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It was the day Carl Crawford became a Boston Red Sox (sort of)

02.28.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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(Carl Crawford’s first at-bat as a member of the Red Sox)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Signing the contract was one thing. Conducting a press conference was another. And showing up to spring training offered a new perspective.

But the true reality check for Carl Crawford came Monday at City of Palms Park. That was when he played in a baseball game as a member of the Red Sox for the very first time.

“It felt good just to put on the uniform and get out on the field,” he said. “I was a little nervous at first, but I was just happy to get it out of the way.

“I was trying to take it all in. I was thinking about, ‘I’m actually in a Red Sox uniform.’ I was trying to take it all in and focus on the game at the same time.”

The actual game (a 7-6 Red Sox win over the Twins; for a recap, click here) was uneventful for Crawford, who played left field and hit third. He went 0-for-3, flying out to left field twice before striking out swinging against Minnesota lefty Glen Perkins.

But the results meant little on this day. Just being there was the thing. Take, for example, the dynamic of playing next to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

“We plan on taking away base hits,” Crawford said. “I think we’re going to thrive off each other. That’s definitely the goal, to take away as many base hits as possible.”

Then there was the talk regarding his spot in the lineup.

“That would be fine with me,” he said when asked about hitting third during the season. “I have no problem with it. I’m going to play the way I play no matter where he puts me ‘€¦ Anywhere I go, I’m going to play the way I play.”

Crawford was even asked about whether or not he had talked to the Angels’ Torii Hunter since signing with the Red Sox. His response, “No … At some point I’ll talk to him. We’re still cool.”

But perhaps the moment that symbolized the day came early in the morning, when Red Sox manager Terry Francona stopped by to say hi.

“He just looked at me, saw I was getting ready to go and said, ‘Man, I used to hate you.’ Yeah, I felt the same way too,” Crawford said. “It’s good we’re on the same team and we’re all together now.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, torii hunter,

Bobby Jenks slated to pitch Thursday against Phillies

02.28.11 at 1:39 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ After throwing for the second time to live hitters, Bobby Jenks said the plan is for him to pitch in the Red Sox‘€™ game against the Phillies Thursday at City of Palms Park.

It will be the first game action for Jenks, who threw 26 pitches in his session Monday.

‘€œI’€™ll look forward to getting in games come April,’€ he said of the excitement regarding see game action. ‘€œRight now, I’€™m going to go out there and work out things. Even though it’€™s a game situation, even though it’€™s spring training, there are still a lot of things to work on and get better at before the season comes.’€

Jenks explained that he is taking somewhat of a different approach this spring, easing more into the spring training games than ever before.

‘€œI’€™ve never thrown this late before,’€ he explained. ‘€œI’€™ve never thrown four bullpens before seeing live hitters or live BP. I guess it’€™s working.

‘€œThat was [pitching coach] Curt [Young'€™s] idea. He just wanted to get a better look, a better feel off the mound before we jumped into games.’€

Jenks threw four bullpen sessions prior to facing live hitters for the first time, Saturday. As has been the case for the past few seasons, the reliever didn’€™t throw off a mound prior to coming to spring training.

Regarding if he felt better than the first time he threw to batters, Jenks said, ‘€œBig time. I’€™m feeling really good today. I just have to build off of this and continue working.’€

Red Sox options with Hideki Okajima could include minors

02.28.11 at 11:56 am ET
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It was not the way that Hideki Okajima wanted to start his exhibition season.

After a 2010 campaign in which he struggled more than his season-ending 4.50 ERA would suggest, the left-hander is competing for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen after having signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal to return to the club that non-tendered him in Dec. And so, without the guarantee of a roster spot, it was no doubt an unfortunate first step for the 35-year-old that he allowed four runs on five hits in his first spring inning of work.

The Sox are mindful of the fact that he was a critical member of their bullpen from 2007-09, and so they note that it is more important for the reliever to work to regain that form than to concentrate on the roster situation.

