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Francona on Epstein: ‘His choice of managers was smart’

03.24.11 at 1:34 pm ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona shrugged off comments made by Orioles manager Buck Showalter about Boston GM Theo Epstein. Showalter raised eyebrows with his dig at Epstein, suggesting that the Sox GM was the beneficiary of his team’s payroll above all else during an eight-year tenure that has resulted in two titles and six playoff campaigns.

“I’€™d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll,’€ Showalter told Men’s Journal. ‘€œYou got Carl Crawford ‘€™cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’€™s what makes you smarter? That’€™s why I like whipping their asses: It’€™s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘€˜How the hell are they beating us?’€™’€

Based on his personal experience, Francona was happy to back his boss.

“For the record, I think Theo’s really smart — whether he has a high payroll or not. His choice of managers is smart,” Francona (hired by Epstein and the Sox in 2003) joked.

Even before he interviewed for the Sox job, Francona received a scouting report on Epstein from then-Indians GM Mark Shapiro. Francona had worked with Shapiro in the Indians front office in 2000. Shapiro made clear that the Sox GM was a bright fellow.

“(Shapiro) just said, ‘Don’t mess with him, because he’ll turn you inside-out,'” mused Francona.

That turned out not to be a problem. Instead, after spending the day with Epstein and Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, Francona felt that he had found an organization for whom he was the right fit.

“You go into those and, obviously, you want to get a job, but my goal was always just to come out of there saying what I felt,” recalled Francona. “Sometimes, you come out of interviews feeling uncomfortable, or you get to the airport saying, ‘I didn’t want to say that.’ But I felt really good when I left there.”

Read More: Buck Showalter, Terry Francona, Theo Epstein,

Matt Albers, still with Red Sox, battling for a spot

03.24.11 at 10:47 am ET
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JUPITER, Fla. — Matt Albers, who was the subject of a report Wednesday stating that he had been released in order to sign in Japan, said prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Marlins that he has no plans to execute such a career change and is still focused on making the Sox.

“I got a text from one of my friends, just kind of random. I was like, ‘€˜Really?’€™ He told me the website. I went to it. It said [Albers had] been released and they let him go to Japan. That’€™s news to me,” said Albers. “I just kind of called my agent, said, ‘€˜Did you hear about this?’€™ He said, ‘€˜Yeah, don’€™t worry about it.’€™”

“I don’t know where that came from,” he added. “I didn’€™t really think much of it, obviously. I knew that I hadn’€™t talked to any Japanese teams. Obviously, with the situation going on there, I don’€™t think too many people have.”

Albers is scheduled to pitch Thursday afternoon. He has allowed two runs on eight hits over 10 innings, striking out 11 and not walking a batter this spring. In so doing, he has fulfilled some of his primary goals entering the spring, namely using his curveball, slider and bread-and-butter sinker to both sides of the plate while being more aggressive in getting ahead in counts.

“Walks have hurt me in the past,” said Albers. “So I just want to make sure I go out there, get ahead in the count, throw lots of strikes, trust my stuff. For the most part, I think I’€™ve been able to do that.”

Albers is among the group of pitchers on the bubble for one of the final bullpen spots on the Sox roster. He is out of options, meaning that if the Sox wanted to send him to the minors, they would first have to subject the right-hander to waivers. Manager Terry Francona said that Albers has been “great” this spring, and did acknowledge that the possibility of losing a pitcher on waivers would play into the decision-making process with the final spots on the big league roster.

“We certainly have to think about that. If I said we didn’€™t, that would probably be a flat-out lie,” said Francona. “You’€™ve got to be cognizant of it.”

Albers acknowledged that he is eager to see what happens to him in the coming week. By April 1, he could either be on the Red Sox’ major league roster, with another team (if he is traded or gets claimed on waivers) or in the minors with the Sox.

“I’€™ve been in this situation the last three years in Baltimore where I haven’€™t found out that I made the team until camp ended. I knew that was going to be the situation. I’€™ve kind of been through it a few times so I kind of know what to expect a little bit,” said Albers. “It’€™s kind of wait and see what happens. I try not to worry about it too much. Definitely a decision is going to come down in the next week or so. But, just go out there and try to pitch.”

While the whereabouts of his start to the season remain unknown, one thing appears certain. Albers will be doing his pitching in North America, and not in Japan.

Read More: matt albers,

Josh Beckett talks what went wrong in ’10, and what can go right in ’11

03.24.11 at 10:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett recently took some time to explain what exactly happened in the final two months of last season, and how he is approaching this year differently. Here are some of the highlights of what he said. (To read the entire story, click here.)

– He identified 2010 as the toughest year of his life.

