Red Sox Updates - Junichi Tazawa and more

November 04, 2008 - 2:31 pm

Amidst reports the Braves have made a substantial offer to Junichi Tazawa--a pitcher who bypassed the draft in Japan in hopes of playing Major League Baseball--Boston G.M. Theo Epstein remained tight-lipped about his team's interest in the 22-year-old right-hander. "He's an employee of another company. We're not going to comment on it. We respect the company that he's with, and we're not going to comment on it," said Epstein. "It doesn't make sense for us to comment on anything with regards to international scouting." Epstein declined to say whether the team would pursue the pitcher as a free agent, instead demurring by suggesting that he remains an employee of Eneos Oil. Though Epstein would not address Tazawa specifically, he did suggest that the presence of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima on the Sox, along with the work of Vice President/International Scouting Craig Shipley and Pacific Rim scouting coordinator Jon Deeble, had put the Sox in a strong position to acquire talent from Japan. "(The presence of Matsuzaka and Okajima) seems to have helped," said Epstein. "The relationships that Craig Shipley and Jon Deeble have built over there are probably the most important factors." --The Sox will meet with Scott Boras tomorrow to discuss Jason Varitek as well as Alex Cora and any other players in whom the Sox have interest. --The Sox exchanged general ideas with other teams about trade possibilities, but with nothing substantive to report. Both the Sox and Padres shot down a rumor that the teams were contemplating a trade of Boston centerfielder Coco Crisp for Padres shortstop Khalil Greene. "Totally inaccurate," said San Diego G.M. Kevin Towers. --The Sox have not decided what to do to replace first-base coach Luis Alicea, whom the team did not ask to return for the 2009 season. "We're still in the relatively early stages of that," said Epstein. --Mike Lowell is expected to make a full recovery from his right hip surgery. "He's had a surgery that has a really good track record for multiple sports," said Epstein, who cited a football lineman who returned in roughly three months. "He's already feeling great. He's already a little ahead of schedule. The reports couldn't be any better. We'll see. It's a real surgery, but the expectation of all the doctors and experts is that he'll be 100 percent." --Advance scout Todd Claus, who had managed the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2006, has left to take a job at Jacksonville University to be closer to home. The Sox have not decided whether they will continue to rotate two advance scouts (Dana Levangie and Claus had alternated advance scouting series for the past two years), or whether Levangie will do most of the heavy lifting going forward. --The Sox 40-man roster currently sits at 34 members. The team needs to replace roles on the major-league team (including finding a new starting catcher and re-signing or replacing part-timers Alex Cora, Mark Kotsay and Sean Casey), but Epstein characterized the team as being in good shape when it comes time to set the 40-man prior to the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings. --While Epstein did not give a specific payroll figure for the 2008 Sox, he did say that the Sox fell under the luxury tax threshold this year, the first time that has happened since the 2003 season. --Shortstop Julio Lugo is likely to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Epstein said that he would have been available had the Sox reached the World Series. Though Lugo had what his G.M. characterized as "a disappointing year," and "has something to prove," Epstein noted that he produced a .355 OBP. "That's hard to find in a middle infielder," he suggested. (Lugo ranked sixth among major-league shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances -- here's the list.)