The scene right now: The Red Sox are taking batting practice, with the Boston College players huddled around the batting cage watching. A few are posing for pictures with Julio Lugo. Toto’s “Africa” was playing on the loudspeakers a minute ago; now it’s “Ain’t No Mountain.”
Terry Francona gave his daily briefing, which included a couple minor newsy nuggets. For one, Rocco Baldelli will start at designated hitter Friday against Tampa Bay, the team with which he spent his the first six years of his career.
And then there were the international matters to which the title of this post alludes. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched in an exhibition game yesterday in Japan and “was pretty much on target,” Francona said. Matsuzaka threw 1 2/3 innings and allowed one run on four hits. [Note: Japanese newspapers reported that he allowed two runs and five hits.] He threw 38 pitches, two shy of the 40-pitch limit the Red Sox wanted.
Matsuzaka, of course, is not going to join the Red Sox until after the World Baseball Classic, training instead across the Pacific. The club has been communicating with Matsuzaka through e-mails sent by club officials to oversee Matsuzaka in Japan, which are translated by Masa Hoshino. The arrangement, Francona allowed, is a little strange.
“Yeah, it is,” he said. “But when you think about it, it makes sense. You’d certainly rather have your team here than not here. But I don’t know if that made a lot of sense, to ask him to do it. We’re getting good updates. The mound is the same distance away there as it is here.”
The Red Sox have a more typical WBC-related concern with lefty set-up man Javier Lopez, who will pitch for Puerto Rico. Francona called PR manager Jose Oquendo yesterday.
“Just to plead for leniency,” Francona said, grinning. “No, he was great. After I called him, I was actually kind of embarrassed. He was so good about realizing how to handle it. About 10 seconds into the phone call, I was just asking him how he was doing. Because it was very obvious he had respect.
“The thing with Javy is, because he’s a specialty, he’s a guy that a manager would want to get up [a lot]. Early in the season, you’re not ready to do that — back-to-back days, things like that. But Jose was so good.”
The Lopez/Matsuzaka difference illustrates how divergent individual situations become when the WBC cuts in. The position of the player and the level of the country’s desire to win necessitate each case be analyzed differently.
“Well, it’s difficult,” Francona said. “With position players, you really don’t need to [call the country’s manager]. In Daisuke’s case, he’s been over there the whole and we’ve had communication through a phone call or two, but mostly e-mails and things like that. In some instances, there’s probably a little more openness for people to communicate than others. I think the Japanese team, putting their team together, they want to win. I mean, everybody wants to win – some teams are more open to communication than others. I knew Jose, so it was an easy phone call.”
(Side note: Sorry, we have no audio/video for Francona today. Chris Forsberg is unfortunately headed back to Boston. Once I figure out my fancy flip-cam, it should return.)