|12.20.09 at 9:25 pm ET|
Red Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington, appearing on Sirius XM’s MLB Home Plate Channel on Sunday, suggested that Sox third baseman Mike Lowell is expected to be healthy and ready to play in spring training and for Opening Day. Cherington described the injury as “sort of a freak thing,” for which the location is both unusual and less significant for a hitter than might be an injury in another region of the thumb.
Highlights of the interview are below:
Host/Jim Duquette: ‘I know these type of trades with Mike Lowell out there and the rumors of it being off now, those are not easy to sort through. There’s a lot of different moving parts and how do you pick up the pieces on a trade that kind of falls through, either speaking specifically here or in general?’
Ben Cherington: ‘Well, I think the main thing for us now is just to help Mike get healthy. He’s a good player, has been a good player and certainly a quality person. He’s been a big part of our team for the last several years and the trade, as we talked to Texas, it wasn’t about not wanting Mike Lowell. It was about possibly making a move to get a player we liked back and give us a little bit of financial flexibility to do some other things. And if it doesn’t happen I think, again, the key for us is to help Mike get healthy. All the reports indicate that he should be 100 percent in spring training, let him go out there and play and he’s either an important part of our team moving forward, a guy who obviously provides a good bat at third base so we have flexibility with [Kevin] Youk[ilis], who can move between third and first. Mike’s an excellent hitter, an excellent hitter at Fenway Park, and so he’ll be an important part of our team and certainly if there’s interest down the road we can consider that.’
Host/Duquette: ‘With an injury like this with Lowell and the thumb, I know he’s been bothered with it on and off, he missed some time right there at the end, was there any consideration from your doctors about having the surgery right at the end of the season?’
Cherington: ‘I guess hindsight is 20/20 in these cases. When the initial injury happened he, nor our medical staff, really felt it was that serious. It was just one of those things where he got jammed a little bit, felt it a little bit during a BP swing. It was towards the end of the year, we were trying to get ready for the playoffs and so we didn’t want to take any chances, give him some time off to get rested. And even at the end of the playoffs, in our exit physical, he barely made mention of it. Just one of those things as a player you get used to being a little dinged up at the end of the season. I think that’s how he felt it. And then Mike, as many players do, sort of took his customary break after the season, let the body heal and then when he went to pick up a bat again recently as per his normal schedule he still felt a little bit in there and so wanted to get it checked out. And that’s when he got it checked out. The good news is that the injury is on the outside of the thumb if you can imagine that, the radial collateral ligament is on the outside. It’s a less significant spot for a hitter. It’s just sort of a freak thing that you happen to injure this ligament swinging a bat but it’s less significant, the recovery time is quicker so we’re very optimistic that he’ll be ready in spring training and ready to play on Opening Day.’
|12.19.09 at 9:10 pm ET|
Mike Lowell will have surgery on his right thumb after it was determined he has a torn radial collateral ligament. The surgery will take place shortly after Christmas, with the recovery time approximately 6-8 weeks. The diagnosis means the trade between the Red Sox and Rangers, which would have sent Lowell to Texas along with $9 million for minor league catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez is off.
|12.18.09 at 1:03 pm ET|
But to his credit, he didn’t skate around one very interesting question. Does the captain’s ‘C’ on his Red Sox jersey ensure him a spot on the roster this spring?
“Everybody does [have to make the team],” Varitek said. “I don’t think a decal makes a difference, an extra letter on a uniform. I prepare myself that I’m going to go out there and be ready this spring and work my way into being ready to play at a high level.”
Varitek was wearing a skull cap and skating with Boston Bruins legends, Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque, among others as NHL prepares to get the baseball venue ready for the Winter Classic between the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Day.
Hear Varitek chat up a chilly press corps by clicking here.
|12.17.09 at 2:38 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona appeared on the Dale & Holley Show to discuss his excitement for the shape that the 2010 Red Sox are taking. In the aftermath of the signings of John Lackey, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro this offseason, Francona suggested that the team is positioning itself to win consistently. He also suggested that he thinks the club, as currently constructed, doesn’t need any further changes, and that he would be comfortable with Casey Kotchman as his everyday first baseman.
A transcript of highlights from the interview is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
On Mike Cameron:
He’s a good kid. I know you heard this yesterday, but I go back a long way with this guy. It’s kind of come full circle. He was a nice kid. Now that he’s a 37-year-old, he’s a good teammate. That’s for sure.
