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Blue Jays will announce John Farrell as their new manager Monday afternoon

10.25.10 at 10:13 am ET
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John Farrell will be named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. to announce the hiring of Farrell, who replaces Cito Gaston. The 48-year-old Farrell had been with the Red Sox since 2007, previously serving as the farm director for the Cleveland Indians. For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Lester, Buchholz share Sox Pitcher of the Year honors

10.24.10 at 12:26 pm ET
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The Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were named Red Sox co-pitchers of the year for 2010. It marks the first time that the award has been split since 1973, when Luis Tiant and Bill Lee shared the title.

Lester went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and matched his franchise record for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher with 225. He logged 208 innings and made 32 starts.

Buchholz was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA while logging 173 2/3 innings in 28 starts. Buchholz finished second in the American League in ERA.

Both pitchers had regrettable final starts. Had Buchholz — who was skipped in his final start with a back injury — thrown five shutout innings or allowed one run while tossing a complete game, he could have edged past Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for the ERA title. Lester, meanwhile, was shelled for eight runs in four innings, an outing that prevented him from winning 20 games and that likely proved costly in his late run at Cy Young consideration.

Even so, by nearly any measure, it was a wildly successful season for both pitchers. Both were named to the American League All-Star team for the first time. Lester led the AL with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Lester held opponents to a .220 average, fourth best in the AL, while Buchholz’ .226 mark ranked seventh.

Lester and Buchholz became the third pair of Sox teammates to claim 17 or more wins in the same season since 2000. Both Derek Lowe (21) and Pedro Martinez (20) eclipsed the mark in 2002, and Josh Beckett (20) and Tim Wakefield (17) reached the plateau in 2007.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,

Reports: Farrell offered Blue Jays managing job

10.22.10 at 10:32 pm ET
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Multiple reports suggest that the Blue Jays have offered Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell the job of Toronto manager, with the two sides trying to work out contract details on Friday night. CSNNE.com first reported the news. One source familiar with the situation suggested that it would be surprising at this point if Farrell did not take over as Toronto manager.

Farrell has been the Boston pitching coach since 2007. Prior to that, he was the head of Player Development from 2001-06 for the Cleveland Indians.

His loss would be significant, as Farrell has received raves from Red Sox pitchers over his four seasons for his work to prepare the pitching staff and for his instruction. Under Farrell, the Sox have seen young pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz emerge from early-career struggles to achieve All-Star status, weathered the challenging transition of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the United States and managed a diverse array of personalities and pitcher types.

The Sox finished ninth in the American League in 2010 with a 4.59 ERA. In Farrell’s first three years as pitching coach, the team had finished first, fourth and seventh in that category.

While Farrell had a contract clause preventing him from interviewing for managerial vacancies in prior offseasons, that restriction was no longer in place this year. Given the chance to interview, Farrell apparently made a favorable impression on Toronto officials.

The Sox, according to a major league source, would likely evaluate both internal replacements as well as candidates from outside the organization if Farrell leaves. Earlier on Friday, MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons discussed the challenge facing the Sox in having to replace Farrell.

“I think the Red Sox know that it’€™s going to be really difficult, given the pitching staff, to replace John Farrell. There just isn’€™t anybody out there right now,” said Gammons. “I don’€™t really think they know what direction they’€™re going in when John leaves. I think they’€™re worried about this. Very worried.”

The Blue Jays narrowed their manager search from a wide list. Earlier on Friday, according to reports, Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was informed that he was no longer in consideration for the job.

Read More: Blue Jays, demarlo hale, John Farrell,

Gammons on the Big Show: Cliff Lee, John Lackey and relief pitching

10.22.10 at 5:10 pm ET
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MLB and NESN analyst Peter Gammons checked in with The Big Show on Friday afternoon to discuss a number of topics, including the Blue Jays’ managerial search (which appears focused on Red Sox coaches DeMarlo Hale and John Farrell), the Rangers-Yankees ALCS, the looming fight between the two clubs for the services of free-agent-to-be Cliff Lee and the Red Sox’ pitching issues, chiefly related to the bullpen and the performance of John Lackey and Josh Beckett.

