|02.21.11 at 7:00 am ET|
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.
‘When 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. ‘Hey, 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.
‘[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.
‘It 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.
|02.20.11 at 1:52 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ask any athlete who has reached the golden years of his playing career and every one of them will tell you the moment you stop adapting to the changes around you is the very moment you’re career is done.
“I think I’ve adapted as a human being, first and foremost, and then as a player,” Varitek said. “I’ve gone through changes that way. It’s fun for me and I love talking about the game, sharing the game and I love listening about the game, too. You can learn and soon as you’re arrogant and ignorant enough to think you can’t learn, it’s time to hang up the spikes.”
It’s the very same attitude that allowed great catchers of the past to play into their late 30s and even 40s before hanging up the spikes for good – greats like Bob Boone, Johnny Bench and of course, Carlton Fisk, who played until the ripe old age of 45.
“I love talking to Pudge whenever he comes [to Boston],” Varitek said. “I could sit and talk to him all day long. I wish he were around more often. I spent time talking to [former White Sox strength and conditioning coach] Steve Odgers, who used to work with Pudge. I think now, for me personally, the work I [did] 10 or 15 years ago, this is when it’s starting to show and pay off and do things. Maybe not as much then but it’s allowed my body a position to handle different things. If I hadn’t done that work, it’d be a lot different if all of sudden I started it.”
Odgers now works as a strength and conditioning specialist for athletes represented by Scott Boras.
For now, it’ll be Varitek – who turns 39 on April 11 – serving the role of mentor for 25-year-old Jason Saltalamacchia. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are on record as saying they can already see a lot of Varitek in Salty.
“I can’t say it’s teaching,” Varitek said. “Salty is going to be Salty and hopefully, that’s not what he’s living with is to live with that or not live with that. I believe Salty is his own person and he’s going to be his player. He’s extremely talented. I don’t know if I had those abilities he has when I was that young and broke in and done those things. Yeah, we’re big catchers, switch-hit and strong-armed throwers and love to play the game. His work ethic and the things he’s displayed, it’s been an easy bond right away.”
Varitek spent Sunday catching the bullpen side of 44-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, a role he hasn’t fully served since his first year in 1998. Varitek said he will look forward to that challenge again in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.20.11 at 11:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox prospect Mathew Price, a right-handed pitcher who was drafted out of Virginia Tech in the eighth round of last year’s draft and who signed for a $415,000 bonus, is among the group of players who is rehabbing in Fort Myers after undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall.
The Red Sox knew that there was a possibility that Price would need Tommy John surgery when they drafted him, but they initially tried to see if his elbow would respond favorably to rehab. However, the team had him undergo surgery shortly before fall Instructional League, feeling it made more sense to have his elbow repaired then rather than proceeding with rehab and potentially requiring that the procedure would still prove necessary if Price didn’t respond by spring training.
The Sox felt that Price’s stuff was among the best of any of the pitchers whom they signed in last year’s draft. He was scouted with a sinking 93-94 mph fastball, with a boost to 94-95 mph towards the end of the year. He also showed an above-average changeup and a curve that graded as below average.
Price proved inconsistent at Virginia Tech while going 7-4 with a 4.95 ERA, 85 strikeouts and 26 walks in 91 innings, but the Sox liked the upside of his stuff and athleticism. Given the relatively modest cost, position of the draft and potential upside of the pitcher, the Sox were willing to sign him despite the questions about his elbow.
For now, however, the development of the 21-year-old will have to wait while he rehabs from surgery. Price is slated to visit Dr. James Andrews to see if he can be cleared to being throwing.
|02.19.11 at 6:30 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news on Friday of Jim Edmonds‘ retirement, it was inevitable. Every mention of the conclusion of his career would have an accompaniment in the form of a replay of The Catch.
