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Yamaico Navarro tearing up the Dominican League

11.14.10 at 1:21 pm ET
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There are a number of relevant caveats. The season is only a few weeks old, still a very small sample. And the top, established talent still has yet to start playing in the Dominican Winter League. Some of the pitchers who are currently competing in the league can’t find the strike zone with a compass.

Even so, the performance of Red Sox infielder Yamaico Navarro in the Dominican demands some notice. The 23-year-old has been a force for the Licey Tigers, hitting .273/.400/.500/.900 with four homers in 19 games in his native country. Perhaps even more striking after Navarro walked just twice and struck out 17 times while chasing just about everything in his first major league callup at the end of the 2010 season, Navarro has walked (13) and struck out (13) in equal measure in 80 plate appearances for Licey. He ranks fourth in the league in OBP, ninth in slugging, seventh in OPS and is tied for fifth in homers.

Navarro has a reputation for being an extreme free-swinger, something that he did little to dispel during his time in the majors. Even so, the Sox feel that the major league performance obscured strides that Navarro has made over the last couple of years in the minors in his plate discipline and approach.

“It gets completely overlooked,” said farm director Mike Hazen. “Look at the last two years plate discipline-wise with that guy. Pretty good.”

In 2009, during a season disrupted by surgery to remove a broken hamate, Navarro walked in 7.9 percent of plate appearances while playing at three levels (Short-Season Lowell, High-A Salem, Double-A Portland). In 2010, Navarro walked in 10.8 percent of his minor league plate appearances for Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Given Navarro’s positional versatility (he can play second, short or third) and above-average raw power, the evidence of a more disciplined approach in both the minors and the Dominican is certainly intriguing. At the least, it may earn him a spot at more time to develop. While younger players tend to get sent home once more veteran players arrive in the Dominican Winter League, Navarro’s performance may make it more likely that he will remain on a roster for a greater portion of the winter. That possibility, in turn, could only be helpful to the Sox, as he would have more time to play and more exposure to scouts from other organizations, with the potential of upping his stock as a trade chip.

Some other notable performances from members of the Red Sox in the Dominican:

Fabio Castro, the diminutive left-hander (listed at 5-foot-7, he may well be shorter than Dustin Pedroia) who struck out a batter an inning for Triple-A Pawtucket this year, has been overpowering in four starts for the Gigantes. He has struck out 37, walked six and forged a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings. The 25-year-old is a free agent.

–Though Josh Reddick has is hitting just .188 with a .579 OPS, like Navarro, he is taking his walks, having collected 10 in 74 plate appearances for the Gigantes.

Robert Coello has made six appearances (four starts) for Licey, with a 4.79 ERA. He tossed four shutout innings of relief on Saturday. While the 25-year-old started and relieved this year in the Sox system, Boston envisions him as being most likely a reliever when he comes to spring training next year.

Kris Johnson, the left-hander whom the Sox took as a sandwich pick in the 2006 draft, has a 1.80 ERA in three starts for Escogido. The 26-year-old has suffered through a couple tough years in the minors, having gone 9-29 over the last two seasons, mostly with Pawtucket.

Read More: dominican winter league, josh reddick, Kris Johnson, robert coello

Daniel Bard on former UNC teammate Andrew Miller: ‘All the tools are still there’

11.12.10 at 7:15 pm ET
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Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard got the text message from Andrew Miller — his former teammate at the University of North Carolina — just minutes after the trade that sent the left-handed Miller from the Marlins to the Red Sox on Friday night.

“I was obviously pretty excited about it,” Bard said from his home in Mississippi.

“I think he had been told at least a few days [earlier] that the Red Sox were pretty interested in him and had been asking around trying to get background information,” Bard said. “He didn’t think it was going to go through that fast, from what I understood. But he definitely sounded excited.”

Bard and Miller, who was dealt to the Sox from the Marlins for lefty reliever Dustin Richardson, both were first-round draft picks in the 2006 MLB June amateur draft. Miller went to the Detroit Tigers with the sixth overall selection, while Bard fell to the Red Sox at No. 28. Miller would be traded from Detroit to Florida on Dec. 4, 2007, serving as the centerpiece for a deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers. Other members of the Detroit organization going to the Marlins in the trade were Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio de la Cruz, Mike Rabelo and Cameron Maybin.

Miller pitched in just nine major league games with the Marlins in 2010, going 1-5 with an 8.54 ERA, making seven starts. The 6-foot-7 lefty made his major league debut the year he was drafted, making eight relief appearances for the Tigers. In ’07 he joined the Detroit starting rotation for 13 games, going 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA. He appeared in a career-high 29 big league games in ’08 with the Marlins (making 20 starts), totaling a 6-10 mark with a 5.87 ERA.

Bard, who said he has talked to Miller “about once a month” during the season (and still competes with his former collegiate teammate in a fantasy football league), believes the change of organizations will benefit the former Tar Heels ace.

