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Francona on D&C: With Lowell, ‘We’ll see where that goes’

02.24.10 at 1:24 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning from spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Francona discussed the potential impact of two players who seem to have tenuous roles on the club: Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek. He said that he has “always looked at Mike as a valuable member” of the team but is unsure what his role will be. The team is waiting for him to get healthy before seeing what will happen with him. Francona feels that Varitek “is situated to do better than he has in the past because he won’€™t get beat up physically” with Victor Martinez handling most of the catching load.

Francona also discussed the acquisitions his team made in the offseason to bolster its rotation and outfield. Despite the Red Sox having six potential starters, he understands that injuries and ineffectiveness means that the team must “prepare for having guys not make 35 starts.” And though he acknowledged that free agent signee Mike Cameron volunteered to play in left field, Francona felt that “it would have been wrong to put Cam in left and Jacoby in center, because we wouldn’t have been playing to our strengths.”

The Sox manager touched on his relationship with Theo Epstein and participation in building the team. “Theo and I communicate a lot, so we don’€™t have to have sit-down meetings because he knows how I feel about things,” he said.

A full transcript of the interview is below. Go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page to listen.

Last year we said pretty much the same thing we are saying now, “Man, oh man, we have a surplus of pitching.” It didn’€™t really work out like that. Have you ever been in a situation where you can say you had enough pitching?

Well, trying to put together a staff that can be good enough to compete in the East, can sustain an injury or two or three or four if something happens, is probably not an easy chore for Theo to do in the winter. And we recognize that. Last year went a little different regarding [John] Smoltz and [Brad] Penny, and it didn’€™t work out as well as we wanted it to. This year, we basically have six starters going into the season. It is a little bit hard to tell guys that have been here a long time, “We have six, maybe five spots for a while.” I know that we better prepare for having guys not make 35 starts. My first year here I think we had guys make all but about six starts, and I thought that was what it was going to be. But that’€™s not the case. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s new with the Red Sox: Tuesday

02.24.10 at 7:19 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts. Here is what transpired with the Boston Red Sox on a day Mike Lowell had the media’s ear for the most anticipated 21 minutes of spring training thus far:

‘€” Many wondered what was going to transpire if and when Lowell had to sit on the bench at the Sox’ minor league training facility and answer questions regarding his past, present and future with a team that tried to trade him to the Rangers back in December. Monday, they got their answer: An honest analysis of the situation without much of a solution as to what will transpire next.

There were moments of definition, partly thanks to a question by WBZ’s Jonny Miller. When asked by Miller about his time in Boston, Lowell deadpanned: “Jonny, I’m not dead yet.”

We also know that Lowell’s plan is to start taking batting practice next week and he believes that he could easily be ready to play in the spring training opener on March 3 if called upon. The 36-year-old also relayed the recurring theme centered around the fact that he feels he is healthier than last year, which should translate into more playing time, wherever it might be.

Yet, the biggest question regarding Lowell still lingers: Will he be on the Red Sox’ roster on Opening Day? Despite the efforts of both sides to get the third baseman in a place he won’t be a bench player, Alex Speier thinks there is a good chance a trade prior to the Easter Sunday opener won’t happen. Budgets and rosters have been cemented much more than when Lowell was previously almost dealt to Texas before the trade was blown up by a thumb injury. And, as Alex writes, there is another part of the time element working against him, as well:

According to a major league source, one team that had considered a pursuit of the 2007 World Series MVP earlier this offseason quickly abandoned any notions of trading for him. The team had concerns about Lowell’s defense and injuries, and could not make a deal for him until those concerns had been answered on the field.

Yet since those questions cannot be answered until later in spring training, when Lowell starts playing in games, the team had to move on and use its resources to acquire other players with fewer question marks. That club no longer has either an available position or the necessary money to seek a trade for the 2007 World Series MVP.

To read ‘Why Lowell Might Stay’ click here.

