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Red Sox add pitcher Gaby Hernandez

02.10.10 at 5:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox claimed right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners. The 23-year-old spent 2009 with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate, going 10-9 with a 5.23 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 48 walks in 146-1/3 innings. He had a strong finish to the season, going 5-0 in his last five starts.

Hernandez has been at times a highly regarded prospect. Two years ago, for instance, he was rated the No. 5 prospect in the Florida Marlins system on the strength of a three-pitch arsenal (fastball, curve, change) and an ability to compete effectively against more advanced competition. At the time, the publication offered this evaluation:

Acquired from the Mets in the Paul LoDuca salary dump, the hometown Miami kid keeps impressing as he climbs the ladder. Hernandez annually has been among the youngest players at each level, but that has yet to catch up with him.

Strengths: Hernandez’ tight curveball comes and goes but still ranks as the best in the system. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94 mph with good deception. His changeup is improving and shows plus life at times. He has proven to be durable, missing time in 2006 with a minor toe injury but having no other physical problems of note. He has a well-developed frame and good athleticism.

Weaknesses: Hernandez wore down in the final month, when he posted an 8.48 ERA, and may have put too much pressure on himself with a potential big league callup dangling in front of him. He needs to be more consistent and do a better job of resisting the urge to pitch backward. He can overthink at times and be too self-critical.

The Future: Hernandez will come to spring training with a chance to make the Marlins rotation, but more likely he will go to Triple-A Albuquerque for a few additional months of seasoning. Once he makes it to Florida, he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation piece who can eat up valuable innings.

Since then, however, Hernandez has struggled in consecutive years, posting a 6-9 record and 6.08 ERA in 2008 while splitting time between Double A and Triple A, and then producing last year’s struggle at Tacoma. Still, at 23, Hernandez still is young enough that his former prospect status should not be completely forgotten. He has two minor league options remaining for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

To clear a 40-man roster spot for Hernandez, the Sox designated right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel (claimed off waivers from the Mariners earlier in the offseason) for assignment. Manuel tossed 4-1/3 scoreless innings for the Reds in the majors last year.

Here is the Sox’ press release about the addition of Hernandez:

The Red Sox today claimed right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners and designated right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel for assignment.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Hernandez, 23, spent all of last year with Seattle’€™s Triple-A Tacoma affiliate, posting a 10-9 record with a 5.23 ERA (85 ER/146.1 IP), 98 strikeouts and 48 walks in 26 starts. He led the Rainiers in wins and ranked second in innings and strikeouts. Hernandez won each of his final five starts and earned Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week honors for August 31-Sepember 8, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA (3 ER/15.0 IP) over that stretch.

He was originally selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and has played in the Mets (2004-05), Florida Marlins (2006-08) and Mariners (2008-09) organizations.

Manuel, 26, was claimed off waivers by Boston from Seattle on November 20. He made his Major League debut last year for the Cincinnati Reds, allowing five hits in 4.1 scoreless innings over three relief appearances. He has played in the Mets (2005), Reds (2006-09) and Mariners (2009) organizations after signing with New York as an amateur free agent in 2005.

Read More: gaby hernandez, robert manuel,

The importance of Josh Beckett’s shoulder

02.09.10 at 10:12 am ET
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Curt Schilling was on to something when analyzing the merits of Josh Beckett’s makeup and how that should be valued when looking a the pitcher’s next contract. Numbers aside, Beckett’s worth is greatly enhanced by the fact that he has established the model the Red Sox want their up-and-coming hurlers to emulate.

His between-starts regimen has not only left an impression on the coaching staff (strength and conditioning coach Dave Page identifies Beckett as the hardest-working pitcher he has been associated with) but also other members of the starting staff. Jon Lester saw what Beckett was doing, saw how it translated, and now approaches his craft in a similar manner. And two years ago, when the Sox wanted Clay Buchholz to learn the same lessons, they encouraged an offseason get-together with the two pitchers to get the process rolling.

There won’t be the stand-on-the-table proclamations from Beckett, but when an organization full of young pitchers can learn from how a staff ace handles himself in ever nook and cranny of a professional hurler’s job description, that goes a long way, and don’t think the Red Sox aren’t acutely aware of it.

