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Manny in Taiwan?

03.03.10 at 10:06 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been a fascinating period in which to consider the international travel schedule of Manny Ramirez. First, the outfielder proclaimed that he would end his career in Japan.

(“After I practiced yesterday,” he said last week, “I feel like I could play five more years. I’€™m going to play three more years here, then two more in Japan.”)

Now, Ramirez has signed up for the Dodgers’ exhibition trip to Taiwan, a three-game exhibition run from March 12-14. Of course, it would appear that Los Angeles isn’€™t exactly betting the house on the likelihood that Ramirez will make the trip, which would require flights in excess of 12 hours each way. So sayeth the Los Angeles Times:

‘€œWe fully expect he’€™ll make the trip,’€ Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said. ‘€œWe take him at his word.’€

Still, some club officials are worried that Ramirez could once again change his mind.

‘€œThey announced it?’€ one club official asked.

Told yes, the official exploded laughing.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona chuckled at the thought of Ramirez’ participation in the exhibition series. Asked what he considered the likelihood of Ramirez making the journey, he chuckled, “I’ll take the under.”

Regardless of whether Ramirez travels, however, there is little question that the series is a big deal in Taiwan. It is the first time in nearly two decades that a big-league team has made the trip to the baseball-loving island. Red Sox outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, through a team interpreter, described the Dodgers’ visit as “a great event for baseball fans in Taiwan.”

Lin said that Ramirez’ presence would represent “a big deal — he’€™s a great legend,” but he also suggested that he expects Hong-Shih Kuo and Chin-Lung Hu, two Taiwanese pitchers on the Dodgers’ roster, would likely be the stars of the series.

Read More: Che-Hsuan Lin, chin-lung hu, hong-shih kuo, Manny Ramirez

Ortiz on D&C: ‘I would like to end my career here’

03.03.10 at 8:26 am ET
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Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hung out for a while with Dennis & Callahan at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., to set the record straight about his struggles last season (LISTEN NOW). The slugger talked about looking forward to this season, how much pressure is on him to have a good year, and what it will take for him to make sure he doesn’t struggle out of the gate like he did in 2009.

A year ago, were there any signs that you were going to struggle?

Not really. I’m the guy that always gets ready to play no matter what the situation is. Of course, nobody is going to think about it before it happened, what happened last year and at the beginning of the season. I take that as an experience and I have to prepare better this offseason so I don’t have to go through all that stuff again.

What was the big change for the second half of the season?

I had nothing to lose anymore. It could get no worse than what it was the first few months, and I just walked onto the field one day, trying not to worry about what happened before, and it clicked.

Did you ever think once, it’s over?

Never. Nope. Never. I was going through a bad time, but it was never over for me.

We’ve heard you’re in the best shape of your life.

No. I was in better shape when I was in my 20s. Last year, everything kind of started crazy. I wasn’t doing what I normally do because of my hands, the doctor wanted me to take it easy. And then we had the WBC, going to play some important game that you’re not ready for, and all that kind of the stuff that happened to me off the field that I have to deal with. All that stuff was clicking together at all the same time, and it wasn’t good. But I’m the kind of guy that likes to turn the page and think about what is up, what is next.

I read you said people in Boston jumped off your bandwagon early. Did you feel like that was really the case?

I’m not saying everyone. The fans were great to me. The fans have always been amazing to me in Boston, and they’ve always supported me. I remember, I had an ovation when I hit my first homer like I’ve never had before. I mean, it was unbelievable. I’ll always thank the fans in Boston. They know how much it takes for us to get prepared to play the game and they know how much we care, especially myself, about going out there every game and trying to do something to entertain them. The fans understand that, and that’s why as long as I’ve been here they’ve supported me, especially after a year like last year.

Now, there are some other people, on the other hand, that they tried to change those people’s mind. Saying bad things, coming out with bad comments, saying that you’re old, saying you don’t have any bat speed, saying you don’t do this, you don’t do that. I’ve been here for years. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of superstars in the game going through what I’ve gone through. It can be at the beginning, at the middle, at the end of their career. You wait, see how things go, and all that crap they were talking about me, I’m pretty sure that at the end of the season, they have to swallow it. Because they saw it wasn’t what they were thinking about. Read the rest of this entry »

Youkilis on D&H: Let’s talk offense

03.03.10 at 8:25 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis spoke with Dale & Holley Tuesday about the upcoming Red Sox season and turned some of the talk about the team’s defense into a discussion about the offensive part of things.

