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Eye doctors are doctoring some eyes

02.28.10 at 10:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — One of the more interesting aspects of the test process for the Red Sox is when Dr. Daniel Laby and Dr. David Kirschen come to town. The two eye doctors have been charged with the task of not only testing the Sox’ players for eyesight issues, but also such functions as hand-eye coordination.

Their work with the Red Sox can be traced back to as far as 2004, when Manny Ramirez came to them midway through the season looking for answers regarding his eyesight. Not only did they diagnose his problem, but the slugger came away with a few eyesight exercises he uses to this day. (Catching a hoop with four Wiffleballs attached while it is being thrust at him from 10 feet away, having to grab the colored ball identified by the person tossing the plastic sphere.)

This is a paragraph I wrote back in spring training of 2007:

This time they are bringing in something new: Equipment to measure the players’€™ hand-eye coordination. They have two tests, one for simple reaction (not having to identify specifics) and recognition-type of reaction. The recognition reaction test is most interesting with the players having to watch a screen which flashes an image of a hand holding a certain kind of grip on the baseball. For example, if the player is asked to push a button when the fastball grip is shown, than they have to wait out the other possible images (curveball, knuckleball, and slider) before committing to the fastball. An unnamed player from the Dodgers supplied the imagery for the grips.

One thing that the duo mixed in this year was a change to the glaucoma test, which had involved eye drops because of their stinging effect had the players shying away from the process. It also didn’t allow the players to put their contacts in right away, forcing delays on the practice field. Now there is a new machine — recently developed in Finland — that simply pricks the the eye, giving the sensation of nothing more than the touch of a feather. Suddenly the least looked forward to part of the examination wasn’t such an issue.

Magadan: Big difference in Ortiz

02.28.10 at 8:04 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz spoke recently about the difference he feels this year, having started hitting as early as Jan. 2 after the previous offseason in which his wrist had limited any pre-spring training swinging.

Ortiz isn’t alone in seeing the benefits of the added preparation. Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan has noticed a marked difference in the slugger’s swing compared to last year at this time.

“No question about it,” Magadan said.

“It’s still early in the spring, but for the most part he’s a long way from where he was last spring. Prior to the WBC he came in and … for me when I see David hit he has great hands. When he came in last spring there was a lot of body. There was a lot of gearing up to try and generate bat speed and to me that’s not him. When he’s looking handsy at the plate, and inside the ball, and driving it the other way, that’s when he’s on his game. When he’s using a lot of body trying to generate his bat speed, to me that makes him longer and he loses driving the ball to the opposite field. He looks right now like he started to look at the end of last season.”

Lackey: No need to throw 110 mph

02.28.10 at 7:54 am ET
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When Josh Beckett first came to the Red Sox as a 25-year-old, he admitted that changing teams for the first time had led him to try and taking first impressions to a new level. The result was the pitcher not speaking up when the Red Sox’€™ wanted to emphasize only the fastball and curveball, ditching the pitch Beckett believed set up everything else ‘€” his changeup.

John Lackey, however, isn’€™t about to fall into that trap.

The 31-year-old is in the process of changing organizations for the first time, but said that that isn’€™t about to affect the way he goes about doing things.

‘€œIt’€™s been easy here. The guys have been really cool and it’€™s been easy to fit in,’€ Lackey said. ‘€œI don’€™t have the urge throw it 110 miles-per-hour. I know it’€™s too early for that, I’€™ve been around too long. Josh was a lot younger when he did it, so it’€™s a little different.’€

Was Lackey nervous at all about entering into a new big league clubhouse for the first time?

‘€œNot really,’€ he said. ‘€œBaseball players are baseball players.’€

What’s new with the Red Sox: Sunday

02.28.10 at 7:46 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts. Here’s what transpired on a day Casey Kelly got the Opening Day nod (sort of):

– Kelly was named as the starter in the Red Sox‘ first spring training game, Wednesday against Northeastern. It will be the most celebrated start for the Sox against a collegiate team in … well … about three years. The honor of the highest of profile appearances in the Sox’ spring opener will forever go to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the annual game against Boston College.

The Daisuke game, of course, will be remembered for Boston College punter Johnny Ayers doubling off Matsuzaka on the pitcher’s very first pitch. Ayers, as it turned out, had read quotes from Matsuzaka earlier in the spring saying that his first pitch was going to be a fastball.

As for the rest of the early spring training rotation, it is as follows: Boston College: Boof Bonser; March 4: Josh Beckett; March 5: Jon Lester/Tim Wakefield; March 6: John Lackey; March 7: Clay Buchholz.

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Video: Batting Stance Guy’s take on the new Sox

02.27.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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Batting Stance Guy,  Gar Ryness, was down in Tampa for RaysFest last weekend and shared some of his stances for the newest members of the Boston Red Sox. Check out his full site by clicking here. Enjoy the stances of Bill Hall, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Hermida and Adrian Beltre.

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Read More: Batting Stance Guy, mike cameron, Red Sox,

Report: Red Sox still in on Ruiz

02.27.10 at 12:19 pm ET
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According to a report in ESPN.com (via MLB Trade Rumors) a source familiar with the situation has said that the Red Sox are still actively pursuing Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz. The 25-year-old is a 6-foot-3, left-handed hitter who has been compared to Carlos Delgado. Earlier in the week it appeared as though the Blue Jays had the inside track on Ruiz. Click here for the story (in Spanish).

Early spring rotation set

02.27.10 at 12:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona just announced the starters for the first few games of spring training. Here it is:

Northeastern: Casey Kelly; Boston College: Boof Bonser; March 4: Josh Beckett; March 5: Jon Lester/Tim Wakefield; March 6: John Lackey; March 7: Clay Buchholz.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has been pushed back because of his previous  back tweak and won’t throw his first bullpen until early next week.