“We need Oki to be a good pitcher. He’€™s competing with himself,” manager Terry Francona told reporters in Fort Myers. “We’€™ve all seen what he can do when he’€™s right and how he can help that bullpen. That’€™s probably more how I look at it.”

That said, it is worth noting that if Okajima struggles this spring and the Sox wanted to build bullpen depth while giving the left-hander more time to find his rhythm on the mound, his contract status permits the team flexibility to do just that. Okajima has never spent a day in the minors since coming to Boston, and so he has all three of his options remaining. He has four years of service time, and so he cannot refuse an optional assignment should the Red Sox choose to send him to the minors. Nor is there anything in his contract that would prevent the Sox from sending him to the minors.

While Okajima would have to clear major league waivers if the Sox were to option him, that process is considered nothing more than a formality, since teams almost never claim players on that form of waivers.

Among the left-handers in competition for the final bullpen spots — a group that includes Okajima, Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Dennys Reyes, Andrew Miller and Randy Williams — Okajima and Doubront are the only ones on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.

Doubront, who has been shut down while building arm strength, will almost surely open the year in Triple-A. That leaves Okajima as the player who would require the least roster shuffling to keep in the majors.

At the same time, because Okajima can be optioned, the Sox could easily send him to the minors if they wanted to avoid losing Reyes, who can opt-out of his minor league deal in the final days of March if he’s not added to the big league roster. The Sox would have to take someone else off the 40-man roster in order to do so, but that would likely not tie the Sox’ hands.

“When [Sox GM Theo Epstein] thinks somebody can help us, he’€™s not afraid to make it work,” said Francona. “At the same time, when we look at building our team, we look at building depth, also. If you lose a guy that’€™s a roster guy — or a guy you could send down — then, 10 days into the season, if somebody gets hurt and you don’€™t have anybody to call up, we certainly keep those things in consideration.”

There is still time for Okajima to demonstrate this spring that he can be a solid bullpen option for the Sox. That said, the pitcher also gives the Sox flexibility, since they are not in a position where they would risk losing him if he was sent to the minors.

Read More: Hideki Okajima,

Late morning Red Sox notes: The journey from Taiwan Cup to Mayor’s Cup for Terry Francona, Carl Crawford

02.28.11 at 10:46 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Monday, of course, marks the debut of Carl Crawford in the Red Sox‘ lineup (hitting third), offering Sox manager Terry Francona a whole new round of excitement thanks to the anticipation of seeing the outfielder play in a Boston uniform.

While walking through the clubhouse earlier in the morning, Francona painted the picture of how things have changed, telling Crawford, “I hated you, and now I love you.”

Regarding Crawford, Francona has offered rave reviews, “I’ve always liked him. He’s been a model. He’s here early, he works hard, he’s upbeat, he’s a nice kid. I’m sure it’s a little different. Your first team is like family.”

Francona explained that he was familiar with Crawford even before the speedster started torturing the Red Sox on the basepaths, having managed him on Team USA in 2001 when in a tournament in Taiwan. The manager joked that he wasn’t sure what the group was playing for, (“The Taiwan Cup?” he quipped), but did remember that the team — which boasted Orlando Hudson, Josh Bard, and former Red Sox backstop Ken Huckaby — lost to Cuba in the finals.

– Francona did say not to make too much of Monday’s lineup, which has Jacoby Ellsbury leading off and Crawford hitting third.

“That’€™s today’€™s lineup,” the manager said. “We’€™re just trying to win the Mayor’€™s Cup. We’€™ve front-loading it for obvious reasons. Panic is setting in. It’€™s an obvious possibility. Who knows. We’€™re just trying to get ready for the season.” He was, of course, referring to the fact that the Twins are now 1-0 in what is for all intent and purposes a five-game series to see which Fort Myers-based team can claim the most head-to-head wins.

– Regarding Ellsbury, Francona reiterated that he did believe the team was best with the the center fielder at the top of the Red Sox’ lineup if he was hitting well.

