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Theo Epstein on Red Sox’ roster: ‘We’re more or less set’

01.28.11 at 3:11 pm ET
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Speaking at an event honoring the Red Sox‘ Opening Weekend Experience winners at Fenway Park, general manager Theo Epstein said that other than a potential late minor-league signing the team’s spring training roster is fully constructed.

“Who knows when there might be a waiver claim, or one more minor league sign,” said Epstein, “but, we’€™re more or less set.”

The GM did note that one area the Red Sox might add another piece for depth on a minor-league deal is in the form of a potential starter.

“We do feel OK about our starting depth. That’€™s one area we’€™re still looking, there might be a late minor-league sign, somebody who can go to Triple A,” said Epstein, who has already signed veteran starters Brandon Duckworth and Jason Bergmann for organizational depth. “But right now those guys are looking for major league jobs, so we’€™ll see. We do feel like we have some built in depth.”

The Red Sox did show some recent interest in adding lefty reliever Joe Beimel, but it appears the pitcher will be inking a minor-league deal with the Pirates.

“Late  in the offseason there are some guys who are potentially available on minor league deals who would be worth more than the look in camp, so we try and stay involved in some of those guys,” Epstein said. “Sometimes they stay on teams that have more openings on the 25-man roster.”

For more Red Sox news, check out the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Red Sox Review: JD Drew

01.28.11 at 9:00 am ET
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* – If you are looking for reasons why Drew’s offensive production fell off significantly in 2010, start with the fact that opponents took advantage of his patience to get ahead of him more often than in any of his previous seasons in Boston.
 
From 2007-2009, Drew put the first pitch in play 156 times (10 percent) and put up an OPS of 1.039. Last season, he still put the first pitch in play 10 percent of the time and saw some dropoff in OPS, falling to a still-potent .926.
 
During his first three seasons as a member of the Red Sox, Drew saw the count go through 1-and-0 on 47 percent of his plate appearances and recorded an OPS of .984 in those opportunities.  In 2010, he produced at even ever higher clip (1.043) but got ahead just 42 percent of the time.
 
Finally, Drew fell behind in 43 percent of his plate appearances during the 2007-2009 seasons and managed a .725 OPS. But last season, he watched (or fouled off) a first pitch strike 48 percent of the time and then struggled to a .572 OPS.
 
So if Drew’s “get ahead” ratio had remained the same in 2010, he would have had about 30 more at-bats go through 1-and-0 (at an 1.043 OPS) and 30 fewer go through 0-and-1 (at .572), probably putting him closer to an .820 OPS for the season, rather than .793.  It doesn’t explain everything, but it’s a start.
 
Perhaps Drew will consider being a little more aggressive at jumping on the first pitch in 2011, forcing opposing pitchers to re-evaluate their “strike one” strategy.

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* – Drew has hit 238 career homers but has had only two seasons with 75 or more RBI. Only two players in history have hit more homers with two or fewer seasons of 75+ RBI: Lou Whitaker (244 HR; 2 seasons of 75 RBI) and Rick Monday (241 HR; 1 season of 75 RBI).

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* – Drew has bounced into 41 double plays over his last four seasons (2,093 PA), the exact same number of GIDP’s that he recorded over his first nine seasons (3,774 PA).

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* – While his 172 plate appearances vs. lefties was the second highest total of his career (he had 206 in 2004), his .611 OPS against them was the worst of his career.

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* – Drew’s .820 OPS in road games last season was almost identical to his .821 road OPS from 2005-2009. It was his home OPS that took a beating last year (.766) compared to 2005-2009 (.954, fifth in the majors in that span).

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* – Was Drew just unlucky late last season? After putting up a .325 batting average on balls in play in the season’s first half (better than his career first half figure of .318), it fell off to just .233 after the break, fifth lowest in the AL (min. 240 second half PA).

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Dustin Pedroia: ‘There have been some surprises’ when it has come to injured foot

01.27.11 at 2:09 pm ET
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After conducting his daily rehabilitation/workout at Foothills Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Gilbert, Ariz., Dustin Pedroia admitted to WEEI.com that “there have been some surprises” in his offseason while coming back from surgery on his left foot.

“I’d say there have been some surprises,” Pedroia said. “I thought when I had surgery on my foot, in three months I would feel 100 percent, and that wasn’t the case. It’s been a lot tougher than I thought it was, and what everyone thought it would be.