– It was Beckett’s subscapular muscle in the back of his right shoulder which he strained during an early June bullpen session, not entirely his lat muscle, which was the area previously identified as the problem. (Although the lat leads up to the meat of the shoulder through the subscapular.)

– Although he was able to come back in late July, he never felt the ability to finish off his pitches because of the shoulder and back issues.

“I was missing the power at the end (of the delivery),” he said regarding a major problem that needed to be fixed for ’11. “I had some good ones, and those were probably ones where I used my secondary stuff a lot better. The bad starts were the ones where I tried to throw fastballs by guys when I didn’t have that power. I feel like I’m getting that back.”

– Beckett felt like he fell into some bad habits in ’10, and still is trying to put them in the rear-view mirror.

“I had to re-train myself this offseason after I got into some bad habits,” he said. “It’s not an overnight deal. You pick up some bad habits when you throw for six months a different way then you have thrown for the last 20 years. I have had to make some small adjustments this spring. it’s still not 100 percent comfortable. That’s what we’re looking for.”

– The righty regrets taking the approach he did, trying to push through his injuries instead of drawing back a bit.

“I would be like, ‘No, no, no, I’ll figure it out my way.’ Less would have been more,” Beckett explained. “It would have been better for me. Instead I would still go out and do the same amount of long toss, the same amount of bullpens, with the same effort level. By doing that my next start was always in jeopardy. It just snowballed. That was what it was like all year after I hurt my back.”

– Beckett is optimistic about where he is at heading into the season. He has hit 95 mph on multiple occasions, and identifies the run he went on in ’09 as the feeling he’s striving for.

For the complete story, click here.

Read More: Josh Beckett,

Adrian Gonzalez pleased after minor league game

03.23.11 at 4:36 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez had six at-bats in a minor league game at the Red Sox Player Development Complex on Wednesday. The first baseman (Gonzalez served as DH on Wednesday and hit third in each inning) collected three hits, an RBI and run scored in his six at-bats, and seemed pleased when talking to the media following the game.

“It went well,” Gonzalez said. “The shoulder’s been feeling really good. For [Red Sox trainer] Mike [Reinold], it was playing back-to-back [games for the first time], but for me it was more to get my timing down. First couple days, I was just hitting, looking for a fastball. The last couple days, I’ve been trying to actually have at-bats. It hasn’t gone too well. So it was good to be able to go out there, try to have some at-bats, mix it up, be aggressive, all that. It felt good.”

Gonzalez plans to play with the Red Sox for the remainder of the spring training schedule, though he will take days off on Thursday, as the Sox travel to Jupiter to play the Marlins, and Sunday, a road trip to Sarasota and the Orioles.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Red Sox,

Join Rob Bradford at noon for a Red Sox chat

03.23.11 at 11:14 am ET
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Feel like talking about the Red Sox? Join Rob Bradford at noon as Rob answers questions about the team, while engaging in Sox-centric conversation as Opening Day awaits just nine days away.

Red Sox Chat

John Lackey: ‘I feel like I’m ready’

03.22.11 at 9:52 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ John Lackey has one more spring training start before he officially becomes the Red Sox‘€™ No. 2 starter. And according the righty, after Tuesday night’€™s outing he feels ready to go.

‘€œI felt good physically,’€ said Lackey after allowing five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Rays. He finished his fifth outing of the spring also striking out four, walking two while throwing 96 pitches. ‘€œI was really happy with how my arm felt. Stuff-wise, I feel like I’€™m ready.’€

Lackey came into the outing having allowed just three runs over 15 2/3 innings. This time, however, he succumbed to home runs by Tampa Bay’€™s Dan Johnson and Jose Lobaton.

‘€œI would have liked to get up seven times today. I didn’€™t care if I finished the seventh inning, just up and down seven times would have been nice. I didn’€™t quite get there,’€ he explained. ‘€œMy arm feels good and that’€™s all that really matters right now.’€

As for getting the chance to go up against Tampa Bay Opening Day starter David Price, Lackey said, ‘€œI’€™ve gone up against few guys like him. I’€™ve been around a minute.’€

Lackey will be scheduled to turn in his final outing of the spring Monday.

Read More: john lackey,

Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria put on a BP show for Red Sox fans

03.22.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to their Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox Tuesday night, Rays stars Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez took batting practice.

For Ramirez, it was yet another reunion with several of the Red Sox uniformed staff that have stayed in place since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2008.

Ramirez said hi to several old friends and then, along with Longoria, put on a display for the fans at City of Palms Park. Ramirez, Longoria and B.J. Upton were in the same hitting group and it was Ramirez who belted several out, including a moon shot off the right side of the scoreboard in deep left-center.

Longoria batted third and Ramirez fourth in Tuesday night’s game, a likely scenario to take place when the season opens for the Rays.

