Greetings from Fenway Park where the Sox have just wrapped up batting practice and Mike Lowell has taken some cuts in the cage in preparation for tonight's game versus the Indians.
Lowell, who has been nagged by a torn labrum in his hip (we only play a doctor on TV, but who knew such a thing even existed), was excited to take BP on the field today after hitting "pain-free'' in the batting cage Wednesday.
"I think we've kind of gone on the cautious side, which I guess at this point of the season is probably the intelligent way to do it,'' Lowell told reporters before tonight's game. "So I'm just looking forward to today hitting and tomorrow playing.''
With inclement weather predicted for Friday night's game, was he looking forward, then, to playing in a monsoon?
"Well, I know I guess that's the only thing I don't know if the weather's going to cooperate,'' he said. "I think, either way, if they make us play a doubleheader Sunday, so either way I think the plan is for me to DH one of the days and for me to play defense the other day.
"I don't really think if something happens Friday that's going to take away from the plan, but I really would like to at least play Saturday and Sunday,'' Lowell added. "I wouldn't want storms coming the whole weekend.''
Asked about his range of movement, Lowell said, "My movement side to side, I wouldn't say it's pain, but it's the same pull I felt before. The big sting I got in Tampa, which really made it flare up, that's what I'm trying to avoid. The good thing about the playoffs is it's usually two [in a row] and a day off; it's not a grind of 20 in a row, so I got to think that's a good thing for us.''
Sox manager Terry Francona said initial reports from J.D. Drew, who started in right field Wednesday night marking his first action since August 17 because of a strained lower back, were positive.
"I think he feels it more in his legs than anywhere else,'' Francona said, "but we talked to him and, like we promised, we'll stay away from him tonight and try to get him back in there tomorrow if there's a tomorrow; there may not be a tomorrow because of weather issues.''
Francona said the Sox purchased the contract of infielder Gil Velazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket today and added him to the active roster as an added precaution headed into the playoffs. Velazquez had been assigned to the Instructional League in Fort Myers, Fla., when he was added to the active roster after the club made room by moving righthanded pitcher Bartolo Colon from the suspended to the restricted list.
"When we were talking about [Julio] Lugo, and having a bump in the road when things weren't going well, we asked Gil to go down to Fort Myers to the Instructional League and he agreed to to it,'' Francona said. "The more we talked about it, if something happened in the playoffs and we needed to activate Gil, then he'd need to come from Fort Myers, never being around us or the major leagues, so we decided to bring Gil here. We'll probably get him in a game and then, if there's ever a need down the road, he won't be coming from the Instructional League.
"He'll have been in this atmosphere and, hopefully, some of the butterfiles and those things will have gone away if not abated,'' Francona said. "It wouldn't be a shock. It's a lot to ask of somebody. Again, hopefully it doesn't happen, but I just think we're just covering everything and it's the right thing to do.''
Francona said he wasn't prepared to reveal his playoff roster yesterday, saying he had up until the morning of the Sox first playoff game to submit his roster to the league.
"We'll try to make the decisions we need to make before the weekend is over and talk to the people we need to talk about traveling,'' Francona said. "There may be some roster decisions we can't make until after we have meetings and determine health and see who is playing. I don't think our roster has to be in the morning of the first game, anyway, but we're certainly going to try to communicate with everybody as soon as we can so they know their situation."
Francona was asked about Jeff Bailey, whom he penciled in as his designated hitter for tonight's game, and whether he's succeeded in opening up some eyes in the organization. Bailey, who batted .301 with 25 homers and 28 RBI in 109 games at Pawtucket and finished among the International League leaders in runs (1st, 88), slugging percentage (2d, .562) and homers (6th), recorded his first Major League triple in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Indians.
"Last night, he didn't waste any time,'' Francona said. "He was supposed to go up there and jump on a pitch and he did. I think Bails opened some eyes early on with the staff. When we first saw him in spring training, he wasn't a heralded [prospect] on the cover of Baseball America, but a lot of the people who knew him really liked him and thought he had a chance to hit major league pitching and that's proved itself out.
"We've always like Bails, his ability to hit, he's worked hard at first base and we appreciate what he can do.''
The Sox announced their 2008 Minor League Awards today, as selected by the club's operations department and minor league roving instructors.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Daniel Bard, Greenville/Portland: Combined to go 5-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 77.2 innings in 46 relief appearances at Greenville and Portland.
Offensive Player of the Year: 1B Lars Anderson, Lancaster/Portland: Combinted to bat .317 with 85 runs, 32 doubles, 18 homers, and 80 RBI in 118 games for Lancaster and Portland. Had a .317 average with 13 homers and 50 RBI is 77 games with the JetHawks and a .316 mark with 5 homers and 30 RBI in 41 games with the Sea Dogs.
Defensive Player of the Year: OF Che-Hsuan Lin, Greenville: Had a .961 fielding percentage in 207 total chances in 88 games in the outfield for Greenville. Also batted .249 with 5 homers and 37 RBI in 91 games for the Drive. Ranked second among Boston minor leaguers with 33 stolen bases.
Baserunner of the Year: OF Wilfred Pichardo, GCL Red Sox/Lowell: Led the organization with 43 stolen bases, topping the Gulf Coast League with 42 in 51 attempts which marked the most in the GCL since 1991.
Minor League Latin Program Pitcher of the Year: LHP Manuel Rivera, DSL Red Sox: 4-3 with a 2.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 52.1 innings in 13 starts.
Minor League Latin Program Player of the Year: IB Eddie Lora, DSL Red Sox/GCL Red Sox: Hit .300 with 6 doubles, 5 homers, 26 RBI, 21 runs, 34 walks and a .455 on-base percentage in 35 games.