TOKYO -- It now seems likely that Josh Beckett will begin the year on the disabled list -- and Mike Timlin could possibly join him.
Beckett, who has missed the last two weeks because of a lower back strain, threw off the mound Friday in Fort Myers and is progressing. But with no need to rush him for the games in Oakland on April 1 and 2, the Sox could backdate him on the DL and have him eligible to come off on April 3.
That's an off-day for the Sox in Toronto and would make Beckett eligible for the series against the Blue Jays.
Such a move would buy the Sox more time in determining their roster. It would allow them to keep an extra reliever on board for the first week of the season. The Sox have a number of pitchers battling for the final spot in the bullpen -- Bryan Corey, Craig Breslow, Javier Lopez and David Aardsma -- and each is out of options.
That means the Sox would have to expose three to waivers before getting them to Pawtucket. It's more likely that the Sox make a minor deal for one of them rather than lose them for nothing.
As for Timlin, who received a cut on his finger that required stitches last Tuesday, his availability is in question.
Manager Terry Francona said Timlin was ''a little stiff . . . tender'' on Saturday.
Timlin will probably get the stitches out Monday or Tuesday, but the Sox could keep him out of the two regular-season games here Tuesday and Wednesday without having to send him to the DL.
When the Sox leave Japan, however, if Timlin isn't ready, he'll have to go on the DL. That, too, would provide the Sox with addtional evaluation time for their bullpen moves.
TOKYO -- Proving that power is the same on either side of the world, the Red Sox flexed their muscles in the first inning against Hanshin and took a 4-0 lead Saturday afternoon.
David Ortiz got things going with an opposite-field solo shot off Tigers starter Yuya Ando. Following a walk to Manny Ramirez and a two-out single from Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew continued the power display with a three-run homer to left-center.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox released pitcher Barry Hertzler this morning.
The East Providence native was selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round (324th overall) in the 2003 draft and spent five seasons in the minor-league system. The right-hander pitched for the PawSox in 2006 and in 2007.
In 186 minor-league games in the organization, he compiled a 24-15 record with a 4.26 ERA, mostly working out of the bullpen.
FORT MYERS, Fla. _ Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett (back) went through his normal rehab routine this morning at the minor league complex and he says he feels good.
The right-hander played long toss and then threw a 45-pitch bullpen session and said it went great. The reason he didn't throw more today is because he's slated to pitch in an intrasquad game on Sunday. He's been able to progress slowly since first feeling the spasms in his back on March 8.
"There are still some peaks and valleys," he said. "That first week I felt better every other day, and then every other day I felt worse. Now I'm at a point where I can do every thing I need to do in between starts or bullpens. I've progressed, but it's only been in the last week where I can start to put a time table when I can get on the mound."
Even though the Red Sox are in Japan, Beckett, pitching coach John Farrell and trainer Mike Reinhold set up a plan before the team left last Wednesday.
WELCOME TO JAPAN: As we slept, Sean McAdam (and photographer Bob Breidenbach) worked. The Sox arrived in Japan around midnight Friday Tokyo time -- 11 a.m. Eastern time Thursday -- and McAdam posted a travelogue yesterday afternoon. (Ignore the time stamp on the story; it was on the site at about 3 p.m. yesterday.) The Sox were up and about Friday morning in Tokyo, just about the time we were going to bed. McAdam was with them, and he reports the following:
As our day begins, the Sox' ends . . . but they'll be back before we sleep. They play the first of their two exhibition games, this one against the Hanshin Tigers, at noon Saturday in Tokyo, which means the first pitch will be delivered at 11:07 p.m. tonight Eastern time. It won't be on TV -- though it will be on radio. Check back here often; Sean and Bob will be filing to the blog as news happens.
A FAN IN JAPAN: Also heading to Tokyo, on her own dime, is Journal staffer and Sox fan extraordinaire Denise Bass. She has an amazing story: While attending the Sox' 10-1 win over the Yankees last September 15 with her husband Greg at Fenway, they struck up a conversation with a Japanese gentleman sitting next to them. His name was Rui Ishido, and by game's end they were fast friends. They stayed in contact during the offseason, and several weeks ago he informed them he had tickets for the Sox' games in Japan if they were interested in coming over. Were they! (Well, as Denise admits, "they" may be poetic license; she describes Greg as "a good husband who tolerates my baseball obsession." But he always wanted to see Japan, so he agreed to go.) Before she left, she put together an interactive feature called Fan To Fan in which Rui answers questions about Japanese baseball. She's also set up her own blog and will be filing to it once they arrive tomorrow.
AND SPEAKING OF AMERICA . . . Some members of the Sox are still there, in Fort Myers, and Joe McDonald is still with them. Jon Lester stayed back a day to get in some work in preparation for his Game Two start against the A's, and McDonald reports on the five perfect innings he threw in a Double-A intrasquad game. Lester leaves for Tokyo today. McDonald was also impressed with the Sox' No. 1 pick last year, Nicholas Hagadone, in that game, and will have more on him this weekend.
HE'S NO DOCTOR, BUT HE PLAYS ONE ON THE INTERNET: Projo.com's fantasy columnist, Michael Salfino, says not to worry about Josh Beckett's back, at least as far as fantasy leagues are concerned.
