|03.03.10 at 1:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Casey Kelly just sailed through an inning of work in the top of the first inning against Northeastern. He retired the Huskies in order. After falling behind leadoff man Tucker Roeder, 2-0, he then came back with three straight strikes to punch him out swinging. He then got Tony DiCesare on a first-pitch groundout to second, then finished the inning by punching out Northeastern’s Frank Compagnone on four pitches, the last one a swing-and-miss fastball.
Kelly’s line was a perfect inning with two strikeouts, in which he threw 10 pitches (seven strikes).
|03.03.10 at 12:20 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox reliever Jorge Sosa said that the delay he experienced while waiting for a visa that would permit him to travel from the Dominican Republic was a result of a past suspension for the use of amphetamines. Sosa was suspended for 50 games while in the Mariners’ minor league system in 2008. He experienced a visa delay while trying to get to the Washington Nationals’ camp last year, and he once again faced a delay while trying to come to Fort Myers to join the Sox this year.
“I waited for my visa in the Dominican because I had a little problem with the consulate there. They gave me the visa yesterday at 3:30 in the afternoon and I took a flight here,” said Sosa. “The problem was I took a greenie three years ago. Then the consulate suspended [the visa application] for [the last] three years.”
Sosa, 32, signed a minor league deal with the Sox in January. He went 2-1 with a 6.45 ERA for the Nationals last year, and owns a career record of 42-50 with a 4.72 mark. Manager Terry Francona said that Sosa’s delay has left him behind the other pitchers who are competing for a spot at the back of the big league rotation.
“I don’t think it hurts you. I’m feeling fine. I’ll be ready for pitching,” said Sosa. “I came over here for an opportunity to pitch.
|03.03.10 at 11:58 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell took batting practice before the exhibition game against Northeastern.
|03.03.10 at 10:23 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The games begin today, as the Red Sox will take on Northeastern and Boston College in their first two exhibition games of the spring. Northeastern players are leaning over the rail at City of Palms Park, watching the Red Sox take infield.
The most watched Red Sox player of the day will likely be top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, the 20-year-old who will, finally, get a chance to pitch against college competition after bypassing a scholarship offer at the University of Tennessee to sign as a first-rounder with the Sox for $3 million.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona cautioned that Kelly is not expected to be a finished product in his one-inning stint today, and that he will likely be dealing with nerves while on the mound. Still, the Sox skipper makes clear that there is plenty of interest in seeing Kelly in a game situation.
“I’m looking forward to watching this, but I think what is so interesting is that what you see today isn’t what you’re going to see in a year and a half from now or whenever. He’s going to be stronger. He’s going to be more refined. I do think it’s amazing how when you look at him, he doesn’t look like a kid that just turned 20 that hasn’t pitched,” said Francona. “This is what’s so interesting about him. You don’t know where he goes. Is he a kid that, when he matures, is he pitching from 93 to 95? Where does he settle in? That’s the fun part.
“I think there’s too many people they say he’s going to be good to say unknown. Where does he settle into? I don’t think anybody knows. You project and you do all this, but you just don’t know.”
Francona anticipates that Kelly will have at least one outing against a big-league team this spring.
–Reliever Jorge Sosa arrived from the Dominican after dealing with a delay of more than two weeks while dealing with visa issues. He now faces a bit of an uphill battle to put himself in the mix in the competition for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen. He’ll start by throwing a side session on Wednesday. “He’s trying to compete. He’s lost ground. we’ll try to gauge where he is.”
–Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw what Francona characterized as an aggressive long toss today, finishing his throwing on a bullpen mound. It appears likely that he will throw his first side session of spring training on Friday.
–Clay Buchholz will throw 36 pitches in two simulated innings at the minor-league complex on Wednesday.
–Mike Cameron “is doing pretty well,” according to Francona. “Unless he’s not perfect, he’ll probably play Friday.”
–J.D. Drew will also play in his first exhibition game on Friday. Francona expects him to be the designated hitter.”I just don’t think it makes sense to rush him,” said Francona.