“The people that have had this injury, there’s not a lot in baseball, but in other sports Yao Ming and, shoot, he still hasn’t recovered, and Grant Hill had it and he’s kind of back normal. It’s a weird bone to break without a non-stress fracture. Mine is from impact and you never see those injuries from impact. They say that stress fractures with this injuries is different, where your body is taking over. Mine is from a ball hitting off it, so it’s a little different in terms of the recovery.

“The tough part is finding a way to figure out what the best thing is for me and how I can ready for myself to play every day. I’m two weeks away from spring training and I’m just now kind of getting the program to where I feel good and to where I feel good to where I can play a game.”

Pedroia talked at length about the importance of managing any soreness in regard to his foot, offering the example that he most likely wouldn’t participate in the team’s spring training conditioning tests. He also touched on how his young son, Dylan, offered a much-needed distraction through out an offseason, which included numerous bouts of uncertainty.

To read the entire column, talking to Pedroia, click here. For more Red Sox coverage, go to weei.com/redsox.

Larry Lucchino on D&C: ‘I give [Brian Cashman] credit for his forthrightness’

01.27.11 at 9:31 am ET
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During an in-studio appearance on the Dennis and Callahan Show, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino talked about a variety of subjects involving the team’s offseason moves, Fenway Park, and the upcoming season. Lucchino also addressed some of the issues surrounding the Sox’ rival, the Yankees.

Regarding comments made by New York general manager Brian Cashman saying that he was not on board with his team signing free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, Lucchino applauded Cashman.

“I give him credit for his forthrightness,” the Red Sox executive said.

As for the statement by Yankees’ co-chairman Hank Streinbenner that the Yankees didn’t complain about injuries last season, while the Red Sox did publicly bemoan their situation, Lucchino simply said, “Let Hank talk.”

Lucchino touched on a variety of other subjects:

  • On the term ‘Bridge Year’ and the impetus to make this offseason’s moves: “I think that term was misunderstood last year. ‘€¦ What really drove us was finishing third.”
  • On the temptation to simply get healthy and come back with relatively the same team: “That sentiment was expressed, but failed for a lack of seconding.”
  • Regarding competitors for the services of Carl Crawford: “We were aware of the Angels’ keen interest in him.”
  • On the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez: “It did help when Jed [Hoyer] went out there [to become general manager of the Padres]. He had a deep knowledge of our players. ‘€¦ We didn’t steal Adrian Gonzalez.”
  • In regards to failing to work out a contract extension with Gonzalez prior to making the trade for the first baseman: “If we didn’t think we weren’t within shouting distance, we would have gone through with the trade.”
  • Talking about the plan to expand the bullpens, thereby moving in the right field wall Lucchino said while the idea has been tabled for now, there has been discussion about moving the bullpen out rather than in, with the possibility of going underneath the ground, as well.

To listen to the interview, click here. For more on the Red Sox, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Former Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim signs with Japanese team

01.26.11 at 10:45 am ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim agreed to a one-year deal worth 33 million yen (approximately $36,500) with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, according to a report in The Japan Times.

The 32-year-old submarine pitcher is a candidate for the closer’s role.

“I know that the team has high expectations of me, so I want to respond accordingly,” Kim said in a team statement.

Kim played nine seasons in the major leagues, posting a 54-60 record with 86 saves and a 4.42 ERA. He is best known for his disastrous performance as Diamondbacks closer in the 2001 World Series against the Yankees, when he coughed up two-run leads in the ninth inning of consecutive games, allowing three home runs and five earned runs over 3 1/3 innings in two appearances. He did not appear again in that World Series, which the Diamondbacks won in seven games.

He pitched for the Red Sox in 2003 and ’04 as both a starter and reliever. He compiled a 10-6 record with 16 saves and a 3.72 ERA. After being booed in the 2003 American League Division Series, Kim gave Sox fans the middle finger. He later apologized. He was traded to the Rockies before the 2005 season.

In 2010, Kim played for the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League.

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Rocco Baldelli to announce retirement

01.26.11 at 2:47 am ET
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Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli, whose major league career appeared headed for stardom before an unusual illness prevented the outfielder from being able to stay on the field consistently, told the St. Petersburg Times that he has decided to retire from baseball at the age of 29. Baldelli had spent the last few seasons with the Rays and Red Sox finding a way to play through channelopathy, a condition that left his body in a state of profound fatigue.

