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A glimpse of what the Red Sox are getting in New Zealand softball player Beau Bishop

02.12.11 at 11:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In case you were wondering what Beau Bishop, the New Zealand softball player the Red Sox recently signed, looked like, here is an interview done with the 17-year-old shortly after his introductory press conference.

For more on how Bishop landed with the Red Sox, click here.

For Clay Buchholz, one year makes a world of difference

02.12.11 at 11:51 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In retrospect, it is almost comical to contemplate. One year ago, Clay Buchholz admitted to being uncertain about what the season held. It wasn’t a matter of the goals and projected numbers he envisioned for the 2010 campaign — he seemed anything but secure in thinking about his place in the Red Sox rotation.

Buchholz was coming off of a very strong second half with the Red Sox in 2009, having gone 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 16 starts. He had even pitched well in a playoff start against the Angels. But one of the storylines around spring training was that the Sox seemed to have six starters (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Buchholz) for five rotation spots, and there were suggestions that Buchholz might be an asset in the bullpen, a role in which his rubber arm might respond well. For that matter, there were suggestions that he could end up being optioned to the minors, where he could loom as a depth option.

Those suggestions did not come from the Red Sox, who were committed to having Buchholz in the starting rotation from day one of last spring. Nonetheless, the pitcher seemed uneasy about what the 2010 season might have in store for him. He had some poor outings during spring training in which he seemed to lose control over the pace of the game, most notably one contest in which he was bouncing pitches and stepping off the rubber against the Twins. And doubt would creep in after such performances, with Buchholz being asked whether he thought that such performances might jeopardize his spot in the rotation.

“Some days you go out and it feels like it’€™s the first time you’€™ve picked up a baseball in two years,” Buchholz recalled on Saturday morning, after playing catch on the field at the Red Sox minor league spring training facility. “I think everybody goes through struggles, especially during spring training, but it’€™s all about having a short memory.”

Buchholz didn’t always exhibit that trait last year in Fort Myers. This year, however, he has the luxury of arriving with a different sort of mentality.

The 26-year-old was one of the top starters in the American League last year. He went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, finishing second in that category to Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. Buchholz was named to the All-Star team and finished sixth in Cy Young balloting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Clay Buchholz was once afraid of John Farrell

02.12.11 at 11:38 am ET
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Here is a transcript of what you probably can’t hear all of because of the tricky Fort Myers wind:

“Saw [Curt Young] in Boston a couple of weeks ago. John Farrell was awesome. He’€™s one of the big reasons why I had a lot of success last year. I finally got to talk to him and wasn’€™t afraid of him, because he’€™s such a stern person who was always talking business. Once I broke it down and had some time to talk to him, he was awesome.

“Just talking to Curt, he’€™s a different personality. He’€™s going to fit in really well with this clubhouse.”

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This just in: Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield play catch

02.12.11 at 10:40 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There were a couple of big news items emanating from Lee County Saturday morning:

1. Clay Buchholzweight (always a hot topic at this point in spring training) was at 194 pounds. He had hit the Mendoza Line, sitting at 200, but recently got sick. To make him feel better, Daniel Bard told his teammate that he had also lost six pounds.

2. Robert Coello, who was recently designated for assignment, is still working out at the Red Sox minor-league training facility while awaiting to hear where he might be playing baseball this season.

3. Tim Wakefield made his first appearance, looking spry. He went out and tortured Buchholz by mixing a few knuckleballs in their game of catch, an endeavor made even more dicey by the fact that the wind was really howling.

4. All the boxes have been moved off the truck, and the 18-wheeler is back on its way to … wherever.

5. Jon Lester threw off the mound under the watchful eye of new pitching coach Curt Young.

6. The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium announced on its sign that it will be holding “Creepy Crawly Day” on Feb. 28. It should be quite a day considering the Red Sox play the Twins at 1:05 p.m. that afternoon.

