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Friday Fort-itude: Early morning spring training notes

02.18.11 at 9:43 am ET
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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.”

And how did he react to the acquisitions of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Bobby Jenks? “Another barbecue!” he said.

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.

Read More: Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro, Stolmy Pimentel, yamaico navarro

Red Sox Roundup: What happened Thursday in Fort Myers

02.18.11 at 7:04 am ET
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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 »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Albert Pujols, carl crawford, David Ortiz

Why David Ortiz is loving Adrian Gonzalez on the Red Sox

02.17.11 at 5:55 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz was among those hooting and hollering when the Red Sox pulled off the December blockbuster that landed Adrian Gonzalez in Boston.

Why?

“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 »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, David Ortiz

Adrian Gonzalez won’t compare himself to Albert Pujols

02.17.11 at 2:49 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Spring Training

David Ortiz promises to show patience at the bargaining table

02.17.11 at 2:11 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Big Papi, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Fort Myers

Theo Epstein: ‘We haven’t done anything yet’

02.17.11 at 11:56 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona just held court in Fort Myers following the third day of team workouts. Today marks the official reporting date for position players, and all players except for J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro took part. (Drew is in Fort Myers, and Scutaro is expected.)

We’ll have more later, but here are some highlights of the session.

–Epstein was pleased to hear that the players are articulating high expectations, but he noted candidly that the Sox ‘haven’t done anything yet. … We have to prove we’re not a third-place team.’

–Epstein said that he did not envision David Ortiz contract status (he is playing under a $12.5 million option this year) being a distraction, noting that the uncertainty that awaits him following this year is no different than what he played under in 2010.

Adrian Gonzalez will be seen by doctors next week to see if his surgically repaired shoulder has progressed to the point that he can start swinging earlier than the projected March 1 date.

–Epstein also said that it is “well-documented” that there is “mutual good faith” between the Sox and Gonzalez to sit down and discuss a deal.

Mike Cameron discusses recruiting Carl Crawford and accepting a role

02.17.11 at 9:59 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Baseball players are typically territorial. When they have occupied a starting role for the majority of their career, the idea of sacrificing playing time is typically treated as if hazardous waste.

But Mike Cameron did not see things that way. Indeed, he wanted to help facilitate a transaction that would mean the reduction of his playing time but that would be beneficial to the Red Sox team for whom he was limited in 2010 by a season-ending sports hernia.

Cameron underwent surgery in Sept. after pushing his body to play 48 games during which he hit .259 with a .328 OBP, .401 slugging mark and .729 OPS. GM Theo Epstein had informed Cameron of the possibility that the Sox might pursue free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, and the longtime center fielder suggested that he would be open to helping with the sales pitch.

The 38-year-old suggested that he was happy to play the role of “Assistant GM” and “college recruiter” for the Sox to help them bring aboard one of the most dynamic outfielders in the game. Of course, in doing so, Cameron was well aware that Crawford’s arrival would relegate him to the role of fourth outfielder, but for the 16-year veteran, playing time proved less meaningful than the opportunity to have some kind of meaningful role with a club that now seems to be eying 100 victories and a title.

“The fact of the matter is that this ballclub is much better with someone like Carl Crawford, and the luxury of having some players like myself and [Darnell McDonald] and [Daniel Nava] and everybody else ‘€“ and I will not leave out [Ryan Kalish], too ‘€“ guys who have kind of experienced it and understand it,” said Cameron. “As long as you’€™re willing to accept what’€™s coming about for you, then everything should be fine. I’€™m here to be a part of the strength of the ballclub and not one of the weaknesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, mike cameron,

Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Wed.

02.17.11 at 7:13 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The second day of Red Sox workouts was tranquil, particularly in comparison to the expected-yet-still-stunning news across the state that the Cardinals and franchise icon Albert Pujols had not been able to reach an agreement on a long-term extension. By comparison, nearly any news would seem trivial, particularly on a day that featured little more than another round of drills and side sessions being tossed by pitchers.

Of course, the news that Pujols intends to test the free-agent waters also raises a fascinating question. In a world in which the Sox didn’t already have Adrian Gonzalez — and an agreed-upon framework to keep the newly acquired first baseman in Boston for years to come — would the team be better served pursuing Gonzalez or King Albert? For a closer examination of that quandary, click here.

