The World Series: beards and music

Superstitious, I guess.  I didn’t want to write about the Red Sox in the World Series for fear of jinxing them.  Not that I have any such power, but with the baseball gods one never knows.  But now each team has had one horrid game – the Cardinals were worse than the Sox – and the Series is tied.  The Sox need to win at least one game in St. Louis to get back home team advantage.  This is beginning to feel like the games with Detroit that got them where they are.  That turned out OK, so we can still have hope.  All we need is for Jake Peavy to live up to his hype and for some combination of Clay Buchholtz/Felix Dubrount to pitch well and there is a chance for two wins.  And then we get Lester again.  So I’m feeling OK about the situation.  I feel badly for John Lackey who has had a great pitching year, but can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to run support and wins.

The player who did his job last night was Koji Uehara the accidental closer.  Once more.  3 outs on 10 pitches.  The beardless one.  I think we all assumed he didn’t have a beard because he couldn’t grow one.  We were wrong.  A few days ago, this story was in the New York Times.

Long, bushy beards have become the unifying trademark of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but the most valuable player of their American League Championship Series victory stands out for more than his pitching.

The series M.V.P., the cleanshaven closer Koji Uehara, was given a pass on the team’s unofficial pro-beard policy because most of his teammates thought he was incapable of growing one.

But that is hardly the case. Well before the Red Sox’ shaggy faces entered the national consciousness, Uehara was a longstanding member of the antirazor brigade.

Until January, when he shaved it off on Japanese national television, Uehara had one of the most famous beards in Japan: light, Fu Manchu-style scruff with a wraparound beard connecting to his sideburns. It was considered ugly and brutish by many of his friends and countrymen, but he wore it defiantly for several years after coming to the United States in 2009.

Koji in Baltimore

People must have known.  I watched him pitch when he was with Baltimore, but I guess the beard never registered.  He also had a beard with the Rangers.

“I just didn’t know where I was going with that beard,” Uehara, 38, said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon before the final game of the A.L.C.S. “So I thought it was best to shave it off. It was a good time to do it, and I think many people were happy. They said I looked younger.”

Without facial hair, Uehara posted a career-low 1.09 E.R.A. in the regular season and had 21 saves after taking over as Boston’s full-time closer June 26. In the playoffs, he has been just as good, allowing one run in nine innings over eight games. He has five saves this postseason: two in a division series against the Tampa Bay Rays and three in the A.L.C.S. against the Detroit Tigers, including the save that clinched the pennant Saturday night.

But has shaving made him a better postseason pitcher?

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “I am not sure about that.”

Whatever.  If being beardless got him MVP for the ALCS, then it is good for him and for us.

In one way, it makes sense that Uehara is now clean shaven in the midst of players who look like desert-island castaways. He originally grew his beard to stand apart from his teammates in Japan and from Japanese players in the majors, many of whom did not have facial hair.

Now that he is with a rowdy band of bearded Red Sox, he is distinguished in a different way.

“If I had a beard now,” he said, “I would not stand out.”

Meanwhile the symphony orchestras in Boston and St. Louis are getting in the act.  Even if you don’t root for either team this clip is wonderful.  I have to concede that the brass from St. Louis are better trash talkers, but the BSO has Seiji Ozawa.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_k8oICRBH4&feature=youtu.be

By the way, Boston in six.  With ZZ Top on our side, how can we lose?

Photograph: Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Can we send David Ortiz to the budget negotiations?

It has been a discouraging last few days with the only real bright spot being Friday (and then we went back Saturday) at Symphony Hall with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We wanted to hear Thomas Ades, Polaris a second time and Friday night the BSO did not do Franck’s Symphony in D Minor which my husband loves.   But we came home Saturday night to no budget/debt ceiling deal and the Red Sox striking out, also.  I often tune in to some of the Sunday news shows, but couldn’t stand to hear any more Republican Congresspersons who have no clue about what the debt ceiling is much less understand any thing about the economy.  One of my friends posted this on Facebook the other day

Despite their lofty status in managing American affairs, it appears to me that few Congresspersons have any meaningful understanding of how their chronic politicization of economic policies substantially degrades, perhaps permanently, the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency. Evidence of the dollar’s decline to a commodity status is increasingly apparent. In time, every American will feel a crippling pain that no amount of political negotiating can cure.

