|03.22.10 at 10:57 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona understands the knee-jerk reaction to a baseball player getting $184 million over the next eight years. He knows some fans are just going to assume another big-market team is scooping up the best available talent in the game.
“I think it’s really good for the game,” Francona offered on Monday morning, hours before Mauer’s scheduled press conference across town at Hammond Stadium.
The Red Sox manager, like every baseball fan, has heard the theory that baseball’s growing problem of mega-contracts is destroying balance in the game. He then offered perspective.
“Unless you have a way to fix it, it’s easy just to have comments, ‘Well, this is wrong, this is wrong,’ and because we’re not the NFL where [they] have that national TV package, I don’t know a way to fix it, I just don’t,” Francona said.
[Click here to hear Francona’s thoughts on the Joe Mauer deal.]
“I guess I hope people that are smarter than me come up with ways. There is a big difference. I understand that. I used to care more when I was with the Phillies.”
Ah, those days with the Phillies. Francona remembers those years between 1997-2000 when a team in a big market like Philadelphia acted more like a small market because of the lack of big names and big-time success.
Of course, while Boston is a big town, Red Sox Nation has evolved into the most baseball-intense market in the country.
“We are the Red Sox,” Francona said. “I don’t know if it’s fair. I think that our ownership and our city, they’ve created a big market. We’re a big-market team. I don’t know that we are one of the biggest. I know there are differences when you hear people argue about it.
“Minnesota’s got their new stadium and it looks like they’re going to get after it a little bit. I think that’s good.”
|03.22.10 at 9:15 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Immediately, the significance of Joe Mauer‘s landmark eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins was apparent in the Red Sox clubhouse this morning. Players sat huddled, talking about the deal, David Ortiz shouting that the M&M Boys (Mauer and Justin Morneau) on his former club were getting rich.
(As he walked into the clubhouse on Monday morning, Ortiz initially shouted, “(Expletive), Morneau just got paid!” Mike Lowell chided, “It was Mauer, but close enough, David.”)
Thus ends any visions of Mauer becoming the object of a bidding war between the Red Sox, Yankees and several other big-market clubs. Between the deal for Mauer and the injury to Joe Nathan, one can suggest that it was the first time since the days of Kirby Puckett‘s playing career that the Twins were dictating the shape of the high-end market. The fact that the reigning AL MVP will not be available this offseason was greeted with some amusement.
Fellow catcher Jason Varitek agreed, while noting the impact of Mauer’s removal from the potential free-agent market following this season.
“It doesn’t bode well for other teams, probably including us, that [the Twins] got it done before he was gone,” Sox catcher Jason Varitek said with a chuckle. “He’s a premium, premium player.”
“We really want to thank the Twins for signing him to a long-term deal and keeping him in that division,” added Rays manager Joe Maddon. “For us, Toronto and Baltimore, we really appreciate it.”
With Mauer off the market for the next eight years, Sox catcher Victor Martinez immediately vaults to the top of the crop of potential free agent catchers following this year, a crop that also includes A.J. Pierzynski and few other catchers of note. That being the case, it was obvious to wonder whether Mauer’s deal might create greater urgency between the Sox and their own catcher about a long-term extension. But the 31-year-old Sox catcher — who was thrilled for Mauer, and said that the Minnesota star “deserves every penny he got” — said that while he would like to discuss a long-term deal with Boston, there have been no extension talks as he prepares to begins the final season under his contract.
“I already told them through my agent that I was going to be more than happy to [talk] before the season,” Martinez said. “It’s all up to them. … [There’s been] nothing ’til now.”
Yet clearly, the Mauer deal will have repercussions for the landscape that Martinez faces in free agency. Mauer set new records for both the length of a deal given to a catcher (surpassing the seven-year, $91 million deal that Mike Piazza signed with the Mets) and for average annual value (blowing away the $13.1 million standard set by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada in his current catching contract). With the Twins superstar off the market, Martinez could also now face a different free agent landscape in which — if he can prove that he is an offensive force as an everyday catcher in 2010 — he will be the best available player at the position.