–Mike Lowell is taking full batting practice outdoors for the first time of the spring today. Still, Francona said that he could not figure out a timetable for his entry into games this spring.
“We don’t want to hold him back, but we also don’t want to rush him and hurt him,” said Francona. “His thumb, I think, is feeling pretty good, but he’s a veteran player who’s been banged up, so we’ll try to make the progressions be appropriate.”
While Lowell’s hip is stronger than it was a year ago, he continues to ice it after workouts. “I don’t think he feels like he’s 22 years old,” said Francona.
–There was some jocularity about the notion that Manny Ramirez might be part of the delegation of Dodgers players that heads to Taiwan. Francona did note that the travel — a 13- to 14-hour plane ride each way in the middle of March — seemed immensely challenging. For more on the significance of the trip in Taiwan, click here.
–The Sox are distinguishing between the two Ramon Ramirezes either by referring to them as “Ramon” (the right-hander who was with them in 2009) and “Ramon A.” or by using their uniform numbers — No. 56 for the incumbent Ramirez, No. 71 for the Ramon A.-come-lately.
–Thanks to star mlb.com photographer Brita Meng-Outzen, who pointed out that Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven is set to become Legoland.
|03.03.10 at 10:06 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been a fascinating period in which to consider the international travel schedule of Manny Ramirez. First, the outfielder proclaimed that he would end his career in Japan.
(“After I practiced yesterday,” he said last week, “I feel like I could play five more years. I’m going to play three more years here, then two more in Japan.”)
Now, Ramirez has signed up for the Dodgers’ exhibition trip to Taiwan, a three-game exhibition run from March 12-14. Of course, it would appear that Los Angeles isn’t exactly betting the house on the likelihood that Ramirez will make the trip, which would require flights in excess of 12 hours each way. So sayeth the Los Angeles Times:
“We fully expect he’ll make the trip,” Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said. “We take him at his word.”
Still, some club officials are worried that Ramirez could once again change his mind.
“They announced it?” one club official asked.
Told yes, the official exploded laughing.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona chuckled at the thought of Ramirez’ participation in the exhibition series. Asked what he considered the likelihood of Ramirez making the journey, he chuckled, “I’ll take the under.”
Regardless of whether Ramirez travels, however, there is little question that the series is a big deal in Taiwan. It is the first time in nearly two decades that a big-league team has made the trip to the baseball-loving island. Red Sox outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, through a team interpreter, described the Dodgers’ visit as “a great event for baseball fans in Taiwan.”
Lin said that Ramirez’ presence would represent “a big deal — he’s a great legend,” but he also suggested that he expects Hong-Shih Kuo and Chin-Lung Hu, two Taiwanese pitchers on the Dodgers’ roster, would likely be the stars of the series.
|03.03.10 at 8:26 am ET|
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hung out for a while with Dennis & Callahan at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., to set the record straight about his struggles last season (LISTEN NOW). The slugger talked about looking forward to this season, how much pressure is on him to have a good year, and what it will take for him to make sure he doesn’t struggle out of the gate like he did in 2009.
A year ago, were there any signs that you were going to struggle?
Not really. I’m the guy that always gets ready to play no matter what the situation is. Of course, nobody is going to think about it before it happened, what happened last year and at the beginning of the season. I take that as an experience and I have to prepare better this offseason so I don’t have to go through all that stuff again.
What was the big change for the second half of the season?
I had nothing to lose anymore. It could get no worse than what it was the first few months, and I just walked onto the field one day, trying not to worry about what happened before, and it clicked.
Did you ever think once, it’s over?
Never. Nope. Never. I was going through a bad time, but it was never over for me.
We’ve heard you’re in the best shape of your life.
No. I was in better shape when I was in my 20s. Last year, everything kind of started crazy. I wasn’t doing what I normally do because of my hands, the doctor wanted me to take it easy. And then we had the WBC, going to play some important game that you’re not ready for, and all that kind of the stuff that happened to me off the field that I have to deal with. All that stuff was clicking together at all the same time, and it wasn’t good. But I’m the kind of guy that likes to turn the page and think about what is up, what is next.