Given this state of things, I retreated to a game of Civilization V where I could control, more or less, my own universe until after Sunday dinner when the Red Sox could take over.  But, after watching strike out after strike out with Clay Buchholz pitching sooo very slowly while getting slammed around in the sixth, I retreated.  I woke up just before 6 am this morning having just had a dream that I woke up and the Sox had come back.  I turned on the radio, I found that is was true!

Peter Abraham explains

In what has been a season full of memorable late-inning victories at Fenway Park, the Red Sox saved the best for when they needed it the most in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series Sunday night.

Trailing by four runs against the Detroit Tigers, the Sox tied the game on a grand slam by David Ortiz in the eighth inning then won it, 6-5, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to drive in Jonny Gomes in the ninth.

The remarkable victory had the players chasing Saltalamacchia across the outfield and the sellout crowd of 38,029 chanting “Let’s Go Red Sox!” as they left Fenway.

“When you back us into a wall, you either do two things: cave or fight. We’re gonna fight,” Dustin Pedroia said.

That wall was hard to get over. The Sox had scored one run through the 16 innings in the series, going 3 for 51 at the plate with 30 strikeouts. Detroit starter Max Scherzer allowed one run on two hits over seven innings and struck out 13.

And then.

Will Middlebrooks doubled to left field off Jose Veras to start the rally. Then Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk off Drew Smyly.

Al Albuquerque was next out of the Detroit bullpen. He struck out Shane Victorino for the second out, but Pedroia singled to right. Third base coach Brian Butterfield held Middlebrooks, wanting to make sure Ortiz got his chance.

Ortiz swung at the first pitch, a changeup away, and was strong enough to pull it into the Red Sox bullpen in right field for his first career postseason grand slam and the fourth in Red Sox history.

Right fielder Torii Hunter tumbled over the wall trying to make a catch as Boston police officer Steve Horgan raised his arms in joy. Bullpen catcher Mani Martinez, who was warming up Koji Uehara, casually turned and caught the ball.

It was bedlam at Fenway and the crowd kept cheering until Ortiz emerged from the dugout and tipped his helmet to them.

“My idea wasn’t to go out and hit a grand slam,” Ortiz said. “If I was telling you about thinking about hitting a grand slam, I’d be lying to you now.”

A hero of postseasons past, David Ortiz rounds third base — as the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera looks on — to a standing ovation after his grand slam in the eighth inning tied Game 2 at 5.

A hero of postseasons past, David Ortiz rounds third base — as the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera looks on — to a standing ovation after his grand slam in the eighth inning tied Game 2 at 5.

Gotta love David.

There was still a game to win. After Uehara retired the Tigers in order, Gomes was again the catalyst.

He reached on an infield single off Rick Porcello and took second on a throwing error by shortstop Jose Iglesias, the former Sox player known for his defensive skills.

“No is not an option for this team,” Gomes said. “Once I got on second, I was going to do anything I could to score.”

Gomes advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Saltalamacchia singled to left field.

“I felt good,” Saltalamacchia said. “Trying to hit the ball up the middle and take your chance.”

It was the 12th walkoff win of the season for the Red Sox.

So now we have something to watch on the highlight reels other than strike out after strike out.  There is joy in Mudville after all.  The Red Sox head for Detroit to face Justin Verlander, still another one of the Tigers’ great pitchers.  Let’s end this with something to ponder.  My husband heard Verlander ask this question:  If a pitch grazes a Red Sox’s beard, did he get hit by the pitch?

Now if only someone would hit a grand slam on the budget and knock out Ted Cruz and his friends.

Photograph:  Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Red Sox and the postseason

I have to admit that I was a little worried at the beginning of the first game with the Tampa Bay Rays.  I would have preferred to face Cleveland even with all the drama of Terry Francona coming back to Boston to face his old team and his friend, John Farrell.  But with two games in the win column, I’m not quite with Dan Shaughnessy and ask why we need to go to Tampa at all, but I think the Sox are going to be moving on to maybe face the Detroit Tigers.

My husband calls them the Civil War team because they look like the generals.  Even the babies on the team are trying to grow a little facial hair.  I heard someone, I think it was either Tim Wakefield or Dennis Eckersley describe Sox locker room conversation which includes brands of beard shampoo and conditioner.  And, yes, one of them admitted the other day, it does hurt when someone tugs on it.  It is this year’s gimmick and makes no more sense that the silly “Cowboy Up” Sox in 2004, but they are winning.

