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Joe Maddon on The Big Show: Why Manny Ramirez will fit with the Rays, and why Boston will ‘dig’ Carl Crawford

02.01.11 at 5:31 pm ET
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Rays manager Joe Maddon was a guest of The Big Show on Tuesday, the same day a press conference was held in St. Petersburg introducing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon as the newest members of Maddon’s squad.

Maddon was asked about the idea that the addition of Ramirez, now 38 and coming off a career-low 90 games in 2010, could present challenges for a manager.

“My hair is already white. If he could turn it brown, I would be appreciative,” Maddon said.

“I had dinner with him last night, as you know he’s actually a very ingratiating fellow. … We had a good conversation, I explained to him about the Rays and how we do things here and he just continued to repeat the mantra that at 7 o’clock he’s going to play hard and compete. And he said that to me several times. So I think he’s at the point where he feels like he has something to prove. He’s lost some weight, he’s in great shape, he’s been working out with Evan Longoria and some other fellows. It was great to see them [Ramirez and Damon] together, it was a lot of fun.”

Maddon managed Carl Crawford for five seasons in Tampa Bay. He said on Tuesday that he wished Crawford was returning to the Rays in 2011, instead of joining an AL East rival in Boston. The 2008 AL Manager of the Year had nothing but praise when asked about his former player. Read the rest of this entry »

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Familiar faces in new places: Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon introduced as Rays

02.01.11 at 1:09 pm ET
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It was in 2005 that Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez last neighbored in the Red Sox outfield, in a pairing that had lasted four years and included three playoff appearances and a World Series trophy. On Tuesday, Damon and Ramirez were giddy in the renewal of their partnership in the American League East, this time as members of the Rays.

Damon signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with Tampa Bay, and Ramirez agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal. On Tuesday, they were introduced at a press conference in St. Petersburg.

“We’re back,” beamed Ramirez.

Ramirez, who had made more than $20 million per season from 2001-10, said that he had no qualms about signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Rays, suggesting that the opportunity to prove his ability to perform at a high level on a competitive team was his chief motivation in joining Tampa Bay.

“I already made my money,” Ramirez told reporters. “I’m here because I love the game, I love to compete. It doesn’t matter how much you make. All you want is a chance to prove to people that you still could do it.

“I’ve been working hard and I want to show people that I can still play,” added Ramirez, who underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia following the season, and then went to Athletes’ Performance in Arizona to prepare for the season.

Ramirez, 38, was limited by injuries to a career-low 90 games in 2010. He split the year between the Dodgers and White Sox (after being claimed on waivers by Chicago in August), hitting .290 with a .409 OBP, .460 slugging mark, .870 OPS and nine homers. For his career, he is a .313/.411/.586/.998 hitter with 555 homers. He suggested that he can play for five more seasons.

Ramirez, who will DH for the Rays, will wear the same No. 24 with the Rays that he wore with the Red Sox, leaving behind the No. 99 he wore with the Dodgers. He told reporters that No. 99 is his National League number, while No. 24 is his preferred American League integer.

Damon grew up in nearby Orlando, and so the 37-year-old — who played in 145 games in 2010 for the Tigers while hitting .271 with a .355 OBP, .401 slugging mark and .756 OPS — viewed the opportunity for a homecoming as an opportunity that could not be turned down.

“This is my dream team,” Damon told reporters at the press conference to introduce him and Manny Ramirez as the newest Rays. “I’ll see much more of my family and friends. I love this opportunity to come back home and hopefully help this team win a championship.”

Damon said that he views the Rays — who won the AL East in 2010 — as capable of competing in the division this year. He also said that he does not view this season as the “final chapter” of his career.

The Rays, of course, are Damon’s third stop in the American League East. After coming up with the Royals and spending his first six big league seasons in Kansas City, he spent one year in Oakland before playing from 2002-05 with the Red Sox. He hit .295 with a .362 OBP and .441 slugging mark with the Sox, helping Boston to the 2004 World Series. He then went to the Yankees from 2006-09, hitting .285/.363/.458/.821 in his four years in the Bronx, which culminated in another World Series ring in 2009.