But after Game 1 of the 2010 AL Division Series between the Rays and Rangers, it became clear to Baldelli that he could no longer contribute as a result of the condition. Baldelli went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in that contest, and experienced significant cramping and pain afterwards. That led to his removal from the Rays’ postseason roster, and helped convince Baldelli that it was time to move to a new phase of his career, a decision that will be formalized with an announcement on Wednesday.

“That was the first time where I couldn’t keep playing and look at my teammates and still be out there,” Baldelli told the Times. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it any more.

“I don’t anticipate ever playing baseball again. I’m retired. The paperwork will be filed,” Baldelli added. “And you know what? The only time I feel like it’s good to retire is when you’re happy to retire. And I’m happy.”

Baldelli will take a job in the Rays front office as a special advisor in scouting and player development. After the Rays took him out of Bishop Hendricken High School with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft, he blitzed through the minors before making a tremendous big league debut in 2003, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting while hitting .289 with a .326 OBP, .742 OPS, 11 homers and 27 steals as a 21-year-old. But injuries started limiting his ability to stay on the field the following year, and he played just 63 games for the Rays in 2007 and 2008 (though he did hit a pair of memorable homers in the 2008 postseason for Tampa Bay).

Baldelli signed with the Sox — the team he rooted for while growing up — for the 2009 season, hitting .253 with a .311 OBP, .433 slugging mark and .744 OPS along with 11 homers in part-time duty. He then returned to Tampa Bay, spending much of the year working in player development and the Rays front office before returning to uniform in September.

Baldelli concludes his career having hit .278 with a .323 OBP, .443 slugging mark and .766 OPS with 60 homers and 60 steals in 519 games.

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A look at the Red Sox’ offseason interest in Jose Bautista

01.26.11 at 1:58 am ET
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“Due diligence.”

That is how one source familiar with the talks between the Red Sox and Blue Jays characterized the conversations that the two teams had about Jose Bautista, the slugger who emerged improbably to launch a major-league leading 54 homers.

On Tuesday, Fox Sports reported that the Sox made multiple trade offers to the Blue Jays about the slugger during the Winter Meetings in December, but “never got the sense that the Jays were serious about a deal,” with Toronto feeling that it would be served best to retain the slugger. On the Sox’ side, it seems that they were largely interested in gauging the full realm of market possibilities to identify alternatives should they fail to land free agent Carl Crawford, rather than having built a strategy around Bautista.

Over the course of the winter meetings — whose activity began with the Sox’ successful conclusion of a deal for Adrian Gonzalez and the stunning announcement of Jayson Werth‘s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, and ended with the Sox’ similarly startling conclusion of a seven-year, $142 million deal with Crawford — the Sox conducted an exploration of a broad range of market options.

That examination included free-agent options such as Magglio Ordonez as well as trade candidates such as Josh Willingham, Carlos Beltran and, yes, Bautista, among others. The Sox’ interest in Bautista preceded his breakout season, dating to his time in Pittsburgh, when at least one Red Sox talent evaluator thought that he represented a buy-low candidate with at least a chance of reaching 30 homers if the stars aligned, while another considered him at least a solid role player who could play solid defense at several positions while doing damage against left-handed pitchers.

But once the Jays acquired Bautista, the Sox felt that the opportunities to acquire him had diminished significantly. They were one of multiple clubs to place an August waiver claim for him in  2009, but were not awarded the claim, according to a major league source. Apparently, as the Sox explored the outfield market during the Winter Meetings — and with Bautista coming off of his landmark season — that remained the case.

Moreover, team officials viewed Crawford as the prize of the class all along for multiple reasons. Not only was the team enamored of Crawford’s across-the-board talents and ability to impact the club’s run scoring and run prevention, but the Sox’ interest in an outfielder this offseason was motivated in no small part by their recognition that they would need to add an outfielder in 2012, after J.D. Drew‘s contract expires.

A long-term deal with Crawford would give the Sox such an outfielder. Bautista, on the other hand, is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and so the Sox might have been put back in a position where they had to return to the market next offseason by trading him.

So, Crawford was the player whom the Sox were trying to land, and whom the ultimately did land. But the team wanted to make sure that their offseason strategy motto was not “Crawford or Bust.”

“If you’€™re counting on signing Carl Crawford and not ready to take another path, you’€™re probably going to sign him but risk a deal you’€™re not comfortable with,” Assistant GM Ben Cherington said last week. “It just happened that we were able to get deals done for the two guys [Gonzalez and Crawford] at the top of our list, not just for the two guys who could make the biggest impact, but who also best addressed the long-term needs.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jose Bautista, josh willingham, magglio ordonez
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