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Midnight Approaches: While Strasburg Looms for Nats, Red Sox Lock Up Top Picks

08.17.09 at 12:58 pm ET
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Tick-tick-tick.

Midnight looms for major-league baseball teams to reach agreement with the players selected in this year’s June draft. And no issue looms larger than that of the future of top overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg and his negotiations — with the contributions of “adviser” Scott Boras — with the Washington Nationals.

Strasburg has been described as a once-a-generation talent, a pitcher with a more explosive fastball than Daniel Bard or Justin Verlander, capable of complementing that pitch with above-average off-speed stuff (a curve and changeup — and good luck to batters who are geared up for a 100+ mph fastball if he can also sell a changeup). The Nationals have already leaked word that they have made a record offer for a drafted pitcher, exceeding the $10.5 million that Mark Prior got to sign with the Cubs.

Of course, Prior offers something of a cautionary tale. He was viewed as a perennial Cy Young contender with perfect mechanics that made him virtually injury proof. Instead, following a collision while running with the bases in 2003 and heavy usage by then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker, prior encountered shoulder injuries that derailed his career. He has not pitched since 2006, another example of a huge prospect taken near the top of the draft who never panned out.

Prior is not alone. Brien Taylor was taken as the top draft pick by the Yankees in 1991, a left-handed pitcher who had stuff out the wazoo (including a 99 mph fastball) when he was taken out of high school. But he ruined his shoulder in a bar fight, and never reached the majors. In 2004, the Padres took shortstop Matt Bush with the top pick of the draft. He was arrested shortly after his selection, never proved able to hit in the minors, was eventually converted to pitching and, after that experiment failed (he blew out his shoulder), is not even pitching in the minors.

There are cautionary tales, to be sure. That said, it is possible to exaggerate the dangers of the top draft pick.

Since the draft was implemented in 1965, 19 of the 44 top selections (not including Strasburg, who has yet to turn pro) have made at least one All-Star team. Former top picks Ken Griffey, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez have all put up Hall of Fame numbers in their careers; Joe Mauer is in his fifth full season of doing the same.

The common denominator of those players, aside from their draft status, is that they are all position players. Pitchers, on the other hand, have been a riskier lot, with just three of the 13 pitchers taken first overall making an All-Star team. (Even the group of All-Stars is anything but illustrious: Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore and Andy Benes weren’t exactly annual Cy Young contenders.)

Will Strasburg be able to fulfill his potential in a fashion that would be unprecedented for a pitcher taken with the top of the pick? Will he even seek the opportunity to do so, or will he walk away from an eight-figure offer from the Nationals in an effort to use his singular talent to bring down the draft system? The answers will start to come by midnight. And the baseball world will be watching with considerable fascination to see what will emerge from the Bermuda Triangle of Strasburg-the Nationals-Boras.

The Red Sox will be no different. For months, team officials have wondered what the future might hold for Strasburg. But Boston has been in the rather enviable position of detachment while watching Boras’ tireless efforts to claim millions of dollars for his amateur advisees this year.

The Sox did not draft a single Boras client this year. And so, the team has enjoyed a relatively calm negotiation period, in which the team has locked up most of the top talents whom it selected.

To date, the one significant disappointment for the Sox has been the fact that sixth-rounder Branden Kline will not sign. The right-hander was viewed as possessing immense potential, with the frame and delivery that suggested the potential for a mid-90s fastball and a nasty curve. But Kline didn’t play in a summer league, and instead seemed intent on fulfilling his academic and athletic scholarship to the University of Virginia.

Otherwise, the Sox have reached agreements with a raft of high-end talents. The team has spent particularly aggressively to secure the services of top prep talents, and in recent days, the team has spent almost $4 million to secure the services of players who fell in the draft due to questions about their willingness to sign.

