|02.28.11 at 1:39 pm ET|
It will be the first game action for Jenks, who threw 26 pitches in his session Monday.
‘I’ll look forward to getting in games come April,’ he said of the excitement regarding see game action. ‘Right now, I’m going to go out there and work out things. Even though it’s a game situation, even though it’s spring training, there are still a lot of things to work on and get better at before the season comes.’
Jenks explained that he is taking somewhat of a different approach this spring, easing more into the spring training games than ever before.
‘I’ve never thrown this late before,’ he explained. ‘I’ve never thrown four bullpens before seeing live hitters or live BP. I guess it’s working.
‘That was [pitching coach] Curt [Young’s] idea. He just wanted to get a better look, a better feel off the mound before we jumped into games.’
Jenks threw four bullpen sessions prior to facing live hitters for the first time, Saturday. As has been the case for the past few seasons, the reliever didn’t throw off a mound prior to coming to spring training.
Regarding if he felt better than the first time he threw to batters, Jenks said, ‘Big time. I’m feeling really good today. I just have to build off of this and continue working.’
|02.28.11 at 11:56 am ET|
It was not the way that Hideki Okajima wanted to start his exhibition season.
After a 2010 campaign in which he struggled more than his season-ending 4.50 ERA would suggest, the left-hander is competing for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen after having signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal to return to the club that non-tendered him in Dec. And so, without the guarantee of a roster spot, it was no doubt an unfortunate first step for the 35-year-old that he allowed four runs on five hits in his first spring inning of work.
The Sox are mindful of the fact that he was a critical member of their bullpen from 2007-09, and so they note that it is more important for the reliever to work to regain that form than to concentrate on the roster situation.
“We need Oki to be a good pitcher. He’s competing with himself,” manager Terry Francona told reporters in Fort Myers. “We’ve all seen what he can do when he’s right and how he can help that bullpen. That’s probably more how I look at it.”
That said, it is worth noting that if Okajima struggles this spring and the Sox wanted to build bullpen depth while giving the left-hander more time to find his rhythm on the mound, his contract status permits the team flexibility to do just that. Okajima has never spent a day in the minors since coming to Boston, and so he has all three of his options remaining. He has four years of service time, and so he cannot refuse an optional assignment should the Red Sox choose to send him to the minors. Nor is there anything in his contract that would prevent the Sox from sending him to the minors.
While Okajima would have to clear major league waivers if the Sox were to option him, that process is considered nothing more than a formality, since teams almost never claim players on that form of waivers.
Among the left-handers in competition for the final bullpen spots — a group that includes Okajima, Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Dennys Reyes, Andrew Miller and Randy Williams — Okajima and Doubront are the only ones on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
Doubront, who has been shut down while building arm strength, will almost surely open the year in Triple-A. That leaves Okajima as the player who would require the least roster shuffling to keep in the majors.
At the same time, because Okajima can be optioned, the Sox could easily send him to the minors if they wanted to avoid losing Reyes, who can opt-out of his minor league deal in the final days of March if he’s not added to the big league roster. The Sox would have to take someone else off the 40-man roster in order to do so, but that would likely not tie the Sox’ hands.
“When [Sox GM Theo Epstein] thinks somebody can help us, he’s not afraid to make it work,” said Francona. “At the same time, when we look at building our team, we look at building depth, also. If you lose a guy that’s a roster guy — or a guy you could send down — then, 10 days into the season, if somebody gets hurt and you don’t have anybody to call up, we certainly keep those things in consideration.”
There is still time for Okajima to demonstrate this spring that he can be a solid bullpen option for the Sox. That said, the pitcher also gives the Sox flexibility, since they are not in a position where they would risk losing him if he was sent to the minors.
|02.28.11 at 10:46 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Monday, of course, marks the debut of Carl Crawford in the Red Sox‘ lineup (hitting third), offering Sox manager Terry Francona a whole new round of excitement thanks to the anticipation of seeing the outfielder play in a Boston uniform.
While walking through the clubhouse earlier in the morning, Francona painted the picture of how things have changed, telling Crawford, “I hated you, and now I love you.”
Regarding Crawford, Francona has offered rave reviews, “I’ve always liked him. He’s been a model. He’s here early, he works hard, he’s upbeat, he’s a nice kid. I’m sure it’s a little different. Your first team is like family.”
