Advance Scout: Boston, April 8-10

Tuesday, April 08 2003 @ 12:56 PM EDT

Contributed by: Mike D

The Terrible Twenty continue for the Jays, as the Beantowners arrive fresh off a 5-2 start to the season against the past, present and future fourth- and fifth-place clubs in the AL East. Starting pitching has been generally solid for the Bosox, but the now-infamous "Closer-By-Committee" is providing yet another example of the often-unavoidable clash between baseball strategic theory and the harsh reality of inadequate personnel.

Grady Little isn't only experimenting with his relief corps; Boston has been using players not generally thought of as versatile in versatile ways (see batting orders below). Doesn't look like much of a defence to me, and the Jays might be able to put some pressure on the suspect D, particularly on turf. And we're talking a man's turf here, not that sissy good-for-you stuff in St. Petersburg.

Having said that, the Red Sox are absolutely tearing the cover off the ball at the plate, and turf might enhance their awesome offence even further. By sacrificing defensive expertise and grace, the Red Sox can trot out an exceptionally powerful, patient and explosive offence. Let's see if the Jays redeem themselves for the Yankee fiasco of a series in front of the home crowd. Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson, Tanyon and Doc will be the most important three players of the series on either team.

On to the Advance Scout!

Pedro, pitching coach? After Derek Lowe was shelled by the Rays in the first inning on Wednesday, Pedro Martinez took Lowe aside and talked to him about a mechanical problem Pedro caught on videotape in the clubhouse, which Lowe was able to fix by the time the next inning rolled around...Yes, Pedro's a winner...Shea Hillenbrand is off to a torrid start, batting .333 with fifteen RBI...Jason Varitek hit a 428-foot bomb off the catwalks of Tropicana Field on Wednesday...Mike Timlin is actually a Sox reliever off to a good start, holding opponents to a .158 batting average with no walks...Dating back to last season, Manny Ramirez is on a 20-game hitting streak...Lowe threw 33 pitches in the first inning of his last start, but a more 2002-vintage 7 pitches in the second inning...Kevin Millar is white hot, going 381/519/810 in North American baseball...He missed a cycle on Thursday by the elusive triple...Grady Little says his team is hitting with confidence across the board...Casey Fossum struck out eight Rays in five innings on Thursday...The Red Sox have been tremendous with RISP, two out...Manny had to get to a Geronimo Gil double in a hurry and Nomar Garciaparra had to be perfect with his relay to the plate in the ninth inning on Friday, or else the Committee would have blown a seven-run lead against the Orioles entirely...Steve Woodard and Ramiro Mendoza were the near-goats that night...Little, in response to Friday's debacle: "Things didn't go perfectly. But they will"...Jeremy Giambi has seen his playing time cut after a 1-for-15 start...Chad Fox, Opending Day Goat, walked in the winning run on Saturday...Little concisely described Fox's outing on Saturday as "pretty much of a self-destruction kind of deal"...Little, in response to Saturday's debacle: "We're a little concerned and rightfully so, but we also have confidence that they'll get it turned around and get headed in the right direction shortly"...Nomar fell short of a cycle on Sunday by the elusive single...The Committee has turned Little into Bob Dole: "I'm not exactly sure what I'll do, but I guarantee you one thing, Grady Little is not going to continue to do things that aren't working"...One Committee development is set in stone: Chad Fox is no longer Chairman...Theo Epstein pointed to John Smoltz's early troubles as closer as an example of why not to give up on the Committee...Gamer: Trot Nixon made a full-out diving catch with the score at 12-2 on Sunday...Tim Wakefield described the Toronto SARS cases as a "scary situation," and Little said he would ask his team to avoid crowds...Little is 98-71 and is campaigning to be the second-fastest active manager to 100 wins after Dusty Baker...Thankfully, the Sox will save Pedro for Friday's home opener.

Probable Batting Orders

vs. LH

5 Mueller/ 8 Damon
4 Walker/Mueller
6 Garciaparra
7 Ramirez
9/3 Millar
DH Ortiz/Giambi
3/5 Hillenbrand
2 Varitek
8 D Jackson/9 Nixon

*Yes, that's Damian Jackson in CF.

vs. RH
8 Damon
4 Walker
6 Garciaparra
7 Ramirez
3 Ortiz/Millar
DH Millar/Giambi
5 Hillenbrand/Mueller
9 Nixon
2 Varitek/Mirabelli

Bullpen Usage (yeah, right)

Long Lyon R, Howry R
Short Woodard R
Setup Timlin R, Fox R
"Closer" Embree L, Mendoza R