The most prominent players who have signed with the Sox in recent days include:

–3rd-round pick David Renfroe (signed for $1.4 million), a pitcher and shortstop who earned some comparisons to David Wright; he will be groomed as a position player with the Sox

–7th-round pick Madison Younginer (signed for $975,000), a right-handed pitcher with a fastball that touches the high-90s and a slider that made his high-school opponents weep

–10th-round pick Brandon Jacobs (signed for $750,000), a powerful running back and outfielder who has what Sox amateur scouting director Jason McLeod describes as ‘€œgoofy power’€

–11th-round pick Justin Thompson (signed for $300,000), a shortstop who can also play second and third and shows a solid all-around game

–18th-round pick Renny Parthemore (signed for $150,000) is a right-handed power arm who shows the potential for an above average fastball and curve

–26th-round pick Miles Head (signed for $335,000, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America) is a corner infielder who showed significant power in several high school showcase events

When the smoke clears on Aug. 18, the Sox will have added a number of young players (mostly high schoolers) whom they hope will one day make an impact at the major-league level. That impact, clearly, is coming at some cost, though clearly nothing like what the Nationals are spending ‘€“ in time, money and sanity ‘€“ with Strasburg and Boras.

For the latest updates, Baseball America’s Draft Blog and the SoxProspects.com news blog are invaluable resources.

Read More: brandon jacobs, david renfroe, justin thompson, madison younginer

What these Sox need

08.17.09 at 12:27 pm ET
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We all thought after the trading deadline that things might turn around but it’s been just the opposite. Since July 31 the Sox are 6-9, a half game back in the Wild Card and 7.5 back in the AL East. Those injuries to Wakefield, Drew, Lowell, Bay, Lowrie and the suspension of Youkilis have not helped. But when you’re looking for the real reason for the bump in the road, focus in on the lineup — what was supposed to be, and what hasn’t been.

So what can be done?

The Sox have the potential for run production, they can be a good hitting team, just not as of late. A consistent lineup is a must.

No. 1, I’d like to see Ortiz batting third. He’s always been most comfortable there and this weekend was encouraging when he went 3-for-8 with two home runs and a double. Put him at third and keep that lefty, righty lineup of Ellsbury and Pedroia at one and two followed by Bay fourth, Youkilis fifth, Martinez sixth, Drew seventh, Lowell eighth and Alex Gonzalez ninth. Right now the lineup is too circular and inconsistent. Granted the injuries have been the cause of that but with Youkilis back on Tuesday from suspension it should makes things a little easier for Terry. Take Lowell out late in the game and put Casey Kotchman at first with Youk moving to third and the lineup is still strong with a better defense on the field.

As soon as the offense becomes more consistent the pitching will benefit. The current rotation has been keeping the Sox in games and Beckett, Lester and Buchholz have been solid. Buchholz last two starts have been especially promising (13 innings, 11 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 6 SO) even while receving the loss in both games. He went up against two aces (Verlander in Detroit and Sabathia in New York) and has certainly assumed the No. 3 starting role for the Sox. Tazawa’s debut and performance in that game in New York during extra innings says a lot about him as a pitcher. He followed up that outing with the game against Detroit in which he pitched a gem after the Sox-Tigers brawl. He’s been more than what the Sox expected in the No. 5 slot. Penny also has been putting up good enough numbers for a No. 4 pitcher but has suffered the Sox lack of production at the plate.

You can’t expect to win these games if you don’t start scoring runs. End of story.

Another thing, Varitek needs time off. The acquisition of Victor Martinez was supposed to ease Tek’s load but the recent slew of injuries have prevented that from happening. Martinez has been filling for Bay, Drew and Lowell in the lineup rather than adding another bat to it. Give Tek some time off, especially when we reach Sept. and then you can talk about bringing George Kottaras back up to give Victor a break.

This team is dying for that first day in September when rosters expand. The Sox won’t get a break for a the next three weeks facing Toronto, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Chicago before a two-game series with sub .500 Baltimore in early September. Once the Sox can add depth in about two weeks, they will have a much easier time filling the lineup and bench to help out the worn out starters.  Bench players and pinch-runners will no doubt be a welcome sight to Francona who had Buchholz pinch running over the weekend. When Baldelli comes back you have his speed plus Reddick’s giving the Sox a big boost late in games and adding one of the elements the Sox have been lacking this season.

