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Here are your Fenway improvements

03.29.10 at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox just sent out a press release announcing some of the Fenway Park improvements fans will be able to witness when Opening Day rolls around Sunday night. Per the release, here they are:

1. Left Field 1934 Seating Bowl Concrete Repair, Waterproofing and New Seats

The concrete in the Lower Left Field Seating Bowl, originally constructed in 1933-34, has been repaired and waterproofed.  As part of this project, the Dugout Seats, Field Box Seats and Loge Box Seats have been replaced with new seats and now contain cup-holders.  All Dugout Seats and Field Box Seats in these areas will also have cushioned seats.  In the Left Field Grandstand area, the original blue wooden seats (only wooden seats left in Major League Baseball) have been refurbished and fitted with self-rising mechanisms that enable the seat to retract automatically once a patron stands up.  This will allow for more room in the seating rows and improved mobility for fans entering or exiting the rows.

Additionally, a new row of Grandstand seats has been added to the back of Grandstand sections 29, 30, and 31.

The removal of the asphalt poured on cracked or broken portions of the concrete to provide temporary fixes over decades resulted in the lowering of the central cross aisle between the Field Box Seats and the Loge Box Seats in the left field portions of the 1934 bowl by approximately 8 inches. This is consistent with work performed last year to the 1912 seating bowl and will provide fans sitting in the lower rows of the Loge Boxes with improved views of the playing field.  The wheelchair and companion positions in the Loge Box were also improved this year and relocated from Section 31 to Section 32.  The sight lines from the new positions were enhanced by creating elevated platforms and positioning the companion seats next to the wheelchair locations rather than in front of them.  Several seats formerly placed in the lower aisle were removed for comfort and circulation.

All seats were refurbished and/or replaced by American Seating, the same company that has worked on the seats at Fenway Park since its inception in 1912.  The concrete repair work was completed by NER Construction of Wilmington, MA, who also completed a similar scope of work during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 off-seasons in other areas of the ballpark.

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MLB Power Rankings, 3/29

03.29.10 at 3:24 am ET
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Welcome to the first edition of the WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Monday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’s division, and also which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series. Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing rbradford@weei.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/bradfo. Enjoy.

1. Yankees. Why: If the Red Sox had Mark Teixeira, they would be No. 1, but they don’t, so the Yankees get the top honor. As comparable as the pitching staffs are, and New York’s complementary round of outfielders, I just can’t get past the fact the Yanks have something no other team in baseball possesses — the names “Teixeira” and “Rodriguez” slated into the middle of their lineup. What to watch: If Joba Chamberlain can become the dominant set-up man he once was.

2. Red Sox. Why: I think people in New England might be underrating this team a bit. The Sox are appreciably more talented than last Opening Day’s version, yet a fraction of the pundits are picking them to be a legitimate contender for the American League East crown. The biggest question mark as we storm toward the opener? The bench. Right now they don’t have proven answers at a variety of positions if the injury bug were to bite. What to watch: If part of this improved defense includes better controlling the opposition’s running game.

3. Phillies. Why: Roy Halladay will win 50 games. OK, maybe 40. Thirty? Whatever. Roy Halladay will win a crap-load of games, the rest of the rotation is solid enough, and the lineup will continue to offer more anxiety to National League pitchers than any other collection of bats. What to watch: If Jose Contreras actually can serve a purpose in Philly’s bullpen.

4. Rays. Why: I’m not completely sold on the Tampa Bay pitching staff, although James Shields and Matt Garza is a good place to start. I really like the versatility of the Rays lineup. General manager Andrew Friedman has done a good job so far of limiting the talent leaks despite a less-than-desirable payroll. The biggest challenge (Carl Crawford) is coming, but so far he’s stayed ahead of the curve. What to watch: If Sean Rodriguez, the key player acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade last season, can cement a spot in the everyday lineup and add yet another offensive threat.

5. Cardinals: Get ready for the drop-off. The reason St. Louis finds itself in this spot is the same reason the Yankees are No. 1 — the middle of the order. I’m a little sheepish about the rotation, especially if Chris Carpenter suffers through more physical ailments, but there is enough pitching depth, and offense, to figure things out as they go. What to watch: Brad Penny has had some rough spots this spring, but there still is some optimism regarding his stuff and conditioning. If St. Louis can get out of Penny what San Francisco did at the end of last season, that could potentially hand the Cards the division and pennant.

