Mariano. New York City hasn't had much luck with Pedro, but if he can flash any of the old stuff, the Yankees would no doubt love to have his piss and vinegar on their side for a change.

More on this story when (if) it develops.

Update (12:01 pm): Here's how John Heyman handicaps the Pedro suitors in today's Daily Scoop: 1. Cubs, 2. Angels, 3. Dodgers, 4. Rays, 5. Mets, 6. Yankees.

Wednesday, June 17

Is Dice-K Secretly Pulling for Florida Tonight?

(ITM note: this was drafted on a blackberry while stuck on a subway crowd of suburban pink hats who can't find their way to Fenway Park)...

I wonder if somewhere in the Sox dugout, Dice-k is secretly praying for a rough outing from Brad Penny tonight.

The Sox are clicking in a number of areas of late, and as a result, are winning a lot of games. Save of course for Dice-K. I understand the Dice man must agree to any demotion or movement, but tonight's start may be just as important to him as it is to Penny.

Penny is certainly in the know, he comprehends how important this start against the Marlins is in determining his 2009 future. One thing is for sure, he's not holding back. From a verbal assault on Joe Girardi's recent whining to blasting 98 mph fast balls by hitters,Penny has a veteran edge to him that I enjoy.

The Sox have been considering a 6 man rotation of late, something most of us here at ITM dislike, but ultimately Brad Penny's value over the next few weeks may make that decision for Theo and company.

In what is nothing more than a "what have you done for me lately" comment, something about me wants to keep Penny around...Dice-K can't seem to get out of his own way, and as good as Smoltz has looked in his rehab, he's still unproven in the bigs this year while being much more likely to suffer a setback or injury.

So as much as I've built up Penny's performance tonight in my head, I end this post having convinced myself that Dice-K's next start is of even greater importance, possibly the biggest of the year.

Now if only everyone on this train could finally learn Boston's subway system.....

Tuesday, June 16

Pitching Pitching Everywhere

As John Smoltz prepares to make his debut with the Boston Red Sox the question on every one's mind is; what are the Sox going to do with all their starting pitching? Upon Smotlz return the Sox have 6 starting pitchers, 7 if you count Buchholz, and only 5 spots in the rotation. Smotlz was quoted this morning saying he thinks he'll start next Tuesday or Wednesday which gives the Sox a few more days to work something out.

Truthfully, we'll have to see how it plays out because no one knows what Theo and company are going to do, however here are my slightly less then educated opinions.

The Sox will not be going to a 6 man rotation, that takes starts away from Lester and Beckett. Although it would allow everyone an extra days rest, baseball players are said to be creatures of habit and messing with the pitching rotation is not something that's going to happen in June. Besides, does anyone really want to take starts away from Lester right now, he's in a groove.

There's been a lot of talk of kicking Dice K to the DL again, or possibly extended. That's the easy answer, but what hasn't been talked about is the fact that Dice K has to sign off on either of those plans. Certainly the Dice Man is pitching the worst of the 5 starters right now, but to write him off the DL skips a few steps, we'll have to see how Theo plays this scenario out.

Brad Penny looks like a different animal in his last few starts, particularly against the Yankees. It seems he's taken exception to everyone wanting to trade him when Smoltz was/is ready to pitch, and I love the fire he's pitching with. Penny was hitting 98 against the Yankees and he had a big enough pair to drill Arod. I was growing very tired of the Yanks pitchers buzzing and hitting Bay and Youk, good for Penny for standing up and telling Girardi to shut his mouth.

That said, depending on what the Sox get out of Smoltz, I wouldn't be opposed to trading high on Brad Penny. I think before July 31st if the Sox can get a bat and either Smoltz is putting up numbers roughly equivalent to Penny's and the right deal is out there, Theo pulls the trigger. Don't ask me what that deal is, but Penny is signed for a year and I think the lineup will probably need another bat before all is said and done.

Tony Mazz wrote about the possibility of moving Wake to the bullpen, he didn't take to that idea and neither am I. First of all, Wake is 54 years old, better that he's not throwing every day, even if it is a knuckle ball. More importantly, I'm not wild about messing with the bullpen right now, Tito seems to have an order worked out depending on the game of who he's going to use, throwing Wake in the mix mucks everything up.

Down on the farm you have Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowdin pitching out of their minds. I wouldn't rule out Bowdin being traded in the right deal, again we'll let Theo be judge and jury on that one and treat him with kid gloves if the deal is a disaster or revere him if he pulls another Bay deal off.

The other day Buchholz was asked point blank about how he feels about not pitching for the big club, rightfully so Clay was frustrated. His response received a little press because it wasn't the standard "whats good for the club is good for me". I do not think Buchholz was pushing for a trade or trying to stir up trouble, he was just being honest. After last year he has to be patient and continue to pitch well in Pawtucket, at some point his time will come.