So it’s not time to panic yet. There are still seven weeks left before the end of the season including two series each against the Yankees and Rays.  If the Sox can stay afloat until September 1 when help arrives, a refreshed offense with extra bats and players off the bench will certainly help the rotation and the Sox chances.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

How the Sox Negotiate: A Look at the Non-Signing of Hunter Morris

08.17.09 at 11:50 am ET
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When it comes to the draft, it’€™s no secret that the Red Sox are serious spenders.

For years, the organization has capitalized on landing premium players who carry hefty price tags. Take 2005, for example. With the 26th pick, the Sox were able to select (and then pay handsomely in the form of a $4.4 million major-league contract) hard-throwing right-hander Craig Hansen out of St. John’€™s. Hansen was considered the best pitcher in the ‘€™05 draft class and a candidate to go first overall, yet it was Boston that was able to tab him thanks to their resources.

Since then, it’€™s been more of the same. Lars Anderson (18th round in ‘€˜06, $825,000), Casey Kelly (30th overall in ‘€˜08, $3 million), Ryan Westmoreland (fifth round in ‘€˜08, $2 million) are just a few of those who have been paid considerably higher than slot value thanks to the Sox’€™ willingness to go above and beyond to secure elite talents.

Though they have forked over quite a bit to build their prized farm system (ranked in the top 10 in three of the last four years by Baseball America), they have their limits. The team has walked away from enormous talents in the past, Pedro Alvarez (2005, 14th round) and Matt LaPorta (2006, 14th round), two players who dropped due to signability concerns and who ultimately, in fact, proved unsignable within the parameters that the Sox considered reasonable for an offer. But the Epstein administration has never walked away from a first or second-round pick’€” except for ‘€™07 second-rounder Hunter Morris.

After drafting left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone (who was recently shipped to the Indians in the Victor Martinez trade) and middle infielder Ryan Dent with sandwich picks, the Sox were next on the clock with the 87th overall pick. With it they chose Morris, a left-handed-hitting first baseman out of Virgil I Grissom High School. The selection came after both Morris and his advisor had made it known that he was willing to sign for slot value, which at that point would be just under $400,000, according to major-league sources. At the time of the selection, it appeared a safe bet that Boston would be able to lure the Alabama native away from a scholarship to play college ball at Auburn.

‘€œFor me it was a win-win situation,’€ Morris said last month. Even if the two sides failed to agree, something that seemed highly unlikely when the Sox confirmed the asking price prior to his selection, Morris could still take his swings for at least three years in the SEC.

However, when Morris raised his asking price following the draft by $50,000-100,000, it was anything but a win-win situation, especially on Boston’€™s part. The heightened price tag led the Sox, who felt it was important to hold a player to his word and not let him squeeze them for more money after a deal had been agreed upon, to walk away from the draft pick. Morris, however, seems content with how his first foray at the negotiating table played out.

‘€œObviously, there’€™s a dollar sign you can put on forgoing college, but I didn’€™t feel like it reached that,’€ Morris said. ‘€œIt definitely just worked out that, at the time, it was a better fit for me to go to college. I wasn’€™t ready to play professional baseball.’€

The whole ordeal left the Sox burned, moving on without someone who seemed sure to be in the fold by the deadline for signing players. Though the Sox received an identical pick in ‘€™08 (RHP Stephen Fife, who has impressed at Lowell, Greenville, and Salem since his selection) for not being able to put Morris’€™ pen to paper, the negotiation process gave an indication that the Red Sox organization will not permit players and agents to take advantage of their willingness to spend aggressively to acquire talent.

What does this say about the organization? If anything, it makes the clear that, while the team does have money to spend in the draft, they peg each player at a number, regardless of the round in which they were selected. If the asking price surpasses the number, they will turn their attention and resources to other options, much like they have in recent years with the negotiations of free agents Pedro Martinez and Mark Teixeira.

In Morris’€™ case, money clearly proved to be the determining factor, yet the slugger respects what the Red Sox were willing to give.

‘€œThe number that [the Red Sox] offered was very reasonable,’€ Morris said. “It was a great offer, and it just wasn’€™t the right fit for me at the time.”

