|02.16.11 at 12:25 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To a degree, it came as a surprise to Alfredo Aceves when the Yankees decided not to tender him a contract in the first week of Dec. True, he had been unable to pitch for much of 2010 while dealing with back and hip injuries that limited him to 12 innings, and he had just fractured his clavicle in a bicycling accident, an injury that required surgery.
Still, Aceves had been told by doctors at the time of the surgery that he would heal in three months, a timetable that would have him available at or near the start of the 2011 campaign. And he was not far removed from being a key contributor to the Yankees’ World Series-winning squad of 2009, a season in which the right-hander (now 28) went 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA in the regular season.
So, was Aceves caught off guard when the Yankees parted ways with him (despite the fact that, as a player with two options and who had not yet reached arbitration eligibility, he remained cheap and controllable)?
“Yeah. Yeah, but I understand it’s a business,” Aceves said from the clubhouse at the Sox’ minor league training facility on Tuesday. “It’s the GM that makes the decision. It don’t matter if you agree or not. You’re out. It’s their decision.”
Presumably, New York’s decision was motivated at least in part by the expectation that Aceves’ injuries would limit his availability and/or diminish his potential value in a trade. However, the right-hander appears ready to take part in a full spring training.
While the doctors gave him a three-month timetable for recovering from his surgery, he said that he was cleared to throw after one month and pitching without restraint two months after the procedure. Aceves admits that he pushed the pace of his recovery.
“As soon as they told me that I have the green light to throw, I just let it go. The doctor told me after a month. He said I had a green light to throw. He said start easy, but…,” Aceves said, gesturing his hands indicate that he did not hold back. “If it’s going to heal, it’s going to heal.”
The Sox are hopeful that they will be the beneficiaries of his quick recovery. While the right-hander made 54 of his 59 appearances with the Yankees out of the bullpen, the Sox view him more as a potential starter. His changeup is a plus weapon that is almost unhittable for lefties (one of every five changeups he throws to portsiders has resulted in a swing and miss), and his curveball and cutter are both shutdown offerings against righties. All complement a fastball that he spots well.
That is the sort of arsenal that can serve a starter well, and so the Sox — after seeing Aceves throw two bullpen sessions at Fenway last week in which he appeared uninhibited — jumped at the opportunity to sign him. GM Theo Epstein said last week that Aceves could help the team address one of its shortcomings, namely the absence of rotation depth.
One source who attended the pitcher’s workout at Fenway said that part of Aceves’ interest in the Sox was driven by his desire to beat the Yankees. The pitcher said only that he was happy to stay in the AL East. In either event, after signing a one-year, $650,000 deal (which would be worth $200,000 if he is optioned to the minors), Aceves pronounced his excitement to join the Red Sox.
“I’m happy to be here, excited,” Aceves said of his new team. “I think we can go deep in the season, deep in the playoffs. We’ve got a good chance.”
|02.15.11 at 5:59 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced that they have traded right-hander Robert Coello to the Cubs in exchange for minor league infielder Tony Thomas.
Thomas is a 24-year-old second baseman who had 51 extra-base hits in 116 games in 2010. For the season, he hit .276 with a .338 OBP, .485 slugging mark and .823 OPS for Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League. A baseball source described him as an athletic second baseman with excellent makeup, good instincts and feel for the game who plays the game with high energy.
The Florida State product — a third-round pick in the 2007 draft — displays gap-to-gap power with the occasional ability to clear the fences when pulling the ball. He’s hit 11 homers in each of the last two years, both in Double-A. He’s also stolen 78 bases in just over 400 minor league games, though just 28 of those have come in the last two years in Double-A.
Coello threw 5 2/3 innings in six appearances as a Sept. call-up for the Sox. The 26-year-old, whom the Sox signed out of the independent Golden Baseball League, led Sox minor leaguers with 130 strikeouts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings at the two levels. He was designated for assignment last week in order to clear a roster spot for Alfredo Aceves.
|02.15.11 at 4:44 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To this point, the Red Sox haven’t talked with either right-hander Clay Buchholz or his representatives about the possibility of a long-term deal. But Buchholz, who has made clear on a number of occasions that he would be open to such a deal, has had conversations with his agents about what a long-term deal might look like. And precedent suggests that the young right-hander who finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2010 need look no further than a teammate to figure out the sort of years and dollars to expect if he wants to gain financial security from the Sox.
