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Prospect Watch: The growth of Oscar Tejeda

02.16.11 at 9:47 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was a time when Oscar Tejeda looked lanky and even a touch frail. When he signed with the Red Sox as a 16-year-old in 2006, he weighed 177 pounds, but after making his U.S. debut as a very impressive 17-year-old in 2007, he required offseason surgery to repair a minor heart defect that all but stopped him from working out. He subsequently developed a staph infection that further limited his activity.

That time now seems like a distant memory. His manager in Salem in 2010, Kevin Boles, said that opposing managers in the Carolina League would approach him last season to comment on Tejeda’s maturing physique, and they surely would have more to discuss if they were to see him this spring, following an offseason in which he went home and played for the Gigantes of the Dominican Winter League. Tejeda, now 21, appears robust, weighing a muscular 205 pounds this spring. He has also grown a couple inches since signing, and is now roughly 6-foot-2.

So the question is obvious as he stands on the field. What player does he look like?

Terrell Owens?” mused one talent evaluator.

The fact is that there aren’t a lot of second basemen who look like the 21-year-old prospect. While there are a couple of outliers who have played the position (Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano come to mind), physically, he looks more like an outfielder — if not someone who belongs on a football field.

“Every time he steps on the field, you’re like, ‘Whoa,'” noted Sox minor league instructor Chad Epperson. “You notice him.”

But Tejeda’s 2010 season was noteworthy for more than his physical growth. In a season in which he shifted from the left side of the infield (shortstop and second) to the right, he had a tremendous season for Salem, hitting .307 with a .344 OBP, .455 slugging mark, .799 OPS, 48 extra-base hits (including 11 homers) and 17 steals in 126 games.

Many were stunned to see the ball jump off of his bat so consistently. Boles raved about the bat speed he can generate with his hands, a trait that inspired (unfair) comparisons to Alfonso Soriano when he was signed out of Latin America.

Entering 2010, Tejeda had eight career homers and 64 extra-base hits in 263 career games. In fewer than half those games (126) in 2010, he exceeded that longball total and came within shouting distance of the multi-base knocks. The performance surprised some — though Tejeda was not among them.

“I hit the ball pretty good in [batting practice],” he said. “If you have power in B.P., you can have power in the game.”

Tejeda noted that he made adjustments at the plate that proved instrumental in his improved results. He eliminated a leg kick, allowing his swing to be shorter and more direct to the ball.

“That way, I could recognize the pitch — curveball, slider, whatever the pitch,” he said.

Meanwhile, he embraced playing second base. Tejeda said that, after playing solely on the left side of the infield from 2007-09, he felt that playing on the right side of the infield was “easier” and permitted him greater comfort. Sox officials noted that he did not merely accept the switch but instead embraced it, and that his actions in the field were natural.

That said, at times, his size is a detriment at the position. One official noted that he will have to learn how to “play smaller” at second if he wants to stay at the position. Another suggested that, in his first year at second base, he remains too upright and long when coming across the bag, but that is something that they expect him to be able to fix if he continues the work that he invested in the position last year. That said, if there are any restrictions on his ability to remain at second (whether due to his approach or because there isn’t an opening for him at the position — where the Sox, of course, have Dustin Pedroia entrenched for years to come), he would appear capable of making the transition to the outfield. But that is a matter for another time much further down the road.

Tejeda — who will likely open the year in Double-A Portland — was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster this offseason, but he has not appeared out of place in big league camp, despite the fact that he is the second youngest player (behind only Stolmy Pimentel, who is about five weeks younger) in the clubhouse. Instead, he seems eager to take advantage of the opportunity to show his talents in a brighter spotlight.

Read More: Alfonso Soriano, oscar tejeda, Robinson Cano,

Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Tuesday

02.16.11 at 7:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Suddenly, it looked like baseball.

Red Sox pitchers and catchers were in uniform in the first official workout of spring training on Tuesday. Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield all lined up next to one another for a bullpen session. As the Sox focus on having their pitchers build arm strength at this early stage of camp, the pitchers will follow a course in which they have two bullpen sessions then two outings against live hitters before they are ready to pitch in exhibition games by the end of next week.

While the day was one in which the pitchers were the star performers, it was also noteworthy to see the opening of Camp Tuck 2011, the clinic that Sox catching instructor Gary Tuck puts on with all the backstops in camp. Jason Varitek swears by the unique drills created by Tuck, and the Sox appear optimistic early that one key player is benefiting from the program. Jarrod Saltalamacchia spent much of the offseason working out with Tuck a couple times a week, with evident results.