You scared 17, 18 year olds, telling them they’d end up working in 7-Elevens?
I don’t remember that word for word. My guess is, it wasn’t the hitting part. My guess is it was a day that we were taking infield, and we didn’t even complete infield because, you’re dealing with 18-year-olds, it was raining. We had to quit taking infield because we ran out of balls. I think that’s the day that statement came out.
Cameron is a 37-year-old ‘ why can he play everyday at this stage of his career?
He’s kept himself in great shape. If you just look at him, that’s not a problem. We didn’t sign him until he’s 41. And we have some protection. We have Hermida if he’s banged up or needs a day. He’s a pretty good fit right now. Sometimes, that’s almost as important as the guy you’re getting, is how he fits in. We’ve talked a lot this winter about wanting to improve our defense. We’re trying to get better. Rather than go out and chase every bat that’s available and playing softball, I think we sat down a lot and talked about pitching and defense and trying to be better than the other team. And I think we all feel pretty good about that right now.
Have you decided on your centerfielder for 2010?
No, I actually just hung up with DeMarlo [Hale, the bench coach and outfield instructor] a minute ago. What I think I need to do, and I kind of explained this real quick yesterday, is I need to sit down with Theo ‘ it’s been a busy few days for him ‘ with DeMarlo. I have some ideas on this, but I want to talk with Jacoby and Cameron a little more about this, and then we’ll figure it out. I have some ideas, but I really want to talk to everyone involved before we do this.
Are you comfortable with either of those guys in left field or right field?
We don’t need them to play right field. I think you’re maybe talking about left or center. And, yeah ‘ they both can do both. We’d like to put ourselves in what we think is the best position, and take a little bit of time to think about it and also to talk to everyone involved. But either way, we’ll be okay because both of these guys can catch the ball.
You said that you always want more pitching. Did you think you would be able to land the best available free-agent pitcher this offseason?
No. I really didn’t. It’s funny. I kind of alluded to it yesterday, because every time Theo asked me in the meetings ‘ in fact, one time he asked me and then stopped and said, ‘I know your answer’ ‘ every time he asked me about somebody, I’d always come up with a pitcher. It’s the way I think we can be good not only in the short term, but also sustain it in the long term. What we found out in ‘06 was, as many things as went wrong, when we lost our pitching we couldn’t overcome it. That was a horrible feeling. I guess maybe, you’ve heard me say it before, when you think you have enough [pitching], go get more. I guess I’m always going to feel that way. We made a good staff a lot better. I’m glad for that.
Were you active in the recruiting of these guys?
Not really. I guess Theo knew my history with Mike Cameron, but I think sometimes, Theo has a great way of doing this, when things need to get done, he does it quietly and gets them done. When too many people get involved, things have a tendency of getting out there. When he needs to get it done, he goes out there and does it. I respect that a lot.
You have to feel that Ellsbury-Cameron-Drew gives you as good a defensive outfield as there is in the league.
Yeah, we’re pretty excited about that. We banged our heads against the wall and tried to figure out ‘ how can we get better? How can we get more consistent? It’s easy to say we can get six guys who can hit 30 home runs. But by catching the ball, having it end up where it’s supposed to, and having really good pitching, we felt like that was our best way to get better. We just didn’t do a good enough job consistently last year defensively.
What does Scutaro bring to your lineup and the shortstop position?
This is quietly a really good signing for us. You saw what happened last year. We had so much fluctuation at shortstop for a lot of different reasons. And then when we got [Alex Gonzalez], and it really settled things down. Now you have a guy who’s going to be really consistent catching the ball, and you add some really strong on-base skills, he’s a good baserunner, he’s just a really good ballplayer. From day one, we’re going to have a guy who we can run out there everyday. Whether we hit him at the top of the order or the bottom of the order, he’s going to get on base. He’s going to be a good addition. I think the fans are going to respect and enjoy this guy really quickly.
How does Scutaro compare to the ‘09 version of Alex Gonzalez defensively?
That’s going to be interesting. Anytime you’re comparing someone to Alex Gonzalez defensively, that’s quite a compliment right there. Gonzie, like you kind of alluded to and I agree with the assessment, he made plays that made you kind of scratch your head. Now, he lost some range, but he’s still so good defensively. Marco, if you look at some of the defensive metrics, actually rates above Gonzie in some of those. Now, those aren’t perfect. But I think the point is, this kid’s pretty good defensively. He may not be as flashy as Gonzie ‘ I don’t know that anybody is ‘ but he’s going to be a very good defensive shortstop.
