|03.24.11 at 6:17 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Rangers, the Red Sox‘ first opponent of the 2011 season, officially announced their starting rotation. The match-ups in the teams’ three-game series will be as follows:
Jon Lester vs. C.J. Wilson
The Rangers also announced that Neftali Feliz will not be a starter and remain in his role as a closer, with Alexi Ogando serving as their primary set-up man.
|03.24.11 at 5:54 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — Mike Stanton hadn’t played for four weeks. The 21-year-old outfielder — who hit 22 homers in just 359 at-bats in his rookie season last year — had been sidelined since straining his quad on Feb. 27 in an exhibition game against a college team, a contest in which Stanton had smashed a homer in his first trip to the plate.
The Marlins outfielder looked rusty in his first trip to the plate, swinging and missing badly at Clay Buchholz‘ offerings en route to a strikeout. In his subsequent trips to the plate, however, he made his mark…literally.
Stanton crushed a pair of three-run homers against Buchholz in his next two at-bats, one on a hanging changeup, another on a cutter that backed over the plate. The first shot was prodigious, clanging about halfway up the Roger Dean Stadium scoreboard in left-center field, the sort of moonshot that is rarely seen.
“I quit watching,” marveled Sox manager Terry Francona. “At some point, I just quit.”
The blast was impressive enough in its own right, but even more so given that the stiff breeze was blowing out to right field throughout the day. On the day, Stanton was 3-for-4 with two homers while driving in seven, and giving a glimpse of why he is so highly regarded throughout the game, including by the Sox.
“He’s a giant. He’s a big boy, man. He’s not afraid to swing, obviously. But he’s a big strong kid,” said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia after his first glimpse of the Marlins outfielder. “He puts it in the air, it’s going to go somewhere.”
At the 2008 trade deadline, when the Sox were exploring deals in which they would part with Manny Ramirez, one of the teams with whom they were engaged was the Marlins. They discussed a number of scenarios with Florida, including some scenarios in which the Sox would have tried to negotiate a multi-team deal that would have netted them both outfielder Jason Bay from the Pirates as well as prospects from the Marlins.
The Sox had targeted Stanton (then destroying Single-A pitchers for 39 homers) as the top prospect in the Marlins’ system at the time, so his name came up in talks. But the Marlins knew what they had in the 2007 second-round selection, and so they were uninterested in parting with Stanton, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. And so it was instead the Dodgers who ended up becoming the partner in a three-way transaction that sent Ramirez to Los Angeles, Bay to Boston and four prospects (Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss from the Red Sox, and Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris from the Dodgers) to Pittsburgh.
Instead, the Red Sox can now have only rare glimpses of his jaw-dropping power, as was the case on Thursday.
|03.24.11 at 3:00 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — The competition is now in the home stretch.
Manager Terry Francona said that the Sox will use “the next couple of days” to sort out many of their remaining roster decisions, most notably including which of the relievers currently in competition for the final spot will begin the year in the majors, who will start the year in the minors and which ones might end up in other organizations. It is a decision made more difficult by the fact that most of the pitchers hoping to open the year with the team have performed well.
“I don’t think anybody has done anything to where you go, ‘They couldn’t handle it here,’” said Francona. “It makes for some difficult decisions, but I think for the very most part, everybody has done a pretty commendable job.”
Here is the breakdown of the remaining relief candidates in camp (through Wednesday’s games) who are gunning for the Sox’ final two relief spots:
Alfredo Aceves (2 options remaining): 5 games, 13 1/3 innings, 13 hits, 6 earned runs (4.05 ERA), 4 strikeouts, 3 walks
Matt Albers (no options remaining): 7 games, 10 innings, 8 hits, 2 runs (1.80 ERA), 11 strikeouts, 0 walks, 1 HBP
Scott Atchison (1 option remaining): 7 games, 8 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 6 earned runs (6.48 ERA), 4 strikeouts, 4 walks
Michael Bowden (1 option remaining): 7 games, 9 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 earned runs (1.86 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 3 walks
Rich Hill (minor league contract; opt-out in July): 7 games, 8 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 0 earned runs (0.00 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 3 walks
Andrew Miller (minor league contract; late-season opt-out): 7 games, 7 2/3 innings, 11 hits, 9 earned runs (11.57 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 4 walks
Hideki Okajima (3 options remaining): 6 games, 6 innings, 9 hits, 4 earned runs (6.00 ERA), 6 strikeouts, 1 walk
Dennys Reyes (minor league contract; opt-out March 26): 8 games, 8 innings, 6 hits, 1 earned run (1.13 ERA), 8 strikeouts, 3 walks
Randy Williams (minor league contract): 8 games, 9 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs (2.79 ERA), 10 strikeouts, 4 walks
If Albers or Reyes does not make the Opening Day major league roster, then the Sox could risk losing him, Albers because another team could claim him on waivers, Reyes because he could opt out of his contract. And the Sox, Francona said, are mindful of that fact when they make their roster decisions. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.24.11 at 1:34 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona shrugged off comments made by Orioles manager Buck Showalter about Boston GM Theo Epstein. Showalter raised eyebrows with his dig at Epstein, suggesting that the Sox GM was the beneficiary of his team’s payroll above all else during an eight-year tenure that has resulted in two titles and six playoff campaigns.
