|02.01.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
It was in 2005 that Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez last neighbored in the Red Sox outfield, in a pairing that had lasted four years and included three playoff appearances and a World Series trophy. On Tuesday, Damon and Ramirez were giddy in the renewal of their partnership in the American League East, this time as members of the Rays.
Damon signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with Tampa Bay, and Ramirez agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal. On Tuesday, they were introduced at a press conference in St. Petersburg.
“We’re back,” beamed Ramirez.
Ramirez, who had made more than $20 million per season from 2001-10, said that he had no qualms about signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Rays, suggesting that the opportunity to prove his ability to perform at a high level on a competitive team was his chief motivation in joining Tampa Bay.
“I already made my money,” Ramirez told reporters. “I’m here because I love the game, I love to compete. It doesn’t matter how much you make. All you want is a chance to prove to people that you still could do it.
“I’ve been working hard and I want to show people that I can still play,” added Ramirez, who underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia following the season, and then went to Athletes’ Performance in Arizona to prepare for the season.
Ramirez, 38, was limited by injuries to a career-low 90 games in 2010. He split the year between the Dodgers and White Sox (after being claimed on waivers by Chicago in August), hitting .290 with a .409 OBP, .460 slugging mark, .870 OPS and nine homers. For his career, he is a .313/.411/.586/.998 hitter with 555 homers. He suggested that he can play for five more seasons.
Ramirez, who will DH for the Rays, will wear the same No. 24 with the Rays that he wore with the Red Sox, leaving behind the No. 99 he wore with the Dodgers. He told reporters that No. 99 is his National League number, while No. 24 is his preferred American League integer.
Damon grew up in nearby Orlando, and so the 37-year-old — who played in 145 games in 2010 for the Tigers while hitting .271 with a .355 OBP, .401 slugging mark and .756 OPS — viewed the opportunity for a homecoming as an opportunity that could not be turned down.
“This is my dream team,” Damon told reporters at the press conference to introduce him and Manny Ramirez as the newest Rays. “I’ll see much more of my family and friends. I love this opportunity to come back home and hopefully help this team win a championship.”
Damon said that he views the Rays — who won the AL East in 2010 — as capable of competing in the division this year. He also said that he does not view this season as the “final chapter” of his career.
The Rays, of course, are Damon’s third stop in the American League East. After coming up with the Royals and spending his first six big league seasons in Kansas City, he spent one year in Oakland before playing from 2002-05 with the Red Sox. He hit .295 with a .362 OBP and .441 slugging mark with the Sox, helping Boston to the 2004 World Series. He then went to the Yankees from 2006-09, hitting .285/.363/.458/.821 in his four years in the Bronx, which culminated in another World Series ring in 2009.
Now, Damon and Ramirez will be competing against the Sox and Yankees for AL East supremacy. While the departure of free agent left fielder Carl Crawford to the Sox was expected to represent a shift in the balance of power in the division, the Red Sox caution that the Rays’ chances in the division should not be discounted.
‘The demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar,’ Sox GM Theo Epstein said on Monday. ‘They’re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and stay and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball given the strength of their farm system. They lose [Matt] Garza, they have [Jeremy] Hellickson ready to step in. They lose Crawford, they have [Desmond] Jennings and [Matt] Joyce ready to step in. They’re going to be really tough.’
|01.31.11 at 9:28 pm ET|
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona suggested that they envision second baseman Dustin Pedroia — who had a screw put in his foot in September to help heal a broken left foot — being able to make a full recovery for the coming season. Pedroia recently told WEEI.com that he would modify some of his activities in order to reduce the strain on his foot, and he also admitted that he still sometimes has discomfort in the appendage, prompting some anxiety about his health going forward.
But Epstein said that while Pedroia will be paced in his return, his recovery is proceeding well, and he is not expected to be restricted for the season. The discomfort Pedroia encountered, Epstein said, was unrelated to the surgery.