Can you compare who Scutaro was for most of his big-league career to who he’s been in the last couple years? How has be become a full-time player?
I think that’s a better question for him. He came up with Cleveland, he was a good utility player, and then somebody finally gave him a chance to play. Maybe it was out of necessity. Maybe somebody saw something. But we’ve all seen what he’s done as an everyday player. He’s taken his skills, and he’s actually become better. Some guys can’t do it. They play everyday and they can’t do it for some reason ‘ whether it’s physical or mental. He’s gotten better. He’s at a little bit of an older age. But again, we got him for two years, and we’re all excited. He’s going to be a good part of our team.
Have you figured out who will play first and third?
I know that you’re kind of alluding to Mikey Lowell. Out of respect to him, we kind of need to let this play out. I’m sure Mikey’s name comes up a lot the last couple winters. It’s probably not the most comfortable situation. One way or the other, something will resolve itself, and then we’ll have a lot to talk about, one way or the other. Just out of respect to Mikey, it’s probably better for me to leave that alone right now.
Youkilis will play anywhere ‘ do you think he’d prefer first base or third base?
I think if he had his choice, he’d be a third baseman. I think he views himself as a third baseman. He’s kind of referred to himself as Happy Gilmore a few times. Now, he’s a tremendous first baseman, but I think that his first and true love is third base.
Do you like your team better today than you did two days ago?
Yeah. Because I get to talk to Theo and the guys, I can see some of these things coming. But I’m probably more comfortable with our team than maybe a lot of other people are. I think people are maybe clamoring for more moves. I’m a big Kotchman fan. I think Kotch kind of goes under the radar because he came over and he didn’t play and he didn’t say anything and he just kind of went about his business. We can do just fine with Kotch playing first, hitting down toward the bottom of the order and catching everything in sight. I’m pretty comfortable with that.
|12.17.09 at 1:56 pm ET|
The Boston Red Sox today announced the following changes to their 2010 Opening Series:
· Game 2 of the Opening Series against the New York Yankees, originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 7, 2010 will now be played on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 7:10 p.m.
· Game 3 of the Opening Series against the New York Yankees, originally scheduled for Thursday, April 8, 2010 will now be played on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 7:10 p.m.
· Monday, April 5 and Thursday, April 8 will now be scheduled off-days in the team schedule.
These changes to the schedule were made in light of 2010 Opening Night being moved up to Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. That game will be televised in the local broadcast market (all of New England minus Fairfield County, CT) on NESN HD, and nationally on ESPN2.
|12.17.09 at 1:15 pm ET|
Gone are the Days of Thunder at Fenway Park … at least for now.
The newly reshaped Red Sox will not be confused for the group that typically bludgeoned opponents into submission in previous years, most notably from 2003-05, when the team cleared 900 runs a year with seeming ease. Nor will next year’s bunch — as currently constructed — be confused for the 2009 edition of the Red Sox. As of this moment, the Sox have effectively replaced Jason Bay, Mike Lowell and a revolving door at shortstop with Mike Cameron, Casey Kotchman and Marco Scutaro.
As general manager Theo Epstein articulated Wednesday, this has been part of a strategy in which the Sox have focused over $100 million this offseason in an effort by the Sox to shut down other teams’ offenses.
John Lackey is a big part of that. So, too, is outfielder Cameron — long viewed as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game — and shortstop Scutaro, who even if a tick below Alex Gonzalez defensively, is still likely an upgrade over what the Sox fielded at the position over the full course of 2009 (Nick Green, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Gonzalez).
“I know a lot of emphasis, a lot of talk, was centered on our offense last year. What’s lost in the mix is our run prevention needs to improve as well. We were one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball last year and we think Mike is a very important piece [in improving],” said Epstein. “I think there are a couple of parts that will allow us to throw a really good team defense out there which will help our pitching staff, help our run prevention.”
Even so, defensive upgrades aren’t helpful if you can’t outscore your opponent. Even Zack Greinke, the best pitcher in the majors in 2009, went just 16-8 due to non-existent run support from the Royals. All of that raises the question: what can be expected from the Red Sox offense in 2010?
