|02.18.11 at 3:50 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Carl Crawford is feeling any pressure from signing a seven-year, $142 million deal on Dec. 11, he certainly isn’t showing it. In a 17-minute session with reporters outside the player development clubhouse, Crawford talked about making up with Jason Varitek, chatting with David Ortiz and hearing from Jim Rice about the great left fielders like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski who have preceded him in a Red Sox uniform.
“If I’m not, I better get ready pretty soon,” Crawford said when asked if he’s ready for the pressure that comes with wearing a Red Sox uniform after nine seasons with Tampa Bay. “I’m not worried about fans being at games. That’s one of my least worries. I’m excited to have the chance to play in front of all those people. Whether I do good or bad, it’s just a chance to have the opportunity to do that is exciting enough and I don’t really think I’m going to falter that much.”
And given the fact that he has led the American League in steals four times and triples four times, there’s no reason to change his offseason approach just because he changed uniforms.
“I just took the same approach like I take every year, get ready for the season the same way,” Crawford said. “My main goal is to worry about winning and that’s all I’m worried about.”
On Thursday, Ortiz said he had a good conversation with Crawford about hitting at Fenway. On Friday, Crawford spilled the beans.
“He was like, ‘If you can hit that Green Monster, try to because all times the wind might be blowing in a lot so you might get into a ball good and it might not go anywhere.’ That’s pretty much the plan I had already but to hear him say it makes me more comfortable trying to do it.”
Crawford certainly showed no nervousness when he laughed hard when asked if his big stolen base totals will go down now that he can’t torture Red Sox catchers, in particular Jason Varitek.
Crawford also joked that he “hugged” Varitek and “buried the hatchet” with the Red Sox captain after giving him nightmares on the base paths. The Red Sox certainly won’t miss facing him in a Rays uniform.
Crawford stole six bases on May 3, 2009 against Varitek and has won the American League stolen base title four times since 2003.
“I try to get as many as I can every year,” he said. “That’s my goal, to come out and put pressure on the other team and steal as many bags and try and get into scoring position.” Read the rest of this entry »
|02.18.11 at 1:51 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As an opponent, he inflicted a strange form of torture. Members of the Red Sox simply hated to face Carl Crawford.
That notion truly commenced on Opening Day of the 2003 season, when one unlikely walkoff homer golfed from just off the ground against a Chad Fox slider managed to blow up the Closer-By-Committee concept before it ever had a chance to succeed. Over the years, the frustrations continued.
Crawford has played nearly a full season’s worth of games (144) against the Sox in his career. He is a .300 hitter with a .330 OBP, .442 slugging mark, .772 OPS and 12 homers against them, but those numbers barely tell the story. He has swiped 62 bags against the Sox — far and away his most against any club — while being thrown out on just four occasions.
And then, of course, there were the innumerable times that Crawford tracked down anything that was hit into the left field corner or the left-center field gap against the Sox.
“The ball never hit the ground,” said manager Terry Francona.
In short, he was a source of tremendous frustration to virtually every member of his new club — something that came up even on the day that he first put on a Red Sox uniform for his introductory press conference, when he encountered catcher Jason Varitek. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.18.11 at 11:12 am ET|
General manager Theo Epstein stopped by to join Dennis & Callahan for a conversation Friday from Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Following a 2010 season in which the Sox were decimated by injuries, Epstein said depth in the pitching rotation and at catcher are the biggest concerns heading into the start of spring training.
“We don’t have as much depth in certain areas as we’d like,” he said. “You always try to plan for not just the 25-man roster, but you ask yourself, ‘What happens if this guy gets hurt? What if this combination of injuries occurs?’ Obviously, last year, we couldn’t withstand what we went through.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Can overconfidence hurt a team?
I think true overconfidence can be if it actually shows up every day over the course of a season. But I think baseball is designed to humble you. I think those who get overconfident, even for a minute, are humbled by the nature of the game, the failure that’s inherent in the game, the grind of the season, the fact that even the best teams can start out 5-10 and then no one’s confident in a slump.
So I don’t think overconfidence is something that frequently plagues teams. But at this time of year, it’s not a bad thing to feel good about yourself, as long as you realize that we haven’t done anything and we have an awful lot of work ahead of us before we have a chance to accomplish anything.