“He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot, and doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot immobile for so long. That was reassuring,” said Epstein. “It didn’t have anything to do with the fracture or the surgery. He’s healing really well, working out. He’s not wearing cleats yet, but we’re going to be smart about it. We don’t expect him to be limited by the time the season starts.”
Francona suggested that he has checked in frequently with the second baseman, and acknowledged that Pedroia has experienced emotional ups and downs during the recovery process. Even so, the manager is confident that the three-time All-Star will be in good shape entering the 2011 season.
“Like anybody that’s had a screw put in, you have some days where you’re like so thankful. You feel those little milestones or breakthroughs, and then, you have a couple days where you get frustrated,” said Francona. “But I think from talking to him and the people that are running his rehab that he’s going to come through this with flying colors. Saying that, the first day we’re down there, we do the 300-yard shuttle. We might not let him do that. We might. But he had a screw put in his foot. We’re going to try to take care of our guys. We’ll check with him every day, but I think he’s going to be OK.”
The 27-year-old Pedroia hit .288 with a .367 OBP, .493 slugging mark, .860 OPS, 12 homers and nine steals in 75 games before fracturing his foot by fouling a ball off of it in San Francisco in late-June.
|01.31.11 at 8:58 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, prior to a Town Hall meeting between team executives and members of the public, said that even though David Ortiz has endured a significant dropoff in his offense in recent seasons against left-handed pitchers, he does not believe that he can simply sit the DH against southpaws.
Ortiz hit .222 with a .275 OBP, .324 slugging mark and two homers in 185 at-bats against lefties. He hit .297/.416/.643 with 30 homers in 333 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. From 2008-10, Ortiz is hitting .218/.291/.393 against lefties, and .274/.383/.549 against right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, in Mike Cameron and Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox will have a pair of strong bench options against left-handed pitchers. But Francona does not envision pushing Ortiz into a platoon.
“For David to be successful — and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do — you can’t just sit him because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that,” said Francona. “I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with. That wasn’t necessarily the case [last] April. He was struggling against everybody, and we were struggling to win.”
Francona further elaborated on the difficult balancing act he faced last April, when Ortiz struggled desperately out of the gate for the second straight year, while Mike Lowell languished on the bench.
“For whatever reason, the last two years have been horrendous starts. Thankfully, he’s pulled out of it. There’s no getting around it. Last April was awful. It was hard. You get through it, and we had to kind of fire our way through it at times, and thankfully we did. But it was hard,” said Francona. “I lost a lot of sleep over that. We always tell guys the night before if they’re playing. It’s something that we do, and I’m real comfortable with it. I remember one night in New York, I think [CC] Sabathia might’ve been pitching (the next day), and for one of the few times since I’ve been here, I had to go out and tell guys, ‘I don’t know. We’ll call you tomorrow.’ Maybe in some places that’s normal, but it really bothered me. It was a lot of anxiety for an April game. It was important to them, so it should’ve been important to me.”
For complete Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.
|01.31.11 at 8:03 pm ET|
“Cashman is a very honest, forthright guy. But he’s also not above playing games,” Lucchino said. “They’re always the favorites. C’mon. They’re the New York Yankees. They’re in the biggest market in the world. We’re happy to be those guys that they worry about looking over their shoulder.
“If it were anybody but Cashman, I might say there’s plenty of gamesmanship,” Lucchino added. “In this case, he was saying something I hope he believes. I hope he has some respect for us. We have plenty of it for them.”
The Red Sox have been praised widely for ‘winning the winter’ by acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while the Yankees failed to land their prize target, Cliff Lee. But while Lucchino admitted that there was “hormonal satisfaction” in enjoying the more successful offseason, he also stated that such a feeling would dissipate quickly once games start.
“Those guys can probably still hit a little bit, to say the least,” said Epstein. “I think the demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.”
|01.31.11 at 3:37 pm ET|
Outfielder Jason Bay, who suffered through one of the most difficult seasons of his career in 2010 after leaving the Red Sox as a free agent to sign a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets, made no excuses for his rough first year in New York in an interview with ESPN.com. Bay was limited to a career-low 95 games after suffering a concussion last summer. Prior to that, however, he suffered one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .259 with a .347 OBP, .402 slugging mark, .749 OPS and just six homers.