So Shaughnessy asks

Do we really have to go to Tampa/St. Pete? Can’t we just forgo the formalities and let the Red Sox advance to the American League Championship Series on sheer style, dominance, karma, and duende?

The Duck Dynasty/ZZ Top/Fidel Castro Red Sox look unbeatable at this hour. They bested the fatigued Rays, 7-4, at Fenway Park again on Saturday night and will send 12-1 Clay Buchholz to the mound to finish the series Monday.

The Sox look like the best team in baseball. No team won more regular-season games (97),  and the Sox have played even better in the first two games of the playoffs. They won the opener, 12-2, with every man in the lineup registering at least one hit and one run. It was more of the same Saturday night (eight of nine starters got hits) as the John Farrell All-Stars bolted to a 5-1 lead, then cruised. David Ortiz hit two monstrous home runs. In games started by Matt Moore and David Price, the Sox have 19 runs and 25 hits.

Koji Uehara gets a lift from David Ortiz after the Red Sox closer finished off Tampa Bay with just 11 pitches.  Notice the little smile on John Farrell.

Koji Uehara gets a lift from David Ortiz after the Red Sox closer finished off Tampa Bay with just 11 pitches. Notice the little smile on John Farrell.

The problem is that we Sox fans know all about karma and all the things that could happen.  We all remember Pedro Martinez melt down and poor Bucky Dent.  Thanks why the next sentence is

It’s a little scary. Baseball is not supposed to be this easy. It’s a hard game. It’ll humble you in an instant.

But the Sox are making it look easy. They hit. They don’t make errors. They run the bases well (great takeout slide by Shane Victorino on Saturday night). They have great beards. They have a closer, Koji Uehara, who throws only strikes and can work a 1-2-3 inning while you make a three-minute egg.

There is this little note in today’s Boston Globe

Since 1995, 22 teams have fallen behind two games to none in the ALDS. Only four have come back to win the series. The last team to do it was the Red Sox in 2003 against Oakland. The Sox also did it in 1999 against Cleveland. The Rays fell behind, 2-0, to Texas in the 2010 ALDS and forced a Game 5, but lost . . .

I probably won’t be watching the game tonight since it is First Monday at Jordan Hall and time for some nice chamber music, but unless Clay Bucholz decides to have a meltdown along with the bullpen or the bats go very cold, all of which has happened this year, I expect to find out when I get home that the sox have moved on to the next round.

And while predictions are dangerous:  Sox and Pirates in the Series with the Sox winning in 5.

Photograph:  barry chin/globe staff

Red Sox and Yankees: September 2013

Sox fans always worry about a big fold in September.  I’m beginning to breathe a little easier after yesterday afternoon when they had a huge lead, started to give it up, stopped the bleeding and added a run.  The Sox last loss was six games ago and they will, before September is done, lose again.  But probably not often.  Not more than a game here or there.  The losers from last year are now the team to beat.  The only possible rain cloud is the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury which may mean he has already played his last game for the Sox.  As another fan tweeted, “Let the Bradley [Jackie Jr.} era begin.”  But I think the air has gone out of the Sox-Yankees games that remain.  The Sox have a replacement for Ells, but the Yankees can’t really replace Derek Jeter who appears to have re-injured himself after missing most of the season.

The different coverage from the Boston Globe and the New York Times this morning tells the story.  First Tyler Kepner from the Times.

Before this weekend, the Yankees had never lost three games in a row while scoring at least eight runs every time. Now it has happened, against the surging Boston Red Sox in the Bronx, and if that were not sobering enough, Derek Jeter aggravated his fragile left ankle Saturday and departed Yankee Stadium for a hospital.

His CT scan was negative, according to the Yankees, who sent the test results to Jeter’s ankle surgeon in Charlotte, N.C., anyway. There is a reason only one player in Jeter’s lifetime (Omar Vizquel) has played 100 games at shortstop at age 39 or older.

Alex Rodriguez missed Saturday’s game altogether. Rodriguez has helped the lineup during his appeal of his drug suspension, and he had no injury on Saturday, Manager Joe Girardi said. He is simply 38 years old and has played a lot lately. A day game after a night game was too much for Girardi to ask.

