Links 5-4-2010: Beckett, Dice-K’s return, Lowell-Ortiz drama, Embree-Schoeneweis, injury train chugs along

It was an eventful week, no? The Sox get swept by the lowly Orioles in Baltimore, the first time that’s happened in a long, long time. Before you panic and sell your season tickets, I’d just point out two things: The Orioles were underperforming all year long, and were due for a bounceback (too bad it happened against us), and the Red Sox team they were playing was not anywhere near the team that was assembled in the offseason. We just need to stay in it until our team gets healthy again, I really believe that. Terry Francona offered his thoughts here.

Josh Beckett was strong in his outing, going back to his four-seam fastball (46 thrown, 43.8%). It wasn’t generating swings and misses (only a 2.2% Whiff rate), so it wasn’t his best heater, but it got the job done. Beckett was able to throw all of his fastballs for strikes, and the cut fastball was better, showing more horizontal break (+2.01 in by PITCHf/x) and zipping in there at 90.1 mph. It was the pitch which generated his best Whiff rate at 22.2%. So it was real; believe it. Beckett is back.

As for Daisuke Matsuzaka, there was good mixed with bad. Actually, I take his start as mostly good. There were a lot of good reports on his slider, and he was able to get it over 82.4% of the time. That number was actually higher before his 5th inning meltdown, when he suddenly lost the feel on it and got into trouble. The velocity was ok (91.8 mph on the four-seamer), but I was actually more concerned that Dice-K only threw 58.5% of his 41 four-seam fastballs for strikes. He needs to be able to spot that better at the corners for his other stuff to be effective. I’ll give him another start to show me he can still command like he needs to in order to succeed at this level. The changeup looked pretty good, and cutter was mediocre. I was not impressed with the curveball, which came out rather slurvy and was ineffective.

Mike Lowell is making it harder and harder for Francona to sit him. After a four-hit performance last night (three of them doubles, I might add), Lowell’s line is up to .300/.378/.475 on the year, and he’s hitting a ridiculous .429/.520/.762 at Fenway in 25 PA. Francona is sticking with the platoon for now, but unless Ortiz gets something going in the next two weeks, I think he may be looking for a new job. For his part, Lowell is playing it cool and not asking for more playing time. He’s really a great guy.

It has been a rough year for Victor Martinez. First, there was the pressure to show he’s deserving of a contract extension, then there was the fact that his bat was not meeting expectations. Then came the whole basestealing fiasco. It’s been one thing after another, and the pressure may have gotten to Martinez a little bit. To his credit, he’s been addressing the running game, and there’s been some improvement. Maybe the big offensive night yesterday will help the whole team to relax a bit up at the dish and just produce.

Adrian Beltre is another guy who’s been pressured to produce, and it’s resulted in some uncharacteristic nights from him, even on defense. Even Beltre agrees that he’s been “horrible” out there. Let’s hope finally getting the HR monkey off his back will help him out as well going forward.

Kevin Youkilis and Jeremy Hermida were back on the field yesterday, bolstering a badly limping lineup. With Mike Cameron looking just about ready to go, things could finally be looking up on the injury front. When Cameron come off the DL, I expect Jonathan Van Every to be sent down (he may have to clear waivers first).

Alan Embree was unceremoniously designated for assignment over the weekend, just two days after being called up to the Major League club. Theo Epstein has chosen to stick with Scott Schoeneweis. Of course, Schoeneweis had to show his gratitude by turning in one of his worst outings in yesterday’s game. Doubly insulting for Embree was that he was designated to make room for Dice-K, who gave up runs in his first start back from the DL. Embree and his $500k contract may still be traded to another team.

Tito has mentioned that he could rotate Tim Wakefield in on sort of a part-time basis, giving the Sox a pseudo-6-man rotation. It will be interesting to see how things work out for Wake there.

Brian MacPherson posts some interesting numbers showing how effective Hideki Okajima has been when he’s well-rested.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to former Red Sox Dave Roberts, who has been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma since March of this year.

The Red Sox have lost minor league catcher Mark Wagner for 6-8 weeks due to a broken hand.

The water mini-crisis in Boston has affected everything, from donut shops to sports. Restaurants have had to stop using fountain drink dispensers, wash everything with bottled water, and continuously buy ice to stay in business. Please tip as well as you can during this time to help them out.


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