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Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has his theory on needing an ace

01.28.15 at 3:15 pm ET
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Juan Nieves

Juan Nieves

It’s been a healthy debate throughout the offseason regarding if the Red Sox truly need a defined ace heading into 2015.

But shouldn’t the most important voice on the matter come from the man who will be charged with guiding the starting staff through the season, with or without that No. 1 guy?

Talking on the phone from his home in North Carolina, Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves weighed in on what has become one of this winter’s weightiest matters.

“Other than that first turn through the rotation, whomever goes out there every fifth day, I’m a firm believer, that’s my ace,” Nieves said. “I also think team generally win without having five aces, but if you have three or four pitchers pitch like a one or a two for two or three months and pitch like a three for the rest of the year, that pitcher is going to win a lot of games. And when that five pitches like a three and gives you some deep innings and some eight-inning outings, and even pitches like a strong No. 2 for a few months, that’s when you see teams winning and never go in slumps. I think overall I’m a firm believer that my five guys in the rotation are my five aces. Whomever is out there for me is my ace.”

Nieves’ philosophy has merit, especially considering it was born from what the Red Sox starters accomplished during their World Series run of 2013.

While Jon Lester was ultimately identified as the team’s no-hold’s-barred ace, it would have been difficult to designate him such on Day 1. He was coming off a 2012 season which encompassed a 4.82 ERA. The guy who ended up as the staff’s No. 2, John Lackey, hadn’t even pitched the year before. Clay Buchholz, who pitched in the No. 2 spot to being the season, had totaled a 4.56 ERA in ’12. And, when it all said and done, the inconsistencies of Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront ultimately forced the Sox go out and get Jake Peavy at the non-waiver trade deadline.

But, to Nieves’ point, what worked for that group in ’13 was that each pitcher went on at least one top-of-the-rotation-type run during that season.

Before his injury, Buchholz began the season with a 9-0 mark and 1.71 ERA over 12 starts (in which the Red Sox went 11-1). Doubront rattled off 15 starts in the heart of the season in which he accumulated a 2.55 ERA, while averaging 6 1/3 innings per outing.

Dempster managed a pair of runs, one coming to start the ’13 season in which he carried a 2.93 ERA over his first seven starts. The other stretching in June and July when he managed a 3.86 ERA over 11 outings, during which the Red Sox went 7-4.

Of course, while it is important to find such stretches from those considered in the middle of on the back end of one’s rotation, it is equally urgent to get a couple of pitchers who can sustain such excellence for even longer period of time. In that case, that’s where Lester and Lackey came in.

So, does this group have what it takes to make Nieves’ way of thinking hold up?

As previously mentioned, Buchholz has gone down this path before. It is also easy to find a similar stretch of dominance from Justin Masterson (although he only went more than two starts in between allowing five or more runs once in ’14, and that was a three-start period).

Joe Kelly experienced success similar to Buchholz in ’13, totaling a 9-3 mark with a 2.28 ERA as a starter in 15 outings. And last season, Rick Porcello’s first three months included an 11-4 record and 3.12 ERA in 16 starts.

There is also obvious hope when it comes to Wade Miley, as well, with the lefty finishing off a subpar ’14 with a 3.43 ERA in his last nine starts. His best stretch? Probably a two-month period in which he managed a 1.96 ERA over 10 starts in the middle of ’13.

So, if Nieves’ theory holds up, there is hope for this current group of Red Sox starters. Now it’s just the question of if they can find enough stretches of ace-level pitching from this bunch.

Former Red Sox coach Don Bryant dead at 73

01.28.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Don “Bear” Bryant, who was a bullpen coach for the 1975 Red Sox team that won the American League pennant, passed away last Thursday in Gainesville, Florida, the team announced Wednesday. He was 73.

Bryant, a former major league catcher best known for catching Don Wilson’s no-hitter for the Astros against the Reds in 1969, spent his final three seasons in the Sox’ minor league system. He was a player/coach for Triple-A Pawtucket under manager Darrell Johnson in 1973, and when Johnson was promoted to manager in Boston in 1974, Bryant followed him.

Bryant also followed Johnson when he was hired to be manager of the Mariners in 1977, serving there until 1980.

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Why Red Sox traded Anthony Ranaudo for Robbie Ross

01.27.15 at 7:21 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

The Red Sox announced Tuesday night that they have traded Anthony Ranaudo for lefty reliever Robbie Ross.

Why Ross?

