Friday, April 01, 2011

2011 Opening Day Liveblog

4:00: Happy Opening Day! The day begins with the sad news of the passing of former Sox GM Lou Gorman. It deserves a longer post at another date, but Gorman never got enough credit for the late 1980's success of the Red Sox because of some poor moves he made later in his career. R.I.P. Lou.

4:06: Sox lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Cameron, Saltalamacchia, Scutaro.

Thoughts - normally, even against a lefty, the regular lineup will get the chance to start on opening day, but CJ Wilson is especially tough on lefties. Hence, Cameron starting in RF over JD Drew. Other than that, the lineup is a clear message from Francona that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the starter. Saltalamacchia is generally considered a better hitter lefthanded, while Varitek is better righthanded.

4:12 Bad omen for the Rangers season, don't you think?

4:17 So much for Kevin Youkilis having a poor spring training, huh? It was almost like the sportswriters in Boston needed SOME negative to write about. If Youkilis is healthy, he will be excellent.

4:20 Jon Lester is making his first opening day start. He has to now be considered the best homegrown starting pitcher since Roger Clemens.

4:22: I like batting Ian Kinsler leadoff. Other than 2009, he's had excellent on base percentages. It's good to see around the league that managers don't feel the need to throw the fastest player in the leadoff position anymore. Not that Kinsler is a slowpoke, of course.

4:24: Adrian Gonzalez sure is smooth at first base, isn't he? Coming way off the base on the bad Youkilis throw in order to keep the double play in order turned out to be an important play, and he made that scoop of the Pedroia throw look completely routine.

4:34: Easy 1-2-3 inning for CJ Wilson on the heels of a rough first. I mentioned yesterday that Wilson's control will be a key to the Rangers season.

4:38: A lot has been made of Michael Young's subpar defense - too much, I think. There are plenty of poor fielding shortstops getting run out there on a daily basis, and most of them can't hit like Young. If he can still play even a mediocre shortstop, he'd be a net benefit to a lot of teams. The Milwaukee Brewers, perhaps? For a team that fancies themselves as a playoff contender, he's a better player than Yuniesky Betancourt. Plus, defense has never been a focus for the Brewers.

4:53: The successful conversion of CJ Wilson to the rotation last year may yield several copycats. The Tigers are doing the same thing with Phil Coke. It makes sense - several good minor league starters come to the majors in the bullpen in order to fill a role, and then end up stuck there for several years. It happened with the Red Sox with Jonathan Papelbon. The Rangers would do well to follow their own lead on this one. Neftali Feliz could end up their ace starter for several years. The Rangers shouldn't let their 2010 success distract them from their long term goals.

5:00: This Adrian Gonzalez thing seems to be working out nicely. Two at bats, three RBI.

5:18: A rip by Adrian Beltre. That one year contract couldn't have worked out much better for him - he got to have a big season in a park that was perfect for him. Texas should be a nice fit for him as well. Expect Beltre to get career hit #2000 and career home run #300 around late August.

5:27: Three run homer for Mike Napoli on a curveball down and in. Will this be the year that Napoli finally gets enough at bats to put up a 30 home run season? He's homered once every 16.8 at bats for his career. That means, given 550 at bats, he'd average 32.7 home runs per year. Apparently the Angels didn't need that sort of offense though.

5:47: Matt Albers warming up in the bullpen. I still don't see how a guy with a career 5.11 ERA and a 1.38 K/BB should be on the team over Alfredo Aceves or even Scott Atchison, but if my complaint with the roster is the #25 player I suppose things are ok.

6:03: I always like when the TV broadcast stays with the game while the starting pitcher walks off the field. It's nice to see the crowd reward a good performance.

6:18: Tough outing for Jon Lester. It was the first outing since April 9, 2008 that Lester failed to strike out a batter. Very unexpected, considering his 225 in each of the past two seasons.

6:23: In addition to the lack of strikeouts, it was the first time in Lester's career that he allowed three home runs in one game. So, despite only allowing the five runs, a very strong case could be made that this was the worst start of Lester's career.

6:35: 41-year old Arthur Rhodes in the game. How many pitchers miss their age 37 season with an injury and are able to make a comeback? In the three years since his Tommy John surgery, he's appeared in 196 games, with a 2.32 ERA. Modern medicine is an amazing thing.

7:00: From Arthur Rhodes to Darren Oliver. Oliver is 40, and spend a couple months with the Red Sox as a starting pitcher in 2002. After falling out of the league in 2005, Oliver has reinvented himself as a quality short reliever.

7:18 Red Sox strike out their first batter of the game on batter #37. Makes it awfully tough on your defense when your pitchers can't punch a couple out on their own.

7:23: Brutal performance by Bard. A guy who gets by throwing very hard has little room for error. Bard's fastball is straight, so he needs to throw it in the high 90's at least to be successful. Even at 97, major league hitters will consistently crush a straight fastball, which is what just happened. No reason to panic yet, but it's worth watching to see if Bard maintains that high velocity that made him successful last year.

7:26: Team record 17th season with an appearance for Tim Wakefield. Before the season is done, Wakefield will have the chance to make a few starts and make an impact. Wakefield needs seven more wins to reach 200 for his career.

7:39: Big game by Mike Napoli leads the Rangers to the win. Used correctly, Napoli could be a key factor in their attempt to defend the American League pennant.

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