‘€œIt’€™s funny. He does things like [Jason Varitek] now,” said Beckett. “There’€™s a lot of things, and there’€™s not a better guy to follow if you’€™re in that position, I would think. Everybody said the same thing, ‘€˜He looks like Tek when he [catches] us.’€™ That’€™s a pretty damn good guy to look like.’€

Other items of note from Tuesday:

–Beckett, the Sox hope, will be looking like himself rather than the not-so-reasonable facsimile who struggled through the 2010 season. The right-hander admitted that his last season was disappointing due to the health challenges he faced and his underperformance when healthy. He cited a number of factors — a desperation to make up for two bad starts with one good pitch, a loss of confidence in his primary arsenal that led him to fall in love with a cutter — in his poor performance.

Ultimately, he noted that he just “[needs] to throw the rearview mirror away” and, now that he’s healthy, to start 2011 fresh. For more from Beckett’s introspective conversation with the media, click here.

–The pitcher who stepped up amidst Beckett’s struggles last year, Clay Buchholz, reiterated that he would love to stay in Boston for the long haul. He said that the five-year, $30 million deal signed by Jon Lester before the 2009 season offers a fairly clear framework for negotiations should the Sox reciprocate his interest in a long-term deal. For more on that, click here.

Kevin Youkilis is excited for the move to third base. He suggested that his sights are set on being as good a defender at the hot corner as he was at first base, a position where he claimed a Gold Glove. Manager Terry Francona noted that it is only because of Youkilis’ positional versatility that the Sox were able to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. For more on the two-time All-Star’s position switch, click here.

–With the start of fielding drills for pitchers, Francona expressed a desire for the Sox to cut down on “sloppy” errors by pitchers rushing while making plays.

–Right-hander Alfredo Aceves said that he raced past the projected timetable for his recovery from surgery to repair a broken collar bone. After the surprise of having been non-tendered by the Yankees, he is excited about what his new team can do against his old one.

–The Sox dealt right-hander Robert Coello — designated for assignment last week to make room for Aceves — to the Cubs in exchange for minor leaguer Tony Thomas. For a scouting report on Thomas, click here.

–One of the prospects who is gaining attention in Fort Myers is Oscar Tejeda. The second baseman says that he now weighs 205 chiseled pounds, up from the 177 pounds he weighed at the start of his pro career in 2006.

Read More: alfredo aceves, Clay Buchholz, jarrod saltalamacchia, Josh Beckett

A healthy Alfredo Aceves sets sights on Yankees

02.16.11 at 12:25 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — To a degree, it came as a surprise to Alfredo Aceves when the Yankees decided not to tender him a contract in the first week of Dec. True, he had been unable to pitch for much of 2010 while dealing with back and hip injuries that limited him to 12 innings, and he had just fractured his clavicle in a bicycling accident, an injury that required surgery.

Still, Aceves had been told by doctors at the time of the surgery that he would heal in three months, a timetable that would have him available at or near the start of the 2011 campaign. And he was not far removed from being a key contributor to the Yankees’ World Series-winning squad of 2009, a season in which the right-hander (now 28) went 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA in the regular season.

So, was Aceves caught off guard when the Yankees parted ways with him (despite the fact that, as a player with two options and who had not yet reached arbitration eligibility, he remained cheap and controllable)?

“Yeah. Yeah, but I understand it’€™s a business,” Aceves said from the clubhouse at the Sox’ minor league training facility on Tuesday. “It’€™s the GM that makes the decision. It don’€™t matter if you agree or not. You’€™re out. It’€™s their decision.”

Presumably, New York’s decision was motivated at least in part by the expectation that Aceves’ injuries would limit his availability and/or diminish his potential value in a trade. However, the right-hander appears ready to take part in a full spring training.

While the doctors gave him a three-month timetable for recovering from his surgery, he said that he was cleared to throw after one month and pitching without restraint two months after the procedure. Aceves admits that he pushed the pace of his recovery.

“As soon as they told me that I have the green light to throw, I just let it go. The doctor told me after a month. He said I had a green light to throw. He said start easy, but…,” Aceves said, gesturing his hands indicate that he did not hold back. “If it’€™s going to heal, it’€™s going to heal.”

The Sox are hopeful that they will be the beneficiaries of his quick recovery. While the right-hander made 54 of his 59 appearances with the Yankees out of the bullpen, the Sox view him more as a potential starter. His changeup is a plus weapon that is almost unhittable for lefties (one of every five changeups he throws to portsiders has resulted in a swing and miss), and his curveball and cutter are both shutdown offerings against righties. All complement a fastball that he spots well.

