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For $2 million, Daniel Bard could have been a Yankee

02.21.11 at 10:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard is now arguably the most important member of the Red Sox bullpen. He emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in the game last year, forging a 1.93 ERA and striking out more than a batter an inning over 73 appearances. Manager Terry Francona used him in almost any pivotal situation that arose prior to the ninth inning, and the 25-year-old had no problem with attacking lefties or righties, whether for three outs or more. He is a young and inexpensive weapon with few peers.

All of that makes it intriguing to wonder how close he came to becoming a Yankee.

Bard was already a highly regarded pitcher in high school thanks to his easy mid-90s velocity. No projection was needed to wonder if he had a big league fastball, and he also featured a curve and change. He was named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, and so would have been viewed as an early-round draft pick had he wanted to turn pro.

But Bard, at that time, wasn’t that interested in life in the minor leagues. He had a scholarship offer to the University of North Carolina, where he would be able to enter the starting rotation immediately. And so, when he was eligible for the draft in 2003, teams were in no rush to waste a draft pick on him.

More than 600 players were selected before Bard’s name was finally called. The Yankees selected the young right-hander in the 20th round. Conversations with New York were brief. Bard did not rule out turning pro, but it would take a big dollar figure for him to sign with the Yankees. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2003 draft, Daniel Bard, jeff karstens, Jonathan Papelbon

The @Bradfo Bag, and a little bit more from Red Sox land

02.21.11 at 10:16 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — You asked, I’ll answer (or at least try to).

I figured a good lead-in would be video from two years ago when our good friend Gar Ryness (you know him as Batting Stance Guy) came down to do his thing in The Fort. Daniel Bard jumped into the fun, a moment he reminisced about Monday morning, leading to me do my imitation of Phil Plantier (and then proceeding to have quad cramps for the next 15 minutes).

Anyhoo, here we go …

@MikeGiardi asks: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

This just in: The woodchuck has been shut down due to a sore shoulder.

Speaking of which, talked to Jason Bergmann this morning. The righty pitcher hasn’t thrown for the last week due to a sore right shoulder, and coming up short when undergoing the strength tests for the shoulder. The plan is to re-test Bergmann in the next couple of days and go from there. The hurler, who underwent an MRI when signing his minor-league deal with the Sox, had been throwing off a mound for a few weeks and reported he felt improvement over the past few days.

@tmurph207 asks: “If Its and Buts were Candy and Nuts would every day Really be Christmas?”

No, but it would be President’s Day.

Speaking of “its” and “buts,” asked John Lackey today if felt any different pitching without almost 15 pounds (I know, bad segue). He reported that he couldn’t tell a dramatic difference, but did say that he felt a bunch better this spring training than a year ago.

“I feel better at this point than I did last year at this point,” he said. “I feel I’m a little further ahead than I was at this point last year. Last year I was just trying to get through spring training healthy, because I hadn’t done it the two previous ones.”

One thing I remembered about Lackey last spring training was that he didn’t walk a batter until the very end of spring training last season.

@DrJeffLo asks: “Question For Gary Tuck – who does Salty remind him of? Fisk? VMart? Yogi? Bench? and what is Salty’s greatest attribute? ”

Fortunately Tuck was available just before heading out to his “catching lab.” When asked who Jarrod Saltalamacchia reminded him of he said. “Nobody, that was the goal. He’s so different than anybody else, physically.”

Saltalamacchia noted that he didn’t even start catching full-time until he was 12 or 13-years-old, having decided to commit to being a backstop after his brother (a former catcher) moved to third base. (Note: He actually served as Kason Gabbard’s catcher in high school as a freshman.) The catcher said that he really hasn’t patterned himself after anybody in particular, although he did admire the hard-nosed way Jason Kendall approached the game.

When asked who he wanted to ultimately be compared to, Saltalamacchia said, “I want to be myself. I don’t want to copy somebody. I want to be me. I want to be my own player.”

@ALargeRegular asks: “Why is he called JD when his first name is David?”

Straight from J.D. Drew this morning: His dad’s name is David so he was initially called Jonathan to avoid confusion, and that morphed into ‘J.D.’ But when the abbreviation really took hold was when the scouting director for Florida State baseball asked him what name he wanted on all the correspondence, and subsequent Seminole-related items. The answer was “J.D.” There you have it.