John Lackey got the starting nod for the Red Sox. Lackey will start the season as Boston’s No. 2 starter and is in line to start the home opener at Fenway Park on April 8 against the Yankees.

The Red Sox countered with a lineup that will also likely mirror their Opening Day lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford hitting in the top third, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz filling out 4-5-6 and J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro rounding out the lineup.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, B.J. Upton, Boston Red Sox, Evan Longoria

‘Pins and needles’ time for Red Sox relievers as organization meets to map things out

03.22.11 at 5:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — From the day he was hired, Terry Francona has always leaned on everyone in the organization to help in player personnel decisions. It’s a quality that also factored in Theo Epstein‘s decision to hire him in late 2003.

Now, several important decisions are looming for the Red Sox, and it involves the crucial pieces of the bullpen.

The team will hold an organizational meet following Tuesday’s game with the Rays, with the fate of several roster spots in the bullpen possibly in the balance. Of particular note is how to handle the middle relief and lefty specialists in the relief corps and who should make the trip with the team to Arlington when the team begins the season against the Rangers on April 1.

Francona will meet with pitching coach Curt Young, Epstein and front office staffers to discuss how to handle relievers Hideki Okajima, Dennys Reyes, Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers and Scott Atchison.

“Curt and I, Theo and the guys from the front office will sit and talk, and not just talk about how we feel about things, but maybe map out the next couple of days,” Francona said before Tuesday night’s game with the Rays at City of Palms. “We’re getting to the point where innings are going to be at a premium so certainly there are going to be have to be some innings at the minor league complex and innings in big league games and we’ll sit and map that out.”

Asked if he and the team would like to have its major league roster set before they leave for the exhibition game March 30 in Houston, Francona said there’s no firm deadline.

“I’d rather do it right than set some arbitrary deadline,” Francona said. “We’ve done it both ways. There have been situations in the past where Theo felt he had something [trade] going and he wanted to wait so I don’t know. We’re going to take some extra guys to Houston so that’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better for these guys so they’re not on pins and needles.”

The team needs to decide what to do for a lefty or whether to take two north. Okajima and Reyes appear to be the front-runners with Andrew Miller, Randy Williams and Rich Hill on the fringes. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, darnell mcdonald, dennys reyes

Gonzalez’ agent: Extension agreement with Sox expected in April

03.22.11 at 5:05 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Boggs, the agent for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, said that he and fellow Gonzalez representative Tony Cabral met with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Assistant GM Ben Cherington on Tuesday to resume their December conversation about an extension for the former Padres star.

Boggs said that the Sox want Gonzalez to demonstrate the health of his shoulder once regular season games get underway, and that there remain relatively minor issues — including contract language and both performance and award incentives — to work out. That said, he said that he is entirely confident that a deal will get done along the lines of the parameters that were discussed by the Sox and Gonzalez prior to the completion of the 4-for-1 trade that brought the first baseman to Boston from San Diego.

“At the end of the day everything has been as expected. We sat down and discussed where Adrian is at. I just think it’s going to move very positively in the direction of probably trying to get something done sometime in April,” said Boggs. “The main thing is the health issue. When he’s seen to be every day playing competitively in a championship season I think they’re going to have a degree of comfort and obviously that will be a time to probably get something done.

“Prudently probably on their part, they just want him, to see him play back-to-back-to-back-to-back, get into the season, then say, ‘€˜OK, we’€™re good to go,’€™” Boggs added. “I would anticipate something around April. When in April, I don’€™t know. It could be beginning, middle, end, but that’€™s it. That’€™s really the parameters we’€™re looking at. If something drags it on past that, then yeah, we’€™ll probably have to revisit a lot of things, but I don’€™t anticipate that at all.”

Of course, twas not always thus. For a time during the negotiations with the Sox in Dec., Gonzalez and Boggs were ready to walk when the Sox suggested that they were unwilling to meet what the first baseman declared to be his asking price. However, once the Sox said that they were willing to meet the first baseman’s asking price, he agreed to use that figure as the frame of reference for further negotiations once spring training and the season got underway. He did not feel a need to let the contract situations of either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder — a pair of first basemen who could push the market for the position north — impact his talks with the Sox.

“Adrian in his mind, he knew what it was going to take, bottom line. He wasn’€™t concerned with chasing after or breaking records. He just wants to be fairly compensated,” said Boggs. “Obviously we walked away at their last offer and that wasn’€™t it. He had a bottom line and he felt that he had cut it to the bone and then when that wasn’€™t met, we were ready to get up. At that point, it was pretty significant money also but at the end of the day, he gave his word that wasn’€™t going to play. The market was going to be the market, as it was in December. Yes, you think that you’€™re giving away something that might or might not happen.