Barring a move to add a bat — and by all indications, Adrian Gonzalez isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, at least this offseason — there is little question that the Sox’ offense will take a bit of a hit. The move to replace Jason Bay with Cameron in left is a defense-first move. So, too, is the team’s willingness to move Mike Lowell to Texas so that Kevin Youkilis can cross the diamond from first to third, thus resulting in Casey Kotchman — at least for now — being penciled in as the Sox’ starting first baseman.
Cameron hit .250/.342/.452/.795 last year with the Brewers, almost perfectly in line with his career line of .250/.340/.448/.788. He has, in the words of GM Theo Epstein, “serious juice” in his bat, resulting in 20-25 homers almost every year. The he strikes out about once a game, Cameron works deep counts, meaning that he plays into the Sox’ typical gameplan of driving starters out of games early.
“We think he’s an underrated offensive players,” said Epstein. “He gets his 20 to 25 home runs a year, a very consistent performer. He’s a threat out there. He’s not somebody that pitchers can take lightly. He’s got serious juice. Primarily a pull guy, he fits perfectly into Fenway Park and as he said could put some dents in the wall or over. And he sees a lot of pitches. Mike takes his walks, and I know he strikes out a lot but that doesn’t scare us. We have a lot of productive hitters here who have struck out a lot. Strikeouts are OK as long as they come, as they often do, with walks and home runs. And in Mike’s case, they certainly do.”
The Sox also feel that Kotchman has potential to be a solid if unspectacular offensive contributor. In 2007, at the age of 24, he hit .296/.372/.467/.840, numbers that resulted in him being the centerpiece of the Angels’ deal for Mark Teixeira the following year. He is still just 26 and entering his prime years.
Even though he struggled in a part-time role with the Red Sox last year, and his power is not what you would ordinarily expect from a first baseman, Kotchman has been a tough at-bat in the past, and the Sox believe that he can build on his career .269/.337/.406/.742 line. The Sox are comfortable with the idea of having him be their starting first baseman next year.
“He’s a good example of a player who has a chance to go out and build some value by playing,” said Epstein. “He didn’t get an opportunity to play here, but he’s outstanding defensively, he’s somebody who’s a tougher out than the numbers indicate. He can hit really good pitching. He’s really tough to get to swing and miss. We think there’s a lot of offensive potential there. If we end up with him playing a lot of first base against right-handed pitching, we have a chance to duplicate or build off what he did in 2007 for example, that’s a great solution.’
Even so, there is no doubt that a lineup featuring Kotchman and Cameron rather than Bay and Lowell will take a hit. Even so, any offensive decline for the Sox might be softened by the addition of Scutaro, who — even if he fails to replicate his 2009 career year (.379 OBP, .789 OPS) with the Blue Jays, and instead comes closer to his career norms (.337 OBP, .721 OPS) — will represent a huge upgrade over the Sox’ offensive struggles from the shortstop position in 2009.
Last week, before the agreement to trade Lowell (still waiting to be finalized) and the signing of Cameron, we looked at what the Red Sox lineup might look like in 2010 with or without Bay. Plugging Cameron into the lineup reveals a fairly similar outcome — that the Sox, if Kotchman, Scutaro and Cameron can perform at their career average levels, will be a slightly but not significantly worse offense club in 2010 than they were in 2009.
Assuming that every Red Sox lineup holdovers — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew — performs at his 2009 level next year, and that Cameron, Kotchman and Scutaro performed at their career averages, the Red Sox starting nine would project (according to the amazing baseballmusings.com Lineup Analysis tool) to score 5.646 runs per game. Over a full year, that would project to a whopping 915 runs.
That is not quite the production that the Sox would get with Bay, Lowell and the team’s season-long shortstop output. Such a group would project to score 5.735 runs a game, or 929 runs over the full year, according to the same Lineup Analysis tool. (Note: this total is greater than what the Sox actually scored for a couple reasons: 1) It features a full season of Victor Martinez behind the plate, rather than the Sox’ actual team, which featured Jason Varitek and George Kottaras for two-thirds of the season. 2) It assumes that the Sox regulars all play 162 games; days of rest and time on the disabled list will push this expectation down.)
If the Sox remain unchanged, then it would seem fair to expect some drop in run production. The team, which scored 850 runs, might be conservatively estimated to score about 850 runs (though there is a decent chance that, with a full season from Victor Martinez, some improvement in David Ortiz’ year-long totals, and continued improvement from Jacoby Ellsbury, that number could be higher). The lineup would still feature a bunch of tough outs, and would likely be one of the best handful of offenses in the American League.