Youkilis shed a little light on his offseason training, some of the things he’s doing to get ready at the plate, and even an upcoming contest that will allow fans to decide what kind of facial hair he sports at the beginning of the season.

Last year, you had these workouts by 7, 7:30, training with Nick Punto was it?

Yeah, Nick is a neighbor of mine out there in Arizona, we drive down there everyday to work out. This year, I did not go out there, cut down on my traveling, stayed up in Boston, trained with Eric Cressey at Cressey Performance up in Hudson, and worked a lot with building the strength up, basically trying to get in the best possible playing shape coming into spring. It’s very hard to basically go out every day and try to get yourself in baseball shape, but as long as you try to get yourself in really good shape, do the certain little things that give you the best potential at staying strong for the whole year, that’s what we try to do and work on.

Improving the pitching and defense ‘€” how do you read it?

I’ll tell you what, we’ve focused a lot on the defense this year, everywhere you hear is defense, defense, defense, and I’ll tell you what, I think a lot of us are getting old in hearing about defense, because we like to talk about our offense, too. A lot of us, we only play the field so we can hit. We only try as hard as we can to play well in the field so we can hit, we don’t want to give up any extra outs and sit in the field, we want to go up there and have some good at bats and get some hits.

Do players ever talk about things fans talk about? Range factor on defense, on-base percentage, do players ever talk about these things?

No, we don’t. I’ve learned a lot about all different kind of stats we have going now. Some of them are just ridiculous, because if you break down all the stuff, you can find a negative and a positive in every single player. And that’s what I think they do, throw out so many different ones so every guy either looks really good or a little less down on the level playing field. So for me, the biggest thing is going out, winning ballgames, playing hard and doing the little things to help your team win ‘€” moving over a run, driving a guy in, getting a bunt down, playing defense well. You can’t worry about those little stats, at the end of the year they’re going to play themselves out you just have to go out there and focus, go pitch to pitch, you can’t worry about your stats or your OBP-R-T-S … H … S ‘€¦ I hope my OBPRTZ’s are good this year ‘€¦ but you can’t worry about that. I mean I joke around like, if a guy could have a triple and stops at second base, I’m like, his slugging percentage just went down, he could have had a triple and raised that up a little bit.

You’ve really focused on driving the ball and being more aggressive at the plate, is that fair to say?

I think there’s a stat out there somebody said that I swung less than I did the year before. Somebody in the media brought that to my attention, said that I swung less than I did the year before, so I don’t know if I’m more aggressive or if the pitches are different. For me, I go up there and I try to hit in situations and basically try to get a good fastball to hit in the zone and try not to let too many of those go by.

If you make the lineup card, where would Kevin Youkilis try to hit?

Right where I’m at is good ‘€” three, four, five, doesn’t really matter. I know we try to go the left/right thing, and the advantage we have with Victor in the heart of that lineup being a switch-hitter, but to me, if other guys are more comfortable in that spot, I’ll go hit somewhere else. It doesn’t matter to me. The greatest thing about playing for the Boston Red Sox is, two years ago when I made the All Star game, I was batting seventh. And I hit seventh in the All Star game too, which just shows how great of a lineup the Boston Red Sox have and the numbers and stats are high even at seventh. For us, we have a lot of great hitters, and it’s a good thing, it doesn’t matter where you hit, you have opportunities to drive in runs.

Does your approach change depending on where you’re hitting?

No. You can’t. You have to play the game in the situations. You go pitch to pitch, you have to focus. Hitting is so hard, and people don’t realize, you watch it on TV, and let me tell you, we watch ourselves on TV and we’re like ugh, how did we miss that pitch. It always looks a lot easier on TV, and for us, the big thing is it’s a very difficult thing, you have to go up there and focus on what you do best and work on your weaknesses in the batting cage. You can’t really do more than what you ‘€” there’s guys that hit home runs, there’s guys that are speedsters and they have to hit the ball on the ground ‘€” you can’t get out of your approach or what you do best or you’re going to find yourself failing more than succeeding.

What was your thought when you heard the Red Sox acquired John Lackey?