One thing I do know is not everyone is going to remain healthy for the rest of year, as I said Wakefield is 54 years old, okay 42. Count on a starter going down with an injury at some point this season, and we'll all be happy when Smoltz or Buchholz can make a spot start or 2 at the time, it's a long season

As the old adage goes, you can never have too much pitching. Anyone who is complaining about the current situation should remember back to 2005 when David Wells was our number 1 starter. This is not a bad problem to have.

Monday, June 15

More Hot Stove

I think we should label this week something along the lines of, "A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned" or "Penny Lane" or "A Penny for your thoughts." There are just too many good options out there, and I can't be bothered deciding on one or making a rational argument as to its significance. I just know Brad Penny is the topic.

So, just a quick update on his value: it's going up.

Penny had his best outing of the season on Thursday night, throwing a gutsy 6 innings (117 pitches) without giving up an earned run to the Yankees. Then there was the Girardi brouhaha, where Penny reminded everyone he was a hard-nosed veteran with a competitive / mean streak (not always the best clubhouse guy, but possibly one you might want in a division dogfight down the stretch).

Then all that got followed up by a slew of injuries and changes of fortune that suddenly have Penny looking like one of the best veteran arms on the market. As John Heyman reported in today's SI, that market severely dried over the weekend, no doubt to the Sox' delight.

First there's Jake Peavey, who the Padres were shopping hard (a deal was a last-minute veto from getting done with CWS, remember), and who is now down for 8-12 weeks with an ankle injury. There's also Erik Bedard, reportedly the Phillies favorite addition, who was scratched from his weekend start due to "stiffness." The caution flags are suddenly raised around him. Heyman reports that Roy Oswalt, who looked like bigtime potential trade bait two weeks ago, is now "all but certain to stay in Houston." Even the last place Indians are finding their division so weak and their ace's stuff so nasty (see no-hit bid this weekend) and reasonably priced, that it would take something huge to pry away Cliff Lee at this point.

All that means that at the end of the week, it might very well be that the Sox are gonna look around the table to see that they're the only ones holding chips and cards. Is it possible that Theo, Clay, Smoltz, Penny, and the fans all somehow come out of this next two week stretch winners?

Check back into ITM.

Report: Wilson Trade Not Likely

According to a recent article out of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzate, the potential trade between the Red Sox and the Pirates for their gold-glove caliber short stop Jack Wilson appears all but dead. For the last few weeks Theo has been shopping around a similar strategy as he took in 2004 where he keyed in on the team's defensive liabilities.

Somehow, Jack Wilson is considered the Pirates prize possession and "franchise player". Apparently, that means they expect some of Boston's best young arms back in return....which I imagine Theo met with a "are you kidding?"....that's just not going to happen. Good for Theo for not making an irrational short term move.

After surprising us all on Saturday with a 4 for 5 day at the plate, Lugo reminded quickly reminded us why we hate him yesterday with another throwing error.....what seems like his 76th of the season at this point. Jed Lowrie is slated to take live batting practice in Lowell today in preparation for an upcoming rehab start this week.

We should consider any offensive output out of the short stop position a plus at this point. Clearly this lineup can hit, so hopefully Lowrie can focus on solidifying the defense up the middle of the field.

Saturday, June 13

Say Hello to Your Future Closer....and Lester Was Good Too...

ITM called it months ago, Daniel Bard is the real deal, and tonight Red Sox fans got a good glimpse of their future. With CincoOcho off limits after two stressful saves against the Yanks, Tito turned to the 23 year old flame thrower to close out a marathon of a game in Philadelphia. A walk, a hit batter, and three nasty strike outs later, it was over. The Red Sox win. (ITM note, all third strikes were via change ups after first blowing hitters away with 99 mph gas).

We all know Papelbon is looking for a record-breaking deal to keep him closing games for the Sox after 2011. Given the Boston's reluctance to provide long term deals for any pitcher, especially for ones they may expect to have shoulder issues in the future, you may have just watched your future closer in action tonight Is it VERY early in Bard's career, yes. Is just one chance to close down a game, yes. Am I sincerely over-tired and probably suffering from irrational man love for this guy.....probably. But one thing is for sure, the guy is a stud, has electric stuff, and could serve as a major player for this organization in the future in a number of ways.

And let's not forget about Lester. It feels like three days ago, but buried somewhere in tonight's 13 inning 5-2 win was Jon Lester's gem of a start. 7 innings, 2 hits, 1 earned run, and 11 K's, away from Fenway and against a good lineup....GEM. Lester is truly molding into his expected "vice ace" status. To put his piss poor start of the season int0 perspective, we all know how well he's pitched of late, but his ERA still stands at 4.76. One thing is for sure, Lester has made opponents look silly in the batters box. His K's per 9 innings has gone from 6.5 in 2008, to among the league leaders at 10.29 in 2009.