That said …

When it comes to Beckett’s next contract, the tipping point isn’t likely going to revolve around work ethic, big-game productivity, favorable comparisons or clubhouse importance. It’s not going to even revolve around whatever time the pitcher has missed due to injury since arriving in Boston. Perhaps the most critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting a deal done for Beckett could be something that hasn’t once surfaced as a talk radio topic of conversation in any of the past four seasons ‘€” the pitcher’s right shoulder.

The notion that you haven’t heard anything in regard to Beckett’s pitching shoulder is another check on his side of the ledger. He has worked hard to make sure this hasn’t become a hot-button topic. It can, in fact, be identified as one of the biggest reasons the 29-year-old’s professional approach has morphed into what it is today.

There’s been a skin avulsion, back problem and oblique/intercostal muscle ailment. But at no time has Beckett lost time due to his right shoulder, which, if you know the backstory, amps up the intrigue appreciably.

The first time Beckett’s shoulder was diagnosed as being a potential problem was back in 2000 when a doctor affiliated with the Marlins was telling the then-19-year-old that labrum surgery was inevitable. For a player just kicking off his career, the procedure (which is far less advanced than it has become) would have been a severe setback.

But at the urging of his agent, Michael Moye, Beckett sought out a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who steered the pitcher away from surgery, paving an entirely different kind of career path. It also made him very aware of how important it would be to do everything he could to prevent the issue from getting worse.

“I probably would have had surgery on my labrum, and that was back when they were still shrinking capsules, so it wouldn’t have been good,” Beckett said back at the end of the 2008 season. “But my agent said we should get a second opinion before we do anything. That’s when I saw Dr. Andrews and he told me to rest it. He always took the cautious route first. ‘Let’s rehab this thing to see if we can get it stronger, and if it doesn’t we’re not losing anything.’ He spoke my language, too, and a lot of doctors don’t. When I went to the rehab clinic (after seeing Andrews in 2000), that’s when I knew.”

While blisters proved the biggest stumbling block for Beckett throughout his time with the Marlins, the shoulder concerns wouldn’t go away. After Beckett missed his final start of the 2005 season with shoulder stiffness (although there was some debate as to if the absence was related to injury or the team saving potential bonus money), the company Beckett was attempting to secure insurance from informed him that they would insure every part of his body but his shoulder.

By the time the Red Sox approached Beckett with a contract proposal midway through the 2006 season, the insecurity of not locking in insurance still was weighing heavily on the pitcher.

“I think if I had that insurance policy it would have been a little easier to go to [the Red Sox] with a hard number,” Beckett said in 2007. “The way it happened was that we both sat down and hammered out something that made us both happy. I got that insurance with the contract.”

While the subject of his shoulder never exited Beckett’s psyche, there has been encouraging signs since coming to the Red Sox. He was told after the initial rejection by the insurance company that he could get insurance if he pitched 600 innings from the time of his arrival in Boston if there were no shoulder issues. (He has pitched 792 regular-season innings for the Red Sox.) Beckett also underwent an MRI following the 2007 season as part of the process to potentially getting insurance, which he also identified as not raising any new red flags.

So, he has done his part and kept the shoulder intact. But now comes the part Beckett can’t control: How will the Red Sox view the long-term prognosis?

Most are jumping to the conclusion that, barring any physical or performance setbacks, Beckett’s payday will begin with the number just dished out to John Lackey (five years, $82.5 million). When it comes to going strictly by the numbers (and age), the two are extremely comparable. But, because of all of the aforementioned bits of intrigue, these are far from two identical negotiations.

It might simply come down to the simple question of whether or not the Red Sox are willing to have faith that Beckett’s approach toward his shoulder is good for at least another five years. Answer that and you’ll most likely decipher where the starter will be pitching in 2011.

Red Sox still in the mix for Takahashi

02.08.10 at 1:51 pm ET
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The Red Sox still appear to be in the mix for the services of Japanese left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, whom the Sox have extended a contract offer to. Takahashi is thought to be waiting on a few more potential suitors before deciding on whether or not he will take the Red Sox’ deal.

If Takahashi does sign with the Sox, it will be to compete for a job in the team’s bullpen, despite the fact the 34-year-old has pitched as a starter for most of his professional career in Japan.

It is believed that Takahashi will be throwing for teams that haven’t been able to scout him, with that session taking place at some point Monday afternoon in Arizona.

Last season with the Yomiuri Giants, Takahashi went 10-6 with a 2.94 ERA, striking out 121 batters while walking 36 in 144 innings pitched. He made approximately $1.3 million in 2009 with Yomiuri. The lefty’€™s best pitch is a screwball-type offering, with his fastball usually topping out at 90 mph.