I read you said people in Boston jumped off your bandwagon early. Did you feel like that was really the case?
I’m not saying everyone. The fans were great to me. The fans have always been amazing to me in Boston, and they’ve always supported me. I remember, I had an ovation when I hit my first homer like I’ve never had before. I mean, it was unbelievable. I’ll always thank the fans in Boston. They know how much it takes for us to get prepared to play the game and they know how much we care, especially myself, about going out there every game and trying to do something to entertain them. The fans understand that, and that’s why as long as I’ve been here they’ve supported me, especially after a year like last year.
Now, there are some other people, on the other hand, that they tried to change those people’s mind. Saying bad things, coming out with bad comments, saying that you’re old, saying you don’t have any bat speed, saying you don’t do this, you don’t do that. I’ve been here for years. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of superstars in the game going through what I’ve gone through. It can be at the beginning, at the middle, at the end of their career. You wait, see how things go, and all that crap they were talking about me, I’m pretty sure that at the end of the season, they have to swallow it. Because they saw it wasn’t what they were thinking about. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.03.10 at 8:25 am ET|
Kevin Youkilis spoke with Dale & Holley Tuesday about the upcoming Red Sox season and turned some of the talk about the team’s defense into a discussion about the offensive part of things.
Youkilis shed a little light on his offseason training, some of the things he’s doing to get ready at the plate, and even an upcoming contest that will allow fans to decide what kind of facial hair he sports at the beginning of the season.
Last year, you had these workouts by 7, 7:30, training with Nick Punto was it?
Yeah, Nick is a neighbor of mine out there in Arizona, we drive down there everyday to work out. This year, I did not go out there, cut down on my traveling, stayed up in Boston, trained with Eric Cressey at Cressey Performance up in Hudson, and worked a lot with building the strength up, basically trying to get in the best possible playing shape coming into spring. It’s very hard to basically go out every day and try to get yourself in baseball shape, but as long as you try to get yourself in really good shape, do the certain little things that give you the best potential at staying strong for the whole year, that’s what we try to do and work on.
Improving the pitching and defense — how do you read it?
I’ll tell you what, we’ve focused a lot on the defense this year, everywhere you hear is defense, defense, defense, and I’ll tell you what, I think a lot of us are getting old in hearing about defense, because we like to talk about our offense, too. A lot of us, we only play the field so we can hit. We only try as hard as we can to play well in the field so we can hit, we don’t want to give up any extra outs and sit in the field, we want to go up there and have some good at bats and get some hits.
Do players ever talk about things fans talk about? Range factor on defense, on-base percentage, do players ever talk about these things?
No, we don’t. I’ve learned a lot about all different kind of stats we have going now. Some of them are just ridiculous, because if you break down all the stuff, you can find a negative and a positive in every single player. And that’s what I think they do, throw out so many different ones so every guy either looks really good or a little less down on the level playing field. So for me, the biggest thing is going out, winning ballgames, playing hard and doing the little things to help your team win — moving over a run, driving a guy in, getting a bunt down, playing defense well. You can’t worry about those little stats, at the end of the year they’re going to play themselves out you just have to go out there and focus, go pitch to pitch, you can’t worry about your stats or your OBP-R-T-S … H … S … I hope my OBPRTZ’s are good this year … but you can’t worry about that. I mean I joke around like, if a guy could have a triple and stops at second base, I’m like, his slugging percentage just went down, he could have had a triple and raised that up a little bit.
You’ve really focused on driving the ball and being more aggressive at the plate, is that fair to say?
I think there’s a stat out there somebody said that I swung less than I did the year before. Somebody in the media brought that to my attention, said that I swung less than I did the year before, so I don’t know if I’m more aggressive or if the pitches are different. For me, I go up there and I try to hit in situations and basically try to get a good fastball to hit in the zone and try not to let too many of those go by.