The recent, multiple shut down performances of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester serves as a reminder to all of us all how stupid the thought of a potential 6 man rotation really is. Why would you want to take starts away from Beckett or Lester in favor or a 5th or 6th starter. When these guys are throwing this well, it's going to be very hard for Boston to go into an extended losing streak or funk.

The Red Sox are rounding into form, and you have to be happy with what you've seen of late. I mean Christ, even Julio Lugo was a value-added contributor tonight. Good stuff.

Friday, June 12

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

A good morning all around. I recommend putting in the headphones and reading these headlines and snippets to a playlist of old Beatles. Start with I Feel Fine and you won't be sorry. Enjoy the weekend.

NY Post, Oh No! '09 Feeling like '04. "In every way, the Red Sox have the mental and physical edge now over the Yankees. This was shades of the 2004 ALCS when everything started going Boston's way...Listen to manager Terry Francona talk about this win and the roll the Red Sox are on and the way his team battled: 'There were a lot of key things,' Francona said. 'CC pitched like we didn't want him to pitch. He was strong and he was on all of his pitches and really good. And things happen, like we've seen happen here before.' A clear reference to 2004."

NY Post, What a Joke! "The Yankees insisted the Red Sox didn't rip their hearts out last night at Fenway Park with a come-from behind capper to a three-game sweep. As they packed for the short flight home, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher and manager Joe Girardi spoke of having a lot of schedule left. Yet, there was no ignoring that a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss to their blood rivals in front of 38,153 not only stretched their 2009 losing streak to the Red Sox to eight, but inserted a morsel of doubt."

NY Post, Subway Rivalry a Battle of No. 2's. (This has got to be my favorite angle of the day. Yes, it's my adopted home city, but we've got a love-hate thing going. I mean, I love Riverside Park and Tribeca after a good rain and the Film Forum and the taquerias and everything, but seriously, with 50% taxes and that smell in August, I'm gonna have to see you suffer a bit, New York.) "The three-game set be tween the Mets and Yankees that opens tonight in The Bronx will popularly be known as the Subway Series, but we've got a better name for it. The Consolation Round. We've got the Yankees, who cannot beat the Red Sox, going against the Mets, who cannot stay with the Phillies. This is baseball's Second Place City."

NY Post, Yankees in Denial About Big Picture. (If you feel like it's safe to enjoy this a bit since you won't have to reckon for the gloating until late summer, this is the one to read.) "Hey guys, I am here to tell you this: The Red Sox are the big picture. They have been for most of the last century and certainly for most of the last decade. CC Sabathia said, 'You don't like to get swept by a team in your division.' This is not just a team in the division. This is Boston. This is your main rival and now your measuring stick, and on this measuring stick the Yankees could not be any tinier. The Red Sox are embarrassing the Yankees. Ever since they became the first team ever to rally from 0-3 down to win a playoff series in the 2004 ALCS, Boston has seemingly been searching for new ways to humiliate the Yanks. And the Sox have come up with a doozy for this season. They are trying to go 18-0 against the Yanks. "

NY Daily News, Pitiful! (This one was the back cover. Nice morning subway ride that must have provided.) "If the Yankees and Red Sox are headed for a date with destiny in the ALCS as many believe, then Boston should start making World Series plans."

NY Daily News, Is Everyone Juiced Up for the Subpar Series? (All right, I can't get enough of this theme. I really enjoy the Strand, but I also have to walk through Times Square sometimes to get to the subway, so screw you, New York.)

NY Daily News, CC Comes Up Big, Yanks Don't. (This is the John Harper column for the morning. The best part of the Daily News's coverage? The fact that among the columnists, only Harper could bring himself to write about this series. Maybe Lupica normally takes Friday's off. Possible, but I'd like to think he just couldn't do it.)

NY Times, Yanks Will Have a While to Think about this One, After Red Sox Rally Late. "They have 55 days to let this settle, 55 days of killing time until they meet the Boston Red Sox again. For almost two months, the Yankees will live with the rancid aftertaste of another sweep by their rivals. No matter how the Yankees handle other teams, the notion that they cannot beat Boston will rattle around somewhere in their brains."

NY Daily News, Fenway Flop! Sox Sweep Yanks as 'Pen Collapses.

Thursday, June 11

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

Morning wrap up from New York, New York, the town so nice we beat it twice.

NY Post - This Sox! (I like this headline, but it kind of takes a second right? You understand right away that there's a wordplay, and it's not even like you have to think about it really, there's just a bit of a pause.)

