Multimedia: Projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam, Monday, March 24
Click the play button below to hear Sean's comments, recorded today from Tokyo. The topics include the Red Sox' decision to bat Dustin Pedroia leadoff, Mike Timlin's health and what it means for the bullpen, and some lasting memories of Japan.
VIVA LA DIFFERENCE: My WeatherBug temperature read 22.8 degrees when I awoke this morning -- and, having been outside to get the newspapers, I can testify to its accuracy -- but tomorrow at that time, we'll be watching baseball that counts. The Red Sox and A's are now less than 24 hours away from the season's first pitch at The Big Egg (a.k.a. the Tokyo Dome) after four days in Japan that have allowed them to adjust to the time and cultural differences. Sean McAdam contemplates those differences -- cultural, not time -- in a fascinating piece contrasting Japanese baseball against its American parent. Our own Denise Bass, writing on her blog, gives a personal view of the Far East fan experience. (Beer girls with kegs strapped to their backs??) Bob Breidenbach is sending back tons of pictures -- which we've been turning into slideshows, such as the ones you can find here and here (with more to come today) -- to give you a further feel for what it's like across the world.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: In the end, though, these games count no matter where they're played, and the Sox -- who, reports McAdam, are excited to start the season (here are tomorrow's probable lineups) -- got ready for them with a pair of exhibitions over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon Tokyo time/Friday night local time, Clay Buchholz struggled but David Ortiz and J.D. Drew homered in a 6-5 win over the Hanshin Tigers. Then, Sunday night Tokyo time/Sunday morning local time, Drew continued his hot hitting with a grand slam as the Sox routed the Yomiuri Giants, 7-2. McAdam has the details on both games. It's all in preparation for a season that McAdam previews here, with the concluding line: " If injuries don’t derail these Red Sox, it would seem little else can."
CAREFUL DOWN THOSE TRACKS: But injuries, as we know, have been a problem this spring, and the biggest has been the back woes of Josh Beckett. Back in Fort Myers, though, Joe McDonald reports Beckett appears to be on the road to recovery, even if that road won't reach Boston in time for Opening Day . . . either in Tokyo or next week in Oakland.
PLUG TIME: Come to projo.com tomorrow for in-game updates by Sean McAdam, photos by Bob Breidenbach, a pitch-by-pitch account of the game from our Associated Press score service, and a complete postgame report immediately following the final pitch. And if you're complaining about the 6 a.m. starting time, it could be worse; the game begins at 3 a.m. in the home of the Sox' opponent, the Oakland A's . . . and the San Jose Mercury News' Mark Purdy is one crusty curmudgeon on that topic.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: On his Hacks With Haggs blog, Joe Haggerty reports on Peter Gammons' appearance on 890 ESPN in which he discusses the Red Sox' near-boycott of the Japanese trip: "I talked to the Yankees and their coaches and players and I talked to the Phillies and they all thought it was a great thing because Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association don’t care about anyone unless they’re making millions . . .They just don’t care . . . [The Sox] did a great job and they are heroes within baseball, I can tell you that . . . I’ve been with Major League coaches, players, clubhouse guys and the Yankees clubhouse guys were saying, ‘You know what? [The Sox] are the best group of human beings in the game.’ They were really proud of them, and they’re the best acting, the best behaved and the tightest team, and I thought it was great that they pulled together."
AND FINALLY . . . Newsday's Neil Best found this YouTube clip of the opening of NBC's broadcast of Game Four of the 1973 World Series. The talk was all about Charlie Finley's attempts to "fire" Mike Andrews, and that's pretty interesting in an of itself. But me, I just love to see how the broadcasts have changed so dramatically:
TOKYO -- Neither Terry Francona nor his counterpart with the Oakland A's, Bob Geren, offered an official lineup for Tuesday's opener yesterday, but here's an educated guess at the likely batting orders
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Kevin Youkilils 1B
David Ortiz DH
Manny Ramirez LF
Mike Lowell 3B
J.D. Drew RF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Jason Varitek C
Julio Lugo SS
Daisuke Matsuzaka P
Travis Buck RF
Dan Barton 1B
Mike Sweeney DH
Jack Cust LF
Bobby Crosby SS
Mark Ellis 2B
Jack Hanrahan 3B
Chris Denorfia CF
Mac Suzuki C
Joe Blanton P
TOKYO -- Excitement ran high during the workout Monday as the regular season opener drew near and helped players overcome some lingering jet lag and lingering sleep issues.
"I'm excited," said Dustin Pedroia. "I can't wait for the games to count. In some ways, it seemed like a short spring training, and it was, but in other ways, it was long. I'll be nervous. There's nothing like starting the season and going out, trying to win game No. 1."
