The Red Sox pitching and catching staff are supposed to report to spring training this Sunday. A few players are already in the area and eager to get back to work.
With some new faces in the pitching staff, a little extra work will be much needed. Learning signs, techniques and tendencies is an important part of spring training. The catcher and pitchers must always be on the same page and that’s the point of reporting before the rest of the team.
This year, it is going to be interesting to see who will get most of the playing time in the catcher position. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito are all listed as catchers on the Red Sox official roster. In the system, there are plenty more talented catchers to choose from as well.
Hopefully Fenway Park will be defrosted in time for opening day.
Organizations like the Red Sox would love to be able to bide their
time and make sure that each player gets his necessary work at every
level of the minor leagues. Rushing a player, especially a pitcher, is
not anything an organization sets out to do, unless he’s something
Daniel Bard was on that ordinary path to start his
professional career. He spent a year and a half bouncing around Single-A
stops, the first full season of which saw him struggle mightily as a
starter. Yet, there are guys that are downright impossible to keep down.
was the case with Bard once he found his groove as a reliever. There
were 31 games at the Double-A level in the latter half of 2008,
resulting in a 1.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings. The obvious
next step to Triple-A in 2009 only saw him get better. It was as if
Bard was racing that natural progression, as if he had to get to the
majors before a certain date which was closing fast.
He would get
a boost with a visit to the big league camp during the 2009 spring
training, where he managed to draw attention with a simple bullpen
session early on, and then with some eye-popping game action. After one
particularly impressive performance against the Puerto Rico national
team preparing for the World Baseball Classic, Bard was the talk of the
“That was worth showing up for today,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona
said after Bard threw two scoreless innings that day in early March.
“That was two really exciting innings. With young players, but young
pitchers in particular, you’re going to see some ups, some downs, some
in betweens. Today was the up.”
There would be more.
was just over two months later that Bard, who struck out an almost
unfathomable 29 men in 16 innings while posting a 1.12 ERA as the
short-time closer for Pawtucket, was called up. He was impossible to
keep down, and he wasted no time whatsoever in letting the organization
know that his skills would translate.
In his first outing as a major leaguer on May 13, 2009, at Anaheim, Bard faced Angels catcher Mike Napoli,
who had 22 hits in his previous 56 at-bats (.393) and had already hit a
three-run homer in that day’s contest, to start things off. Bard threw a
96 mph fastball for a swinging strike. Bard then threw a another 96 mph
fastball for another swinging strike. He finished a foreshadowing first
at-bat with a 98 mph fastball for a third straight swinging strike.
Major League Baseball, meet Daniel Bard.
“He kind of blew my doors off there,” Napoli said after the game.
threw two scoreless frames that night and allowed only one earned run
in his first 12 innings as a major leaguer. Over the span of 14 innings
in 12 outings from June 28-Aug. 1, he yielded a grand total of four
hits. There were no runs, no walks and 23 strikeouts. Roughly two years
after he couldn’t get an out against Single-A hitters, Bard was the best
reliever the Red Sox had, including Jonathan Papelbon.
that’s where it all started. Bard would not need that full season at
Double-A, or Triple-A, for that matter. He threw fewer than 70 innings
at those two levels combined. He was a major leaguer, and a darn good
Thing is, he would get even better, and in keeping with his
rise in the minors, it would take almost no time at all to make that
Jon Lester‘s progression from high-school standout to
Cy Young Award candidate has been so smooth. He has improved at each
stop, blasting through whatever barriers were in his way.
were advancements made from 2003, his first full season as a pro, to
2004, and from 2004 to 2005, when he starred as a 21-year-old at
Double-A. The natural progression to Triple-A Pawtucket followed in
2006, and 11 starts against more mature hitters that resulted in a 2.70
Like those days and days of rain in his native Puyallup,
Wash., Lester was relentless in his pursuit of a spot on the major
league roster. The 2006 edition of the Red Sox gave him that opportunity
through a rash of injuries to its pitching staff, but it would’ve been
tough to keep Lester down anyway.
Again, the train kept rolling.