But Martinez clearly preferred not to consider those market dynamics. Instead, he simply wanted to reflect on the fact that a player whom he respects immensely was not only rewarded, but will now have the opportunity to remain with the only team for whom he’s ever played.
“I’m really happy about Joe and his contract. He really deserves it,” said Martinez. “On the other hand, I just worry about myself. I can’t control anything else, so just worry about being healthy and keeping myself on the field.”
At the least, the Sox face one less concern with Morneau having signed his extension with the Twins. That deal guarantees that he will face Boston for only two or three series a season, as opposed to having to face the catcher as a constant nemesis had he signed with the Yankees or another team in the Sox’ division this offseason.
“That’s great,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Keep all those guys out of the East.”
For more on the free agent catching market, and Martinez’ place in it, click here.
|03.22.10 at 6:50 am ET|
The big news Sunday could be found by going down Edison, across Shoemaker, over to Colonial, across Six Mile Cypress, and finally into Hammond Stadium. That’s where the Twins were popping whatever champagne bottles were left over from the Jack Morris Era in celebration of Joe Mauer agreeing to an eight-year, $184 million deal (with all the fixings, such as a full no-trade clause).
How does that affect the Red Sox? Having gone under the assumption that Mauer was going to re-sign with the Twins, Alex Speier had already broached the state of the Sox’ catching future a few weeks back. You can find that story by clicking here. The column, “Sox Caught With Uncertain Future Behind The Plate” also includes a video interview with WEEI.com’s Lou Merloni asking minor league catching instructor Chad Epperson about the organization’s catching prospects:
The Red Sox would have undoubtedly made a play for Mauer if the catcher somehow became available, and would do so with some level of confidence they would be able to close the deal. (Again, assuming the hometown Twins weren’t a factor.) But that dream sequence has come and gone thanks to the Twins’ willingness to pay the catcher $23 million per season for the next eight years (after this one). For those wondering, a press conference has been called for Monday at 7 p.m. to announce the deal.
– Looks like the Red Sox’ will be relying heavily on Maxalt once again. (Known last season as “The Pill That Could Save The Sox.”)
This time the medicine had left closer Jonathan Papelbon feeling “lackadaisical,” leading to a horrific outing against the Astros at City of Palms Park. Coincidentally, the outing came on the same day it was officially learned that Twins’ closer Joe Nathan would have to undergo Tommy John Surgery, ending his 2010 season.
The pair of news items offered our man Alex an opportunity to look at how intertwined the two closers are, and what Nathan’s news might mean in the long run to Papelbon. A few things from the column to look at:
– Since Papelbon took over closing duties here are the two relievers’ scarily identical numbers:
Papelbon: 1.74 ERA, 151 saves, 10.6 Ks per 9 IP; opposing hitters have a line of .190/.243/.284/.527 against
Nathan: 1.73 ERA, 159 saves, 10.9 Ks per 9 IP; .180/.241/.285/.526
– Here is a quote from Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire the day before Nathan was hurt:
‘[Keeping closers healthy] just depends on how you use them. If you’re going to take a closer and start stretching him out to two innings here, two innings there, save 50 games a year, you’re going to wear a guy out pretty quick,’ said Gardenhire. ‘We’ve been fortunate enough to give him one inning at a time rather than the two.
‘Last year we were in a battle for our lives. The only way we were going to make it, we stretched him out a little bit. You know what? He was still as good as they get, and he will be, if you take care of him.’
– Here is a chart:
Papelbon addressed the issue regarding how Nathan’s setback might affect his future when talking just after the Twins’ closer went down with the elbow problem, and how people shouldn’t identify the position as part of the problem:
‘It’s part of the game. It’s every sport and it’s part of every game,’ he said. ‘People are going to get injured, it’s just part of the game. I don’t know if guys are more injury-prone than others. I don’t know if you can say that. It’s like any sport, basketball, baseball, football. When you give out a long-term deal you’re have to hope he stays healthy and do everything you can to keep him healthy.