Click here for a profile on Takahashi.

Schilling: Sox should sign Beckett now

02.08.10 at 12:13 pm ET
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Posting on his blog, 38 Pitches, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling wrote that the Red Sox’ best course of action would be to sign Josh Beckett to a new contract sooner than later. Schilling points out that Beckett, whose current deal runs out after the 2010 season, shouldn’t be subject to just the statistical comparisons of other pitchers, but should also be valued for the type of presence he brings to the Red Sox’ starting rotation while pitching in the American League East. Schilling writes:

“Josh works from a different perspective than many, it’€™s why he was so good so young. He pushes himself with an internal bar and set of values that not many kids have. That isn’€™t going to change, in fact I’€™d argue that it’€™s only gotten ‘€˜better’€™ over the past few years. He knows he’€™s in the games toughest division, he knows who people consider the best and I promise you he doesn’€™t ever take the ball, no matter who he is facing, and not believe 100% he’€™s going to not only win, but dominate.

“He’€™s getting to a stage in his career where the mental work, the prep work, is going to meet and surpass the physical effort. Which in his case is saying something because he’€™s a kid who does work his ass off and does want to be the best. When he does combine max effort in the mental preparation arena (which is not to say he hasn’€™t before, but as you age you learn different things about yourself and the game) with his physical preparation, things could get interesting.

“I do believe Jon Lester is an ace in the making, he’€™s going to be a legit #1 very soon, if not this year, the only thing stopping that is his command, when that comes he’€™s as good as there is, combining that with Josh, with Dice, with Clay and Lackey, there aren’€™t many deeper or more talented rotations anywhere.

“You lock Josh up you lock up the top 3 spots in your rotation (well 4 if you don’€™t trade Clay) for the next 3-5 years, and each of those spots is occupied by a 1 or a 2. In the AL East you go into each season with a legitimate shot at winning it all with that mix.

“Here’€™s the other thing. Whatever you perceive Josh’€™s value to be at the end of this deal the one thing you know for sure is that he’€™ll still be giving you every ounce of everything he has, that’€™s just who he is. You cannot say the same thing for other guys around the league.”

Kelly, Lars Anderson among non-roster invitees

02.05.10 at 4:36 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced a list of 20 non-roster invitees who will take part in the team’s Major League spring training camp. The group that will join members of the 40-man roster includes some of the top prospects in the team’s farm system — pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Lars Anderson and outfielder Ryan Kalish — as well as a number of pitchers who will compete for the final spots in the bullpen.

The team’s press release announcing the non-roster invitees is below:

The Red Sox today announced that 20 players will attend the team’€™s Major League Spring Training camp as non-roster invitees.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

The non-roster invitees are pitchers Randor Bierd, Fernando Cabrera, Kris Johnson, Casey Kelly, Adam Mills, Edwin Moreno, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse, Jorge Sosa and Kyle Weiland; catchers Luis Exposito and Gustavo Molina; infielders Lars Anderson, Yamaico Navarro, Angel Sanchez and Gil Velazquez; and outfielders Zach Daeges, Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin and Darnell McDonald.

Half of the 20 invitees have Major League experience, including Bierd, Cabrera, McDonald, Molina, Moreno, Nelson, Sanchez, Shouse, Sosa, and Velazquez. Cabrera and Velazquez both saw action for the Red Sox in 2009.

Pitchers and catchers will participate in their first on-field workout in Fort Myers on Saturday, February 20. The first full workout of the Red Sox Spring Training camp is on Wednesday, February 24.

All workouts take place at Boston’€™s Player Development Complex, located at 4301 Edison Avenue. The team will move its spring operation to City of Palms Park when the games begin on Wednesday, March 3.


Pitchers (10) — Randor Bierd, Fernando Cabrera, Kris Johnson*, Casey Kelly, Adam Mills, Edwin Moreno, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse*, Jorge Sosa, Kyle Weiland

Catchers (2) — Luis Exposito, Gustavo Molina

Infielders (4) — Lars Anderson, Yamaico Navarro, Angel Sanchez, Gil Velazquez

Outfielders (4) — Zach Daeges, Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, Darnell McDonald

* – left-handed pitcher Bold – indicates new to Red Sox organization or taking part in first big-league spring training with the Sox

Read More: casey kelly, lars anderson, non-roster invite, ryan kalish

Lester among biggest bargains in baseball

02.05.10 at 3:10 pm ET
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It is now just under a year since the Red Sox gave Jon Lester the sort of deal that had no precedent. The Sox and Lester agreed on a five-year, $30 million deal that includes a $13 million option for the 2014 season. That deal represented a record in terms of guaranteed years (5) and dollars ($30 million) for a pitcher who had yet reached arbitration eligibility. (For the context of the deal at the time, click here.)