That, the team believes, would be more than enough to win given the improvement in the team’s run prevention.
And if it doesn’t? Then the team feels like, after preserving all of its top prospects, it would be in a position to add a bat once the season is underway.
“I think we like the pieces that we have right now,” said Epstein. “I think generally speaking it’s easier to add a bat during the season, so I think our pitching staff is going to be extraordinarily deep, so if we do go into the season with a mix similar to what we have right now, and if the need for a bigger bat does develop, I think that’s something we can address during the season. By no means am I saying we’re done, but I also don’t feel so rushed to go out there and do something dramatic.”
|12.16.09 at 11:42 pm ET|
It’s been a busy week in the offices of Fenway Park. Jason Bay’s Red Sox career came to an end, with the team instead electing to pursue free-agent pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron to pursue a makeover predicated on run prevention. All the while, the Red Sox may have been positioning themselves – whether this offseason or next season – to make a run at one of the elite bats on the market.
Join WEEI.com’s team of Lou Merloni, Rob Bradford and Alex Speier on Thursday at noon in the Virtual Pressbox to talk about the new landscape at Fenway Park.
|12.16.09 at 4:48 pm ET|
As a now-former member of the Angels, John Lackey is more than familiar with the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway.
Now, he’ll become more intimately aware of the inside of the home clubhouse.
He was directly above it on Wednesday as he spoke about what it means to be with the Red Sox, after signing a five-year/$82.5 million deal with Boston, giving the Red Sox one of the deepest staffs in all of baseball.
Here are some audio highlights from his press conference on Wednesday.
|12.16.09 at 4:32 pm ET|
At the 2009 trading deadline, the Red Sox made an aggressive play to acquire Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. The team reportedly offered a 5-for-1 package that was centered by Clay Buchholz, three other pitchers and outfielder Josh Reddick. The Jays declined to make the move.
This offseason, the Sox once again kicked the tires on Halladay, but it remained clear that the cost to the Sox for the 2003 Cy Young winner — a combined hit of prospects and a long-term contract extension — would lead to an imbalance in the team’s pursuit of short- and long-term success. Halladay would have cost the Sox several key prospects, not to mention upwards of $75 million over the next four years.
Lackey, by way of contrast, cost the team plenty of money (five years, $82.5 million), but did not require the team to part with any of its key prospects. And while the Sox will have to give up a first-round draft pick for Lackey (one that would have gone to the Blue Jays for the Marco Scutaro signing, and that will instead now go to the Angels), the team should conclude this offseason with a net increase of two draft picks.
The Sox will lose both their first- and second-round picks for the signings of Lackey and Scutaro. But the team will get the No. 20 overall pick in the draft from Atlanta as a result of the departure of reliever Billy Wagner, and the Sox will get a draft pick from a team that signs Jason Bay (a first-rounder from some clubs, though if the Mets sign Bay, the Sox would get New York’s second-round pick, since their first-round selection is protected), as well as two draft picks in the sandwich round.
On balance, then, the Sox feel that the moves that they’ve made thus far to sign free agents Lackey, Scutaro and Mike Cameron have left the club in better long-term position than would have been the case had it pursued a player such as Halladay in the trade market. The Sox have retained all of their best prospects this offseason and they have added draft picks. It’s been expensive in terms of dollars, but the overall cost to the organization has been a reasonable one.
“We had interest in Halladay dating back to the trade deadline and early in the offseason,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “Well before [Halladay] was moved, it was clear he wasn’t going to be a factor for us based on the asking price, which is reasonable. I think [Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous] did a really good job. We weren’t prepared to pony up the prospects in addition to the salary that would have been required.
“We’re in a pretty good spot now. If you look at what we’ve done, I do think we’ve improved the 2010 red sox. I think we’ve improved our long-term outlook. We’ve added draft picks, we hope to add more draft picks ‘ I think we probably will ‘ and we haven’t touched our prospect inventory at all. All of those different factors contribute to a healthy organization, what your team looks like next year, what it looks like in the future, what your commitments look like, what your draft-pick bounty in next draft, and how many prospects you’re able to retain, at least ones you believe in. In all of those areas, we feel like this is a pretty good solution for us.”
|12.16.09 at 3:57 pm ET|
Mike Cameron is regarded as one of the most personable players in the majors.
On Wednesday at Fenway Park, with a bright smile and a sharp wit, he showed why.
Here are some audio highlights from his press conference.
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