|03.02.10 at 11:04 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla, — The rain soaked morning forced the Sox into the cages. Mike Lowell was out there taking his cuts.
|03.02.10 at 9:33 am ET|
The 28-year-old is in his first spring training with the Red Sox after being traded by the Twins in exchange for minor league reliever Chris Province in December. As he goes through the early paces of life in a new organization, he is able to draw upon the experience in 2003-04. On Nov. 14, 2003, he was traded by the Giants to Minnesota in a trade that has been reviewed countless times over the last six years. In exchange for catcher A.J. Pierzynski — whom the Twins were looking to dump to clear payroll — the Giants gave up Bonser, four-time All-Star Joe Nathan and former All-Star Francisco Liriano.
The trade appeared to be one of the most lopsided in baseball history when Liriano had a meteoric big league debut in 2006, making the All-Star team en route to a 2.16 ERA. Since then, however, the former phenom has struggled to regain his form while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Still, Nathan has offered the Twins a closer who has performed as one of the best in the game for several years, and it seems safe to suggest that the Giants would rather not have made the deal.
Bonser was reminded of the trade with some frequency while with the Twins. Reporters would approach him and Nathan (who lockered next to each other) to inquire about the deal.
“It is cool [to have been part of such a memorable deal], definitely,” said Bonser. “We just kind of laughed about how reporters would always come up and say, ‘Do you realize you were part of one of the best trades?’ That was about it. There was nothing really said amongst us.”
Still, Bonser is now in position to try to draw on the experience of that deal. That was the only other time that he has changed organizations. Now, he is adjusting to life on the other side of Fort Myers following his move from the Twins to the Sox.
“It was another organization I was going to, and it was almost like starting over again [with the Twins],” said Bonser. “It’s sort of like here, I came over here. It’s starting over again.”
Bonser will have the opportunity to do just that on Wednesday night. He will start the second game of the Sox’ day-night doubleheader, taking the mound against Boston College. The former first-round selection admits that he has “no idea” what to expect about how his pitches will come back as he returns from labrum surgery that wiped out his 2009 campaign. That being the case, he admitted that he is excited and curious to see what he will bring to the mound against BC.
“I think it’s going to be different [from pitching in instructional league in the fall], because a) it’s a new organization and b) it’s spring training. Last year, I was leaving the season. Now, I’m going to get going again,” said Bonser. “It’s my first surgery, obviously. I’m trying to learn as I go along what comes back, how this all works out. … I’ll find out tomorrow.”
Bonser said that he has felt comfortable on the mound, though he is working to iron out the usual spring mechanical kinks. Even so, he is waiting for games to give him an indication about how hitters will react to his stuff. That process begins on Wednesday, as he takes the mound as a starter.
For now, Bonser — who has a career 5.12 ERA, with a 4.12 mark as a starter and 6.38 ERA as a reliever — is being prepared as a starter to lengthen him out. More likely, his ticket to a roster spot with the Sox would come as a reliever, a role in which his fastball velocity has played up in the past, the adrenaline of entering mid-game elevating his strikeout numbers to 9.5 per nine innings.
“I think [the adrenaline] might be a little too much at times [as a reliever], but it’s there,” said Bonser. “Too much means I can get over-amped at times,” resulting in diminished command and feel for his pitches.
That, however, is a concern for down the road. For now, Bonser is simply looking forward to the act of gearing up for a season and getting a sense of what his arm, now healthy, can do in game situations.
|03.02.10 at 12:13 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — At this time last year Tsuyoshi Yoda was the one guiding Daisuke Matsuzaka through spring training. The former Japanese professional pitcher was the pitching coach for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and Matsuzaka was one of the key members of his rotation.
So when Yoda showed up at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility Monday, he offered a unique perspective on Matsuzaka’s current state, serving as the only person currently in Fort Myers who had witnessed the Sox pitcher on March 1 both in 2009 and ’10.
So, did Matsuzaka look better than he appeared last year at this time?
Yoda’s response translated into “yes” and immediately offered another wave of insight into what transpired with Matsuzaka in the early stages of last season.