“The Marlins seem to have a kind of hands-on approach in terms of adjusting guys’ deliveries. I think it works for some guys, and some guys don’t respond to it very well,” said Bard, who last saw Miller pitch when watching a Marlins’ game on TV in August. “Some guys you’ve got to ride with what got him there, whether it’s fundamentally sound or not. It’s obvious that something has worked for him their whole life. I think they just changed a lot of things and it kind of took away from the pitcher he was when he was drafted. I think it will be good, change of scenery, good organization. I think it will be a positive thing for him.

“He’s quite a bit different than his 2006, college version. It seems like it had changed gradually ever since then. Mine looks a lot different, too, so I’m not saying change is a bad thing. But it does look different. I don’t know if it’s a work in progress. I don’t talk to him too much about that stuff. Baseball is usually the last thing we talk about when we’re together.”

Bard, who was in the starting rotation with Miller during the duo’s stint at UNC, sees the move by the Red Sox as one that could pay big dividends considering the kind of successes the former National Collegiate Player of the Year experienced before hitting the major leagues.

“The stuff was too good. The projectability with his body was there. To me, it still is,” said Bard, who plans on seeing Miller in December when the two will attend a mutual friend’s wedding. “All the tools are still there. Nothing has changed. I’m sure he had some stumbles along the way he would like to get rid of, but he’s still only 25-years-old and on the cusp of being a really good major league pitcher.”

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: andrew miller, Daniel Bard, dustin richardson, florida marlins

Theo Epstein: Red Sox’ first choice to retain Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez

11.12.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the shape of his team’s offseason as well as the upcoming General Managers meetings, which will take place next week in Orlando, Fla. Epstein touched on a number of subjects, among them the fact that the team’s first choice at both third base and catcher is to retain All-Star incumbents Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez.

“Our first choice for our third baseman in 2011 and beyond would be to bring back Adrian Beltre,” said Epstein. “Victor would certainly be our first choice to be our 2011 catcher and beyond. He did an outstanding job for us for the year and a half he was here. We’€™d certainly be comfortable with him coming back. We’€™ve been pursuing him ‘€“ I know it’€™s been portrayed in the media a little bit as if we haven’€™t been pursuing him but that’€™s really between us and Victor and his agents ‘€“ we absolutely want this guy back. He knows that and he’€™s known that for awhile. We’€™ll see if something can be worked out.

“Things happen in free agency. It always comes down to years and dollars in the end but there’€™s no lack of interest on the Red Sox’€™ end on Victor coming back. And I think certainly the same is true from the other end, I think Victor would love to be here. We’€™ll see what happens. To answer your question, he’€™d be our first choice at catcher and Adrian would be our first choice at third. Whether that can be worked out certainly remains to be seen.”

Epstein also discussed a number of other topics, among them:

–While he believes that the team is in position where it can return with its starting rotation intact, the Sox will still explore any available opportunities to improve the rotation “if there is an opportunity to acquire someone who can fundamentally impact our staff.” Still, he noted that it was a significant benefit to the Sox that they were not operating from a position of need with regards to acquiring starting pitching.

–He suggested that the team will acquire “at least one” reliever via trade or free agency. He also noted that the free agent class of non-closing relievers appears to be quite strong, though that can be a double-edged sword, since the wealth of available relievers means that there are a number of teams in search of replacing departing members of the bullpen.

–Epstein said that the potential that the club could get a number of compensatory draft picks “factors in a little bit” when trying to decide whether to sign Type A free agents who would require the sacrifice of a draft pick of its own, but that ultimately, the decision has to be made on its own merits as to whether a player was worth the sacrifice of a draft pick. Epstein noted that the team values its picks extremely highly, especially entering a 2011 draft that is expected to be incredibly deep.

“You never like to lose a pick even if you’€™re getting picks back,” said Epstein. “The ultimate decision is the player that you’€™re signing. … You want to gain as many picks as you can, especially in what is shaping up to be a terrific draft.”

–Epstein does not anticipate signing any free agents before clubs decide whether or not to offer them arbitration.

“We’€™re not particularly close to anything at this time,” he noted.

–While he made clear that he wants to retain Beltre, if the third baseman departs in free agency, the Sox are comfortable with Kevin Youkilis moving across the diamond from first to third base.

“If we were presented with scenario where we didn’€™t have Beltre and had to consider moving Youkilis across the diamond, we would be comfortable with that. It’€™s something we’€™ve had dialogue with him about over the years, including recently, and he sees himself as a third baseman even though he’€™s played more first base than third base in his major league career,” said Epstein. “He came up as a third baseman, I think he was underrated defensively at the time. While he has gotten older relative to playing a lot of third base in the minor leagues, he’€™s maintained a lot of the skills that are required to play the position. He’€™s got really good instincts over there, more than anything. He’€™s played that position more, by instinct than by pure athleticism he still maintains that, the ability to read hops and make plays. We’€™d be comfortable if we had to moving Youk over to third. He would do a fine job defensively and his offense would certainly be outstanding for that position.”

