Los Angeles Dodgers-Boston Red Sox Preview: Manny Returns to Fenway
This weekend will mark the first time Dodgers' left fielder Manny Ramirez will play in Fenway Park since departing the Red Sox.
With the Dodgers currently in a first place battle in the NL West, and the Red Sox heating up and making a push in the AL East, the series looks to be a TV ratings power boost.
The Dodgers are now in first place, following two dominant wins to begin the series with Cincinnati. They have the best record in the National League, despite numerous injuries to the pitching staff.
The Red Sox are a first-place contender in every other division but the AL East, and will be looking to move within striking distance of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. They are currently just three games back.
Pitching match-ups and scouting reports may be key in this series, as well as several hitters heating up. The last time the Dodgers played the Red Sox was on March 30, 2008. The Spring Training exhibition was claimed by the Dodgers in an 8-0 affair.
Rookies To Duel Friday
LAD Carlos Monasterios, RHP (3-1, 2.98) vs. BOS Felix Doubront, LHP (0-0, -.--) 7:10 ET
Rookie right-hander Monasterios will see his second start in inter-league action on Friday, and thus far in 2010, he has proved able to handle challenges. The original plan of the Dodgers was for Monasterios to be a middle reliever in Triple-A.
A Rule 5 draft pick, Monasterios began Spring Training with only a small chance of making the Opening Day roster. However, he "wowed" the coaching staff and upper management, forcing the Dodgers to hand him a roster spot, and he hasn't looked back.
Despite his recent successes, the Dodgers were facing a dilemma with the return of Vicente Padilla.
Monasterios is out of options and would have to be designated for assignment in order to make space for Padilla's return. It is not likely the youngster would clear waivers so the Dodgers were in a pickle. Then a timely injury to starter Chad Billingsley allowed Monasterios to stay.
The rookie will have to pitch like he's on borrowed time in order to stymie the Red Sox hot offense.
Doubront is a 22-year-old southpaw from Venezuela, and will be making his Major League debut on Friday. Injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett have necessitated the need for others to step in to the rotation.
Doubront has been in the Red Sox minor league system since 2005, and has stellar numbers at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He is a combined 6-1 with 1.80 ERA for the two teams.
Doubront features a fastball ranging in the low 90's, a change-up coming in with screwball movement to it, and a mid-70's curveball.
This rookie is tall and slender, measuring 6'2" and 165 lbs. He shows strong control of his pitches and will be facing an unpredictable Dodgers line-up looking to set a steady offensive pace.
Expect this game to be a low-scoring affair if both pitchers play by their numbers.
Vicente Padilla Returns to Dodgers' Rotation
LAD Vicente Padilla, RHP (1-1, 6.65) vs. BOS Tim Wakefield, RHP (2-5, 5.42)
Vicente Padilla is finally coming off the DL for the Dodgers, which means there is now only one available position in the rotation, and it will likely be claimed by rookie John Ely.
Padilla had been suffering from an agitated nerve in his right forearm, making it very painful to deliver a pitch. An extended rehab stint has given confidence to manager Joe Torre, and Padilla will be looking to level out some large numbers in his stat line.
The Dodgers will need to have Padilla stay healthy this time while eating up some innings. LA's bullpen has been heavily worked following a dreadful series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Thus far against the Reds the Dodgers starters have been superb, and if Padilla expects to hold down his job, he will need to be on his A-game at Fenway.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will be towing the slab for the Sox, coming off a loss to the Phillies. Wakefield is off to a tough start in June, and will be looking to rebound against a team that appears to be finding a groove despite numerous injuries.
Wakefield's career ERA against the Dodgers is over six and a half, but fares well against Manny Ramirez. If that trend continues, you can expect elation in the stands.
LAD Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (6-4, 3.10) vs. BOS Clay Buchholz, RHP (9-4, 2.67)
The Dodgers will send Hiroki Kuroda to the bump on Sunday. Ultimately the decision was made to pitch Kuroda rather than using a spot start from former starter Jeff Weaver or a bullpen marathon.
Kuroda is coming off a win on Tuesday against the Reds, going the minimum five innings while surrendering just three hits, striking out eight and not allowing a run.
The Dodgers will look to salvage this game and will likely need plenty of offense to make it competitive. However, they will be facing a pitcher with a hot hand thus far this season.
Clay Buchholz has been the surprising ace of the Red Sox staff this season, leading the team with nine wins. In his last start against the last place Arizona Diamondbacks, Buchholz was unable to go in to the later innings, lasting just 5.1 innings while surrendering three runs. He still picked up the win, backed by timely hitting. Sunday will be the first time Buchholz faces the Dodgers.
Oh yeah, then there's the Manny returning to Fenway thing
All pitching match-ups aside, it is hard to ignore the situation facing the Dodgers' left fielder. Many want to know how Manny will behave on the field, and what he will say off the field.
If you turn the channel on your TV to any sports station covering this series, all they are talking about is Manny.
But what if Manny remains quiet and just plays the game? Would that be the way to handle this situation, or would it be weird for him to be silent, which could be considered "Manny being Manny" anyway.
The great debate also lies with the Boston fans. Will they boo Manny? Even after he was so valuable in both of their World Series runs?
This man helped a team with a nearly 100 year curse to two World Series Championships. However, he left one of the most storied ball clubs in history with a bitter taste in fans' mouths.
His comments regarding his treatment in Boston and his teammates will undoubtedly overshadow his performance on the field.
Will Red Sox fans show their appreciation? Yeah, right.
The attitude of New England fans will also be hinging on the outcome of Game Seven of the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Lakers.
Fans tuning in to the game can fully expect a hostile welcoming for Manny Ramirez, and any cheers of appreciation will most likely be more like the sound of a bumble bee covered by a runaway freight train.
Expect several creative signs throwing jabs towards left field during lapses in game action.
There isn't much more to this scenario that hasn't already been beaten to the ground, but maybe, just maybe, something surprising will happen that we can all tell our grand kids we witnessed.
All eyes will be on number 99 come Friday, and expect Manny to show his usual character, playing games with the media while acting like baseball is well...just a game.