I definitely didn’t see that one coming, but it was a great thing to sign him. It’s always a good thing to have depth and pitching, pitching is definitely the key to winning championships. You saw last year with the Yankees they had three starters that pitched unbelievably well in the playoffs and that’s the whole key is try to have as much depth as you can in the pitching rotation, and last year we thought we had so much depth and little things happen here and there and guys get injured, and if our guys stay healthy we have a lot of good pitching there that can take us a long way.

Did you talk to former Yankees great Paul O’Neill about the offseason this year?

No, that was a few years back, I talk to Paul O’Neill about stuff and he said as you get older you hit less and less and work on being in better shape. And for me, the hitting will come. We come out here every single day, we only have one day off, you hit so much ‘€” you’re hitting every day and if you can’t figure it out by April 4, you’re in trouble. So for me, there’s a lot of things to work on, and I’ve slowly gotten into it and I feel good right now working on things. And it’s not a bad thing if you’re struggling right now. If you’re not getting hits now, they don’t count. If you’re trying to make the team, it’s a different story. But if you know you have a spot on the team, you’re trying to work on things, trying to see the ball at the plate. We all want to get hits, but bottom line is you just have to work and improve and get ready for that opening day.

Is spring training too long?

Yes. It gets a little long at the end. The last week, you’re so excited to start real games that mean something and play nine innings ‘€” it can be a little long. But that’s the way it’s set up, and you just have to get used to it.

What has Jose Iglesias shown you with the glove at shortstop?

He has unbelievable hands. A lot of guys think he looks like Omar Vizquel, which isn’t too bad of a player to emulate in that I’ve never seen anything like that in my life when Omar’s out there making plays. He’s very good defensively, his hands are ridiculously smooth and quick and he’s not going to be a guy that probably will hit you 20 some, 30 home runs, but he’s going to be a guy that’s going to go out there and make some plays at short that most guys can’t.

Anything good coming up for you this season off the field?

We have something that’s going to be coming out, I’ll let you guys know right now. We’re trying to get it right now where fans can come and vote online, and basically there’s four choices of facial hair that I will wear for the first week of the season. This is the first time I’ve talked about this, we’re trying to work on it and get it all in the works. It’s between a goatee, clean-shaven, Fu Manchu and a mustache, so we’re hoping the mustache thing doesn’t really get voted on that well but ‘€¦ I’m a little worried. It’s going to be fun, basically going to set it up so people vote online and donate money to the charity with the voting, hopefully raise a lot of money, and hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

What’s New With The Red Sox: Tuesday

03.03.10 at 2:47 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Nothing fancy, just the facts.” (I’ve been told by Rob Bradford that I am contractually obligated to lead with that statement.)

The Red Sox had one last day of workouts at the minor league training facility before packing their belongings and preparing to head up the road to City of Palms Park for the start of the exhibition calendar. News was scant, insofar as the next round of questions that looms about the club will be answered during spring training games, beginning with Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College.

Even so, some items came more clearly into view:

Jonathan Papelbon discussed his desire to achieve greatness, and the changes he’s making this spring to do so. He discussed tweaking his mental approach, while also identifying work on his split-finger fastball as a key to his success for the upcoming year.

‘€œI came into this spring training knowing what I had to do and being on a mission to do it, whereas other spring trainings, I hadn’€™t necessary come in that way,’€ said Papelbon. ‘€œThis spring, that was part of it ‘€“ being able to throw my split more, my slider more, making my adjustment to the hitters.

‘€œIt’€™s like riding a bike ‘€“ it’€™s always there in the back pocket, but you’€™ve just got to break it out and dust the rust off,’€ he continued. ‘€œI’€™ve kind of developed a really good feel for it out of the gate now. For me, that’€™s huge, because obviously that’€™s a feel pitch, a confidence pitch. It’€™s a pitch you have to have confidence to throw. For me, being able to come out here these first few sessions and throw it effectively has been a big confidence builder for me. I’€™m excited to keep building that throughout the spring.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bill Hall, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis

V-Mart on D&C: ‘Big respect’ for Varitek

03.02.10 at 12:19 pm ET
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Red Sox starting catcher Victor Martinez joined Dennis & Callahan on set in Fort Myers, Fla., to discuss some of the pressing issues of this spring training, including where and when he will be used, his contract situation and more.

Martinez also took a look back at his transition from Cleveland to Boston and how difficult it is to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield as compared to hitting him. To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Do you feel more relaxed this year, as opposed to last season, coming into a new place midseason?