Francona explained that he was familiar with Crawford even before the speedster started torturing the Red Sox on the basepaths, having managed him on Team USA in 2001 when in a tournament in Taiwan. The manager joked that he wasn’t sure what the group was playing for, (“The Taiwan Cup?” he quipped), but did remember that the team — which boasted Orlando Hudson, Josh Bard, and former Red Sox backstop Ken Huckaby — lost to Cuba in the finals.
– Francona did say not to make too much of Monday’s lineup, which has Jacoby Ellsbury leading off and Crawford hitting third.
“That’s today’s lineup,” the manager said. “We’re just trying to win the Mayor’s Cup. We’ve front-loading it for obvious reasons. Panic is setting in. It’s an obvious possibility. Who knows. We’re just trying to get ready for the season.” He was, of course, referring to the fact that the Twins are now 1-0 in what is for all intent and purposes a five-game series to see which Fort Myers-based team can claim the most head-to-head wins.
– Regarding Ellsbury, Francona reiterated that he did believe the team was best with the the center fielder at the top of the Red Sox’ lineup if he was hitting well.
“It’s been interrupted because of his health, but he was really starting to grow into it,” said Francona of Ellsbury’s progression in the leadoff spot. “At times we would hit down in the order just to protect him a little bit, but I think we’ve always said when he’s leading off and hitting well that’s probably our best lineup. There were times he wasn’t ready to be there so it didn’t seem like it made sense.”
Regarding how the Red Sox might make the determination about whether or not Ellsbury is ready to reclaim the leadoff spot, Francona said, “Just be ready. He came into camp swinging the bat way ahead of what I expected. He’s strong. He obviously spent a lot of time getting ready. The ball is coming off his bat great. So, obviously that’s good news. He missed probably 500 at-bats so if it looks like that one less at-bat a game early on would help him, that’s what we would do. But there’s no way to scientifically know. But we’ll watch his at-bats.
“Physically he really looks terrific. It’s obvious he spent a lot of time getting ready. If balls are beating him and he’s fighting it a little bit hitting him there would make it a little harder on him and we don’t want to do that.”
– Adrian Gonzalez took 25 swings off a tee and 35 more off of flips. “It’s going well,” Francona said.
|02.28.11 at 9:02 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ Monday marks the debut for Carl Crawford in a Red Sox uniform, with much anticipation revolving around where he might be hitting in the lineup as the Sox take on the Twins at City of Palms Park. And (drum roll, please) ‘¦
Carl Crawford LF
David Ortiz DH
J.D. Drew RF
Brent Dlugach SS
Drew Sutton 1B
Yamaico Navarro 3B
Besides Crawford, also of note is the fact Ellsbury remains firmly entrenched in the leadoff spot. For his career, the outfielder has been the leadoff man 261 times, while hitting elsewhere on 88 occasions.
In the top spot, Ellsbury has totaled a .279 batting average and .330 on-base percentage.
‘I would take pride wherever I hit in the lineup,’ said Ellsbury when asked if he viewed himself as a leadoff hitter. ‘I just like being in the lineup.’
As for Crawford in the No. 3 hole, it has been the third-most utilized spot throughout his career, having hit second the most, followed by leadoff. Hitting third, the outfielder has a .294 average with a .338 on-base percentage. He does have the highest rate of home runs-per-game (hitting 14 in 201 games) of any other spot.
Also, the players met with the Major League Baseball Alumni Association before heading out on the field. Check back for more info as the day unfolds ‘¦
|02.27.11 at 3:54 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ The Red Sox went through fielding and batting practice at City of Palms Park prior to heading across town to take on the Twins in the Grapefruit League opener at Hammond Stadium. Prior to the workout, Sox manager Terry Francona touched on a variety of items with the media:
‘ Francona said the feud between White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks is “over,” having exchanged messages with Guillen and White Sox coach Joey Cora. “I spoke to Bobby, went back and forth with Ozzie, and I’m confident that will be over.”
The Sox manager added: “I don’t care if they like each other, but Bobby is a Red Sox and they need to move on. It doesn’t need to happen. He played for the White Sox, now he plays for the Red Sox.”
‘ Reliever Dennys Reyes threw 32 pitches off a mound Sunday, leaving the Red Sox brass confident that he was ready to throw to hitters Tuesday. “[Pitching coach] Curt [Young] was ecstatic.”
