March 29, 2007


GM reviews state of team (Howard Ulman, March 29, 2007, AP)

Before Boston's final Grapefruit League game, a 3-3 tie with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Epstein discussed Daisuke Matsuzaka, the rookie pitching star from Japan, and players whose exhibition game performances weren't as good.

Matsuzaka has a 2.04 ERA with one game left, a brief tuneup on Saturday in Philadelphia, before his first regular-season start next Thursday in Kansas City. Reliever Hideki Okajima has a 2.84 ERA in 10 appearances.

"I'm very happy with the transition process," Epstein said. "The rest of our players deserve credit for taking something that could have been a distraction and turning it into a positive."

The lack of distractions didn't help captain Jason Varitek or rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Varitek is 4-for-39 (.103) and Pedroia is 12-for-57 (.211). Varitek turns 35 on April 11 and is coming off a career-low .238 batting average.

Epstein feels good about shape of Sox (Ian Browne, 3/29/07,
Though Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka certainly represent an imposing front three to the rotation, Epstein isn't ready just yet to anoint it as the best starting staff he's had in his five years as general manager.

"I don't like assessing teams on paper," Epstein said. "On paper, it's got as high a ceiling as any team we've had. We got it going pretty good towards the end of 2004. Those guys made all their starts. That's an important thing.

"Often times, you look at the end of the year, the team that won the pennant is the team that had a rotation that made the most starts and stayed the healthiest, the top five guys. They can take the ball and not miss starts, that's a good sign. That's a pretty important factor for us and for all of our competitors as well."

In the past, Epstein has admitted that building a bullpen is an art he has struggled at. How does he like this year's bullpen now that Jonathan Papelbon is back in the closer's role?

"It's always wait-and-see [approach] for every team," Epstein said. "I think we have some veteran talent in the big leagues right now. I think we have the best depth we've had in Triple-A in a long time. That's a pretty good Triple-A bullpen that we have right now, and starting rotation. Considering that we usually use at least 20 pitchers to get through the season, I think we're built better for the long haul."

The pitching is likely to be even better than folks expect going in, but Varitek's decline is a real problem and they're very dependent on getting 600+ plate appearances from Manny and Big Papi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 29, 2007 9:11 PM
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