“In the end, I think he’€™s said it the clearest, you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you don’€™t want to play for or you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you want to play for and is in competition every year. that’€™s really what his goal was. To be treated fairly and be compensated fairly and be on a ballclub that is year after year competitive. I think that was his goal and after that, if he feels that it’€™s fair financially, he’€™s good to go.’€

In the end, the two sides decided that the best way to move the deal forward — without getting bogged down by potential health-related contingencies — was to conclude a deal once Gonzalez had demonstrated his complete return to health following a surgery that was meant to ensure that the first baseman would be in position to play the 2011 season — and beyond — at full health.

“We knew there were going to be caveats, there were going to be contingencies because he was coming off of surgery. It wasn’€™t a hangnail. It was a shoulder,” said Boggs. “You can think of the best scenarios and the worst scenarios and whatever, but the practicality of it was, hey, we’€™re not going to in essence get anything really decided until we see him play in a championship season and he’€™s good to go.”

Boggs — a third cousin of former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs — said that while he does anticipate that Gonzalez faces some transitional issues in going from a relatively quiet baseball existence to a new team in a baseball-crazed town and new league, his client is uniquely positioned to handle that transition.

“I think Adrian has the demeanor, the personality, where I don’€™t think that’€™s going to get to him at all,” Boggs said. “Adrian has always said, hey, we’€™re playing a game and if you can’€™t win, there’€™s no point in playing the game. So the competition to Adrian, I think, is a stimulant, and it’€™s something that really gets his competitive juices obviously going so the pressures, I think, of playing in a big city. No, he’€™s never done it. But I think if you dream about doing it and you’€™ve got the character and the makeup that it’€™s not going to get to you in any way.

“I don’€™t think it will because I don’€™t think he has real highs and real lows. He’€™s almost kind of in a steady hum. I think it will be a win-win. Kind of to answer your question, that was concerning, yet, again, I have to remember, hey, this is Adrian. If you knew anybody who had that best personality to handle this situation, he has the best personality to handle this situation. That’€™s really the long and short.

“The only other thing is, again, OK, it’€™s a new league, so he has to get used to different pitchers but he’€™s a baseball player. You still have to throw strikes. some guys are going to be, wow, he’€™s really got good stuff. it’€™s going to be one of those new things where, he’€™ll adjust. And he adjusts better than anyone. He adjusts with injury. He does a lot of different adjustments. I think that’€™s the success you have as a player. If you have the ability to adjust, you’€™ve got a good thing going for you.’€

Though Gonzalez is returning from an injury, Boggs was unsurprised that the 28-year-old anticipates being able to play everyday, and pursuing his perennial goal of 162 games for his new club.

“At lunch today, I said, obviously this is going to be based on health. Are you feel good playing every game?” Boggs said. “He looked at me like, I don’€™t know, I ordered a bean burrito in a French restaurant or something. He just looked at me, like, what are you kidding me? I’€™m going to play. I’€™m going to play every day. that’€™s my goal. That’€™s what it is, 24/7, and if you don’€™t see him in there on a consistent basis, something’€™s not right.’€

Read More: adrian gonzalez, contract extension, john boggs,

Carl Crawford remembers the day he knew David Price was really good

03.22.11 at 3:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Carl Crawford had no doubt.

Prior to Tuesday night’s spring training game between the Red Sox and Rays — pitting Tampa Bay starter David Price against Sox hurler John Lackey — the new Sox outfielder talked about the moment Price was truly introduced to big league baseball: The eighth inning of Game 7 in the 2008 American League Championship Series.

Setting the scene …

The Red Sox trailed by a run, but had the bases loaded after Tampa Bay reliever Chad Bradford walked Kevin Youkilis. With J.D. Drew coming up, Sox manager Joe Maddon made the decision to turn to the then-rookie left-hander, Price.

“When he came in, I was thinking this was our secret weapon,” Crawford remembered. “I just knew he was a guy who was going to like that kind of moment. We weren’t nervous about it, I can tell you that. We were just like, ‘Throw it as hard as you can! Don’t leave nothing out there.’ I had seen what he could do.”

Price had pitched just two other times in the series, coming on in Game 1 to get Jacoby Ellsbury on a lineout, and then in Game 2, walking Drew before retiring Mark Kotsay and Coco Crisp. Before that the only big league experience the lefty had was five regular season appearances, including one start.

The move against Drew paid off, with Price getting the lefty hitter swinging for a strikeout. The rookie hurler would stay in the game, getting the save and leading Tampa Bay into the World Series.

“Trust me,” Crawford said, “nobody was complaining about that.”

So now that he has to go up against Price, according to Crawford what will be the toughest part of getting best of his former teammate?

“Just trying to catch up to that 97 (mph),” the outfielder said. “It’s going to be tough. He throws hard. Just got find a way, some kind of way, to hit it.”

Read More: carl crawford, David Price, J.D Drew,
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