|02.16.11 at 9:48 am ET|
The Red Sox center fielder was asked two things repeatedly in various forms. Does he feel healthy? Does he resent the criticism he received time and time again for playing just 18 games in 2010 due to broken ribs suffered in the first week of the season?
After a while, even Ellsbury had to smile, realizing reporters wouldn’t let the issue go without several attempts.
“I’ve put it in the past, moving forward and excited about 2011. I’m moving on, moving on to 2011,” said Ellsbury.
He was even asked if he heard and saw the criticism laid at the feet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for coming out of the NFC Championship due to a knee injury.
“Yeah, yeah I did,” Ellsbury conceded. “No real comments on that either. I’m going to sound like a broken recorder.”
He also said he ‘feels good’ several times in his 12-minute chat, adding he isn’t worried about his ribs and is completely recovered from the collision with Adrian Beltre in Kansas City last April 11 that wreaked havoc with his season and landed him on the DL three times, with his last game coming on Aug. 13.
He batted just .192 in those 18 games, with more steals (7) and RBIs (5) than runs scored (10).
And like Beckett on Tuesday, he didn’t want to look back to the sub-par 2010 or the criticism of his toughness that came with it.
Instead, Ellsbury wants Red Sox Nation to know that he’ll play with the same wreckless abandon that was his trademark prior to last season, diving for fly balls in center and head-first slides into bases.
“I’ll be able to play with natural aggressiveness, just like I’ve always played,” Ellsbury said. “I’m not worried, I’m not worried at all. It’s not like I’m coming off a major surgery or anything like that. If anything, they should be stronger. Anytime you break something and let it heal, it’ll be stronger.”
|02.16.11 at 9:47 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was a time when Oscar Tejeda looked lanky and even a touch frail. When he signed with the Red Sox as a 16-year-old in 2006, he weighed 177 pounds, but after making his U.S. debut as a very impressive 17-year-old in 2007, he required offseason surgery to repair a minor heart defect that all but stopped him from working out. He subsequently developed a staph infection that further limited his activity.
That time now seems like a distant memory. His manager in Salem in 2010, Kevin Boles, said that opposing managers in the Carolina League would approach him last season to comment on Tejeda’s maturing physique, and they surely would have more to discuss if they were to see him this spring, following an offseason in which he went home and played for the Gigantes of the Dominican Winter League. Tejeda, now 21, appears robust, weighing a muscular 205 pounds this spring. He has also grown a couple inches since signing, and is now roughly 6-foot-2.
So the question is obvious as he stands on the field. What player does he look like?
“Terrell Owens?” mused one talent evaluator.
The fact is that there aren’t a lot of second basemen who look like the 21-year-old prospect. While there are a couple of outliers who have played the position (Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano come to mind), physically, he looks more like an outfielder — if not someone who belongs on a football field.
“Every time he steps on the field, you’re like, ‘Whoa,’” noted Sox minor league instructor Chad Epperson. “You notice him.”
But Tejeda’s 2010 season was noteworthy for more than his physical growth. In a season in which he shifted from the left side of the infield (shortstop and second) to the right, he had a tremendous season for Salem, hitting .307 with a .344 OBP, .455 slugging mark, .799 OPS, 48 extra-base hits (including 11 homers) and 17 steals in 126 games.
Many were stunned to see the ball jump off of his bat so consistently. Boles raved about the bat speed he can generate with his hands, a trait that inspired (unfair) comparisons to Alfonso Soriano when he was signed out of Latin America.
Entering 2010, Tejeda had eight career homers and 64 extra-base hits in 263 career games. In fewer than half those games (126) in 2010, he exceeded that longball total and came within shouting distance of the multi-base knocks. The performance surprised some — though Tejeda was not among them.
“I hit the ball pretty good in [batting practice],” he said. “If you have power in B.P., you can have power in the game.”
Tejeda noted that he made adjustments at the plate that proved instrumental in his improved results. He eliminated a leg kick, allowing his swing to be shorter and more direct to the ball.
“That way, I could recognize the pitch — curveball, slider, whatever the pitch,” he said.
Meanwhile, he embraced playing second base. Tejeda said that, after playing solely on the left side of the infield from 2007-09, he felt that playing on the right side of the infield was “easier” and permitted him greater comfort. Sox officials noted that he did not merely accept the switch but instead embraced it, and that his actions in the field were natural.
That said, at times, his size is a detriment at the position. One official noted that he will have to learn how to “play smaller” at second if he wants to stay at the position. Another suggested that, in his first year at second base, he remains too upright and long when coming across the bag, but that is something that they expect him to be able to fix if he continues the work that he invested in the position last year. That said, if there are any restrictions on his ability to remain at second (whether due to his approach or because there isn’t an opening for him at the position — where the Sox, of course, have Dustin Pedroia entrenched for years to come), he would appear capable of making the transition to the outfield. But that is a matter for another time much further down the road.