For a transcript of Lowell’s press conference, complete with video, click here.

‘€” The last position player to arrive was shortstop Marco Scutaro, who reported that the plantar fasciitis problem he experienced in his foot last year was not a problem after undergoing extensive physical therapy in Miami over the offseason. Former Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay, who also experienced the problem, told Scutaro it was lucky there was a complete tear of the tendon on the bottom of his foot for the sake of the healing process. That message, Scutaro said, helped put his mind at ease.

“He said that was the best thing that could have happened because that’s what they do when they do the surgery, cut it off so all the muscles can relax,” Scutaro explained. “In the morning it doesn’t feel the same as the other one, but to do baseball activities it’s fine. As the offseason went along it started feeling better.”

For Lou Merloni’s video interview, along with some more comments made by Scutaro to the media, click here.

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Source: Ricciardi to join ‘Baseball Tonight’

02.23.10 at 4:15 pm ET
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According to a source with knowledge of the situation, former Toronto Blue Jays‘ general manager J.P. Ricciardi will be joining the cast of ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” starting in March. ESPN has already announced that former major league third baseman Aaron Boone will be part of the show, as well, and further indications suggest that former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra may also be added to the group shortly. An official announcement regarding Ricciardi is expected either later this week or early next week.

Scutaro finds a comfort zone

02.23.10 at 1:42 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro joined his new club on Tuesday morning. The 34-year-old suggested that this is the most secure he’s ever felt in spring training. For arguably the first time in his career, he knows — after signing a two-year, $12.5 million deal this offseason — that he is reporting to a team for which he is the unquestioned everyday shortstop.

“Pretty much every year I had to probably make the team or something like that. This year it’€™s a little bit different. I know I’€™m going to be there everyday. It makes it easier for you,” Scutaro said. “It’€™s totally different. You can work on whatever you have to work on. You don’€™t have to be worried about making the team and all that stuff.”

A few other notes:

  • Scutaro suggested that it’s no coincidence that the best seasons of his career have come in 2008 and 2009, when he became an everyday player after years of utility work in Oakland: “I think it’€™s just different when you play everyday. Out of the bench, it’€™s tough to make adjustments when you play once a week or twice a week. It’€™s kind of harder. When you play everyday, you can make adjustments. You know that if you go 0-for-4 tonight, you’€™ll be in the lineup the next day and you can make adjustments.”
  • While moving around the diamond in Oakland, Scutaro said that he believed that he could have a path to a job as a starting second baseman or shortstop: “Probably I consider myself a second base or shortstop guy, kind of. Corner guy, you’€™ve got to hit for power. I don’€™t hit for power, so I kind of thought those two were going to be my position.”
  • On whether it was odd that Oakland, after using him as a utility player and dealing him to the Blue Jays, offered him a three-year deal this winter: “Sometimes things work out that way. They offered me a contract, too, but I just wanted to come here because we had a chance to win. That’€™s what it’€™s all about. As a player, you want to win. That’€™s why you prepare the whole year.”
  • Scutaro said that he had yet to talk with manager Terry Francona about where he’ll hit, but that after a year hitting leadoff, he was not particular: “I don’€™t care. Wherever they need me. I think my game, whether I’€™m leading off, second hole, eighth, ninth is pretty much going to be my game. Just try to get on base and score runs for the team.”
  • On playing shortstop between Gold Glovers Adrian Beltre at third and Dustin Pedroia at second: “I only have to worry about the routine ground balls. The ones to my right he’€™s probably going to get, and the ones to the middle Pedroia’€™s probably going to get.”
Read More: Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia, marco scutaro, Oakland A's

Lowell: ‘No idea’ where he’ll be on Opening Day

02.23.10 at 12:34 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell spoke at the team’s minor league training facility on Tuesday. He discussed his health and his status with the team this spring, following an offseason where the team nearly dealt him to the Rangers and then signed Adrian Beltre as his replacement at third.