Jon Lester offers a fairly clear indicator of the type of deal that Buchholz might be able to get from the Sox. He signed a deal that will keep him in Boston through at least 2013 during spring training of 2009. At that time, Lester had two years and 75 days of big league service time. After a breakout 2008 campaign in which he went 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA, he had a career mark of 27-8 with a 3.81 ERA, 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.6 walks per nine and a 1.393 WHIP.
Buchholz is at a nearly identical position in his career. He has two years, 59 days of big league service time. After his outstanding 2010 season, in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, he is a career 29-21 pitcher with a 3.68 ERA, 7.0 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.356.
Their careers have not been identical, but they’ve followed similar enough trajectories that the five-year, $30 million deal (which includes a $13 million Sox team option for 2014) that Lester signed before the start of the 2009 season would clearly serve as the relevant data point in talks should Buchholz and the Sox engage in dialogue about a long-term deal.
Already, both Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) have used the Lester deal as the basis for their own long-term deals. And Buchholz, 26, said that those contracts would guide what he might seek in talks with the Sox about a long-term contract.
“I think that would definitely be a base model for it — numbers-wise, security reasons, I think every player with less than three years of service time, that’s what they strive for,” said Buchholz. “I’m not saying I’m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.”
The Sox have a team policy that a long-term deal with players who have accumulated fewer than six years of service time and remain under team control should cover the player’s first free agent season and include a team option. In Buchholz’ case, that would conceivably mean a five-year deal with an option for the 2016 season. Buchholz said that he would have no qualms about a deal of such duration, given his attachment to the Red Sox organization.
“It’s all I know. I definitely wouldn’t mind. Definitely, just from the guys who are coming here who have played somewhere else for a good while in their career, coming here and picking to come here, it shows you something about the organization. It’s a great place to play, obviously. The fan base is good. I think it’s a better environment to come out and play the first day in spring training when you actually have people in camp and have people hollering and screaming,” Buchholz said. “I just think it’d be a great place to be for a while.”
|02.15.11 at 3:29 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the Red Sox expect to trade Robert Coello in the next couple of days. The right-hander was designated for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Alfredo Aceves, giving the Sox 10 days to trade him before subjecting him to waivers. The source suggested that there were “a few” teams interested in the right-hander.
Coello appeared in six games with the Red Sox in 2010, registering an ERA of 4.76. The 26-year-old also pitched for both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, posting a combined record of 7-6 with an ERA of 3.86.
|02.15.11 at 1:32 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not that the length of a press conference is an indication of what lies ahead, but Josh Beckett spoke for over 15 minutes Tuesday morning and joked about Mike Lowell‘s golf game, Terry Francona nailing him in the face during the “rag ball” fielding drill and 2010.
The fact that he could speak openly and frankly about that last part may be the most encouraging news of all for the Red Sox.
Beckett said his back is healthy and he is ready to put his nightmarish 2010 season behind.
“I can’t change last year.said Beckett, who was just 6-6 with a career-worst 5.78 ERA in 21 starts. “I just have to do the best I can this year. Like my dad said, just throw the rear view mirror away because you can’t change anything that’s already happened. As frustrating as 2010 was, I have to move on because this is 2011.”
Beckett missed two months after straining his lower back during a start on a wet Yankee Stadium mound last May 18. Beckett agreed with Francona that he likely tried to do too much when returning from the injury.
“We’re all guilty of that, from time to time, trying to do too much right now when really all you need to focus on is this start, not five starts from now, or two starts from now, or even two pitches from now,” Beckett said. “In that aspect, we’re all guilty of that at times, and yes, I think I was guilty of that sometimes.
“I’m trying to have the best 2011 I can and put this team in a position to do what I think we’re all capable of doing, and that’s winning another World Series.”
Just like the time in 2007, when he singlehandedly turned around the 2007 ALCS against the Indians and blew away the Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series. But something he’s never done is pitch for a team that’s won 100 games in season, something the Red Sox haven’t done since 1946.