“He looks better than last year,” Yoda said through a translator after watching Matsuzaka throw lightly. “I saw the bullpen today and his body structure and movement was much better than last year.”
Yoda, who remembered Matsuzaka’s velocity throughout his time with Team Japan as being “up and down,” also relayed that “it was obvious [the velocity] was different than in the past.”
Another telling observation by Yoda was that, like the Red Sox, he and his WBC team weren’t aware of the groin injury Matsuzaka told a Japanese magazine he had injured during training for the event last year.
“When I heard about the injury … I didn’t know about it,” Yoda said.
“After he came back to Boston I wasn’t his coach anymore, so I tried not to talk to him as a coach. If he asked I might have answered, but I respect the Red Sox. I did meet with him today and asked him how the groin muscle was and he said it wasn’t stiff, like last year. If it was a problem he should communicate, but we didn’t know about it last year.”
|03.01.10 at 11:28 pm ET|
This image is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and is of former Red Sox Eric Hinske, whose tattoos were confined to his shoulders and upper arms when in Boston. Awesome!
|03.01.10 at 1:18 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On a day when Japanese girl knuckleballer Eri Yoshida made an appearance in camp, these were some of the updates from Red Sox’ manager Terry Francona:
- On Mike Lowell: It was the first time back live in the cage and it sounds like it went really well. Tomorrow will hit on the field. I’m sure at some point we’ll have to build in days off … When Mikey swings the bat good like that, he’ll get excited. There has to be a progression, not only with his thumb, but running the bases and repeating some things. I don’t think we can put a time table on it yet. I don’t think it will be in the next five, six days. I don’t think that’s realistic.
- On Daisuke Matsuzaka: Dice had a great day. He ended up getting really aggressive, way out there, 180, 200 and then finish up on the mound. That was about as good a day as you can have. I don’t think you can throw the ball like that and not be totally healthy. Probably start thinking toward the end of the week, getting him some real mound work where he’s throwing some sides, throwing to hitters and going through that progression. But that was a really, really good day.
- On Mike Cameron: He went out and was with the outfielders during their drills just to be with them, didn’t do them but did everything else. Hit, felt better and just tried to continue that progression. But he’s improved.
- On Tug Hulett: Left-hand hitter. He’s been a little slowed down with his shoulder coming into camp. He is on his second day of throwing. He had to spend about a week strengthening that. He’s going to be a little bit behind as far as his throwing program goes. He’s that left-handed bat that can potentially play of the middle, maybe even at shortstop, so that makes him really interesting. But before we do that we want to make sure he has his arm under control where he is not out there playing a few games and then we have to back him off and we’re nursing him through games.
- On Bill Hall working out at shortstop: “He’s worked with [Tim Bogar] early in the morning. What we’ve tried to do with the fundamental time is move everybody around so we know what we’re doing. We bounce him around all over the place because that’s the good time to do it.”
- On if Hall is good enough at shortstop to play him there: “I hope so. That’s something we would like to find out this spring.”
- Jonathan Papelbon’s first appearance will be March 4 against the Twins. “That Mayor’s Cup isn’t going down without a fight,” joked Francona. “He actually looks really strong right now. We always try and get him multiple innings somewhere, maybe even if it’s at the minor league complex. We all think it’s good for him. It allows him to use his pitches and develop his pitches. I actually think he’s ahead of where he was last year. He looks good. He feels good and he looks good.”
|03.01.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla, — Mike Cameron looked comfortable swinging during batting practice today at the Red Sox minor league complex.
|03.01.10 at 11:41 am ET|
Adrian Beltre chatted with Dennis & Callahan on Monday at Red Sox spring training to discuss his first impressions with his new team. With Mike Lowell in camp to start the spring, Beltre said that there is no bad blood between the two.
“I’ve known Lowell since the minor leagues, where we played against each other,” said Beltre. “We always talk when we play against each other, we talked when we got here. We have everything clear and we know what to expect and we have a good situation right now.”
Beltre also discussed his struggles with the Seattle Mariners and what makes him such a top-notch defender.