Lowell, who turns 36 on Wednesday, said that his hip is significantly stronger (by his estimate, by 10 times stronger) than it was last year when he reported. The veteran, who is now in his fifth spring training with the Sox, said that he’s hitting off a tee and a week away from taking batting practice as he continues his recovery from a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The third baseman is fully aware of the Sox’ unsuccessful efforts to trade him this offseason due to the thumb. With the signing of Adrian Beltre, he is also aware that he will surely be available to interested teams. He could not predict whether he would be with the Sox on Opening Day.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I really don’t.”

With no starting job in Boston, Lowell suggested that he is “absolutely” treating spring training like a tryout camp, and that he is more worried about his health than trade possibilities that would depend, after all, on his physical condition. So long as he is healthier than was the case a year ago, when he played 119 games and had 484 plate appearances for the Sox, Lowell did not foresee a need for him to become a bench player. He also said that the Sox have not talked to him about a bench role.

“I’m definitely healthier this year than last,” he said. “I don’t see why I should get less at-bats.”

Lowell did acknowledge that there is lingering discomfort when he runs, but he also noted that speed has never been one of his relevant attributes to those who are evaluating his skills. He feels that he is only a few days behind his teammates in terms of readiness to play, and suggested that if it mattered, he would be physically ready to play when the exhibition season begins. That said, he anticipates lagging slightly behind his teammates in games, but he had no hesitation about whether he will be ready to play at the start of the season.

“I want to stress that I wasn’t stressed [this offseason],” he said. “I’m pretty confident I’m going to be in the big leagues this year.”

Here is some of the transcript of Lowell’s press conference:

  • I’€™m not really worried about my thumb much. The surgery went really well, the rehab has gone really well. I’€™ve hit off a tee and I’€™m assuming within about a week I’€™m hitting batting practice, so I don’€™t see that as a major problem.
  • I think my hip is about 10 times stronger than it was last year. I think I was able to use the offseason to strengthen and get flexibility and range of motion and maintain it. I’€™m pretty optimistic. Dicey? Dicey as your articles want to be, I guess.
  • Strange in the sense that I thought I was going to Texas, yeah that was a little different. I think I’€™ve been in some rumors before and I think when you’€™re going on a plane going to Texas it’€™s a little closer than most time. I realize I really can’€™t control that so I really haven’€™t sweated it that much. I was really concentrating on the health aspect. I’€™m looking at this spring basically like I’€™ve done the last 14 years. I hang my hat on that I’€™m healthier at this point in the spring than I was last year and I felt I did a pretty good job when I was in there. I felt last year was the struggle. I think trying to overcome a lot when I basically hadn’€™t even jogged one time by the time I reported last year. Yeah, it’€™s definitely weird when you might be going somewhere else and all of that doesn’€™t pan out, but I guess that’€™s the way it goes.

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What’s new with the Red Sox: Monday

02.23.10 at 3:14 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts. Here is what transpired with the Boston Red Sox under the partly-cloudy skies of spring training Monday.

David Ortiz opened his press conference with perhaps the most definitive opening statement any player could muster.

‘€œYou’€™ve got to see me naked,” he said. Good times.

As for the rest of the always-entertaining re-introduction to Ortiz, much of it centered around the theme of disrespect, and the slugger’s quest to prove his naysayers wrong.

‘€œI think people give up on me too early, too fast, start talking about age and all that kind of stuff,’€ Ortiz said. ‘€œYou listen to it for a minute, it was the same people who were clapping for you a year before and saying good things about you. Mind change that quick, I don’€™t believe in that but it’€™s a one-minute thing. That’€™s the way I see it. I’€™m strong enough to deal with that and put that in the past.’€

Oh, and there was also more talk about his physical shape (with a bit of Menudo banter mixed in: “It’€™s just something that it’€™s pretty much part of the game when people worry about your body shape. I’€™m not going to look like Ricky Martin right now,’€ Ortiz admitted. ‘€œI’€™m going to be the same guy. I might get stronger, I might try to stay away from injuries. I ain’€™t going to look any different. I wish I could look like Ricky Martin.’€

For the video of Ortiz’ presser click here. For Alex Speier’s look at the uncertain future that he is facing, click here.

