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What to make of the Red Sox’ New Zealand softball signee?

02.10.11 at 9:52 am ET
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An intriguing signing became official this week, with the Red Sox inking 17-year-old Te Wara “Beau” Bishop — a New Zealand softball standout — to a pro contract. Bishop, who received a five-figure bonus, has one of the more unusual pedigrees that you’ll see in a player signed to a pro contract, in that he comes from a country whose baseball tradition is virtually non-existent, and he has never played the game.

So what to make of the young player? For that, we turn to Red Sox coordinator of scouting in the Pacific Rim, Jon Deeble.

Deeble, the National Head Coach for Australia’s baseball team in international play, had been tracking Bishop for some time, and was impressed by his bat speed and his actions as a softball catcher. While it might seem strange to make such judgments about a softball player, Deeble suggests that fast pitch softball actually presents an interesting venue in which to observe a player’s actions, particularly defensively.

“It is amazing how hard they throw over 40-45 feet, it looks way faster than baseball and the ball gets on you in a flash,” Deeble wrote in an email. “This kid handles catching the fast pitches with ease.”

So, it didn’t take long for Deeble to be convinced of Bishop’s good hands. But that is not his only tool. The Sox saw a player with plenty of projectable talent, though for obvious reasons, he is extremely raw, and for him to advance in the professional ranks, it will take a great deal of work by both the player and the player development staff to help his transition to a new sport.

That said, the Sox were impressed by the early glimpses of what might be possible for the catcher.

“We have been following Beau for a while now. He is one of the best softballers in [New Zealand]. He is a catcher with good arm strength and real good hands, he shows good raw power,” Deeble wrote. “He needs to make some adjustments both offensive and defensively. He showed in our workouts the ability to make those adjustments quickly.”

Bishop will report to spring training in the first week of March and spend this year in extended spring training before heading to Major League Baseball’s Australian Baseball Academy later this year. These are the first steps in what is an undertaking with little precedent.

Bishop is the first player to sign directly out of New Zealand since Travis Wilson signed with the Braves in 1997. Only one native New Zealander has since entered the ranks of professional baseball in the U.S., but Scott Campbell entered the Blue Jays system after going to college at Gonzaga. No one from New Zealand has ever reached the majors, though both Campbell and Wilson did advance as far as Triple-A.

The Sox are mindful of that history, and of the challenges that face Bishop in his new profession. That being the case, the team is trying to measure expectations of the 17-year-old, even as they are eager to see what lies ahead for him.

“It is going to be a tough transition for him, we don’€™t want to put any pressure on him,” said Deeble. “We just want him to go out and play, show the skills he has. We need to be patient with him but he does have raw tools.”

Read More: beau bishop, jon deeble, new zealand, scott campbell

Minor Details Ep. 8: Red Sox spring training prospect storylines

02.10.11 at 9:12 am ET
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The latest episode of the Minor Details podcast is now up, with a look at five spring training prospect storylines to watch among Red Sox minor leaguers. Topics include key Red Sox pitching prospects to watch this spring, including the status of Jose Iglesias, a few pitchers to watch in Fort Myers, a couple of players who can use spring as a platform to start restoring their prospect status, some catchers who may assume an important organizational role and a prospect’s much-anticipated professional debut.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

PREVIOUS EPISODES

Ep. 7: The Red Sox’ Cuban connection: A look at the talent base that has inspired the Sox to spend heavily on players who defected from Cuba, along with the professional and cultural challenges that those players face once in the U.S. Guests are Red Sox minor league outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, minor league hitting coach Alex Ochoa (who spent 2010 helping prospect Jose Iglesias adjust to professional baseball in the U.S.) and agent Edwin Mejia of Athletes Premier, an agency whose stable of clients includes some players from Cuba

Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars, with Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye and Red Sox minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs, who was recruited to play football at Auburn and could have taken part in the 2011 BCS title game

Ep. 5: The human side of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, with Padres (and former Red Sox) prospect Anthony Rizzo, Sox scout Laz Gutierrez and Sox farm director Mike Hazen. The episode also includes a discussion with Baseball America’€™s Jim Callis about the state of the Sox farm system following the trade for Adrian Gonzalez

Ep. 4: Evaluating prospects and making blockbusters, with former Diamondbacks GM/Red Sox Assistant GM Josh Byrnes and former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson (who was Jeff Bagwell‘€˜s manager in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Astros)

Ep. 3: Red Sox catching prospects, with Sox roving catching instructor Chadd Epperson, as well as a conversation with Arizona Fall League manager Mike Sarbaugh about the Sox’€™ prospects in the AFL

Ep. 2: Red Sox trade chips with Keith Law of ESPN.com

Ep. 1: Baseball America’€™s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects, with Mike Hazen and Jim Callis

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Sox designate Coello for assignment

02.09.11 at 5:11 pm ET
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The Red Sox designated right-handed pitcher Robert Coello for assignment on Wednesday to clear space for Alfredo Aceves on the 40-man roster.