For Gammons’ thoughts on the Blue Jays managerial search, click here. Highlights from the rest of his interview are below. To listen to the complete interview, check The Big Show Audio-on-Demand page.

Can the Yankees survive tonight?

They can survive it. Phil Hughes, the one thing about his two starts in the postseason, they were so broken up. There was so much time in between. … He’s made 18 starts on normal rest, four days rest. That’€™s by far the best he pitched, never less than five innings, very consistent, he averaged about six innings a start. His stuff has looked really short to me in both his postseason starts. Maybe he’ll come out and pitch well.

But if the Yankees have to go to their bullpen, Kerry Wood can’€™t keep picking guys off every time he walks somebody, and they have no left-hander to get anybody out. Boone Logan has come in twice against Josh Hamilton: double and home run, as opposed to the kid, Derek Holland, has been just unbelievable for the Rangers. Over two nights, I think Holland becomes one of the real keys to the series.

Why don’t teams spend more on relievers? That was an Achilles heel for the Red Sox.

The difficulty is they’€™re so inconsistent from year-to-year. Arthur Rhodes made the All-Star team in the National League this year. You just never know from year to year. To invest $4-5 million into a setup guy is a pretty scary proposition. You look around at the left-handers, Holland is a starter who was made a reliever here. You look around at other teams. Javy Lopez has done a really nice job. At 43 or whatever he is, he’s finally come up with a sidearm breaking ball. But left-handed relievers are really, really tough to find. It will be really, really interesting to see next year what the Red Sox, as good as [Felix] Doubront was, do you want to put him in relief and make him a middle reliever when at 25 years old clearly he’s a frontline starter.

Will Texas play with less pressure given that Lee is set for Game 7?

I think so. Cliff is so unflappable. I had a friend of mine in Cleveland say to me, ‘€˜Where did this come from?’ This is a guy, when he was pitching for the University of Arkansas, dropped way down in the draft because he was averaging more than six walks per nine innings. People said he’€™ll never throw strikes in the big leagues. Now that’s all he ever throws.

You can just take all our computers and throw them out the window when it comes to development. Athletes sometimes just find it, and you can’t explain why. I have a good friend who scouts, was very close to Cliff coming up in the Montreal organization, he said, ‘€˜He’€™s always been this way. He finally grew into that control.’€™ He’s so strong. … His stretching process is jumping up and doing 200 pull-ups. That’€™s how he starts every workout.

Hamilton said that Lee figures out the umpire’s strike zone on a given night and exploits it.

It is a part of his game. I thought it was a great observation from Josh. You do see that. … [Pitchers] want it to be their strike zone. Umpires have their strike zone. If you pitch to it, it gives you a much better chance. Cliff obviously never throws the ball over the middle of the plate,which obviously helps. It’s fascinating to watch.

It’s also going to be fascinating to watch what he does with his money this offseason, now that he has the Texas Rangers and their $3 billion television deal and the New York Yankees lined up to bid for him. I think he’€™s going to stay here [with the Rangers]. … It’s only an hour flight for his wife. I think this is kind of a place he likes it much better than the attention he would get in New York. But I could live on the $23-25 million a year Cliff is going to make this offseason.

What did you make of Nick Swisher’s comments that he’s tired of talking about Cliff Lee?

I think he just doesn’€™t want to talk about anybody else. … I thought he went a little bit overboard. But he’€™s a little bit theatrical. Every ball on the inside corner, he jackknifes away and does a little dance. … I asked him a question, next day he came up to me and said, ‘Why’d you do that?’ He didn’t get a hit, he struck out a couple times, but he also had a great 11-pitch at-bat, which I thought might have been, alright, you’re starting to get the strike zone. I think he’d had one hit the whole series. Sometimes when a guy has a great at-bat like that, it’€™s the beginning of something good. So I said, ‘What did you take away from the game more, striking out twice or the 11-pitch at-bat?’