‘ Regarding Felix Doubront, who has been shut down for 10-14 days due to tightness in his pitching elbow, Francona said that strength and conditioning coach Dave Page has taken the opportunity to help the lefty’s conditioning while he wasn’t throwing. “Any time you’re missing in one area, you try and make up in another.”
‘ When asked about the Red Sox’ Sunday night starter, Josh Beckett, Francona said that he has noticed a difference in his demeanor, starting with the pre-camp meeting all players go through with the manager and their respective coach. “Determined, I think is the right word,” Francona said. “He’s focusing on a lot of things he knows he needs to do. Some of it on his own, some of it starting with Curt.”
‘ Francona said that pitcher Brandon Duckworth, whom was slated to follow Clay Buchholz in the scheduled progression of pitchers for the Red Sox Sunday night, was a candidate for a role in the Sox bullpen. “Health probably the biggest thing,” said Francona when asked what the team would be primarily looking at from Duckworth. “He’s a veteran guy and he knows what he’s doing. As long as he’s healthy he should be able to go out there and do pretty well.”
‘ The topic of shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias came up, and how he has progressed from a year ago. “I think he has a better understanding that he’s a young player, in camp. I think he’s very aware of settling in and proving his worth on the field,” said Francona, who noted the importance of Iglesias having his father with him this spring. “He’s an exciting player, though. His defensive skills are obvious to everybody, and as he develops patience at the plate he should turn into a pretty good hitter because can get the barrel of the bat to the ball.”
‘ Finally, the topic of the Mayor’s Cup came up. The award is given to whichever team between the Red Sox and Twins win the most head-to-head battles. This season the two clubs face each other five times, three of which will come in the next three days.
“[Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] can say all he wants, but he moved up [Carl] Pavano two days, and we’re bringing in [Clay Buchholz] second,” Francona joked. “It’s like facing the Yankees opening day, it’s too much too soon.”
Reminded that the Red Sox have won the last four Mayor’s Cups, Francona quipped, “It’s hard not to be arrogant,” and continued, “If we lose the first two we’ll think about bringing somebody back early.”
|02.27.11 at 3:00 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Bobby Jenks would like to move on.
Talking to the media at City of Palms Park, the Red Sox reliever — who signed with Boston after having spent all of his major league career in Chicago — responded to the criticisms of his former manager, Ozzie Guillen, by reiterating that his main focus is on performing for his current team.
“It is what it is. I think at this point I’m tired of it. I just want to move on,” Jenks said. “I’m a Red Sox now and that’s all I want to worry about. From this point on, I have nothing else to say. It is what is, that’s all I have to say. He’s going to have his say, whatever. I’m a Red Sox, that’s all that matters.”
Jenks, who previously had been in a back and forth with Guillen’s son, Oney, was warned by the Chicago manager Saturday not to be making derogatory statements about either the White Sox organization, or Oney, and if he did Guillen would “rip his guts.”
Still, despite the comments made by Guillen, Jenks said that he holds the White Sox manager in high regard. Jenks was thrust into the closer’s role for the White Sox by Guillen shortly after making his big league debut in 2005. In five-plus seasons in Chicago, the big right-hander recorded 173 saves and a 3.40 ERA before the White Sox declined to tender him a contract in early Dec., thus making Jenks a free agent.
“Like I said in my first interview, I’ll always respect the man. He’s a great person. My feelings still don’t change on that matter,” Jenks said. “I love Chicago. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I live there year-round and make it my home. That aside, my focus is on here now to turn this year and next year into my main priority and do everything for this baseball team.”
Jenks also addressed the importance of focusing on the coming season, rather than getting caught up in Guillen’s remarks, or anything else to do with his time with the White Sox.
“I need to get ready for a season and get ready for a championship year. That’s why we’re all here in this clubhouse. To put all my focus on that is going to be hard enough as it is,” he said. “Hopefully from this point on, hopefully it’s the end of it. I’m sure later on in the season, once we come closer to seeing Chicago I’m sure some questions will come again, but again, I’m going to let it be.
“The way I see it, it’s done,” Jenks later added. “If he does have anything else to say, that’s up to him. From my part, I’m just going to walk away from this … It sucks, but it’s part of the business I guess. Moving on I think is the greater thing to do.”
|02.26.11 at 4:46 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia showed up to City of Palms Park at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. He left at approximately 4 p.m. In between the Red Sox second baseman played a baseball game and, more importantly, did so without any limitations.
