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Bradfo Show: Rick Porcello reflects on life without free agency

02.05.16 at 11:27 am ET
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Rick Porcello is one of the first Red Sox to report for spring training for a second straight year. (WEEI.com photo)

Rick Porcello is one of the first Red Sox to report for spring training for a second straight year. (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rick Porcello looks the same, acts the same, and has arrived to spring training at the same time (really, really early).

But if you want to compare the pitcher’s lot in life now — as he joins fellow rotation-mates Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez in getting early February workouts in at JetBlue Park — to a year ago, there is one enormous difference.

Porcello is now officially one of 15 major league pitchers to be making at least $20 million in one season.

But thanks to that contract, which will pay the 27 year old $82.5 million over the next four seasons, he has the luxury of viewing what transpired in the free agent market this offseason from a safe distance.

“This winter? No,” Porcello said when appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast when asked if he monitored how the pitching market was unfolding. “Those were things I went through in my head last spring when it was a possibility of me signing an extension, and things that I discussed with my family and my agent and the possibilities of free agency heading into the offseason following last year. I knew the possibilities if I went out there and had a good year, what could be out there. And if I had a bad year, what could happen. I understood that and I just felt like the deal with the Red Sox gave me ‘€¦ It was a place I wanted to be. It was an organization that I felt like has a chance to win over the next five or six years, and that was the biggest factor in being here.”

While the easy narrative would be that Porcello might have run into trouble if he chose not to sign his extension with the Red Sox last April, and became a free agent after 2015, that might have not necessarily been the case.

It’s undeniable that the majority of Porcello’s first year with the Red Sox was a mess, with the righty going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA over 172 innings. Still, he would have had a few things going for him heading into a potential free agent run. First, after coming back from a month-long layoff due to a triceps issue, the final eight starts resulted in a 3.14 ERA. And then there was that age — Porcello would have been the youngest starting pitcher on the market, by far.

Compare Porcello’s situation to a pitcher who did hit free agency this offseason, Jeff Samardzija.

While Samardzija totaled 214 innings for the White Sox in 2015, his ERA was virtually the same as Porcello’s, while actually possessing fewer strikeouts-per-nine innings than the Sox’ sinkerballer. And he’s three years older.

Yet, we’re heading into the offseason with Samardzija carrying a five-year, $90 million deal that will pay him $18 million in each of his last four seasons with the Giants.

A 31-year-old Ian Kennedy, coming off a 9-15 mark with a 4.28 ERA in just 168 1/3 innings (while pitching in the ultra-pitchers-friendly Petco Park), just hauled in a five-year, $70 million deal from Kansas City, that includes an opt-out after Year 2.

Jordan Zimmermann, who turned 29 in last May, will make an average of $22 million a year with the Tigers after producing a so-so season (13-10, 3.78 ERA) with the Nationals in ’15.

“I don’€™t think so,” Porcello said when asked if any of the free agent contracts signed this offseason raised an eyebrow. “Obviously the market fluctuates offseason to offseason. But I think everybody signs a deal for different reasons. Everything is publicized so you know what guys are signing for. It’€™s really kind of a personal decision, when it comes down to it. You’€™re talking about your career, and those guys, and where their families are going to be for the next five or six years. You see certain deals and maybe scratch your head, but you really don’€™t know what’€™s going in their personal life and the reasons why they signed it. So I don’€™t think anything really surprises you. You just observe and take it for what it is.

A year ago, during spring training negotiations with the Red Sox, these were all things that Porcello had to at least occasionally consider/predict. Not anymore.

“Honestly, for the entire spring my main focus was to prepare for the season,” Porcello recalled. “I would hear about things that were going on through my agent and progress that was being made. Really, I just felt whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. If it becomes something that was going to become a realistic possibility, then we would address it when the time comes. I didn’€™t focus on it at all. When I was at the ballpark I was focused on working and preparing for the season. Toward the end of spring training when things started to get serious, that was when I sat down with my agent, had a couple of conversations, talked with my family about the opportunity that was being put in front of me and kind of went from there.”

