May 2009

THE D-TRAIN ROLLS THROUGH PAWTUCKET

One day after Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rocco Baldelli played at McCoy, former National League Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis pitched against Pawtucket.  Willis did a nice job, but fell short, as he was outdueled by Michael Bowden, Marcus McBeth and Daniel Bard.  Bowden pitched 6 and 2 third innings of no-hit ball before being lifted.  Bowden threw 93 pitches and surrendered one unearned run, lowering his ERA to 1.08 for the season.  McBeth (2-0) wsa credited with the win and future Superstar Daniel Bard continued his mastery over the I.L.  The former Tar Heel fanned 4 in an inning and a third.  Bard has whiffed 29 hitters in 16 innings.  The PawSox have strung together 5 straight wins and pitching has been IMPRESSIVE!!

 

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Angel Chavez deposited his first home run of the season into the PawSox bullpen to provide the offensive firepower for Pawtucket.  Chavez had a big grin plastered across his face as we did the on-field, post-game interview.  Chavez hit .292 with 10 homers and 68 rbi for AAA Las Vegas in 2008.  Hopefully, his heroics against Toledo will ignite his bat.

 

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Great to see Sandy Madera in the lineup for the first time this season.  Madera had been buried on the disabled list, due to an overflow of players.  The childhood friend of David Ortiz has always produced when called upon over the last 2 years and he always exhibits an exemplary attitude.  The “Sand-Man” can rake.

 

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The PawSox and Hens go for some afternoon delight on Thursday at 12:05 p.m.  After the series wrap-up, the PawSox will fly to Ohio for 4 against Columbus and 4 against Toledo.

 

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HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY, EVA !!!! 

GETTIN’ NICE WITH DICE

On the heels of rehab appearances by Mark Kotsay and Rocco Baldelli, Daisuke Matsuzaka made his McCoy Stadium debut on Tuesday night.  The Japanese righthander who finished 4th in the American League Cy Young voting in 2008 worked 2 and 2 thirds innings before reaching his limit of 47 pitches.  Dice struck out 5 batters, allowed 2 hits and 0 runs.  Matsuzaka’s most impressive accomplishment was retiring 3 straight batters after he loaded the bases with no outs.  Matsuzaka is recovering from arm fatigue, after throwing 249 pitches in 3 World Baseball Classic games.  Dice-K was named MVP of the tournament.  Well and good, but that’s not why the Red Sox shelled out more than 100 million bucks to obtain his services.  When the WBC rolls around again in 2013, I think the Red Sox are going to think twice before letting any of their players take part. Besides Dice’s issues, both Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis left the tourney early after sustaining injuries.  After going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA with Boston last season, the righty almost seems to be an afterthought when fans talk about the Red Sox and their keys to success.  When he returns to the rotation, will Justin Masterson return to the bullpen or will Brad Penny be lifted?  Is Hunter Jones the likely candidate to come to Pawtucket?   Matsuzaka is expected to make at least another start for the PawSox.

 

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Both Dan and I were thrilled to learn that former PawSox standout Bobby Scales made his Major League debut on Tuesday with the Cubs.  The long time minor leaguer had a base hit for Chicago, going 1-4.  One of my favorite memories as a PawSox broadcaster was the day Bobby took us on a tour of his alma mater, the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.  We had some time during a trip to Toledo so we rented a car and made the trek.  We visited the “Big House”, I bought a Michigan sweatshirt and we dined at a well-known Wolverine “greasy spoon”.  Perseverance, dedication and being a great guy sometimes pays off

 

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As  I watched the Red Sox Yankees game on Monday night, it was stunning to me to see all the empty seats at the new Yankee Stadium.  Even with the Evil Empire reducing the prices from $2500 to $1250, there are tons of “no-shows”.  The House that George Built, is, so far, a bust.   PawSox manager Ron Johnson likes to say- “A pig gets fat, a hog gets slaughtered.”

ROCCO’S RHODE ISLAND RETURN

It was a treat to watch Rocco Baldelli in action on Monday night in Pawtucket for several reasons.  The Red Sox outfielder is on a rehab assignment for his hamstring.  However, that is just the beginning of the story.  The Hendricken grad signed with the favorite team of his childhood  after becoming a free agent.  He has battled back from illness and injury and is a feel-good story.  Throw in the fact that he is a local guy who lead the Hawks to a R.I. Interscholastic League state title the last time he played at McCoy.  It was as much fun to watch him work with the media before the game as it was to see him drive in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield in the PawSox 2-1 win.  Baldelli fielded questions from the local media witha great deal of patience and eloquence before Monday’s game.  Perhaps his greatest achievement though, was the “spread” he purchased for his PawSox teammates.  As I walked through the Pawtucket clubhouse after my postgame interview with Daniel Bard, I was overcome by the intoxicating aroma of the fare from Wes’ Rib House.  Trays of ribs, chicken, beans, onion rings, potatoes and corn bread overflowed on a huge table.  As I walked by (apparently drooling) Manager Ron Johnson invited me to dig in.  If not for my postgame show obligation, I think I’d still be there.  It is customary for Major League players on rehab assignments to by the meal for their minor league teammates when they are rehabbing.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is pitching for Pawtucket on Tuesday and has big shoes to fill.  Rocco, Dice-K and Mark Kotsay are all in town these days.