Bay declined to blame either his new home ballpark — CitiField in New York, a venue that has stifled offense in its three years — or the transition to a major media market.
“I just had a bad year. I was the first to admit it as I was living it, and I’ll be the first to admit it looking back on it,” Bay told ESPN.com. “For whatever reason, I never got in a rhythm at the plate, and I felt like I was swimming upstream all year trying to catch up. The next thing you know it’s July and you’re like, ‘Wow, I haven’t been able to piece anything together.’ The question is, what did you learn from it? I feel like I learned a lot.”
Bay said that he is healthy and pursuing a rigorous workout schedule this winter in hopes of resembling the player who, from 2005-09, averaged 31 homers and 103 RBI while hitting .279/.378/.515/.892.
|01.31.11 at 1:21 pm ET|
Former Red Sox relief pitcher Dennis Lamp now lives in Southern California, but he isn’t just another retired major leaguer spending his days lazing in the sun. Instead, Lamp works the seafood counter at a Bristol Farms supermarket in Newport Beach.
According to an article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, it isn’t a publicity stunt and Lamp doesn’t need the money.
“I just enjoy working,” Lamp told the newspaper.
Lamp, who’s been serving fish for seven years now, pitched for the Red Sox from 1988 to 1991, going 20-16 with a 3.76 ERA in 186 appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched 16 seasons in total from 1977 to 1992, posting a 96-96 record and 3.93 ERA. He also suited up for the Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays, Athletics and Pirates.
|01.31.11 at 8:40 am ET|
Over the weekend, a report in the Chicago Tribune suggested that, should the Red Sox trade Carl Crawford over the course of his seven-year, $142 million contract, the deal mandates that the team acquiring him would be prohibited from subsequently dealing the outfielder to the Yankees. However, a team source said that the report was inaccurate, and that there is no such contract clause.
Crawford’s deal does include limited no-trade protection. The Sox reportedly have the right to select 28 clubs to whom he can be traded without his consent; Crawford, in turn, gets to eliminate two of those teams.
In the past, when the Sox have had the right to select one team to whom a player will receive no-trade protection (as is the case with the structure of Crawford’s no-trade protection), they have chosen the Yankees, insofar as that minimizes the impact on their trade options. The Sox rarely if ever discuss deals directly with the Yankees, and the last time the two teams consummated a deal was in 1997, when the Sox sent Mike Stanley to New York for Tony Armas Jr. and Jim Mecir.
|01.30.11 at 9:01 am ET|
The 21-year-old shortstop is a dazzling defender with a quick, compact swing that results in a hail of line drives. He is viewed as an above-average everyday shortstop in the making, someone who could emerge as a Red Sox lineup regular by 2012, and depending on how his plate discipline and power develop, he could emerge as a standout.
But Iglesias is not alone as a Cuban player who is expected to make an impact for the Red Sox in the near future. Increasingly, the Sox system is being impacted by players who made the bold and irreversible decision to defect from their native country in order to pursue Major League Baseball careers.
Take Juan Carlos Linares. His signing last summer barely made a ripple, as the 26-year-old (then 25) outfielder did not make much of an impression when he made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League and then Double-A Portland.
But even before he emerged as a standout performer in the Arizona Fall League, a couple of factors suggested an intriguing player. First, the Sox signed him for a bonus of $750,000 after being impressed by his raw power, baserunning speed and ability to play all three outfield positions. Secondly, he is represented by Scott Boras.
Based solely on those two superficial measures, it is clear that the baseball industry assigned a meaningful value to Linares’ talents. The basis for that assessment became clear in Arizona, where Linares hit .397 with a 1.084 OPS while playing solid defense (with good instincts that made up for any limits to his range) at all three outfield positions.
‘The fast-twitch bat speed is the best tool that stands out to me, watching him play. This guy’s got a knack for turning around a fastball,’ farm director Mike Hazen said of Linares. ‘Watching a guy in a limited amount of time, you don’t know how the long-term reaction to the off-speed and the breaking ball is going to be, but he certainly shows that right off the bat.