While the 25-year-old is a lefty, his strength may be getting right-handed hitters out, a quality the Red Sox have been looking to add to their bullpen. Ross doesn’t possess a traditional lefty-on-lefty breaking ball, but he does get righties out thanks to what can be an above-average cut fastball.

Ross — a second-round pick in 2008 — struggled for the Rangers for much of 2014, finishing with 6.20 ERA in 27 appearances (12 of which were starts). The previous two seasons, however, he was one of Texas’ best relievers, totaling a 2.22 ERA in 58 games in 2012 and 3.03 over 65 relief outings.

In 2013 Ross held righties to a .211 batting average, with lefty hitters managing a .343 clip. Last year he wasn’t very good against either side, having more success against left-handed batters (.283) than righties (.336).

So, what happened last season?

Ross struggled mightily with his fastball command throughout 2014 and didn’t possess any sort of effective secondary pitch. He had nothing to use on the inside part of the plate against lefty hitters or on outside part of the plate vs. righties.

In 78 1/3 innings in ’14 Ross struck out 51 but walked 30. He did, however, finish a streak in April of not walking a batter in 99 straight plate appearances. The lefty started the season as a starter, pitching well in his first five outings, managing a 2.45 ERA. As a reliever, Ross finished with a 7.85 ERA.

Giving up on Ranaudo wasn’t easy for the Red Sox, who drafted the starter 39th overall in the 2010 draft. After dealing with injuries for much of his first few pro seasons, the LSU product bounced back to make himself a viable big league starting candidates.

With Triple-A Pawtucket last season he went 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts. Ranaudo made seven starts with the Red Sox, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA. Not considered a candidate to fill one of the bullpen roles, the 25-year-old righty would seem to be blocked by such young arms as Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes.

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Joe Kelly predicts he’ll win Cy Young; Dustin Pedroia eyes playing in all 162

01.24.15 at 11:43 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

LEDYARD, Conn. — The Red Sox tried something new this offseason, and the Red Sox players didn’t seem to mind it at all.

Hundreds of fans poured into Foxwoods Resort and Casino for the Sox’ first-ever Winter Weekend to participate in a variety of activities and events. One of the byproducts of the festivities was the opportunity for the majority of the Red Sox roster to gather together prior to heading to Fort Myers for the first official reporting date, Feb. 20.

Here are some of the takeaways from the player availability:

Joe Kelly offered the most pointed comment Saturday, proclaiming on WEEI, “I want your listeners to know, I’m going to win the Cy Young this year. Just letting everyone know so when I win it you heard it here first.” (To listen to the audio, click here.)

Kelly also offered some interesting insight when it came the topic of doctoring balls. Playing off the Patriots Deflategate controversy, the Red Sox pitcher surmised that 95 percent of baseball pitchers use some sort of non-sanctioned substance to get a better grip on the ball.

“The hitters would say please do it. They don’t want to get hit with 98 [mph],” he explained, adding, “If it’s Bull Frog [sunscreen] and it’s sunny out, I don’t’ want skin cancer. I’ll put on sunscreen, there’s a rosin bag and I’ll throw rosin on my arm.”

Dustin Pedroia proclaimed himself ready to go, suggesting he will be ready to play every game on the schedule.

“I plan on playing 162 [games],” he said. “I don’t look at it any different. I started 178 games [in 2013] with a torn thumb. Obviously I’m a human. The next year, you’re going to have a tough time. I’m back, like, my body’s back. I feel strong. I’m lifting everything. Right back to normal.”

Pedroia also touched on his disappointment when Jon Lester left via free agency.

“Yeah, it’s tough, it’s part of the business,” the second baseman said. “That’s the part you really don’t understand. It’s not fun. But yeah, I was his host on his recruiting trip at Arizona State. I’ve known him forever so it’s definitely tough. It’s going to be weird showing up for spring training not seeing him there.

“I’m his friend. I’m pretty involved in a lot of things. I’m a lot smarter than him. Let’s be honest. Wouldn’t you talk to somebody starter than you?”

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Read More: Allen Craig, Dustin Pedroia, Joe Kelly,

Red Sox still intent on finding spots for Allen Craig to play

01.22.15 at 4:54 pm ET
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Allen Craig (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Allen Craig (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Like a few corners of the Red Sox roster, Allen Craig is living a somewhat uncertain existence heading into spring training. For the time being, that doesn’€™t figure to change.

Speaking at the media availability for the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Thursday, both Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell said they are proceeding as if Craig will be just another versatile player on their roster.