Little explanation is required to conjure the image. Edmonds, then the Angels center fielder covered a seemingly impossible distance, running back to the plate. He dove full out, caught the ball and held on. As he lay on the ground, he rolled over and held the ball up in his left hand before collapsing on the warning track.
Edmonds had an exceptional career. He was viewed as one of the best defensive center fielders of his generation, if not all time, and he also delivered 393 homers while hitting .284 with a .376 OBP, .527 slugging mark and .903 OPS. A strong case can be made for him among the top center fielders in major league history.
But mention his name, and it is The Catch that instantly comes to mind. And so it was that David Howard, the Red Sox minor league field coordinator, saw it replayed on Friday — in connection with the news of Edmonds’ retirement — while riding an exercise bike next to big league coaching assistant Rob Leary.
The reaction was obvious.
“‘It’s me!’” Howard yelled to Leary. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.19.11 at 1:40 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As long as the Red Sox have the funds available they want their fans to know that they are going to invest it in putting a championship caliber team on the field.
The returning players certainly got that message loud and clear this winter and showed their appreciation by giving ownership a standing ovation during Saturday’ meeting held by skipper Terry Franacona, prior to the first full-squad workout.
And it’s only going to get better.
After addressing the media for 23 minutes, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino announced that the team paid $85 million in revenue sharing to MLB in 2010, including a $1.5 million luxury tax. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Red Sox have an estimated payroll of $161.5 million in 2011, third behind the Yankees ($202.5 million) and the Phillies ($164.6 million).
And, despite the addition of big-ticket stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Red Sox president Lucchino said Saturday the team still has financial flexibility to add even more artillery in the battle to win the AL East in 2011.
“We always have some amount of money to be determined each year, but we will certainly look to make improvements if the team is in the hunt and has a specific need and there’s a specific opportunity,” Lucchino said. “Yeah. I think that’s a specific obligation of ownership.”
In two megadeals, the Red Sox commited $142 million over seven years to Crawford five days after sending blue chip prospects Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes and Eric Patterson to San Diego for Gonzalez. The Red Sox are said to be on the verge of a $164 million extension with Gonzalez over seven years. J.D. Drew is in the final season of a five-year, $70 million contract.
“Every team has limits,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said. “We have a strong commitment to winning, every year, every offseason. But you can’t always do everything that you want to do because you have long-term considerations as well as short-term considerations. The right piece for what you’re looking for as far as a particular player at a particular position doesn’t always match up. This year it did.” Read the rest of this entry »
|02.19.11 at 11:37 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — With expectations and predictions of the franchise’s first 100-win season since 1946 and an third World Series title in eight seasons, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said the team has lots of work ahead to just make the playoffs.
“I don’t see us as a clear favorite,” Henry said when asked of the Yankees. “I see the teams as fairly evenly matched. We’ve got our work cut out for us to hopefully win the division.”
“I feel the same way,” added Red Sox president Larry Lucchino. “There are other teams that are improving in this division. This is just not a mano-a-mano, two-team match. We’ve got other teams that are building a solid team and are making substantial commitments to those teams. The American League East will still be the rough-and-tumble American League East. Let’s make no mistake about that.”
Henry was joined by Red Sox executives Tom Werner and Lucchino, manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein in an address to the team before the first full-squad workout of 2011. Henry said the front office didn’t need to remind the team they haven’t accomplished anything yet this year.
“I think that goes without saying,” Henry said. “This is a group of professionals. They know they haven’t accomplished anything. What we are on paper needs to translate into results and this is the first day of that translation.”
Lucchino described the atmosphere in the clubhouse as ownership joined manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein in delivering an address to the team prior to the club’s first full-squad workout – an address that included a standing ovation from the players to ownership.
“There’s quite definitely a sense of confidence, a sense of optimism, a sense of what could possibly be,” Lucchino said. “You feel it when you first walk into camp and talk to the individual players.
