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Rocco Baldelli to announce retirement

01.26.11 at 2:47 am ET
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Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli, whose major league career appeared headed for stardom before an unusual illness prevented the outfielder from being able to stay on the field consistently, told the St. Petersburg Times that he has decided to retire from baseball at the age of 29. Baldelli had spent the last few seasons with the Rays and Red Sox finding a way to play through channelopathy, a condition that left his body in a state of profound fatigue.

But after Game 1 of the 2010 AL Division Series between the Rays and Rangers, it became clear to Baldelli that he could no longer contribute as a result of the condition. Baldelli went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in that contest, and experienced significant cramping and pain afterwards. That led to his removal from the Rays’ postseason roster, and helped convince Baldelli that it was time to move to a new phase of his career, a decision that will be formalized with an announcement on Wednesday.

“That was the first time where I couldn’t keep playing and look at my teammates and still be out there,” Baldelli told the Times. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it any more.

“I don’t anticipate ever playing baseball again. I’m retired. The paperwork will be filed,” Baldelli added. “And you know what? The only time I feel like it’s good to retire is when you’re happy to retire. And I’m happy.”

Baldelli will take a job in the Rays front office as a special advisor in scouting and player development. After the Rays took him out of Bishop Hendricken High School with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft, he blitzed through the minors before making a tremendous big league debut in 2003, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting while hitting .289 with a .326 OBP, .742 OPS, 11 homers and 27 steals as a 21-year-old. But injuries started limiting his ability to stay on the field the following year, and he played just 63 games for the Rays in 2007 and 2008 (though he did hit a pair of memorable homers in the 2008 postseason for Tampa Bay).

Baldelli signed with the Sox — the team he rooted for while growing up — for the 2009 season, hitting .253 with a .311 OBP, .433 slugging mark and .744 OPS along with 11 homers in part-time duty. He then returned to Tampa Bay, spending much of the year working in player development and the Rays front office before returning to uniform in September.

Baldelli concludes his career having hit .278 with a .323 OBP, .443 slugging mark and .766 OPS with 60 homers and 60 steals in 519 games.

Read More: Retirement, Rocco Baldelli, tampa bay rays,

A look at the Red Sox’ offseason interest in Jose Bautista

01.26.11 at 1:58 am ET
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“Due diligence.”

That is how one source familiar with the talks between the Red Sox and Blue Jays characterized the conversations that the two teams had about Jose Bautista, the slugger who emerged improbably to launch a major-league leading 54 homers.

On Tuesday, Fox Sports reported that the Sox made multiple trade offers to the Blue Jays about the slugger during the Winter Meetings in December, but “never got the sense that the Jays were serious about a deal,” with Toronto feeling that it would be served best to retain the slugger. On the Sox’ side, it seems that they were largely interested in gauging the full realm of market possibilities to identify alternatives should they fail to land free agent Carl Crawford, rather than having built a strategy around Bautista.

Over the course of the winter meetings — whose activity began with the Sox’ successful conclusion of a deal for Adrian Gonzalez and the stunning announcement of Jayson Werth‘s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, and ended with the Sox’ similarly startling conclusion of a seven-year, $142 million deal with Crawford — the Sox conducted an exploration of a broad range of market options.

That examination included free-agent options such as Magglio Ordonez as well as trade candidates such as Josh Willingham, Carlos Beltran and, yes, Bautista, among others. The Sox’ interest in Bautista preceded his breakout season, dating to his time in Pittsburgh, when at least one Red Sox talent evaluator thought that he represented a buy-low candidate with at least a chance of reaching 30 homers if the stars aligned, while another considered him at least a solid role player who could play solid defense at several positions while doing damage against left-handed pitchers.

But once the Jays acquired Bautista, the Sox felt that the opportunities to acquire him had diminished significantly. They were one of multiple clubs to place an August waiver claim for him in  2009, but were not awarded the claim, according to a major league source. Apparently, as the Sox explored the outfield market during the Winter Meetings — and with Bautista coming off of his landmark season — that remained the case.

Moreover, team officials viewed Crawford as the prize of the class all along for multiple reasons. Not only was the team enamored of Crawford’s across-the-board talents and ability to impact the club’s run scoring and run prevention, but the Sox’ interest in an outfielder this offseason was motivated in no small part by their recognition that they would need to add an outfielder in 2012, after J.D. Drew‘s contract expires.

A long-term deal with Crawford would give the Sox such an outfielder. Bautista, on the other hand, is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and so the Sox might have been put back in a position where they had to return to the market next offseason by trading him.