Now, with his newly-purchased Naples, Fla. home serving as offseason/spring training headquarters, Porcello has settled into what he hopes will be a much more predictable routine.

“It’€™s just a comfort level you establish,” he added. “When you come to a new place, it’€™s probably similar for anybody. You start a new job and the first couple of days, first weeks or months, you’€™re trying to get familiar with everybody. You’€™re feeling out what’€™s going on and how they do it. I think that’€™s the adjustment period I went through last year in spring training. Now, having a year under my belt here in Boston, I know what’€™s going on now. I’€™m familiar with everything and a lot more comfortable.”

Bradfo Show: Rick Porcello, one year later

Taking roll call for which Red Sox are already in Fort Myers

02.04.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is exactly two weeks from the date when pitchers and catchers are mandated to report to spring training. It seems like a long time, right?

It’s not.

For evidence on how close things are creeping all anyone had to do was check out Fenway South at JetBlue Park at 8 a.m. Thursday. There throwing the baseball was a collection of six pitchers who included Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Tommy Layne. (By 9 a.m., the group had completed their running and finished with a group cheer for only a vacant complex to see.)

Porcello and Barnes each have bought houses in the area, while Buchholz, Rodriguez and Layne all have been recent arrival into the area.

While Buchholz spent his offseason in Texas, working out with former teammate John Lackey, Rodriguez split his time between his native Venezuela and Miami. Layne, who works as a hunting host for the richest of the rich in the St. Louis area, joined his wife and 3-month-old daughter in getting a head-start on things in Florida.

Others seen at the facility in recent days include outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospect Yoan Moncada.

The expectation is that there will be many more bodies — including much of the coaching staff, who were involved in organizational meetings the past few days — starting Monday.

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez says pitching tipping won’t be a problem: ‘It’s fixed’

02.04.16 at 3:26 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

FORT MYERS, Fla. –Eduardo Rodriguez believes he has tipped his last pitch.

The Red Sox left-hander, whose otherwise excellent debut season was occasionally marred by giving away what was coming next, said on Thursday he has made that problem a thing of the past.

“When the season is done, I just said, ‘Now I’ve got it,'” Rodriguez said at JetBlue Park. “I watched all my videos, everything I do, and I say, ‘Now I fixed it.’ And I feel great with everything. If you remember the videos they showed, it was my hands, it was my head. Now I’ve just got one mechanic and that’s what I’m going to stay with.”

Rodriguez’s problems began in a June 14 loss to the Blue Jays, but they became public on June 25 against the Orioles. He retired the first 10 batters he faced, including five on strikeouts, before a Chris Parmelee double opened the floodgates. Forced to pitch from the stretch, Rodriguez allowed seven straight hits and six runs before being lifted. He was tipping his pitches both with the position of his glove and the position of his head, tucking his chin on offspeed offerings.

“The first time I did it, was against the Blue Jays, I think. That was the first time,” Rodriguez said. “After the game, after I’m done, (coaches) called me right to the video room. ‘Hey, look at what you’ve been doing.’ So I saw it. The next four days, all I did was try to fix that. The next game (a win over Kansas City), I’m pretty good. I see the next one is Baltimore, I think. I’ve got all the stuff I do, I fixed this one, but the other one is coming out. So it was getting crazy for me, but between the bad starts, I was working to get just one mechanic with (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) and stay there.”

Rodriguez credits fellow starters Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Joe Kelly with trying to help him. It had never been an issue in the minor leagues.

“In the minor leagues, they don’t have those kind of cameras, they don’€™t have video rooms,” he said. “They don’t have nothing. If they see it, it’s just a hitting coach in the minor leagues saying, hey, he’s doing this. Sometimes he’ll do this. But in the minor leagues, there aren’t those kind of hitters. (Big leaguers) can see, ‘Oh, he’s coming with a changeup,’ they can hit it pretty good, because they know where the ball is going to move.”

Rodriguez believed he had the problem solved by the end of the season, and the 2.22 ERA he posted in four September starts backs him up. But just to be sure, he spent the offseason working with pitching coaches in Miami and his native Venezuela, trying to maintain consistent mechanics no matter what pitch he’s throwing.