Coello appeared in six games with the Sox in 2010, registering an ERA of 4.76. The 26-year-old pitched for both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, posting a 7-6 record with an ERA of 3.86.

The Sox made the signing of both Aceves and Dennys Reyes official on Wednesday.

Read More: alfredo aceves, dennys reyes, robert coello,

Red Sox bullpen options

02.09.11 at 8:21 am ET
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The Red Sox are positioned to have a fierce competition for the final spots in their bullpen. Some members of the relief corps are set, most notably:

Jonathan Papelbon

Daniel Bard

Bobby Jenks

Dan Wheeler

Tim Wakefield

Beyond those five, the Sox have more than 20 pitchers who will be in spring training competing for spots on the 25-man major league roster. For a look at 15 of the pitchers who will be in big league camp, click here. Here is a breakdown of the contractual status of the group that will be in big league camp competing for the final two spots in the bullpen:

40-MAN ROSTER (remaining options in parentheses)

Alfredo Aceves (2) – $650,000 major league deal

Matt Albers (0) – $875,000 major league deal

Scott Atchison (1) – major league minimum plus $40,000; team option for 2012

Michael Bowden (1) – team contractual control

Robert Coello (3) – team contractual control

Felix Doubront (1) – team contractual control

Hideki Okajima (3) – $1.75 million

Stolmy Pimentel(3) – team contractual control

Junichi Tazawa (2) – $550,000

MINOR-LEAGUE DEALS WITH INVITATIONS TO SPRING TRAINING (potential major league salary included where known)

Jason Bergmann — $700,000

Brandon Duckworth

Matt Fox

Rich Hill — $580,000

Andrew Miller — $1.3 million

Tony Pena

Dennys Reyes — $900,000

Clevelan Santeliz

Randy Williams

RED SOX PROSPECTS NOT ON 40-MAN ROSTER

Jason Rice

Kyle Weiland

Alex Wilson

Red Sox sign Alfredo Aceves, envision him as a starter

02.08.11 at 5:41 pm ET
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A major league source confirmed that the Red Sox have signed right-handed pitcher Alfredo Aceves to a big league deal worth $650,000, with another $100,000 in possible incentives. It is a split contract that would pay Aceves $200,000 if he is sent to the minors.

The 28-year-old spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors with the Yankees, producing a 14-1 record and 3.21 ERA while showing excellent command (2.1 walks per nine innings) and striking out 6.2 batters per nine innings. Aceves missed most of 2010 due to injuries, pitching just 12 innings in 10 appearances.

He then required surgery in early December to repair a broken clavicle suffered during an offseason bicycling accident in Mexico. The Yankees opted not to tender him a contract in December shortly thereafter, and reports suggested that a three-month rehab from the surgery would delay him at the start of spring training. The Boston Globe, which was first to report the Aceves signing, said that the right-hander worked out for the Sox on Monday.

The Sox don’t expect Aceves to have any restrictions in spring training. While his success in the majors was primarily as a reliever for the Yankees, the Sox are looking at him more as a starter. Aceves has made five big league starts, going 1-0 with a 3.42 ERA, and he has made 32 of his 36 minor league appearances since signing with the Yankees out of Mexico as a starter.

Read More: alfredo aceves,

Lowell Spinners announce plan to launch “Human Home Run”

02.08.11 at 3:23 pm ET
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The Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox’ Short-Season Single-A affiliate, typically field a number of top Sox prospects at the infancy of their professional careers. Yet while they have offered the unique chance to get an early glimpse of players such as Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Kalish and others in their early careers, the Spinners are just as well known for their rich history of innovative promotions.

It appears they are primed to make their promotional mark on the 2011 season as well. Here’s a press release on a unique event they’ll hold on July 5:

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, are thrilled to announce the first ever ‘€œHuman Home Run’€ will take place at LeLacheur Park July 5, 2011, as the human cannonball, David Smith, Jr., will be shot from a cannon at home plate over the outfield wall following the conclusion of the Spinners game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: david smith jr., human cannonball, human home run, lowell spinners

Red Sox Review: Marco Scutaro

02.08.11 at 8:09 am ET
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Loves to face: Cliff Lee (8-for-25, .320, 4 walks), Rodrigo Lopez (8-for-13, .615), John Danks (7-for-13, .538, 2 HR).

