Tag:Daniel Bard
Posted on: February 19, 2011 7:56 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Red Sox camp, and a reminder to look beneath the gaudy exterior of Boston's winter:

-- While Boston's additions of marquee men Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez got all the attention, it would be a colossal mistake to underestimate the additions of relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to the Red Sox's power brigade.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost way too many games, or the chance to win games, late," manager Terry Francona says.

No kidding.

For one thing, closer Jonathan Papelbon, eligible for free agency this winter, had his worst season in 2010, posting a 3.90 ERA and blowing seven saves.

For another, partly because of Papelbon's blowups, the Sox ranked 14th among AL bullpens with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Furthermore, Boston as a team ranked 23rd in the majors in allowing an average of 4.60 runs per game.

Wheeler and Jenks maybe are under the radar to the average fan, but you'd better believe they're not around here.

"There are a lot of ways a good team can get off track and get derailed," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told me during a weekend conversation on one of the Boston practice fields. "There is no way that's as painful as having a bad bullpen, or running out of quality guys out there."

To that extent, Epstein said, the Sox really wanted to focus on bullpen depth this winter -- and not just the first seven or eight guys, but nine and 10 deep.

"Jenks, we all assumed, was going to get a closer gig," Epstein said. "Everyone in the game thought he was going to be non-tendered, but he actually turned down a couple of closer roles to come here, which we all appreciate."

Working behind Papelbon and set-up man Daniel Bard, and alongside Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers and others, mark it down: Jenks and Wheeler will be pivotal weapons for Francona this summer.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost too many games, or the chance to win games, late," the manager said. "We felt like we were going to Bard too much, or wanting to go to Bard too much. I don't think we did. But we lost games late, and then there were games that were close where we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win like good teams should.

"I think we feel like we have some reinforcements. We're a little bit deeper, and that's the hope. Because last year was difficult."

-- Jenks declined to say which clubs he turned down this winter, simply saying the chance to sign not only in Boston, but with a fully loaded Red Sox team, was too good to turn down.

"It's a great organization and somewhere I wanted to play," Jenks said. "I didn't think it would be this soon. But once the opportunity came around, I jumped on it.

"It didn't hurt that they had made all of these moves, too."

The Sox traded for Gonzalez on Dec. 5, signed Crawford on Dec. 13 and signed Jenks on Dec. 21, three days after they signed Wheeler.

After closing for the White Sox for his entire career, Jenks signed specifically to be a set-up man. But you know how things work -- if Papelbon struggles like last summer, Francona has options.

Especially if Jenks feels as good as he does right now. Struck by elbow inflammation last season, Jenks says it's a thing of the past, and various X-rays and MRIs seem to support him.

Jenks is 29, posted a career-high 4.44 ERA last year but has 173 career saves over six seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Boston.

"I came here knowing my role," he says. "It's an eighth-inning, seventh-inning thing, a set-up role. I feel very good. Terrific. Nothing from last year is bothering me."

-- Francona on the bullpen: "We've had pretty good teams here, and I think those things have a way of evolving. ... I do know the teams that we've had here that have been really good, our bullpens have always been good. It's hard to have a really good team and not
 
Sunblock Day? Oh baby, this spring is to last spring in Florida as a day on the beach in Hawaii is to an Alaskan winter. Well, maybe that's hyperbole. But it was 85 degrees in Fort Myers today and it's been a drop-dead beautiful week. Think my neck is burnt. Need more sunblock.

Likes: The optimism of early spring in every camp. ... Lakeland. Passed through there the other day and it's like a town caught in the 1970s. Love the marquee outside the Southside Cleaners that without fail, every year, keeps cheesy sayings on its marquee. On one side this year, it read: "To err is human, to purr is feline." On the other side: "Synonym: A word you use when you can't spell the other word." ... Then, the marquee at the church down the street checked in with "A daily prayer reduces your cares." ... The gumbo and crawfish etouffee remain superb at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland. ... Dairy Queen. ... Buddy Guy's performance with the Rolling Stones on Champagne and Reefer is reason alone to Netflix Shine a Light. Knockout stuff.