“By the end of the year, I fixed it,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been doing something, they’re stealing something, I’ve been tipping, but all this offseason, I fixed it. (This winter) I wasn’t working on throwing. I was just working on my mechanics, because that’s what I had to fix.”

Twins GM Terry Ryan on releasing David Ortiz: ‘Obviously it was a mistake . . . and Boston’s gain’

02.04.16 at 2:19 pm ET
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Terry Ryan is one of the most respected general managers in baseball, but even the best make mistakes.

The Twins GM’s is obvious: David Ortiz.

Before the 2003 season, Ryan famously released Ortiz in order to take shortstop Jose Morban in the Rule 5 draft. With Ortiz winding down a potential Hall of Fame career this weekend, Ryan reflected to MLB.com on the biggest mistake he ever made.

“There’s no hiding that one,” Ryan told the site. “You can put that one in there and lock it down. I’m not running from it. I’m proud of what he’s done. Obviously, it was a mistake. The guy has been a great representation of the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball for a long time. And it’s Boston’s gain and Minnesota’s loss. And I take full responsibility.”

Not only did Morban never appear in a game for Minnesota, he didn’t even make it through spring training, departing to the Orioles on waivers.

The decision to release Ortiz was driven by economics, as most decisions were back then in small-market Minnesota. He was due roughly $2 million in arbitration, and the Twins had Doug Mientkiewicz at first and Justin Morneau in the pipeline.

Ortiz, who had battled injury during his tenure, was reluctantly deemed expendable, despite compiling an .809 OPS in parts of six seasons with the Twins.

“There wasn’t any one thing,” Ryan told MLB.com. “If you look at his numbers across the board, they were very respectable. And not that it was totally about money, but we were a little bit strapped. That would be a good excuse, but it wasn’t that entirely. It was just a bad error in judgment of a guy’s talent. How about a mistake?”

The Red Sox remain thankful to this day.

Read More: David Ortiz, Red Sox, Terry Ryan, Terry Ryan's biggest mistake

Jonny Gomes is headed to Japan

02.03.16 at 5:21 pm ET
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The player who has made the postseason with six different teams, and World Series with three separate clubs (winning two of them) is headed to a new challenge.

Jonny Gomes is going to play in Japan.

The free agent outfielder has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with Tohoku Rakuten of the Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League. Gomes confirmed the agreement to WEEI.com.

Gomes, who spent 1 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox (playing a key role in the Sox’ 2013 world championship), last played for the Royals. The 35 year old hit .213 with a .660 OPS between KC and Atlanta in 2015, managing a .783 OPS against lefties.

Gomes broke into the majors in 2003 with the Rays, going on to play for Cincinnati, Oakland, Boston, Washington, the Braves and Royals.

FoxSports.com was first to report the agreement.

Bradfo Show: Clay Buchholz thought he might be traded

02.03.16 at 1:02 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz on the Bradfo Show podcast

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Once David Price was signed by the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz — and the rest of the members of the team’s rotation — knew something had to give.

That led to a few uneasy, early December days for the Red Sox‘ pitcher, as he explained when appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast Wednesday.

“Yeah,” said Buchholz when asked if he thought he might be dealt this offseason. “Whenever you go out and get someone like David, that’s putting a lot of weight on his shoulders for reasons that are apparent. He’s the horse that every team wants to have on their staff. But given you do have someone like that, there obviously has to be one person that’s out of the mix. I was actually on the phone with Wade Miley talking about the whole Seattle thing, because my name was involved in that, and obviously his name. There were times I was unsure what was going to happen, but you can’t lose sleep over that. It’s a business and sometimes whenever an organization they have the best chance to succeed by doing one thing, and that’s what they do, you take it with a grain of salt and then you go to another team and try and help them win.

“There was a period of a week, 1 1/2 weeks, two weeks I was non-stop texting my agent, saying, ‘What’s going on?'”

As it turned out, Miley was the one dealt to Seattle, leaving Buchholz back with the Red Sox for at least one more season.