NY Post - Youkilis, Bay Spark BoSox. "In many ways Bay is the opposite of Alex Rodriguez. He's certainly the less controversial of cleanup hitters. No one wants to do a book on Bay. Just write his name in the lineup and watch him produce." Note this, though - sales of the A-Rod book have been woefully disappointing. Apparently the first edition was about 160,000 copies, and so far they've sold only 15,000. That's a pretty crazy overestimation on an edition.)

NY Post - Boston's Pen Edge is No Bull.

NY Post - Eight Men Out Sequel Keeps Bombers Scoreless vs. Rivals. (Okay, this headline is just terrible. You can't make a baseball reference (the 1988 Black Sox flick) that has nothing to do with what you mean to signify here. It would be fine if Eight Men Out were just a common saying with no baseball significance. But as is, this thing is all messed up.) "Ten minutes after the latest loss to the Red Sox, Joe Girardi said he needed a night's sleep to decide if Chien-Ming Wang will start Tuesday. After watching Wang pitch with the command of a 4-year-old playing pin the tale on the donkey, Girardi likely tossed and turned into the small hours of this morning."

NY Post - Chien Ming Wang Must be Purged from Rotation. ('Purged?' Really? You really wanna bring up the Steinbrenner - Stalin analogy?) "[Y]esterday they tempted fate by sending out the man who can't win against the team they can't beat. The end result, therefore, was as big a surprise as the sun rising this morning."

NY Daily News - Wang Shouldn't be Sunk. "Still, once the emotion wears off Girardi needs to do the right thing and give Wang another chance. It was the Yankees who panicked and rushed him back to the majors when they were worried about Joba Chamberlain taking a ball off the knee, and if they give up on him now, well, what was the point? And it was Girardi who re-configured his starting rotation to put Wang into a spot where he had to face the Sox here at Fenway Park in his second start back from oblivion - not the ideal path to renewed success." (This is my favorite article of the day. Thoughtful and realistic. You just can't give up on a 19 game winner, especially when you just rushed him back from his minor-league starts and had him on strict pitch counts. That is not the time you throw him overboard.)

NY Daily News - Woe for Seven, Yanks can't solve Sox. (Nice job. Daily News wins the day's headlines.)

NY Daily News - Papelbon Heats Up, but Pedroia Saves Sox. (Yes, it was a nice, play, and yes the situation is different if there's a runner on third with one out, but the play was directly followed by a strike out and a pop out.)

NY Times - Wakefield Takes Aim at All-Star Game. (Kind of interesting. Well done, Times. I hadn't really heard much buzz about this, but Wakefield is up there with Halladay and Greinke, I guess, when you look at the win totals. ERA isn't great, but not too bad. Is this really possible? Apparently Wake is thinking about it.) "It would be huge,” Wakefield said. “It’s one thing that you want in a career is to make an All-Star team. We’ve won two World Series. Just add it to the list of things that you say you’ve accomplished in your career. Obviously, it would be nice to make a team, and, hopefully, I can continue to pitch the way I’ve been pitching and finally make one after 14, 15 years."

Wednesday, June 10

Please, Please Tell Me This is a Joke.....

Today was going well, after reading Joe Murph's post this morning about the frenzy that is the New York media, I was truly happy. The Sox are 6-0 and ripping apart the Yanks this year, Beckett has truly returned to 2007 form, and to cap it off, Ortiz crushed a tater to dead center on a night where the ball was traveling like it was full of lead as a result of the weather. Things were looking up Milhouse.

That is until I started reading some of the articles about how Ramiro Torres (you know, Jamin' 94.5's "freakin Puerto Rican") is slated to join NESN's post game show. Can this be serious? Is NESN that worried about its 14% dip in viewership that it is making irrational decisions in an attempt to build a following among Latinos (because we all know Latinos hate baseball and never watch).

I'm honestly praying this is a joke...maybe some kind of new jam scam they're trying out on the radio station? I put up with Jack Welch, but I can't deal with a gangsta radio DJ with no baseball career or background.

How will him and Jim Rice ever be able to understand each other?? My god I think I'd rather see Glenn Ordway on there.

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

Here's the scuttlebut from the city that never sleeps. (Yeah, I saw Guys and Dolls before it closed. So what? No dizzy dame is gonna tell me how to write a blog post. This is New York. I'll say scuttlebutt all I want.)

NY Post, AJ Awful. This article has an interesting bend, focusing on Girardi's taking the blame for Burnett's disasterous performance. "Girardi said his re-arranging of the Yankees' rotation to get Chien-Ming Wang a start last week, and a rainout Friday resulted in Burnett having to work on six days' rest. 'I tried to change the rotation,' Girardi said after the Red Sox pounded Burnett on the way to a 7-0 win in front of 37,883 at Fenway Park. 'I will take the blame for that.'" If I were Girardi right now, I'd be wary of getting into the habit of pointing out my flaws. They have been numerous so far this season. He shouldn't let himself get lulled to sleep on this winning streak. Despite the record, I know many loyal and informed Yankees fans who are getting real fed up with Girardi's gametime decision-making.

