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Watching the Red Sox through the rain drops (and a net)

02.11.11 at 12:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the rain coming down at the Red Sox minor-league training facility, many of the Sox players in attendance took to the batting cages to get their work done. Throwing bullpen sessions were Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daniel Bard, Scott Atchison, and a few others. Dustin Pedroia showed, took some cuts, talked some trash, and hit the gym. Also finding their way into the cages were Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez (who just did some light throwing).

Some of the things we learned while dodging rain drops: 1. Beckett was raising his hands up from his waist when executing his delivery, a small change from when he would keep his hands at his waist; 2. Tim Bogar spent much of the offseason coaching his sons’ basketball teams; 3. Luis Exposito’s notoriously loud glove looked appreciably more worn than last spring training. He said he just got a couple of new ones in, which should bring the decibel level back up.

Here is a look:

Pedroia just talked, so that is on the way, as well …

Daniel Bard can see himself as a starting pitcher in the future

02.10.11 at 11:41 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard, who was drafted by the Red Sox as a starting pitcher out of the University of North Carolina in 2006, told WEEI.com after his workout at the Red Sox minor-league training facility Thursday that he is open to perhaps returning back into the role of a starter at some point in his career.

“I kind of would like to try it. It’s something I would like to do,” said the Red Sox’ reliever. “It would kind of challenge myself. You’ve never proven yourself, but I know I can do the reliever thing for myself, just as a personal challenge, (starting) would be cool. Sometime down the road if we’re in need of a starter it might come into play, and I would definitely be open to it, but right now it’s not even an issue.”

Bard struggled in his lone season as a professional starting pitcher, giving up 59 earned runs in making 22 starts at two different levels of Single-A. In that year, Bard walked 78 while striking out just 47. He would start his transformation into reliever the following offseason when pitching for Honolulu in the Hawaiian Winter League.

“It wasn’t starting I had a problem with, it was pitching,” the 25-year-old said. “You could have thrown me in any role my first year of pro ball and I would have stunk. It didn’t matter what inning I was pitching, or starting or relieving. It would just be progress in terms of my development as a pitcher. I think a lot of guys broke into the league as relievers.”

Bard cited the success of Texas’ C.J. Wilson, who spent his first five big league seasons as a reliever before becoming one of the American League’s top starters in 2010. This year, the Rangers are contemplating moving their closer, Neftali Feliz, to the starting rotation.

“It can definitely be done,” Bard said. “This team and this situation, it’s not a fit right now and I’m fine right now. I love the role I’m in, I can’t emphasize that enough. If it presents itself  a year or two down the road, I would definitely be open to it.”

For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox. For more on Bard, check back at weei.com.

Why Manny Delcarmen chose the Mariners over the Rays (and others)

02.10.11 at 10:42 pm ET
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Manny Delcarmen is still young. He will turn 29 next week. And yet, after being traded last August by the only team for whom he’d ever played and then being released by the club that dealt for him in December, his career reached something of a crossroads this offseason.

After the Rockies elected not to tender a contract for 2011 to reliever Manny Delcarmen in early December, a number of teams expressed interest in the right-hander. Nine teams requested medicals from his agent, Jim Masteralexis, at the winter meetings in Orlando, and Delcarmen received multiple offers, including one offer of a major league deal with a National League club. One NL team even considered signing Delcarmen with an eye on using him as a starter, believing his three-pitch arsenal (a fastball, curve and changeup, all of which have been swing-and-miss offerings at times in his career) could serve him well in the rotation.

But in the end, Delcarmen’s decision came down to the Mariners and Rays. Both teams feature bullpens in some flux, with Tampa Bay looking to reassemble a relief corps after seeing four pitchers leave via free agency and Seattle closer David Aardsma recovering from surgery to repair his hip labrum. Both clubs offered opportunities for Delcarmen, if healthy and effective, to carve out a meaningful role in the bullpen.

In the end, Delcarmen decided to sign an incentive-laden minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training with the Mariners. The possibility of pitching at critical junctures of the game appealed to him.

“The main factor was opportunity,” said Masteralexis. “There’s opportunity there for him.”

Delcarmen was a tremendously effective reliever for the Sox in 2007 and 2008, forging a 2.81 ERA with 8.6 punchouts per nine innings. The last two years have seen disappointing results, with effective starts to the season giving way to disappointing ends. He had a 4.74 ERA in the last two years, with his strikeouts per nine dropping to 6.6, and his walks totals spiking.

