1-1: Sox split Japan series

The Red Sox came away with a split of their two-game series with Oakland at the Tokyo Dome. It sure was good to watch some baseball again, wasn’t it? Don’t worry too much, I still consider these games like Spring Training, even if they do count.

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Sox drop delayed game 4-3

The Sox played well yesterday, but suffered some bad luck in the 8th inning which allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to score all four of their runs. Reid Engel, playing in centerfield, misjudged a fly ball and lost it in the sun; it carried over his head, allowing all three runners to score on what was scored a double for Chip Cannon off of minor league pitcher Barry Hertzler. To be fair, the bases became loaded when Hideki Okajima struggled with his fastball command, walking two men.

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The State of the Sox 2008

I thought as we start to head into the 2008 season, it’d be nice to get a “big picture” overview of the club, to see where we’re headed not only this season, but in the near future. This is a chance to see up the pipeline a little bit, and anticipate what the Sox may be facing in future offseasons. Here’s a look at the depth charts at each position, and a short discussion of our strengths and weaknesses; the current state of the Sox.

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Lester/Santana showdown ends in a tie

It was a matchup we were all waiting for; the ace the Sox almost acquired versus the youngster he was almost traded for and a possible 2008 World Series preview that ended in a 1-1 draw. And with the recent worries with members of Boston’s rotation, Jon Lester turned in a very encouraging performance. Pitted against Johan Santana, thus far the best pitcher of this century, he bore down and very nearly matched him for four innings. He struck out five hitters and allowed just two singles and a walk. I don’t know if I’d qualify the outing as dominant, but he was certainly efficient and effective.

Santana wasn’t too shabby, either. Over four he two-hit the Sox, fanning four. Mets Nation is reveling in having a true ace for the playoffs. I understand the optimism, but it’s still Spring Training, dudes.

Hideki Okajima looked very sharp in two innings of work, and he looks capable of pitching just as well in 2008 as he did in his breakout rookie year. Craig Hansen allowed a run in his frame, but at least he didn’t walk anybody this time out. Craig Breslow continues to make a case for a bullpen spot this Spring, throwing another inning scoreless.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Carter logged two hits apiece, but the lineup was pretty impotent, drawing no walks. Brandon Moss drove in the tying run in the top of the 9th, forcing the extra frame.

Sox lose, 5-2, with Beckett out

The first Grapefruit League start for Josh Beckett was over before it even began. While warming up, Beckett was experiencing back spasms, so he was yanked from today’s game against the Marlins. Let’s just hope that this is a minor glitch and not a bad sign for the season. At least it’s not that golden arm.

Manny Delcarmen took the ball instead, and pitched two perfect innings, striking out one. Mike Timlin followed that up with two more scoreless innings, but Craig Hansen struggled again in the 5th, walking two and giving up two runs. Craig Breslow struck out three batters in an inning and a third, looking sharp.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Carter had three hits each, with Ellsbury falling one triple short of hitting for the cycle today. It might be worth noting that Carter is playing some left field, putting him in direct competition with Brandon Moss for a 1B/corner outfield role.

The injured Coco Crisp seems to be growing more and more restless by the day:

Why would you want to sit on the bench? Why would you want to do that? I want to play. It’s just a matter of getting out there and having to reprove yourself (this spring). It’s kind of bogus.

I feel good now, but last year I didn’t… I played with a broken toe, an oblique injury, (and) I was freaking popping my shoulder all crazy trying to dive for balls.

He says he won’t be a problem, but he may demand a trade before Opening Day arrives.

Sox get three-hit by the Marlins

The Red Sox managed just three hits yesterday against the Florida Marlins in a 3-2 loss. I know it wasn’t the regular offense, and it’s still very early, but come on, these are the Marlins, the team that combined makes less than Manny Ramirez. Boston couldn’t get the offense going, despite a leadoff hit batter and five walks issued by starter Andrew Miller.

After controlling the strike zone early this Spring, the Red Sox staff looked like a mess in this one. Kyle Snyder went three scoreless, surrendering two hits and a walk, but then the troubles set in. Dan Kolb walked three and allowed a hit and a run, getting just one out in the fourth. Lee Gronkiewicz ended the threat, but then struggled some in the fifth inning. Craig Breslow walked two in his scheduled inning, and Justin Masterson struggled in his first outing, walking one and allowing four hits in two innings.

In the B game against the Twins, Josh Beckett started off with a shaky 26-pitch first, but settled down to strike out 5 in three innings of work. He has yet to face anything that resembles a Major League lineup. Michael Bowden looked good in two innings of relief.

Bartolo Colon threw a successful 42-pitch bullpen session, and pitching coach John Farrell was positive about the results. The Sox will have him throw again Wednesday, then schedule some BP against live hitters. Colon appears to be headed for a March 15th Spring debut.

2008 Offseason: Three file for salary arbitration

Kevin Youkilis, Kyle Snyder and Javier Lopez were among the Major League players filing for salary arbitration yesterday. You consider this something of a formality, because Theo Epstein has never gone to arbitration with any Red Sox player, and I don’t expect him to start this year. He will either offer each of these players a one-year contract or non-tender them before the arbitration hearings take place.

Youkilis will of course be given a deal, and there is some buzz on whether he will be signed to a multi-year contract this offseason. I think Youkilis is a wonderful player, but you have to remember that single-year deals give the Sox the greatest flexibility; for example, with Mark Teixeira likely to become a free agent after 2008, they might want to look at signing him long-term to play first base. With Youk in just his first arbitration-eligible season, there’s no rush to sign him for big money, and Epstein would only give him a 3-4 year deal if he would give a hometown discount.

I like Snyder a lot, and think he’s a perfectly good swingman to have in the bullpen. Only problem is that we already have Julian Tavarez to fill that role, and he’s even better at it. Unless we trade Tavarez, there’s a chance the Sox let him go and let someone cheaper, like Devern Hansack, take his spot on the 40-man. These are the tough decisions you have to make as a GM.

As for Lopez, I think the Sox should probably non-tender him. He failed miserably as a LOOGY last year, allowing them to hit .293/.366/.439 off of him last season. Surprisingly, he was very effective against righties in 2007, which has not been the case over his career. The only problem here is who we get to replace him. We had Jay Marshall off of waivers from the Athletics, but then they claimed him back in subsequent roster moves. We could give Craig Breslow a shot at this job, but should he fail, we’re looking at Abe Alvarez as the next option. Hmm… We could always fill this position via trade. The remaining free agent options are not so attractive: there’s Jeremy Affeldt, but he wants a 4-5 year deal and a chance to start (now that’s optimism for you). There’s 38-year old Ron Villone and 39-year old Mike Myers. How about Trever Miller or Ray King? No? Didn’t think so. Maybe Lopez isn’t so bad after all…