The Red Sox’ 6-0 win over Boston College marked the first time since Aug. 18 that Pedroia had actually played in a real, live game. He went 0-for-1, walking in the first inning and grounding out to second base in the second. The second at-bat actually induced a full-out sprint by the Sox’ No. 2 hitter, with BC second baseman Anthony Melchionda robbing Pedroia of a hit by diving into the hole on a sharp grounder.
According to Pedroia, there were no issues at all when it came to operating on his surgicially-repaired left foot.
“I wasn’t out there very long, but I felt good. My foot was all good,” he said. “My timing’s all jacked up, but that takes some time. I felt great.”
Regarding the play by Melchionda, Pedroia said, “I haven’t done that in a while, but I felt good. I didn’t see him catch it because the pitcher was in my way, but once I saw that, I was like, damn, I better run hard.”
The only negative Pedroia took away from the outing was a continued search for his timing at the plate. It is an issue that, one game into spring training, isn’t causing any sleepless nights.
“I’m not a very good spring training player. But it takes a couple weeks and then get ready,” he said. “The ball looks like it’s a thousand miles an hour coming in. It’s not. You know, it takes time.”
|02.26.11 at 4:22 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters after his team’s workout in Glendale, Ariz. that Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks should be careful what he says both about the Chicago organization and Guillen’s son, Oney, whom Jenks had a war of words with following the pitcher’s departure from the White Sox.
“That’s sad because it’s coming from him,” Guillen said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “That surprises me. Everybody in this organization did a lot of great things for him. Did he pitch good for us? Yes, very, very good. But in the meanwhile, just worry about setting up some games over there. Just worry about Boston, don’t worry about the White Sox.”
“Too bad that all the stuff we had between me and [general manager] Kenny [Williams] interrupted his career because he did a lot of bad things last year,” Guillen quipped. “We lied for him, we protected him. I’m the first manager in the history of baseball to give a guy a week off to take care of his kids when his father-in-law was sick. It wasn’t even his wife, it even wasn’t a (family) member. But it was out of respect I have for his family. I sent him home because he had to babysit his kids because his father-in-law was sick. I don’t think any manager is doing that. But coming from him, I expect that.”
Guillen went on to say that Jenks, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Red Sox, won’t be missed from the White Sox, and that the pitcher’s criticism shouldn’t include the manager’s son or his team.
“We don’t miss him,” Guillen said. “You ask 30 guys in there. By the way, I was asking for his phone number to talk him to about it, and nobody had his phone number. None of his (former) teammates had his phone number. That you can tell what happened. But (criticism of ) me, that’s fine. He wasn’t talking about the ballclub, he was talking about Ozzie and Kenny. I respect that.
“Thank God he wasn’t talking about the club. If Bobby was taking about the club, I would have been everywhere on ESPN because I will rip his guts. But he was talking about me. I can take that. Just be careful of what you say about Oney because Oney will say stuff he’s not supposed to be saying. That’s just a warning for him just in case somebody don’t call him. Just stay away and don’t name Oney for this because it will be pretty ugly.”
Guillen finished by saying, “”If that happened two years ago or last year, I can make a book about this kid. A book, not one page, I can make a book. And I feel bad for him. I feel sad he thinks that way about me. Very sad because he knows I can easily, easily kill this kid in the paper. He’s not going to win.”
Jenks threw his first simulated game for the Red Sox Saturday, and is on target to appear in his first game with the Red Sox within a week.
|02.26.11 at 1:52 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brent Dlugach was one of two Red Sox hitters participating in a simulated game for the benefit pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks and Alfredo Aceves. But there was nothing simulated about the bruise Dlugach was sporting on his left quadriceps following the exercise Saturday morning.
Jenks, whose regimen includes not throwing off a mound until he arrives at spring training and won’t see game action for most likely another week, was the third Sox pitcher to throw in the simulation, following Lester and Lackey.
His first pitch to a batter as a member of the Red Sox was lined off the fence, courtesy Dlugach. Pitch No. 2? A fastball to the minor-league infielder’s leg.
“He’s a hard thrower,” said Dlugach, who, ironically, was designated for assignment to make room for Jenks this past offseason. “I would say that’s the hardest pitch I’ve ever gotten hit with.”
Regarding whether or not the pitch was a message-sender, Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young wouldn’t bite. ”
‘Oh, I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not,” Young said. “He was just coming in again and he missed.’