‘You can look at position players, pitchers, basketball players, football players, hockey players, no matter who you are and no matter what sport you play, you’re always one pitch and one circumstance away from an injury. All you can do is prepare the best you can and keep your body as healthy as you can and the rest is up to the big man.’
– Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy fired back after a report in the Boston Herald stated that the team had a bevy of tickets still unsold for its season opener against the Yankees, saying:
‘To say that there are 6,300 tickets still available for sale, there may be. There may be more than that on the secondary market. The Red Sox do not control sale of the secondary market. We control the primary market,’ said Kennedy. ‘We have been surprised and humbled is probably the right word to use by demand for tickets on the primary market.
‘As of this morning, we’ve sold just over 2.6 million tickets on the primary market for Red Sox games for 2010. In 2009, we sold virtually the identical amount. We’re tracking just about where we were last year at this time.’
– Daisuke Matsuzaka finally threw to hitters in a real-live game (albeit minor leaguers). Thanks to Mike Petraglia, we not only get a report from the 32-pitch session, but up-close-and-personal video of the outing to go with it:
|03.21.10 at 4:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have sold more than 2.6 million tickets for the 2010 season, with sales roughly matching those of a year ago at this time, according to Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy.
The clarification was offered after the Boston Herald reported on Sunday that there were more than 6,000 tickets that remained available for the Sox’ April 4 Opening Day contest against the Yankees, and that prices had fallen 30 percent for such tickets compared to the 2009 home opener against Tampa Bay. Those figures may be accurate, but they portray the secondary ticket market of brokers and agencies, rather than the primary sale of tickets by the Red Sox to fans and other purchasers.
“To say that there are 6,300 tickets still available for sale, there may be. There may be more than that on the secondary market. The Red Sox do not control sale of the secondary market. We control the primary market,” Kennedy said. “We have been surprised and humbled is probably the right word to use by demand for tickets on the primary market.
“As of this morning, we’ve sold just over 2.6 million tickets on the primary market for Red Sox games for 2010. In 2009, we sold virtually the identical amount. We’re tracking just about where we were last year at this time.”
Though they do not control it, the Sox do monitor the secondary market. Yet while the sluggish economy has likely impacted the secondary market, the Sox note that their own sales of tickets have not been impacted.
“If you have a $165 face value Green Monster seat, and it may have sold in years past for $1,000 or even more, you’re seeing a decline in the secondary market right now, which is understandably newsworthy,” Kennedy said. “Fortunately for the Red Sox, we’re not seeing a decline in primary sales.”
The Sox have set attendance records in each of the last nine seasons, and have sold out each of their last 550 games, dating to May 15, 2003, the longest such streak in MLB history.
A few tickets have been held back from Opening Day sales — the Sox always keep a small allotment of tickets for day-of-game, walk-up sales, as well as tickets for both players and community outreach projects — and so the game is not yet technically a sellout. Even so, Kennedy had no doubt that the streak would reach 551 games on the Sunday night opener, and that it would almost certainly continue beyond that as well.
“Opening Day absolutely will be sold out,” Kennedy said. “We anticipate that while we’re probably working harder than ever and marketing more aggressively, we do anticipate that the fans will continue this sellout streak.”
|03.21.10 at 3:34 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A bit more than an hour before Sunday’s spring training game, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon lay down in full uniform and tried to prop his head up on the bottom of his locker. The 29-year-old had felt a migraine coming on, and so the team’s medical staff had given him medication to stave off its symptoms.
The medicine did its job, and the team thought there wouldn’t be an issue having the pitcher throw as scheduled. But Papelbon remained rather listless entering the game. It showed, as he recorded just one out while allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits while allowing a walk and hitting a batter.
“You could tell the whole inning, he wasn’t himself,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “He got his work in. The flip side of that is he didn’t fare very well.”
“It’s just one of those days. I tried to get my work in, but it’s one of those lull days of spring training,” said Papelbon. “It’s not like I felt like I had a migraine going into my outing or anything. It’s just that I was real lackadaisical, not much energy in me. … I’m really just trying to throw the ball in the zone and let players get themselves out. Unfortunately, they were hitting it hard around the whole ballpark.”