NY Post, Vintage Beckett Sox it to Yanks.

NY Post, Would-be Sox killer A.J. Burnett has pie on his face. This sounds like a turn of the century rag paper headline, doesn't it? Extrey extrey, read all about it, Yanks get pie on face. Big Willie Bryant tells Congress Gold Standard or Bust! Extrey extrey.

NY Daily News, A.J. gets pie in the face. Okay, seriously, New York? What's with the pies?

NY Daily News, Deep-Sixed, Bombers fall to Bosox again

NY Daily News, Yanks struggles with Sox may be mental. Good article to read if you're in the mood to pile it on the Yankees this morning. "It had the feel of one giant shoulder shrug meant as a compliment toward Beckett. Their recent hot streak buys them a night like this, at least everyone except Burnett, but not another one. They need to win tonight or officially lay down on the couch for some Red Sox therapy." Also gives the impression that if the Yanks re-jiggering of the rotation to get Wang a start doesn't go well tonight, there's going to be hell to pay tomorrow.

Pinstripe Alley, Around the Yankee Universe, paging the AJ we paid for edition

AM New York, Shorter Walls to blame for Yankee Stadium home run derby, report. This is seriously headline news in every New York paper today. I just liked the AM New York headline in particular since it so clearly states the obviousness of the conclusion. Some engineer-consulting firm got paid a lot of money to tell the Yankees that the reason more home runs are being hit in their new park is that the walls are shorter. Read that again. Man, I'm in the wrong racket.

And, always my favorite, the Old Grey Lady, who never disappoints...

NY Times, Teixeira Altered Dynamics of Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry. The New York Times, always with its finger on the baseball world's pulse, published a bizarrely-timed article this morning. The gist of it you can get from the headline - with Teixeira, the Yanks have a real edge over the Sox. Typical quotes from the story: "If the Red Sox had increased their offer, perhaps Teixeira would be doing that damage for them." Or how about this one: “'Mark Teixeira is our machine.' [said Nick Swisher.] Now that machine looms as a repetitive headache for the Red Sox." (And just to confirm, the article does include the numbers from last night's game. This was not published in the lead-up to this series.) The Yanks are now 0-6 against the Sox since the Teixeira signing. Teixeira is 5 for 21 against the Sox. I'm not saying he isn't having an excellent year. I'm not saying he's not going to do damage to the Sox. I'm just saying that the New York Times sports section is the most oblivious operation in the industry.

Tuesday, June 9

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

Headlines and snippets from this morning's New York papers. The theme: this team is chomping at the bits, and this city is feeling optimistic:

NY Post, It's Time for Yanks to Beat Boston: "The Yanks dropped three straight in Boston in April before losing two in a row in The Bronx last month, when they were still trying to crack the .500 mark. Since then, Alex Rodriguez has returned from hip surgery and Mark Teixeira's bat has woken up as the Yankees have surged into first place -- one game ahead of the Red Sox after last night's 5-3 victory over the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Now, the teams seem poised to renew their rivalry atop the division. But that doesn't change the fact that the Yankees are 0-5 against the Sox. 'Definitely, we need to win a game there,' Mariano Rivera said...'I haven't forgotten about it," Burnett said. "But that's in the past. Obviously, it leaves a taste in your mouth. I'm not gonna stew on it, not gonna do too much. We know how important this is. I have to attack.' Their captain, however, had a different view. 'It doesn't matter,' Derek Jeter said of the Yanks' struggles against the Sox. 'It makes no difference in [tonight's] game. We're due to win a game. I'm pretty sure they're not thinking about what happened before. We couldn't care less what happened the first five games. It has no bearing on this.'"

NY Post (Vacarrio), Girardi, Fans Looking Forward to 1st Place Clash: But they sure seem like the two best teams in the American League, no matter how many games the Rangers have won (including two out of three at Fenway Park this weekend). They sure look like the class of the AL, in a year when the Rays are still trying to catch fire and the Blue Jays are trying not to slide down a greased flume ride, when the AL Central champion seems a good bet to win only 85 or so games, when the Angels seem to pay every day for allowing Francisco Rodriguez to seek exile in the National League...'Any time you face the Red Sox,' Girardi said after last night's game, 'you know the implications of the games.'"