Definitely, coming in right now, opening things up with the Red Sox, it’s a lot more comfortable for me. Obviously last year, I came in kind of late in the season, in the middle of the race, and it was a little tough for me because, like you’ve been saying, one thing is to face these guys, and it’s way different to be behind the plate for them. One guy who really helped me out was Jason Varitek, he’s really helped me out, telling me which pitch to call to assist the guy, when this guy’s in trouble, call this pitch, it’ll relax him a little bit, little stuff like that was a big help for me.

Doesn’t that say a lot about him to help you, when you’ll ultimately replace him?

Man, that’s what it shows to everybody ‘€” he has that ‘C’ on his chest for something. I really have a big amount of respect for Jason, and I really have a big amount of respect playing against him, the way he played the game. And now, just being his teammate, I have it even more now.

You looked very comfortable last season, had a great year. Are you ready to leave at the end of this season if that’s what it takes?

I don’t think we can start to talk about that right now, but I’m already making it clear ‘€” I really want to be a part of this winning team for years to come, but we’ll see what happens.

Josh Beckett says, “I just want to be happy.” He’s not worried about setting the bar for other players. Do you feel that way?

I already talked about this before. I don’t really care about free agency. It’s all in their hands, and what they want to do. We’ll see what happens.

Have you talked to them yet?

No. We haven’t talked anything about it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: victor martinez,

Red Sox get ready for games

03.02.10 at 12:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The current buzz of camp is that Eri Yoshida, the knuckleball-throwing Japanese schoolgirl, is out working in the field with Tim Wakefield. The 18-year-old Yoshida also watched with some fascination as Wakefield threw a bullpen session earlier this morning.

Beyond that, it’s a day for the Red Sox to pack up their belongings at the Red Sox minor league training complex to head up Edison Ave. and move into City of Palms Park. A few notes from the big league camp’s last day on the sprawling fields:

–Manager Terry Francona said that the time at the minor league facility has gone smoothly, been well organized, and featured few surprises. He’s looking forward to games.

–Francona suggested that Lars Anderson looks like he’s “better situated to have some success” this year, saying that the first baseman looks more comfortable on the fields, rather than looking somewhat overwhelmed by constant scrutiny. “I think it’s his time to start being a player,” said Francona.

–While the Sox do not view JD Drew as a platoon player, they do typically steer his rest days towards games where a left-hander is on the mound. That being the case, the primary player with whom he would seem likely to platoon is the right-handed Bill Hall, who will get some time in right field this spring. The team does not envisioning starting Jeremy Hermida in Drew’s place to face lefties. Nor does the team plan to have Mike Cameron move to right from centerfield on days when Drew is out. Cameron will remain in center as a starter.

Mike Lowell was scheduled to take batting practice on Tuesday, but rain forced him to hit in the cage. He will hit outside on Wednesday.

–Mike Cameron, after tweaking his groin, will enter games no earlier than Friday, and even that timetable might be aggressive. “He’d have to say he’s feeling great,” said Francona. Still, Cameron and the team think that the tweak was minor. “It’s not an issue,” said Francona.

Read More: bill Hall, eri yoshida, J.D Drew, Jeremy Hermida

Report: Baldelli to be special assistant for Rays

03.02.10 at 11:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to the St. Petersburg Times (via MLB Trade Rumors), former Red Sox outfielder Rocco Baldelli will serve as a special assistant for the Tampa Bay Rays, working with younger players. The report states that the 28-year-old Baldelli isn’t ready to retire, but is dealing with a shoulder injury. Baldelli hit .253 in 164 plate appearances with the Sox last season.

Video: Lowell taking batting practice

03.02.10 at 11:04 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla, — The rain soaked morning forced the Sox into the cages. Mike Lowell was out there taking his cuts.

Boof Bosner gets ready to start over

03.02.10 at 9:33 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boof Bonser has experienced change before.

The 28-year-old is in his first spring training with the Red Sox after being traded by the Twins in exchange for minor league reliever Chris Province in December. As he goes through the early paces of life in a new organization, he is able to draw upon the experience in 2003-04. On Nov. 14, 2003, he was traded by the Giants to Minnesota in a trade that has been reviewed countless times over the last six years. In exchange for catcher A.J. Pierzynski — whom the Twins were looking to dump to clear payroll — the Giants gave up Bonser, four-time All-Star Joe Nathan and former All-Star Francisco Liriano.