“The meeting today had that kind of feeling as well. But everyone knows that hope springs eternal every spring. We’ve got to make sure that we’re healthy, and that the good luck and randomness of the game work in our favor as well. But there’s an atmosphere here that is extremely positive, confident, upbeat, that is very encouraging.”
Lucchino chimed in by reminding everyone the expectations of these Red Sox are defined simply by their identity. But he stopped far short of saying that anything less than a World Series title would be a big disappointment.
“Every year we come to camp with a hope. We are the Boston Red Sox,” Lucchinio explained. “We come to camp with a sense of high expectation, but none of us are crazy enough to take a position like that right now, at least I’m not.
“I just want to speak for myself. There’s too much randomness in the game, too many other factors that play into the game. I mentioned randomness. I mentioned health, team chemistry. We’ll have to wait and see how it all comes together, but we have a goal every year, and that’s to play in October so we have a chance to be world champions again.”
“I would echo what John and Tom have said. There was definitely a feel and a sense of confidence, a sense of optimism
|02.19.11 at 9:32 am ET|
Manager Terry Francona said in January that Scutaro will be the Sox’ everyday shortstop, prompting Scutaro to fire up the grill and leaving Lowrie to face the reality that he will be a player whose value to the Sox (again, barring injury) comes from his ability to be a productive player while playing all four infield positions.
Lowrie’s comfort level, he said, is in the middle infield, but he understands that his multi-positional skill is to both his and the team’s advantage.
“I see myself as an everyday shortstop, but I don’t think it hurts that I can play other positions. I think the team sees that. I think that adds value,” the 26-year-old said. ‘It’s just general improvements. There’s nothing specific I’m going to work on. Obviously, I assume they’re going to ask me to play more than one position, so it’s just continuing to get reps at more than one position while still focusing at shortstop.’
Though Lowrie’s strength was diminished for almost all of the year after he was diagnosed with mono in spring training and missed all of the first half, he produced at an impressive level in the second half. In 55 games, the switch-hitter hit .287 with a .381 OBP, .526 slugging mark and .907 OPS, launching nine homers in 197 plate appearances.
Those are marks that he can build on, and give some indication of the kind of value that he offers the Sox as a depth option. Those sorts of numbers would give the team above-average production at any infield position. And given the complexion of the roster, the team is well-served by the fact that Lowrie is now capable of playing all four infield positions (even as he describes both first and third as ongoing adjustments).
That said, Lowrie jokingly noted that he was skeptical that he is about to force a left/right platoon with Adrian Gonzalez.
“I don’t think [first base] is a career move,” Lowrie mused. ‘That’s not the competition I want to be in. I’ll just take as many reps as I can at the other positions [aside from shortstop], just to get comfortable.’
In that regard, Lowrie is already well ahead of where he was a year ago. It was by the time that he reported to spring training that he started to feel that something was amiss. And, of course, in each of the last two offseasons, the required rehab on his wrist prevented him from a winter of normal strengthening and conditioning for the regular season.
This year, that is different. Lowrie was able to build for the season in a way that he hadn’t, by his estimate, in at least two or three offseasons, something that gives him optimism about the form that the coming year might take.
“It’s a long season. Having a little extra strength and being able to maintain that throughout the year, the idea is to help performance,” said Lowrie. “It’s been a long time [since he had a healthy offseason]. It feels good to feel healthy, feel good about yourself. I look forward to helping this team.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Top 40 in Review: Deven Marrero and Trey Ball
- Help Wanted: Writers
- Top 40 in Review: Michael Kopech and Sean Coyle
- Top 40 in Review: Wendell Rijo and Edwin Escobar
- Top 40 Season in Review: Travis Shaw and Sam Travis
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Marrero dominates in AFL
- Top 40 in Review: Nick Longhi and Teddy Stankiewicz
- Top 40 in Review: Heath Hembree and Steven Wright
- Top 40 Season in Review: Javier Guerra and Henry Ramos
- Top 40 in Review: Simon Mercedes and Carlos Asuaje