So, Crawford was the player whom the Sox were trying to land, and whom the ultimately did land. But the team wanted to make sure that their offseason strategy motto was not “Crawford or Bust.”

“If you’€™re counting on signing Carl Crawford and not ready to take another path, you’€™re probably going to sign him but risk a deal you’€™re not comfortable with,” Assistant GM Ben Cherington said last week. “It just happened that we were able to get deals done for the two guys [Gonzalez and Crawford] at the top of our list, not just for the two guys who could make the biggest impact, but who also best addressed the long-term needs.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jose Bautista, josh willingham, magglio ordonez

Source: ‘Doubtful’ Red Sox sign pitcher to major league deal

01.25.11 at 4:58 pm ET
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While the Red Sox have not ruled out any more signings this offseason, a team source on Tuesday characterized it as “doubtful” that the team would sign a pitcher to a major league contract. That echoes the thoughts of GM Theo Epstein earlier this month.

‘€œFor the most part we feel good about the team we’€™re bringing to spring,’€ Epstein said in mid-January. “I think our big moves are probably over, but you never say never.”

The Red Sox were reported by Maureen Mullen of CSNNE.com (via twitter) to have interest in left-hander Joe Beimel, but if the Sox are indeed pursuing the southpaw specialist, it is unlikely that the team would be offering him anything other than a minor league contract. 

Beimel, 33, made 71 appearances for the Rockies last season, posting a 3.40 earned run average and a 1.36 WHIP over 45 innings. He finished the season with 21 holds and one blown save. Over the last three years, he has a 3.01 ERA in 149 1/3 innings, having punched out 5.3 batters per nine innings with a 1.6 strikeout-to-walk rate, establishing him as a lefty specialist who gets southpaws out with bad contact rather than strikeouts.

Beimel has signed late in spring training in each of the last two seasons, having agreed to a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Rockies last March 23 and having signed with the Nationals on a one-year deal on March 18, 2009.

Though he signed late last year in spring training, the Rockies had actually acquired him from the Nationals at the July 31 trade deadline in 2009. The journeyman has also pitched in the Rangers, Pirates, Twins, Rays and Dodgers organizations. Over his 10-year career, Beimel has tossed 562 1/3 innings through 532 appearances. He’s compiled a 4.16 ERA and 1.48 career WHIP with 315 strikeouts.

Read More: Hot Stove, Joe Beimel,

Boggs, Ripken named to International League Hall of Fame

01.25.11 at 2:01 pm ET
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Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken added to their Hall of Fame resumes. The two players, whose careers landed them spots in Cooperstown, were elected to the International League Hall of Fame for their excellence while in Triple-A.

Boggs spent both 1980 and 1981 in Pawtucket, where he hit .322 with a .418 OBP, .416 slugging mark and .834 OPS. He hit just six homers in Triple-A, but in 1981, he developed extra-base power as a 23-year-old, hitting 41 doubles for the PawSox. In 1980, he hit .306, losing the batting title by .0007 points. He then led the International League in average (.335) and doubles in 1981.

Ripken joined Boggs in the International League in 1981, hitting .288 (fourth in the league) with a .383 OBP, .535 slugging mark and .919 OPS with 23 homers and 75 RBI, finishing in the top five in most offensive categories despite being — at age 20 — the youngest position player in the International League.

Boggs and Ripken both participated in the epic 33-inning game between the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings, the longest game in the history of organized professional baseball. The first 32 innings took place on April 18 before the contest was finished on June 23, when Pawtucket plated a run to claim a 3-2 walkoff win.

The next year, in 1982, Ripken won the American League Rookie of the Year award with the Orioles while Boggs finished third in the balloting (behind runner-up Kent Hrbek) as a member of the Red Sox.

Boggs and Ripken were joined in this year’s International League Hall of Fame class by former Yankees prospect Steve Balboni, remembered for prodigious home runs and an equally prodigious mustache. Balboni led the Interational League in 1981 with 33 homers and 98 RBI while hitting .247/.337/.532/.870 for Columbus. Balboni played parts of the next two years in Triple-A as well, hitting a league-leading 32 homers (in just 83 games) in 1982 and 27 in 1983.

Boggs will be inducted formally into the Hall of Fame at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium sometime in the coming season.