He thought I was ripping him. … I thought it was an opening for him to say, ‘€˜I’€™m going to be really good now,’€™ but he took offense to it. That’s Nick being Nick.

Red Sox fans cringe at the possibility that Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia could be at the top of the Yankees rotation.

It’s known that it’€™s Chuck Greenberg‘€™s first big move. …  I did find out that Chuck Greenberg is a college teammate of Wendy Selig at Tufts. … I really do think they’€™ll do anything they can to keep him. The thing that makes it difficult for the Yankees is that, unless they take the [Andrew] Brackman kid, the 6-foot-10 former basketball player from NC State and rush him, the next best free-agent pitcher on the market is now Carl Pavano. I don’t think he’s going back there again. It’s not a great winter. I can’€™t believe they’€™d ever trade for Greinke and try to have him pitch in New York. I think he’€™s better off pitching in Greenland.

Do you think the Red Sox regret pursuing Lackey last offseason instead of Lee this year?

They may. They were happy with Lackey in the second half. His quality starts were good. He pitched better. … Maybe, with a year under his belt, he’€™ll be more used to [the AL East]. And I think if Josh Beckett bounces back, that will help Lackey a lot, too.

Sometimes I felt there were minor conflicts between Lackey and Victor Martinez. I’€™m not sure it’€™s Victor’€™s fault. Lackey, I’€™m not going to say he’€™s stubborn, but he’€™s definitely focused on what he wants to do. I thought there were times when he and Victor got off on different tangents. We’€™ll see what happens next year with that.

Read More: carl pavano, Cliff Lee, john lackey, Josh Beckett

Gammons on Big Show: Sox ‘very worried’ about losing Farrell

10.22.10 at 4:38 pm ET
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Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN checked into The Big Show from Arlington, Texas, to discuss the playoffs, the forthcoming winter Cliff Lee sweepstakes and the likelihood that a Red Sox coach will be selected to be the next Blue Jays manager, with a decision likely being known as soon as tonight.

Gammons said that the Toronto front office is split between Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale and pitching coach John Farrell, with GM Alex Anthopolous advocating Hale and assistant GM Tony LaCava and others backing Farrell. That said, Gammons suggested that the Red Sox are “very worried” about the possibility of losing Farrell, given the difficulty of replacing someone who does so much to manage such a diverse pitching staff.

“I had three people yesterday who are very close to a couple of Toronto people tell me that it was definitely going to be John Farrell. But I was told during the night that Alex, the general manager, told the Red Sox people that he still hasn’€™t made up his mind, that DeMarlo Hale really appeals to him. He leans towards DeMarlo Hale, and Tony LaCava and other people lean towards Farrell,” said Gammons. “I think you may know by tonight. I think that decision is supposed to be made and they’€™re supposed to let the Red Sox know by tonight whether it’€™s going to be DeMarlo or John.

“DeMarlo Hale is tremendous. I’€™m a huge fan, going back to when he set the record in the Eastern League for winning percentage in Trenton (in 1997) when he had David Eckstein and those guys. But I think the Red Sox know that it’€™s going to be really difficult, given the pitching staff, to replace John Farrell. There just isn’€™t anybody out there right now. … I don’€™t really think they know what direction they’€™re going in when John leaves. I think they’€™re worried about this. Very worried.”

For Gammons’ thoughts on why Cliff Lee might leave the Yankees empty-handed — both in the playoffs, and this offseason — as well as the Sox’ offseason, click here. To listen to the interview, check the Big Show Audio-on-Demand page.

Read More: Blue Jays, demarlo hale, John Farrell, peter gammons

There’s a fourth finalist for the Blue Jays’ job: Brian Butterfield

10.21.10 at 8:44 am ET
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According to an industry source, Blue Jays’ third base coach Brian Butterfield is one of the four finalists for the Toronto managerial opening. Butterfield, 52, a native of Maine who still lives in the state, has also served as the Jays’ bench coach during his nine-season tenure with the Jays. He has managerial experience in the minor leagues in the Yankees‘ organization.