So it goes for the Yankees, who have fewer quality starts than the Mets this season and a bullpen ravaged by injuries. Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan are out, and the indispensable David Robertson will miss at least a few more days with shoulder soreness.

The Yankees are old and have no pitching, but they can still insult the Sox.

The Red Sox, quite clearly, made the most of their bailout by the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. They gave short-term contracts to professional, if poorly groomed, hitters in their primes. The newcomers Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and especially Mike Napoli have taken turns drilling big hits all series, and Xander Bogaerts, the 20-year-old shortstop, clubbed his first career homer on Saturday, a rocket over the bullpen in left.

Bogaerts connected off Jim Miller, who made his Yankees debut in relief of David Huff. Huff had been impressive in relief, but his first Yankees start was a fiasco. It was the first time since 1941 that a Yankee starter allowed at least nine earned runs to the Red Sox in fewer than four innings.

Poorly groomed?  I guess Kepner means they have beards.  And Drew, by the way,  is clean-cut enough to be a Yankee.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield (left) congratulated Xander Bogaerts after the 20-year-old’s first major league home run.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield (left) congratulated Xander Bogaerts after the 20-year-old’s first major league home run.

What is Nick Cafardo saying in the Globe?

If I were Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi, what would bug me the most about Saturday’s 13-9 loss to the Red Sox was seeing Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., Ryan Lavarnway, and Xander Bogaerts occupying the 6-9 spots in the Boston order and having them go 6 for 17 with four RBIs, a home run, and six runs.

Here we are in the middle of a September pennant race and the Red Sox have four of their guys from the farm system providing that type of production. The Yankees have nothing resembling that, and are in fact a very old team, albeit a team that has lost three straight to Boston and still managed to score 25 runs. Which is why, folks, the Yankees still have a chance to make the playoffs.

I think Xander speaks five languages and thinks he would be teaching school if he couldn’t play baseball.

Bogaerts, who is the youngest player (20 years, 341 days) to homer for the Red Sox since Dwight Evans (who was 20 years, 322 days old on Sept. 20, 1972), claimed, “I wasn’t sharp at all. I was bad in batting practice so I went back to my leg kick. I’ve always had a leg kick so I went back to that. I got some new bats, so I tried them out and it worked good. Give credit to the bat.”

On the barehanded play on Cano, the shortstop said, “I saw Cano hustle down the line so I didn’t know if I had a chance. So that was real good that I got him.”

Plus the kid got his first homer on his mother’s birthday.  I bet he gives her the ball. [The Yankees got it back for him.]

Will the Yankees even make the playoffs?  Kepner thinks they aren’t ready for the fork just yet.

The Yankees are far from finished. The Rays’ slump — they have lost 11 of 14 after Saturday’s loss in Seattle — has kept the race close. But a deep Boston lineup has exposed a thin and weary Yankees pitching staff.

“Our guys are battling,” Cashman said. “They’ve been battling all year. We’re obviously up against a really good team. You can’t afford to make mistakes, or you can’t afford to not be at full strength, or you can’t afford to not be firing on all cylinders, or they’ll take advantage. And they’ve been taking advantage of every extra inch you give.”

To be fair, the Red Sox are not at full strength, either. Their center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, is in Colorado for a second opinion on his injured right foot. If further tests reveal a broken bone, the Red Sox would lose a major catalyst at the top of their lineup.

Of course, they have not needed Ellsbury to thump the Yankees the last few days. The Yankees have been too old, too young or too overmatched to hang with the Red Sox, no matter which players they use.

And Cafardo pointed out that Yankees still scored 25 runs in the last three losses which makes them ever dangerous, especially with the Tampa Bay Rays beginning their own collapse.

These are two teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions.  The Sox have their veterans and youngsters, while the Yankees have mostly old guys – and are likely to lose Alex Rodriguez during his suspension next year.

Cafardo writes

The Yankees are going to try to rebuild their team this offseason similar to the way the Red Sox did with strategically placed veteran players. What they can’t do is come up with a Bogaerts, Bradley, or a Middlebrooks, because they don’t have any of those types in their system.