That is the sort of arsenal that can serve a starter well, and so the Sox — after seeing Aceves throw two bullpen sessions at Fenway last week in which he appeared uninhibited — jumped at the opportunity to sign him. GM Theo Epstein said last week that Aceves could help the team address one of its shortcomings, namely the absence of rotation depth.

One source who attended the pitcher’s workout at Fenway said that part of Aceves’ interest in the Sox was driven by his desire to beat the Yankees. The pitcher said only that he was happy to stay in the AL East. In either event, after signing a one-year, $650,000 deal (which would be worth $200,000 if he is optioned to the minors), Aceves pronounced his excitement to join the Red Sox.

“I’€™m happy to be here, excited,” Aceves said of his new team. “I think we can go deep in the season, deep in the playoffs. We’€™ve got a good chance.”

Read More: alfredo aceves, New York Yankees,

Red Sox trade Robert Coello for minor league infielder Tony Thomas

02.15.11 at 5:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced that they have traded right-hander Robert Coello to the Cubs in exchange for minor league infielder Tony Thomas.

Thomas is a 24-year-old second baseman who had 51 extra-base hits in 116 games in 2010. For the season, he hit .276 with a .338 OBP, .485 slugging mark and .823 OPS for Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League. A baseball source described him as an athletic second baseman with excellent makeup, good instincts and feel for the game who plays the game with high energy.

The Florida State product — a third-round pick in the 2007 draft — displays gap-to-gap power with the occasional ability to clear the fences when pulling the ball. He’s hit 11 homers in each of the last two years, both in Double-A. He’s also stolen 78 bases in just over 400 minor league games, though just 28 of those have come in the last two years in Double-A.

Coello threw 5 2/3 innings in six appearances as a Sept. call-up for the Sox. The 26-year-old, whom the Sox signed out of the independent Golden Baseball League, led Sox minor leaguers with 130 strikeouts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings at the two levels. He was designated for assignment last week in order to clear a roster spot for Alfredo Aceves.

Read More: alfredo aceves, Chicago Cubs, tony thomas,

Clay Buchholz open to Jon Lester-style extension

02.15.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — To this point, the Red Sox haven’t talked with either right-hander Clay Buchholz or his representatives about the possibility of a long-term deal. But Buchholz, who has made clear on a number of occasions that he would be open to such a deal, has had conversations with his agents about what a long-term deal might look like. And precedent suggests that the young right-hander who finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2010 need look no further than a teammate to figure out the sort of years and dollars to expect if he wants to gain financial security from the Sox.

Jon Lester offers a fairly clear indicator of the type of deal that Buchholz might be able to get from the Sox. He signed a deal that will keep him in Boston through at least 2013 during spring training of 2009. At that time, Lester had two years and 75 days of big league service time. After a breakout 2008 campaign in which he went 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA, he had a career mark of 27-8 with a 3.81 ERA, 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.6 walks per nine and a 1.393 WHIP.

Buchholz is at a nearly identical position in his career. He has two years, 59 days of big league service time. After his outstanding 2010 season, in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, he is a career 29-21 pitcher with a 3.68 ERA, 7.0 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.356.

Their careers have not been identical, but they’ve followed similar enough trajectories that the five-year, $30 million deal (which includes a $13 million Sox team option for 2014) that Lester signed before the start of the 2009 season would clearly serve as the relevant data point in talks should Buchholz and the Sox engage in dialogue about a long-term deal.

Already, both Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (five years, $30.1 million with a $13 million option) have used the Lester deal as the basis for their own long-term deals. And Buchholz, 26, said that those contracts would guide what he might seek in talks with the Sox about a long-term contract.

“I think that would definitely be a base model for it — numbers-wise, security reasons, I think every player with less than three years of service time, that’s what they strive for,” said Buchholz. “I’m not saying I’m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.”

The Sox have a team policy that a long-term deal with players who have accumulated fewer than six years of service time and remain under team control should cover the player’s first free agent season and include a team option. In Buchholz’ case, that would conceivably mean a five-year deal with an option for the 2016 season. Buchholz said that he would have no qualms about a deal of such duration, given his attachment to the Red Sox organization.

“It’s all I know. I definitely wouldn’t mind. Definitely, just from the guys who are coming here who have played somewhere else for a good while in their career, coming here and picking to come here, it shows you something about the organization. It’s a great place to play, obviously. The fan base is good. I think it’s a better environment to come out and play the first day in spring training when you actually have people in camp and have people hollering and screaming,” Buchholz said. “I just think it’d be a great place to be for a while.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, long term deal,

Red Sox expect to trade Robert Coello

02.15.11 at 3:29 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox expect to trade Robert Coello in the next couple of days. The right-hander was designated for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Alfredo Aceves, giving the Sox 10 days to trade him before subjecting him to waivers. The source suggested that there were “a few” teams interested in the right-hander.