The 31 year old has a $13.5 million team option following the 2016 season, marking the second straight year he has had to pitch in a potential contract year. The real contract uncertainty began during last season, after an elbow injury shut him down in early July.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Buchholz said when asked if he ever thought his $13 million option for this season might not be picked up. “But then again, over my whole career I’ve been in the trade talks. From my first year to last year. It’s just one of those things. I’ve found a way to stick around. It goes back to me saying when I am on the field I feel like I’m as good as anybody else you can throw out there. Maybe that was the way they were leaning with it, I don’t know. I’m fortunate to be here to be a part of this organization. This is where I grew up as far as my professional career goes. I’ve got a lot of trust in them, and they’ve put a lot on me as the years have gone by. It’s one of those things.”

And now?

Buchholz said, with one option year remaining, it’s starting to feel like a whole new ballgame.

“Maybe a little bit because it is the final year of that contract so it’s more of a do-or-die type of thing and that’s why it was important to be in the gym this offseason, get the work in and try and prepare myself to the best of my capabilities and be ready,” he said of how he views this time last year to his current lot in life. “Once you get here there’s really no looking back on what you could have down, or what you should have done, or what’s going to happen. I’m looking forward to playing ball, getting on the mound and being around the guys. That’s what makes this game fun is to come out here and compete and do well at it.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Red Sox,

Bradfo Show: Clay Buchholz reveals latest plan to finally reach 200 innings

02.03.16 at 12:03 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz on the Bradfo Show podcast

Clay Buchholz is one of the first to arrive at Red Sox camp this year. (WEEI.com photo)

Clay Buchholz is one of the first to arrive at Red Sox camp this year. (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — After spending Wednesday morning executing a light game of catch with Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz sat down for an episode of the Bradfo Show podcast to catch up.

As he pointed out, for about nine years running the first question in these sort of early-February interviews start with an update regarding his weight. (For what it’s worth, the right-handers frame does look a bit sturdier when we last saw him.)

The next topic? Is Buchholz going to pitch 200 innings?

The closest the 31 year old has come to the coveted milestone came in 2012, when he totaled 189 1/3 innings. But since then the totals have been 108 1/3 innings in 2013, 170 1/3 a year later, and the 113 1/3 innings he put in last season before succumbing to an elbow injury in early July.

The last couple of years coming in my body felt good. It’s been around the All-Star break where something unfortunate happens,” Buchholz said. “Given the way it was going last year, up until that point, I was one of those runs you like to be on with your starting pitcher. Go deep into games, given your team a chance to win, not give up a whole lot of home runs, making guys earn their way on base. That’s the mental side of it. You’re out there, feeling really good and then you have something set you back and you have to learn how to handle that. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned the only thing I can do about it is try and keep that from happening. That has been sort of the question mark, even for myself because there’s nobody who wants to be on the mound more than I do during a season because it really stinks sitting on the bench, especially when the team isn’t doing as good as everybody hoped for or how they thought they were going to do and you have nothing to do with it. That’s a pretty rough patch for me to not have anything to do with the team winning or losing.

“It’s just one of those things where I felt like I put myself in a good spot. As I’m getting older now I feel like there’s some switches I can make with the program we do out here and how I go about the workout routine and program. Hopefully put our heads together this year and find the ingredients for that to happen.”

The most notable “switch” Buchholz has implemented has come courtesy at least partially due the advice of one of his former teammates, Cubs pitcher John Lackey.

Buchholz is entering his time at JetBlue Park without having thrown any bullpen sessions, which is a big difference from a year ago when he came to town having four or five bullpens under his belt.

“In my mind I was thinking I was trying it a little bit different this year,” he explained. “Instead of ramping up and throwing bullpens in the offseason I’m going to get to camp around the first or second. i knew Porcello was going to be here, and I knew a couple of catchers were going to be here, too. Given our reporting date is the 18th for pitchers and catchers I can throw the same amount of bullpens being here rather than being in Texas and not being around any of the guys. I felt like this route was going to work well for me this year.