–On the subject of Youkilis, Epstein said that he is progressing well in his return from injury, and that by progressing in his rehab to the point where he was able to swing a bat, Youkilis “can show up to spring training without any real lingering concerns about the hand.”

Dustin Pedroia is also healing well as he recovers from the pin in his broken left foot, and he will be seen by doctors around Dec. 1 to see how his rehab is rehabbing and whether he might be able to start running.

–Epstein described Jacoby Ellsbury as “asymptomatic,” even though he noted that a scan might not yet reveal 100 percent healing. Even so, the outfielder is currently at Athletes’ Performance, having commenced his offseason workout program, and Epstein said “there will be 100 percent healing.”

Mike Cameron‘s healing “is going as scheduled as well,” Epstein said, as the outfielder recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The Sox will have some of their doctors visit with Cameron next week in Georgia to check his progress.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis

Boras: Unprecedented market for Adrian Beltre, and why Jayson Werth is the second coming of Dwight Evans

11.11.10 at 9:26 pm ET
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Agent Scott Boras, who represents several key free agents this offseason, appeared on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch on Sirius XM Radio. Boras discussed the expected market for several of his clients, including two who are expected to be targets of the Red Sox this winter: third baseman Adrian Beltre, who punctuated his successful season in Boston on Thursday by being named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award as the top third baseman in the American League, and Jayson Werth, the Phillies outfielder whom Boras is pitching as the only player in this year’s free agent class who is a middle-of-the-order hitter capable of playing any outfield position. (He noted that Carl Crawford hit roughly half the homers of Werth over the last three years, making him more of a top-of-the-order hitter.)

Boras compared Werth to former Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans, while positioning Beltre as a player who bears comparisons to Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Paul Molitor and George Brett. He described an unprecedented level of interest in Beltre’s services.

“I would have to say in my years of doing this, I’€™ve never had so much interest in one player,” said Boras. “I’€™m not sure the media quite understands what Boston did for Adrian Beltre. But I think his leadership has come to surface. We’€™ve had a number of teams contact us, vastly more than we ever expected. We expected a good number certainly, but there are teams wanting to move players to make room for him.”

Boras also discussed former Sox Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.

Highlights of the Inside Pitch interview are below:

Do the Phillies have any chance at Werth? Shane Victorino said he hasn’€™t received an offer from the Phillies.

[Phillies GM] Ruben [Amaro] and I have had conversations. We’€™ll continue to have them. The best thing I can say is the dialogue continues. That’€™s not something I can really define at this point.

What is Werth looking at in terms of geography, chance to win, lineup, etc.?

He’€™s enjoyed a tremendous platform in Philadelphia because he has what I think every free agent would want. You’€™ve got winning, you’€™ve got a great fan base, a nice stadium, an area that they’€™re geographically happy with. All of those elements, Jayson’€™s lived on the West Coast, he’€™s lived on the East Coast, so he’€™s open to consideration for a lot of franchises, which really, I think, look at his role on the team. I think, hitting in the fifth spot in Philadelphia is very difficult. To have the people behind you, certainly [Ryan] Howard and [Chase] Utley enjoyed having Jayson behind them.

It’€™s hard to score a lot of runs. When you’€™re scoring 100 runs from the fifth spot, you’€™ve done something pretty unique. For a guy with great speed and stolen base efficiency ‘€“ over the last five or six years, it’€™s one of the best in baseball ‘€“ you’€™re talking about a situation for him where he’€™s performed very, very well offensively and frankly had very good production numbers even though he’€™s hitting in the fifth hole.

What are the chances of Beltre returning to Boston?

Again, I think it’€™s, we’€™ve, I would have to say in my years of doing this, I’€™ve never had so much interest in one player. I’€™m not sure the media quite understands what Boston did for Adrian Beltre. But I think his leadership has come to surface. We’€™ve had a number of teams contact us, vastly more than we ever expected. We expected a good number certainly, but there are teams wanting to move players to make room for him. With both these players, the metrics are so good for the longevity of their performance with the positions that they play.

In Jayson Werth’€™s case, you can look at Dwight Evans and see what he’€™s done at an age from 29-31, and you see it’€™s actually a little bit under what Werth’€™s done. He played at a very high level, averaging about 27 home runs and 100 RBIs from the age of 32-37. You can look at [Mike] Schmidt‘€™s career or George Brett‘€™s career or [Paul] Molitor‘€™s career in the case of Beltre. He’€™s performed at levels that are commensurate with them from 25-31. You would expect that those players’€™ performances at the position from 32-38 was also at very solid levels you would expect from players of that ilk. I think the metrics are there to illustrate that these are really good players, and that they’€™re going to be really good players for a long time.