“It’€™s been interrupted because of his health, but he was really starting to grow into it,” said Francona of Ellsbury’s progression in the leadoff spot. “At times we would hit down in the order just to protect him a little bit, but I think we’€™ve always said when he’€™s leading off and hitting well that’€™s probably our best lineup. There were times he wasn’€™t ready to be there so it didn’€™t seem like it made sense.”

Regarding how the Red Sox might make the determination about whether or not Ellsbury is ready to reclaim the leadoff spot, Francona said, “Just be ready. He came into camp swinging the bat way ahead of what I expected. He’€™s strong. He obviously spent a lot of time getting ready. The ball is coming off his bat great. So, obviously that’€™s good news. He missed probably 500 at-bats so if it looks like that one less at-bat a game early on would help him, that’€™s what we would do. But there’€™s no way to scientifically know. But we’€™ll watch his at-bats.

“Physically he really looks terrific. It’€™s obvious he spent a lot of time getting ready. If balls are beating him and he’€™s fighting it a little bit hitting him there would make it a little harder on him and we don’€™t want to do that.”

Adrian Gonzalez took 25 swings off a tee and 35 more off of flips. “It’s going well,” Francona said.

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Some early morning Red Sox notes: Crawford hits third in debut

02.28.11 at 9:02 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Monday marks the debut for Carl Crawford in a Red Sox uniform, with much anticipation revolving around where he might be hitting in the lineup as the Sox take on the Twins at City of Palms Park. And (drum roll, please) ‘€¦

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Carl Crawford LF

David Ortiz DH

J.D. Drew RF

Jason Varitek C

Brent Dlugach SS

Drew Sutton 1B

Yamaico Navarro 3B

Daisuke Matsuzaka P

Besides Crawford, also of note is the fact Ellsbury remains firmly entrenched in the leadoff spot. For his career, the outfielder has been the leadoff man 261 times, while hitting elsewhere on 88 occasions.

In the top spot, Ellsbury has totaled a .279 batting average and .330 on-base percentage.

‘€œI would take pride wherever I hit in the lineup,’€ said Ellsbury when asked if he viewed himself as a leadoff hitter. ‘€œI just like being in the lineup.’€

As for Crawford in the No. 3 hole, it has been the third-most utilized spot throughout his career, having hit second the most, followed by leadoff. Hitting third, the outfielder has a .294 average with a .338 on-base percentage. He does have the highest rate of home runs-per-game (hitting 14 in 201 games) of any other spot.

In other news, Bobby Jenks is wearing No. 52 for the first time in his career. The reason? His usual No. 45 is on hold in honor of Pedro Martinez.

Also, the players met with the Major League Baseball Alumni Association before heading out on the field. Check back for more info as the day unfolds ‘€¦

Afternoon Red Sox notes: Francona says Bobby Jenks, Ozzie Guillen feud ‘over’

02.27.11 at 3:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€” The Red Sox went through fielding and batting practice at City of Palms Park prior to heading across town to take on the Twins in the Grapefruit League opener at Hammond Stadium. Prior to the workout, Sox manager Terry Francona touched on a variety of items with the media:

‘€” Francona said the feud between White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks is “over,” having exchanged messages with Guillen and White Sox coach Joey Cora. “I spoke to Bobby, went back and forth with Ozzie, and I’m confident that will be over.”

The Sox manager added: “I don’t care if they like each other, but Bobby is a Red Sox and they need to move on. It doesn’t need to happen. He played for the White Sox, now he plays for the Red Sox.”

‘€” Reliever Dennys Reyes threw 32 pitches off a mound Sunday, leaving the Red Sox brass confident that he was ready to throw to hitters Tuesday. “[Pitching coach] Curt [Young] was ecstatic.”

‘€” Regarding Felix Doubront, who has been shut down for 10-14 days due to tightness in his pitching elbow, Francona said that strength and conditioning coach Dave Page has taken the opportunity to help the lefty’s conditioning while he wasn’t throwing. “Any time you’re missing in one area, you try and make up in another.”

