Red Sox notes: Dice-K seeing improvement

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Red Sox notes: Dice-K seeing improvement

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's too early to determine whether the recommended changes in his between-start routine are having a positive effect on Daisuke Matsuzaka. But so far, so good.

After tossing five innings of two-hit ball Tuesday in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers, Matsuzaka followed that up with 5 23 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 10-3 Sox' loss, allowing two runs on three hits.

Matsuzaka worked quickly and showed good life on his fastball.

Earlier this week, the Sox had Matsuzaka change his throwing program. He had been long-tossing and throwing a side session on the same day and the Sox believed that was taking too much of a physical toll.

"I thought he had good tempo and threw strikes,'' said Terry Francona. "That's two good starts in a row now. It looks like he's starting to gear up. I thought he was pretty good.''

"I'm following the throwing program between outings,'' said Matsuzaka. "I'm getting comfortable with the new program, but I want to keep watching it and see how it will fit me.''

The Sox are heartened by the fact that his velocity has been up in each of his last two starts, while Matsuzaka was pleased with his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes.

Matsuzaka also added that he was not concerned with being placed fifth in the Boston rotation.

The Sox got down to 40 players in camp with three roster moves.

They optioned catcher Mark Wagner and outfielder Daniel Nava to the Pawtucket roster and assigned pitcher Matt Fox to the minor-league camp.

Wagner is expected to share the PawSox' catching duties -- probably with Luis Expositio -- and Nava will be Pawtucket's starting left fielder.

Fox will pitch out of the Pawtucket bullpen.

It's likely that more cuts will be made Tuesday.

Dennys Reyes helped his bid to grab one of the two available spots in the Red Sox bullpen, pitching a scoreless inning with a hit allowed and two strikeouts. In seven spring innings, the veteran lefty has allowed five hits and fanned seven.

Rich Hill, batting for one of the same two spots, also chipped in with a scoreless inning, running his streak to seven straight outings without allowing a run.

Righty Scott Atchison wasn't so furtunate, giving up four hits and two runs in an inning and a third. Atchison's ERA for the spring is a bloated 6.48.

Former manager Joe Torre, newly appointed as MLB's vice president of baseball operations, visited before the game with Francona as part of Torre's tour of the 30 camps. Torre will be in charge of discipline and on-field operations.

Also visiting City of Palms yesterday: former Red Sox VP Charles Steinberg, now working in the commissioner's office.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.
 

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

Apparently, the Red Sox couldn’t hold onto the best leader in the world. And the best leader in the world has no idea how to housebreak his puppy.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was given the top spot on a list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders," published by Fortune on Thursday morning.

The potential for silly takeaways from Epstein’s placement on the list -- and his response to it in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney -- are amusing, if not astounding.

Wait, Epstein doesn’t think baseball is the most important thing in the world?

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein told Olney. "That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball -- a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Zobrist, of course, had the go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

As Fortune described it, the list of leaders is meant to include those “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same” across business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Epstein certainly did help transform the baseball world.

“In the fall of 2016, as partisan distrust and division reached abysmal depths, fascination with the Chicago Cubs became that all-too-rare phenomenon that united America,” his blurb on the list begins.

That’s fair. But, if you scroll down the list: Pope Francis is No. 3. Angela Merkel is No. 10 and LeBron James is No. 11.