Now, Damon and Ramirez will be competing against the Sox and Yankees for AL East supremacy. While the departure of free agent left fielder Carl Crawford to the Sox was expected to represent a shift in the balance of power in the division, the Red Sox caution that the Rays’ chances in the division should not be discounted.

‘€œThe demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar,’€ Sox GM Theo Epstein said on Monday. ‘€œThey’€™re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and stay and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball given the strength of their farm system. They lose [Matt] Garza, they have [Jeremy] Hellickson ready to step in. They lose Crawford, they have [Desmond] Jennings and [Matt] Joyce ready to step in. They’€™re going to be really tough.’€

Read More: Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, tampa bay rays,

Red Sox expect Pedroia to conclude recovery ‘with flying colors’

01.31.11 at 9:28 pm ET
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Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona suggested that they envision second baseman Dustin Pedroia — who had a screw put in his foot in September to help heal a broken left foot — being able to make a full recovery for the coming season. Pedroia recently told WEEI.com that he would modify some of his activities in order to reduce the strain on his foot, and he also admitted that he still sometimes has discomfort in the appendage, prompting some anxiety about his health going forward.

But Epstein said that while Pedroia will be paced in his return, his recovery is proceeding well, and he is not expected to be restricted for the season. The discomfort Pedroia encountered, Epstein said, was unrelated to the surgery.

“He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot, and doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot immobile for so long. That was reassuring,” said Epstein. “It didn’€™t have anything to do with the fracture or the surgery. He’€™s healing really well, working out. He’€™s not wearing cleats yet, but we’€™re going to be smart about it. We don’€™t expect him to be limited by the time the season starts.”

Francona suggested that he has checked in frequently with the second baseman, and acknowledged that Pedroia has experienced emotional ups and downs during the recovery process. Even so, the manager is confident that the three-time All-Star will be in good shape entering the 2011 season.

“Like anybody that’s had a screw put in, you have some days where you’re like so thankful. You feel those little milestones or breakthroughs, and then, you have a couple days where you get frustrated,” said Francona. “But I think from talking to him and the people that are running his rehab that he’s going to come through this with flying colors. Saying that, the first day we’re down there, we do the 300-yard shuttle. We might not let him do that. We might. But he had a screw put in his foot. We’re going to try to take care of our guys. We’ll check with him every day, but I think he’s going to be OK.”

The 27-year-old Pedroia hit .288 with a .367 OBP, .493 slugging mark, .860 OPS, 12 homers and nine steals in 75 games before fracturing his foot by fouling a ball off of it in San Francisco in late-June.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Terry Francona, Theo Epstein,

Francona: David Ortiz needs to face left-handed pitchers

01.31.11 at 8:58 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona, prior to a Town Hall meeting between team executives and members of the public, said that even though David Ortiz has endured a significant dropoff in his offense in recent seasons against left-handed pitchers, he does not believe that he can simply sit the DH against southpaws.

Ortiz hit .222 with a .275 OBP, .324 slugging mark and two homers in 185 at-bats against lefties. He hit .297/.416/.643 with 30 homers in 333 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. From 2008-10, Ortiz is hitting .218/.291/.393 against lefties, and .274/.383/.549 against right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, in Mike Cameron and Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox will have a pair of strong bench options against left-handed pitchers. But Francona does not envision pushing Ortiz into a platoon.

“For David to be successful — and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do — you can’t just sit him because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that,” said Francona. “I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with. That wasn’t necessarily the case [last] April. He was struggling against everybody, and we were struggling to win.”

Francona further elaborated on the difficult balancing act he faced last April, when Ortiz struggled desperately out of the gate for the second straight year, while Mike Lowell languished on the bench.