Coello appeared in six games with the Red Sox in 2010, registering an ERA of 4.76. The 26-year-old also pitched for both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, posting a combined record of 7-6 with an ERA of 3.86.

Read More: Red Sox, robert coello,

An eager (but relaxed) Josh Beckett thinks these Red Sox have great chance at 100 wins

02.15.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not that the length of a press conference is an indication of what lies ahead, but Josh Beckett spoke for over 15 minutes Tuesday morning and joked about Mike Lowell‘s golf game, Terry Francona nailing him in the face during the “rag ball” fielding drill and 2010.

The fact that he could speak openly and frankly about that last part may be the most encouraging news of all for the Red Sox.

Beckett said his back is healthy and he is ready to put his nightmarish 2010 season behind.

“I can’t change last year.said Beckett, who was just 6-6 with a career-worst 5.78 ERA in 21 starts. “I just have to do the best I can this year. Like my dad said, just throw the rear view mirror away because you can’t change anything that’s already happened. As frustrating as 2010 was, I have to move on because this is 2011.”

Beckett missed two months after straining his lower back during a start on a wet Yankee Stadium mound last May 18. Beckett agreed with Francona that he likely tried to do too much when returning from the injury.

“We’re all guilty of that, from time to time, trying to do too much right now when really all you need to focus on is this start, not five starts from now, or two starts from now, or even two pitches from now,” Beckett said. “In that aspect, we’re all guilty of that at times, and yes, I think I was guilty of that sometimes.

“I’m trying to have the best 2011 I can and put this team in a position to do what I think we’re all capable of doing, and that’s winning another World Series.”

Just like the time in 2007, when he singlehandedly turned around the 2007 ALCS against the Indians and blew away the Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series. But something he’s never done is pitch for a team that’s won 100 games in season, something the Red Sox haven’t done since 1946.

“I’ve always wanted to been on a team that won 100 games,” Beckett said. “I don’t think I’m more determined, but I feel like this team has a chance to do something really, really special like that. I think that’s where some of the determination comes from. I’m not trying to change last year with 2011. I don’t want anybody to look back and say 2010 was pretty [crappy] but 2011 was really good so, oh, well. That’s not me. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2007 World Series, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek

Managerial musings on first official Red Sox workout

02.15.11 at 1:14 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€” It was a day in which the activities were mundane but the excitement was far reaching. Pitchers threw in the bullpen and engaged in a variety of fielding drills, among them a favorite of Sox skipper Terry Francona, who uses a bat to whack a soft rag ball at his pitchers from short range to test their reflexes. Catchers commenced the legendary Camp Tuck, the series of drills organized by bullpen and catching coach Gary Tuck, who has pieced together some of the most innovative practice techniques for those who don the tools of ignorance.

Under other circumstances, these routine events would seem boring. But given that it is the first day to get in uniform and start to embrace baseball activities as a team, it was an undertaking that was greeted enthusiastically.

“Everyone has a little pep in their step. Tomorrow will be the second wave of pitchers. They’€™ll be excited,” Francona said. “Then the challenge is, after that, to keep the excitement and enthusiasm throughout.”

Francona and pitching coach Curt Young cautioned pitchers not to push too hard in the start of camp, to dial back their intensity to around 80 percent in order to make share that getting in shape does not cross over into jeopardizing health. One new aspect of the initial workout, however, entailed no physical risk at all. There was a station for “game awareness,” in which pitchers and members of the coaching staff discussed different game situations and why the Sox, for instance, would want to hold or not hold a runner at second base in a given situation. That was done with an eye toward “slowing the game down when [it] speeds up on pitchers,” particularly defensively.

Francona noted that Sox pitchers were “sloppy” at times last year while fielding their position, and the team feels compelled to cut down on the errors committed by men on the mound.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Terry Francona,

A healthy Kevin Youkilis wants a Gold Glove at 3B

02.15.11 at 10:00 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Kevin Youkilis fields third base the way he fielded questions for 20 minutes Tuesday morning inside the Red Sox minor league complex, he’ll have no problem achieving one of his goals in 2011 – a Gold Glove at third base to match his one already on the mantle for first base.

He touched on several topics, his surgically repaired right thumb, missing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols eventually getting his money, making the move to becoming a full-time third baseman and his distaste for talking to opponents when he played first base.

