Morning report: Postmortems, plus Pedroia

April, 6, 2012
DETROIT -- Greetings from Motown, where the Red Sox have an off day prior to resuming their three-game set against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon on national TV (Fox, 4:05 p.m.). Bobby Valentine has scheduled an optional workout beginning later Friday morning, and there will be pitchers getting their work in, but otherwise the day promises to be a quiet one for the Sox, who are now 54-57-1 all-time on Opening Day after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Tigers.

The Sox have opened on the road in 14 of the last 17 seasons, and are 6-8 in those games. This was the fourth straight season the Sox opened against a division winner, and in the previous three seasons they met the defending American League champions. The price of popularity, indeed.

Jon Lester pitched well enough to win Thursday, holding the Tigers to a run in seven innings, but a lefty winning on Opening Day just doesn’t happen for the Sox. The last lefty to do so was Gary Peters in 1970.

With his ninth-inning double Thursday, Dustin Pedroia kept alive his streak of hitting safely in all six of the openers in which he has played. Pedroia is batting .409 (9 for 22) on opening days.

Valentine had a terrific line about Pedroia the other day, when asked what he was surprised to learn about his second baseman this spring.

“I try always not to be surprised, but I’m surprised at just how ‘Pedroia’ he is, more than I even expected,’’ Valentine said. “In every aspect -- preparation, competitiveness, ability, his banter. I thought he had everything, and he’s more of everything. I’m very impressed, and they say I haven’t seen anything yet.’’

Valentine recounted David Ortiz asking him how long he has been in baseball (Valentine, drafted by the Dodgers in 1968, has been in the game in one form or another for 45 years).

“David said, ‘Get ready to see the best baseball player you’ve ever seen,’ ’’ Valentine said. “I thought he was talking about David. He was talking about Dustin.’’

Noon chat about prospects

Hey, you’re invited to join in our chat at noon, where the broadcasters for three Sox minor-league teams -- Pawtucket, Portland, and Salem -- plus Mike Andrews of will spend an hour with me talking about the team’s minor-leaguers. The link is HERE.

Morning notes:

Here are a few things that grabbed our attention this morning:

-- This had to rate as the funniest exchange of the day in Detroit, where John Tomase of the Boston Herald asked David Ortiz if he remembered the way the Sox bullpen-by-committee imploded in the 2003 opener, Ortiz’s first game with the Red Sox. Tampa Bay won on a walkoff home run by Carl Crawford off Chad Fox.

“I played with a guy named Chad Fox?” Ortiz asked in bewilderment.

-- Remaining in a humorous vein, there was this tweet from Pete Abraham of the Globe, on a day that 10 of the 14 teams who played scored three runs or fewer, six teams scored 1 or fewer, and three were shut out.

Tweeted @PeteAbe: In Europe they're all making fun of baseball because nobody ever scores.

-- David Schoenfield of ESPN’s SweetSpot notes that the Sox bullpen wasn’t the only one to struggle Thursday.
“The bullpens weren't quite as effective, leading to an exciting ninth inning in Detroit as Jose Valverde, a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities in 2011, blew a 2-0 lead; Kerry Wood couldn't hold a 1-0 lead for the Cubs, walking three consecutive batters; and Cleveland's Chris Perez collapsed in a flurry of walks and hits to surrender a 4-1 lead. That blown save eventually led to Toronto's 7-4 victory in 16 innings, the longest Opening Day game in history.

-- The flip side of that came in Philadelphia, where former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon went 1-2-3 in recording his first save with the Phillies.

Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who shut out the Pirates for eight innings, talked to columnist Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer about closers and his new teammate.
"They're all a little odd, but in their own way," Halladay said. "I've never seen two of them alike, and he definitely fits the mold. He's going to be a good addition for us. All you want are guys who go out there and compete and want the ball, and he obviously does that."

-- Lots of discussion, of course, about the Sox bullpen, including these takes from the tandem of Alex Speier, who never sleeps, and Rob Bradford:

From Speier, during his detailed analysis of how Bobby Valentine managed the opener:
It was the sort of outcome that will magnify the attention given to the absence of Bailey and, for that matter, former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (who was busy shutting down the Pirates in the ninth inning for his first save as a member of the Phillies). However, Valentine noted that his bullpen usage would have been largely unaltered had Bailey been available.

“I think everybody was pitching in the spot that they should have been pitching in. I didn’t think that there was any confusion,” said Valentine. “I bet it would have been pretty close to that scenario if Bailey was out there.”

Bradford, meanwhile, weighed in with this:
Aceves could certainly land as "the next best thing," perhaps Mark Melancon figures it out to be that guy, or maybe Bard down the road. Judging either off of what transpired Thursday would be ridiculous. In fact, trying to define the bullpen as a whole at this point would be a mistake. There are pieces there that could fit well enough.

The point is that Papelbon always instantly offered definition. For mostly better, and occasionally worse, he was the closer. The rest could figure itself out as the season unfolded.

Papelbon might not have even come into the game Thursday. But it couldn't be ignored that when the Red Sox closer did enter the game in the ninth to put out a fire, there was a different feel and level of confidence. One that hasn't been experienced in these parts for some time.

Maybe it was just a day to remember what once was, on the way to moving on. The Red Sox better hope so.

-- Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald, meanwhile, underscored how important it is for the Sox to get off to a good start:
But if ever there was a Sox team under pressure to get off to a great, or at least a decent start, it’s this bunch. They need to prove that what happened last September was some kind of strange brew -- figuratively and literally -- of bad karma and misplaced motivation, and not an example of what happens when players simply don’t care.

They also need to prove that they are on the same page with Valentine, who brought boundless energy and a whole new way of doing things to spring training -- which is great except for the fact that former Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has already sized up the whole thing as the “Titanic now in open water at full speed.’’

-- Finally, Chad Finn of the Boston Globe, always a worthwhile read, had a sensible take on Bobby Valentine’s weekly guest spot on Michael Kay’s radio show on ESPN New York:
Valentine is an accomplished multitasker -- managing a baseball team, running a restaurant, ensuring the safety of the good citizens of Stamford, Conn., building decks using Pythagorean theorem, ballroom dancing, and on and on. He may have even invented multitasking. That’s the facetious way of saying he can handle this. To take 20 minutes out of his day to talk baseball, even in a rival’s market, is no reason to yelp about his priorities.

His New York segment will be no more controversial than the one he will be doing weekly at WEEI. He’ll be a guest on “The Big Show’’ at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays -- his debut this week was awkward and obtuse, but uneventful -- and he’ll be live in the studio when the Red Sox are home. When the Red Sox have a day game, he’ll chat on “Dennis and Callahan’’ instead.

Sure, there will be times when he says something -- an opinion to us, a truth to him -- that causes uproar. Probably a lot of times. But that’s going to happen no matter whether he’s on WEEI, Kay’s show, or Stamford cable access, and if we know anything about him, we know this: He’s always going to be talking to someone. Who cares where?

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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