|02.10.11 at 3:57 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Wanted to offer some sights and … well, just sights of spring training’s early moments.
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.)
|02.10.11 at 12:45 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Greetings from Fort Myers, where gentle breezes prevail on a calm, overcast day.
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.
–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 »
|02.10.11 at 11:11 am ET|
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.
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. ‘We 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 ‘take 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 ‘addressed some of the mental aspects of returning.’
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
‘He’s a versatile guy who can compete for a job in the bullpen but also provide starting depth for us,’ said Epstein. ‘That’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 ‘the 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
‘It’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.
‘We 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. ‘We 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 ‘Beau’ 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.
|02.10.11 at 9:52 am ET|
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.”
|02.10.11 at 9:12 am ET|
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.
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. 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
|02.09.11 at 5:11 pm ET|
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.
|02.09.11 at 8:21 am ET|
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:
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
Rich Hill – $580,000
Andrew Miller – $1.3 million
Dennys Reyes — $900,000
RED SOX PROSPECTS NOT ON 40-MAN ROSTER
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