Read More: cal ripken, hall of fame, international league, steve balboni

Red Sox Review: Dustin Pedroia

01.25.11 at 8:32 am ET
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* – Pedroia loves to face: Joba Chamberlain – 10-for-19 (.526), 1 HR
                           Scott Kazmir – 20-for-42 (.476), 3 HR
                           Cole Hamels – 5-for-10 (.500)

* – Pedroia hates to face: Mariano Rivera – 0-for-10, 5 strikeouts
                           CC Sabathia – 3-for-28 (.107), 8 strikeouts
                           Jered Weaver – 3-for-22 (.136), 5 strikeouts

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* – Doesn’t matter for the time being: Pedroia has faced now-teammate John Lackey 30 times in his career without striking out, the most plate appearances by any batter against Lackey without a strikeout.

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* – Pedroia hit three home runs on June 24 in Colorado last season. It was the first three-homer game of his career and the first one ever by a Red Sox second baseman on the road, and the first anywhere by a Sox’ second sacker since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr hit three in 1950 at Fenway. It was the first time that an opposing middle infielder had ever hit three bombs in a game against the Rockies, home or away.

Note this: It was just the sixth time that a Red Sox infielder has hit three home runs in a road game, the last one being Bill Mueller’s three jacks at Texas during the 2003 season.

And this: Pedroia’s third home run came in the 10th inning, a two-run shot. Prior to that, he had come to bat in his career with a total of 28 runners on base in extra innings and had not driven in any of them.

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* – Pedroia hit 12 home runs despite only 302 at-bats in 2010, a career best 25.2 at-bats per home run, the fourth lowest/best single season mark ever by a Red Sox second baseman (min. 300 AB):

14.2 – Felix Mantilla, 1964
19.5 – Bobby Doerr, 1948
21.7 – Bobby Doerr, 1950
25.2 – Dustin Pedroia, 2010

Pedroia’s previous career best mark was 38.4 AB/HR, set in 2008.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Ex-Sox minor leaguers Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo top Padres prospect list

01.24.11 at 4:02 pm ET
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When the Red Sox made the dramatic decision to conclude a blockbuster trade with the Padres for superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, they were never under any illusions that they were pulling the wool over the Padres’ eyes. To the contrary, the Sox recognized that in order to acquire the three-time All-Star, they would have to part with some of the most talented prospects in their system.

“We always try to stay away from our core group of prospects [in trades]. The only time we’€™ve included them in deals has been when there’€™s an obvious, impact player coming back that fits a clear need for the foreseeable future. The only two times that I think we’€™ve done that were in the original [Josh] Beckett trade (in which the Sox dealt Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez] and this one with Adrian,” Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington said recently. “You can’€™t do that type of thing all the time, partly because you don’€™t have the minor league talent to do that all the time, partly because those opportunities just don’€™t come around all the time.”

The potential cost in prospects gained further definition on Monday, when Baseball America released its rankings of the Padres’ top prospects. Right-hander Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — two of the three prospects dealt by the Red Sox to San Diego in exchange for Gonzalez — were named the top two prospects in the Padres farm system by Baseball America. Outfielder Reymond Fuentes, the third prospect in the deal, was named San Diego’s No. 4 overall prospect.

Kelly was ranked as the Sox’ top prospect by Baseball America, while Rizzo was ranked No. 3 and Fuentes No. 6. The publication suggested that Kelly will reach Triple-A Tucson this year, with a big league ETA of 2012, while Rizzo is expected to spend most of this year in Triple-A while positioning himself to compete for the job of Padres’ starting first baseman by early 2012. Fuentes, 20, is viewed as more raw than his counterparts (whereas Kelly spent all of 2010 in Double-A Portland and Rizzo spent most of the season at that level, Fuentes remained in Single-A Greenville all year), but he is described as being more advanced than Jacoby Ellsbury at a similar stage of his career.

For a more detailed look at the three prospects who netted the Sox Gonzalez, click here.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo, casey kelly, Padres

Source: Mike Napoli wasn’t on Red Sox’ radar to be full-time catcher

01.21.11 at 9:44 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox weren’t interested in dealing for catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli after they acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox, who had claimed Napoli off waivers in August, viewed the 29-year-old more of first baseman and third catcher than full-time backstop.

Napoli was dealt to the Blue Jays Friday night along with outfielder Juan Rivera in exchange for outfielder Vernon Wells. Napoli is in his third offseason of being arbitration-eligible, and will be eligible for free agency following the 2011 season. In 140 games he hit .238 with 26 home runs, playing 70 games at first base and 66 behind the plate.

Despite the fact Wells is owned $86 million over the next four seasons ($23 million, and $21 million each season after that through ’14), the Blue Jays weren’t forced to send any money to the Angels in the deal.

For more Red Sox news, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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