Papelbon said that he was still satisfied that he got his work in, and threw his pitches to build up arm strength. He suggested that this was the first time this year that he had required medicine for his migraines.
|03.21.10 at 1:59 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The rumor flickered on and off the radar for just a few moments. Last week, there was a buzz that the Red Sox had signed Michael Garciaparra, the younger brother of iconic Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
Michael Garciaparra has been a migratory player in the past few years. The former first-round pick of the Mariners has bounced between the Phillies, Orioles and Brewers organizations in recent years. But while he is amidst another transition, his new home is with the Astros, with whom he is in minor league camp, rather than the Red Sox.
In fact, Garciaparra was playing for the Astros in a big league exhibition game last week when word spread (based on an erroneous listing in MLB.com’s transactions listings) that the younger Garciaparra had joined the Sox. There was, naturally, curiosity.
“Some people called me and told me. They saw it online, and said, ‘We saw the line score, but we didn’t know if you were playing shortstop for the Red Sox or the Astros. Will you please help me out?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m with the Astros ‘ I just came in for half an inning at the end of the game,’” said Michael Garciaparra, who is in Fort Myers today with the Astros for their game against the Sox. “It wasn’t too bad. I just got a few phone calls and text messages from buddies asking what was going on.”
Michael Garciaparra — a career .262/.352/.342/.694 hitting in his eight minor league seasons — seemed mostly amused by the brief confusion. But he was genuinely excited about the fact that his brother, just a bit earlier, had signed a one-day minor league contract with the Sox in order to retire with the team for whom he played his most memorable games.
“He was always a Red Sox,” said Michael Garciaparra. “In his heart, he never wanted to leave. People said he wanted to be traded, but he never did. He always loved the Red Sox, love the fans, loved the city and playing there. It was exciting. He was happy he was able to retire with them.”
|03.21.10 at 1:06 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A couple weeks ago, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia — whose name was floated as a potential answer for the team as a shortstop in 2010, before the club signed free agent Marco Scutaro — said that he had not taken any grounders at shortstop this spring. That is no longer the case.
Pedroia stood next to Scutaro and took about 10 groundballs at shortstop on Sunday morning. Pedroia showed a strong arm, zipping the ball from the left side of the infield to first. True to the assessment of former Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod this offseason, Pedroia — who was a college Defensive Player of the Year as a shortstop at Arizona State University — moved well at the position.
“He has a great arm, good hands, good feet,” said Scutaro. “Without a doubt, he could play short.”
So, what gives? Could the Sox be exploring Pedroia as a shortstop on days when Scutaro is unavailable? Was it a sign that the Sox would like to explore someone other than Bill Hall as a backup shortstop, perhaps with an idea of having Pedroia at that position and Hall at second on days when Scutaro is out?
As it turns out. . . no.
The exercise was intended merely to build Pedroia’s arm strength, which can diminish if he only spends his time at second base for too prolonged a stretch.
“Gotta keep my arm strong,” explained Pedroia. “Gotta go cut off some relays.”
“It’s good to throw a little longer,” agreed Scutaro. “I can understand that, because I used to play a lot of second. Why you play second, your arm gets down. It gets kind of weak.”
Scutaro said that he heard the suggestions that the Sox were considering a move of Pedroia to shortstop, an approach that could have allowed the club to pursue free-agent options at second base such as Orlando Hudson. Though Scutaro believes that Pedroia could handle the position, neither he nor the club have any dismay about the outcome of the offseason.
“Everything worked out,” said Scutaro.
In theory, the team believes that Pedroia can play shortstop. But it appears that fact isn’t particularly relevant to the club at this juncture.
“Sure he is [capable of playing short],” said Sox third base and infield coach Tim Bogar. “But we’re not even going there.”
|03.21.10 at 11:43 am ET|
The right-hander, slowed this spring by a stiff back and neck, threw 12 pitches in the first inning and then retired the side in order in the second on three ground balls.