For the club, there was some risk involved. The Sox were making a sizable long-term commitment to a pitcher on the strength of one truly dominant year at the big-league level. Less than one year later, however, it becomes obvious that the deal is one that may end up saving the club tens of millions of dollars.

Over the last two years, Lester has established himself as one of the most dominant left-handers in the game. He is part of a conversation that includes CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Cliff Lee and not many others. In 2008-09, he went a combined 31-14 (tied for the 6th most wins in the majors) with a 3.31 ERA (13th), 377 strikeouts (12th), and a puny 74 OPS+ (6th). In his career, he is now 42-16 with a 3.66 ERA.

Yet assuming that the Sox end up exercising their option on the 26-year-old, he will cost $42.75 million between now and 2014. He’s only given up one year of free agency — two if the Sox exercise their option — but assuming the Boston front office does indeed keep him for the final year of the deal, Lester’s first two free-agent years would be coming at a cost of $11.625 million and $13 million.

As Brian MacPherson of the Union Leader has pointed out, those figures seem like a bargain when compared to the two market-changing contracts that were just signed by Tigers ace Justin Verlander and Seattle’s royal figure of pitching, Felix Hernandez.

Verlander — who has one more year of service time than Lester — just inked a five-year, $80 million deal that will keep him in Detroit through 2014. His free-agent years are being valued at $20 million each. That deal went just over the five-year, $78 million deal that Hernandez — who, like Verlander, has one more year of service time than Lester — signed to remain with the Mariners through 2014. His first three free-agent years are valued at an average of $19.33 million per season.

Verlander has a career record of 65-43 with a 3.92 ERA; he’s never had an ERA below 3.45. His strikeout numbers (8.0 per nine innings) are better than Lester’s (7.9), but not by much, and Lester is more of a groundball pitcher than Verlander.

Hernandez’ numbers compare more impressively to Lester’s: he is 58-41 with a 3.45 career ERA, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a tremendous groundball rate that is better than either Lester’s and Verlander’s. He is also the youngest of the three. (Hernandez turns 24 in April; Lester turned 26 last month; and Verlander turns 27 later this month.)

If you were to bet on one pitcher to be the best of the three — regardless of contract — it would be Hernandez. But would you anticipate that he will be so much better than Lester that he would be worth an additional $35 million over the next five seasons? Probably not.

Put another way: had the Sox waited until after the 2010 season to sign Lester to an extension when he had accumulated four-plus years of service time, barring a disastrous performance in the coming year, there is little question that he would have been in line for a long-term deal along the lines of the ones signed by Verlander and Hernandez.

Of course, Lester’s contract cannot be compared apples-to-apples with the two that were just signed. He agreed to his deal at a much different point in his career than did either of the other two pitchers. In that regard, Lester did an excellent job of achieving a lifetime of security after just a couple years in the majors. Again, he received more guaranteed money than any other pitcher in his service class at the time that he signed his contract.

That said, the recent deals suggest that the Sox, by moving aggressively to achieve a long-term deal at an early stage of a dominant young pitcher’s career, got one of the best bargains in all of baseball. If Lester remains healthy, and continues to perform at the elite levels that have characterized his past two years, his deal with Boston will be one of the most team-friendly around.

Read More: felix hernandez, Jon Lester, justin verlander,

Garciaparra not ready to retire

02.04.10 at 6:11 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Lou Merloni reports that after talking to Nomar Garciaparra, the former Red Sox shortstop is intent on playing in the majors for the 2010 season if the right situation presents itself. Garciaparra said his calf, which has been hindering the 36-year-old for the past few years, feels better now that has in quite some time.

Garciaparra has talked to a few major leagues teams, but is holding out for the right situation. He also has had conversations about potentially doing work with the MLB Network. Garciaparra played in 65 games with Oakland last season, hitting .281 with three homers.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Garciaparra was “widely expected to retire.”