Five wins, no losses and a 2.38 ERA through his first eight starts as a
major leaguer. He had a 7-2 record after picking up a win in Anaheim on
Then came the grinding halt.
Back pain. A visit
to a doctor in Tacoma, where they found ”some different things that
weren’t supposed to be there.” A cross-country flight to Boston for
further tests. A diagnosis no 22-year-old entering the prime of his
life, or anyone for that matter, should have to hear. Non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma. It was treatable, but the pursuit of his dream was now on the
The top priority was suddenly coming to terms.
Unsurprisingly, Lester went about that in much the same fashion that he
did in rocketing up the organizational ladder — methodically,
forcefully and with expert precision.
”I’m 22 years old, I
thought I was in the best shape of my life coming in here, pitching
every five days and pitching at Fenway Park — what could be better?”
Lester said days after the diagnosis in Sept. 2006. ”Obviously, there’s
that denial. Why, how could it be me, what did I do wrong, type thing.
But you know, right now we don’t have room for that. Right now, all it
is we’ve got to fight this, we’ve got to beat it…We beat it, we get it
under control, we’ll start thinking about baseball, back to pitching.
”Until we do that, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
rounds of chemotherapy treatments followed, several of which came back
home in Washington, where Lester would fish when he had the energy,
spend valuable time with his parents and talk with figures from his
past, some of whom needed only one look into the eyes of the lefty to
know that cancer would simply be another conquest.
”Attitude is so huge with those kinds of things,” said Lester’s coach at Bellarmine Prep, Rick Barnhart,
who was so awed by Lester even as a freshman that he gave him a start
in the team’s first playoff game that year. ”Once you get past the why
me part of it, you get into the, OK, there’s something to be done here.
He got through that quick and after talking to him and seeing him start
that process, you felt he’s going to take care of this. There was never a
”You knew that if it was possible he was going to do it because he had all the right attitude with which to deal with it.”
December, the cancer was kicked, for all intents and purposes. By
February, Lester was back in a baseball uniform, setting his sights on
the next step of his baseball career.
It’s so cliche, but if you
subscribe to the everything-happens-for-a-reason school of thought, the
organization’s decision to send Lester to Single-A Greenville to start
his comeback in the spring of 2007, a decision upon which he was not
keen, was rather fortuitous.
”That made my year,” Lester said
at the time, referring not only to getting back on the mound after
months spent in and out of hospitals, but to the fortune he had in
meeting his now-wife, Farrah Johnson. In the time it
took to make three rehab starts for the Drive, Lester had not only
proven he still had his stuff but had found time to squeeze in romance.
Talk about a skilled individual.
It shows the power of love,
something the baseball world would witness once again when Lester made
it all the way back. With his parents, John and Kathie,
watching with lumps in their throats from behind the Red Sox dugout,
Lester returned to the major leagues on July 23 in Cleveland. He threw
six solid innings to defeat the Indians that night. Four starts later,
he returned to Fenway Park for the first time in almost a year and
dominated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The train was rolling once
again. Its last stop would come in October in Denver, where, just over a
year before a bad back led to the worst news of his life, Lester was
the winning pitcher in the decisive game of the World Series. From minor
league call-up to cancer survivor to postseason hero in a span of about
With that storybook stretch behind him, a clean bill
of health and further proof that nothing could keep him down, Lester now
had his set his sights on superstardom. (nesn.com)
Hideki Okajima will remain a member of the Boston Red Sox! (For at least 1 more year). The Red Sox re-signed Okajima to a 1 year deal worth 1.75 Million. Okajima’s record of 16-8 and 6 saves (3.06 ERA) in 254 relief appearances in four years with the Red Sox was appreciated by all the fans.
Okajima started out as a very popular player and quickly earned a reputation as a serious pitcher in the Red Sox organization.
Personally, I am glad to see that Okajima has another chance with the Red Sox. He has the potential to earn a well deserved spot after this year… uncertain of the re-signing of free agent, Jonathan Papelbon.
A lot of questions have been answered for 2011, but it seems like there are a lot of questions for 2012. Theo Epstein has a method behind his madness, he always does.