 

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If I didn’t hate the Yankees so much, I might feel a little bad about Joba Chamberlin’s mother being arrested for selling methamphetamines.  44 year old Jacqueline Standley was apprehended Saturday night.  Bond was set at $5000.  She is in a Lincoln, Nebraska jail.  My mother has been peddling drugs for years.  I should probably mention that Lucille is a registered pharmacist.

KOTSAY IT AIN’T SO

Mark Kotsay, in Pawtucket on a major league rehab assignment, was lifted from the game on Sunday afternoon in the third inning.  Kotsay came up limping on his way to first base after hitting a grounder deep into the shortstop hole. Aside from recovering from back surgery, Kotsay has been hampered by a calf issue.  The 11 year M.L. veteran had grounded out twice before leaving the ballgame.  He had been slated to play 6 innings in centerfield.  He did not have any chances in the early going on Sunday.  It is a shame that the friendly Kotsay could be sidetracked in his return to Boston.  Selfishly, it means that Jeff Bailey or Jonathan Van Every will stay in Boston until Kotsay is better.  That is great for those guys, but it won’t help Pawtucket’s anemic offense (.228, 14 home runs through 21 games).  Kotsay conceded that it was a tweak of the calf muscle.  He claimed that he wasn’t too concerned and that he would be back in the PawSox lineup for a third time on Monday.  The injury bug had already bitten a couple of times this week.  On Saturday, Jeff Natale, in his first game off the disabled list, reinjured his oblique and earlier in the week, infielder Ivan Ochoa pulled a hamstring.  Both of Boston’s regular reserve outfielders Kotsay and Rocco Baldelli are on the DL.

 

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Keeping one eye on the Red Sox games on NESN the last few days, Jerry Remy is M.I.A.  The RemDawg missed several spring training games due to what was reported as a bronchial issue, perhaps pneumonia.  The cynic in me hopes that it is nothing more serious and the New England icon is soon back with his partner(s) Don Orsillo and Wally.  As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I know how much Remy has improved as an analyst.  From abysmal in his first year, to one of the best in the game currently.

 

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Besides the PawSox regular outstanding starting rotation (Johnson, Gonzalez, Buchholz, Bowden and Zink) there are some compelling stories prepared to take the mound at McCoy in the forthcoming series with Toledo.  Julio Lugo’s brother, Ruddy is scheduled to start against the PawSox on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. and on Thursday at noon, M.L. veteran Dontrelle Willis is tabbed to start.  Daisuke Matsuzaka (arm fatigue) will start for the PawSox on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m.  Willis has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.  According to the Detroit Free Press, the lefty said that he wasn’t ” too amped up, running sprints up and down the parking lot.  The doctors saw something in my blood that they didn’t like.”

 

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Some teams go an entire season without winning a 1-0 decision.  On Sunday, the PawSox won 1-0 for the third time in 22 games.  Pitching was the story.  Clay Buchholz, Jose Vaquedano, Billy Traber and Marcus McBeth combined for the shutout.  Buchholz (1-0, 1.80)looked sharp, fanning 6 in five and a third innings.  McBeth is 2 for 2 in save oppportunities.

 

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Former PawSox righthander Manny Delcarmen is having a terrific season.  He looks like he is ready to star in the school play about the life of Abe Lincoln.  The Hyde Park native is sporting a beard “sans” mustache.

SATURDAY AT THE PARK

Mark Kotsay was in the house Saturday, leading off as DH for the PawSox.  The 11 year Big League veteran is rehabbing from back surgery in January.  Kotsay was very accessible and friendly, taping a pre-game interview with me.  The conversation was easy and enjoyable.  Look for Kotsay at tonight’s Celtics/Bulls game 7 at TD Banknorth Garden.  The native of Whittier California likes being in the spotlight in Boston, but admitted to being a Lakers fan.

 

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One of the perks of coming to McCoy is getting the chance to see Major League Stars in action.  If Mark Kotsay isn’t enough for you- don’t fret.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch in Pawtucket on Tuesday and Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli could be in the lineup as soon as Monday.  The graduate of Bishop Hendricken hasn’t played at McCoy since leading the Hawks to a state high school title.

