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Masterson aiming to rise with his sinker

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 26, 2009
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Justin Masterson was sitting in a dugout in Lancaster, Calif., in July 2007, the tall righthander still in high Single A and the majors seemingly just a dream. Asked then about the player he most wanted to resemble by the time he reached the majors, Masterson said, "I'll take Derek Lowe. He's a pro sinkerballer. Well, I'm like him. He's not like me. I'm like him. Hopefully . . . I mean, I want to be like him."

Though Chien-Ming Wang in his prime might be a more apt comparison, with Masterson's fastball reaching 96 miles an hour, both the Globe and the Herald cited Lowe in their descriptions of the Sox starter after his most recent appearance. A dream come true?

"I think even then it was more, 'I want to be that type of guy, that type of pitcher,' " Masterson said last week. "We're different in what we throw. He's a lot more [of a short-armer] than I am, but just the idea of getting ground balls, having good sink on the ball, that's really what I'm going for. Last couple outings it's worked out nice.

"I watch guys who do similar things. Chien-Ming Wang is struggling a little bit this year; I want to see how he approaches hitters, how he does things. Brandon Webb, how he does, how he approaches [hitters]. Fausto Carmona, pretty much those guys who have some heavy sinkers, I like to watch them even though our angles might be a little different. The stuff that we have surrounding our sinkers are a little different. Just how they approach guys and how they go about getting those guys out."

He mulls the thought process of the pitchers he watches on video to gain more knowledge of their pitches and approach. In other words, as Masterson said, "How do they go about it? Where do they throw it? Do they work that backdoor sinker? Do they just keep it on the front side? Do they mix in a slider or a curveball? How often do they use a changeup?

"Not that it would really totally change my type of game. It's just really seeing what they do, how they go about it."

Masterson next will try to get the Yankees out, going from an 11 a.m. start (5 1/3 innings against the Orioles, yielding one run) last Monday to one tonight at 8. The difference in start times won't bother him, he said.

"I feel maybe more assured of myself and who I am," said Masterson. "I feel like I'm understanding my mechanics, like what makes me good. There's not overthinking. Let's just get out there. There's the glove. Hit it."

The clear message for Masterson tonight: Stay in the game. The converted reliever might just need to work more innings than he anticipated, given the state of the bullpen.

Manager Terry Francona was asked how close Masterson is to the normal pitch count for a starter: "If he wasn't this afternoon," he said, "he will be by tomorrow."

A bridge too far
Josh Beckett probably should have been taken out of yesterday's game after 103 pitches and five innings of work. At that point, the Sox had taken a two-run lead, Beckett was coming off a 1-2-3 inning, and it was time for the bullpen, albeit one already taxed on Friday night. "I got a little greedy and tried to get a little bit more out of him," Francona said. "I felt like I had a good reason. It didn't work out." . . . Dustin Pedroia isn't one to make many mistakes. Not on the bases and not in the field. So it was a bit of a surprise when Pedroia ended the sixth inning by running into a double play on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly, then added a two-run error in the top of the seventh. "I'm chalking all that stuff up to Usain Bolt throwing out the first pitch," he said. "I thought I was fast on that one, and then I was fast on the ground ball. [Derek ] Jeter kind of deked me there. I tagged up and he took the cutoff throw back far. I thought nobody was there. Smart play on his part." Then came the error, on a ball by Johnny Damon that brought in two runs. "I overran it," Pedroia said. "I thought I was going to have to backhand it. I tried to turn my glove over and it went through my legs." . . . The six-run deficit was the biggest overcome by Boston in a win over the Yankees since being down six runs on May 16, 1968 . . . The Sox and Yankees are now even all time at Fenway Park (446-446 with four ties) . . . The grand slam by Jason Varitek was the third of his career. His last came in 2006 . . . Ortiz has a 20-game homerless drought, the sixth time in his career he's gone 20-plus without a home run. It's his longest stretch as a member of the Sox, though his career longest was 42 games with the Twins in 2002.

Century club
Arthur Giddon sat in Francona's seat in the dugout, bat boy morphed into dignitary. While batting practice went on around him, the former Boston Braves bat boy, who turns 100 today, received most of the Sox at his temporary post, including Francona himself, while wearing a jersey with the No. 100 and the name "Big Pappy."

Giddon, a resident of Bloomfield, Conn., was a bat boy for the Braves of the 1920s, meeting such luminaries as Babe Ruth and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He called yesterday "the greatest day since I was married." Giddon was married July 17, 1948.

And his wish for the Red Sox? "Good luck, good health, and I hope you live to 100 and more."

Mum's the word
A series of no comments were issued yesterday as word began leaking out that Red Sox chief operating officer Mike Dee was contemplating a move to the Miami Dolphins to run their business operations. "I think anything that comes out on Mike's career should come from Mike," said Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino. Dee, who helped form the Fenway Sports Group, which has produced millions of dollars in revenue for the Red Sox and recently has begun negotiating deals on the Sox' new spring training facility in Fort Myers, said via e-mail he would not make a comment "at this time." Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene also said that his ownership would not comment.

Smoltz throws again
John Smoltz threw to hitters yesterday morning, though not in a game, in extended spring training. He is likely to stay in Florida and face hitters again in five days. "He wants to be in midseason form and I don't think that progression allows that right now," Francona said. "I think he starts champing at the bit, and we have to remind him when he thinks he's running in place, he's not. His volume has just expanded and he's doing a lot more now than he was before." . . . The Yankees placed Wang (hip), reliever Brian Bruney (elbow), and third baseman Cody Ransom on the 15-day disabled list. Ransom strained his right quadriceps running the bases Friday night.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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