Dislikes: New year, new batting practice and spring training jerseys. Every chance to try and soak more money out of the fans. Detroit's are navy blue with white shoulders. What the hell? Looks awful. Cincinati's have a ridiculously large "Reds" scripted across the front. Loved Brandon Phillips' tweet in reply to a fan who asked what he thought of them: "It's NOT my cup of tea, but I'm happy to have one, though."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, the plane touched down just about 3 o'clock
"And the city's still on my mind
"Bikinis and palm trees danced in my head
"I was still in the baggage line
"Concrete and cars are their own prison bars like this life I'm living in
"But the plane brought me farther
"I'm surrounded by water
"And I'm not going back again"

-- Zac Brown Band, Toes

Posted on: May 14, 2009 6:34 pm
 

Ramirez nails for Red Sox

While an overhwhelming majority of clubs are negotiating unsteady bullpens, the Boston Red Sox remain rock solid in part because of an under-the-radar trade they completed last November.

Right-hander Ramon Ramirez, acquired from the Royals for outfielder Coco Crisp, was not exactly a household name. Few middle relievers are, especially those in Kansas City. But Ramirez has been lights-out for Boston this season, going 4-0 so far with an 0.52 ERA (tied for third among AL relievers). He also ranks tied for third in the AL with five holds.

He's certainly not the only reason Boston's bullpen is fourth in the majors with a 3.20 ERA. There's still this closer named Jonathan Papelbon (a perfect nine-for-nine in save opportunities) and, as manager Terry Francona quickly reminds when you ask about Ramirez, "It's our whole bullpen. Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen. ... some things about our club are going to be later -- David (Ortiz, coming out of his power slump, and John Smoltz, who isn't expected to join the rotation for a few more weeks). But our whole bullpen has been good every night."

It has, and Ramirez has helped make a unit that ranked seventh in the majors last season with a 4.00 ERA even better. He's surrendered just one run over 16 1/3 innings this season, and opponents are hitting only .127 against him (right-handers .118, lefties .143).

"His physical ability, his demeanor and his ability to pitch late in games have really been weapons for us," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell says. "You look at his track record, his numbers outside of Colorado for his career ... his ERA is below 2.00.

"What he's doing this year is not bursting out (of the norm). He's got quite a bit of sample size."

Ramirez came highly recommended to the Sox by David Howard, a special assistant to general manager Theo Epstein. Howard, a former big leaguer with the Royals and Cardinals, still lives in the Kansas City area and, among other things, thought that Ramirez had a demeanor that would serve him well in a high-pressure market like Boston.

The Sox especially like that he has the stuff to regularly obtain swings-and-misses in the late innings, thus increasing the odds of obtaining outs and limiting the potential for damage.

"You can't say enough about his work ethic and preparation," Farrell says. "He's prepared to pitch every day. He takes care of himself as well as anyone we have."

Boston's biggest issue with Ramirez from here on out is going to be to monitor his workload and not overuse him.

Likes: Boston's Daniel Bard, who impressed legions of scouts this spring, looked really good in his major-league debut Wednesday night in Anaheim. He was sensational against Mike Napoli, the first batter he faced and one of the Angels' hottest hitters. Bard got three swings and missed on fastballs of 94, 95 and 97 miles an hour. Napoli never had a chance. This kid is going to be a key pitcher for Boston, probably sooner rather than later. ... The new Green Day song, Know Your Enemy. Good reviews on the new disc, 21st Century Breakdown, so far. I've still got American Idiot heavy in my iPod gym rotation. Great workout music.

Dislikes: Umpire Paul Schrieber did apologize for placing his hand on Detroit's Magglio Ordonez in Wednesday's Tigers-Twins game in Minnesota. But I don't see how he cannot be suspended. If a manager or player touches an umpire, it's an automatic suspension. Don't ever touch the umpire -- it's one of the game's cardinal rules. Rightfully so. Conversely, an umpire can't touch a player. That could cause holy hell if the situation got heated enough. Gotta be a suspension then, right? ... Fleetwood Mac touring under the name Fleetwood Mac. Christine McVie has retired. I'm sorry, but if she's not around and not singing Don't Stop, Say You Love Me and Over My Head, it's not Fleetwood Mac.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You've been telling everybody
"You're just plain in luck
"My wife cooked me neck bones and beans
"And she cooked you chicken and duck
"That's why I don't want you hanging 'round my wife no more
"That's why I'm telling you somebody sure has gotta go."

-- Big Bill Broonzy, Somebody's Gotta Go

 
 
 
 
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