Two seasons and a stint with Team USA later, Morris has used his bat to back up — and likely increase — his asking price of ‘€™07. Morris has hit .318 at Auburn with 23 home runs and recently finished a summer playing for the Cape League’€™s Falmouth Commodores. Though he joined the team late because he needed to finish up classes, Morris still finished second in the league with eight homers.

He stood on the Fenway grass last month as he prepared to take part in the Cape League’€™s Home Run Derby. At that time, Morris reflected on the hectic process knowing full well that next June, following his junior year at Auburn, he’€™s set to be draft eligible for the first time since ‘€™07. While he said that he’€™ll be happy just to go between the first and the last pick, it was interesting to hear which team he’€™d like to play for.

‘€œI really am comfortable with the Red Sox and I got to know a lot of their guys throughout the organization and management, throughout the negotiations and whole draft process the first time, and I’€™m in no way opposed to being drafted by them again,’€ Morris said.  ‘€œI mean, they’€™re a great organization, and a great place to play. There’€™s nothing better I could ask for. Any of the teams would be great, [but] it would be awesome to play for Boston.’€

As for the Sox, team sources suggest there is no lingering animosity towards Morris, whom their scouts encounter regularly in SEC play. It is far too early project a year down the road, but should the opportunity present itself, would the Red Sox really have no reservations about revisiting negotiations that turned so badly for them in the past? It certainly remains to be seen, but whoever the pick is, the Sox will undoubtedly approach negotiations with both deep pockets and the ability to draw a line in the sand.

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

Read More: Hunter Morris, mlb draft, Red Sox,

Newcomer Anderson Looks To Make Impact

08.16.09 at 4:07 pm ET
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It was almost lost in the whirlwind as July 31 approached. Two days before the trading deadline, on July 29th, the Red Sox traded utility man Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for centerfielder Brian Anderson. Anderson, a first round pick by the White Sox in 2003, has little big league experience, but the potential is there.

In 16 games for Pawtucket following the trade, Anderson hit .259 but with 4 home runs and an .835 OPS.

In the short time he was around, it did not take long for Anderson to convince PawSox manager Ron Johnson that he has what it takes to play at the highest level.

‘€œHe’€™s been very impressive to me in the short time we’€™ve had him,’€ Johnson said in early August. ‘€œWhen Brian Anderson locks into a ball, and he hits it, it’€™s gone. From what I’€™ve seen of this guy in the four home runs that he’€™s hit it’€™s just like boom, gone, done. That’€™s stuff you see in the big leagues.’€

Anderson, who is now 27 years old, did spend some time in the majors when he was with the White Sox, but he never really locked up a starting job. In 2006, the season where he spent the most time in Chicago, he batted just .225 in 365 at-bats.

After a few more seasons with similar production, Chicago decided to pull the trigger on the deal for Kotsay and Anderson was sent to Pawtucket.

‘€œI have a lot of respect for the White Sox,’€ said Anderson. ‘€œThey gave me an opportunity and I wish them the best but it’€™s really excellent to get an opportunity with a team that has the confidence in you to get the job done.’€

That is exactly what Anderson has now with the Red Sox organization, an opportunity — something that became clear when he was called up on Saturday. According to Johnson, the tools that made Anderson the 15th overall pick in the 2003 draft out of the University of Arizona remain apparent.

‘€œHe has a lot of athleticism,’€ said Johnson. ‘€œYou can see why he was a number one pick, you can see why he got himself to the big leagues and that is a really good acquire for this organization. He’€™s going to help our big league club.’€

However, strikeouts have plagued Anderson’€™s career from the get go and before he can make his mark in the big leagues, he knows that he will need to cut down on the swinging and missing. (In his Red Sox debut on Saturday, he went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts.)

‘€œI just need more consistent at-bats,’€ said Anderson. ‘€œI was striking out a lot and I wasn’€™t hitting for power but I basically got the whole strikeout mentality out of my head. My goal is hitting the ball hard and on the barrel and sometimes strikeouts are going to come with that but you need to have quality at-bats.’€

Last Saturday, when Pawtucket took part in the Futures at Fenway game, Anderson went 0-3 at the plate but made more of an impact defensively. In the top of the 7th, the visiting Norfolk Tides were at bat with a runner on second and first baseman Brandon Snyder at the plate.