WE SPOKE TOO SOON: Yesterday we noted that Schilling hadn't weighed in on the strange happenings on the last day of camp in Fort Myers. But he did once the team arrived in Tokyo, giving a very detailed account of the players' point of view. His conclusion: "I am proud as hell to be a part of a group of men who were absolutely 100% willing to not step on this plane and make this trip, knowing full well we would be in violation of our contracts, we’d potentially be forfeiting games and much much more, to stand behind a group of people that have very few supporters. Yes you could argue that doing that would have been disrespectful to the game, and fans, but we disagreed. In our minds anyone who had in mind to do what was right would have make the exact same decisions we did."
WHOA! Our old friend The Baseball Crank, using Established Win Shares Level as a basis for anaylsis, predicts the Red Sox will finish 88-74, 13 games behind the Yankees. Before you dismiss it as the numbers-twisting of a Yankee lover, know that the Crank, a Mets' fan, is an honorary member of Red Sox Nation when it comes to Yankee Antipathy. In fact, he's labeled them "The Hated Yankees" in his lead-in.
I DON'T SEE IT: Foxsports.com's Tracy Ringolsby listens to people talk about the A's as the model for small-market franchises and can't help but disagree.
THE SPORTS RADIO LEADER: WEEI suddenly finds itself in the middle of the Roger Clemens mess -- sort of -- as the New York Times reports Jose Canseco, who would hurl steroids accusations without hesitation during his frequent appearances on the station, suddenly began refusing to go on 'EEI once Clemens' name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report. While Canseco denied that Clemens had anything to do with his not accepting the station's invitation, the appearance of impropriety is impossible to avoid when a) Canseco hung up the phone after the Times reporter asked if Canseco had ever spoken to Clemens' lawyers and b) Clemens' lawyers and agents did not respond to phone messages or e-mails asking if they had talked to Canseco.
Journal photo/Bob Breidenbach
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka bows to a group of photographers who were waiting for him to take the field for practice this afternoon at the Tokyo Dome. Matsuzaka will pitch the season opener against the Oakland A's on Tuesday March 25th at the Tokyo Dome.
Red Sox in Japan: Sox brass say it's an 'honor' to open season in Japan
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
TOKYO -- Red Sox owner John Henry, manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein took part in an introductory press conference Friday afternoon and all proclaimed that opening the 2008 season here is a great honor.
"We're excited about starting our season here," Henry said.
"We want to express our appreciation for the graciousness that's been shown to us," added Francona. "and we hope to play the kind of baseball that's expected of us."
"It really is an honor to represent the Red Sox and Major League Baseball," said Epstein. "These days, it's impossible to fully appreciate baseball without seeing it on an international level and especially here in Japan."
Red Sox in Japan: Bobby Valentine upset that Sox-A's series may distract from Japanese league openers
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
TOKYO -- There's a budding controversy here over scheduling and the controversy has been ignited by -- surprise! -- Bobby Valentine.
Valentine, the outspoken manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines, is angry that the two regular-season games here Tuesday and Wednesday between the Sox and A's is threatening to distract from the opening of the Pacific League on Thursday.
"I hope the Red Sox and A's have a great time here and I'm sure everyone will enjoy it but it's ludicrous that our games will be going on at the same time," Valentine said. "The timing is a mistake and I guess that's something that slipped through the cracks when they were planning the schedules."
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who began his career in the Pacific League, seemed to agreee that Valentine had a point.
"It would have been better if the two games could have been scheduled on separate dates," he said
Red Sox in Japan: Four Sox pitchers visit U.S. Army base
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
TOKYO -- Four Red Sox pitchers -- Bryan Corey, Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield -- toured a U.S. army base in nearby Kanagawa on Friday, arriving by helicopter for a 45-minute visit with U.S. troops.
The four signed autographs and posed for pictures in a gym for a crowd of a couple hundred people, including soldiers and families.
TOKYO -- On first inspection, the Tokyo Dome (local nickname: The Big Egg) looks like a cross between St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field (lots of concrete, though, mercifully, no catwalks) and the Metrodome in Minneapolis (with a billowy off-white roof backdrop).
The new ballpark mania that has hit the U.S. in the last 15 years or so has not been replicated here. Many of the ballparks are domes and antiseptic in nature without a lot of character.
The foul territory here is immense, which should make the Oakland A's feel right at home. Their Network Associates Coliseum has more foul ground than any American ballpark.
Another unique feature: there is netting down the first- and third-base lines, ostensibly to protect fans from foul balls, not unlike what the NHL installed a few years ago behind the goals.
Red Sox in Japan: Injured finger may force Timlin to the sidelines
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
TOKYO -- Reliever Mike Timlin, who pitched in a minor-league game Wednesday, suffered a cut on his right ring finger on a comebacker that required stitches.
Timlin may not be available for the two exhibition games.
"It may not hold him back," said manager Terry Francona, "but I'd be surprised if it didn't hold him back some."
If the Sox don't activate him for the two regular-season games Tuesday and Wednesday, they will not need to place him on the disabled list. Timlin can simply be one of the inactives, thanks to the special rules provided for the Sox and A's for the series.