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Archive for July, 2011

Rico on the Red Sox

 

Boston Baseball:  Rico, you were up in the Legends Suite in late July for another great start by Josh Beckett, this time against the Mariners. How did he look from up there?

 

Rico Petrocelli:   He looked very good!  One thing that’s really stood out to me in that start, and for most of this season, is his command of his pitches.  He’s throwing a lot better to the corners, but he’s also got more movement.  

 

When he gets hit, it always seems like it’s the four-seam fastball — it seems that way, anyway — and sometimes he leaves a changeup up in the strike zone. But he’s really added a whole different look, you can tell by the hitters. They look a little confused! He has that tailing fastball too, the two-seamer, that he’s getting inside on them.  Their timing isn’t good.  I don’t think they’re able to just wait on his fastball like they could in the past when Beckett struggled.  He looks a lot better to me this season — more confident.  I just hope he stays healthy.

 

BB: That 3-1 win over the Mariners followed the Red Sox’ usual recipe for a win this season, in that the offense wore down the opposing starter, put up a crooked number against the bullpen, and then Bard and Papelbon hung up zeroes in the eighth and ninth.

 

RP:  Well, that’s it!  That’s the plan, that’s the team that they developed.  They went out and got the guys, brought others up from their system, and it’s working out pretty well.  Going out and getting players like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford; it’s amazing.  But they did have the core of this team with Papi, Youkilis,  Pedroia and Ellsbury the last few years.  Professional hitters, having good at-bats, driving up the pitch counts, and they’re all capable of doing damage. Pedroia’s really come on this past month. 

 

BB:There’s not much that this 2011 ballclub doesn’t do well. They run well — very well by Red Sox standards — and they are a good defensive team.

 

RP:They are. And I don’t want to leave out Jason Varitek, either. Even though he no longer gets the lion’s share of the at bats at catcher, he is a big part of this team. Saltalamacchia is improving, but he still has some trouble blocking balls. I’m so glad that the Sox hung onto Varitek and I am sure the pitching staff feels the same way.

 

Josh Beckett

BB: That game was also Terry Francona’s 1000th win as a manager. 

 

RP:  Yes. That was great, a terrific milestone.  

 

Terry is such a modest guy, and he’s always been that way.  It’s great to see things going so well for him, especially after his first managerial stint with Philadelphia, which at the time was just a terrible team. I don’t care who you are, you don’t have some players, especially pitchers, you’re not going to go anywhere!

 

BB:  That’s a tough crowd down there, too. 

 

RP: Oh, very tough, Philadelphia!  Nowadays, of course, they have a new ballpark and they fill it every night. They’ve got a very good team. 

 

But you look at Boston over the years, our fans were filling the park when our teams were not winning, in the 1990s.  Down in Philly they’re tough on their teams, but when they have a good ballclub, the fans are going to be there.

 

BB:  You’ve seen a dozen managers come and go since you signed with Boston in 1961. What makes Terry Francona successful, apart from being modest?  

 

RP:  His personality, his ability to handle players.  Like in the past with Manny [Ramirez].  There have been people who have criticized him… but he never retaliates. He takes the high road.  I think that shows that the guy has class.  He’s mature. 

 

He’s also a players’ manager. That’s not to say that he can’t do certain things when they have to be done.  When a player is at the end of his career, you have to make decisions sometimes… and even though you like the guy, you have to do it. You have to make difficult decisions, but he’s able to do that, and do it in such a way that everyone understands where he’s coming from, even if they don’t necessarily agree with him.

 

Just about everyone likes him, too.  I’m talking about the press and all that.  He’s been accessible, and he has a good sense of humor.  I know the team has had good players and good teams, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to win!  You gotta be a good manager on a good team, too. 

 

 BB:  All that fans can really judge a manager by is the lineup card he makes out, the pitching changes he makes during the course of the game, or if he puts a play on — a steal, or a bunt or something like that. They don’t see the day-to-day managing of the personalities in the clubhouse, which is an enormous part of the job.

 

 RP:  Absolutely, great point.  You don’t just start managing when you go out into the dugout, you start when you get to the ballpark. Beyond managing the game, you’ve got to handle personalities, deal with the media. Once you get to the park, you’ve got to be ON!  

 

When a team is losing, that’s really the test of a manager.  I thought Terry did a great job in 2005 and last year too, of holding things together during a season when guys were hurt and things just weren’t going Boston’s way.  

 

BB: You won pennants with Dick Williams and Darrell Johnson. Who was your favorite manager to play for?

 

RP:  Darrell Johnson.  I didn’t play for [Don] Zimmer too much. Zimmer is a great baseball man, and he is very respected by players and other people in the game.  