Matsuzaka then stayed on the mound with runners on base to allow him to work from the stretch. The day ended with a double play ball.
“It was pretty much business as usual,” Matsuzaka said. “I feel I’m getting gradually closer and closer to the real thing but I’m not at point where I can gauge where I’m at.”
As for when he might be ready to start the regular season, he said there’s still work to be done and evaluations to be made.
“It’s impossible to put a date on it at this point,” Matsuzaka said, adding that it will be the ultimate decision of the coaching staff.
“It was a positive step for Daisuke,” Farrell said.
“The intensity was clearly improved over his BP session of four days ago. So another positive step for Dice-K,” Farrell said. “I thought the way he finished each pitch, his direction and his power and the finish was through the catcher; it wasn’t spinning off to the first base side. It’s an indication of him staying under control and still being able to generate some decent power. I think as we get deeper into this and more innings under his belt, we hope we’ll see that power and late action to his stuff. It was definitely a positive step in the right direction today.”
With minor league catcher Luis Exposito catching him, Matsuzaka had a fastball clocked between 88 and 91 miles an hour. His next step is a side session on Tuesday and two or three innings in relief of Tim Wakefield on Thursday at City of Palms.
“If you just compare where he’s at right now compared to our other starters and what our goal is for each guy in our rotation, we’d like to get them to 95 pitches here in Spring Training before we break, so just do the simple math — there’s going to be some starts needed,” Farrell added. “But we’ve refrained from making any statement along those lines until he puts himself in a position to be factored in, which, again, he’s making strides toward that and with each successive outing, that becomes a little bit more clear.”
|03.21.10 at 9:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Sunday morning, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters that Florida was returning Rule 5 draft pick Jorge Jimenez to the Red Sox. The Marlins decided that they wouldn’t be able to carry Jimenez on the major league roster all season, and so they returned the infielder to Boston, which had to repay $25,000 of the $50,000 it received when the Astros picked him in the Rule 5 process (before trading him to the Marlins as part of a deal for reliever Matt Lindstrom).
The move is one that could have other repercussions for the Red Sox and Marlins, assuming that this line of thinking in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel accurately depicts Florida’s situation:
“Jimenez was hoping to either beat out Jorge Cantu at third or get on the roster as a left-handed pinch hitter.
“The move also signals that the Marlins are content with either Gaby Sanchez or Logan Morrison at first base.
“If Sanchez and Morrison both struggled, then Cantu would have been moved to first, opening a spot for Jimenez.”
The Marlins, according to reports, have been monitoring Mike Lowell as a trade candidate this spring, in part because of corner infield uncertainty. But if the team is now confident with Cantu as its everyday first baseman and either Sanchez or Morrison at first, then it presumably would diminish the team’s interest in a move for Lowell, the franchise leader in home runs.
That is not to rule out the possibility of a deal. Even if the Marlins are committed to Cantu and Sanchez/Morrion, perhaps the Fish would remain interested in Lowell as a role player (if Boston picked up most of his salary). But the need for a corner infielder is apparently less glaring than might have been the case.
As for Jimenez, the 25-year-old comes back to a Red Sox organization for whom he has performed beyond expectations when he was taken in the 16th round of the 2006 draft. In 2009, he hit .289/.366/.422/.787 with 13 homers and 87 RBIs in Double A Portland. Though not a slugger, he has always shown a good offensive approach at the plate.
The Sox gave some thought to adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but felt that his career had not yet advanced far enough that the team was at risk of losing him in the process. With his return to Boston, it appears that calculation was correct.
|03.21.10 at 7:09 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Saturday, the dynamic of those competing for spots at the back of the Red Sox bullpen was suddenly altered. The arrival of Alan Embree meant that other pitchers trying to make an impression on team officials suddenly had to recalculate their odds.
Joe Nelson, after striking out the side in the ninth inning, made clear that he bore no ill will towards Embree, even though the veteran left-hander may ultimately cost him a job in the major leagues. Nelson stood up and assumed responsibility for his professional life. The only thing he could do was perform to the best of his abilities; if the Sox believed they had a superior alternative, then they had an obligation to pursue it.
