|02.16.15 at 11:36 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The entire Red Sox starting rotation — Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly — walked out to the back fields at Fenway South Monday, ready to partake in another day of drills and throwing.
It is still five days before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and the entire group has already been roaming the JetBlue Park fields in their Red Sox garb for at least a few days.
Cole Hamels rumors or not, this potentially ace-less collection has already dug in on believing they are all the Red Sox need.
“Of course you want to ride with the group we have,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if anybody has paid any attention to that. I think everybody’s so new here our minds are focused on coming in here, focusing in on spring training and having a good year. But pitching is pitching and we’ll see how it shapes up for all five of us. … If everybody had their career year, we would be unstoppable.”
Unless the Phillies’ price drops, the Red Sox are also dug in on this bunch. So, how did they arrive at such a rotation?
According to major league sources, here are some particulars about the Red Sox’ approach to picking these pieces:
— The Red Sox did have interest in free agent Max Scherzer, actually valuing him as much as Jon Lester. But after numerous discussions with Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, it became clear the righty’s price tag was going to be too big for the Red Sox’ to swallow.
According to one source, at no point during the offseason did Boras hint that he was concerned Scherzer wouldn’t get his money, potentially leading to a more palatable reduced rate. In the end, the former Tigers hurler inked a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals.
— The Red Sox did meet with free agent James Shields at the winter meetings, but never identified the starter as a great fit. It was determined by the organization that pitching home games at Fenway Park might not be the best avenue for Shields, who carries a career record of 2-9 with a 5.42 ERA. The money Shields ultimately got with the Padres — four years, $75 million with a fifth year club option for $16 million — was in the vicinity of the Red Sox anticipated.
|02.16.15 at 2:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It turns out there was something going on with Koji Uehara’s health last season, after all.
Speaking after his first training camp workout at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox closer explained his downturn in the season’s second half.
“It was more physical,” Uehara said. “I didn’t talk about it at that time. I think I’m over it.” He added, “I’m not going to go into specifics, but it wasn’t fatigue.”
Uehara went on a six-game stretch in which he allowed opponents a .500 batting average while succumbing to 19.29 ERA. After taking an eight-day hiatus, the righty finished the season with three scoreless outings.
“I probably needed the rest and felt good after,” said Uehara, who started his throwing program upon returning to Japan in late November. “But I’m not going to look back and wonder what I should have done. I’m just going to look toward the future.”
Was the September rest necessary?
“I think if you look back, yeah,” he said.
Uehara also offered an explanation as to why he signed his two-year, $18 million deal with the Red Sox instead of testing free agency.
“No doubt at all,” he said when asked if there was any question he would be re-signing with the Red Sox. “It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox.
“Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. … Because of my age, it was very important.”
The Red Sox have made it clear that Uehara enters the season as their closer. But with the late-season struggles, coupled with the second-half emergence of Edward Mujica (2.30 ERA in his last 34 appearances), the 40-year-old is taking nothing for granted.
“I don’t feel it was guaranteed, the closer role,” he said. “I’m have to earn it, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
|02.16.15 at 11:13 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to a major league source, the Red Sox aren’t remotely close on any sort of trade for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. The source says that the Sox have made Philadelphia aware of the parameters of what the Sox are willing to give up for the starter.
The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Red Sox were one of four teams to have made offers for Hamels.
The Red Sox are wary of the cost it would take to get Hamels, with three factors weighing into the equation (money, talent, right for the pitcher to refuse a deal) instead of the two some suitors are dealing with.
Hamels is owed $90 million over four years, with a club option for a fifth year that would boost the price to $110 million. While it is assumed Hamels would leverage his no-trade with the Sox to have them pick up his option, the fact that there are other big market clubs in the mix not on the no-trade list could raise a red flag.
|02.16.15 at 10:07 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The truck arrived at 7 a.m. and was empty by 9:30 a.m. I will never complain about cleaning my car again.
Driver Al Hartz reports that the Red Sox equipment truck made its first-ever publicity appearance outside Boston, stopping at The Villages, a retirement community outside Orlando. The community is the site of the largest outside-New England Red Sox fan base in the country. While there Hartz and the truck took hundreds of photos.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the driver said.
While workers were hurrying everything from little girls bicycles to motorcycles off the 18-wheel equipment carrier, a gathering of Red Sox hitters were making bat meets ball noises in the nearby hitting coach.
Included in the group were Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley, Bryce Brentz and Mookie Betts. Betts reports that he is hitting camp at 181 pounds, which is a long way from his Baseball-Reference page listing of 155 (which obviously is documented from his first pro year).
Some new arrivals this morning include Koji Uehara and Robbie Ross, with virtually the entire big league pitching staff already in attendance.