Snyder connected with a ball, sending it deep into center field. As the ball headed toward the Green Monster, Anderson tracked the ball down just in time to make a leaping catch against the wall. The crowd was stunned as the play ended the inning and the Paw Sox trotted off the field.

After the game, a loss for Pawtucket, Anderson seemed to have surprised himself, saying that it was a tough ball to track down in the tricky Fenway dimensions.

‘€œThat ball was well struck and it kind of hung up there. I was definitely surprised I was able to make that play,’€ Anderson said.

As for being able to play a game at Fenway, Anderson said that although he has played there before, it’€™s always a great atmosphere to be a part of.

‘€œYou can tell some of the fans were a little worn out because they’€™ve been here for seven hours but hats off to them and hopefully they enjoyed some baseball,’€ Anderson said. ‘€œIt was a great opportunity, anytime you get a chance to come to one of these ballparks you’€™ve got to take advantage of it.’€

Now that he is back in the majors with the Red Sox, it appears as if Anderson will have another such opportunity — likely sooner than he expected.

Read More: Brian Anderson, mark kotsay, White Sox,

Anderson called up, Reddick sent down

08.15.09 at 5:54 pm ET
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Here is the Red Sox’ press release pertaining to all the moves over the last two days:

The Boston Red Sox today added shortstop Alex Gonzalez to the active Major League roster and recalled outfielder Brian Anderson from Triple-A Pawtucket. Outfielder Josh Reddick was optioned to Pawtucket today to clear a roster spot for Anderson. To make room for Gonzalez, infielder Chris Woodward was designated for assignment.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Gonzalez, 32, will wear No. 13 and will be available for tonight’€™s game. He was acquired along with cash considerations from Cincinnati yesterday for infielder Kris Negron. Gonzalez hit .210 with three home runs and 26 RBI in 68 games for the Reds this season, all at shortstop.

The right-handed hitter returns for a second stint with the Red Sox after batting .255 with nine home runs and 50 RBI over 111 games in 2006. He also established the club single-season record for highest fielding percentage by a shortstop with a .985 mark. A veteran of 11 Major League seasons, Gonzalez owns a lifetime .246 average with 109 homers and 506 RBI in 1,185 games for Florida (1998-05), Boston (2006) and Cincinnati (2007, 2009).

Anderson, 27, will wear No. 32 and will also be available tonight. He hit .259 with four home runs and seven RBI for Pawtucket since being acquired from the White Sox for outfielder Mark Kotsay on July 28. He appeared in 65 games for Chicago earlier this season, batting .238 with two home runs and 13 RBI. The right-handed hitter owns a .225 average, 20 home runs and 75 RBI in 334 career Major League games since making his debut for the White Sox in 2005. His .991 career fielding percentage ranks ninth among A.L. outfielders with at least 300 games played since 2005.

Reddick, 22, is batting .188 with one home run and two RBI in 9 games over two stints with the Red Sox this season. He began the year batting .277 with 13 homers and 29 RBI in 63 games for Double-A Portland before making his Major League debut. Boston’€™s 17th round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has never appeared in a game at the Triple-A level.

Woodward, 33, went 0-for-4 in five games for the Red Sox since he was claimed off waivers from Seattle on August 7. He has a career .242 batting average with 33 home runs and 191 RBI over 632 games with the Blue Jays (1999-2004), Mets (2005-06), Braves (2007), Mariners (2009) and Red Sox (2009).

Additionally, right-handed pitcher Tim Wakefield and catcher George Kottaras were sent to Pawtucket on a minor league rehab assignment.

Red Sox vs. Rangers Match-Ups, 8/15

08.15.09 at 1:51 pm ET
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Only one week removed from a painful four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium, it looked like the Sox were in for yet another disappointing showing during a critical series last night in Texas.

And then came Victor’€¦

With a clutch two-out double in the ninth, Victor Martinez helped ultimately secure an 8-4 victory over the Rangers, giving Boston a 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card standings.