Others identified as finalists for the Jays’ job (which was held by Cito Gaston for the past 2 1/2 seasons) are Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, Sox pitching coach John Farrell, and Sandy Alomar Jr., the Indians’ first-base coach. Neither Butterfield or representatives from the Blue Jays’ organization were available for comment.

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

Baseball America breaks down Red Sox draft

10.20.10 at 2:43 pm ET
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Baseball America issued its annual draft report cards on Wednesday, suggesting that in their first draft under scouting director Amiel Sawdaye (who replaced Jason McLeod, who left to become Assistant GM in San Diego), “looked at talent rather than price tags and aggressively signed far more than their share of prospects.”

The complete Report Card is available (for Baseball America subscribers) by clicking here.

A few items of note from their evaluation of the team’s draft:

–While first-rounder Kolbrin Vitek is generally viewed as the most advanced hitter the Sox took in the draft, the Report Card suggested that high school second baseman Sean Coyle, who signed for $1.3 million to pass on a scholarship at UNC, could be the best pure hitter in the draft. The small-framed middle infielder shows surprising pop, as became evident when he homered early in Florida Instructional League.

–Sandwich pick Bryce Brentz was described as the best power hitting prospect (no surprise, given the Sox’ description of him as someone with light-tower power after drafting him), and was also noted for being potentially the best defensive player taken by the Sox, someone with a chance to be an above-average right-fielder.

–No surprise to see that Anthony Ranaudo, who received a $2.55 million bonus as a sandwich pick out of LSU, was named in the Closest to the Majors category. He was joined, however, by a less-heralded colleague who agreed to sign with the Sox at almost exactly the same moment as Ranaudo.

Both Ranaudo and left-hander Chris Hernandez agreed to deals with the Sox with roughly two minutes left before the Aug. 16 signing deadline. And while Ranaudo could be on a fast-track to a big league rotation, the Report Card suggested that Hernandez could beat Ranaudo to the majors as a left-handed reliever.

Read More: amiel sawdaye, anthony ranaudo, baseball america, bryce brentz

Red Sox coaches John Farrell, DeMarlo Hale finalists for Blue Jays job

10.20.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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According to industry sources, both Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale and pitching coach John Farrell are among the three finalists in line for the Blue Jays’ managerial position. According to a source, the other candidate is former major league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., who has most recently served as the first-base coach for the Cleveland Indians. Farrell first talked to the Jays in the week immediately following the regular season, while Hale met with Toronto the following week. Hale has experience managing in the minor leagues, while neither Farrell or Alomar Jr. have held any managerial jobs. Toronto is expected to finalize its search by next week.

CSNNE.com first reported the list of finalists. For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Fenway Park right field fence may be moved in

10.19.10 at 4:19 pm ET
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Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told WEEI.com that the right field fence at Fenway Park may be moved in as much as six feet for the upcoming season.

The re-structuring, which is pending approval from the Massachusetts Preservation Society, among other city-centric organizations, would be necessitated because of the width of the bullpens. The distance across for bullpens recommended by Major League Baseball is 27 feet, with the Fenway bullpens standing at 21 feet.

“We’ve provided some plans if it is approved, but we have to talk to the landmark people about that,” Lucchino said. Regarding the bullpens, the Red Sox executive explained, “They’re among the narrowest in baseball, if not the narrowest. It makes it hard for two guys to warm-up. It does have other effects in terms of reducing the depths of right field, which is among the deepest in baseball.”

Lucchino pointed out that the Fenway Park dimensions have been altered in the past, having once been deeper than their current distance of 380-feet to straight-away right field. The following is how right field has been altered over the years (according to Ballparks.com):

Deepest corner, just right of center: 550 (1922), 593 (1931), 420 (1934).

Right-center, just right of deepest corner where the bullpen begins: 380 (1938), 383 (1955).

Right of right-center: 405 (1939), 382 (1940), 381 (1942), 380 (1943).

Right field: 313.5 (1921), 358.5 (1926), 358 (1930), 325 (1931), 358 (1933), 334 (1934), 332 (1936), 322 (1938), 332 (1939), 304 ;(1940), 302 (1942).