Outfield coach Arnie Beyeler has gained access to the main JetBlue Field to work with Ramirez and Brentz.
|02.16.15 at 8:52 am ET|
Wendell Kim, who served as Red Sox third base coach from 1997-2000, died Sunday at the age of 64, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease following his retirement from baseball 10 years ago.
Kim played minor league ball for the Giants in the 1970s and then coached in the organization’s minor league system in the 1980s. The diminutive Hawaiian moved up to the majors and coached for the Giants from 1989-96 before joining the Sox for four years.
He left Boston to serve as manager of the Brewers’ Triple-A team in Indianapolis. After one season, he returned to the majors, becoming the bench coach for the Montreal Expos. He moved on to the Cubs in 2003 and served as third-base coach for two seasons before leaving the game for good.
Known for his aggressiveness in sending runners home, Kim was nicknamed “Windmill Wendell” and “Wave ‘em in Wendell.”
Kim reportedly started suffering short-term memory loss while with the Cubs, and his situation worsened as he was taken care of by his family in Arizona.
|02.16.15 at 12:11 am ET|
The Atlantis sports book in Reno is the first to release their projected 2015 win totals for all MLB teams, using the numbers to encourage bettors to either bet that clubs will finish over or under the set number.
While we understand the impetus setting such a number for each team is to get betting action, it also offers a representation as to how the professionals in the sports betting industry view the landscape of the coming regular season.
It translated into good news for the Red Sox.
It also reminds us that this division is, to be kind, unpredictable.
Atlantis sports book director Steve Mikkelson slotted the Sox with an over/under of 86 wins, the most of any AL East team. Baltimore was second with 84.5, the Blue Jays are at 83.5, the Yankees slot in at 80 and Tampa Bay have been tagged at 77.5.
While the numbers will ultimately be off base (because, despite the best efforts of Mikkelson and the rest of his Nevada counterparts, they always are), it is interesting to note the perception of the once-all-powerful AL East. The Red Sox’ win over/under is the lowest of any of the other projected division leaders. That isn’t what this division is supposed to be all about.
Put it this way: If the Red Sox actually do win the AL East with 86 wins, it would be an unbelievable aberration.
Since the leagues were broken up into three divisions in 1994, there have been just two times the top team in the East hasn’t won at least 95 games. The Yankees needed just 87 wins to claim the division in 2000 — (the first year in MLB no team finished with a winning percentage below .400 or above .600) — and also won the division crown with 92 victories in ’96.
But with what appears to be an unusually top-to-bottom flawed AL East, it’s a scenario that could surface.
Basically, the entire division mirrors how we view the Red Sox. Cases could be made for and against every single participant. Usually the East offers some certainty thanks to at least one roster constructed with top-to-bottom proven success. Not this time.
Take a look ‘¦
Why they’ll go over: With Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Chris Archer — along with the June return of Matt Moore — they could have the division’s best starting rotation.
Why they’ll go under: The offense is yucky. And if you don’t believe me, remember that John Jaso is currently scheduled to be the Rays’ designated hitter.
Why they’ll go over: They have shown a propensity to figure things out, while getting good enough pitching. The return of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado won’t hurt, either.
Why they’ll go under: The O’s no longer have a guy named Nelson Cruz and added little in the offseason.
Why they’ll go over: If Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda prove they can stay healthy, New York’s offense and intriguing bullpen will keep them competitive enough until a midseason, game-changing move can be executed.
Why they’ll go under: The Yanks have to rely on the health of Tanaka, Sabathia and Pineda.
Why they’ll go over: The addition of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin allows for one of the best lineups in the American League. The emergence of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman would also make a world of difference.
Why they’ll go over: A lot of players with at least some history of success.
Why they’ll go under: A lot of players with at least some history of uneven performances.
This isn’t your older brother’s American League East. Thanks for the reminder Nevada.
|02.15.15 at 9:22 am ET|
Wondering why it is so important the Phillies get the right haul of players for Cole Hamels? Check out the latest projected win totals for all big league teams by the Atlantis sports book in Reno, Nevada. (It is the first Nevada sports book to release such lines.)
Spoiler: Atlantis identify the Phillies as the team believed to be trending toward the worst season in all of MLB.
According to the projections, Philadelphia are heading into spring training with the expectations of winning just 67 games, 1 1/2 more than the next worst club, the Twins.
The top teams in baseball, according to Atlantis, are the Nationals (93) and Dodgers (91). (Click here for all the projections.)
Do you concur?
|02.13.15 at 4:58 pm ET|
Visitors to Jackie Bradley’s batting cage at JetBlue Park might think he was getting ready to hang some laundry.