Daisuke Matsuzaka said after throwing 25 tosses from 60 and 90 feet, respectively, that he had no pain in his back and his schedule should be pushed back no further than a week.

‘€œThe plan for now is for me to throw every day,’€ Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. ‘€œIt’€™s not like the time I went on the D.L. last year when it was a shoulder issue where we did incorporate some rest. This time being a back issue I really couldn’€™t get into my natural delivery, but I felt I was able to do that today. I was able to focus on that, work on that, and I think that was the biggest thing for me today.’€ It should also be noted that Matsuzaka has lowered his body fat about seven percent, from 24 to 17 percent. It is very close to what he was upon his initial arrival in 2007.

To read more about how Matsuzaka’s throwing session went, click here.

Mike Cameron is old (comparatively speaking) and excited (again, comparatively speaking). Which led Alex Speier to write paragraphs like this:

And yet Cameron, upon his somewhat ‘€œadventurous’€ arrival to the Red Sox’€™ minor league training facility (after mistakenly showing up a couple miles up the road at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers), sounded as if the opportunity to enter the Boston clubhouse represented something of a fountain of youth. (And yes: Ponce de Leon made his way around Southwest Florida, thus earning the title of ninth most influential person in the history of the region, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.) Cameron flashed his trademark high wattage smile in suggesting that he felt energized by his new team.

‘€œI almost feel like a rookie feeling coming here,’€ Cameron said, ‘€œbecause of what’€™s been accomplished already, the caliber of team in place and me stepping in and not putting the burden of trying to mess that up.’€

To read more of what Cameron had to say click here.

– More than anybody, Jose Iglesias wanted to be around Dustin Pedroia. Monday he got a big ol’ heap of the second baseman, which was just find with the first-year pro from Cuba.

For more on Iglesias’ admiration of Pedroia, click here.

Adrian Beltre can field. His former teammate in Seattle Billy Hall says so: ‘I’ve never seen him make a play look tough,” Hall said. “Maybe that’s why he’s never on SportsCenter.”

Speaking of Beltre, he confirmed that the idea of possibly playing shortstop with the Red Sox when the team made a play for the then-free agent after the 2004 season wasn’t a selling point. He also reiterated that making the choice of turning down Oakland’s three-year deal in order to head to the Sox was the right decision.

‘€œIt wasn’€™t tough at all,’€ Beltre said. ‘€œIt was a decision that a player sometimes has to make. Thank God that I’€™m financially good and set. It’€™s good to come to a team that has a really high expectation and has a really good chance to go to the World Series. I haven’€™t been in this situation a lot before. I’€™ve been on teams that have been good but not good enough to even get into the playoffs. It’€™s something that I consider myself taking a little risk to put a ring on my finger.’€

For more of what Beltre had to say during his first day in a Red Sox uniform click here.

– All of the position players reported with the exception of shortstop Marco Scutaro, who is expected to make an appearance Tuesday. Third baseman Mike Lowell dropped off his equipment at the complex early in the afternoon.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO

– Lowell’s press conference figures to be the highlight of the day. To get a preview of what the third baseman will say click here for what he relayed to WEEI.com last week regarding his situation.