 

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It was good no great to see the offense come alive on Saturday, even if only for one inning.  Pawtucket scored 7 unearned runs after scoring just 3 runs in their previous 46 innings.  Carlos Maldonando belted an epic, 3 run homer, way outta here  “Maldo” has been exceptional in limited action.  The veteran backstop has 2 game-winning hits already and 2 homeruns  and 7 rbi in his first 20 at bats.

 

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I am really looking forward to Sunday at McCoy.  It is the first annual “Star Wars Day”.  Fans will be encouraged to dress as their favorite character from the science fiction classic.  A couple of Star Wars look-alikes…hitting instructor Russ Morman and Chewbacca,  Manager Ron Johnson is a dead-ringer for Jabba the Hutt.  My favorite character has to be Princess Leia….Mmmmm I’m suddenly in the mood for a cinnamon bun

 

 

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With all the attention being paid to Daniel Bard (and rightfully so) Fernando Cabrera is flying under the radar.  The tall righty tossed another pair of shutout innings Saturday.  In his last 9 outings he has thrown 14 innings, no earned runs and 12 strikeouts.

 

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE (and I’ll NEVER change)

It is not normal for a 47 year old man to allow his mood to be dictated by the result(s) of a sporting event.  I realize that, but I can’t help it.  There are teams I care about (Celtics, Bruins…), and there are teams I REALLY care about (Red Sox, Patriots, Syracuse basketball and the Yankees.)  Yes, you read that correctly.  I openly root against the Yanks as vehemently as I root for the Red Sox.  Maybe more.  I don’t like The Steinbrenners, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio Aaron Boone or Derek Jeter.  Everyone who knows me and my distaste for the Evil Empire will invariably ask “Well, you do like Jeter?  How could you hate him…he’s so classy, he plays the game the right way, blah, blah, blah.”  It is simply black and white for me.  Pinstripes and I don’t mix.  To me, it would be like saying “I hated Nazi Germany, I was against the Third Reich, Hitler was a complete jerk, but you know, that Herman Goering was a nice fella.”  Uh-Uh, No way.  The latest object of my admittedly child-like obsession is Alex Rodriguez.  “A-Fraud” is very “hate-able”.  Forget the fact that he is a high priced pretty boy.  Forget the fact that he disappears at playoff time like thief in the night.  You can even forget the fact that he is romantically linked to Madonna (ewwwww!!) and if you are a really forgiving person, you can forget the fact that Rodriguez was photographed with and linked to strippers while he was married.  He is a liar.  It has been proven.  When he said he took performance enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers, and only then, I was floored.  A-Rod claimed that the pressure of playing in Arlington forced him to do it.  So we were asked to believe that going to New York didn’t add to the pressure for the guy.  New allegations link Rodriguez to ped’s as far back as high school.  I realize that steroids were not illegal, but as a baseball fan, it adds to the miserable legacy created by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  If A-Rod had fessed up earlier, a la Andy Petitte or even Jason Giambi, we could move on.  He didn’t.  Maybe he didn’t remember.  Maybe he really believed what he told us.  Or maybe he really is a liar and a cheat.  Remember what George Costanza told his pal Jerry on the sitcom “Seinfeld”  “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”  George used to work for the Yankees, maybe we should ask his opinion on Rodriguez.   

 

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As forgiving as even some “baseball people” can be when it comes to the substance issue, a new allegation has even “A-Rod admirers” up in arms.  Pitch-tipping is the new accusation.  Pitch tipping for your own team is common.  If you are a runner on second base, for example, you could tip off your teammate at the plate as to what pitch is about to be thrown.  It helps if a guy knows a slider is on the way.  What is reprehensible is that it is alleged that Rodriguez tipped off opposing hitters in games he deemed lopsided, in hopes of gettting reciprocal treatment sometime down the road.  That, in my mind is cheating, worse than betting on baseball because you are betraying your own team for personal glory.  If I were Petitte, or Joba Chamberlin, I would make a very loud, clear promise to Rodriguez about what will happen if he ever does that while I am on the mound.

 

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Let me finish today’s entry on a positive note.  Jonathan Van Every is a humble, hard-working son of a preacher-man, who toiled for years in the minor leagues for the Cleveland Indians. “JV” never played in the Bigs for the Indians.  He signed with Boston prior to the 2008 season.  He became an International League All-Star and made his M.L. debut.  On Wednesday in the tenth inning at Progressive Field, Jonathan belted a game winning homer for the Red Sox, his first in the Big Leagues.  It came against the Cleveland Indians.  As the late Jackie Gleason would have said- “How Sweet It Is!!”

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