A rope stretches across a screen in the right-handed batter’s box at roughly eye level, and Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez believes it holds the key to Bradley regaining the form that made him a top-flight prospect before a disastrous 2014 cast his future into doubt.
The purpose is simple — Bradley shouldn’t swing at anything over the line. By forcing him to consciously swing down on the ball, Rodriguez hopes Bradley can rediscover the approach he utilized throughout the minors, when he looked like a potential leadoff hitter.
“Staying under the line means staying on top of the ball,” Rodriguez said by phone on Friday. “You’ve got to stay short and through the ball. It’s a target that you visualize, and it forces you to stay on top.”
Bradley moved to Naples after the season and has been working out in and around JetBlue for more than a month and a half. Rodriguez believes the results have caught the attention of manager John Farrell and other members of the coaching staff.
“Guys who haven’t seen him — [hitting coach] Chili Davis, the manager, the coaches — they’ve been real happy with what they’ve seen,” Rodriguez said. “To give him credit, he’s put in a lot of good time to get it done.”
In 530 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Bradley has hit only .196 with a .548 OPS. Both numbers rank in the bottom three in baseball.
The struggles took a mental toll and led to reports that Bradley stubbornly resisted the advice of his coaches. Rodriguez views it a little differently.
“I’ve been with him for a while,” he said. “I saw him in the minor leagues. You want him to do what he’s capable of doing. The last two years, he really didn’t show that, or at least what he showed me in the minor leagues.
“What’s more, he believes in himself so much that he trusted what he was doing and really didn’t want to go out and try something different. A lot of times we gave him opinions and he probably thought that his way was going to be better. It’s tough, because he believes in himself so much, and he wanted to go his way.
“I believe that was a learning year for him. All that is behind him. He really wants to do things the right way. I’m very positive that this guy’s going in the right direction.”
The fruit of Bradley’s labors will be apparent this spring. If he hits, he’ll force himself back onto the big league radar, even in a crowded outfield. If he doesn’t, we might never see him in a Red Sox uniform again.
All Rodriguez knows is that he’s not closing to giving up on Bradley, as he made clear when asked what kind of player Bradley can be if he figures things out at the plate.
“Oh my dear Lord,” Rodriguez said. “Something good. I know his name is not mentioned too much. But the defensive ability this guy has, if he’s able to bring that offensive part of the game on a consistent basis, I think we’ve got something good, something really good.
“And for me, it’s not a bad thing that Jackie Bradley will come out and show people the kind of player he is. It’s going to benefit the team.”
|02.12.15 at 1:23 pm ET|
Thursday was the annual Red Sox Truck Day, and fans came out despite the snow to celebrate the approaching baseball season. Here’s a video of Sox fans singing “Sweet Caroline” as the truck gets ready to depart:
And here’s a look at the truck leaving. Next stop: Fort Myers.
|02.12.15 at 12:18 pm ET|
Former Red Sox player and current Criollos de Caguas winter ball manager Alex Cora joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, who he managed for 10 games this past winter. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Cora had nothing but good things to say about Castillo, who in 10 games with Criollos de Caguas under Cora’s watch, hit .405 after coming back from a thumb injury suffered in the Arizona Fall League.
“He has a great approach,” said Cora. “He only played 10 games for us and to be honest with you, I don’t know how many hits he had, but everything was back up the middle or to right center. As you guys know, if he keeps that approach for a long period of time, you’re going to hit for average. I was very surprised with that. Usually with the guys we’ve seen from Cuba coming to the big leagues they are dead pull hitters, very aggressive, a little bit out of control. He was the total opposite.
“Talking to him offensively, he said he was working with [Red Sox asst. hitting coach] Victor Rodriguez at the end of the year with the leg kick. In the beginning he had a little bit of trouble getting it down on time, but the more he played the better he was. I have no doubt he’s going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues.”
With a crowded Red Sox outfield, and Castillo’s ability to play multiple positions, there has been some questions of where Castillo is best served to play in the field. Cora said no doubt he’s a center fielder, where he played 10 games in the big leagues last September. Cora noted some of the in-game adjustments he was able to make during his time playing for him this past winter.
“He’ll be a center fielder,” Cora said. “He will be a center fielder in the big leagues. I know the decision is for John [Farrell] and for Ben [Cherington] to make. The way he reads bats and the way he gets jumps, he’s a very athletic guy. We thought coming in when he came down everyone was talking about how raw he was, especially defensively. He used to play in the infield and he made an adjustment right away. He was a guy that we would give him the scouting report and after the third inning you could see he was taking charge. He was moving the right fielder, he was moving the left fielder, he was playing shallow, he was playing deep — he was making adjustments with the game and that was a great thing to see.”
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