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Why David Ortiz may, or may not, be a good fit for the Red Sox

11.04.10 at 8:41 am ET
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(Update: The Red Sox will exercise the $12.5 million option on David Ortiz for ’11.)

In one way, the fit regarding David Ortiz and the Red Sox might be better than ever. That would seem to be the case if the team does indeed decide to move in its right field fence an extra nine feet.

“As long as I’ve been here? Around 100,” said Ortiz when asked how many home runs had been taken away from him because of the depth of Fenway Park’s right field. “I hit a lot of balls in front of that fence, or off that fence. A lot!”

That problem? Potentially solved.

If the debate regarding the Red Sox’ decision to pick up Ortiz’ $12.5 million option — or sign him to a multi-year extension — had been that simple, it would have fizzled long ago. But it isn’t, and we’re left breaking down the ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s’ as both sides stormed towards the midnight deadline for the Sox to exercise the option.

There are no easy answers regarding exactly how good a fit Ortiz is with the Red Sox these days. Sure, drawing the target in right field closer to home plate is a start, but other pieces of baseball evolution might push the argument the other way.

So, putting the back-and-forth regarding the merits of a one-year deal compared to Ortiz’ preferred multi-year approach aside, let’s look at how symbiotic the 34-year-old and the Red Sox might be going forward:

THE IMPORTANCE OF ORTIZ

He is the best at his position: The Sox’ DH points this out, and he is correct. No player hit more home runs (31) or had a higher OPS (.908) when in the lineup as a designated hitter than Ortiz last season. Since June 5, 2009, he has the 10th-best OPS in the American League, better than the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira.

The Sox need his kind of bat: The Giants became the first team since 2001 to win the World Series title without a 30-home run player. While the Red Sox’ lineup figures to have enough punch from top-to-bottom, there is something to be said for loading up on middle-of-the-order power presences.

Ortiz is an anchor in the clubhouse: The slugger takes great pride in his role on the team as a leader, a responsibility he often references. With a roster that is in the midst of being turned inside-out, that kind of voice often presents great value while the newcomers find their way.

THE DEVALUING OF ORTIZ

His position is devolving: Only five players manned the DH position for more than 100 games last season, and the second-most productive of the group, Vladimir Guerrero, just had his $9 million option declined by the Rangers.

Lefty is not the right side: While Ortiz actually rallied against lefties in the final month of the season (hitting .256), he still ended up hitting .222 vs. southpaws (which, by the way, was still 23 points higher than Adam Dunn’s total against left-handers). With the uncertain future regarding two of the Sox’ right-handed bats (Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez), and the lineup potentially getting even more lefty heavy (Carl Crawford), the Sox might be wary of overloading  with lefties. (This is even more of a concern due to with the likes of left-handers Brian Matusz, Ricky Romero, CC Sabathia, David Price and potentially Cliff Lee in the division).

The Red Sox’ patience has diminished: Last season, when Ortiz was struggling through April, Sox manager Terry Francona didn’t hesitate to pinch-hit for his slugger, even platooning him early on. If the problems against lefties persist, the Sox most likely would be open to integrating someone like Mike Cameron in the DH spot. It is not the kind of dynamic the team would prefer if they were to invest significant money or years in Ortiz.

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Ricciardi worked for the Red Sox for a day before Mets job

11.03.10 at 3:34 pm ET
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Newly named Mets special assistant to general manager J.P. Ricciardi appeared on The Big Show on Wednesday. Ricciardi was asked about a tweet from Peter Gammons that indicated he worked a day in the Red Sox front office before the Mets made a job offer.

“I had the shortest tenure of any Red Sox employee ever, it was 24 hours,” said Ricciardi. “I had a standing offer from the Red Sox to go over there at any time and I had gone over there to help with a project that they were doing, which was at the end of last week. And the next day [Mets general manager] Sandy Alderson had called and asked permission to talk to me. Theo [Epstein] and the ownership group were absolutely outstanding, they allowed Sandy the opportunity to talk to me and it ended up working out really well for me.”

Ricciardi was then asked what would have happened had the Mets not come in with an offer.

“On November 1st I was going to work for them [The Red Sox],” said Ricciardi. “At that point it would have been official, but it never got to that point.”

No surprise: Adrian Beltre declines $10 million option with Red Sox

11.03.10 at 2:09 pm ET
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As he suggested would be the case during the 2010 season, Adrian Beltre has declined his $10 million player option for ’11 with the Red Sox, instead electing free agency. The 31-year-old Beltre, who hit .321 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a career-high 49 doubles, saw his option bump up from $5 million to $10 million in his last game of the season, having eclipsed the 640 plate appearances that kicked in the option’s increase.

Regarding the opportunity to double the player option, Beltre told WEEI.com that he didn’t view it as a big deal. ‘€œThat number was set because I had done it before I had been close to that number for a lot of years. Since the season started I never thought about numbers. I never really thought about it,’€ he said on Sept. 21. ‘€œIt shows I wasn’€™t hurt, which was one of the things I wanted to do. Hurt is one thing, but to have soreness and nagging things are another. For me being hurt is having surgery. I’€™ve been lucky enough that the injuries I’€™ve had haven’€™t stopped me from swinging the bat or anything like that.’€

Beltre is considered the most attractive option among free agent third basemen this offseason, a group that was recently thinned out when Detroit’s Brandon Inge signed a two-year, $11 million deal to stay with the Tigers. Detroit was believed to be a potential landing spot for Beltre.