Tejeda — who will likely open the year in Double-A Portland — was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster this offseason, but he has not appeared out of place in big league camp, despite the fact that he is the second youngest player (behind only Stolmy Pimentel, who is about five weeks younger) in the clubhouse. Instead, he seems eager to take advantage of the opportunity to show his talents in a brighter spotlight.
|02.16.11 at 7:17 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Suddenly, it looked like baseball.
Red Sox pitchers and catchers were in uniform in the first official workout of spring training on Tuesday. Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield all lined up next to one another for a bullpen session. As the Sox focus on having their pitchers build arm strength at this early stage of camp, the pitchers will follow a course in which they have two bullpen sessions then two outings against live hitters before they are ready to pitch in exhibition games by the end of next week.
While the day was one in which the pitchers were the star performers, it was also noteworthy to see the opening of Camp Tuck 2011, the clinic that Sox catching instructor Gary Tuck puts on with all the backstops in camp. Jason Varitek swears by the unique drills created by Tuck, and the Sox appear optimistic early that one key player is benefiting from the program. Jarrod Saltalamacchia spent much of the offseason working out with Tuck a couple times a week, with evident results.
‘It’s funny. He does things like [Jason Varitek] now,” said Beckett. “There’s a lot of things, and there’s not a better guy to follow if you’re in that position, I would think. Everybody said the same thing, ‘He looks like Tek when he [catches] us.’ That’s a pretty damn good guy to look like.’
Other items of note from Tuesday:
–Beckett, the Sox hope, will be looking like himself rather than the not-so-reasonable facsimile who struggled through the 2010 season. The right-hander admitted that his last season was disappointing due to the health challenges he faced and his underperformance when healthy. He cited a number of factors — a desperation to make up for two bad starts with one good pitch, a loss of confidence in his primary arsenal that led him to fall in love with a cutter — in his poor performance.
Ultimately, he noted that he just “[needs] to throw the rearview mirror away” and, now that he’s healthy, to start 2011 fresh. For more from Beckett’s introspective conversation with the media, click here.
–The pitcher who stepped up amidst Beckett’s struggles last year, Clay Buchholz, reiterated that he would love to stay in Boston for the long haul. He said that the five-year, $30 million deal signed by Jon Lester before the 2009 season offers a fairly clear framework for negotiations should the Sox reciprocate his interest in a long-term deal. For more on that, click here.
–Kevin Youkilis is excited for the move to third base. He suggested that his sights are set on being as good a defender at the hot corner as he was at first base, a position where he claimed a Gold Glove. Manager Terry Francona noted that it is only because of Youkilis’ positional versatility that the Sox were able to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. For more on the two-time All-Star’s position switch, click here.
–With the start of fielding drills for pitchers, Francona expressed a desire for the Sox to cut down on “sloppy” errors by pitchers rushing while making plays.
–Right-hander Alfredo Aceves said that he raced past the projected timetable for his recovery from surgery to repair a broken collar bone. After the surprise of having been non-tendered by the Yankees, he is excited about what his new team can do against his old one.
–The Sox dealt right-hander Robert Coello — designated for assignment last week to make room for Aceves — to the Cubs in exchange for minor leaguer Tony Thomas. For a scouting report on Thomas, click here.
–One of the prospects who is gaining attention in Fort Myers is Oscar Tejeda. The second baseman says that he now weighs 205 chiseled pounds, up from the 177 pounds he weighed at the start of his pro career in 2006.
|02.16.11 at 12:25 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To a degree, it came as a surprise to Alfredo Aceves when the Yankees decided not to tender him a contract in the first week of Dec. True, he had been unable to pitch for much of 2010 while dealing with back and hip injuries that limited him to 12 innings, and he had just fractured his clavicle in a bicycling accident, an injury that required surgery.
Still, Aceves had been told by doctors at the time of the surgery that he would heal in three months, a timetable that would have him available at or near the start of the 2011 campaign. And he was not far removed from being a key contributor to the Yankees’ World Series-winning squad of 2009, a season in which the right-hander (now 28) went 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA in the regular season.
So, was Aceves caught off guard when the Yankees parted ways with him (despite the fact that, as a player with two options and who had not yet reached arbitration eligibility, he remained cheap and controllable)?
“Yeah. Yeah, but I understand it’s a business,” Aceves said from the clubhouse at the Sox’ minor league training facility on Tuesday. “It’s the GM that makes the decision. It don’t matter if you agree or not. You’re out. It’s their decision.”
Presumably, New York’s decision was motivated at least in part by the expectation that Aceves’ injuries would limit his availability and/or diminish his potential value in a trade. However, the right-hander appears ready to take part in a full spring training.
While the doctors gave him a three-month timetable for recovering from his surgery, he said that he was cleared to throw after one month and pitching without restraint two months after the procedure. Aceves admits that he pushed the pace of his recovery.
“As soon as they told me that I have the green light to throw, I just let it go. The doctor told me after a month. He said I had a green light to throw. He said start easy, but…,” Aceves said, gesturing his hands indicate that he did not hold back. “If it’s going to heal, it’s going to heal.”