 

Darrell was fair, and a laid-back guy.  He didn’t get too excited when things didn’t go well.  He was a good baseball man; knowledgable.  He made the good moves, I thought.  In ‘75 we had a good ballclub, and he handled the pitchers well.  But Dick Williams was, I would say, the best manager I played for.

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Dick Williams Passes Away

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Red Sox Schedule

July Schedule for upcoming Games

Rico on the Red Sox

 

 

Boston Baseball:  Rico, you’ve got to think that if the Red Sox are going to make a deal at the trading deadline, it’s going to involve pitching. It’s a long season and already the Red Sox have had to go to their second and third options both in the rotation and in the bullpen.  

 

RP:  Sure. The question is, what have they got to trade?  Teams really don’t want veterans.  They don’t want the big contracts, or the bigger contracts.  They want the young guys, because they’ll be under their control for years to come.  Even better to get them before they arrive at the major-league level, because a lot of clubs want to develop these guys in their own minor league systems, and teach them to play their brand of baseball.  

 

If the Red Sox want to make a splash at the trading deadline, they’re going to have to give up some good young players. It’s a pipe dream to think the Sox can unload guys like J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron and get anything of value in return. 

 

BB:  Jed Lowrie is a guy who you would think might have some value; certainly he did in April when he got an opportunity to play and was playing so well.  However, he’s been inconsistent and unfortunately right now he’s injured again. It may be that he’ll never be a starter — here or elsewhere — and his role will be as a super sub on this team.

 

RP:  Absolutely, that’s his role!  He can be an outstanding utility player.  Lowrie’s biggest problem is his health. He’s gotten hurt the last couple of years, and that’s killed him.  As far as ability is concerned, he can play three positions, that makes him valuable in a utility role.  But I don’t see anyone trading for him and making him their starting shortstop. I think he’s still got something to prove.

 

BB:  How would you compare Lowrie to the super sub of your generation, John Kennedy?

 

Jed Lowrie

RP:  John Kennedy! Boy, he was something else!  John Kennedy was similar, but he could play any position — third, short and second base — and do a great job. He could even play the outfield if he had to!  And he was a clutch hitter.  He came into games and got big hits for us.  For a couple of years there, he was very, very valuable.

 

BB:  Rico, speaking of big hits, over the last month David Ortiz has gone from having a solid comeback year to shooting to  the top of the AL leader board in several categories.  Now, people are starting to wonder if the Red Sox made a mistake in just exercising his option for one year.  At the beginning of the season, everybody expected Big Papi to play out the string and be gone. Now, if he’s capable of reviving his career to this extent, don’t the Red Sox have to give serious thought to keeping him around?

 

RP:  I don’t think the Red Sox will have any problem if they want to sign Big Papi.  I think Big Papi wants to stay here.  He’s had great success here, he loves it here.  And of course, everybody would love to see him here if he continues to do what he is doing!  

 

One of the things I see with David right now is that his bat is quick again. We’ve said in the past that once a hitter can’t hit the fastball any more, that’s it.  You might as well hang ‘em up. Pitchers, percentage-wise, do not get their breaking stuff over as often, so they come back with the fastball, and if they can throw it by you, it’s over.  They’re NOT throwing it by Papi right now, and that’s the difference.  

 

It’s also true that the presence of Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup has helped him tremendously.  Papi knows he doesn’t have to be the guy to do it every single game. It’s like when Manny was here.  They had two guys, they were relaxed, they went up there and banged the ball around the field and out of the field!  And now he has Gonzalez. It takes a lot of pressure off everybody. Kevin Youkilis is starting to produce as well. It really helps you when the other guys are getting it done, getting on base, making those pitchers work.  

 

BB: If the Sox do bring Ortiz back next year, would you write him in as the designtaed hitter every day, or would you be tempted to get some at bats for Ryan Kalish or Josh Reddick at DH? With Crawford in left and Ellsbury in center, there really isn’t anywhere to get those guys at-bats, apart from right field and DH. And they don’t have anything left to prove at Pawtucket.

 

RP: If Kalish is healthy, then he’s your right fielder, while Reddick may have to bide his time. I do think Ortiz is your full-time DH, and right now he looks to me as if he can sustain this level of production for a couple more years. He might be looking for a third year…

 

BB: But you’d sign him to a two-year contract at this point?

 

RP: I would. The Red Sox right now have an outstanding core of players who are going to be here for a while. If Jose Iglesias comes through at shortstop, they’ll really have a hell of a team. The Sox have to go for it while they’re in this position, because this is a team with a chance to do something special over the next few years. This is our time!