@DTufts asks: “Name of the new Ball Park set to open in 2012 (Lee County/Ft.Myers)?”

No name as of yet, but rumor has it that Blu Sushi in Fort Myers cut back on offering its traditional $14 All-You-Can-Eat lunch special in an effort to take a run at the naming rights.

@Pete_Morrison asks: “Which player’s physical conditioning has surprised you the most this spring? Good or bad.”

Lackey is the obvious choice, but other than him nobody really jumps out. Jose Iglesias looks a bit more muscular. One player who doesn’t really look any different, but is moving better is Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro, who didn’t play Winter Ball for just the second time in his professional career, explained this morning that he can actually raise his arm high enough to throw a baseball without just simply flipping it, as was the case for much of the second-half of last season. He also reports that the plantar fasciitis he had been saddled with prior to last season is a thing of the past.

“Not really. It gets a little tired but nothing like last year,” said Scutaro when asked if he could feel any discomfort in his right shoulder. “It’s fine. I couldn’t do any of this stuff last year.”

Got to go, but keep the questions coming either at rbradford@weei.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/bradfo.

How Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and two Superstations influenced Bobby Jenks

02.21.11 at 10:06 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Change is never easy.

But Bobby Jenks has made a career out of it. The former fifth-round pick of the Anaheim Angels in 2000 came up through their system as a starter, cut from the same mold as Roger Clemens: big, strong and intimidating.

The new Red Sox, who will share the late innings with Daniel Bard behind Jonathan Papelbon, acknowledged Monday that he was a big fan of Clemens and Greg Maddux when he broke into baseball as a starter.

“When I was younger, I was a starting pitcher and I looked up to Roger Clemens a lot and I used to watch him and Greg Maddux a lot because I grew up a huge Braves fan,” Jenks said. “You’re either a Cubs fan with TBS and WGN so I had TBS and Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens were the two biggest guys that I watched.”

[AUDIO: Listen to Bobby Jenks talk about Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and his right elbow.]

But one elbow surgery and rehab was all it took to change the course of his career.

Jenks ran into elbow problems in 2004 in the Angels system and was waived before being picked up by the White Sox in 2005.

“It was a combined decision in ’04 after I had my elbow surgery to try to keep less innings and less stress on the elbow so the year before, in talking with the Angels, I knew I might be going into the bullpen in that ’05 season with the Angels but I ended up getting picked up by the White Sox and it just worked out the same way,” Jenks added.

Jenks appeared in 32 regular season games for the 2005 White Sox before leading his team to a World Series title with two saves apiece against the Red Sox and Astros in the ALDS and World Series.

Read More: 2005 World Series, 2011 Spring Training, bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox

John Lackey on D&C: Josh Beckett in 2010 ‘just wasn’t healthy ever’

02.21.11 at 9:31 am ET
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Red Sox pitcher John Lackey sat down with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning from spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Having been the newcomer to the clubhouse last year, Lackey was asked what Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford should expect. “It’s going to be different for them, for sure,” he said. “Especially Adrian, coming from San Diego, it’s a little more laid-back out there. It’s going to be a little more intense around here. But they’ll learn to enjoy it. Carl knows a little bit about it, playing in this division. He’s been to Fenway a bunch, so I think he’ll be pretty comfortable.”

Lackey said pitchers are “definitely more apt to make a mistake” when Crawford is on the basepaths, so he’s pleased that he doesn’t have to worry about that any more. And he wasn’t the only Red Sox pitcher celebrating Crawford’s arrival in Boston. “I was pretty fired up about it, for sure,” Lackey said of hearing about the signing. “I think I found out from [Jon] Lester, actually. He texted me, ‘We don’t have to face Carl any more.’ It was pretty cool.”

Lackey, who noted he worked out with a new trainer in the offseason ‘€” a Los Angeles fire captain ‘€” and lost 10-15 pounds by doing more cardio work, said his problems on the mound last season weren’t due to any off-field adjustments. “I think more the AL East, just better teams, was the main thing,” he said. “I don’t think the transition was a huge deal. I’ve played in a bunch of pressure games. I don’t think that affects me any.”

Looking at his first-half struggles, Lackey said: “I was trying to maybe sink the ball a little bit too much early on in the season, trying to get grounds balls, trying to be too much contact-friendly. Later on in the year, I went back to throwing some four-seamers, and hard breaking balls, and started getting some strikeouts and started making things a little bit easier on myself.”