The Sox are hopeful that they will be the beneficiaries of his quick recovery. While the right-hander made 54 of his 59 appearances with the Yankees out of the bullpen, the Sox view him more as a potential starter. His changeup is a plus weapon that is almost unhittable for lefties (one of every five changeups he throws to portsiders has resulted in a swing and miss), and his curveball and cutter are both shutdown offerings against righties. All complement a fastball that he spots well.
That is the sort of arsenal that can serve a starter well, and so the Sox — after seeing Aceves throw two bullpen sessions at Fenway last week in which he appeared uninhibited — jumped at the opportunity to sign him. GM Theo Epstein said last week that Aceves could help the team address one of its shortcomings, namely the absence of rotation depth.
One source who attended the pitcher’s workout at Fenway said that part of Aceves’ interest in the Sox was driven by his desire to beat the Yankees. The pitcher said only that he was happy to stay in the AL East. In either event, after signing a one-year, $650,000 deal (which would be worth $200,000 if he is optioned to the minors), Aceves pronounced his excitement to join the Red Sox.
“I’m happy to be here, excited,” Aceves said of his new team. “I think we can go deep in the season, deep in the playoffs. We’ve got a good chance.”
|02.15.11 at 5:59 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced that they have traded right-hander Robert Coello to the Cubs in exchange for minor league infielder Tony Thomas.
Thomas is a 24-year-old second baseman who had 51 extra-base hits in 116 games in 2010. For the season, he hit .276 with a .338 OBP, .485 slugging mark and .823 OPS for Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League. A baseball source described him as an athletic second baseman with excellent makeup, good instincts and feel for the game who plays the game with high energy.
The Florida State product — a third-round pick in the 2007 draft — displays gap-to-gap power with the occasional ability to clear the fences when pulling the ball. He’s hit 11 homers in each of the last two years, both in Double-A. He’s also stolen 78 bases in just over 400 minor league games, though just 28 of those have come in the last two years in Double-A.
Coello threw 5 2/3 innings in six appearances as a Sept. call-up for the Sox. The 26-year-old, whom the Sox signed out of the independent Golden Baseball League, led Sox minor leaguers with 130 strikeouts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings at the two levels. He was designated for assignment last week in order to clear a roster spot for Alfredo Aceves.
|02.15.11 at 4:44 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — To this point, the Red Sox haven’t talked with either right-hander Clay Buchholz or his representatives about the possibility of a long-term deal. But Buchholz, who has made clear on a number of occasions that he would be open to such a deal, has had conversations with his agents about what a long-term deal might look like. And precedent suggests that the young right-hander who finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2010 need look no further than a teammate to figure out the sort of years and dollars to expect if he wants to gain financial security from the Sox.
Jon Lester offers a fairly clear indicator of the type of deal that Buchholz might be able to get from the Sox. He signed a deal that will keep him in Boston through at least 2013 during spring training of 2009. At that time, Lester had two years and 75 days of big league service time. After a breakout 2008 campaign in which he went 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA, he had a career mark of 27-8 with a 3.81 ERA, 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.6 walks per nine and a 1.393 WHIP.
Buchholz is at a nearly identical position in his career. He has two years, 59 days of big league service time. After his outstanding 2010 season, in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, he is a career 29-21 pitcher with a 3.68 ERA, 7.0 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.356.
Their careers have not been identical, but they’ve followed similar enough trajectories that the five-year, $30 million deal (which includes a $13 million Sox team option for 2014) that Lester signed before the start of the 2009 season would clearly serve as the relevant data point in talks should Buchholz and the Sox engage in dialogue about a long-term deal.
Already, both Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) have used the Lester deal as the basis for their own long-term deals. And Buchholz, 26, said that those contracts would guide what he might seek in talks with the Sox about a long-term contract.
“I think that would definitely be a base model for it — numbers-wise, security reasons, I think every player with less than three years of service time, that’s what they strive for,” said Buchholz. “I’m not saying I’m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.”
The Sox have a team policy that a long-term deal with players who have accumulated fewer than six years of service time and remain under team control should cover the player’s first free agent season and include a team option. In Buchholz’ case, that would conceivably mean a five-year deal with an option for the 2016 season. Buchholz said that he would have no qualms about a deal of such duration, given his attachment to the Red Sox organization.
“It’s all I know. I definitely wouldn’t mind. Definitely, just from the guys who are coming here who have played somewhere else for a good while in their career, coming here and picking to come here, it shows you something about the organization. It’s a great place to play, obviously. The fan base is good. I think it’s a better environment to come out and play the first day in spring training when you actually have people in camp and have people hollering and screaming,” Buchholz said. “I just think it’d be a great place to be for a while.”
|02.15.11 at 3:29 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the Red Sox expect to trade Robert Coello in the next couple of days. The right-hander was designated for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Alfredo Aceves, giving the Sox 10 days to trade him before subjecting him to waivers. The source suggested that there were “a few” teams interested in the right-hander.
Coello appeared in six games with the Red Sox in 2010, registering an ERA of 4.76. The 26-year-old also pitched for both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, posting a combined record of 7-6 with an ERA of 3.86.
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