Today the Sox (who have won four of their last five games) will look to continue their hot streak against Rangers pitcher Derek Holland, who in his only other career start against Boston is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. During his first season in the majors, the 22-year-old Holland is 5-7 with a 5.04 ERA. But don’€™t let his disappointing season fool you: last Sunday, Holland threw a three-hit complete game shutout against the Angels, issuing only one walk and striking out eight along the way. What’€™s more, the young flamethrower only threw 23 balls all game.

His pitching counterpart is Brad Penny, who has lost two of his last three starts. Penny last pitched against Texas on June 5 when he gave up five runs in only 5.2 innings pitched at Fenway.

One matchup Sox fans should be especially worried about tonight is between Penny and Rangers centerfielder Andruw Jones. Though he’€™s only batting .224 this season, Jones is a lifetime .333 hitter against Penny with six homers in 50 career plate appearances. Shortstop Michael Young is also 5-for-10 against Penny lifetime.

On Friday the Sox re-acquired former Boston shortstop and defensive whiz Alex Gonzalez in a trade with Cincinnati, but it’€™s unclear whether he’€™ll be in the lineup tonight.

RANGERS VS. PENNY

Andruw Jones (50 career plate appearances against Penny): .333 average/ .380 OBP/ .800 slugging, 6 homers, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts

Omar Vizquel (35): .303/ .324/ .455, homer, walk, 2 strikeouts

Michael Young (11): 5-for-10, walk

Hank Blalock (10): 3-for-8, 2 walks

Marlon Byrd (10): 3-for-10, 2 strikeouts

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4): 2-for-4, strikeout

Josh Hamilton (3): 1-for-2, walk, strikeout

Ian Kinsler (3): 1-for-3, homer

David Murphy (3): 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts

Elvis Andrus (2): 1-for-2

SOX VS. HOLLAND

Jason Bay (3 career plate appearances against Holland): 1-for-3, strikeout

Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 0-for-2, walk

Dustin Pedroia (3): 1-for-3, strikeout

Nick Green (2): 0-for-2, strikeout

Mike Lowell (2): 1-for-2, homer

David Ortiz (2): 1-for-1, walk

Jason Varitek (2): 1-for-2

Read More: Holland, Match-Ups, Penny, Rangers

Former Sox prospect Negron reacts to trade

08.14.09 at 7:14 pm ET
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Courtesy of Salem Sox radio broadcaster Evan Lepler, here is the transcript of an interview with 2006 seventh-round pick Kris Negron. The base-stealing infielder was traded this afternoon to the Reds for Alex Gonzalez.

The transcript:

As a guy who chooses not to know his own stats, Kris Negron was genuinely surprised when he was informed that, since the All-Star Break, he had hit .306. With 111 starts and only three days off all season, Negron’€™s everyday value forced others to take notice as well. On Friday, Negron became the second member of the Salem Red Sox traded in the past two weeks. While Bryan Price was traded along with two other pitchers for an All-Star in Victor Martinez, Negron was swapped straight-up for big league shortstop Alex Gonzalez. After hearing about the deal, Negron chatted with Red Sox radio broadcaster Evan Lepler about heading to the Reds organization.
 
Evan Lepler: Kris, you play 111 out of 114 games for the Salem Red Sox, and all of a sudden you find out you’€™re heading to a different club. What does that feel like?

Kris Negron: It still hasn’€™t really sunk all the way in yet. I’€™m just excited for the opportunity. I’€™m really thankful that Boston gave me the opportunity to play that many games this year and be in the organization for the past four years. But I’€™m really excited to see what else is out there. Boston’€™s treated me really well, but at the same time, I’€™m really excited.

EL: Can you describe what it was like to find out you were traded?

KN: I didn’€™t believe it. Eppy [Salem manager Chad Epperson] called me and said, ‘€˜hey, you just got traded in the Alex Gonzalez deal,’€™ and I didn’€™t believe him at first. I thought he was just messing with me, but I asked him three more times and every time I asked him he was like, ‘€˜no, I’€™m telling the truth.’€™ We’€™ve been together the past couple years and he’€™s helped me out a lot, so I’€™m just really thankful that I got the opportunity. I can’€™t stop saying that enough; I’€™m just really thankful for all of this and really excited to see what’€™s ahead.