To read the transcript look below. To listen to the full interview, click here.
How are you getting used to the way of life with the Boston Red Sox?
It’s been pretty easy. Everything is kind of smooth over here. I used to do a lot more stuff at spring training. Over here, since there are a lot more veteran,s it’s a little bit easier.
Who’s been helpful?
Everybody. Everybody has welcomed me fine, and so far I’ve been comfortable.
How’s your relationship with Mike Lowell so far? Has been it been uncomfortable?
Not at all. I’ve known Lowell since the minor leagues, where we played against each other. We always talk when we play against each other, we talked when we got here. We have everything clear and we know what to expect and we have a good situation right now.
Did you have any reservations coming here?
The first question, when the Red Sox called my agent and said that they were interested in me, I asked was: What about Mike Lowell? That was the first question because I know Lowell is a player. I’m a big fan of him, he’s a great player and when the situation came up and they told me he had some injuries and stuff like that [so] he probably wouldn’t play third, so it made it a little easier to come here.
Was it a tough decision to turn down more years to come here for a one-year deal?
It wasn’t that tough, because financially I’m pretty set for now. I took my chance to come to a team that has a really good chance to win the World Series. I haven’t been in the playoffs the last five years and only once in my 11 years in the big leagues. So, a chance to come here and put a ring on my finger is something that I should take the risk to do it.
Does it change your mindset now since you are essentially playing for another contract?
No, I think my main goal is to win a championship. Numbers, they are going to come and I’m going to do my best to help the team to win and the numbers are going to take care of themselves.
When you had the big year in LA, did that have anything to do with playing for a contract?
No, not at all, because I never thought I could put up those numbers. I’ve never done it before up to that point. In the first month I started hitting good and I think the confidence level stayed up, and I think everything went well for me that year. Everything was in the right direction and I took it a little slow and you saw what happened.
Do you think your time at Fenway will be better because you are in a Red Sox uniform?
I played against the Red Sox for a while and I always admired how the fans were supportive and every time I came to the ballpark it was full and sold out. It’s something that you as a player you take a little more extra motivation to play better and to push. It seems like they having something to play for every day. I think some players need a little kick in the butt to try and do better.
When people said you couldn’t hit at Safeco Field did that hurt you mentally? Why didn’t you hit well there?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. The first year was very tough for me coming from the National League, coming to a new ballpark, which I didn’t know how it was going to be. The first couple months I realized that balls that normally go out hit the wall or turn into an out and some point I got a little frustrated. Instead of having a hit it was an out. Your confidence level goes down a bit, but I learned to live with it. It’s a tough ballpark but you cannot say I didn’t have good numbers because of it.
Can you change your approach and be more of an on-base percentage guy?
I’m not really that type of guy, but I can try. Sometimes I think when I am patient it’s not working for me. Sometimes when it goes good, and I see the ball better I’m patient. It’s something that’s in between. It’s no doubt something in my career that I should change, and learning from [David Ortiz] and J.D. [Drew] and those guys, something can be good out of my offensive numbers.
Are great defensive players born or made?
Both, I think. I don’t think that I was good when I came up to the big leagues, and I worked my way out. People said I had potential, but I worked hard every day to get better. When I came to the big leagues I was mainly an offensive guy and that turned out to be more 50/50 now. I take pride in my defense, I work every day at I and I try to get better. There are a lot of things that I need to improve.
What skill set to you excel in the most?
I think it’s more determination that I want to make every play I can. I may have a little bit of all the stuff but not great. I don’t think have a great feet or an accurate throw but I want to make every play. Sometimes it may be negative for me because a ground ball that’s hit down the line that should be a hit but I end up getting to I might throw to first and throw to right field. Sometimes it’s not good to do that but that’s my mentality.
How does the defensive skill translate to other things?
I don’t know. Defensive is more reaction, offensively you can think too much about your mechanics. Defensively, especially third, it’s more reacting to the ball whenever it comes and sometimes you don’t have any time to think and I think those are the things that make me a little bit better because I don’t have to think.
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