Of all of the big names and quirky personalities on the runaway train that is the 2007 Boston Red Sox, there is one man who is becoming must-see TV.

Julian Tavarez is easily the most entertaining member of this year’s team. Unpredictable, irascible, and somewhat daffy, he’s the modern-day Jimmy Piersall. His every start promises elements of improv comedy, carnival sideshow and a train wreck

The latest example came Sunday against Texas, when he fielded a grounder back to the mound and rolled the ball to first base for the out. Even though it wasn’t the first time Tavarez has decided to turn the diamond into a bowling green, you could almost hear Terry Francona’s heart stop beating. The manager’s health is already a bit precarious, and having to deal with Tavarez every fifth day is going to take five more years off his life.

Tavarez delighted Red Sox fans long before he put on the Boston uniform. Remember, he was the guy who gave up the game-winning home run to Mark Bellhorn in Game 1 of the World Series. After the game, FOX had a great shot of him sitting alone in the Cardinal dugout, looking like a combination of Freddy Krueger, Manuel Noriega and Fredo Corleone after his father was shot.

The gangly right-hander reintroduced himself to Sox fans his first spring training with the team, when he rumbled with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ Joey Gathright after a collision at home plate. This is from the Associated Press’ account of the scuffle.

“Gathright said Tavarez stood on his right forearm after the tag. Tavarez agreed but said he wanted to beat Gathright to the punch.”

Anybody who admits to fighting dirty warrants deeper examination. Unfortunately, the Boston media has dropped the ball on this guy because we don’t know that much about him. Maybe it’s the language barrier. Tavarez grew up dirt poor in the Dominican Republic and never went to school. According to the Boston Globe, as a kid, he aspired to be either a baseball player or a porn star. He told WEEI recently that he learned English from Damian Jackson and movies.

Now, apparently, he’s passing what he learned on to Daisuke Matsuzaka. The NESN camera often catches them hanging out together in the dugout. Tavarez is usually doing all the talking. Dice K has that look people get when the office gadfly stops by their desk for the 11th time this morning.

Tavarez can keep bugging Dice K as long as he keeps pitching like this. His stats aren’t that great (3-4, 540 ERA), but he’s gone up against a lot of other teams’ top starters, and the Sox are 5-4 in his starts. You can’t ask for much more from a fifth starter. Especially one who’s this close to being an ax murderer


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