Beltre told WEEI.com just prior to his final game of the season that the chance to win and family considerations will drive the decision where his next stop will be.

“I’ll see what’s best for me and my family,” Beltre explained. “This year I was selfish enough, coming to the East Coast, knowing my wife was pregnant and she would be away from me basically for the whole year. This year is going to be more a family thing. It’s been tough. I haven’t seen family like l wanted to. We’re going to settle down, discuss it, and see what’s best for us.”

The Boston Globe was first to report this story.

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

Casey Kelly named top Red Sox prospect

11.03.10 at 12:10 pm ET
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Baseball America, in its Top 10 ranking of the Red Sox farm system, named pitcher Casey Kelly as the organization’s top prospect.

(Click here for the basic Baseball America article on the Top 10. Click here for the much more thorough subscriber edition…if you are a subscriber.)

Kelly just concluded his Arizona Fall League season, and between Double-A Portland and the AFL, he threw 111 innings, going 4-5 with a 5.51 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 39 walks.

Kelly, who was ranked No. 2 in the system behind Ryan Westmoreland after the 2009 season, showed the potential for three plus-pitches, with a mid-90s fastball that sat at 90-94 and a swing-and-miss change and curve. His command, which had been exceptional with his fastball and changeup in 2009, faltered, a byproduct, the Sox believe, of his still-growing frame.

But the Sox still see a potential front-of-the-rotation pitcher, and Baseball America concurs that the 2008 first-rounder has a big ceiling:

“It’s easy to forget that 2010 was Kelly’s first full year as a pitcher, after he split time between hitting and pitching in 2009, and his learning curve against Double-A hitters was steep. The Red Sox aren’t worried about his less-than-gaudy statistics, still envisioning him becoming a frontline starter with three possible plus pitches and above-average command. He should reach Triple-A Pawtucket at some point in 2011, perhaps even to start the season, and his big league ETA is 2012.”

Kelly was followed in the system by shortstop Jose Iglesias (just named to the Rising Stars team in the Arizona Fall League), first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 2010 draftee Anthony Ranaudo (who has yet to play in a professional game, but did dominate in the Cape League after being drafted) and left-hander Drake Britton, a power lefty who bounced back from Tommy John surgery to strike out 78 in 76 innings with Single-A Greenville.

There was a fairly stunning omission from the Top 10. First baseman Lars Anderson, who made his major league debut in 2010, was not on the list. Before the 2009 season, he was rated by Baseball America as the No. 17 prospect in all of baseball.

Here is Baseball America’s full Top 10, with related content from WEEI.com for each:

1. Kelly, RHP

Minor Misconceptions: The Red Sox Minor League Season in Context

All-Star Futures Notebook: Casey Kelly’s Year of Development

2. Iglesias, SS

An Infield Coach’s First Glimpse of Iglesias

Glimpse of the Future: Jose Iglesias

3. Rizzo, 1B

Powerful Statement from Red Sox Prospects

Sox Announce Minor League Award Winners

Survive and Thrive: Red Sox Prospect Anthony Rizzo’s Return From Cancer

4. Ranaudo, RHP

A Mound of Expectations for Two New Sox Pitchers

5. Britton, LHP

Britton’s ‘Amazing’ Development

6. Reymond Fuentes, OF

Draft Class Takes Shape

7. Josh Reddick, OF

Glimpse of the Future: Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish

The Discovery and Development of Josh Reddick

8. Felix Doubront, LHP

Doubront’s Long Journey From Lowell to Boston

Why Doubront’s Debut Mattered, From Boston To El Toro

Doubront Joins Line of Sox Pitching Prospects

9. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP

Sox Pitching Prospect Pimentel Gets Taste of the Futures

The (Almost) Perfect Stolm

Balance of Trade: Sox Dealt for 2008 and Beyond

10. Garin Cecchini, 3B

How the Jimmy Fund Brought a Red Sox Prospect Closer to Boston

The Most Interesting Red Sox Draftee

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Anthony Rizzo, baseball america, casey kelly

Red Sox prospect Adalberto Ibarra has shoulder surgery

11.03.10 at 10:33 am ET
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Red Sox prospect Adalberto Ibarra, a catcher who defected from Cuba in 2009 and signed with the Sox this summer, underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. While the Red Sox and the catcher had been on the fence about whether or not to rehab the injured shoulder or perform surgery to clean it up, they decided that, since he would likely be back and ready to play after four or five months, they were better served to have the 23-year-old undergo the procedure now than jeopardize his 2011 season.