The trade appeared to be one of the most lopsided in baseball history when Liriano had a meteoric big league debut in 2006, making the All-Star team en route to a 2.16 ERA. Since then, however, the former phenom has struggled to regain his form while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Still, Nathan has offered the Twins a closer who has performed as one of the best in the game for several years, and it seems safe to suggest that the Giants would rather not have made the deal.

Bonser was reminded of the trade with some frequency while with the Twins. Reporters would approach him and Nathan (who lockered next to each other) to inquire about the deal.

“It is cool [to have been part of such a memorable deal], definitely,” said Bonser. “We just kind of laughed about how reporters would always come up and say, ‘€˜Do you realize you were part of one of the best trades?’€™ That was about it. There was nothing really said amongst us.”

Still, Bonser is now in position to try to draw on the experience of that deal. That was the only other time that he has changed organizations. Now, he is adjusting to life on the other side of Fort Myers following his move from the Twins to the Sox.

“It was another organization I was going to, and it was almost like starting over again [with the Twins],” said Bonser. “It’€™s sort of like here, I came over here. It’€™s starting over again.”

Bonser will have the opportunity to do just that on Wednesday night. He will start the second game of the Sox’ day-night doubleheader, taking the mound against Boston College. The former first-round selection admits that he has “no idea” what to expect about how his pitches will come back as he returns from labrum surgery that wiped out his 2009 campaign. That being the case, he admitted that he is excited and curious to see what he will bring to the mound against BC.

“I think it’€™s going to be different [from pitching in instructional league in the fall], because a) it’€™s a new organization and b) it’€™s spring training. Last year, I was leaving the season. Now, I’€™m going to get going again,” said Bonser. “It’€™s my first surgery, obviously. I’€™m trying to learn as I go along what comes back, how this all works out. … I’ll find out tomorrow.”

Bonser said that he has felt comfortable on the mound, though he is working to iron out the usual spring mechanical kinks. Even so, he is waiting for games to give him an indication about how hitters will react to his stuff. That process begins on Wednesday, as he takes the mound as a starter.

For now, Bonser — who has a career 5.12 ERA, with a 4.12 mark as a starter and 6.38 ERA as a reliever — is being prepared as a starter to lengthen him out. More likely, his ticket to a roster spot with the Sox would come as a reliever, a role in which his fastball velocity has played up in the past, the adrenaline of entering mid-game elevating his strikeout numbers to 9.5 per nine innings.

“I think [the adrenaline] might be a little too much at times [as a reliever], but it’€™s there,” said Bonser. “Too much means I can get over-amped at times,” resulting in diminished command and feel for his pitches.

That, however, is a concern for down the road. For now, Bonser is simply looking forward to the act of gearing up for a season and getting a sense of what his arm, now healthy, can do in game situations.

Read More: aj pierzynski, Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, Giants

Yoda offers unique perspective on Matsuzaka

03.02.10 at 12:13 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — At this time last year Tsuyoshi Yoda was the one guiding Daisuke Matsuzaka through spring training. The former Japanese professional pitcher was the pitching coach for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and Matsuzaka was one of the key members of his rotation.

So when Yoda showed up at the Red Sox‘ minor league training facility Monday, he offered a unique perspective on Matsuzaka’s current state, serving as the only person currently in Fort Myers who had witnessed the Sox pitcher on March 1 both in 2009 and ’10.

So, did Matsuzaka look better than he appeared last year at this time?

“Hai!”

Yoda’s response translated into “yes” and immediately offered another wave of insight into what transpired with Matsuzaka in the early stages of last season.

“He looks better than last year,” Yoda said through a translator after watching Matsuzaka throw lightly. “I saw the bullpen today and his body structure and movement was much better than last year.”

Yoda, who remembered Matsuzaka’s velocity throughout his time with Team Japan as being “up and down,” also relayed that “it was obvious [the velocity] was different than in the past.”

Another telling observation by Yoda was that, like the Red Sox, he and his WBC team weren’t aware of the groin injury Matsuzaka told a Japanese magazine he had injured during training for the event last year.

“When I heard about the injury … I didn’t know about it,” Yoda said.

“After he came back to Boston I wasn’t his coach anymore, so I tried not to talk to him as a coach. If he asked I might have answered, but I respect the Red Sox. I did meet with him today and asked him how the groin muscle was and he said it wasn’t stiff, like last year. If it was a problem he should communicate, but we didn’t know about it last year.”

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