6. Angels. Why: The naysayers will point to the loss of Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero, but the reality is that with the acquisition — and subsequent performance — of Scott Kazmir last season, along with the potential of Brandon Wood, there won’t be as much of a step back as some might think. What to watch: If Joel Pineiro’s National League success will translate into his second go-round in the AL.

7. Tigers. Why: The placing might be a bit high, but when you can start with the arms (not necessarily pitching) of Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Jeremy Bonderman, living with a lineup with Carlos Guillen as the designated hitter can be tolerated. What to watch: How much of an influence Johnny Damon has on the team’s dynamic and if he can play 140 games to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Report: Sox unwilling to offer Beckett more than four years

03.27.10 at 9:56 pm ET
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According to ESPN.com, the Red Sox won’t offer pitcher Josh Beckett a contract extension of more than four years. The report, which cited a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, suggested that the Red Sox have concerns about Beckett’s shoulder that have led them to cap their offer at four years. While the Sox signed John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal this offseason, the club’s chief health concern was with Lackey’s elbow, rather than his shoulder.

Lackey owns a career record of 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. A.J. Burnett owned a career 87-76 mark with a 3.81 ERA when he signed his five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. Beckett, meanwhile, has a career 106-68 mark with a 3.79 ERA, making it natural to expect that he would be in line for a contract along the lines of his current and former teammates.

But as WEEI.com reported in February, Beckett’s shoulder presented different concerns than Lackey’s elbow issues, making it possible that his contract situation could be viewed as different than that of Burnett and Lackey. Beckett was told in 2000 that he would need surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder, but was reassessed by Dr. James Andrews, who helped him on a non-surgical path that has kept Beckett’s arm healthy for the past decade. Most recently, Beckett passed his insurance physical this spring.

The Red Sox and Beckett have declined comment on discussions about a contract extension for the pitcher this offseason, beyond making clear that both parties are interested in continuing the relationship beyond the 2010 season. Beckett, who turns 30 on May 15, is set to earn $12.1 million in 2010, the option season on a three-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Sox in 2006.

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What Happened with the Red Sox: Friday

03.27.10 at 10:31 am ET
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It was one of the more hectic days on the spring training calendar, with players coming and going at an entirely hectic pace.

The day began with left-hander Brian Shouse shaking hands with members of the Sox following his release. That seemed to augur an approach in which the Red Sox would not use a left-on-left specialist in 2010. (Alan Embree, the left-hander besides Shouse in the running for a bullpen spot at the start of the day, is comparably effective against batters from both sides of the plate.) Of course, by the end of the day, the Sox had added another player with precisely such a skill, as left-hander Scott Schoeneweis was signed by the club one day after his release by the Brewers. The 36-year-old left-hander has held lefties to a .227 average and .606 OPS in his career.

In between those bookend relief moves, the day had a number of twists in altering the shape of the 2010 Red Sox:

— Prior to yesterday’s game, a Red Sox source indicated that nothing was in the works as far as a trade of Mike Lowell. Now, a deal involving the corner infielder is even less likely, at least prior to the start of the season, after Lowell smashed a foul ball off his left leg, just below his knee. Major damage was apparently avoided, as X-rays came back negative, though he will at least miss Saturday’s game due to the injury.

— The Sox moved to add further infield depth, acquiring Kevin Frandsen from the Giants in exchange for a player to be named or cash. He will offer the team middle infield depth, something that became necessary with Jed Lowrie sidelined by mono.

— Frandsen was apparently quite popular on the Giants, though he was chided on his exit. “You were traded for cash? That means you suck!” Edgar Renteria yelled playfully at Frandsen in front of reporters (as reported via Twitter by Andrew Baggarly). Of course, one must wonder what Renteria thinks of players who must be traded with cash. . . say, perhaps, $8 million of a remaining $26 million obligation over three years.

— The Sox’ season opening rotation took shape, at least for the period until Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from the disabled list. To no one’s surprise, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey will start the first three games against the Yankees. But even though the Sox do not technically need a fifth starter until April 18, the team elected to slot both Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz into the rotation. For details, click here.

— MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner visited the Red Sox. Weiner, of course, was last seen flanking David Ortiz at the Sox slugger’s press conference in New York in which he discussed his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. Weiner expressed his satisfaction that the leaks have seemingly dried up since that press conference. Ortiz, for his part, said that he doesn’t want any more names to be surfaced, and feels no need to have the complete list of those who tested positive to be published.

Lowell suffers setback with knee contusion

03.26.10 at 5:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A day after saying he was happy with the way spring training was progressing, Mike Lowell suffered another setback.

In the first inning of the Red Sox‘ spring training game against the Blue Jays, Friday at City of Palms Park, Lowell fouled a 1-1 pitch from Toronto starter Brett Cecil off the area just below his left knee-cap. The third baseman, who was supposed to serve as the Sox’ designated hitter Saturday which would mark his first back-to-back appearances of the spring, had to be helped off the field by head trainer Mike Reinold and manager Terry Francona.

The Red Sox later classified the injury as a “contusion,” with Francona relaying following the 3-2 Sox win that preliminary tests were somewhat positive.

“He was X-rayed, negative. Saying that, he took a pretty good shot,” Francona said. “It was below the kneecap enough where it got some ‘€¦ it didn’€™t just get bone. We were gonna DH him tomorrow. I don’€™t think that’€™s realistic. He’€™s going to be pretty sore. He’€™s intact. He’€™s just going to be pretty sore.

“It looked like it hurt. We’€™ll keep an eye on him. I’€™ll give him a call a little bit later. That looked like it hurt.’€

Lowell had been looking forward to getting at-bats, having gone 1-for-1o in the spring coming into the game with the Jays.

‘€œI don’€™t care who it is or how hard they’€™ve worked. You don’€™t want to see anyone get hurt,” Francona said. “Again, you saw what I saw. It looked like it hurt. I’€™m sure they’€™re icing the heck out of him and we’€™ll see how he feels tomorrow.’€

Sox sign lefty Schoeneweis

03.26.10 at 4:58 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox announced that they have signed left-handed pitcher Scott Schoeneweis to a minor league deal. The 36-year-old was released by the Brewers on Thursday. He pitched in 45 games for the Diamondbacks in 2009, recording a 7.12 ERA in 24 innings, though those on-field struggles came at a time when he was grieving the death of his wife.

Schoeneweis’ deal includes an April 15 opt-out clause that allows him to become a free agent if he isn’t on the major league roster.

This spring, despite a 7.11 ERA, Schoeneweis felt that he was throwing well and that, more importantly, he was once again able to enjoy his profession.

“The positive I take out of this [spring with the Brewers] is I realize I can have fun again,” Schoeneweis told reporters upon learning of his release. “I haven’t had fun for a long time. I know 100 percent that I am a big league pitcher, bottom line. It would be a shame if this was it for me, because I feel like I did when I was 28.”

Though Schoeneweis is a lefty specialist, left-handers hit .276 with an .837 OPS against him last year. In his career, Schoeneweis has held lefties to a .227 average and .606 OPS. His signing comes on the same day that the Sox announced that they had released left-hander Brian Shouse.

“We’re going to look at those last two spots being able to match-up left on left,” said Farrell after the Red Sox’ 3-2 win over Toronto Friday afternoon at City of Palms Park, prior to the announcement of Schoeneweis’ signing. “The most effective pitcher getting left-handers hitters out will be factored in, whether that’s Joe Nelson, whether that’s Scott Atchison, Alan Embree. We still have a very open competition with what’s taken place. Scott Atchison has done an exceptional job I think at this point coming in. In a three-week stretch of games, we know he’s going to throw strikes, he’s going to throw multiple pitches over the plate so he’s not predictable in any one count. He’s done a very good job. It will be encouraging to see what takes place with Alan’s first appearance with us. Knowing we’re eight days away from breaking here we’re not going to force-feed the issue but he’ll have time for four appearances and we’ll get a solid look at him during that time.”

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Sox announce rotation to open season

03.26.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced the order of the team’s starting rotation to start the season. For the second straight year, Josh Beckett will get the ball for the season opener. After an off-day, the Sox will then have Jon Lester and John Lackey make the next two starts against the Yankees. Following another off-day, Tim Wakefield will then start against the Royals in the team’s road opener.

