CRAZY MAN HAS MADE FRIENDS. Strangely enough, psychotic relief pitcher-turned-starter Julian Tavarez has grown smitten with Japanese imports Matsuzaka and Okajima. This is the same Tavarez known for a long, colorful history of tantrums, including punching Tampa Bay Devil Ray Joey Gathright during a play at the plate in a spring training game and punching a phone in the dugout during the 2004 World Series when he was playing for St. Louis. Nowadays, you’ll often see him standing at the top of the dugout and talking animatedly with Matsuzaka. Whether Matsuzaka has any idea what he’s saying is questionable, but there’s a lot of nodding going on, either out of politeness or self-preservation. Tavarez’ affections are chronicled in this Globe story covering his last outing (a win):
The Sox bullpen continues to be a great source of shiawase — that’s Japanese for happiness — which is why Tavarez goes out of his way to keep not only Daisuke Matsuzaka but Hideki Okajima smiling.
“They’re all my friends, Okajima and Matsuzaka,” said Tavarez, whose only trouble yesterday came in the third, when he walked Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano, then crossed up catcher Jason Varitek by throwing a slider when Varitek was calling for a fastball, which allowed Mientkiewicz to forgo a bunt and deliver a long ball instead.
“I try to talk to those guys, come out with a joke every day,” Tavarez said. “Hopefully, they like me a lot. I just try to make them happy. I think I’m the only player who tries to say something every day, even if it’s a stupid thing.”
Along with stories of snake oil on his pitching arm and some pretty good pitching to boot, somehow Tavarez has crossed over from “dangerous nutbag” to “somewhat endearing dangerous nutbag,” in a crazy Manny sort of way. Now it even seems Tavarez is hoping to learn how to throw a cut fastball from Matsuzaka. Perhaps, in exchange for tips on how to punch things.