|02.20.10 at 9:17 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Those Jacoby Ellsbury No. 46 jerseys suddenly are collector’s items.
The new Red Sox left fielder has something else new this spring besides his position. He will be wearing his favorite number. He spoke about both at length on Saturday morning as he arrived with several other position players, two days ahead of the reporting deadline.
For the first time since high school, Ellsbury will be wearing the No. 2 when he takes the field for the Sox this season.
[Click here to listen to Ellsbury explain his switch from No. 46 to No. 2]
When bench coach Brad Mills left for the managerial job of the Houston Astros, Ellsbury got the number he was looking for. Ellsbury had actually planted the seed with clubhouse staffer Edward “Pookie” Jackson earlier in the winter and upon Mills’ departure, Ellsbury made sure that no one else was getting it.
“I talked to Brad when he was here but he wasn’t going to give it to me so I told Pookie that if the number ever came available, I would be the first one to jump on it,” Ellsbury said. “Right when I heard that Brad Mills had been [hired], [Jackson] was the first one I called. It was within two minutes of me finding out.”
And for the first time since 2007, when he filled in for the injured Manny Ramirez, he will be seeing plenty of time as a corner outfielder, starting the season as the team’s left fielder.
“That was the biggest thing [Terry Francona] emphasized to me, it’s not a demotion,” Ellsbury said. “It’s just he thought team would be better with me going to left and Cam [Mike Cameron] going to center.
“I took it as if it’s going to make the team better, I’m all for it.”
[Click here to hear Ellsbury's take on his move to left field and the team's explanation to him.]
One of Ellsbury’s most famous plays in a Red Sox uniform came as a left fielder when he caught the screaming liner off the bat of Colorado’s Jamey Carroll before crashing into the fence in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.
“I’ve never been a regular left fielder, but I know the year I came up, Manny was down for about a month so that was the most I’ve played in left,” Ellsbury said.
There are those who theorize that moving Ellsbury to left field will save his legs somewhat from covering as much territory as he normally would in center, perhaps increasing his already impressive stolen base numbers.
Last season, Ellsbury shattered the single-season team record for steals with 70, one season after swiping 50.
“I look back at some of the better base stealers in the league over the years and lot of them happen to be left fielders or right fielders,” he said. “So, I try to look for the best in it and I think it’s going to work out. I don’t think it should be a problem at all. They say it will save on my legs, but I’ll still be going for balls hard and still be running.”
|02.20.10 at 6:24 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Get ready to see pictures like the one on the right about a billion times over the next six weeks.
After the team’s pitchers and catchers took their physicals on Friday morning, the Red Sox’ three aces made their first joint appearances of the spring. John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett — surely a pithy nickname awaits this trio, particularly given the common first initial of their first names — emerged at the minor-league training complex to play catch. Then, the threesome remained intact as they engaged in conditioning drills together. (For what it’s worth, there seems a decent chance that the season-opening rotation will fall in the same order as the pitchers concluded their initial shuttle run, with Beckett leading the pack and trailed by Lester and then Lackey.)
Clearly, the three pitchers represent a rare assembly of talent. The trio is expected to be the foundation for the Sox’ postseason ambitions, and with good reason. In 2009, Beckett (3.86), Lester (3.41) and Lackey (3.83) all finished with sub-4.00 ERAs. In the 10-year span from 2000-2009, just 15 American League teams had three starters who logged 162 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. Of those 15 teams, 11 reached the postseason. (Also notable: all four of the teams that featured four qualifying starters with sub-4.00 ERAs made the playoffs.)
That being the case, it is hard not to be reminded of some of the elite rotations of recent years — the Braves of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux come to mind as one such extreme example — while watching the interplay of the pitchers in activities as simple as a shuttle run. Whether those analogies are still drawn towards the end of the year remains to be seen.
–Newcomer Lackey is the owner of a shiny new five-year, $82.5 million deal. But the contract-related conversations on Friday focused instead on the status of Lester and Beckett. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.19.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The captain of the Red Sox, Jason Varitek, appeared for the first time in Fort Myers on Friday. The 37-year-old participated in some stretching and running drills.
|02.19.10 at 5:11 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona spoke with the media Friday afternoon at spring training. Francona gave an update on Daisuke Matsuzaka’s injury and talked about the Josh Beckett contract situation.
|02.19.10 at 4:00 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester sat down and talked to the media for the first time this spring. Lester discussed Josh Beckett’s contract status, having a friendly competition with the fellow starters in the rotation, and whether he has any regrets signing a long-term deal with the Red Sox last year after other pitchers including Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum have since signed for big deals.
|02.19.10 at 4:00 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Friday that Daisuke Matsuzaka was examined by team doctor Thomas Gill and the initial report on his upper back soreness is encouraging.
“He was examined by Tom and the preliminary examination was very good, very encouraging,” Francona said. “We don’t have any updates on when he’s going to throw. Maybe we’ll have a program in place [Saturday]. But the good news was Tom saw him and felt pretty good about it.”
Matsuzaka took part in conditioning on Friday. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, coming off October surgery on his back, did not participate.
|02.19.10 at 3:25 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester expressed his support and desire on Friday to see Josh Beckett signed to a long-term deal by the Red Sox.
“I think it would be a huge loss for this organization for him not to come back, obviously, on the field, a lot, too,” Lester said. “But definitely in the clubhouse would be a guy missed in there.”
Beckett is in the final year of his four-year contract with the Red Sox, earning $12 million in 2010. Lester played catch with Beckett and John Lackey and then all three took part in conditioning drills for pitchers and catchers at the team’s minor league complex.
Skipper Terry Francona said the team is fully aware of the importance of having Beckett as the leader of the pitching staff as he enters his fifth season in Boston.
“Beckett is important to a lot of people in there,” added manager Terry Francona. “We let him know that today. He is the leader of that staff. He’s earned that respect and there’s a lot that comes with it. People look up to him. I think he’s proud of that. He should be.”
Francona was then asked if he had any fears that Beckett would be in the least distracted by his contract situation.
“Zero, zero,” Francona said. “I just know how he approaches things. I know how Theo [Epstein] approaches things. I’ve heard their communication and it’s not a concern.”
For video highlights from Lester’s press conference, including discussions of his own health and the reason why he has no regrets about signing a six-year, $30 million deal even after watching Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander sign much more sizable pacts this offseason, click here.
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