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John Lackey’s wife ‘good’ after breast cancer diagnosis

02.14.11 at 11:39 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — While addressing the media Monday at the minor-league training facility, John Lackey was asked about where he worked out in the offseason. “Actually, I was in California most of the time because my wife was getting some treatment out there,” he said.

Later, Lackey explained to WEEI.com that the “treatment” Krista Lackey was undergoing throughout the offseason was to combat breast cancer, which the Red Sox‘ pitcher’s wife was diagnosed with just prior to Thanksgiving.

Lackey, who was wearing a pink “Power Balance” bracelet on his left wrist as a way to further breast cancer awareness, explained that Krista “was doing really good,” and the University of New Hampshire graduate had caught the disease at a very early stage. The pitcher also wore sneakers with the Lance Armstrong motto “Livestrong” printed across them.

Lackey said at his introductory press conference with the Red Sox following the 2009 season that Krista, a Maine native, was a driving force in terms of encouraging the pitcher to sign a free-agent contract with the Sox.

After an offseason in California where Lackey explained he lost 10-12 pounds primarily through additional running, the 32-year-old was optimistic he could improve on a ’10 season in which he went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA.

“There’€™s definitely room for improvement. I think experience of a year here will help, for sure,” he said. “I think I did some good things in the second half and hopefully just kind of keep that moving.’€

For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

John Lackey: ‘I definitely could have pitched better’

02.14.11 at 5:38 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Let’s get this out of the way: John Lackey does not regret his decision to sign a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Red Sox after the 2009 season. To the contrary, as he watched the moves being made by the club this offseason, when All-Stars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were added and the bullpen was reinforced with the likes of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, he felt precisely the opposite sentiment.

The big right-hander drew a clear conclusion over the winter.

‘€œPretty cool, huh? I made a good decision,” said Lackey. “One of the reasons you come to a place like this is that they have the capability to do that sort of thing, and they have a chance to win a ring every year. It’€™s really fun to be in a place like that.’€

Of course, by the end of last year, the injury-decimated Sox were not in position to chase that goal. They were left to go home following the last day of a regular season that had yielded 89 wins, a mark that fell short of both the Rays and Yankees in baseball’s deepest division.

Lackey said that he did not spend a great deal of time dwelling on a 2010 campaign in which it was tough to know what to make of him. He finished the year with a 14-11 record. That victories total tied for the second-best mark of his career. He threw 215 innings, his biggest workload since 2007 and the third highest mark of his career. He had 21 quality starts, tied for eighth in the American League and most of any Red Sox pitcher.

However, his 4.40 ERA was his worst since 2004 and his third worst of his nine-year career, and his 1.419 WHIP was the worst of his career. Opponents hit .277 against him with a .339 OBP (tied for the worst of his career), .426 slugging mark and .765 OPS. And while Lackey did have quality starts in nearly two-thirds of his outings, they often seemed to be of the six-inning, three-run variety, rather than a truly dominant performance.

And so, in assessing his season, Lackey identified both reasons for satisfaction as well as areas of improvement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox spring training workouts start on Tues.

02.14.11 at 5:28 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox will open their minor league training facility to the public on Tuesday for their first official workout of spring training. Here are the details, as provided by the Sox in a press release:

The Boston Red Sox open their 19th Spring Training camp in Fort Myers, Florida, TOMORROW, Tuesday, February 15 when 30 pitchers and seven catchers will participate in the team’€™s first official workout.

All workouts from February 15-25 will take place at the Player Development Complex, which is located at 4301 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers. On most days the workouts will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. Any changes to that start time will be announced.

The workouts are open to the public. THERE IS NO PUBLIC PARKING AVAILABLE AT THE PLAYER DEVELOPMENT COMPLEX. Free parking is available at City of Palms Park. Continuous shuttles will run between the Broadway Gate at City of Palms Park and the PDC beginning at 8:00 a.m. each day until one hour after the completion of the workout. The cost of the roundtrip shuttle ticket is $2.00 per person.

Concessions and merchandise will be on sale during these workouts.

The team’€™s first full-squad workout is scheduled for Saturday, February 19. The Red Sox will have 61 players in Major League camp with 14 infielders and 10 outfielders joining the pitchers and catchers.

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Daniel Bard forced to choose between music and baseball?

02.14.11 at 3:03 pm ET
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A lot of questions were raised after Red Sox fans watched the group ‘Lady Antebellum’ clean up at the Grammy’s Sunday night. Daniel Bard has some of the answers:

Managerial musings: Francona says Cameron is at full strength

02.14.11 at 2:24 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona ran the usual gamut of topics in his daily session with the media at the Red Sox’ player development complex. But perhaps the most noteworthy piece of actual information came at the end, after the manager had explained that the Sox were not going to use the shuttle run as a conditioning test out of concern for players such as Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron who are returning from injury.