Their young catchers haven’t come around as they had hoped and their young relievers such as Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne have hit walls. Brett Marshall pitched well in 4⅓ innings Saturday after starter David Huff allowed nine earned runs in 3⅓ innings. But Boston’s answer to Marshall, Brandon Workman, has been successful in high-leverage situations.

It was doubly good for the Red Sox — they beat up the Yankees for a third straight day and showed them a glimpse of the future, which right now, the Yankees have no answer for.

According to Kepner, the Yankees have used 54 different players this year, most of whom I’ve never heard of and likely won’t again.

Give credit to Girardi for extracting a winning season from these 54, whether or not they reach the playoffs. It has been a noble run, but on days like Saturday, it seems destined to collapse before October.

So my question is this:  Who is the manager of the year?  John Farrell or Joe Girardi?

Photograph:  Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

And the race is on!

The Red Sox begin the second half of the season tonight facing steamy heat and the somewhat diminished, but always dangerous, New York Yankees.  The real race for the American League East title begins.  The Boston Globe story by Julian Benbow lays out the facts.

Whenever Jonny Gomes would glance at the standings, he got an idea just how much of a tug of war the American League East is.

The fact that four of the five teams are above .500 was overshadowed by what the division did against the rest of the league.

In the first half, the AL East went a combined 70-54 against the Central, 53-39 against the West, and 35-19 in interleague play.

“I’ve actually looked at our standings and you saw the whole AL East win,” Gomes said. “It seems like the only time a team loses is when we play each other. It’s a big division. It truly is.”

Which is why the Red Sox’ first 10 games out of the All-Star break will be a grueling and critical test.  They start with a three-game set this weekend with the Yankees, then play four with the second-place Rays, and then hit the road for three games against the Orioles.

The Sox enter Friday with a major league-leading 58 wins, but 38 of their final 65 games are against division foes.

So how did they do against the division so far?  According to Steve Melewski who writes about the Orioles

Boston is 4-2 this year against the Yankees and 9-3 against Tampa, but just 2-5 versus the Orioles.

My father used to say about the Atlanta Braves who had trouble with the Mets, “It never matters how bad or good the teams are, the Mets win.”  I hope this isn’t true about the Red Sox and Orioles.

Clay Buchholz needs to get better without rushing his recovery and Jon Lester needs to get his head straight and start winning.  Lester started out the season pitching quicker than he had before, but now he seems to have slowed again.

More from Gomes and Benbow

The Sox know how crucial the final months of the season can be. They’ve gone into the break with the division lead in five of the last seven seasons, but have won the division just once over that span.

“It’s going to be a scrap,” Gomes said. “It’s a tough division. You see last place here could be third or second in other divisions. So that speaks for itself. At the same time, the Sox aren’t going to sneak up on anybody on the road.”

The Sox were able to navigate injuries and issues in the first half in large part because of depth and some deft decision-making by Farrell.

But with a daunting schedule ahead in a tightly packed division, returning to full strength will play a large part in sustaining success and returning to the postseason.

“Where we’re at right now, we’re not going to sneak up on anyone,” Gomes said. “So we just have to simplify — win each game, win each inning, stay healthy and keep going north.”

Many Sox fans, including me (I predicted a .500 team.) were surprised by the first half.  Now we are ready to be surprised by the second.  Let’s start by beating up on the Yankees.

The Red Sox head into the post-All-Star Game portion of the season with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East.

The Red Sox head into the post-All-Star Game portion of the season with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East.

Photograph:  Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Red Sox: 50 wins

I remember a few years ago when Josh Beckett (traded to the Dodger and now out for the rest of the year) boasted that the Sox could win 100 games.  They didn’t.  That was 2011, the year of the great September swoon.  The year that Terry Francona was fired.  Not a good year.  Fast forward through last year and the Bobby Valentine debacle to 2013.  This is a year for those who love baseball.  There are no superstars, no celebrity players.  What you have is a bunch of guys who play ball.  Christopher Gasper summed it up well in his Boston Globe column this morning.

Red Sox

If you have tuned out the Sox over the first three months of the season because of disinterest or lingering resentment from the past two seasons, you have missed a good time and a good team.

At 50-34, the Sox have the best record in the American League. They’re one of only two teams in baseball to spend the entire season above .500 — the other is the Atlanta Braves. They have a plus-80 run differential, second only to the St. Louis Cardinals in all of baseball. They’ve won in walkoff fashion seven times, including against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, when they triumphed on an error at first base by a converted catcher, Josh Thole.