‘€” When asked about the Red Sox’ Sunday night starter, Josh Beckett, Francona said that he has noticed a difference in his demeanor, starting with the pre-camp meeting all players go through with the manager and their respective coach. “Determined, I think is the right word,” Francona said. “He’s focusing on a lot of things he knows he needs to do. Some of it on his own, some of it starting with Curt.”

‘€” Francona said that pitcher Brandon Duckworth, whom was slated to follow Clay Buchholz in the scheduled progression of pitchers for the Red Sox Sunday night, was a candidate for a role in the Sox bullpen. “Health probably the biggest thing,” said Francona when asked what the team would be primarily looking at from Duckworth. “He’s a veteran guy and he knows what he’s doing. As long as he’s healthy he should be able to go out there and do pretty well.”

‘€” The topic of shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias came up, and how he has progressed from a year ago. “I think he has a better understanding that he’s a young player, in camp. I think he’s very aware of settling in and proving his worth on the field,” said Francona, who noted the importance of Iglesias having his father with him this spring. “He’s an exciting player, though. His defensive skills are obvious to everybody, and as he develops patience at the plate he should turn into a pretty good hitter because can get the barrel of the bat to the ball.”

‘€” Finally, the topic of the Mayor’s Cup came up. The award is given to whichever team between the Red Sox and Twins win the most head-to-head battles. This season the two clubs face each other five times, three of which will come in the next three days.

“[Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] can say all he wants, but he moved up [Carl] Pavano two days, and we’re bringing in [Clay Buchholz] second,” Francona joked. “It’s like facing the Yankees opening day, it’s too much too soon.”

Reminded that the Red Sox have won the last four Mayor’s Cups, Francona quipped, “It’s hard not to be arrogant,” and continued, “If we lose the first two we’ll think about bringing somebody back early.”

Bobby Jenks trying to move past Guillen feud: ‘I’m tired of it’

02.27.11 at 3:00 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Bobby Jenks would like to move on.

Talking to the media at City of Palms Park, the Red Sox reliever — who signed with Boston after having spent all of his major league career in Chicago — responded to the criticisms of his former manager, Ozzie Guillen, by reiterating that his main focus is on performing for his current team.

“It is what it is. I think at this point I’m tired of it. I just want to move on,” Jenks said. “I’m a Red Sox now and that’s all I want to worry about. From this point on, I have nothing else to say. It is what is, that’s all I have to say. He’s going to have his say, whatever. I’m a Red Sox, that’s all that matters.”

Jenks, who previously had been in a back and forth with Guillen’s son, Oney, was warned by the Chicago manager Saturday not to be making derogatory statements about either the White Sox organization, or Oney, and if he did Guillen would “rip his guts.”

Still, despite the comments made by Guillen, Jenks said that he holds the White Sox manager in high regard. Jenks was thrust into the closer’s role for the White Sox by Guillen shortly after making his big league debut in 2005. In five-plus seasons in Chicago, the big right-hander recorded 173 saves and a 3.40 ERA before the White Sox declined to tender him a contract in early Dec., thus making Jenks a free agent.

“Like I said in my first interview, I’ll always respect the man. He’s a great person. My feelings still don’t change on that matter,” Jenks said. “I love Chicago. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I live there year-round and make it my home. That aside, my focus is on here now to turn this year and next year into my main priority and do everything for this baseball team.”

Jenks also addressed the importance of focusing on the coming season, rather than getting caught up in Guillen’s remarks, or anything else to do with his time with the White Sox.

“I need to get ready for a season and get ready for a championship year. That’s why we’re all here in this clubhouse. To put all my focus on that is going to be hard enough as it is,” he said. “Hopefully from this point on, hopefully it’s the end of it. I’m sure later on in the season, once we come closer to seeing Chicago I’m sure some questions will come again, but again, I’m going to let it be.

“The way I see it, it’s done,” Jenks later added. “If he does have anything else to say, that’s up to him. From my part, I’m just going to walk away from this … It sucks, but it’s part of the business I guess. Moving on I think is the greater thing to do.”

Read More: bobby jenks, oney guillen, Ozzie Guillen, White Sox
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