Beckett will then make his second start of the season (on five days rest), with Clay Buchholz slotted to start the series finale against the Royals. From there, Lester will make the next start against the Twins (on five days rest), with the Sox following a regular five-man rotation thereafter.

According to Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, the impetus for allowing Beckett to appear prior to Buchholz’ appearance was due to the Opening Day starter’s penchant for performing best without more than five days rest.

“I think all five have earned a spot to be in the rotation,” Farrell said. “We’ll slot Buchholz in the sixth game of the year, that way it keeps Josh not going into a seventh day time span where we’ve seen over the past couple of years when he gets past six days that extra rest starts to take away from his sharpness. But the fact that all have earned the right to be in this rotation by inserting Wake in there gives the chance to break up two power righthanders to give that contrast of style, and he’s done everything we could have asked in spring training. He’s come in, he’s proven he is healthy, he’s thrown the ball very well. It gives us a confident feeling that we’re fairly deep 1-5 in this rotation.”

Farrell said the decision to go with this approach for the rotation was determined Friday morning.

“I think it’s a lot of relief for the five guys in the rotation to have a clear picture once the season begins where they’re going to be starting, who they’re going to be going against,” the Sox’ pitching coach said. “We still have a lot of work left in spring training, but there’s always that thought in the back of every starter’s mind, ‘Where do I line up?’ I think with the five starters that we have, in combination with the work they’re doing in spring training, plus what they did for us last year and previous years, we feel good about the five guys we’re beginning the season with.”

Sox acquire utility man Frandsen

03.26.10 at 3:48 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox announced in a press release that they have acquired infielder Kevin Frandsen in exchange for a player to be named or cash. Frandsen, 27, is a career .240/.304/.341/.645 hitter in parts of four seasons with the Giants. Over the course of four stretches in the majors in 2009, he hit .140/.204/.180/.384 in 50 at-bats. He spent most of 2009 in Triple-A, where he hit .295/.352/.438/.790.

He has moved all over the field in his big league career, playing second, third, short, and both left and right field. With Jed Lowrie having been out for much of the spring while recovering from mononucleosis, Frandsen would appear to represent middle-infield depth for the Sox.

Frandsen is expected to report to the Sox on Saturday. With his acquisition, the team’s 40-man roster is now at 40.

Frandsen does have a minor league option remaining.

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Ortiz: ‘I don’t care about what anybody else has done’

03.26.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — New Players Association boss Michael Weiner was about it once again: What about the kind of leak that led to David Ortiz name being surfaced as one of those who had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs back in 2003?

But then came another question: What about those players who want the list brought to light in an attempt to put the subject in the past?

(For Weiner’s reaction, click here.)

Finally, a little later Friday morning, Ortiz spoke.

The Red Sox‘ designated hitter typically refuses to rehash any of the dramatics of last summer, which culminated with a press conference at Yankee Stadium. But this time he did want to make one thing clear: That he is not among those yearning to see more names come to light.

“I don’t really care. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m here to play baseball. I’m here to focus on what I’ve got to do. I always mind my own business. You guys have never heard me talk about anybody’s else’s career or what anybody else does. I don’t care,” Ortiz said. “I really care about doing what I’ve got to do, and not have anybody point a finger at me. I don’t care about what anybody else has done. I don’t even care about people’s stats. If you’re good, you’re good, if you’re not good you’re not going to do (anything). That’s me. I came to play baseball one day, I going to walk away another. Enjoy the life, that’s what I do.

“Maybe another idiot will come out with something, I don’t really care.”

Lowell leaves game after being hit in knee

03.26.10 at 1:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell was forced to leave his team’s game against the Blue Jays Friday afternoon at City of Palms Park after fouling a 1-1 pitch from Toronto’s Brett Cecil off his left knee. Lowell, who was the Red Sox’ third batter of the game for the home team, was helped off the field by head trainer Mike Reinold and manager Terry Francona after not being able to put any pressure on the leg. Jorge Jimenez came on to pinch-hit for Lowell and was promptly hit by a pitch.

Prior to the game a source indicated that the Red Sox were not close in regard to any potential trades involving Lowell.

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