That, naturally, prompted an update about how Cameron is doing in his return from late-season surgery to repair his sports hernia.

“He’€™s good. He feels terrific. But the idea is to keep him that way. I’€™m kind of looking forward to, he’€™s so excited about how he feels, I’€™m kind of looking forward to that, because last year was tough for him,” said Francona, who said that the 38-year-old does not face restrictions in camp.

After signing a two-year, $15.5 million deal with the Sox after the 2009 season, Cameron spent virtually all of his first year limited by injury. With the winter acquisition of Carl Crawford, Cameron will be expected to serve as the team’s fourth outfielder, a role that he has shown a willingness not just to accept but embrace.

While Cameron began last year as the Sox’ everyday center fielder — pushing Jacoby Ellsbury to left field for the week in which they played together — the Sox will have Ellsbury playing center when both are on the field this year. Francona anticipates that Cameron will see most of his work in right field — a position he has occupied for 139 games in his career, compared to just three in left field — on days when both he and Ellsbury are in the lineup. Cameron, who hammered left-handed pitchers for a .357 average, .438 OBP, .690 slugging mark and 1.128 OPS last year, will make a natural platoon partner for J.D. Drew, who struggled against southpaws last year.

Cameron, Francona said, will spend much of spring training playing right field. Meanwhile, on days that Crawford has off and when both Ellsbury and Cameron are in the lineup, the Sox skipper said that he was inclined not to move Ellsbury to left field, though he wants to talk to his outfielders before stating that definitively.

In other news of the day: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, dan wheeler, Jacoby Ellsbury, john lackey

Red Sox morning notes: Good news for Jose Iglesias

02.14.11 at 12:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In a development whose significance stretches beyond the baseball field, Red Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is thrilled that his father will be joining him in about a month. Iglesias, 21, left behind his entire family when he defected from Cuba, but his brother is now in the U.S., and his father — who is currently in Mexico — will be joining them. The shortstop expects that his father will remain with him for the season.

That comes in stark contrast to the player’s first full year in the U.S. in 2010, when he had little contact with his family, and relied heavily on Red Sox baseball operations special assistant Alex Ochoa — a Cuban-American who spent much of last year with Iglesias — to help ease his transition. Iglesias, unsurprisingly, has a locker stationed next to fellow Cuban defector Juan Carlos Linares.

(For more on Iglesias and the transitional challenges faced by players coming to play baseball in the U.S. from Cuba, click here.)

A few other notes from the morning, while we wait for Sox manager Terry Francona and starter John Lackey to speak in a bit:

–Reliever Dan Wheeler arrived in Fort Myers and met with the media. The right-hander spent much of his time discussing his former team, the Rays — both the radical overhaul they endured this offseason when Wheeler, Carl Crawford, three other members of the bullpen (including closer Rafael Soriano) and first baseman Carlos Pena all left as free agents, as well as Tampa Bay’s bullpen of a year ago and its relevance for the Sox.

The Rays bullpen struggled despite a respectable 3.98 ERA in 2009, blowing 22 saves, tied for eighth most in the majors. Last year, with the offseason additions of Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit, the Rays had the best ERA in the American League (3.33), the most saves (51) in the AL and the fewest blown saves (16) in the AL East (fourth fewest in the AL). Wheeler sees no reason why the Sox cannot enjoy a similar change of fortunes with their relievers in 2011.

“From year to year, bullpens, it changes,” said Wheeler. “There’€™s a good core nucleus here. I think there have been some key additions. There’€™s no reason to think that we can’€™t do the same thing here right now.”

–As for his role, Wheeler suggested that he did not have a defined sense of that with the Sox, but he was accustomed to pitching at just about any stage of the game for Rays skipper Joe Maddon, so he was not terribly concerned about gaining definition about his responsibilities.

“Usually, after the fifth inning, I’€™m ready to go whenever. We’€™ll have a better idea, a better feel for that, come season time,” said Wheeler, whose 0.975 WHIP over the last three seasons ranks 10th in the majors. “But there’€™s obviously guys that have been doing this in the roles they’€™ve been doing for the last couple of years, and that’€™s their job. I view myself as a guy that’€™s just going to come in here and help and take a little load off somebody else.’€

Matt Albers, who is competing for a roster spot, said that a few teams expressed interest in him after he was non-tendered by the Orioles in December, but the decision to sign with the Sox was fairly simple. He wanted the opportunity to play for a competitive team, and at the time, there seemed to be clear openings in the bullpen. Of course, that was before the signings of Bobby Jenks, Wheeler and a boatload of left-handed and right-handed pitchers, but Albers felt that his sinker/slider combination could help him secure a middle relief job. The 28-year-old is out of options.