“I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll,’ Showalter told Men’s Journal. ‘You got Carl Crawford ‘cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their asses: It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?’’
Based on his personal experience, Francona was happy to back his boss.
“For the record, I think Theo’s really smart — whether he has a high payroll or not. His choice of managers is smart,” Francona (hired by Epstein and the Sox in 2003) joked.
Even before he interviewed for the Sox job, Francona received a scouting report on Epstein from then-Indians GM Mark Shapiro. Francona had worked with Shapiro in the Indians front office in 2000. Shapiro made clear that the Sox GM was a bright fellow.
“(Shapiro) just said, ‘Don’t mess with him, because he’ll turn you inside-out,'” mused Francona.
That turned out not to be a problem. Instead, after spending the day with Epstein and Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, Francona felt that he had found an organization for whom he was the right fit.
“You go into those and, obviously, you want to get a job, but my goal was always just to come out of there saying what I felt,” recalled Francona. “Sometimes, you come out of interviews feeling uncomfortable, or you get to the airport saying, ‘I didn’t want to say that.’ But I felt really good when I left there.”
|03.24.11 at 10:47 am ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — Matt Albers, who was the subject of a report Wednesday stating that he had been released in order to sign in Japan, said prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Marlins that he has no plans to execute such a career change and is still focused on making the Sox.
“I got a text from one of my friends, just kind of random. I was like, ‘Really?’ He told me the website. I went to it. It said [Albers had] been released and they let him go to Japan. That’s news to me,” said Albers. “I just kind of called my agent, said, ‘Did you hear about this?’ He said, ‘Yeah, don’t worry about it.’”
“I don’t know where that came from,” he added. “I didn’t really think much of it, obviously. I knew that I hadn’t talked to any Japanese teams. Obviously, with the situation going on there, I don’t think too many people have.”
Albers is scheduled to pitch Thursday afternoon. He has allowed two runs on eight hits over 10 innings, striking out 11 and not walking a batter this spring. In so doing, he has fulfilled some of his primary goals entering the spring, namely using his curveball, slider and bread-and-butter sinker to both sides of the plate while being more aggressive in getting ahead in counts.
“Walks have hurt me in the past,” said Albers. “So I just want to make sure I go out there, get ahead in the count, throw lots of strikes, trust my stuff. For the most part, I think I’ve been able to do that.”
Albers is among the group of pitchers on the bubble for one of the final bullpen spots on the Sox roster. He is out of options, meaning that if the Sox wanted to send him to the minors, they would first have to subject the right-hander to waivers. Manager Terry Francona said that Albers has been “great” this spring, and did acknowledge that the possibility of losing a pitcher on waivers would play into the decision-making process with the final spots on the big league roster.
“We certainly have to think about that. If I said we didn’t, that would probably be a flat-out lie,” said Francona. “You’ve got to be cognizant of it.”
Albers acknowledged that he is eager to see what happens to him in the coming week. By April 1, he could either be on the Red Sox’ major league roster, with another team (if he is traded or gets claimed on waivers) or in the minors with the Sox.
“I’ve been in this situation the last three years in Baltimore where I haven’t found out that I made the team until camp ended. I knew that was going to be the situation. I’ve kind of been through it a few times so I kind of know what to expect a little bit,” said Albers. “It’s kind of wait and see what happens. I try not to worry about it too much. Definitely a decision is going to come down in the next week or so. But, just go out there and try to pitch.”
While the whereabouts of his start to the season remain unknown, one thing appears certain. Albers will be doing his pitching in North America, and not in Japan.
|03.24.11 at 10:18 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett recently took some time to explain what exactly happened in the final two months of last season, and how he is approaching this year differently. Here are some of the highlights of what he said. (To read the entire story, click here.)
– He identified 2010 as the toughest year of his life.