Hates to face: David Price (2-for-16, .125), Kevin Millwood (4-for-28, .143), Brian Matusz (1-for-15, .067).

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* – Last season, Scutaro became just the seventh Red Sox player since 1974 to hit 10 or more home runs in a season from the leadoff spot. Four of the other six seasons came from Johnny Damon (2002-2005). Can you guess the other two? (Answer at bottom)

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* – Scutaro has hit at least 10 points better with runners in scoring position than he has overall in each of the last four seasons. Scutaro is the only AL player with such a four year streak (min. 80 RISP PA each year). The only NL players with a similar streak are Aramis Ramirez and James Loney.

Since 2000, Texas’ Michael Young had a streak of six straight seasons from 2003-2008 and Miguel Tejada had a five year streak from 2001-2005. Several others had four year streaks since 2000, including Kevin Youkilis, from 2006-2009. Can Scutaro stretch it to five in a row in 2011?

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* – Over the last two seasons, Scutaro is 14-for-27 (.519) with 33 RBI with the bases loaded, and average of 1.22 RBI per bases loaded at bat.  That’s the highest average and highest RBI/AB (min. 20 such AB) by any middle infielder in the majors over that two year span:

1.22 – Marco Scutaro
1.15 – Dan Uggla
1.14 – Hanley Ramirez

Just for kicks, can you guess who ranks last in the majors in average RBI/AB in bases loaded situations over those two seasons. That’s correct, it’s the YankeesDerek Jeter, with just 15 RBI in 33 bases loaded at bats (0.45).

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* – Scutaro quietly had a very nice second half last season, setting career post-break bests in runs (40), doubles (16), and homers (7). His 40 runs scored after the break tied for the team lead with David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre.

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* – Scutaro’s “swing and miss” percentage (6.2) was the second lowest in the majors (min. 400 AB):

5.8% – Juan Pierre, CHW
6.2% – Marco Scutaro, BOS
7.8% – Jeff Keppinger, HOU

Among players with some “pop” (10 or more home runs) his percentage was the second lowest in the AL in the 23 years that the stat has been tracked:

5.3% – Wade Boggs, NYY, 1994
6.2% – Marco Scutaro, BOS, 2010
6.8% – Joey Cora, SEA, 1997
7.5% – Dustin Pedroia, BOS 2009

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* – Scutaro recorded a “first pitch” OPS of .802 last season, which was a career high. Even so, his career OPS when he has hit the first pitch (plus his four first pitch HBP’s) is just .622, the lowest in the majors during the time that he’s been in the league (2002-2010, min. 400 first pitches in play):

.622 – Marco Scutaro
.713 – Cesar Izturis
.716 – Cristian Guzman
.722 – Yadier Molina

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* – After drawing walks in 13.2 percent of his 2009 plate appearances, Scutaro walked just 7.6 percent of the time in 2010, well below his career norm (9.2 percent).

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* – After swiping 33 bases in 44 attempts from 2005 through 2009 (75 percent success rate), Scutaro stole just five bases while being caught four times in 2010 (56 percent success).

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Trivia answer: Nomar Garciaparra hit 30 homers from the top spot in the order in 1997 and Ellis Burks cranked out 20 bombs while batting leadoff in 1987.

With another surgery (and the baseball season) looming, Mike Lowell at peace with decision

02.07.11 at 12:22 pm ET
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For the first time in his adult life, baseball season is starting without Mike Lowell. And he’€™s fine with that.

‘€œI don’€™t think I feel the way I wanted to, so that has been a little comforting, I guess,’€ Lowell said from his Miami-area home. ‘€œI know I’€™m going to miss playing. But I’€™ve been entertaining myself in other ways, so it’€™s been pretty good. It’€™s been a good transition so far.

‘€œI think I’m surprisingly happy. Plus, I think my hip has gone a little bit downhill.’€

If there was any doubt creeping into Lowell’€™s mind of late, they were recently turned back after making a visit to Dr. Bryan Kelly’€™s office in New York City. While visiting Kelly, the former Red Sox third baseman was advised he may have to undergo another surgery on his already surgically repaired right hip.