EL: It seems like through the ups and downs this season for this club, and we’€™ve had some incredible ups and incredible downs, you’€™ve been one of the guys that have kept this team together as a team leader. How did you develop into that role?

KN: I don’€™t know, I just go out there and play as hard as I can every day. And if everyone else sees that and that helps them out, it makes me feel good. I just go out, play 110 [%], and just give everything I have. I think that’€™s contagious.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alex Gonzalez, Kris Negron,

Gonzalez coming back to Boston

08.14.09 at 2:05 pm ET
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Revolving door, meet an old friend: According to Rob Bradford, the Red Sox have re-acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for 23-year-old infielder Kris Negron.

The shortstop, who spent just one year in Boston, cleared waivers earlier today, making a deal back to Boston possible. Boston.com first reported Gonzalez’s presence in the deal.

Gonzalez first came to the Red Sox when the team’s uncertainty at shortstop was at an all-time high. Edgar Renteria, who the team had signed to a four-year, $40 million contract just one year earlier, had been traded to the Braves for top prospect Andy Marte. Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox’ top prospect, had been sent to Florida in a package for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. With no long-term options in sight, the Red Sox opted for a stop-gap in the former Marlin.

Given a one-year, $3 million deal, Gonzalez was a memorable asset for the Sox in an otherwise-forgetable 2006 season. He hit just .255 with nine homers that season, but his defense delighted a fan base that was treated to 30 errors by Renteria the year prior.

In that season, Gonzalez had a fielding percentage of .985, becoming the first Red Sox shortstop to lead the American League in fielding since Rick Burleson in 1979.  Manager Terry Francona was one of many who appreciated Gonzalez’ contributions.

“Alex has God-given ability and works very hard, but the other thing he does, is that when he does not get hits, he does not take his at-bats to the field with him,” Francona said of Gonzalez. “For some guys, it’s hard to separate it, but it’s not for Alex.”

The Red Sox eventually decided against re-signing Gonzalez and instead gave Dodgers Julio Lugo shortstop a 4-year, $36 million contract. The move was seemingly made with an eye on offense rather than defense, but Gonzalez’ .272 average with the Red in ’07 trumped Lugo’s .237 mark with the Sox.

Since leaving Boston, Gonzalez’ noteworthy defense has deteriorated. After making just seven errors for the Sox in ’06, Gonzalez made 16 in his first season in Cincinnati. The shortstop has six errors through 68 game this season.

Injuries have also been a concern for Gonzalez since leaving Boston. He missed the entire ’08 season with a left knee compression fracture and five weeks this season with bone chips in his right elbow. Nevertheless, the Red Sox still hope he can make contributions at a position that has already seen the likes of  Lugo, Nick Green, Jed Lowrie, Gil Velazquez, and Chris Woodward.

While it was his glove that made Gonzalez a fan-favorite in Boston, true Red Sox fans will appreciate him for what he did with his bat on October 22, 2003 as a member of the Marlins. Facing the Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series with New York ahead, two games to one, Gonzalez came to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. Though his team hadn’t scored since a three-run first inning, Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer off Jeff Weaver to give the Marlins the extra-inning victory. The rest is history, as the Marlins won in six behind a complete game shutout from Beckett.

For his career, Gonzalez has a .243 average and .970 fielding percentage. He played his lone All-Star game at Fenway Park in a ’99 season in which he hit .277 with 14 homers. Gonzalez has had only one 20-homer season, which came when he hit 23 in ’04.

Negron, a seventh-round pick by the Sox in 2006, was hitting .264 with three homers and 20 stolen bases for the Salem Sox. The California native is described by SoxProspects.com as “exceptionally fast down the line to first, and quick on the basepaths. Negron would be a prototypical leadoff hitter if he could make more contact.” 