– It was Beckett’s subscapular muscle in the back of his right shoulder which he strained during an early June bullpen session, not entirely his lat muscle, which was the area previously identified as the problem. (Although the lat leads up to the meat of the shoulder through the subscapular.)
– Although he was able to come back in late July, he never felt the ability to finish off his pitches because of the shoulder and back issues.
“I was missing the power at the end (of the delivery),” he said regarding a major problem that needed to be fixed for ’11. “I had some good ones, and those were probably ones where I used my secondary stuff a lot better. The bad starts were the ones where I tried to throw fastballs by guys when I didn’t have that power. I feel like I’m getting that back.”
– Beckett felt like he fell into some bad habits in ’10, and still is trying to put them in the rear-view mirror.
“I had to re-train myself this offseason after I got into some bad habits,” he said. “It’s not an overnight deal. You pick up some bad habits when you throw for six months a different way then you have thrown for the last 20 years. I have had to make some small adjustments this spring. it’s still not 100 percent comfortable. That’s what we’re looking for.”
– The righty regrets taking the approach he did, trying to push through his injuries instead of drawing back a bit.
“I would be like, ‘No, no, no, I’ll figure it out my way.’ Less would have been more,” Beckett explained. “It would have been better for me. Instead I would still go out and do the same amount of long toss, the same amount of bullpens, with the same effort level. By doing that my next start was always in jeopardy. It just snowballed. That was what it was like all year after I hurt my back.”
– Beckett is optimistic about where he is at heading into the season. He has hit 95 mph on multiple occasions, and identifies the run he went on in ’09 as the feeling he’s striving for.
|03.23.11 at 4:36 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez had six at-bats in a minor league game at the Red Sox Player Development Complex on Wednesday. The first baseman (Gonzalez served as DH on Wednesday and hit third in each inning) collected three hits, an RBI and run scored in his six at-bats, and seemed pleased when talking to the media following the game.
“It went well,” Gonzalez said. “The shoulder’s been feeling really good. For [Red Sox trainer] Mike [Reinold], it was playing back-to-back [games for the first time], but for me it was more to get my timing down. First couple days, I was just hitting, looking for a fastball. The last couple days, I’ve been trying to actually have at-bats. It hasn’t gone too well. So it was good to be able to go out there, try to have some at-bats, mix it up, be aggressive, all that. It felt good.”
Gonzalez plans to play with the Red Sox for the remainder of the spring training schedule, though he will take days off on Thursday, as the Sox travel to Jupiter to play the Marlins, and Sunday, a road trip to Sarasota and the Orioles.
|03.23.11 at 11:14 am ET|
Feel like talking about the Red Sox? Join Rob Bradford at noon as Rob answers questions about the team, while engaging in Sox-centric conversation as Opening Day awaits just nine days away.
|03.22.11 at 9:52 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ John Lackey has one more spring training start before he officially becomes the Red Sox‘ No. 2 starter. And according the righty, after Tuesday night’s outing he feels ready to go.
‘I felt good physically,’ said Lackey after allowing five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Rays. He finished his fifth outing of the spring also striking out four, walking two while throwing 96 pitches. ‘I was really happy with how my arm felt. Stuff-wise, I feel like I’m ready.’
Lackey came into the outing having allowed just three runs over 15 2/3 innings. This time, however, he succumbed to home runs by Tampa Bay’s Dan Johnson and Jose Lobaton.
‘I would have liked to get up seven times today. I didn’t care if I finished the seventh inning, just up and down seven times would have been nice. I didn’t quite get there,’ he explained. ‘My arm feels good and that’s all that really matters right now.’
As for getting the chance to go up against Tampa Bay Opening Day starter David Price, Lackey said, ‘I’ve gone up against few guys like him. I’ve been around a minute.’
Lackey will be scheduled to turn in his final outing of the spring Monday.
|03.22.11 at 6:32 pm ET|
For Ramirez, it was yet another reunion with several of the Red Sox uniformed staff that have stayed in place since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2008.
Ramirez said hi to several old friends and then, along with Longoria, put on a display for the fans at City of Palms Park. Ramirez, Longoria and B.J. Upton were in the same hitting group and it was Ramirez who belted several out, including a moon shot off the right side of the scoreboard in deep left-center.
Longoria batted third and Ramirez fourth in Tuesday night’s game, a likely scenario to take place when the season opens for the Rays.
The Red Sox countered with a lineup that will also likely mirror their Opening Day lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford hitting in the top third, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz filling out 4-5-6 and J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro rounding out the lineup.
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