The real story behind the Red Sox’ discovery of New Zealand softballer Beau Bishop

02.11.11 at 11:32 pm ET
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By now, the story of the Red Sox‘ signing of Te Wera “Beau” Bishop has made the rounds. He is a 17-year-old catcher who emerged as one of the top fast-pitch softball prospects in New Zealand, but that status was far from lucrative. Until signing a deal with the Sox (he was given a bonus of $60,000, the Boston Herald reported on Friday), he was anticipating a career as a builder.

But that was until Red Sox Pacific Rim scouting coordinator Jon Deeble — the manager of Australia’s national team — was impressed with his very raw tools, and thus was convinced to help set Bishop on a path that will take him from New Zealand to Fort Myers at the start of February. Deeble weighed in via email with the full scouting story of Bishop. Here it is: Read the rest of this entry »

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Report: Red Sox near deal for Japanese pitcher Itsuki Shoda

02.11.11 at 10:50 pm ET
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According to Nikkansports.com, the Red Sox signed right-hander Itsuki Shoda — the 2002 Pacific League Rookie of the Year in Japan — to a minor league contract. GM Theo Epstein said in the article that the deal for Shoda is near completion, and that he is expected to report on time to the team’s minor league camp.

Shoda is a 29-year-old left-hander who reportedly is a curveball specialist. He went 9-11 with a 3.45 ERA as a rookie for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but his numbers dropped significantly from there. He was sent to the minors in 2006, then traded to Hanshin, for whom he spent the next two years in the minors before heading to Taiwan.

There, Shoda was effective, leading the league in wins (14) and strikeouts (115) with a 4.44 ERA. In 2010, he was again effective in Taiwan, going 11-5 with a 2.81 ERA and 116 strikeouts.

Here is video of one of his 2010 games for the Sinon Bulls:

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What do Dustin Pedroia and Ralph Nader have in common?

02.11.11 at 8:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In among the updates emanating from Dustin Pedroia Friday afternoon was the second baseman’s assertion that the “2000” Sacramento Kings were the only team he could think of that might match-up with the 2011 Red Sox in terms of overall talent. Well, this just in: He really meant the 2001-02 Kings. (Considering nobody milling about at the Red Sox minor-league training facility had Lawrence Funderburke’s name on the tip of their tongue, the mix-up could be forgiven.)

The message Pedroia was getting across was appropriate, however. That Kings team was really, really good. Good enough to make it to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. They were so good, in fact, that Yahoo! Sports once identified that Sacramento club as one of the Top 10 best NBA teams of the past decade that didn’t win a championship.

But why would Pedroia be so quick to lump Rick Adelman’s team in with what is considered perhaps the most loaded Red Sox roster in team history? Was it his admiration for Chris Webber, or even Mateen Cleaves? Maybe. But why that club still separates itself for the second baseman is most likely for the same reason noted consumer advocate/former presidential candidate Ralph Nader carries a torch for the team.

The Kings were robbed. (Even shamed former NBA ref Tim Donaghy said so.)

With Sacramento one win away from the NBA Finals, the Lakers ended up shooting 27 free throws in the fourth quarter — making 16 of their final 18 points from the foul line — on the way to a 106-102 victory over the Kings. After the game Nader, along with the ‘League of Fans,’ sent a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern saying: “At a time when the public’s confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public’s relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances. That sense was severely broken … during Game 6.”

It was a game that was later identified by Donaghy (the referee who admitted to fixing NBA games) as a primary instance where officiating steered the outcome of the contest. While Donaghy wasn’t part of the crew that day, he did say that of the three refs who worked that day — Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt – two were intentionally shaping the outcome with their calls.

(There is no truth to the rumor that Pedroia helped author the report published on 82Games.com breaking down the Game 6 mystery.)

So who might Pedroia be on that team, the one the second baseman suggests the Red Sox should thrive to become (minus the postseason loss, of course)? Since Spud Webb left Sacramento in 1995, here is our best comp (although we’re open to suggestions):

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