The Mariners present a good opportunity for Delcarmen to rebuild his value, just as was the case for Aardsma, who flourished as a closer after the Sox traded him to the M’s following the 2008 season. The Mariners’ park is one of the best in the game for pitchers and the AL West as a whole tends to see fewer stacked lineups than the AL East (where Delcarmen made his home with the Sox from the time the Hyde Park native was selected in the second round of the 2000 draft until being traded to the Rockies this past Aug. 31). So, if Delcarmen can regain his effectiveness, he has a chance to not only re-establish himself as a late-innings reliever, but also to position himself well for salary arbitration (for which Delcarmen would be eligible as a player with 5+ years of service time after the 2011 season), which is driven by traditional stats such as record, saves, ERA and strikeouts, and doesn’t account for park factors.

Seattle represents an opportunity for the longtime Red Sox pitcher to get his career back on the path that seemed so promising just a couple of seasons ago. Now, it will be up to Delcarmen to take advantage of the situation with his performance on the mound.

Delcarmen flies to join the Mariners in spring training this weekend for a new beginning that he hopes will bring back some familiar results.

Read More: manny delcarmen, Mariners, Rays,

Ex-Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen signs with Mariners

02.10.11 at 7:35 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Manny Delcarmen signed a minor league deal with the Mariners that included an invitation to spring training, the Mariners announced. Delcarmen, 29, is coming off a season in which he struggled with the Sox and then, following an Aug. 31 trade to the Rockies, in Colorado. He had a 4.99 ERA with a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a career-high 5.5 walks per nine innings in 57 appearances.

However, Delcarmen is just a couple years removed from having been one of the more effective middle relievers in the American League. In 2007-08, he had a 2.81 ERA for the Sox with 8.6 punchouts per nine innings.

The Hyde Park native spent more than 10 years in the Red Sox system after being drafted by his hometown club in the second round of the 2000 draft. While he emerged as an important setup man for the Sox in recent years, he struggled with his mechanics last year, with such struggles responsible in the eyes of the team for him diminished velocity (his fastball, which had averaged 95.5 mph in 2008, according to Fangraphs.com, fell to 93.9 mph in 2009 and 93.1 mph in 2010) and command. His role in the Sox bullpen, in turn, diminished, leading the Sox to shipp him to Colorado last Aug. 31 in exchange for minor league pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller. Delcarmen has a career 11-8 record and 3.97 ERA.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: chris balcom-miller, manny delcarmen, Seattle Mariners,

The Bradford Cam is back: A peek at Saltalamacchia, Westmoreland and Matsuzaka

02.10.11 at 3:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Wanted to offer some sights and … well, just sights of spring training’s early moments.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia joined Luis Exposito and some of the other catchers in diving into ‘Camp Tuck,’ an instructional catching “lab” led by Red Sox catching instructor Gary Tuck.

A sure sign that ‘Camp Tuck’ is around the corner is the image of Tuck carrying around the wooden stool he first uncovered during the Sox’ 2008 trip to Japan. The contraption is a better option than what many other teams use for catching drills: milk crates.

Daisuke Matsuzka made his first appearances of the year, going out and doing some light tossing before his workout. Like Josh Beckett and John Lackey (who said he lost about 15 pounds), Matsuzaka looks to be in good shape. Said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein regarding the righty pitcher: “The results look good. His body looks improved compared to this time last year. He’€™s leaner and little bit stronger.”

Also, here a little sample of how Ryan Westmoreland is coming along, integrating a love of his — soccer — in his rehab work. (He was a Rhode Island All-State soccer player while at Portsmouth High.)

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, jarrod saltalamacchia, ryan westmoreland,

Red Sox Fort-itude: The rotation shapes up

02.10.11 at 12:45 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Greetings from Fort Myers, where gentle breezes prevail on a calm, overcast day.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is in Fort Myers, and weighed in on a number of topics. You can read more about that here.

As for the players, with pitchers and catchers due to report on Feb. 13, a number of Red Sox pitchers have now reported to the team’s minor league training facility. Indeed, four-fifths of the team’s starting rotation is now on the scene in Fort Myers.

An annual rite of passage renewed, with the arrival of Daisuke Matsuzaka at spring training generating a bit of international interest this morning. That said, the pool of reporters covering Matsuzaka has diminished significantly in spring training this year. Just four reporters from Japan were present to cover the pitcher’s first comments of the spring.

Even so, the pitcher is throwing this morning, and appears to be in good shape following a year in which his stuff was impressive, even if his results remained typically (and wildly) inconsistent. John Lackey and Josh Beckett also arrived, joining Jon Lester, who has been here for a few days.

Several members of the bullpen, including Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Scott Atchison, were also on hand, as were non-roster invitees such as Andrew Miller and Jason Bergmann.

–Red Sox right-hander Robert Coello, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Alfredo Aceves, remains in Fort Myers. He actually had just rented a condo for spring training, and so the uncertain predicament in which he finds himself is challenging. He came by the Red Sox minor league training facility to work out and throw on Thursday morning, and said that he has little recourse but to wait for the next 10 days to pass before he can figure out where he ends up.