Ryan Kalish enjoyed the conclusion of his time at Athletes’ Performance. He noted that he was in a group by himself because he was working on both his speed and power; most players are assigned to one of those two groups. Still, he enjoyed the chance to be around Manny Ramirez, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and other established big leaguers.

Read More: dan wheeler, jose iglesias, matt albers, ryan kalish

Red Sox Roundup: What’s happened in Fort Myers

02.14.11 at 10:00 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Today marks the day when official activity commences in spring training. It’s not exactly going to inspire visions of the home stretch of the playoff race, but with almost all pitchers and catchers accounted for (with the possible exceptions of Dennys Reyes and Alfredo Aceves, who face a couple days of visa-related issues), the Sox will conduct a conditioning drill today in one of the annual rites of spring.

With the real beginning of spring training, here’s a look back at what’s taken place so far in Fort Myers:

–GM Theo Epstein gave his view on the state of the Red Sox roster, and manager Terry Francona did the same.

–The bullpen was a major shortcoming for the Sox in 2010. Part of the Sox’ offseason shopping spree was dedicated to upgrading it, though in the early stages of spring training (an otherwise sleepy time when paint dries and players play catch on flat ground), that has been subject to questions about dynamics and the future.

Jonathan Papelbon said that he is aware that this could be his last season in Boston, but that he doesn’t anticipate that affecting his 2011 season, even as he wants to position himself to be the top closer on the market.

Bobby Jenks, signed as a free agent this offseason, could be a closer-in-waiting either in 2012 (if Papelbon leaves as a free agent) or even this year (if the longtime Sox closer falters). But he has no ambitions of fomenting a closer controversy, and pronounced upon arriving that he’s not looking to step on anyone’s toes. The opportunity to sign with the Red Sox as a setup man, he said, outweighed the chance provided by other clubs to close.

The other potential closer-in-waiting, Daniel Bard, said that he is excited about the fact that the Sox bullpen can redistribute the workload a bit, something that could leave all of the relievers feeling fresh down the stretch. That is the forecast for this year. Down the road, the right-hander suggested that he would be open to trying his hand at starting once again.

There are 21 pitchers in Red Sox camp competing for the last two spots in the big league bullpen. Here’s a look at who has options, who’s on minor league deals and whom the Sox would risk losing if they don’t make the Opening Day roster. Here’s a closer look at 15 of the 21 candidates.

–While such players on the fringes of the roster may be unfamiliar and seem to have little relevance in the spring, the Sox staff actually spends more time focusing on such players than on established veterans, and with good reason. Here’s a look at why, as well as some of the measures that the team takes in order to ensure that players with unfamiliar faces feel comfortable in their clubhouse.

Dustin Pedroia checked into Fort Myers, where he pronounced himself healthy and ready to play without restrictions following his recovery from a procedure to insert a screw in his broken left foot. He also endured much grief about his new hair style, which was compared by manager Terry Francona to that of Giovanni Ribisi. The comparisons don’t stop there — Pedroia shares an opinion with consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader about a particularly egregious act of consumer fraud.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Pedroia has returned from a disastrous broken bone. As a high school freshman quarterback, he had his led snapped on an option play (though rumors that Bears linebacker Lance Briggs delivered the hit appear unfounded). His recovery from that injury, said his high school coach Rob Rinaldi, bodes well for his return from this injury. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daniel Bard

Daisuke Matsuzaka: I can throw more now than in ’07

02.14.11 at 8:32 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking to WEEI.com through translator Mikio Yoshimura, Daisuke Matsuzaka said that unlike last offseason he is not dealing with any injuries, has lost 11 pounds since a year ago, and feels like he is capable of pitching more than even when he first arrived with the Red Sox in 2007.

Matsuzaka has already thrown two bullpen sessions at the team’s minor-league training facility, with an extended morning of throwing with bullpen catcher Manny Martinez the day in between. Sunday, the 30-year-old threw approximately 70 pitches off the mound.

“I feel like I can throw more now than I used to. I feel physically better,” explained Matsuzaka, who battled a neck problem last spring training. “I feel like I can pitch more than I did in 2007.” The righty pitcher threw a career-high 204 2/3 innings in ’07.