What’s new with the Red Sox: Saturday

02.27.10 at 7:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts. Here’s what transpired on a day when Dustin Pedroia showed his push-up prowess:

– The Red Sox starters threw batting practice for the first time with rave reviews. For instance …

Terry Francona on Jon Lester: ‘€œI thought he did good. I thought he was a little frustrated with himself the other day on the side day. Today, he felt a lot better. That happens. That’€™s all part of it. there’€™s no way you’€™re going to wake up every day during spring training and feel like ‘€¦ that’€™s just part of spring training. But I thought he threw the ball really well.’€

Francona on the starters in general: ‘€œFor me, the biggest thing is how the ball is coming out of the hand because we really want them to build their arm strength. When they build their arm strength, then they’€™ll get to a point where they can go out and pitch and they’€™re not raring back trying to do more or trying to generate more velocity. They’€™re trying to get to that so then they can be able to command.’€

John Farrell on John Lackey: “Incrementally, another step, increase in intensity. Thought he threw the ball with good downhill angle. His two-seamer had very good life to his arm side. He spun some curveballs for strikes which at this point in cmap that’€™s what we’€™re looking for. We’€™re not looking for the swing-and-miss type, the putaway. It’€™s getting a feel for a hitter in the box and how they’€™re reacting to the stuff that each one of our guys is delivering to the plate. The amount of volume picks up a little bit more today with a full eight or 10 minute bullpen, in addition to the 40 pitches of BP. He’€™s handling the volume well and executing from pitch to pitch thus far.”

Farrell on Tim Wakefield: “We’€™re all encouraged. These first 10 days on the minor league complex, there’€™s a lot of volume guys are going through. Not just the bullpens, but all the other activity we’€™re going through. And he’€™s respnoded each day, and each day gone out, little more refined and arm strength, evident quality of pitches through length of typical bullpen.”

And just for some visual evidence …

And then there was Casey Kelly, who also threw to hitters for the first time in camp

Farrell’s thoughts on the 20-year-old: “Very poised. Very professional approach. He’€™s got genuine confidence in himself, and I mean that in the right way. He’€™s not cocky by any means. He’€™s very respectful. When you see him go about his work, he’€™s not in a rush.  A guy will take a good swing on him, it’€™s not like he’€™s got to come back and make a pitch that much better. He knows the purpose of BP and carries that throughout. He carries himself with a very good air about him and one who genuinely is comfortable with himself, even being in big league camp for the first time.”

Kelly also chimed in on how he’s taking in the whole experience: ‘€œRight now I haven’€™t really gotten a chance to ask questions, I think after my first couple outings I’€™ll ask some questions. Right now its watching how they go about their business, how they do their workouts, how they go about their pens, and just listening to what they say, what they’€™re trying to work on. Just be like a sponge and try to absorb everything up. Listening and watching is the best way to learn, rather than talking I think. I’€™m just trying to keep my ears and eyes open and learn as much as possible.”

The one thing you notice about Kelly is his frame and how it will undoubtedly translate into a pitcher the size of Jon Lester down the road. It was a subject that came up with Francona.

“Standing at secod base during BP saying it will be fun to show up two years from now and imagine what this kid will be,’€ the Sox manager said.

Adrian Beltre, who rolled his ankle while stepping on a baseball Wednesday, was back in the swing of things and participating in on-field activities.

“I’m fine,” the third baseman said. “There was some swelling (Thursday), but I feel much better (Friday).

– In other injury news, Daisuke Matsuzaka is progressing well and may throw his first bullpen as soon as Monday.

‘€œI think he feels good about himself,” Francona said. “I think tomorrow he’€™ll probably try to get out to 150, or 140. They’€™ll need to be a day off in there somewhere. He does feel pretty good about himself. You could tell by the way he was throwing that he’€™s not nursing his way through it.’€

– The condition of Jed Lowrie’s surgically-repaired left wrist has been encouraging thus far, as the shortstop explained, saying “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

To read more about Lowrie click here.

– There were also a couple of solid interviews, from Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, in the Dennis and Callahan Trailer (it was too cold to sit at the picnic table). To read the transcripts click here for Lester, and here for Papelbon.

– And then there was Pedroia …

A day after giving the quote of the day, having gone up to Francona and said regarding moving down the lineup, “Am I a table-setter or the table,” the second baseman made video magic with the First Annual Laser Show Push-Up Contest. Enjoy …

Video: The Laser Show with Dustin Pedroia

02.26.10 at 2:03 pm ET
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Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, Spring Training,

Lester on D&C: ‘No complacency around here’

02.26.10 at 1:00 pm ET
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Jon Lester, one of the members of ‘€œThe Big Three’€ of Red Sox pitchers, joined Dennis & Callahan in Fort Myers on Friday. The big left-hander discussed the chance to pitch with two other aces in Josh Beckett and John Lackey.

‘€œI think it just takes pressure off everybody else,’€ said Lester. ‘€œWe are hopefully not going to have a lot of losing streaks. Every game is going to be a battle and go out there and put up zeroes. That’€™s what we get paid to do and hopefully we will able to do it better than last year.’€

Lester said he might try and lobby a little harder to stay in some ball games now that he has gained veteran status, but would not brew up any spring training controversy.

Here is a transcript. To listen to the interview, click here.

What would it take for you to rant and rave about taking the ball on Opening Day? We need controversy.

It would take a lot. There are too many good pitchers on our staff to complain about that.

Getting the ball in Game 1 of the playoffs is out the question too then?

It doesn’€™t matter to me. I’€™ll take the ball whenever. I’€™m easy. I’€™ve never been a big guy in believing in that stuff. Opening Day would be nice. It’€™d be fun, but at the same time I just want to pitch. Read the rest of this entry »

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