"I'm definitely excited," added Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be experiencing his first Opening Day. "I especially want to see how (the fans here) welcome Daisuke (Matsuzaka). It should be special. It's a great place to start the season, with Daisuke on the mound (in front of his native fans). I think we're all acclimated and ready to go."
Here and there
In addition to the $40,000 the 30 players on each team earn for making the trip, a local corporate sponsor is honoring players with "Player of the Game" awards for the first two games. The honor comes with a $10,000 check to the winning player . . . Closer Jonathan Papelbon bought a samurai sword and spent a portion of Monday morning trying to figure out how to get it back to the U.S. in his luggage.
TOKYO -- Coco Crisp, who missed the majority of spring training because of a slight groin strain, grew slightly irritated when asked to assess his readiness.
"This is the last time I'm going to talk about this," he said today. "I know I'm 100 percent."
Because he played so little, Crisp never had much of an opportunity to compete for the center-field spot. As of this morning he hadn't been told of his status, though it's clear that Ellsbury will play more.
Early in spring training, he had express a desire to be traded elsewhere if he wasn't going to play every day.
"I'm taking it day-by-day,'' he said. "We'll see how it all plays out."
It's believed that while A's manager Bob Geren would like to have a more accomplished and experienced center fielder, GM Billy Beane isn't interested in Crisp because of his salary. Crisp stands to make $11 million over the next two years, more than the rebuilding A's want to pay while they finish near the bottom of the A.L. West.
TOKYO -- Manager Terry Francona is planning to go with a slightly different batting order that anticipated.
Jacoby Ellsbury will get the majority of playing time in center field over incumbent Coco Crisp, but for now, Francona is leaning toward having Ellsbury hit lower in the order -- seventh, most likely -- with Dustin Pedroia hitting first and Kevin Youkilis hitting second.
It had been presume that Ellsbury would hit leadoff with Pedrioa second and Youkilis sixth or seventh, but Francona wants to bring Ellsbury along slowly to start the year.
"It's certainly not a lack of confidence," said Francona of Ellsbury not being put in the top spot. "He did it in the World Series. But Pedey's done it (hit leadoff) and you put a young guy (leadoff), you place him a little bit at risk. We can always move him up later."
Roster decisions: Beckett to DL; Timlin, Wakefield and Casey inactive for games vs. A's
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
TOKYO -- After several weeks of spring training and exhibition games -- both in Florida and here -- the Red Sox roster for Opening Day went right down to the wire.
Though the Red Sox didn't have to determine their final choices -- a 25-man roster with a three-man inactive squad -- until hours before the season opener with the Oakland A's, all signs pointed to the following developments:
-- The intends to put pitcher Josh Beckett (back), who is still at the Fort Myers training base in Florida, on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 19. That would make Beckett eligible to come off the DL on April 3, when the team has an off-day between Oakland and Toronto.
-- The following players will be inactive for the games here with Oakland: first baseman Sean Casey, pitcher Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield. Casey has been slowed by a stiff neck, incurred during the 17-hour flight here last week. Timlin received stitches on his right ring finger last week and hasn't appeared in a game in since last Tuesday. And Wakefield, who pitched Sunday night in the final exhibition game and won't work in either game against the A's, was being made inactive to give the team additional flexiblity.
-- The "extra'' players, who can't be in uniform during the games, will be infielder Jed Lowrie and outfielder Bobby Kielty. Both came to camp as non-roster invitees. Lowrie will be the starting shortstop at Pawtucket, while Kielty is the odd-man-out as the team's fourth outfielder until Coco Crisp can be dealt elsewhere. When Kielty signed his minor-league contract over the winter he received an "out" clause that allows him to elect free agency at the end of spring training if he doesn't make the 25-man roster. But Kielty also knows that a spot will become available eventually and doesn't intend to act on the clause.
-- The club will purchase the contract of catcher Kevin Cash, the backup catcher who came to camp on a minor-league deal.
All those moves would allow the Sox to have three catchers -- Cash, starter Jason Varitek and reserve Dusty Brown -- eligible for the two games here. The Sox wanted to have three catchers on hand in the event that something happened to either Varitek or Cash, leaving them thousands and thousands of miles from catching reinforcements.
The Sox now have these two games and three more in Los Angeles to continue to make decisions on its final bullpen choices. For now, David Aardsma, Javier Lopez and Bryan Corey are competing for the final spot, with Corey seen as having the edge.
It's conceivable the Sox will eventually need to place Timlin on the DL -- they could backdate him, the way they did Beckett -- but that's a decision they don't have to address until after their weekend series of exhibition games with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. For now, he's merely inactive and unavailable for the first two regular-season games here.