“€œAllen can play first in addition to the two corner spots in the outfield. I think we’€™re focused short-term with Allen right now,”€ Cherington said. “€œBy that I mean let’€™s get him into spring training, give him every at-bat he needs and give him a chance to get back into an offensive routine and get back into doing the things he’€™s capable of doing. It’€™s one of the things we’€™ll be able to figure out as it gets closer to opening day. He can protect us at a bunch of spots and we know if he’€™s doing what he’€™s capable of doing he can play everyday somewhere to.”

“I wouldn’t say on the outside looking in,”€ Farrell noted. “He’s been an everyday player. In talking with Allen throughout the winter, he’s aware of the role coming in. We may take a look at some things positionally from a defensive standpoint that gives him a chance to get more regular at-bats. But much as we talk about with the depth of the outfield, this is another situation that spring training will allow itself to work out.”

As Cherington pointed out, Craig does have a history of playing multiple positions, including both corner outfield spots along with first base and even third (where he hasn’€™t manned since 2008).

“€œWe’ve had that conversation,” said the manager regarding playing all of the aforementioned spots. “€œHe’s open to it. The best thing about where Allen sits right now is he’s eager, he’s open to the work, or the thought of third base. We’ll see how that plays out, at least to answer the question in spring training. Where it goes from there remains to be seen. This is a very talented player who’s having a good offseason physically.”

Craig has spent the offseason working out in California, attempting to have an entirely healthy offseason after spending the year still recovering from a foot issue.

The 30-year-old struggled after coming over to the Red Sox from St. Louis at the non-waiver trade deadline, hitting .128 with a .425 OPS and one home run in 29 games.

Ben Cherington: ‘A motivated Shane Victorino out to prove something is a very good thing’

01.22.15 at 4:19 pm ET
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Shane Victorino has clearly been driven throughout this offseason.

The excess of outfielders, along the journey back from back surgery, has pushed the outfielder to make his progress and motivation clear at a variety of turns this offseason. It’€™s a tone the Red Sox evidently don’€™t mind at all.

“I think a motivated Shane Victorino out to prove something is a very good thing, for him and the Red Sox,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Thursday. “So, I’€™m just excited to see him. I think we’€™ll see him later this week. We know what kind of player he is if he’€™s healthy and on the field. He’€™s certainly done all he needs to do this offseason. When it comes to getting baseball reps, that’€™s another level, another element he has to incorporate and getting into the everyday routine of spring training. But he seems anxious, so that’€™s good.”

There was no definitive clarification, however, regarding how the Red Sox’€™ crowded outfield situation was going to take care of itself heading into spring training.

As of now, the Red Sox’€™ outfield consists of five right-handed bats (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig and Victorino), one lefty (Brock Holt), and a switch-hitter who is likely to be used primarily from the left side (Daniel Nava).

“We’€™ll see where we are at the end of spring training,” Cherington said. “I think I’€™d rather have more possibilities than not enough, at least at this point. We’€™ll see how it all comes together. There will certainly be an opportunity for everyone in spring training and we’€™ll see where we are at the end of March.”

As for how Red Sox manager John Farrell plans to use Victorino, Farrell said Thursday the outfielder’€™s health will go a long way in helping make that decision.

“That’s going to be dependent on what his capabilities are from a physical standpoint,” the manager said. “We’re a better team if he’s on the field every day as was the case in 2013. That’s not to take anything away from anyone else on our roster. He’s doing everything he can right now to be a player of that capacity.”

Ben Cherington: ‘We like where we’re at’ with starting pitchers

01.22.15 at 2:38 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Speaking at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner’€™s media availability Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insinuated that no significant alternations would be made the club’€™s current starting rotation.

‘€œWe’€™re pursuing some stuff but I think it’€™s more what you would classify as depth related. That’€™s what we’€™re focused on this minute,’€ Cherington noted.

‘€œThe free agent market has been pricey this winter, obviously. Starting pitchers who perform at the highest level and do so consistently and are relatively young or near their primes, those guys are hard guys to get and they’€™re valuable and they cost a lot, where it’€™s dollars or talent. We’€™re trying to put ourselves in a position where we have that kind of caliber pitching and hopefully we have some of it internally. There’€™s no question the team benefits from having high-end starting pitching performances. It’€™s just the question of what’€™s the best way to get it. We’€™ve looked at all sorts of things, not just this offseason but previously.

‘€œWe like where we’€™re at. We like the collection of pitchers we have. We think there’€™s untapped potential in the group and the collection we have now can give us a strong pitching staff this year.’€

Currently, the Red Sox starting rotation includes Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson.