Read More: Alex Gonzalez, Red Sox,

Red Sox vs. Rangers Match-ups, 8/14

08.14.09 at 11:26 am ET
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RED SOX VS. KEVIN MILLWOOD

Now in the fourth (and potentially final) year of a $48 million contract signed back in, December of ’05, Kevin Millwood is finally earning his money. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they’ve fallen victim to his resurgence twice already this season.

After posting earned run averages over 5.00 in the last two seasons, Millwood has lowered the mark to 3.38 in ’09. Though his record stands at just 9-7, he has been especially dangerous in Arlington, which is a bit ironic given it’s reputation as a hitter’s park. The right-hander has a record of 7-1 at home to go with an impressive 2.53 ERA. On the road, he’s just 2-6 (the second of those two wins came June 5 at Fenway) with a 4.28 ERA.

In his lone start at home against the Sox this season, Millwood took the win in a 9-7 Texas victory on July 20. The game may be remembered better for the three homers served up to Rangers hitters by John Smoltz, but Millwood threw six innings of two-run ball for the win. Here are the Sox’ career numbers against the veteran:
 
Mike Lowell (68 career plate appearances vs. Millwood): .339 average / .426 on-base / .542 slugging, 2 homers, 8 BB, 8 SO
J.D. Drew (34): .321 / .441 / .464, homer, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 7 SO
Jason Varitek (31): .414 / .452 / .586, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO
David Ortiz (29): .360 / .414 / .760, 3 homers, 10 RBI, 3 BB, 2 SO
Kevin Youkilis (18): .467 / .556 / .533, 3 BB, SO
Casey Kotchman (16): .333 / .375 / .933, 3 homers, 7 RBI, 2 SO
Victor Martinez (15): .429 / .467 / .500, RBI, BB, SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (14): .231 / .286 / .462, RBI, BB, 2 SO
Dustin Pedroia (14): .083 / .214 / .167, 2 BB, SO
Jason Bay (13): .308 / .308 / .462, 2 SO
Nick Green (5): 1-for-4, RBI
Chris Woodward (2): 0-for-1, BB

RANGERS VS. JON LESTER

Ah, memories. That might be what Jon Lester thinks each time he prepares to take the hill against the Rangers given that they were the team he first faced back in June of ’06. Things that make this game different: the game isn’t at Fenway, Lester is fully capable of surpassing five innings, and there isn’t a 4-hour-47-minute rain delay expected.

The one time Lester faced the Rangers this season came smack-dab in the middle of his hottest streak of the year. After striking out 12 Blue Jays the start prior, Lester went the distance on June 6, fanning 11 Rangers in the process while allowing just one run.

In his career, Lester is 2-0 against the Rangers with 26 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has an ERA of 3.33 in four starts. Here’s how Rangers hitters have done against him:

Michael Young (15): .500 / .533 / .643, BB, 2 SO
Hank Blalock (7): 3-for-6, BB
Josh Hamilton (7): 2-for-7, homer, RBI, SO
Andruw Jones (7): 0-for-4, RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Marlon Byrd (6): 0-for-6, 2 SO
Esteban German (6): 0-for-4, 2 BB, SO
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (6): 0-for-6, 2 SO
Nelson Cruz (4): 0-for-4, SO
Elvis Andrus (3): 0-for-2, BB
David Murphy (3): 1-for-3, 2 SO

Read More: Lester, Match-Ups, Millwood, Rangers

Don’t blame the kid

08.13.09 at 7:13 pm ET
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Thursday was a day that 22-year-old Josh Reddick won’t soon forget.

He fought a knuckling, diving line drive at his ankles, a ball that turned into the first run of the day against Clay Buchholz. He made a basket catch along the right field line when wind currents played tricks on him.

And he faced a starting pitcher in Justin Verlander who was throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning, including on his 123rd and final pitch, a strikeout of Jason Bay.

“I don’t think I’ve faced anybody that’s thrown a 123rd pitch,” Reddick said of Verlander, who earned the win in Detroit’s 2-0 win over the Red Sox at Fenway. “I’ve only seen 101 one other time and that was in 2007 but it was about his 15th pitch of the game. That was amazing.” Read the rest of this entry »

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