Added Lackey: “Maybe a little bit of the ballpark might have had something to do with it, but it was definitely something that I didn’t like, so I went back to the way I’d been in the past and it worked out a lot better.”

Speaking about his Red Sox teammates, he said: “I’ve only been here a year, and I’ve got some lifelong friends in that clubhouse already. It’s a great group of guys and [signing with Boston is] something I haven’t regretted at all.”

One of those friends is Josh Beckett, who had a down year in 2010. “He just wasn’t healthy ever,” Lackey said. “Josh Beckett healthy doesn’t pitch like that. That’s the bottom line.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, john lackey, Jon Lester

Adrian Gonzalez on D&C: David Ortiz would win footrace

02.21.11 at 8:22 am ET
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A few days into his first spring training with the Red Sox, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez stopped by for a visit with Dennis & Callahan Monday morning in Fort Myers, Fla. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Gonzalez said he isn’t worried that the intense following in this town will be a distraction for him. “I love the game of baseball. I [couldn't] care less what’s going on outside of the game,” he said. “Once you step in between those lines, you’re just playing the game. You forget about everything else and you’re just having fun with it. You’ll notice that for me, once the game starts, everything else is out of my head and the only thing I’m focused on is winning that game.”

Asked about the atmosphere in the Red Sox clubhouse, Gonzalez indicated the players understand what’s expected of them. “The Padres clubhouse is a lot more laid-back,” he said. “It’s more, I would say, more of a somewhat relaxed [group]. Here it’s very relaxed. But over there, there’s nothing that could go wrong in the Padres clubhouse. Everybody’s having fun. It’s more quiet here. There’s more personalities. But everybody knows that the only good thing that can come out of the season is winning the World Series.”

Gonzalez grew up in San Diego but always has been a fan of the Red Sox. “It’s an organization that as a kid I followed,” he said. “I always enjoyed watching. I always loved watching players that were with Red Sox growing up ‘€” Wade Boggs. I always enjoyed on film, not live, but Ted Williams, things like that. I always loved the Red Sox. It just seemed like a perfect fit, and when the trade was made, it was something that I was excited about.”

A surgically repaired shoulder has limited Gonzalez in the opening days of spring training, but he insists he’ll be ready for Opening Day and has no plans to take any time off. “I played the whole season last year hurt,” he said. “It’s just to what degree of hurt you’re talking about. If it’s something that you can just throw some tape on, get some treatment, maybe take an anti-inflammatory pill or something, and you can get out there, you’re good to go. I don’t like to be in the dugout. I don’t like to take a day off. I like to be in every single game. My goal is to play 162-plus every year.”

Asked if he thinks he’s a better hitter or fielder, Gonzalez said: “I’d say fielding comes easier to me than hitting.”

Gonzalez said he has good agility and quickness around the bag, but he would “definitely” lose in a race to David Ortiz. “Straight ahead, I’m the slowest guy you’ll find,” he said. “You’ll find out, trust me. When I get thrown out the first time, you’ll be like, ‘Man, he didn’t make it?’ And then you’ll go back and watch the video and you’ll see I went as hard as I can out of the box.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Ted Williams, Wade Boggs

Red Sox Recap: What happened Sunday in Fort Myers

02.21.11 at 7:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — First off, happy President’s Day!

Sunday brought the home whites for the Red Sox, thanks to picture day. One of the more noteworthy images was the collection of starters — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro and J.D. Drew — running the bases as a group, executing conditioning drills.

A good amount of pitchers also threw live batting practice for the first time, including Tim Wakefield, who befuddled the likes of Ortiz, Crawford and Youkilis. Catching the knuckleballer was Jason Varitek, whom Wakefield said he would be confident in throwing to, and has been for some time.

Speaking of Varitek, the Sox’ captain spoke at length about his desire to play beyond 2011 and how the 38-year-old feels he is prepared to play into his 40’s.

Of note from Red Sox’ manager Terry Francona:

Dennys Reyes and Alfredo Aceves will be scheduled to get their Visas on the 23rd. Francona believed this development wouldn’t hold back Reyes in the competition for a spot in the Sox’ bullpen.

– On catching Wakefield, Francona said, “It’s a chore. One guy (John Flaherty, in 2006) retired. It’s not an easy task.”