“I tried to pick a lot of guys brains. I work out with John Lackey in the offseason and he’s found his niche as far as how he goes about what he does in the offseason going into camp. We played catch for about the last month. He might throw a couple of bullpens before camp, but at this point and time he hasn’t thrown any either and he sort of eases his way into it. That was the approach I sort of thinking about taking. I talked to Johnny Farrell about it over the phone, and they were a little bit worried me coming into camp without throwing.

“Two and a half weeks from right now to throw my four or five bullpens. I can throw one every three days and it puts me on track. I can throw to Vazqy, and get reacquainted with him. I don’t feel like it’s a different route, it just started at a different time.”

The throwing program wasn’t the only change. After meeting with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski before heading to Texas for the offseason, Buchholz received some guidelines in terms the organization’s expectations/suggestions.

“I sat down and talked to Dave before the season was over. It’s pretty much black and white what he was talking about,” Buchholz said. “When I sat down and talked to Dave it was more so of knowing what I had to do going into the offseason, taking the right amount of time off, being pretty strict on the workouts five days a week, and that’s what I did. I feel like I got stronger in a couple of different ways that I wasn’t the last couple of years. It was a good offseason for me. The one thing that was different this year is that I focused more on legs this year than I have the last four or five years. I feel like everything comes from the ground up. If my legs are in shape I don’t have to worry about my legs giving out in the first couple of bullpen. I just have to worry about arm strength, and that’s a good thing.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Red Sox,

Bradfo Cam: Clay Buchholz, others kick things off in Fort Myers

02.03.16 at 8:55 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz was the latest to arrive in camp, joining Rick Porcello, Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman in getting a quick workout Wednesday morning.

Soak it in …

Bradfo Cam: Jackie Bradley Jr. live from Fort Myers

02.02.16 at 11:51 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jackie Bradley Jr. answers a bunch of questions through the magic of Periscope (and then celebrates by throwing a football) …

Red Sox’ custom car guy: ‘It’s like a competition between all of them’

01.31.16 at 2:45 pm ET
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Alex Vega, owner and operator of The Auto Firm near Miami, has been in the news lately thanks in large part because of the article in the New York Times, chronicling his work on cars for more than 300 professional athletes.

Of note for Red Sox followers was the work he has had done for many on the current Sox roster, such as Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt, Rusney Castillo and prospect Yoan Moncada.

Appearing on WEEI with Rob Bradford, Butch Stearns and John Tomase, Vega elaborated on his business relationships with his professional athlete clientele.

“It’€™s mind-blowing to me sometimes because they buy a brand new car, make it really nice and then six, seven months down the line somebody else gets something similar and they want to up it,” Vega said. “It’€™s like a competition between all of them.”

Vega detailed some of the particulars in each of the cars he has worked on for Red Sox players:

– Castillo has a Porsche 911 Turbo that not only shoots flames out the back, but has his uniform number light up on the front of the car, and on the ground underneath vehicle when the doors are opened.

– Ramirez’ Lamborghini also has the ability to shoot flames out the back.

– Holt goes against the grain for most bringing in Jeeps, upgrading the look, but not altering the Jeep appearance.

– Sandoval? “Crazy. I love these guys. He’€™s just a unique guy. Spur of the moment type of guy. He showed up with two of his Range Rovers I built for him that I want to change up the rims for spring training. Next thing you know he sees a [Mercedes] G63 I have outside. He says, ‘Man I love that car,’ drives it, trades in one of the Range Rover, takes the [Mercedes] G-Wagon.” (The Times article has Sandoval quoted as saying he gets a new car every year.)

– Moncada not only is in the market for one of Vega’s customized, $175,000 vans, but already has a BMW which glows in the dark.

– While he hasn’t done anything for David Ortiz quite yet, Vega said he is currently working on reeling in the Red Sox’ DH. “We’€™re working on him right now, actually. We’€™re working on surprising the world with what he wants. ‘€¦ He wants to leave with a bang, I guess.”

What kind of problems does Vega run into? Making it clear to his clients what is and isn’t street legal. “It happens a lot because I do a lot of cars for the Dominican Republic, different countries where they can have police lights and sirens. They don’€™t realize that’€™s something you can’€™t do in the States.”

Read More: David Ortiz, hanley ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox
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