“I’ve always wanted to been on a team that won 100 games,” Beckett said. “I don’t think I’m more determined, but I feel like this team has a chance to do something really, really special like that. I think that’s where some of the determination comes from. I’m not trying to change last year with 2011. I don’t want anybody to look back and say 2010 was pretty [crappy] but 2011 was really good so, oh, well. That’s not me. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.15.11 at 1:14 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ It was a day in which the activities were mundane but the excitement was far reaching. Pitchers threw in the bullpen and engaged in a variety of fielding drills, among them a favorite of Sox skipper Terry Francona, who uses a bat to whack a soft rag ball at his pitchers from short range to test their reflexes. Catchers commenced the legendary Camp Tuck, the series of drills organized by bullpen and catching coach Gary Tuck, who has pieced together some of the most innovative practice techniques for those who don the tools of ignorance.
Under other circumstances, these routine events would seem boring. But given that it is the first day to get in uniform and start to embrace baseball activities as a team, it was an undertaking that was greeted enthusiastically.
“Everyone has a little pep in their step. Tomorrow will be the second wave of pitchers. They’ll be excited,” Francona said. “Then the challenge is, after that, to keep the excitement and enthusiasm throughout.”
Francona and pitching coach Curt Young cautioned pitchers not to push too hard in the start of camp, to dial back their intensity to around 80 percent in order to make share that getting in shape does not cross over into jeopardizing health. One new aspect of the initial workout, however, entailed no physical risk at all. There was a station for “game awareness,” in which pitchers and members of the coaching staff discussed different game situations and why the Sox, for instance, would want to hold or not hold a runner at second base in a given situation. That was done with an eye toward “slowing the game down when [it] speeds up on pitchers,” particularly defensively.
Francona noted that Sox pitchers were “sloppy” at times last year while fielding their position, and the team feels compelled to cut down on the errors committed by men on the mound.
|02.15.11 at 10:00 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Kevin Youkilis fields third base the way he fielded questions for 20 minutes Tuesday morning inside the Red Sox minor league complex, he’ll have no problem achieving one of his goals in 2011 – a Gold Glove at third base to match his one already on the mantle for first base.
He touched on several topics, his surgically repaired right thumb, missing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols eventually getting his money, making the move to becoming a full-time third baseman and his distaste for talking to opponents when he played first base.
Youkilis pronounced himself fully healthy and ready for the next challenge of his career. The veteran infielder, who won the American League Gold Glove at first base in 2007, is looking for the same honor at third base this season.
“As long as I’m not making mental errors, that’s the key,” Youkilis said. “It’d be cool if I could play just as well at third base and try to win a Gold Glove. There’s a lot of great third basemen out there. It’d be cool. If I could play at a high level and win a Gold Glove at third base and first base, that’d be awesome.
“But, for me, I’m not worried about the accolades. I’m just worried about making the routine plays and trying to make a couple of great plays here and there to get our pitchers out of some jams.”
Francona said he has no doubt that Youkilis will make a smooth transition to third, where he was an All-American while at the University of Cincinnati.
“I think he’s always viewed himself as a third baseman,” Francona said. “A couple years there he thought he was Happy Gilmore.”
Youkilis, who said his right thumb is 100 percent after a winter of conditioning and strengthening, said he will have no problem moving back to third base on a full time basis since he filled in the injured Mike Lowell several times last season.
“I’ve been a third baseman all my life, played third base at the major league level quite a few times and played over there when Mike Lowell was hurt,” Youkilis added. “I feel great. Body feeling’s good. The hand is feeling good. Just got in good shape like normal. Just ready to go out and play third base this year. There are no restrictions. All the good stuff that comes with baseball I can do.”
Something Youkilis doesn’t consider good stuff is trying to be a social director at first base. In other words, he’s no Sean Casey.
“It’s just not interesting,” Youkilis said. “It’s fun sometimes if you have guys you know and you’ve played against. There’s some guys you might not care for too much. You get to know people over there, too. You get to understand people a lot more. But the social scene over there, I can do without. I’ve never been a social-scene kind of guy.
“It’s not fun. You want no-hitters and perfect games thrown where you don’t have to cover the base, but that’s not possible all the time. For me, I’ll leave it to Sean Casey, Jim Thome, guys that are really good over there. Kevin Millar. I’ll leave it to them to master that.’
As for Pujols, who has a Wednesday deadline for the Cardinals to get an extension done, Youkilis is pretty sure that he’ll be taken care of somewhere.
“I think he’ll be happy somewhere, getting paid a lot of money,” Youkilis said. “If he wants to come to the AL East and face some of this pitching, he can come.”
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