‘There was certainly no intimidation going out to the Fall League and playing at an advanced level. This guy played at an advanced level in Cuba, but coming into a new environment can sometimes be intimidating. He didn’t seem intimidated at all. Pretty impressive kid.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|01.28.11 at 3:11 pm ET|
Speaking at an event honoring the Red Sox‘ Opening Weekend Experience winners at Fenway Park, general manager Theo Epstein said that other than a potential late minor-league signing the team’s spring training roster is fully constructed.
“Who knows when there might be a waiver claim, or one more minor league sign,” said Epstein, “but, we’re more or less set.”
The GM did note that one area the Red Sox might add another piece for depth on a minor-league deal is in the form of a potential starter.
“We do feel OK about our starting depth. That’s one area we’re still looking, there might be a late minor-league sign, somebody who can go to Triple A,” said Epstein, who has already signed veteran starters Brandon Duckworth and Jason Bergmann for organizational depth. “But right now those guys are looking for major league jobs, so we’ll see. We do feel like we have some built in depth.”
The Red Sox did show some recent interest in adding lefty reliever Joe Beimel, but it appears the pitcher will be inking a minor-league deal with the Pirates.
“Late in the offseason there are some guys who are potentially available on minor league deals who would be worth more than the look in camp, so we try and stay involved in some of those guys,” Epstein said. “Sometimes they stay on teams that have more openings on the 25-man roster.”
For more Red Sox news, check out the team page at weei.com/redsox.
|01.28.11 at 9:00 am ET|
* – If you are looking for reasons why Drew’s offensive production fell off significantly in 2010, start with the fact that opponents took advantage of his patience to get ahead of him more often than in any of his previous seasons in Boston.
From 2007-2009, Drew put the first pitch in play 156 times (10 percent) and put up an OPS of 1.039. Last season, he still put the first pitch in play 10 percent of the time and saw some dropoff in OPS, falling to a still-potent .926.
During his first three seasons as a member of the Red Sox, Drew saw the count go through 1-and-0 on 47 percent of his plate appearances and recorded an OPS of .984 in those opportunities. In 2010, he produced at even ever higher clip (1.043) but got ahead just 42 percent of the time.
Finally, Drew fell behind in 43 percent of his plate appearances during the 2007-2009 seasons and managed a .725 OPS. But last season, he watched (or fouled off) a first pitch strike 48 percent of the time and then struggled to a .572 OPS.
So if Drew’s “get ahead” ratio had remained the same in 2010, he would have had about 30 more at-bats go through 1-and-0 (at an 1.043 OPS) and 30 fewer go through 0-and-1 (at .572), probably putting him closer to an .820 OPS for the season, rather than .793. It doesn’t explain everything, but it’s a start.
Perhaps Drew will consider being a little more aggressive at jumping on the first pitch in 2011, forcing opposing pitchers to re-evaluate their “strike one” strategy.
* – Drew has hit 238 career homers but has had only two seasons with 75 or more RBI. Only two players in history have hit more homers with two or fewer seasons of 75+ RBI: Lou Whitaker (244 HR; 2 seasons of 75 RBI) and Rick Monday (241 HR; 1 season of 75 RBI).
* – Drew has bounced into 41 double plays over his last four seasons (2,093 PA), the exact same number of GIDP’s that he recorded over his first nine seasons (3,774 PA).
* – While his 172 plate appearances vs. lefties was the second highest total of his career (he had 206 in 2004), his .611 OPS against them was the worst of his career.
* – Drew’s .820 OPS in road games last season was almost identical to his .821 road OPS from 2005-2009. It was his home OPS that took a beating last year (.766) compared to 2005-2009 (.954, fifth in the majors in that span).
* – Was Drew just unlucky late last season? After putting up a .325 batting average on balls in play in the season’s first half (better than his career first half figure of .318), it fell off to just .233 after the break, fifth lowest in the AL (min. 240 second half PA).
—————————————————————————————————————————- Read the rest of this entry »
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