– Asked if the presence of Crawford will make it more difficult for teams to shift against Ortiz, Francona replied, “It will be interesting to see … You can’t defense everything. You have to pick your poison. That’s why we’re glad he’s on our team.”

– The Boston Globe reported that closer Jonathan Papelbon missed Sunday’s workout for an excused personal reason.

Alex Speier wrote the definitive piece on pitcher Andrew Miller. Of note from the story:

– After the Rays drafted him out of high school in the third round of the 2003 draft, he was offered a major league contract that included a seven-figure bonus. He declined.

– After a singularly dominant college career, the left-hander further advanced his prospects. He was viewed as the top overall pick in the 2006 draft, but dropped for signability reasons. Though he was hoping to drop to the late-first round, where he thought the Yankees or Red Sox might take him, the Tigers took him with the No. 6 overall pick.

That, in turn, led to another major league contract offer straight out of college. Miller signed this one, in a decision that had huge implications for his development. The Tigers (and then the Marlins, who traded for him) had just four minor league options for the left-hander, meaning that he was in many respects rushed.

– In response to that career trajectory, when he became a free agent this offseason (after the Marlins traded him to the Sox, who, in turn, did not tender him a major league contract, thus giving him a chance to talk to all 30 big league clubs), Miller turned down offers of big league deals in order to sign a minor league contract with the Sox.

- Mathew Price, an eighth-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2010, is scheduled to visit with Dr. James Andrews to see if he can begin throwing in his recovery from Tommy John surgery that he underwent four months ago.

– A couple days removed from the announcement that Jim Edmonds is retiring, one Red Sox coach recalled playing a huge part in the signature play of the center fielder’s career.

Why Andrew Miller is already one-of-a-kind

02.21.11 at 7:00 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A strong case can be made that no one has faced the sort of career decisions that left-hander Andrew Miller has faced at such a young age. At just 25 (he turns 26 in May), the southpaw has faced three decisions that few have ever known.

–After the Rays drafted him out of high school in the third round of the 2003 draft, he was offered a major league contract that included a seven-figure bonus. He declined.

–After a singularly dominant college career, the left-hander further advanced his prospects. He was viewed as the top overall pick in the 2006 draft, but dropped for signability reasons. Though he was hoping to drop to the late-first round, where he thought the Yankees or Red Sox might take him, the Tigers took him with the No. 6 overall pick.

That, in turn, led to another major league contract offer straight out of college. Miller signed this one, in a decision that had huge implications for his development. The Tigers (and then the Marlins, who traded for him) had just four minor league options for the left-hander, meaning that he was in many respects rushed.

–In response to that career trajectory, when he became a free agent this offseason (after the Marlins traded him to the Sox, who, in turn, did not tender him a major league contract, thus giving him a chance to talk to all 30 big league clubs), Miller turned down offers of big league deals in order to sign a minor league contract with the Sox.

After having missed development on a rushed path to the majors in the early stages of his career, Miller chose to pursue minor league offers in hopes of avoiding any shortcuts while trying to fulfill his potential. Towards that end, the contract contains carefully crafted provisions meant to ensure he stays with Boston for the entire year, including a club option for 2012 that vests if he’s assigned to another club should he be added to the big league roster and then exposed to waivers in an effort to send him back down.

In signing this deal, Miller’s priority was not to be in the major leagues as soon as possible, but rather to have the sort of player development that will one day keep him there for the long haul.

‘€œWhen I was 22 years old, I was like, ‘€˜Forget development, get me out of here. I want to pitch in the big leagues,’€™’€ said Miller. ‘€œHey, we all take different paths. This is where I’€™m at. ‘€¦ There’€™s no what-ifs about me throwing 500 innings in the minor leagues before I got to the big leagues. Shoot, I’€™ll never trade those experiences for anything.

‘€œ[But] being out of options, at this point in my career, look, I’€™ve experienced some pretty cool stuff. I’€™ve been in that situation where you need to make the team where they’€™re rushing you for different reasons.

‘€œIt just seemed to me like Boston’€™s the place that wanted me the most. They have the best resources. They were the right fit for me. They’€™re the right fit for a lot of people. That’€™s why everyone comes here.’€

For more on Miller’s decisions and potential with the Sox, click here.

Read More: andrew miller, Marlins, Rays, tigers
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