Read More: Nomar Garciaparra,

Report: Red Sox extend offer to Takahashi

02.04.10 at 1:33 pm ET
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According a post on Twitter from NPB Tracker, Sports Hochi is reporting that the Red Sox are one of four teams to have offered a minor league contract to left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi. The other three clubs reportedly showing interest are the Giants, Padres and Dodgers. Takahashi is a 34-year-old left-hander who has started for most of his career.

Last season with the Yomiuri Giants he went 10-6 with a 2.94 ERA, striking out 121 batters while walking 36 in 144 innings pitched. Takahashi made approximately $1.3 million in 2009 with Yomiuri. The lefty’s best pitch is a screwball-type offering, with his fastball usually topping out at 90 mph. For more on Takahashi, click here.

Matsuzaka still at Athletes’ Performance

02.04.10 at 11:26 am ET
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Even though the great majority of the 15 Japanese baseball-playing participants have left the Athletes’ Performance training facility in Phoenix to attend their respective spring trainings in Japan, Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is still working out at AP. Matsuzaka, who began his first offseason training at AP in early Dec., has left a positive impression on the Athletes’ Performance staff, according to the facility’s Director of Methodology Craig Friedman.

“He’s doing great,” Friedman said. “We have two Japanese coaches on staff, one of which has been working with him the whole time. The updates that I’ve gotten on him is that he is doing really well.” It was reported by MLB.com that Matsuzaka had “unexpectedly taken a week off” from AP, but Friedman reports that the pitcher has lived up to expectations during his time in Phoenix.

The other Japanese baseball players participating at AP this offseason, along with Matsuzaka, are: Shuhei Fukada, Hiroyasu Tanaka, Tsubasa Aizawa, Masamitusu Suzuki, Koji Yamasaki, Ryota Igarashi, Yoshinori Sato, Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi, Chikara Onodera, and Tetsuya Iwasaki.

Red Sox announce signings of Molina, Nelson

02.03.10 at 12:47 pm ET
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The Red Sox officially announced their minor league deals with right-handed reliever Joe Nelson and catcher Gustavo Molina. Both players have been added to the roster of Triple-A Pawtucket. The team also announced some changes to its baseball operations department.

The press release follows. For more information on Nelson, click here.

The Red Sox today announced the signings of catcher Gustavo Molina and right-handed pitcher Joe Nelson to 2010 minor league contracts. In addition, both players have been invited to Boston’€™s Major League Spring Training camp as non-roster players.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Molina, 27, spent all of last year with Washington’€™s Triple-A Syracuse affiliate, batting .209 (44-for-211) with two home runs and 24 RBI in 72 games. He appeared in 68 games behind the plate, posting a .986 (6 E/415 TC) fielding percentage while throwing out 16 of 39 attempted base stealers (41 percent). Originally signed by the Chicago White Sox as an international free agent in 2000, Molina has played 19 Major League games for the White Sox (2007), Baltimore Orioles (2007) and New York Mets (2008), batting .118 (4-for-34) with one RBI.

Nelson, 35, split last season between the Tampa Bay Rays and Triple-A Durham. He began the year with the Rays, going 3-0 with three saves and a 4.02 ERA (18 ER/40.1 IP) in 42 relief outings before an August 1 option to Durham. The right-hander made 13 appearances for the Bulls, going 2-2 with a 6.23 ERA (12 ER/17.1 IP).

He returns for a second stint with Boston after pitching in three games for the club in 2004. Originally selected by Atlanta in the fourth round of the 1996 draft, Nelson is 7-2 with 13 saves and a 4.07 ERA (65 ER/143.2 IP) in 149 career Major League games for the Braves (2001), Red Sox (2004), Kansas City Royals (2006), Florida Marlins (2008) and Rays (2009).

Both players are on the Pawtucket roster.

RED SOX ANNOUNCE CHANGES IN BASEBALL OPERATIONS: The Red Sox today announced three changes in Baseball Operations. Eddie Romero, who has served as Coordinator, Latin American Operations since 2006, was promoted to Assistant Director, Latin American Operations. Gus Quattlebaum was promoted to Assistant Director, Amateur Scouting after working for the club as a Major League scout since 2006. Steve Peck was named a Major League scout. He joined the Red Sox in 2009 as a professional scout after 13 years on the coaching and scouting staff of the Seattle Mariners.

Read More: eddie romero, gus quattlebaum, gustavo molina, joe nelson
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