Have you talked with the Red Sox about having both at Fenway? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adrian Beltre, carl crawford, Dwight Evans, Jayson Werth

Adrian Beltre wins Silver Slugger Award

11.11.10 at 6:50 pm ET
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Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award for the top-hitting third baseman in the American League.

When the Red Sox signed Beltre to a one-year, $9 million deal (which grew to $10 million based on his plate appearances) to play in Boston in 2010, both the team and player expected the third baseman’s offense to improve after leaving Seattle. In particular, the Sox expected Beltre to return to reach the mid- to high-20s in home runs.

Even so, few could have anticipated the huge year that Beltre produced. He hit .321 with a .365 OBP, .553 slugging mark, .919 OPS, 28 homers, 102 RBI and an AL-leading 49 doubles. He also played in a team-high 154 games, serving as the most constant force in a lineup that suffered an incredible wealth of injuries in 2010.

The 2010 season marked the second time that Beltre has been awarded a Silver Slugger. He also received the honor in 2004 as a member of the Dodgers, when he hit .334 with a 1.017 OPS and 48 homers.

Beltre, who declined a $10 million player option for the 2011 season, is now a free agent.

Beltre was the only Sox player recognized in the voting. David Ortiz lost out in the voting for the top designated hitter to Vladimir Guerrero of the Rangers.

Boston has been represented on the AL Silver Slugger Team in each of the last 10 seasons beginning in 2001 and Red Sox players have won 33 Silver Sluggers since the award’€™s inception in 1980. Prior to Beltre, the club’€™s last third baseman to receive the honor was Bill Mueller in 2003.

The complete list of Silver Slugger winners:

Joe Mauer, AL C
Brian McCann, NL C

Miguel Cabrera, AL 1B
Albert Pujols, NL 1B

Robinson Cano, AL 2B
Dan Uggla, NL 2B

Adrian Beltre, AL 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, NL 3B

Alexei Ramirez, AL SS
Troy Tulowitzki, NL SS

Carl Crawford, AL OF
Josh Hamilton, AL OF
Jose Bautista, AL OF

Carlos Gonzalez, NL OF
Matt Holliday, NL OF
Ryan Braun, NL OF

Vladimir Guerrero, AL DH

Yovani Gallardo, NL P

Read More: Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, silver slugger,

Report: Red Sox express interest in Zack Greinke

11.11.10 at 5:19 pm ET
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According to the Kansas City Star, the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rangers are among the teams that have either expressed or plan to express interest in acquiring 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. But Kansas City GM Dayton Moore told the Star that he is not in any hurry to deal his ace.

“There’€™s a lot of talk because the free-agent market is so limited,” Moore told the paper. “There’€™s nothing in the works, and I don’€™t anticipate anything happening real quick unless someone calls and just blows us away. I haven’€™t made any calls to clubs.”

After going 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA in 2009, Greinke slipped to marks of 10-14 and 4.17 last year. Even so, he is still considered one of the elite pitchers in the game, and he is both young (he turned 27 last month) and signed for the next two seasons at salaries of $13.5 million per year. While Greinke, who suffers from a social anxiety disorder, has said in the past that he expected that he might have trouble playing in New York, he also suggested he thought he could play in virtually any other environment. In Boston, he has a close relationship with Sox Assistant to the GM Allard Baird, a man whom Greinke suggests was critical in getting his life and career back on track.

That said, it is not clear from the report whether the Sox’ contact with the Royals was anything more than tire-kicking. The Sox, of course, have seven starters with big league experience under control for next season: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront.

Read More: kansas city royals, zack greinke,

Adrian Gonzalez: ‘Planning on going into spring training as a Padre’

11.11.10 at 1:16 pm ET
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Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez did a phone interview with XX 1090, San Diego sports radio on Thursday, and discussed his recent shoulder  surgery and rehab heading into the winter months. Gonzalez has been the focus of several offseason transaction talks, including some involving Boston.

“As far as baseball, swinging and everything, it will probably take four to five months before I can swing a bat,” Gonzalez said. “[The offseason] is very minimal and very protected.”

The entire interview can be heard here. A couple of noteworthy elements:

When did you have surgery?

Um, two weeks ago Wednesday.

And when do they (trainers) say you’ll get into rehab in terms of throwing and swinging and everything else?

Well, rehab I start on Wednesday, which would be three weeks after the surgery. But, I mean, that’s just minimal, get the bar moving, just start going through those kind of things. And as far as full baseball swinging and everything, probably, you know, they say four to five months before I can pick up a bat.

So your offseason is really screwed this year, compared to years past?

Yeah, I mean, it’s very minimal, and it’s very, you know, protective.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, san diego padres,
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