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

Red Sox announce Fenway Park offseason improvements

10.19.10 at 3:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced their planned Year X Fenway Park Offseason Improvements, which will complete a 10-year cycle of “major, annual improvement projects” commenced when the current ownership group took over the team for the 2002 season. Most notably, the team will feature three new Hi-Definition video boards and scoring systems.

The Sox will also repair and waterproofing as well as the seat replacement of the Right Field lower seating bowl. Existing Dugout, Field Box and Loge Box seats will be replaced by new seats with cup holders on a new concrete base. Dugout and Field Box seats will also be padded.

‘€œThis is the last year of a ten-year series of improvements to Fenway Park that has given this venerable old ballpark new life,’€ Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino said in a press release. ‘€œWith more seats and more standing room, wide open concourses, a reinforced structure, new and improved restroom facilities, and many more food and beverage options for our fans, Fenway Park remains vibrant and appealing leading up to its 100th Anniversary in 2012.’€

Here is the full press release announcing the improvements:

RED SOX ANNOUNCE YEAR X FENWAY PARK IMPROVEMENTS

BOSTON, MA — The Boston Red Sox today announced Year X Fenway Park Improvements to ‘€œAmerica’€™s Most Beloved Ballpark.’€ Three new state-of-the-art High Definition video display and scoring systems, upgrades to the Gate D concourse including new and extended concession areas, and the repair, waterproofing and seat replacements of the lower seating bowl in Right Field highlight the 2011 list.

This off-season will mark the final year of major annual improvements to the ballpark, thus completing a ten-year plan. This year’€™s effort fulfills a pledge made by ownership upon acquisition of the club, and reaffirmed in 2005, to improve every facet of the ballpark, while preserving and protecting the ballpark for future generations. The improvements completed at Fenway Park over the past ten years have been designed to ensure that the park will remain structurally sound, and the home of the Boston Red Sox, for the next 30-40 years.

With a 2010-2011 off-season investment estimated at $40 million, the investment for the 10 year program is estimated to total approximately $285 million, the largest investment in the history of the almost 99-year old iconic ballpark.

‘€œThis is the last year of a ten-year series of improvements to Fenway Park that has given this venerable old ballpark new life,’€ said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino. ‘€œWith more seats and more standing room, wide open concourses, a reinforced structure, new and improved restroom facilities, and many more food and beverage options for our fans, Fenway Park remains vibrant and appealing leading up to its 100th Anniversary in 2012.’€

New High Definition Video Display and Scoring Systems

Three new High Definition video display and scoring systems will be installed this off-season at Fenway Park and will represent a significant upgrade over the existing scoreboards. The Red Sox selected ANC Sports to install three new state-of-the-art Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision’„¢ light emitting diode (LED) video screens.

The largest of the three screens, measuring approximately 38 feet high by 100 feet wide, will be the main video board in centerfield and replace the existing elements of the structure above the bleachers in centerfield, which was originally constructed prior to the 1976 season. This main scoreboard structure includes a 23 feet high by 30 feet wide video screen installed after the 1999 season, the black and white statistical display, 60 feet of LED ribbon and the static rotational sponsor signs. This screen will have the ability to provide approximately 3800 square feet of dynamic video capabilities in a variety of formats.

Driven by ANC’€™s patent-pending VisionSOFT’„¢ operating system, the new main video screen above the centerfield bleachers will be able to mimic the look of the old rotational sponsor signs or dissolve into various formats such as full-screen live video, game action accompanied by real-time statistics, sponsor graphics partnered with the box scores or any combination of visuals and game information.

Two additional Diamond Vision displays will also be installed on either side of the main screen. The existing Bank of America hitters and pitchers board in left center field will turn into a 17 feet high by 100 feet wide video screen with a new illuminated Bank of America sign atop the board. A third video screen, 16 feet high by 30 feet wide, will connect the Ford and Dunkin Donuts sponsor signs above the bleachers in right field. These Diamond Vision video systems will prominently feature real-time information such as batter and pitcher stats, pitch speed and type, box scores, promotions, announcements, upcoming schedules and other messaging.

