BOSTON -- In a visit to Fenway Park on Thursday, former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci announced plans to raise millions in support of ALS research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Cellucci announced in January that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. The initiative, called the UMass ALS Champion Fund, will help support the laboratory of Robert H. Brown Jr., one of the world's leading minds looking into a cure.
"I am proud to continue my career in public service by leading the UMass ALS Champion Fund efforts," Cellucci said. "A champion helps to deliver great victories, and Dr. Brown is a true champion of ALS research. But, victories are a team effort. Dr. Brown and his colleagues at UMass Medical School need our support."
According to the ALS Association's website, the disease most commonly strikes between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have it at a given time.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared Thursday as "Paul Cellucci/ALS Champion Day" in Massachusetts, and Boston mayor Thomas Menino declared the day as "Champion Day" in Boston.
Cellucci became acting governor in 1997 and was elected governor in '98, holding the post until 2001, when president George W. Bush named him U.S. ambassador to Canada.
For more information on the UMass ALS Champion Fund visit www.UMassALS.com.
Papelbon slamming door on opposing batters
BOSTON -- After an offseason where the Red Sox reportedly were considering non-tendering Jonathan Papelbon, their closer whose free agency is impending, the right-hander has dominated to start the year.
Papelbon is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 appearances, and he locked down his eighth save in nine chances Wednesday night in a 1-0 game with strikeouts of the last two hitters following a leadoff double.
By all accounts, he doesn't seem to be throwing like the pitcher who finished last season with a 3.90 ERA.
"As far as who he is, he isn't any different," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He's still going about it the same way, he's still working hard, but his stuff is definitely coming a little better. He's getting great backspin -- the ball is flying out of his hand."
Papelbon relied on his fastball Wednesday night, and while it might seem to have more bite, the numbers don't show it's any faster than in past years. According to fangraphs.com, Papelbon's averaging 94.1 mph, actually the lowest of his career, but that's not saying much.
Every season he's been in the Majors, his fastball has averaged somewhere in the 94-mph range, varying by tenths of a mile per hour.
By the numbers, Papelbon does seem to be using his slider more frequently this year, but the one distinct change from the last two years to this one might not be in pitch selection or velocity. It might simply be control.
Papelbon's locating like he was from 2007-08, when he was at his best. Both those seasons, he threw balls 30 percent of the time.
Of the 285 pitches he's thrown this season, 87 or about 31 percent have been balls, according to fangraphs.com. In 2010 and '09, he missed the strike zone 34 and 35 percent of the time, respectively.
"I don't think I'd disagree with that," manager Terry Francona said Thursday when asked about Papelbon's fastball looking like it did three and four years ago. "I guess I'd look more at his command. I think there were times last year when he was throwing hard but didn't quite know where it was going and he had to reel it back in. I think it's got good finish on it, but I think his location's been really good."
Sox to don throwback uniforms Saturday
BOSTON -- The Red Sox and Cubs are going to recreate the visual on Saturday.
Slated for a three-game series at Fenway Park this weekend -- the teams' first meeting in Boston since the 1918 World Series -- both clubs will wear replica throwback uniforms.
"I think this is a great series for the fans, you're right, there is some history there," manager Terry Francona said. "I think it's going to be a big ticket. I think from where we look at it, though, it's an opportunity to win a game. We got a team coming in that we'd like to beat."
Generally, Francona isn't one to look ahead to upcoming series when talking to the media, preferring to focus on the series at hand. On Thursday, though, he made an exception.
Francona actually spent one of his 10 seasons as a player with the Cubs, in 1986. He hit .250 with a pair of home runs in 86 games over 124 at-bats.
"I lived north of the city, so I fought the traffic in, fought the traffic home and didn't get very many hits," Francona said.
Francona said of the two classic ballparks the teams inhabit, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, he prefers the former. The dugouts at Wrigley made it hard to watch games, and when he was a player, the day games that the Cubs always played at home made life difficult.
"I always liked Fenway a little bit better," Francona said. "They're not going to cut you a break on the travel all the time because you didn't have lights. I remember feeling bad for Jody Davis our catcher, because he just got worn out."
As for the uniforms, the Red Sox's on Saturday will be a blank button-up with no lettering and a slight off-white or ivory color. The cap will also have a blank off-white tint, and the socks will be a three-part white-red-white combo. Boston didn't wear the familiar blue cap with a red "B" until the early 1930s.
Chicago will wear navy blue pinstripes and lettering on a grayish uniform. The Cubs used this uniform for only one season, changing their road uniforms on an almost-yearly basis during the 1910s.
Dice-K may seek second opinion on elbow
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka may still seek a second opinion on his throwing elbow after he was told Wednesday that he could not throw for at least two weeks, but he has not yet.
An MRI conducted Tuesday revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strain to his common flexor mass. Surgery on that ligament is best known as Tommy John surgery.
"Not already, he certainly has that right," manager Terry Francona said when asked if Matsuzaka had already made arrangements to see another doctor. "We'll see when, if, where. That's certainly something that is always open to a player, and we actually -- I don't know if recommend's the right word -- but certainly agree, always want a player to feel confident in what's going on moving forward."
Matsuzaka said Wednesday that he was not concerned about potentially needing surgery. He also confirmed he was considering going for a second opinion.
"We will help him with that if that's what he wants to do," Francona said. "Everything's been sent to his representatives and all that type of stuff."
Iglesias, Bowden heading back to Minors
BOSTON -- Following Thursday's 4-3 win over the Tigers, the Red Sox informed prospects Jose Iglesias and Michael Bowden that they are going back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The moves won't be made official until Friday, when righty reliever Dan Wheeler will be activated from the 15-day disabled list, taking the bullpen spot that Bowden filled for the last two days. This was Bowden's eighth stint with the Red Sox over four seasons, and this time, he didn't appear in a game.
As for Iglesias, he had been serving as the backup shortstop since May 9 -- the day Marco Scutaro went on the disabled list.
Because Iglesias is arguably Boston's top position prospect, the club doesn't want him building up rust on the bench for too long.
Both Iglesias and Bowden were seen clearing out their lockers after Thursday's game.
According to CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam, infielder Drew Sutton will take Iglesias' roster spot.
Sutton, who impressed the Red Sox during Spring Training, has played well at Triple-A, hitting .304 with five homers and 26 RBIs.
Iglesias played in six games for the Red Sox, but he made just one start. He went hitless in his first six Major League at-bats.