Would you rather be the general manager of a team like this where everybody’s saying you’re loaded, or a team that’s quietly pretty good but no one’s really talking about it?
In our market, I don’t think we’re ever going to really sneak up on people, just because of the nature of the teams we put together and because our goal is to have sustained success year-in, year-out. I think what pleases us the most is when we can transition from one type of team to another, one core to another, integrate young players and have a rebirth without anyone noticing.
|02.18.11 at 10:14 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Part of enjoying baseball when you’re not at the ballpark is cooking up a nice barbecue and enjoying a cold beverage.
So, it’s only fitting that Marco Scutaro joked Friday morning he held a barbecue for friends and family when Red Sox skipper Terry Francona informed him he was the club’s starting shortstop for 2011 over Jed Lowrie. Scutaro said he was at his South Florida home, watching TV when Francona called with the good news.
“I was in Miami, home watching TV, and we had a barbeque that night and celebrated like crazy,” Scutaro said in front of his locker in the Red Sox spring training complex.
Scutaro arrived Friday morning in the clubhouse and pronounced himself healthy and ready to assume the starting shortstop job that manager Francona confirmed was his in January at the writers’ dinner. Scutaro battled through neck, elbow and shoulder injuries in 2010 – his first season in Boston.
Scutaro said he rehabbed his left elbow, he battled through the right shoulder and rotator cuff injury for the second half of 2010. Even with all the injuries, Scutaro managed to hit .275 in 150 games, with 11 homers and 56 RBIs. The first half was his neck and left elbow. The second half was his right shoulder. A physically brutal season to be sure.
“It took a while till my shoulder felt better, after three weeks probably,” said Scutaro, who added he was able to avoid surgery. “I had to get all the muscles around the rotator cuff. It feels good. I can move it now. I started feeling better after three weeks [after the season].
“I just had to get all the muscles around the roatator cuff stronger, just like pitchers.”
Scutaro got good news in August when he got an MRI on his right shoulder that showed inflammation on his rotator cuff but no damage that would require surgery.
“They told me the rotator cuff was really inflamed, inflammation was really bad but I just needed rehab,” he said Friday.
How bad was it when he tried to play through it?
“Last year, it was kind of tough,” he said. “Some days, I’d get up about 11 [am] or noon, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had to do so much to get loose.”
“Probably behind the pitchers, we have so many good hitters,” Scutaro joked. “I don’t know, probably ninth. As long as I do my little things and get on base, it don’t matter where I hit.”
So, what did he do when he found out that not only he was coming back as the starting shortstop but he was coming back to a team that added Gonzalez and Crawford?
“Another barbecue,” Scutaro answered with a laugh.
|02.18.11 at 9:57 am ET|
The hosts asked Bard how long he could remain happy as a setup man. “We’ll see,” he said. “As long as that’s the role that fits for this team, which right now, that’s exactly where I fit in. It’s hard to address that question. I’m just looking at the personnel that we have ‘ our starters, the other guys in the bullpen ‘ and I think I’m suited pretty well for this role right now. But we can address that again next year at this time, I guess.”
Asked how he would react to being given a five-year contract to be a setup man, he joked: “I’d sell hot dogs if they give me a five-year deal for good money.”
Pressed on the subject, he insisted he wants to do what’s best for the Red Sox. “It just depends on the team,” he said. “It depends at some point, on contract status and stuff like that. As long as I’m being treated fairly, you’re not going to be hearing complaints out of me.”
However, he did acknowledge: “I don’t think anyone wants to be a middle reliever their whole career. I don’t think that would be really striving to be the best at what you do, which is kind of what I do ‘ or kind of the mindset I have. Whether that leads me to starting, closing or whatever it is down the road, I like to be challenged, too. And I feel like I’ve solidified myself amongst the better middle relievers.”
Bard said he would not be stunned if Papelbon signed another contract with the Sox after his current deal expires at the end of the season. “Stunned? No,” he said. “Some things are going to have to fall into place, some compromises from both sides, I think, but I’m really not too worried about it.”
Papelbon has earned a reputation as a bit of an oddball. Bard said the truth is not far from the perception. “About the same,” Bard said. “He’s putting on maybe a little bit of a show, but he’s not much different, no.”
|02.18.11 at 9:43 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few early items of interest, on a day when all Red Sox position players have made it into camp:
—Marco Scutaro feels healthy after a lengthy rehab this offseason to address the nerve irritation that led to arm and shoulder discomfort. He said that it was as if he was swinging with one arm for much of last season, since he had no strength in his left arm. (He was unable to lift during the year.)
