red sox notebook

Timlin's availability for opener in question

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / March 21, 2008

TOKYO -- Mike Timlin had a lengthy day Friday, beginning with a helicopter ride to U.S. Army Base Camp Zama, and ending at a welcome party at a hotel in Tokyo with the Red Sox and Athletics. In between came news that might cause him to miss his second straight season opener.

Timlin had two stitches to repair a cut to the ring finger of his pitching hand on Wednesday, after he suffered the injury on a comebacker to the mound. Timlin had pitched one inning in the exhibition game that was nearly boycotted by the Red Sox against the Blue Jays because of a disagreement on compensation for coaches and staff from the team's trip to Japan.

Manager Terry Francona did say that it was unlikely Timlin would end up on the disabled list, though he also might not be ready to pitch in the season opener, on Tuesday against Oakland in Tokyo.

''I don't know yet,'' Timlin told reporters. ''We have to check it out. I can play catch. The ball hit me off the end of the finger. I tried to get my hand out of the way, actually. I wasn't trying to reach and catch the ball.''

Timlin would not necessarily need to be put on the disabled list to start the season because of the Red Sox schedule. The team brought 30 players to Japan (not including Curt Schilling, on the 60-day DL), 25 of whom can be active for the games against Oakland. The Red Sox could simply leave Timlin as inactive, along with certain inactives Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield (who will pitch the exhibition games today and tomorrow), and two others, and that would give him time to recuperate before the Red Sox head to Oakland to restart the season.

Timlin began last season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle, before being activated on April 10.

Players visit soldiers

Four players -- Wakefield, Timlin, Curt Schilling, and Bryan Corey, along with Wakefield's wife and Timlin's son -- headed via Blackhawk helicopter to visit soldiers and their families at Camp Zama, a U.S. Army Base in Kanagawa Prefecture Friday morning.

After a 10-minute flight, the players arrived at the base, which has 680 troops serving there.

''To be able to say thank you to the men and women, especially the families stationed halfway around the world and serving our country, it's an honor and a privilege,'' Schilling said. ''You talk about heroes and warriors and courage in sports a lot. It's a grossly overused word in what we do for a living. Being able to meet true heroes and warriors that serve our country is an honor, it really is.''

The players signed hundreds of autographs and posed for photos with those serving at the base. They were also presented with a Torii Gate, a small wooden sculpture that marks shrines in Japan, and special coins that are given for excellence, usually to those who support soldiers.

Coco likely available to play

Coco Crisp will likely be available to play in games in Japan, after suffering with a groin injury throughout most of spring training ... Francona said the team was expecting to get five innings out of Clay Buchholz in Saturday's exhibition game (Sunday morning on the East Coast) and six innings from Tim Wakefield in tomorrow's game (tonight on the East Coast) ... Buchholz reflected on the differences he's already witnessed in Japan: ''It was all different, just as far as seeing how many stores are crammed in to one space, and how tiny the roads are, the back roads.'' He reported he spent the plane ride watching American Gangster, and slept fine Thursday night ... The Red Sox worked out for two hours on the turf at the Tokyo Dome -- also known as the Big Egg -- Friday afternoon, before heading back to attend the welcome party. The stadium resembles the Metrodome, and looks much older than its two decades ... Oakland seems comfortable with its status as second fiddle here in Tokyo, both because the Red Sox are the World Series winners, and because they bring Daisuke Matsuzaka. ''It makes it easier,'' general manager Billy Beane said. ''The focus should be on the Red Sox, just like in the States. They're the world champions. They're the best team in baseball. Conceivably going in as the favorite to be the world champions. No, that goes with the territory.'' To that end, Lew Wolff, owner of the A's joked, ''It's very hard to get a ticket to the Boston games, so that's one of the reasons we came out'' ... With the falling dollar rendering the yen expensive, general manager Theo Epstein quipped, ''All of our players want to be paid in yen now.'' ... Francona reported that he won the onboard cribbage tournament. Buchholz, on the other end, said he stayed away from card playing of any sort because the stakes got a bit too high for the rookie.

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