Rough outing not concerning for Dice-K

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Rough outing not concerning for Dice-K

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. He was just working on something. The results were not concerning. After focusing on his fastball in his first outing, Daisuke Matsuzaka wanted to concentrate more on his cutter and his off-speed pitches. His pitching line was secondary to the work he was doing.

Its always ideal to get both results and what I want to do. At the same time, this time it wasnt going that way. Personally, I dont care about the results today because I was doing something I wanted to do, Matsuzaka said through a team interpreter.

I had different homework from last time to today. I went to what I wanted to do and there was good and bad. Doing homework, the stuff I wanted to improve on, was pretty much done the last two outings. From the next time, Im going to approach it as the regular season.

Still he could not have been pleased by his results, getting roughed up by the Marlins over three innings, as the Red Sox lost, 11-2, at City of Palms Park. He gave up seven runs (five earned) on six hits, including a Dewayne Wise second-inning two-run homer, and two walks with one strikeout. He faced 17 batters, throwing 55 pitches, 33 for strikes. In the first inning, he faced seven batters, giving up three runs.

Matsuzaka said there was good and bad in his outing.

Its not about good and bad on the kind of pitches, he said. Its about how you approach for each kind of pitch I wanted to throw. I tried to find out what is the best delivery form for the cutter or whats the best for the changeup. Thats what I was trying to do.

He got ahead OK, but he certainly didn't put anybody away and he got deep counts, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. He wanted to throw some cutters today -- which he did and changeups, a couple of good ones. A couple of breaking balls he left up, one to Wise that he wanted to wrap around his ankle and he leaves it over the plate. Wise hits it a long way. We struggled to get out of the first inning, don't get an out, and those are the things you hope happen in spring training and not during the season. It gives us something to talk to him about.

Matsuzaka has been battling a virus in his right eye for the past few days.

It still bothers me, he said. But it will be OK for next time. I was taking medicine and it was working. So it wasnt bothering me too much.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught Matsuzaka in a game for the first time this spring.

He threw well, changeups, fastballs, what he wanted to work on, Saltalamacchia said. We were doing changeups and cutters. Biggest thing for him is just throwing strikes early, getting them to swing the bat, and with his stuff, theres no reason why he cant do that. But, I think he was working on something there and I think he accomplished it.

Saltalamacchia has been working on his communication with Matsuzaka. Hes caught several bullpen sessions with him, and before the game he sat with the pitcher and his interpreter, in the clubhouse in front of Matsuzakas locker.

Its been fine, Saltalamacchia said. He understands and he knows what hes got to do. Its not his first time up.

Francona said he would like to see Matsuzaka, as well as all his pitchers, pounding the strike zone at this point in the spring.

If you throw strikes, generally you're going to probably do OK, Francona said. The work ahead really changes the game and that's with all our pitchers: getting them to work quick, throw strikes, and keep the ball down.

Matsuzaka said he would treat his next outing like a regular season game. That should be taken to mean his line will be just as important as his work on the mound. He is also planning to adjust his approach this season.

Ill definitely be more aggressive in pounding the strike zone, he said. I want to use different pitches inside the strike zone to be effective in my performance. Im going to try to keep the balls in the strike zone to be effective.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.

Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

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Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

The Red Sox have called up third baseman Rafael Devers. Lou Merloni, Evan Drellich, and Jared Carrabis discuss if this is the right time to bring up their top prospect and if they should still trade for another veteran third baseman.