–Scutaro was grateful to hear that manager Terry Francona had made clear that he will be the Red Sox shortstop out of the gate this year. Asked what he did after hearing the news, Scutaro mused, “We had a barbecue that night and we celebrated like crazy.”
More on Scutaro will be coming shortly.
–Red Sox pitcher Stolmy Pimentel, a 21-year-old who is in big league camp now, offers yet another reminder of how dramatically players signed internationally at age 16 grow. (Pimentel was signed by the Sox for just $25,000 in 2006.) The right-hander says that he now is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds; when he signed, he estimated that he was 6-foot-2 and “so skinny — 170 or something like that”; when he pitched in the Futures at Fenway in 2008, he suggested that he was 185 pounds.
Pimentel said that with his increased size, he feels more power in his pitches, something that has led to a notable uptick in velocity (he touched 95 mph last year for the first time in his career) while also giving him the strength to maintain command.
“This year I feel stronger. Maybe I can throw harder,” said Pimentel. “I worked really hard in the offseason to come in in shape for spring training. I feel ready.”
—Yamaico Navarro had no idea why his Dominican Winter League team only kept him on the roster for a brief period of time. Navarro was a standout in his few weeks with Licey, hitting .261/.400/.478 with four homers, 15 RBI, 14 walks and 14 strikeouts in 20 games. He expressed mixed feelings about the experience in the Dominican — he was pleased with his performance, but disappointed that the strange roster politics of the winter leagues led to it being a short stay. Navarro said that he moved around the diamond with Licey; his versatility is an important component of his potential path to the majors.
|02.18.11 at 7:04 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It sounds different.
The Red Sox clubhouse was half-asleep just after 8 a.m. on Thursday. But then, an alarm bell sounded in the form of David Ortiz, who arrived to begin his ninth season with the Sox. He was followed minutes later by outfielder Carl Crawford.
Thursday — the official reporting date for position players — was a day on which the Red Sox started to take shape, almost all the players accumulating to being the preparations for a 2011 season of great expectations. The decibel level and the wattage of the star power on the team clearly picked up.
All position players save for Marco Scutaro made it to the clubhouse on Thursday. With a group of perhaps more stars than at any point in team history, the anticipation is tremendous, though it was Ortiz who cautioned that star power is not synonymous with success.
“This game is not all about expectations. It’s all about executing,” said Ortiz. “We need to execute. There are a lot of things that a good team needs to work on besides just focusing on the big contracts and the good players that we got and things like that.”
“Let’s be honest, we haven’t done anything yet,” added GM Theo Epstein. “We’ve got a lot to prove. We’ve got to prove that we’re not a third-place team in this division. We’ve got to prove that we can stay healthy. We’ve got to prove that we can repeat performances ‘ what guys have done in the past, they can do it again in 2011 or improve upon those performances. We’ve got to prove we can come together as a team.
“We don’t have win No. 1 yet. We have a lot to prove and the work is just starting. That said, I like that these guys feel good about themselves, their teammates and our chances. I don’t think they’re getting ahead of themselves because they know how much work they need to do.”
As Kirk Minihane point outs, the possibility still does exist that the Sox could miss the playoffs.
As for the news of the day…
–Crawford was beaming throughout his first day with the Sox. While he received his megadeal because he impacts the game in several ways, his greatest effect in making the 2011 Sox better than their 2010 predecessors could result from his defensive work. With help from Gary Marbry of Nuggetpalooza fame, here’s a look at why. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.17.11 at 5:55 pm ET|
“It’ll be crazy for the pitchers, how they can focus on the lineup like that,” Ortiz said. “You have a lot of good hitters, one behind the other. I don’t think I’m going to be the guy that people are going to have to worry about now.”
Ortiz recalled last year after precisely two games when reporters were asking if he was concerned about going 0-for-7 in the opening two tilts against the Yankees.
“I’m not going to let that get into my head like last year,” he said. “I know I can go 0-for-20 or 3-for-20. It’s just a game. Last year, I kind of snapped a little bit at the beginning of the season and it was because I didn’t think it was fair after the second game of the year people having the doubt [about] you. I guess that is part of the game but I’m not planning on going through that again. I’m going to try my best as I always do and whatever happens, happens.”