“We ended up having to clean up his shoulder a little bit. He will actually be out until spring training,” said Sox farm director Mike Hazen. “He wasn’€™t able to get over the hump throwing-wise. We were in that situation where, do we wait and have it flare up and then he misses the season, or, if we do it now, he rehabs the entire offseason and he’€™s back playing in April. We decided to bite the bullet, so to speak, and go in there and see what was going on. They cleaned him up a little bit. Everything looked pretty good, but they felt like it was the right call to go in there. It was 50-50 that he would have been able to rehab it successfully.”

Two offseasons ago, Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland underwent a similar offseason procedure on his labrum in the middle of November. He was able to return to games (albeit only as a DH) by spring training. Hazen characterized Ibarra’s surgery as somewhat less significant than Westmoreland’s, and so the Sox are confident that he will be able to hit in spring training games while getting built up towards catching. (Westmoreland did not play outfield in games until August 2009, roughly 10 months after his labrum surgery.)

Ibarra initially agreed to terms on a five-year, $3 million major league contract with the Sox that included incentives that could push the value of the deal to $4.3 million. But the catcher failed his physical because of the shoulder, and so he and the Sox renegotiated to a signing bonus for a minor-league deal between $700,000 and $800,000.

The Sox evaluated Ibarra over a six-month stretch in the Dominican before signing him. At the plate, he possesses advanced plate discipline and power potential. His catching skills are described as developing.

After signing, the left-handed hitting Ibarra spent much of last summer in Fort Myers rehabbing before making his pro debut with a minor league affiliate in August. Ibarra hit .228 with a .382 OBP and .645 OPS in 19 games between the Rookie Level GCL Red Sox and the Hi-A Salem Red Sox.

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Terry Francona on hiring Curt Young: ‘We really caught a break here’

11.02.10 at 4:07 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona made no secret of the fact that it was going to be difficult to replace pitching coach John Farrell once he left Boston to become the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only was Farrell a close friend, but he was also a valued source of council in whom Francona had virtually complete confidence to manage the pitching staff.

But Francona recognized that it was all but certain that, after four years of having Farrell as his pitching coach, he would lose him this offseason. Farrell was going to depart to become a manager somewhere else, leaving a void.

And so, down the stretch of the regular season, Francona — with the assistance of Farrell — began drawing up a list to identify the ideal person to serve as the next Red Sox pitching coach. Both men came up with the same name atop their lists: Curt Young.

It was unclear whether the pitching coach of the Athletics would be available, however. Young had longstanding roots in the Oakland organization (22 years as a player and coach). Moreover, he was highly valued for the quality of his work, as Athletics pitchers had a 4.03 ERA (tops in the American League) in Young’s seven years as pitching coach, and an AL-leading 3.58 mark in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: barry zito, Ben Sheets, curt young, Dan Haren

Sox announce hiring of pitching coach Curt Young

11.02.10 at 1:52 pm ET
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Here is the press release from the Red Sox announcing the hiring of Curt Young as their new pitching coach:

BOSTON, MA ‘€” The Boston Red Sox today named Curt Young Major League pitching coach.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein and Manager Terry Francona made the announcement.

‘€œWe are lucky to be able to add an experienced pitching coach the caliber of Curt Young to the organization,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œCurt has a proven track record of success in this job, mixing excellent relationship-building skills with expert knowledge of pitching and how to get hitters out at the Major League level. Pitchers who have worked with Curt swear by him, and the results speak for themselves. We think he will work well with our pitching staff and within the culture of our clubhouse.’€

The 50-year-old Young has spent the last seven seasons as the Oakland Athletics pitching coach from 2004-10. Under his guidance, Oakland pitchers have posted an American League best 4.03 ERA (4,535 ER/10,135.1 IP) and held opponents to an AL low .257 batting average (9,939-for-38,616) while allowing the fewest home runs in the circuit (1,062). A’€™s hurlers led the American League with a 3.56 ERA (566 ER/1,431.2 IP) in 2010 and topped the league with 17 shutouts. The staff also allowed the fewest hits (1,315), runs (626) and earned runs (566) in the AL this season and faced the fewest batters (6,011) in the Majors. Additionally, Oakland starters posted a Major League best 3.47 ERA (383 ER/992.0 IP), the lowest such mark in the AL since 1990.

Young began his coaching career in Oakland’€™s minor league system in 2000, serving as pitching coach for Double-A Midland. His Midland staff compiled a 4.64 ERA that season, which was the lowest figure posted by the club in 15 years. In 2001, Midland pitchers bettered the previous year’€™s figure by 24 points, finishing with a 4.40 ERA, and in 2002 the RockHounds finished with a 3.88 ERA. Young was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento for the 2003 season and the River Cats posted the fourth best ERA in the Pacific Coast League at 3.90 en route to the PCL Championship.

Originally drafted by the A’€™s in the fourth round of the 1981 June draft out of Central Michigan University, Young pitched parts of 11 Major League seasons with Oakland (1983-91, 1993), Kansas City (1992) and the New York Yankees (1992). The left-hander compiled a 69-53 record and a 4.31 ERA (530 ER/1,107.0 IP) in 251 appearances (162 starts) and was a member of the A’€™s starting rotation when they won three consecutive American League pennants from 1988-90.

Read More: curt young, pitching coach,
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