–As for Aceves, the right-hander’s bullpen session at Fenway Park this week was described as extensive and impressive. (Epstein later clarified that Aceves threw two bullpen sessions for the Sox, and it appears he faces no restrictions. One source suggested that the greater concern was with the pitcher’s lower back — which sidelined him for most of last year — than with the broken clavicle he suffered in a bicycling accident this winter, but that everything checked out well in his physical.) He seems likely to open the year in Pawtucket’s rotation — Aceves, in fact, expressed a clear preference to sign with a team that would give him an opportunity to start. Of course, the possibility of signing with a Red Sox team that offered a chance to stick it to his former club was also appealing. The GM said that Aceves represented an opportunity to address a position of need for the Sox, as the team felt that it needed to find a reliable rotation depth option with the stuff and experience to be an effective AL East starter. Aceves, of course, proved just such an ability while with the Yankees, helping convince the Sox to sign him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daisuke Matsuzaka, drake britton, john lackey

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein checks in

02.10.11 at 11:11 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — GM Theo Epstein is on hand at the Red Sox minor league training facility. He concluded a morning session with the media to discuss a number of topics. Among them:

The biggest question facing the team

Health has to be the biggest question. It usually is. But in our case, we have so many players coming off of surgery or coming off of injury that we’€™re going to keep a close eye on them and really look forward to having a full squad of healthy players playing out there together.

Medical updates

Epstein repeated that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been consistenly on or ahead of schedule while rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. ‘€œWe all feel like he’€™ll be ready for opening day,’€ said Epstein, who noted that it remained possible that Gonzalez could beat the projected milestones of swinging by March 1 and playing in games by the third week of March.

As for Dustin Pedroia, Epstein said that the team will ‘€œtake a conservative path’€ with the second baseman, noting that the priority is for him to be playing on Opening Day, rather than in a college exhibition game later this month.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is in good shape, since he was hitting without restriction by October, before shutting down and then following a normal offseason program. Epstein noted that because Youkilis was able to resume hitting by the end of last year,he has already ‘€œaddressed some of the mental aspects of returning.’€

Alfredo Aceves

Epstein said that Aceves threw a pair of bullpen sessions and passed a team physical before signing. He enthused about the right-hander’€™s versatility and the former Yankee’€™s proven ability to contribute as a starter in the AL East. Epstein noted that the team was

‘€œHe’€™s a versatile guy who can compete for a job in the bullpen but also provide starting depth for us,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œThat’€™s one area where we don’€™t have a lot of depth, with the composition of our roster and where we’€™re at in the upper levels of our farm system was starting pitching. We really needed to add someone, I think, who can start major league games and compete in the American League East. ‘€¦ His versatility, his strike throwing and the fact that he’€™s pitched well in this division stood out for us and made him a target.’€

On Junichi Tazawa

Epstein said that the right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, won’€™t be unrestricted in big league camp. He will be able to throw off a mound, but Epstein noted that ‘€œthe last two to three months of Tommy John rehab are important, and we don’€™t want to rush it by getting him in competitive situations too quickly.’€

The GM said that it remained uncertain whether he might pitch in games this spring, and that the team would know more once it conducts its medical evaluations this weekend.

On the bullpen

‘€œIt’€™s no secret that our ‘€˜pen wasn’€™t very good last year. We kind of ran out of available options of ‘€¦ guys who could compete and throw legitimate bullpen innings for us. That’€™s not a situation you want to find yourself in,’€ said Epstein of the situation that prompted the team to sign Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, as well as Aceves and others.

‘€œWe should be stronger than we have been in a long time at the end of games, with Bard and Jenks setting up Pap. Wheeler, I think, is an important addition as well in the middle,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œWe have the potential to be a really good bullpen, but that doesn’€™t really mean anything. We’€™ve got to go out there and do it.’€

On the Sox’€™ signing of Te Wara ‘€œBeau’€ Bishop, the promising 17-year-old softball catcher from New Zealand:

Jon Deeble, our Pacific Rim coordinator, lives out in Australia. He sees New Zealand a lot, too. He’€™s kind of familiar with the softball community out there. There’€™s not a ton of baseball played in New Zealand, but there’€™s a lot of softball played by men of all ages. My understanding ‘€“ I’€™ve never seen him, just some video ‘€“ is that he’€™s one of the most exciting young softball prospects to come around in the last 20 years, out of New Zealand. He had a lot of people talking, and then Deeble saw him play ‘€“ the size, his athleticism, his swing and his arm strength ‘€“ and thought that he was a pretty interesting prospect. It’€™s a pretty interesting opportunity for us and for him to see what happens.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, beau bishop, bobby jenks
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