“I’m not there for [them], they’re there for us right now, “Jenks said. “If somebody gets in the way when I’m just trying to work inside, it’s just part of it,” he said.
“It’s my first time seeing hitters this year, so one is going to get away. I’m glad it was down.”
For video of the pitch (including Aceves shouting, “Get some ice!”) and Jenks reaction, see below:
|02.26.11 at 11:15 am ET|
He’s not Casey Kelly. But as these things go, he’s not a bad alternative.
This year, with Stolmy Pimentel getting the ball to open the Red Sox‘ spring training calendar against Boston College, the fanfare is decidedly more muted than it was a year ago, when Casey Kelly took the mound against Northeastern. Kelly’s outing was greeted with breathless anticipation; the hype about the much-ballyhooed 20-year-old was far-reaching. He only threw one perfect inning that day, but each of his 10 pitches was, in its own way, worthy of intense scrutiny. (Guilty as charged.)
But while Pimentel’s reputation as a prospect does not carry the same weight as did Kelly’s a year ago, among Sox coaches and team officials, he has been turning heads this spring. When the Sox signed Pimentel out of the Dominican as an overlooked 16-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and what the team thought/hoped was a projectable body, he was a tall (6-foot-2), lanky kid who looked like he could get blown over by a stiff breeze. While Pimentel guessed that he weighed about 170 pounds when he signed for $25,000 in 2006, team officials believe that he was closer to 150 or so.
Now? Physically, he appears as robust as did Kelly a year ago. He has put in the hard work in the offseason to bulk up to 225 pounds, and he has also added a couple of inches to check in at 6-foot-4. When he has been on the mound for bullpen or live batting practice sessions, he has commanded the attention of members of the Red Sox.
“I don’t think any of us dreamed that he was going to grow and fill in and have quite that big a stature. He’s quite a figure in a uniform. There’s a presence about him because of his size,” said Goose Gregson, the Sox’ Latin American pitching coordinator. “He’s got something you can’t teach: he’s got a presence about him, a game awareness and savvy when he crosses that white line that you can’t teach.”
The Sox have long viewed Pimentel as a starter with enough talent that a future in the Red Sox rotation is a legitimate possibility. He shows good command of a low-90s fastball that touched 94-95 mph last year, an offering that Pimentel hopes will continue to play up as he adds more size and strength.
“When you can feel stronger and bigger, you have more power. You can throw harder,” said Pimentel. “Last year was my first time that I hit 95. This year, I feel stronger. I feel like I can throw harder than that. I was working really hard in the offseason to come in shape, come in ready for spring training.”
He has a swing-and-miss changeup that has long been his out pitch, dating to the days when, as a young boy watching his idol from the Dominican, he was inspired by Pedro Martinez to work on it. Now, he is concentrating his efforts on improving his curveball.
At times, he shows good spin on the pitch, resulting in an offering that dives towards the ground. But it remains an inconsistent offering whose improvement Pimentel has prioritized.
“Sometimes I hang it a little bit, but I’ve been working to keep it down,” he said. “It’s good when you can see what you need to work on. That helps a lot when you can see that by yourself. When I do something wrong, I feel it and I try to get better.”
Pimentel has consistently held his own at every level he’s pitched at, despite being young at each minor league stop he’s made. Last year, he was 9-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 26 starts for Hi-A Salem, solid numbers considering he was the fourth youngest pitcher in the Carolina League to make at least 10 starts. While those are impressive numbers, however, it is worth noting that his ERA and strikeouts per nine innings have slipped in each of his four professional seasons.
Even so, the Sox have seen steady progress in Pimentel’s stuff as he has grown. As was the case with Kelly last year after he added roughly 20 pounds of muscle, the team anticipates that Pimentel’s new-found strength could create some command challenges this year, which he will most likely start in Double-A Portland.
“For the last two years, we’ve seen the power increase year over year, a couple miles an hour on the fastball each year. As he continues to gain size and strength, hopefully that will continue to improve. He’s always had a pretty good feel for throwing strikes with his fastball,” said Sox farm director Mike Hazen. “With the added size, sometimes it gets a little bit more difficult to sync it up. But he’s doing a good job of it.”
The team hopes to see him maintain that fastball command, repeating his delivery and improving both the consistency of arm speed and power on his curveball. If he can do that in 2011, then Pimentel — who was added to the 40-man roster this winter and is in big league camp or the first time — could see his prospect status elevate in the coming year.
He will take the first step in that process on Saturday.
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