NY Daily News, Red Hot Yankees roll into Fenway and try to get 1st Win vs. Red Sox. "Boston beat the Yanks twice at the new Stadium, too. But the Yankees are clinging to the idea that they were a very different team the last time the rivals met. In fact, they were. After a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox on May 5, the Yankees were a third-place team with a .500 record (13-13). Hideki Matsui was their cleanup hitter, Ramiro Pena and Angel Berroa were holding down third base and Jose Molina was the regular catcher. Mark Teixeira was irking fans with his slow start and his .198 batting average was a neon reminder of the team's sluggishness every time it appeared on a scoreboard. Since then, they've gone 20-10. After two losses to the Rays following Boston's two-game sweep, A-Rod came back May 8 and the Yanks are 20-8 since, the best winning percentage in the majors over that time. Posada returned May 29 and the lineup looked more like the juggernaut the Yankees hoped for during spring training. The rotation has soared, too. Over the last 24 games (in which the Yanks are 18-6), starters are 11-2 with a 3.83 ERA. The Yankees have a 3.65 ERA during that span, third in the AL."

Even a bit of the same rotation bombast that the Sox have come down with of late. Might come as news to Sox fans that the Yanks, too, feel bloated with starters:

NY Daily News, As Joe Girardi Juggles Rotation, Pettitte holds own, for now. "When there are six quality starters vying for five spots, every outing becomes a bit of an audition - no matter how many big games you boast in your resume. You got the feeling Monday night that Andy Pettitte was one more shaky outing away from a controversy, from people talking about his control problems, about his aching back muscles and about Phil Hughes wasting away in the bullpen. Pettitte did fine, though."

All in all, the Yanks are clearly feeling good about themselves. Let's hope you can check in over the next few mornings to find them taken down a notch.

Sunday, June 7

Who is this Jack Wilson guy Anyway?

It was the best of times (Saturday) and the worst of times (Sunday) for the Red Sox this weekend, we'll keep it at that. Off the diamond, rumors continue to swirl and heat up in regards to who will be playing short stop for the Red Sox after the trade deadline. One thing is for sure, it will not be Julio Lugo. The Sox have been window shopping for weeks now, but more phone calls are being made each day at this point. One short stop of particular interest is Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson.

Being in Pittsburgh, no one knows a thing about this guy, so ITM figured it would be good to pull a little information on the 31 year old.....who inevitably will suck if Theo acquires him to play short in Boston.....it may be the only thing/position Theo has really struggled with since becoming a god in New England.

Current Stats:
.273 average, 1 hr, 19 rbi, .299 OBP - 5 errors committed

Scouting Report

Has an excellent glove at short, complete with soft hands, range and an accurate arm. Hits to all fields and is good at setting the table. Everything Julio Lugo can't do at this point.

Doesn't always hit for a high average or take advantage of his running ability on the base-paths. Isn't great at taking bases on balls regularly (Theo/his staff can change that)

Future Potential:
An average everyday shortstop, solid in most areas without the flash or power of others in his position.

To me, he's what Jed Lowrie likely will be when he gets back from his wrist injury. Perhaps his production numbers increase slightly in a better lineup, but he will also be facing better pitching on a consistent basis in the AL East vs the NL Central. Sure he is slated to make almost 2 million less than Lugo, but I don't see a measured improvement over a healthy Jed Lowrie here.

Parting with a young arm or anyone besides Lugo for Wilson would be a tough pill to swallow. He's a solid ballplayer in a small market, there is nothing wrong with that, I just don't see the true value add of acquiring him at this point.

Bring on the Yanks.

Friday, June 5

Closing Concerns

The Red Sox ended their road trip with a rarity over the past few seasons, an away series sweep. Doing it convincingly over a division leader is particularly impressive, but in true ITM form, we don't let Red Sox Nation get too excited for too long....

Enter Jonathon Papelpon. Once again yesterday, I was left sweating in the 9th inning. This time at my desk at work, I couldn't help but scream at Gamecast...things got weird. While Pap ultimately got the job done, he has yet to show true signs of the Papelbon of old.

To get into his stats a little, I'll point to a few comparative categories highlighted by the Herald yesterday:

K to BB: 2008: 9.63 2009: 2.55

WHIP: 2008: 98.4 2009: 1.46

Walk per AB: 2008: 34.10 2009: 9.45

SB against: 2008: 2 2009: 7

Pitches per Inn: 2008: 15.2 2009: 19.0

Where has the lights-out closer gone? I no longer walk away from the TV in the 9th to grab a beer in preparation to celebrate another Sox victory. Instead, I'm more concerned with Pap coming in than just about anyone else in our bullpen....when did this happen? I haven't been this worked up about the 9th inning since the infamous closer by committee attempt.

The media continues to point to the fact that he just isn't throwing as many strikes (including first pitch strikes) this season. His velocity is still there, but his mechanics were tweaked over the offseason in an attempt to save his shoulder down the road. Granted it's a tough balance, but perhaps there is a need to reevaluate the changes made. While the mechanical change may be relieving stress on his shoulder throughout the pitching motion, he is not only struggling to throw strikes and hit his spots, he is throwing many more "stressful pitches", known around baseball to cause damage in the long term.