Here’s a preview:

‘€œI don’€™t view this as a major challenge,’€ Lowell explained. ‘€œIf I’€™m healthy and teams out there think I can play every day, there’€™s going to be a team that wants me to play. If that’€™s beneficial to the Red Sox, I don’€™t think any of this is contingent on whether it’€™s beneficial to me. It doesn’€™t matter. I have no say. But if it’€™s beneficial to the Red Sox, then yeah, they’€™d make the move. And then you’€™d go wherever they send you. That’€™s the thing. I can’€™t say, ‘€˜Hey, I want to leave,’€™ or, ‘€˜Hey, I want to stay.’€™

‘€œIt doesn’€™t matter what I think or say. The only time I had that decision was after the World Series when I was a free agent. That’€™s the only time that I had the say. After that, you’€™re a product of the industry. I’€™m not sour about that. I’€™m cool with it. If you told me that I’€™d get traded and then they’€™d take away my contract, then I might have a much bigger issue with the way things are going.’€

Jason Varitek on D&H

02.22.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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With the Red Sox officially kicking off spring training, Jason Varitek checked in from Ft. Myers on Monday with Dale & Holley to talk about the 2010 Red Sox campaign.

Varitek will no longer be the No. 1 catcher on the Sox ‘€” it is expected that Victor Marinez will take over the full-time duties ‘€” but the captain didn’€™t see a big deal in how that would play out.

‘€œI think that it’€™s not really different than what ended up at the end of last year. I had two months to get used to it last year and I don’€™t see any difference,’€ said Varitek. ‘€œIt’€™s still a grind and we still have to get our work in and all of those kinds of things throughout the whole spring training.’€

Varitek also talked about the ‘€œC’€ on his jersey and how he actually felt when the organization asked him to put the letter on.

To read the full transcript look below, but to listen to the interview click here.

How has spring training been so far?

I think it’€™s been pretty good. We have some nice weather. It hasn’€™t been overly warm yet but it’€™s been warmer than where everyone comes from.

How have you approached spring training this year as the backup to Victor Martinez?

I think that it’€™s not really different than what ended up at the end of last year. I had two months to get used to it last year and I don’€™t see any difference. It’€™s still a grind and we still have to get our work in and all of those kinds of things throughout the whole spring training.

Do you keep the same schedule as far as talking with the pitchers and John Farrell as you did when you were the starter?

I think it allows you more time to see a few more things at a different angle. But the communication process has to stay the same with John through me, through Vic, through the both of us. You know back-and-forth and through those pitchers. So it’€™s a square or triangular or rectangular affect of communication, and that can’€™t change.

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The man Iglesias came to see

02.22.10 at 5:11 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jose Iglesias sat at the chair in front of his locker, leaning forward and carrying a wide-eyed approach to all that was going on around him. On Monday morning, like so many at the Red Sox‘ minor league training facility, the early-morning show centered around the trash-talking of Dustin Pedroia.

For Iglesias, who has an above-average understanding of the English language despite having been in the United States for less than a year, it was yet another unique experience when it came to life in the world of professional baseball.

“It’s funny,” Iglesias said in english, breaking off from answering questions in spanish with Alex Ochoa serving as a translator, referring to Pedroia’s clubhouse antics.

What Pedroia didn’t know was that the 20-year-old whom he was entertaining – and would later take grounders with – had made it a priority to seek out the Sox’ second baseman well before arriving in Fort Myers.

“I looked forward to seeing him most of all,” Iglesias said of Pedroia. “I like his energy and how he plays hard. He’s the guy I really wanted to play with.”

When told Iglesias had singled him out as the player the Cuban shortstop had most wanted to meet up with, Pedroia smiled and returned a dose of admiration the way of the first-year pro.

“He’s got great hands. He’s really quick,” Pedroia said. “Defensively, he’s there. The tools are there. He’ll get stronger as he gets older, but the tools are there to be a really good player.”

David Ortiz press conference, 2/22

02.22.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz addressed the media today at the Red Sox minor league facility.

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Terry Francona Press Conference, 2/22

02.22.10 at 3:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Big Papi is in the house. Red Sox manager Terry Francona spoke to the media today about David Ortiz. The 34-year-old designated hitter arrived to the Red Sox minor league facilty on Monday morning. Ortiz took batting practice and grounders in the field.

Read More: David Ortiz, Terry Francona,
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