Youkilis pronounced himself fully healthy and ready for the next challenge of his career. The veteran infielder, who won the American League Gold Glove at first base in 2007, is looking for the same honor at third base this season.

“As long as I’m not making mental errors, that’s the key,” Youkilis said. “It’d be cool if I could play just as well at third base and try to win a Gold Glove. There’s a lot of great third basemen out there. It’d be cool. If I could play at a high level and win a Gold Glove at third base and first base, that’d be awesome.

“But, for me, I’m not worried about the accolades. I’m just worried about making the routine plays and trying to make a couple of great plays here and there to get our pitchers out of some jams.”

Francona said he has no doubt that Youkilis will make a smooth transition to third, where he was an All-American while at the University of Cincinnati.

“I think he’s always viewed himself as a third baseman,” Francona said. “A couple years there he thought he was Happy Gilmore.”

Youkilis, who said his right thumb is 100 percent after a winter of conditioning and strengthening, said he will have no problem moving back to third base on a full time basis since he filled in the injured Mike Lowell several times last season.

“I’ve been a third baseman all my life, played third base at the major league level quite a few times and played over there when Mike Lowell was hurt,” Youkilis added. “I feel great. Body feeling’s good. The hand is feeling good. Just got in good shape like normal. Just ready to go out and play third base this year. There are no restrictions. All the good stuff that comes with baseball I can do.”

Something Youkilis doesn’t consider good stuff is trying to be a social director at first base. In other words, he’s no Sean Casey.

“It’€™s just not interesting,” Youkilis said. “It’€™s fun sometimes if you have guys you know and you’€™ve played against. There’€™s some guys you might not care for too much. You get to know people over there, too. You get to understand people a lot more. But the social scene over there, I can do without. I’€™ve never been a social-scene kind of guy.

“It’€™s not fun. You want no-hitters and perfect games thrown where you don’€™t have to cover the base, but that’€™s not possible all the time. For me, I’€™ll leave it to Sean Casey, Jim Thome, guys that are really good over there. Kevin Millar. I’€™ll leave it to them to master that.’€

As for Pujols, who has a Wednesday deadline for the Cardinals to get an extension done, Youkilis is pretty sure that he’ll be taken care of somewhere.

“I think he’ll be happy somewhere, getting paid a lot of money,” Youkilis said. “If he wants to come to the AL East and face some of this pitching, he can come.”

Read More: Albert Pujols, Bearcats, Boston Red Sox, Happy Gilmore

Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Monday

02.15.11 at 7:42 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The switch flips today.

Tuesday marks the first official Red Sox team workout of the spring, with pitchers and catchers (as well as some of the early-arriving position players) fanning across the fields at the minor league training facility in Fort Myers. Thus begins the buildup to what is shaping up to be a season of enormous anticipation and expectations for the Red Sox. (For those in Fort Myers looking for information on the workouts, click here.)

On Monday, all the pitchers (save for left-hander Dennys Reyes, who is working on his visa and slightly delayed) and catchers were present and accounted for. Here were the storylines from Monday:

John Lackey felt that his first season with the Red Sox was better than some of his detractors might have realized, even as he noted that he “definitely could have pitched better.” In an effort to build on his strong second half, he showed up in terrific shape, having lost more than 10 pounds thanks to offseason cardio workouts.

Krista Lackey, the pitcher’s wife, is described as doing well after having been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer this offseason.

–Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that outfielder Mike Cameron is healthy following his season-ending surgery on a sports hernia and eager to get the season underway. Cameron — who was slated to be the Sox’ everyday center fielder last year — will be asked to play quite a bit of right field during spring training, a position where he is likely to get somewhat regular playing time (in place of starting right fielder J.D. Drew) during the season.

–Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is thrilled that, in about a month, his father will be joining him in the U.S. Iglesias, who defected from Cuba in 2009, has been apart from almost all of his family since arriving in the States.

–Newly acquired right-hander Dan Wheeler arrived in his new clubhouse. He said that the pieces are in place for the 2011 Red Sox bullpen to experience the same sort of turnaround that he was a part of in Tampa Bay in 2010. Francona, meanwhile, noted that Wheeler will not be restricted to work as a situational right-hander, as he has the ability to retire hitters from both sides of the plate.

–Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner showed that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, blustering in Yankees camp that the Red Sox have “got a lot to prove … after last year.” For more of his thoughts on Boston, click here.

Daniel Bard was humble, even as he acknowledged that he faces a significant career decision in the wake of a prestigious honor on Sunday.

Read More: dan wheeler, Daniel Bard, dennys reyes, Hank Steinbrenner
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