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Red Sox myth and mysteries

Dustin Pedroia plays way bigger than his reported 5 feet 9.

Jeff Gross | Getty Images

Dustin Pedroia plays way bigger than his reported 5 feet 9.

What is up with Kevin Youkilis' batting stance?

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The 29-year-old infielder worked his way through the Red Sox system as a .300 hitter using a conventional stance and held his own in his first three seasons with the big club. But midway through last season, he transformed it into something peculiar and memorable: his right hand high up on the barrel of the bat and slowly easing down as the pitcher prepares to pitch and his knees bouncing and bouncing and bouncing. The change was made for no particular reason, but Youkilis said it has since developed into a timing mechanism. It has worked. This year, he was sixth in the American League with a career-best .312 average and hit a career-best 29 home runs.

What is Jonathan Papelbon mumbling out there?

He won't tell anyone. If it's anything like Rays reliever Grant Balfour's motivational mutterings, it's pretty good stuff, but we'll apparently never know. At Fenway Park, he makes a ritual of fist-bumping Boston policeman Billy Dunn, a former gang unit cop who guards the Sox pen, as he prepares to enter the game. Papelbon stops at the grass for his words of inspiration and readies to pitch to the Dropkick Murphys song I'm Shipping Up to Boston.

Why does David Ortiz spit in his hands?

The designated hitter doesn't get too much liquid in there, otherwise he'd spatter himself and anyone near the plate. It's more a habit at this point.

Dustin Pedroia cannot possibly be 5 feet 9, can he?

Reporters who have stood next to the diminutive second baseman/potential MVP/firecracker say it's more like 5-6, but he plays way bigger. And his ego plays bigger, too. He's not maliciously cocky, but for someone who claims he doesn't look at his stats, he's certainly getting that superior sense of pride from somewhere. Manny Ramirez, who purchased some suits for Pedroia during his first season, presented him with a Rolex worth $10,000-$15,000 for winning the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award. Ramirez promised more swag if Pedroia hit .300 this year. That mark more than covered (.326 in the regular season), Pedroia should hope Ramirez follows through after he was traded to the Dodgers late this season.

What are Pedroia and manager Terry Francona doing?

They play cribbage every day at 1 p.m.

Why does catcher Jason Varitek have a C on his jersey?

He's the team captain.

Where did that guy who pitched a no-hitter in his second big-league start go?

Clay Buchholz, who threw the 17th no-hitter in team history in September 2007, was shipped to the minors twice this season and is pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He also has been shipped out by his Penthouse Pet girlfriend, Erica Ellyson. Now that hurts. He still has his English bulldog "Nuke" — as in LaLoosh from Bull Durham. And one must hope he comprehends the irony.

Is the Red Sox bullpen about to board us?

Avast. Boston relievers have adopted a Pirates of the Caribbean theme at the urging of veteran right-hander Mike Timlin and hang a Jolly Roger in the bullpen at Fenway Park.

What's up with Jacoby Ellsbury's one right sleeve?

The 25-year-old centerfielder began wearing the single pull-on sleeve (it's not attached to the shirt but more like a sock with open ends) at Double-A Portland last year and went on a tear then discarded it and hit the skids. He put it back on. Apparently not one to learn a lesson quickly, he repeated the process at Triple-A Pawtucket and after a callup to Boston: raking, removing, slumping, sleeving.

Are the Red Sox just a bunch of thumpers trying to clang balls off of the Green Monster?

No, they do many things well. Infielders Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis were among the AL leaders in batting,doubles, hits, on-base percentage and total bases during the regular season, and Jacoby Ellsbury led the league in steals (50).

Red Sox myth and mysteries 10/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 2:08pm]

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