‘€œWe are excited to partner with the Red Sox to enhance the fan experience at Fenway Park through our state-of-the-art signage technology,’€ said Jerry Cifarelli, President and Chief Executive Officer of ANC Sports Enterprises. ‘€œANC’€™s revolutionary software system combined with Mitsubishi Electric’€™s Diamond Vision LED displays will entertain Red Sox fans with visuals as clear as their High Definition televisions at home while providing comprehensive and informative game information.’€

All three signage positions will feature the Diamond Vision X8 Outdoor Video Screen. This state-of-the-art display features vibrant images through Mitsubishi Electric’€™s dynamic pixel processing which creates 8mm lines of resolution.

Other sports facilities where ANC Sports has installed Mitsubishi Electric High Definition video display systems include AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA; Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX; Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.; Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD; Turner Field in Atlanta, GA; U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, IL and Yankee Stadium in New York, NY.

Other Improvements Planned for 2011

Additional work being planned for this off-season includes the concrete repair, waterproofing, and seat replacements of the Right Field lower seating bowl originally constructed in 1933-34. This will mark the completion of the repair and waterproofing of the entire lower seating bowl, a project started with the Bleachers in 2007 and continued with the original 1912 bowl in 2008 and the 1933-34 Left Field seating bowl in 2009.

Existing Dugout, Field Box and Loge Box seats will be replaced by new seats with cup holders on a new concrete base. Dugout and Field Box seats will also be padded. As in previous years, Grandstand seats in Right Field will be refurbished and fitted with self-rising mechanisms that enable the seat to retract automatically once a patron stands up. This will allow for more room in the seating rows and improved mobility for fans entering or exiting the rows.

Other projects underway include new and expanded concession and merchandise stands in the Gate D area and a repaired and upgraded ground level concourse stretching from Gate D to Gate C that will include utility upgrades, new concrete concourse flooring and life safety improvements.

All off-season improvements were designed by D’€™Agostino Izzo & Quirk of Somerville, MA, and overseen by Ipswich Associates of Boston, MA, who will serve as the Program Manager. The concrete repair work will be completed by NER Construction of Wilmington, MA. The General Contractor for the off-season projects will be Walsh Brothers of Boston, MA.

Fenway Park Improvements 2002-2011:

Fenway Park has undergone a series of annual improvements since the New England Sports Ventures (NESV) purchased the team in 2002. The group assembled by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino was the only candidate vying for ownership of the ballclub that proposed to save and improve Fenway Park, America’€™s oldest and smallest ballpark. The team has since focused on a series of improvements, with goals of increasing capacity by at least 10%; improving fan amenities such as concessions, restrooms and entry points; ADA accessibility and circulation including elevators and stairs; and, also improving the ballpark exterior with new year-round restaurants, wider sidewalks, street trees and lighting.

Most notable among these improvements are:

2002: New Dugout Seats; Yawkey Way Concourse.
2003: Green Monster Seats; Big Concourse; Expanded Dugout Seats; New Green Monster Manual Scoreboard.
2004: Right Field Roof Deck; Third Base Concourse.
2005: First Base Deck; ‘€˜Game On’€™ Restaurant; New Playing Field
2006: EMC Club; State Street Pavilion Level; Renovated Private Suites; Distributed Sound System
2007: Steiner Third Base Deck; Renovated Private Suites
2008: Expansion of Seating on State Street Pavilion Level, Coca-Cola Corner; Concrete Repair and Waterproofing of Bleachers and new seats; ‘€˜The Bleacher Bar’€™.
2009: Right Field Roof Box Expansion; Concrete Repair and Waterproofing of the original 1912 Seating Bowl and new seats; Repairs to the Jeano Building, including the replacement of its roof and restoration of the windows and doors; New Front Row Seats.
2010: Concrete Repair and Waterproofing of the 1933-34 left Field Lower Seating Bowl; New Home Plate Deck, Concession Stands and Restrooms.

Read More: Fenway Park, Larry Lucchino, offseason improvements, renovations
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