Whatever they did, it's leading to moments of near cardiac arrest for Red Sox Nation, and these tense late game scenarios will only continue to get worse as we work our way through the season. Maybe Red Sox Nation should consider taking beta blockers when shipping up to Boston comes on the loud speaker.

Thursday, June 4

Beckett Finds his Form, ITM becomes recklessly optimistic

Josh Beckett looks to be finally finding his old form. Last night, he brought a no-hitter into the seventh and secured a 10-5 win over the Tigers. Beckett did not give up an earned run, struck out 9, and walked 2.

More importantly, this all looks like it might be part of a trend. Beckett has now thrown 4 quality starts in a row. 4. Plus some. Read that bit again, then move on to the stat lines preceding last night's: 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER; before that, 8, 5, 0; before that, 7, 4, 2. If that paragraph doesn't warm your heart, then there's just no hope for you.

And Beckett's isn't just an individual performance. It comes at an important point for the Sox staff, a potential watershed. We're 1/3 of the way through the season and thus far the starters have been a big disappointment. But things are shaking up. Jon Lester has put together two good starts in his last three. Daisuke has squeaked out a solid win and a not-terrible loss. Brad Penny has continued his success and allowed the Sox, comforted by the resurgence of their ace, to shop Penny more aggressively. From below, Buchholz and Smoltz are both pushing their way up and could potentially provide a shot in the arm of a rotation that's already picking up steam. All in all, with a little distance, it looks like Josh Beckett is starting to do what we thought he would---put the staff on his shoulders and carry them towards collective success. Every five days, there he is, shouldering the burden, making it okay that Daisuke only goes 5 and that Penny might get bounced a little earlier than he'd like, partly for the win, partly to save his arm (for others?). A good situation.

And if all that doesn't do it for you, read Adam Kilgore's excellent piece in yesterday's Globe on the success of Junichi Tazawa in AA Portland. I'll give you just a taste: "He has 57 strike outs in 61 1/3 innings, far and away the most innings on the team."

So yes, I woke up happy this morning. Tied for 1st, with the staff starting to do what we thought it might. And Josh Beckett to thank.

Wednesday, June 3

New Lineup Could Become a Mainstay

The Sox have put up 13 runs in their last two games with Tito's revamped lineup (no real thanks to Ortiz however). Prior to that, the Sox had mustered 3 runs or less in their last 5 games, something that seemingly hasn't happened since Nam'.

While most, including Tito himself, consider it a brief change in an attempt to jump start a struggling lineup, I'm not so sure. Francona was on WEEI's Dale and Holley show today and indicated tonight's lineup will be exactly the same as last night. Tito has publicly mentioned numerous times that he believes a lineup with Jacoby leading off and Ortiz batting third gives the Red Sox the best opportunity to win....but I"m not buying into that, not right now at least.

With Lugo contining to suck/sulk on the bench, Nick Green will continue to occupy the nine hole in the lineup, allowing Jacoby to have free will on the base paths. If you have Ells on your fantasy team, expect a lot more stolen bases as he wont' have the same restrictions that he had when Pedey and other followed him in the lineup. Speaking of Pedey, his plus .400 OBP fits well into a leadoff role, and something in my gut tells me the same for JD in the 2 hole (perhaps it was last night's classic run in the first inning that sold me). Here's hoping JD sparks up offensively in the 2 hole this June like he did in the 3 spot last year.

With Lugo continuing to suck/sulk on the bench, Nick Green will continue to occupy the nine hole in the lineup....allowing Jacoby to have free will on the base paths. If you have Ells on your fantasy team, expect a lot more stolen bases as he won't have the same restrictions that he had when Pedey and others followed him in the lineup. Speaking of Pedey, his plus .400 OBP fits well into a leadoff role, and something in my gut tells me the same for JD in the 2 hole (perhaps it was just last night's classic run in the first inning). Here's hoping JD sparks up offensively in the 2 hole this June like he did in the 3 spot last June.

A 3-4 combination of Youk and Bay may not put the same level of fear in opposing pitching as Ortiz and Manny did a few years back, but they're currently comparable to nearly any 3-4 combo in the league (save perhaps for Tex and Arod). Ortiz himself led off with a single last night, but clearly still suffers from slow bat syndrom...and/or lying about his real age when coming to the US. Tito will likely stick it out with Ortiz in the six hole, but continued poor performance may force his hand. Papi was pumped with belt high fast balls in the mid 90's by Detroit's relief last night, and ending up looking like Henry Rowengartner from Rookie of the Year when he was forced to hit in a game:

Surely we may all have a vastly different opinion about this lineup if it doesn't produce this week, but thus far, I think Tito's moves make both short and long term sense to me.

Monday, June 1

Might the Sox get some Brotherly Love?

