Tazawa to undergo Tommy John surgery
Right-hander's season comes to an end after elbow injury
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching prospect Junichi Tazawa won't throw another pitch in 2010. Instead, he will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday.
Tazawa's surgery will be performed by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who examined the Japanese right-hander earlier this week.
Countless pitchers have made full recoveries from Tommy John surgery, and the Red Sox expect the same will happen for Tazawa, who is 23 years old.
When will Tazawa return to the mound?
"Typical Tommy John timeline," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "You're looking at 10 to 12 months, but we're usually a little conservative. There's a chance he could have a Spring Training next year and pitch [early] next season."
Boston scouted Tazawa in Japan's industrial league and signed him to a three-year Major League contract on Dec. 3, 2008. He was promoted to the Red Sox in August of last season, going 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in six games, four of which were starts. Tazawa fired six shutout innings against the Yankees on Aug. 22. He spent most of 2009 at Double-A Portland, going 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA in 18 starts. Tazawa pitched twice for Triple-A Pawtucket before his promotion to the big leagues, notching a 2.38 ERA in two starts.
Both Tazawa and the club had known for the past couple of days that Tommy John surgery, in which a ligament is transferred from another part of the body to the elbow, was likely.
The righty will return to Fort Myers after his surgery and began his rehab there.
Lackey healthy, raring to go
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Lackey's final Grapefruit League numbers might be glittering (1.35 ERA, one walk in 20 innings), but they don't count. What matters to the right-hander is that for the first time since 2007, he is breaking camp with his team and not opening the season on the disabled list.
Lackey's final outing of Spring Training went off without a hitch Thursday, as the righty scattered six hits and a run over five innings of Boston's 5-3 victory over Minnesota. He walked one and struck out two, throwing 77 pitches. Now, all systems are go for his first official start in a Red Sox uniform, which is slated for Wednesday -- the finale of a three-game series against the Yankees.
"Oh, man, I'm just excited to be healthy and to be heading north," Lackey said. "I'm feeling pretty good about it."
In 2008, Lackey suffered a strained right triceps and didn't pitch until May 14. Last year, he had a strained right forearm and didn't start for the Angels until May 16. Now he is healthy and fired up.
"It's definitely more special or a little more exciting, because it's new," Lackey said. "We're playing the Yankees right out of the gate. It will be kind of like a playoff game right at the beginning."
"I think he's raring to go," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I think he was champing at the bit a little bit today even. He went out and warmed up, and he had to stand there for four minutes. I think he was getting ready to go today."
Epstein looking forward to season
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With Spring Training nearly over, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein can soon get a more definitive look at the acquisitions the club made over the winter. There isn't a whole lot of evaluating to be done during Grapefruit League action.
"In Spring Training, I usually just focus on health more than anything," Epstein said. "On the Major League side, knock on wood, we've been able to avoid major injury for the most part. We've had some smaller injury issues we've dealt with. We have four guys starting the year on the DL, so it hasn't been perfect. We've avoided anything dramatic or long-term I feel, so that's a good thing. There's not too much you can tell from Spring Training, really."
Epstein thinks that Mike Lowell, who is transitioning from Boston's everyday third baseman to a depth role at both first and third, will make a good impact on the team. Though Lowell's name remained on the trade rumor mill throughout Spring Training, Epstein never expected the classy veteran would be moved.
"The same exact thing I told you guys early in camp -- that from the day the Texas thing fell through in December, I anticipated him being an important part of this club, albeit with a role that's less than what he's used to," Epstein said. "I still see it that way. There hasn't been much trade activity, if at all, with him this spring. He's swinging the bat well of late, looking healthier every day, and I anticipate him being an important bench guy for us. No one wishes injury on anyone, but strange things happen in this game, and it's a good feeling to have him be able to step in if needed."
Did Epstein have any comment on rumors that the club is close to a four-year contract extension with ace Josh Beckett?
"No," Epstein said with a laugh. "You'd get more out of Josh, and I know he's not going to give too much."
Anything new on shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has been shut down from virtually all baseball activities since being diagnosed with mononucleosis a couple of weeks ago?
"Usually it's like a six-to-eight-week deal," Epstein said. "It can vary. You can't tell exactly how long you've had it either."
Red Sox dealing with bumps, bruises
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There was a small bumps and bruises report for Thursday. Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup for the third consecutive day, mainly because manager Terry Francona wants him to rest his throwing shoulder before the season starts.
"He'll take one more day," Francona said. "He did the cutoffs and relays the other day, and I just think his arm is a little bit sore. I would just rather wait one more day."
Backup outfielder Jeremy Hermida, who was sidelined with a sore right hamstring for the fifth consecutive day, will return to action on Friday, getting, as Francona said, "a bunch" of at-bats in a Minor League game.
Kevin Youkilis, who exited Wednesday's game after fouling a ball off his right knee, seemed no worse for the wear.
"[He's] good," Francona said. "He's not going to be play today, which I already told him. He's doing fine. He just has a bruise."
Designated hitter David Ortiz was scratched from Thursday's lineup at the last minute with a stiff neck. It is not considered to be a significant injury. Ortiz should play Friday, when the Sox have a home game against the Nationals.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.