If you make the lineup card, where would Kevin Youkilis try to hit?
Right where I’m at is good — three, four, five, doesn’t really matter. I know we try to go the left/right thing, and the advantage we have with Victor in the heart of that lineup being a switch-hitter, but to me, if other guys are more comfortable in that spot, I’ll go hit somewhere else. It doesn’t matter to me. The greatest thing about playing for the Boston Red Sox is, two years ago when I made the All Star game, I was batting seventh. And I hit seventh in the All Star game too, which just shows how great of a lineup the Boston Red Sox have and the numbers and stats are high even at seventh. For us, we have a lot of great hitters, and it’s a good thing, it doesn’t matter where you hit, you have opportunities to drive in runs.
Does your approach change depending on where you’re hitting?
No. You can’t. You have to play the game in the situations. You go pitch to pitch, you have to focus. Hitting is so hard, and people don’t realize, you watch it on TV, and let me tell you, we watch ourselves on TV and we’re like ugh, how did we miss that pitch. It always looks a lot easier on TV, and for us, the big thing is it’s a very difficult thing, you have to go up there and focus on what you do best and work on your weaknesses in the batting cage. You can’t really do more than what you — there’s guys that hit home runs, there’s guys that are speedsters and they have to hit the ball on the ground — you can’t get out of your approach or what you do best or you’re going to find yourself failing more than succeeding.
What was your thought when you heard the Red Sox acquired John Lackey?
I definitely didn’t see that one coming, but it was a great thing to sign him. It’s always a good thing to have depth and pitching, pitching is definitely the key to winning championships. You saw last year with the Yankees they had three starters that pitched unbelievably well in the playoffs and that’s the whole key is try to have as much depth as you can in the pitching rotation, and last year we thought we had so much depth and little things happen here and there and guys get injured, and if our guys stay healthy we have a lot of good pitching there that can take us a long way.
Did you talk to former Yankees great Paul O’Neill about the offseason this year?
No, that was a few years back, I talk to Paul O’Neill about stuff and he said as you get older you hit less and less and work on being in better shape. And for me, the hitting will come. We come out here every single day, we only have one day off, you hit so much — you’re hitting every day and if you can’t figure it out by April 4, you’re in trouble. So for me, there’s a lot of things to work on, and I’ve slowly gotten into it and I feel good right now working on things. And it’s not a bad thing if you’re struggling right now. If you’re not getting hits now, they don’t count. If you’re trying to make the team, it’s a different story. But if you know you have a spot on the team, you’re trying to work on things, trying to see the ball at the plate. We all want to get hits, but bottom line is you just have to work and improve and get ready for that opening day.
Is spring training too long?
Yes. It gets a little long at the end. The last week, you’re so excited to start real games that mean something and play nine innings — it can be a little long. But that’s the way it’s set up, and you just have to get used to it.
What has Jose Iglesias shown you with the glove at shortstop?
He has unbelievable hands. A lot of guys think he looks like Omar Vizquel, which isn’t too bad of a player to emulate in that I’ve never seen anything like that in my life when Omar’s out there making plays. He’s very good defensively, his hands are ridiculously smooth and quick and he’s not going to be a guy that probably will hit you 20 some, 30 home runs, but he’s going to be a guy that’s going to go out there and make some plays at short that most guys can’t.
Anything good coming up for you this season off the field?
We have something that’s going to be coming out, I’ll let you guys know right now. We’re trying to get it right now where fans can come and vote online, and basically there’s four choices of facial hair that I will wear for the first week of the season. This is the first time I’ve talked about this, we’re trying to work on it and get it all in the works. It’s between a goatee, clean-shaven, Fu Manchu and a mustache, so we’re hoping the mustache thing doesn’t really get voted on that well but … I’m a little worried. It’s going to be fun, basically going to set it up so people vote online and donate money to the charity with the voting, hopefully raise a lot of money, and hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.
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