“The Red Sox owe it to the people who own the team, Red Sox Nation, everybody on the team to exhaust every possible avenue,’ said Nelson. ‘That’s their job, and that’s why they’re good at what they do. They’ll bring in a truck driver if he says he can throw 90 mph and throw a splitter. And if they check him out themselves and he can, they’ll probably keep him around for a little bit and look at him. They have to exhaust every avenue. That’s due diligence. I expect that from the organization that I’m with.
‘I’m not rooting against [Scott Atchison] or [Brian Shouse] or [Embree]. We can only do what we’re capable of. In the end, the decision is going to come behind closed doors, and we’re not going to have any say in it besides what we do on the field,’ he added.
That approach to adversity had been drummed into Nelson nearly two decades ago by an unlikely source. Nelson received an education in media communications as a high schooler when he played alongside future NBA star Jason Kidd in both baseball and basketball.
“The way he handled the media, press, pressure. Jason was the Gatorade player of the year. We played in front of 25,000 at the Oakland Coliseum when the Lakers weren’t drawing 25,000. The way he carried himself was a very good teaching tool for me as far as involvement with pro ball, how to deal with the media,” Nelson explained. “Jason was very accountable at a young age. When we lost, it was his fault. When we won, it was a team effort. That’s an admirable quality.”
Of course, Kidd’s skills were not limited to media management when he teamed with Nelson at St. Joseph’s Notre Dame High School in Alameda, Calif. (class of ’94). His athletic skills across sports were something to behold.
“He could have been a centerfielder in the big leagues or a running back in the NFL. Instead he chose to be a Hall of Fame basketball player. He was unbelievable. He was, without question, the best athlete I’ve ever been around. He was special,” said Nelson. “I watched him hit a ball about 500 feet and break an aluminum bat. The bat shattered in two, the ball went 500 feet. He was strong.”
Nelson played both baseball and basketball with Kidd. The 35-year-old pitcher acknowledges that his basketball skills lagged slightly behind what Kidd was capable of doing on a baseball field.
Nonetheless, Nelson received not only a fascinating lesson in professionalism from his high school teammate, but also became a footnote in history. Kidd owns the high school record for most career assists (1,155). And the player who made the shot that set the record was a certain two-guard who is now pitching for a job with the Red Sox.
“Unless I made a steal, I wasn’t involved in the offense too much,” said Nelson. “I hit the shot that broke the all-time assists record, one of about 10 buckets I made all year. Filling the lane, a little eight-foot bank off the glass. That was my job: playing defense, and filling the lane.”
Now, it is Nelson’s hope that his job in 2010 will be something more than that. He is hoping to continue a major league career that has withstood multiple year-long recoveries from labrum surgery.
He feels that he has found something in this camp, that he fixed a mechanical flaw that may allow him to regain the form that he showed in his career-best 2008 campaign, when he recorded a 2.00 ERA in 59 games for the Marlins. Nelson is convinced that he can contribute. And yet, as badly as he wants to make the Sox roster for Opening Day, he strikes the same professional tone that was taught to him before college.
‘We all think we’re going to pitch in the big leagues. It may not be on our timetable, because we all want to be there April 4, and that’s probably not going to happen. Pitching now, I’m trying to make the team. If I don’t make it, I want to be the first one they call.’
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Cup of Coffee: Ockimey powers Lowell, Hernandez leads PawSox comeback
- Cup of Coffee: McAvoy tosses Salem past Nationals
- Cup of Coffee: Chavis shines in national TV spotlight
- Cup of Coffee: Travis, Owens continue hot stretches
- Cup of Coffee: Brian Johnson leads PawSox to shutout victory
- After slow start, Cecchini heating up at the plate, settling into left field
- Cup of Coffee: Watkins earns save after catching 14 innings
- Weekly Notes: Johnson makes Major League debut
- Cup of Coffee: Big offensive performances from Pawtucket, Greenville and Portland
- Cup of Coffee: Cuevas, Travis highlight tight Portland victory