With the addition of Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, he hopes to avoid another dismal April. He and Jon Lester know they both start slow and Ortiz is still trying to change that trend, especially that of the last two seasons.
“I think all I need to do is not think about it,” Ortiz said of his .143 average in April 2010, with one homer and four RBIs. “A Good start guarantees a good end. I’ll probably play more in spring training than I normally do. I think this offense can do some damage.”
The year before, Ortiz hit marginally better (.230) but failed to hit a single homer and had just 12 RBIs.
No doubt Ortiz was paying attention when reports came out Thursday that the Red Sox have taken care of Gonzalez to the tune of $164 million over seven years, which should be finalized after a check-up on his surgically-repaired right shoulder and after Opening Day to save $4 million in luxury tax. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.17.11 at 2:49 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As explored in today’s column, a strong case can be made that a team would rather have Adrian Gonzalez on a long-term deal than Albert Pujols. Both sluggers are eligible for free agency following the 2011 season, but while Pujols broke off contract talks with the Cardinals on Wednesday, Gonzalez is expected to be locked up by the Sox to a long-term extension in the early days of the season.
This is what one talent evaluator had to say about which player he would rather have on a deal of equal length:
“Adrian, hands down,” he said in an email. “No question Albert is the most feared hitter in the game BUT you’d be saving approximately $60 million if not more on an Adrian contract. Therefore, I’d take the third or fourth best offensive first baseman (who is also a Gold Glover), and save the extra $60+ million or apply those funds elsewhere.”
For his part, however, Gonzalez seemed rather modest about the idea. The 28-year-old, who met with the media today in Fort Myers, said that he paid almost “zero” attention to Pujols’ contract situation with the Cardinals. He suggested that whatever happens between the three-time NL MVP and the Cards has no bearing on his own contract stature. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.17.11 at 2:11 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz has been around long enough to know that whether it’s his batting approach or the bargaining table, patience is the key.
There were no salvos fired at Red Sox management Thursday at his 20-minute press conference on the bench outside the clubhouse – only promises to be focused on the 2011 season and leading the team back to the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 2007.
“I’m just going to focus on playing baseball right now,” Ortiz said during a 20-minute session with reporters. “Whatever happens, happens later on but right now my goal have a great start and make sure we win another World Series this year. I’m very excited. I can’t wait for the season to start.
“I haven’t thought about it yet. I haven’t thought about it. It’s another year, a lot of expectations, happy to be here and excited about what’s coming up. There’s a lot of new players coming to the club. It’s my first day here and have a lot of questions asked already from those guys. I’m happy to let those guys know how things go around here and make sure our fans get another good year from us.”
For all the good intentions, Ortiz admitted there was little he could do when the team decided to pick up the $12.5 million option for this season instead of extending the 35-year-old designated hitter with a long-term deal.
“That’s something that I can’t really control,” added Ortiz, who signed a four-year deal prior to 2007, with a club option for this season. “I want to stick around but that’s what they had on the table for me at the time and nothing, we just move on. Nothing just another year and happy to be here. I think things went fine. [Red Sox management] did what they were capable to do at the time. We all agreed. New year, new expectations and hopefully injuries will stay away from the team.”
Ortiz raised his average 32 points last season to .270 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs in 145 games. This was one year after he batted just .238 in 150 games with 28 homers and 98 RBIs in 2009. Then he came into spring training openly concerned about his role and whether he was playing his final season in Boston in 2010 since the team hadn’t picked up his 2011 option yet.
Thursday, both he and GM Theo Epstein didn’t think his expiring contract would be a big deal.
“I don’t think it’ll be an issue at all,” Epstein said Thursday. “He was in the same situation last year and it wasn’t a distraction so I don’t see any contractual distractions on the horizon for us.”
Looking bigger and stronger than ever, Ortiz reported to the Red Sox spring training facility on Thursday, one day before the first full-squad workouts.
After joyfully greeting new and old teammates alike in the clubhouse, Ortiz took his first swings in the batting cages.
Ortiz is in the final year of his contract, which will pay him $12.5 million in 2011. He signed a five-year deal worth $64.5 million prior to the 2007 season.
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