“For whatever reason, the last two years have been horrendous starts. Thankfully, he’s pulled out of it. There’s no getting around it. Last April was awful. It was hard. You get through it, and we had to kind of fire our way through it at times, and thankfully we did. But it was hard,” said Francona. “I lost a lot of sleep over that. We always tell guys the night before if they’re playing. It’s something that we do, and I’m real comfortable with it. I remember one night in New York, I think [CC] Sabathia might’ve been pitching (the next day), and for one of the few times since I’ve been here, I had to go out and tell guys, ‘I don’t know. We’ll call you tomorrow.’ Maybe in some places that’s normal, but it really bothered me. It was a lot of anxiety for an April game. It was important to them, so it should’ve been important to me.”

For complete Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: David Ortiz, Terry Francona,

Lucchino: Yankees still favorites

01.31.11 at 8:03 pm ET
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Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, asked his thoughts on Yankees GM Brian Cashman‘s recent suggestion that the Red Sox are the favorites in the AL East, tried to downplay the comment.

“Cashman is a very honest, forthright guy. But he’s also not above playing games,” Lucchino said. “They’re always the favorites. C’mon. They’re the New York Yankees. They’re in the biggest market in the world. We’re happy to be those guys that they worry about looking over their shoulder.

“If it were anybody but Cashman, I might say there’s plenty of gamesmanship,” Lucchino added. “In this case, he was saying something I hope he believes. I hope he has some respect for us. We have plenty of it for them.”

The Red Sox have been praised widely for ‘winning the winter’ by acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while the Yankees failed to land their prize target, Cliff Lee. But while Lucchino admitted that there was “hormonal satisfaction” in enjoying the more successful offseason, he also stated that such a feeling would dissipate quickly once games start.

Meanwhile, GM Theo Epstein took stock of Tampa Bay’s offseason, which now includes the acquisitions of former Red Sox outfielders Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.

“Those guys can probably still hit a little bit, to say the least,” said Epstein. “I think the demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, brian cashman, carl crawford, Cliff Lee

Jason Bay reflects on first year in New York

01.31.11 at 3:37 pm ET
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Outfielder Jason Bay, who suffered through one of the most difficult seasons of his career in 2010 after leaving the Red Sox as a free agent to sign a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets, made no excuses for his rough first year in New York in an interview with ESPN.com. Bay was limited to a career-low 95 games after suffering a concussion last summer. Prior to that, however, he suffered one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .259 with a .347 OBP, .402 slugging mark, .749 OPS and just six homers.

Bay declined to blame either his new home ballpark — CitiField in New York, a venue that has stifled offense in its three years — or the transition to a major media market.

“I just had a bad year. I was the first to admit it as I was living it, and I’ll be the first to admit it looking back on it,” Bay told ESPN.com. “For whatever reason, I never got in a rhythm at the plate, and I felt like I was swimming upstream all year trying to catch up. The next thing you know it’s July and you’re like, ‘Wow, I haven’t been able to piece anything together.’ The question is, what did you learn from it? I feel like I learned a lot.”

Bay said that he is healthy and pursuing a rigorous workout schedule this winter in hopes of resembling the player who, from 2005-09, averaged 31 homers and 103 RBI while hitting .279/.378/.515/.892.

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Former Sox pitcher Dennis Lamp now serves fish in Southern California

01.31.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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Former Red Sox relief pitcher Dennis Lamp now lives in Southern California, but he isn’t just another retired major leaguer spending his days lazing in the sun. Instead, Lamp works the seafood counter at a Bristol Farms supermarket in Newport Beach.

According to an article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, it isn’t a publicity stunt and Lamp doesn’t need the money.

“I just enjoy working,” Lamp told the newspaper.

Lamp, who’s been serving fish for seven years now, pitched for the Red Sox from 1988 to 1991, going 20-16 with a 3.76 ERA in 186 appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched 16 seasons in total from 1977 to 1992, posting a 96-96 record and 3.93 ERA. He also suited up for the Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays, Athletics and Pirates.

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