‘€œI went to New York last weekend, got an X-ray and they told me it has gotten progressively worse, so I got another cortisone shot and I think I might have to have a resurfacing surgery around September,’€ explained Lowell, who underwent surgery on his torn hip labrum following the 2008 season.

‘€œWithout medication or pain management I don’€™t think I can run 50 yards right now, I know I can’€™t. I don’€™t want to be taking meds to go about my day-to-day life. I feel like my quality of life is going down a little bit. I want to teach my kid how to run the bases in Little League instead of just standing there. It seems trivial but it bothers me that I can’€™t do it.’€

Lowell has been able to work out using an elliptical machine, while also diving into the world of paddle-boarding. And the doctors informed the 36-year-old that with the surgery, his hip could hold up ‘€œ15-plus years,’€ with the arthritic part of the hip healing instantly. (‘€œThat,’€ he said, ‘€œsounds exciting to me.’€)

Yet, he still understands that a hip replacement is most likely inevitable, and that the planned operation wouldn’€™t exactly put him in position to play again.
Still, there are other priorities for Lowell these days and stepping on a baseball field ‘€“ unless it’€™s his children’€™s Little League diamond ‘€“ isn’€™t one of them.

And as far as how 2010 shook out, despite the struggles with his health, there were no regrets.

‘€œI got through artificially with anti-inflammatories and pain medication,’€ he said. ‘€œI don’€™t know if that was the greatest thing for the hip, but I don’€™t regret doing it.

‘€œBut I’€™m excited to take my kids to a baseball game and instead of them watching me I want to tell them what’€™s going on so they can learn the strategy of what’€™s going on.’€

According to Lowell, who has had offers from multiple national media outlets to serve as a baseball analyst, it is a progression that was put in motion well before he experienced problems with his hip.

He explained that when negotiating his contract following the ‘€™07 season, he turned down a four-year offer from the Phillies for more reasons than just wanting to stay with the Red Sox. Retirement was already on Lowell’€™s mind.

‘€œI think everybody’€™s decision comes at different times,’€ he said. ‘€œFor me, my decision started about three years ago when I looked ahead and saw what ages my kids would be and what would bring me the most satisfaction as a person. I think circumstances made it easier to make the decision when I did. I’€™m still just as comfortable as the way I went out as when I mentioned throughout the season. If anything I had a chance to have a nice ceremony on the day of a game I ended up playing in. For me, that meant a lot.

‘€œI told my agent after ‘€™07 not to go crazy going for the four-year deal even though everybody would prefer it because I’€™m not sure I’€™m going to play after three. The money was there already. I wasn’€™t stressed about that. It was definitely in my thoughts. I really didn’€™t know how the year was going to pan out. Let’€™s say I went and had a great year [in ‘€˜10], I still think I would have retired. I don’€™t think the numbers would have determined. I think the point in my life would have determined it.’€

Read More: hip surgery, mike lowell, Retirement,

Red Sox reach agreement with Dennys Reyes

02.05.11 at 2:44 pm ET
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According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Red Sox have reached an agreement on a minor league deal with left-handed pitcher Dennys Reyes. The deal calls for Reyes to make $900,000 if he makes the major league team, with performance bonuses that could push the value of the deal as high as $1.4 million.

Reyes had a 3.55 ERA for the Cardinals in 59 appearances last year. For more on the southpaw, click here.

Read More: dennys reyes, Hot Stove,

Report: Red Sox close to deal with LHP Dennys Reyes

02.04.11 at 10:04 pm ET
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According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via twitter), the Red Sox are nearing an agreement with left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes on a minor league deal. Reyes reportedly had agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Phillies earlier in the offseason, but that deal did not get finalized.

Reyes, who turns 34 in April, has recorded 50 or more appearances in each of the last five years, amassing a 2.63 ERA in stops with the Twins and Cardinals. In 2010, he made 59 appearances for St. Louis with a 3.55 ERA. In his career, Reyes has held lefties to a .238 average and .669 OPS. In 2010, however, he suffered an odd reversal of his splits, holding righties to a .177 mark with a .481 OPS, while lefties hit .307/.862 against him.

Reyes would be one of several left-handers whom the Sox have signed to minor league deals this offseason, including Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Randy Williams and Lenny DiNardo. Of those four signees, Hill, Miller and Williams all have spring training invites to big league camp with the Sox. The Sox also signed Hideki Okajima to a major league deal, and left-hander Felix Doubront will also be considered for a spot in the bullpen.

Read More: andrew miller, dennys reyes, lenny dinardo, randy williams
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