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Tag:Zac Brown
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: March 22, 2010 7:31 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 8:57 pm
 

Reds hold breath with Chapman's stiff back

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A breezy and optimistic spring training for the Reds paused hard Monday when Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman was removed from his Cactus League outing against Colorado early because of a stiff lower back.

Chapman, a favorite to win the Reds' fifth slot in the starting rotation, said his back has been bothering him much of the past week -- though later he amended that and indicated that the issue just came up. He also said he has never before had back problems.

"We don't think it's anything serious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said following the Reds' 9-1 loss to the Rockies. "We took him out before it got any worse."

The Reds issued a statement later Monday that Chapman left Monday's game because of back spasms. He will be treated and re-evaluated later this week.

Chapman, through translator Tony Fossas, the pitching coach at Class A Dayton, said he is "not really hurt" and described it as "a little problem with my back I've had all week."

As long as it is a "little" problem, the Reds will breathe easy. Chapman, in competition with Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Justin Lehr for the final rotation spot behind Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, had allowed only one run in seven spring innings before Monday, striking out 10 and walking only two.

Coming in after Bronson Arroyo to start the sixth, Chapman mowed down Troy Tulowitzki (swinging strikeout), Miguel Olivo (pop to shortstop) and Melvin Mora (grounder to third) on just eight pitches -- six strikes.

But during a 31-pitch seventh, he suddenly changed gears and started throwing more sliders and change-ups than fastballs. And where his fastball ranged from 93 to 97 miles an hour in the sixth, it was mostly in the 91-93 m.p.h. range in the seventh. In his previous outing, he had touched 102.

"The warning signs were I didn't think he was attacking the hitters," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, who visited Chapman on the mound a couple of batters before he returned with Baker and Reds trainer Paul Lessard. "He was trying to get guys out with his change-up and slider.

"I wanted to remind him, 'You've got a good fastball. Use it.'"

Not long after that mound visit, Price and the Reds' staff noticed Chapman stretching on the mound. When Price, Baker and Lessard went to the mound at that point, Chapman at first wasn't too forthcoming.

"I guess guys in Cuba are taught not to say much or complain," Baker said of Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds on Jan. 11. "He really didn't have the same stuff. He really didn't have the same fastball, anything. We went out, and it was hard to pull it out of him."

Chapman, who wound up allowing four unearned runs, two walks, a wild pitch, a single and a double in 1 2/3 innings, was to be further examined by doctors later Thursday -- again, more precautionary than anything, the Reds hope.

As for how it may affect the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation if Chapman has to be shut down for a few days, well, let's say that's not first on the list of things Baker would like to think about right now.

"I don't know, man," Baker said. "Let's not speculate until we find out [if he has to miss time]."

Sunblock Day? Lovely day in the 80s in Arizona. Dare we declare that the cold stuff is past us and it's baseball weather from here on out.

Likes: Joe Mauer in Minnesota, long-term. ... Albert Pujols in St. Louis short-term, for now, and long-term later (it's gotta come eventually, right?). ... Vin Scully back at work. And his tremendous description of doctor's orders for him reducing his activity: "I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no." ... How's this for percentages: There were 13 people on the writers' side of the press box for the Reds-Rockies Cactus League game in Goodyear on Monday, and two of them are in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Hal McCoy, now blogging on the Reds for his old paper, the Dayton Daily News, and Tracy Ringolsby, who's got a regular gig on the Rockies' pre- and post-game telecasts for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain. ... Reds media relations director Rob Butcher, one of the very best in the business, training for the Boston Marathon on April 19. ... Fine, fine production of The Beauty and the Beast at Calavera Hills Middle School over the weekend in Carlsbad, Calif. The kids weren't simply acting, they became the characters. The sets were terrific. The sound was exceptionally clean. The production was top-shelf. The costumes were Academy Award-caliber. Phenomenal enough that I'm going to have to get to know some of these folks. Oh wait ... was the costume director really my wife? And one of the crack backstage crew members really my daughter? Man, I need to get home more. ... Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band on Crossroads, currently running on CMT. Fabulous pairing.

Dislikes: The guy in front of me in the airport security line Monday morning who was so clueless that, as he was removing the change out of his pockets, his belt and other metal objects actually had to remove suspenders from underneath his shirt as well. He had absolutely no idea. Airport security basically had to guide him through everything as he held up the line for at least five minutes. It was Airport Security for Dummies, to be sure. ... Sure do hate to see Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas sidelined the rest of the way.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I left I wasn't thinking
"That I wasn't coming home
"But first Al Green
"And then Barry White
"Convinced me not to go
"And I didn't come home for fighting
"I came to bandage up my hand
"And if you're gonna talk to me like that
"Then I'll just go back out again
"Wipe that chip right off your shoulder
"We ain't getting any younger
"Some things are getting bigger
"Some things are falling off
"Some things they seem much harder
"Some other things stay soft"

-- The Hold Steady, Cheyenne Sunrise

 
 
 
 
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