Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Red Sox Update!

It seems as if the Josh Bard era in Boston has come to a close for the second time. However, this time he never got the chance to step on the field at Fenway. Earlier today the Red Sox organization officially released the catcher that was brought to Boston to take some of the workload off Jason Varitek. With Bard’s release, George Kottaras will be named the number two catcher for the 2009 Red Sox season.

The two Boston backstops aiming to take the backup catcher role had 14 at bats each during spring training. In Bard’s 14, he hit .429 with 1 homer, 5 RBIs, and a .529 OBP. In Kottaras, the switch hitter hit just .286 with 1 homer, 2 RBIs, and a .375 OBP.

Bard’s numbers were far more impressive then Kottaras’. However, it came down to one thing: catching a knuckleball. Do not count out the possibility that the Sox may look for another catcher to increase their depth via trade.

Red Sox have already announced that Jason Varitek will be the starting catcher for the Red Sox on Opening Day, which is just 18 days away. Yesterday, ‘tek was just one of four Sox to belt a homer against the twins. Joining in on the St. Paddy’s Day fun was Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Jason Bay. Red Sox beat the Twins 9-5.

Since coming back from a disappointing exit from the WBC, David Ortiz is 3 for 8 in three games. Two of those hits have landed somewhere outside of the ballpark.

Another great story this spring has been the pitching of Junichi Tazawa from Japan. The right-hander hurled two perfect innings against the Twins yesterday. Tazawa has logged 7 innings this spring giving up just one run on three hits for 1.29 ERA. He is also third among Red Sox pitchers this spring racking up 8 strikeouts. Although he will start the year at Double-A Portland, if he keeps up he will not be there long.

Josh Beckett pitched 4 innings to earn the victory on Tuesday. The ACE did give up three earned runs on six hits, but he managed to pitch his way out of jams to keep the game from going crazy. Beckett now leads the Red Sox pitching rotating in pitching the most innings and his ERA. Since the start of Spring Training, Beckett has pitched 13 innings with a 2.08 ERA.

Like I mentioned on Sunday, Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo had surgery on Tuesday to repair the damage in his right knee. According to Terry Francona, Lugo will NOT be ready to play on Opening Day. Jed Lowrie will be starting shortstop.

"It looks like he’s certainly not going to be ready to start the season," Francona said. "That’s stating the obvious." The recovery process will take anywhere from 3-4 weeks, which sets up Lugo's return for some time in late April.

In my personal opinion, Lowrie should not feel like this starting position was "handed" to him. His numbers speak for themselves. Lowrie has had the third most at bats on the team, and in those 35 at bats, he has hit for a sizzling .429 batting average with 2 HR and 7 RBI. With a strong spring and hopefully an even greater start to the regular season, Lowrie can prove to the organization that he is the man for the job, which could ultimately resort Julio Lugo's role to being a $9 million utility man.

In one of the best finishes yet to be seen in the World Baseball Classic, Team USA stormed back after being down 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Team USA would not have been that close if it weren't for a 2 out solo home run off the bat of Red Sox first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, in the third inning.

"To me, the fan support was the best it's been the whole entire tournament," Youkilis said. "I think that it was unbelievable, the feeling of the 'USA!' chants, and it just actually felt for once that we were the home team, and that was a great sign."

The thrilling three-run comeback in the ninth was capped off with a clutch two-run single by David Wright to move Team USA forward and send Puerto Rico packing.