Word is that the Phillies are lighting up the switchboards and looking to make a move to shore up their rotation. Brett Myers, the Phillies 28 year old righty, was placed on the 15 day DL this weekend, but is expected to be out something along the lines of 4 to 5 months. The Phillies, with their stacked lineup, know that the principal obstacle to a repeat is their starting pitching, and they're not happy just to plug up the holes with a AAA prospect. They're on the market.

Their reported wish-list, depending on availability and price, is Peavey, Oswalt, Lee, and Bedard, with Peavey likely their number one choice, though it's unknown (he has that no-trade clause, as Chicago will tell you) how he'd feel about a trade to Philadelphia. If they can't get one of those four, they reportedly will focus their efforts on getting an experienced righty to play foil to Hammels.

When you mention sub-elite, high-performing, experienced righties, one name in particular springs to mind: Brad Penny. Despite not really looking all that great, the man is in the top 10 in the AL in wins and winning percentage (the mark of a crafty veteran, the ability to do just enough?) with a 5-1 record. He's been one of the steadier presences for the Sox, and of late has looked particularly effective and comfortable on the mound. But with Smoltz going 7 in AAA and Buchholz pushing perfect games into the 9th, he also looks expendible (knock on wood), as we all know.

The Phillies have some prospects that might interest the Sox, too. Namely 23 year old catching prospect Lou Marson, who projects as an everyday catcher in the big leagues and is an OBP-centric hitter, just the Sox style. The name might sound somewhat familiar because when Buchholz's stock was low this past offseason, there was some talk of a Sox-Phillies trade with those two at the center of some package. Marson's 2009 numbers are down a bit following his 2008 demolition of the Eastern League, but by all accounts, he's got a lot of talent and would fit nicely into the Sox system.

Best guess is that the Phillies make a move for Bedard. They're squawking about his attitude, but likely that's just a negotiating ploy. Bedard has come on strong of late, and no one is denying his stuff. Maybe Peavy is the top of the list, but I'll bet they think Bedard is their most realistic bet.

Here's hoping, though, that realism sinks the Phillies a bit further, and maybe, just maybe, the Sox find that perfect match, that NL hitter-heavy organization in need of a righty. It could be in the stars.

The Return of Jon Lester

Around this time last year Jon Lester was 2-2, he finished 2008 on a 14-4 tear with an era of 2.97.

This year Lester has been unable to replicate last years overall success. Before yesterday's start Lester's' era was above 6 and he'd given up 10 home runs. Lester hasn't been terrible by any means, he does seem to be plagued by 1 bad inning each start, highlighted by a fastball Justin Morneau destroyed last week.

Despite giving up a home run to Alex Rios yesterday, Lester scattered 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 12 in 6 innings of work. One criticism of yesterday's start is that Lester was only able to go 6 innings as his pitch count climbed to 115 pitches.

The pitch count not withstanding, Lester looked great yesterday. His fastball was consistently 95-96 and he was hitting every spot, seemingly putting the ball where ever he wanted. Marco Scutaro struck out looking on a curve ball on the outside corner his first time up, his second time up he waived at it going down on strikes again knowing it was going to be a strike regardless of his pathetic swing.

Has Lester turned the corner? Sox fans sure better hope so. I'm not going to rip the guy if he finishes 11-12 on the year with an era around 5 (I'll save that for Dice K), but if the Sox want to get into the playoffs and do some damage, Lester has to pitch like he did yesterday against Toronto.

That goes for the entire starting rotation. We are at about the 1/3 mark of the season and the Sox starting 5 hasn't lived up to expectations. Certainly the early struggles of everyone except for Tim Wakefield has made it difficult to climb back, however there are signs of improvement.

Beckett has shaken off some rough starts and strung together 3 good outings improving his record to 5-2 and his era to 4.60. That's not great but it serves as a microcosm for the rest of the starting rotation. As Tony Mazz wrote today the starters era is 3.57 in the last 15 games; if the offense could time things up with the pitching the Sox might have won a few more of those games.

Somehow Brad Penny is 5-1 with an era of 5.63, and even Dice K didn't look as bad in his first start coming off the DL, although it was still tough to watch those 5 innings.

What's ahead for the Sox pitching, Clay Buchholz and John Smotlz. You have to believe that Theo Epstein is devising a plan to get Buchholz up with the big club sometime this summer. Smoltz is scheduled to come off the DL and start come the middle of June, the 16th I believe.

Brad Penny can't be traded until after June 15th, the day before Smotlz is eligible to return. Might Theo try and deal him to another contender in the National League looking for some depth in their starting rotation? It wouldn't surprise. I'm not expecting the world back for Penny either, making room for Buchholz or Smoltz might be good enough.

I'll certainly be watching Lester's next start very closely, Saturday night against the Rangers, to see if he can string together back to back good outings. Lester has been saying that he feels good in each start and that he's close to where he wants to be, maybe he got their Sunday.
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