In other news from Sox camp:

Jacoby Ellsbury arrived in Red Sox camp eager to put 2010 behind him while looking forward to the coming season. The return of Ellsbury to full speed could create the basis for a fascinating competition between him and new teammate Carl Crawford, the latter of whom is expected to arrive in Fort Myers on Thursday. Ellsbury faces no restrictions this spring.

–Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka is in his fifth spring with the Red Sox. He is healthy and has already been given the green light to pursue a more aggressive throwing program than some of this teammates. This year, he is able to enjoy a spring in near anonymity, as the following of his every move has dwindled. For the 30-year-old, that could be a good thing.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is earning early raves in camp. The trust he’s earning from his teammates is important.

Mike Cameron asked manager Terry Francona if he could play both left and right field during spring training. Cameron shows no reservations about moving from center to a corner position, despite the fact that he had a devastating injury the last time he was not playing center field.

Jon Lester had a shot at 20 wins in his final start of 2010. The fact that he failed to reach that goal left him with a “bitter taste” during the winter. Lester said that he wants to cut down on walks this year.

Brandon Duckworth and Tony Pena Jr., a couple of non-roster invitees, received clean bills of health after undergoing MRIs.

Jason Varitek showed up in phenomenal shape, and has put himself in position to play as long as he wants to, said Francona.

–Prospect Oscar Tejeda is not your usual second baseman. The 21-year-old is turning some heads in Red Sox camp.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Albert Pujols, brandon duckworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Could Daisuke Matsuzaka be a hero in the shadows?

02.16.11 at 6:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka is entering his fifth major league season, long removed from life as an intercontinental phenom. One can count with two hands the number of Japanese media members who are in Fort Myers to document the right-hander’s spring, and many of those journalists are biding their time until they relocate across the city to Twins camp, where middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka — the first Japanese player signed by Minnesota — will be arriving.

The spotlight is no longer glaring on the 30-year-old pitcher. In a way that is perhaps unprecedented in his Sox career, he is able to navigate through the Red Sox minor league complex while nearly — nearly — blending in.

“The thing for him that’€™s probably easier is every time he takes the ball now it’€™s not as big as an event, so he can be more of a normal baseball player,” said manager Terry Francona. “Remember that first spring, up in Sarasota, he gave up a hit, we had to about bring in the United Nations. Now he can go out and be a normal pitcher, which I think should be easier.”

Matsuzaka, in his session with the media, agreed. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

Carl Crawford the new Red Sox steals champ? Jacoby Ellsbury says not so fast

02.16.11 at 5:00 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Competition is a good thing.

Jacoby Ellsbury made it clear that he believes that when it comes to the question of who will win the stolen base crown. Turns out, the main competition might be in his clubhouse all season.

Ellsbury said Wednesday he hasn’t seen or made formal contact with Carl Crawford yet but plans to soon.

“I know I’ll see him a lot this year,” Ellsbury said. “I see him in the next couple of days.”

Between Ellsbury and Crawford, the two have combined to win the last six American League stolen base titles. Of course, Ellsbury set the Red Sox franchise record and led the league in 2009 with 70, one season after leading the AL with 50.

Ellsbury said he has a number in mind for 2011 but wouldn’t offer it up as public knowledge on Wednesday.

“I’ve got my personal goals,” he said. “I’ll keep them my personal goals. They’re always set pretty high.”

The 2009 season capped a run where Ellsbury and Crawford combined to win six titles in seven seasons, as Crawford led the league in 2003, ’04, ’06 and ’07. Crawford had at least 50 steals in each of those four seasons before falling to 25 in 2008. He rebounded with a career-best 60 in the same season Ellsbury swiped 70.

So, the race is on.

“We’ll see,” Ellsbury said. “Any time you have competition, that’s a good thing. We’re both competitors and any time you have that competitiveness, it’s good for both players.”

And who would win a sprint, Ellsbury or Crawford?

“I don’t know,” Ellsbury said, before adding, “I wouldn’t bet against myself.”

We’ll have to wait until Crawford shows up to see what he thinks of Ellsbury’s friendly salvo and if he plans on firing back.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, MLB
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