Matsuzaka decided to work out this offseason in Honolulu with some of his former teammates from Seibu Lions. He explained that his regimen included parts of the Red Sox’ offseason workout program, and a portion of the plan given to him by a trainer from Japan. There was, the pitcher said, added emphasis on strengthening his legs.

“I carried over from the regular season and built a foundation for this season. That two worked out really well,” he said. “I healed and then continued to build up. I also had no concerns this offseason about any injuries, which is something I really hoped for. I wanted to be able to be 100 percent when I got here, and it came true.”

Matsuzaka finished ’10 making 25 starts, going 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA. He missed the first month of the season with a neck injury, not making his season debut until May 1, and then was placed on the 15-day disabled list in June due to a strained forearm.

For more spring training coverage, go to the Red Sox’ team page at weei.com/redsox.

Papelbon focused on 2011 as he mulls his future — with or without the Red Sox

02.13.11 at 4:30 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jonathan Papelbon did not hide from the reality of the 2010 campaign. From the time he assumed the role of closer in 2006 through 2009, he had been as automatic as any closer in the game.

But the 2010 season was different. Papelbon blew eight saves — more than any other reliever in the American League and more than in any other season of his career. His 3.90 ERA was more than double his career 1.84 mark prior to last year. He had career highs in homers (7) and walks (28) allowed.

“Obviously,” he acknowledged, “it was a down season.”

Even so, the 30-year-old said that the idea that he might not be back with the Sox for 2011 never crossed his mind this winter — even as the Sox talked to free agent Mariano Rivera, even as they signed Bobby Jenks to join the Boston bullpen, even as rumors persisted that the Sox were open to trading their longtime closer.

“I really honestly never thought that,” he said in a meeting with the media on Sunday morning. “There was never a point this offseason where I didn’€™t think I’€™d be here.”

That may change going forward. He recognizes that this may (or may not) be his last spring training with the Sox, depending on what happens to him when he reaches free agency following the year. But even as several questions were focused on that front, Papelbon suggested that the issue of his employer in 2012 is a matter for another time.

Papelbon said that his focus was and is on the fate of the 2011 Sox (a team he described as “championship caliber”), and that he did not approach this season any differently just because free agency looms on the other side of it. Even so, the closer said that he understood why there is a prevailing assumption among Sox followers that — with both Jenks (signed through 2012) and Daniel Bard (under team control through 2015) on the Sox roster — Papelbon is entering his final season with the Sox. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, closer market, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon

Terry Francona takes stock of the Red Sox

02.13.11 at 3:09 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona held court with the media for the first time since arriving in spring training. He had spent the last two days huddled with team officials and coaches to formulate individual spring plans for the players in camp.

The Sox skipper welcomed the big expectations that exist for his club. One reporter noted that former Sox bench coach Brad Mills told Francona, after Boston’s active offseason, “Don’t [bleep] it up.”

“I actually had a few of those,” chuckled Francona. “One of them was from [GM Theo Epstein].”

Francona touched on a number of topics. Among them:

MEDICAL

–Francona said that the team would try to manage any concerns about outfielder J.D. Drew‘s hamstrings. The outfielder has been concerned enough to have received medical attention from Dr. James Andrews in Alabama as well as doctors in Boston about his discomfort, though Francona suggested that the concern was not a huge one.

“It’€™s something that he has voiced some concern about,” said Francona. “I don’€™t think he’€™s real concerned about it, but it’€™s been there. I don’€™t think we want it to be a concern, so we’€™ll certainly monitor it.”

–The team doesn’t feel that it will have to put restrictions on second baseman Dustin Pedroia in his return from a broken foot, but it will try to structure his work to prevent him from having to stretch his foot out.

“When he does his work, we need to probably not break it up in segments. We try not to do that anyway. When they go out and do their infield stuff, they put their gloves down and then go to hitting,” said Francona. “But we’€™d rather not beat up guys ‘€“ and a guy like Pedroia is a good example ‘€“ for no reason. We’€™ll keep an eye on him. For as much as he talks and he likes to talk, he’€™s pretty honest with me about stuff. So I’€™m not too worried about that. there’€™s a reason we like him as a player, but at the same time we realize what’€™s happened to him, and we’€™ll keep an eye on him.”

BULLPEN: PAPELBON AND THE SETUP GROUP

–The manager does not foresee an issue arising with the acquisition of Bobby Jenks, a closer-turned-setup man. Francona, does, however, believe that closer Jonathan Papelbon will be able to use both the disappointment of his down year in 2010 as well as his status as a free agent following the 2011 season as sources of motivation. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, bobby jenks, Daniel Bard, dennys reyes
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