As for the level of interest the Red Sox might have in the top free agent pitcher still on the market, James Shields, Cherington reiterated that such an acquisition wouldn’€™t be likely.

We did meet with Shields and his agent back at the winter meetings. We met with most agents there, so it’€™s not to single out him. Most agents have several clients so you talk to people all the time. All I can say right now is as far as the starters are concerned, we’€™re really focused on the guys we have. We’€™re pursuing some opportunities maybe on some depth in certain areas, but there’€™s nothing on the front burner that would grab headlines.

Pedro Martinez (not John Smoltz) will be represented with Red Sox hat in Hall of Fame

01.22.15 at 11:52 am ET
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Pedro Martinez (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be wearing a Red Sox hat on his Hall of Fame hat. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

To nobody’s surprise, Pedro Martinez‘ Hall of Fame plaque will show him wearing a Red Sox hat, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Thursday.

Martinez won two of his three Cy Young Awards with the Red Sox, while also helping the Sox to their first world championship in 86 years with the pitcher’s 2004 performance.

“I cannot be any prouder to take Red Sox Nation to the Hall of Fame with the logo on my plaque,” Martinez said in a statement released by the Hall of Fame. “I am extremely proud to represent Boston and all of New England with my Hall of Fame career. I’€™m grateful to all of the teams for which I played, and especially fans, for making this amazing honor come true.”

Martinez played with the Red Sox for seven seasons, while totaling four with Montreal and the Mets. He originally came up in the Dodgers’ organization, where the righty spent two big league seasons. Martinez finished off his career with the Phillies in 2009.

The plaque will be unveiled during the 2015 Hall of Fame class’ induction in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 26.

“The Museum staff works with each inductee by suggesting an appropriate logo option, or no logo at all,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “For those whose most compelling contributions clearly took place with one team, a logo makes sense. For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable. Regardless of the selection, a Hall of Famer belongs to every team for which he played or managed, as well as every fan who followed his career.”

It was also announced that the plaque for John Smoltz (who spent part of the 2009 season with the Red Sox) would feature the pitcher wearing a Braves cap, Randy Johnson is being represented as a member of the Diamondbacks, and Craig Biggio will go in as an Astro.

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Pedro Martinez among honorees at Writers Dinner

01.21.15 at 4:30 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez is one of the leading candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot that was announced Monday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be honored at Thursday’s writers dinner at BU. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be the guest of honor at Thursday night’s Boston Baseball Writers Dinner, which will be held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.

Martinez, who was just elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, will receive the Judge Emil Fuchs Award for long and meritorious service to baseball.

One of the most colorful players in Red Sox history, Martinez retired with the third-highest winning percentage in modern history (.687). He won two of his three Cy Young Awards with the Red Sox, and with the exception of an injury-shortened 2001, finished no worse than fourth in any of his seven seasons here.

Other current and former Red Sox expected to be in attendance include infielder Brock Holt, outfielder Mookie Betts, general manager Ben Cherington, and manager John Farrell. Bernie Carbo will be on hand to honor the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Red Sox, who lost a classic World Series to the Reds in seven games.

Also expected to be in attendance are Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter of the Orioles, whom the writers voted their Executive and Manager of the Year, respectively, as well as Marlins closer Steve Cishek, the Falmouth native voted the New England Player of the Year.

Boston is one of just three cities left that holds a Writers Dinner, along with New York and St. Louis. This is the 76th annual edition of the dinner, which is presented in partnership with the Sports Museum. Tickets remain available for $200 and can be purchased by contacting Renee Quinn at (617) 624-1231 or by e-mailing rfraker@dncboston.com.

Read More: baseball, pedro martinez, Red Sox,

Red Sox avoid arbitration with Porcello, Tazawa

01.16.15 at 9:28 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

The Red Sox avoided arbitration with right-handers Rick Porcello and Junichi Tazawa on Friday night and announced that each had agreed to one-year deals.

According to an industry source, Porcello signed for $12.5 million, while Tazawa will be paid $2.25 million.

The Red Sox have two arb-eligible players remaining — outfielder Daniel Nava and left-hander Wade Miley. Miley has requested $4.3 million and the team has countered at $3.4 million, numbers first reported by CBSSports.com.

Porcello earned $8.5 million last year while going 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA. He has won at least 10 games in all six of his big league seasons, and is expected to compete with Clay Buchholz and Miley to be Boston’s starter on opening day.

As for Tazawa, he has emerged as one of the most reliable arms in John Farrell‘s bullpen, a late-innings power arm with excellent command. He went 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA last season.

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