It’s one of those games you win when your team has good karma, instead of a toxic dump of a clubhouse. The personality makeover Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington gave the clubhouse in the offseason has taken, and the manager, John Farrell, is a source of stability, instead of a source of insurrection.

John Farrell, former pitching coach for the Red Sox under Francona, has done what the owners thought he would do for the team.  He stays out of the spotlight and does his job.

The Sox lead the majors in runs scored (431), OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at .793, and pitches seen per plate appearance (4.06). Traditionally a team that runs the bases at the pace that ketchup drips out of a new bottle, the Red Sox entered Monday tied for second in the majors in stolen bases.

It’s increasingly difficult to say that what is happening in the Fens is just a fluke, that Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, and Jose Iglesias, who is hitting .409, are all wearing glass cleats and the clock is about to strike midnight.

The poster boy for these revitalized Red Sox is John Derran Lackey. That’s right, I said John Lackey.

Like his team, Lackey was written off, derided and despised. He was unlikable and unwatchable. He missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery.

This year, I have even seen Lackey smile.

But, Gasper asks, won’t people come out and root for the team.  Why is the buzz still about the Bruins and the Celtics?  I have to admit that I haven’t been to Fenway this year.  I only go every 3-5 years (have to save up my money)  and I went last just as the Sox were hitting their 2011 dive.  But I do watch them, listen to games and follow them closely.

Maybe Boston sports fans believe the team is going to fray and show its holes like a pair of mittens that keep getting caught on a fence. Fenway Fatalists assume Clay Buchholz won’t be able to return from the pain in his neck that has kept him out since June 8 and the team’s closer carousel will keep spinning without an answer. Koji Uehara is the latest to try the role.

Maybe they just find the team a bit hard to identify with. They’re no eccentric savants, long-haired idols, or free-spirited frat boys.

No gimmicks, just gamers.

Whatever it is, the Sox don’t have the buzz befitting a first-place baseball team more than halfway through the season.

Maybe those who derided the “new” fans as the pink hatters were right:  people were attending because it was the in thing to do, not because they loved the game.  Me?  I will watch any game.  I’ve even been known to watch a women’s tournament in Vermont.  They were playing to raise money for a women’s shelter.  But Gasper is right.  This is an exciting team.  Watch Uehara when he completes a successful inning.  They play hard every game and never quit until the last out.   And they may just bring us another American League Championship.  Maybe I should break my rule and go to a game.

The BSO and the Red Sox

I loved Seiji Ozawa when he was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and part of what I loved was that he was a regular part of Boston life, including going regularly to Red Sox games.  The new music director, Andris Nelsons has indicated that he would like to see a Bruins game – being from Latvia I would guess that ice hockey would be his thing – but one can’t say he isn’t game.

27namespedro1 Nelsons who said he had only seen a few baseball games threw out the first pitch Tuesday night.

The first pitch at Fenway capped a full day for Nelsons.  The Globe story had the details

As night fell, Nelsons headed into Gate C at Fenway for perhaps his most difficult assignment.

Early in the morning, over breakfast, he told Volpe he had watched some baseball but was concerned. He didn’t know how he was going to throw a pitch past a batter. Volpe explained that nobody would be at the plate except a catcher.

Later, while chatting with BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, Nelsons made two different throwing motions, one sidearm, one more overhand.

“It is this way or this way?” Nelsons asked as he made a pair of throwing motions.

At Fenway, after getting a uniform with number 15, Nelsons ran into Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, who offered advice.

“Just don’t bounce it,” he said, smiling.

Nelsons didn’t. A few minutes later, on the mound and in uniform, the maestro let the ball go hard. It sailed through the air, arcing a good 25 feet over the catcher and into the hands of a photographer.

“At least he didn’t bounce it,” Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg chuckled as fans cheered, another signal the Nelsons era had begun.

I suppose we have strange rituals here in Boston where our symphony music directors are initiated by throwing out the first pitch at Fenway, but Andris Nelsons seems to be adapting.  I haven’t seen him conduct yet, but as a BSO subscriber I’m sure I will soon.  And I love the fact that Pedro is back with the Sox.  I wonder if he can still pitch and fill in for Clay Buchholz.

Photograph: Stu Rosner