|03.21.10 at 9:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Sunday morning, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters that Florida was returning Rule 5 draft pick Jorge Jimenez to the Red Sox. The Marlins decided that they wouldn’t be able to carry Jimenez on the major league roster all season, and so they returned the infielder to Boston, which had to repay $25,000 of the $50,000 it received when the Astros picked him in the Rule 5 process (before trading him to the Marlins as part of a deal for reliever Matt Lindstrom).
The move is one that could have other repercussions for the Red Sox and Marlins, assuming that this line of thinking in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel accurately depicts Florida’s situation:
“Jimenez was hoping to either beat out Jorge Cantu at third or get on the roster as a left-handed pinch hitter.
“The move also signals that the Marlins are content with either Gaby Sanchez or Logan Morrison at first base.
“If Sanchez and Morrison both struggled, then Cantu would have been moved to first, opening a spot for Jimenez.”
The Marlins, according to reports, have been monitoring Mike Lowell as a trade candidate this spring, in part because of corner infield uncertainty. But if the team is now confident with Cantu as its everyday first baseman and either Sanchez or Morrison at first, then it presumably would diminish the team’s interest in a move for Lowell, the franchise leader in home runs.
That is not to rule out the possibility of a deal. Even if the Marlins are committed to Cantu and Sanchez/Morrion, perhaps the Fish would remain interested in Lowell as a role player (if Boston picked up most of his salary). But the need for a corner infielder is apparently less glaring than might have been the case.
As for Jimenez, the 25-year-old comes back to a Red Sox organization for whom he has performed beyond expectations when he was taken in the 16th round of the 2006 draft. In 2009, he hit .289/.366/.422/.787 with 13 homers and 87 RBIs in Double A Portland. Though not a slugger, he has always shown a good offensive approach at the plate.
The Sox gave some thought to adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but felt that his career had not yet advanced far enough that the team was at risk of losing him in the process. With his return to Boston, it appears that calculation was correct.
|03.21.10 at 7:09 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Saturday, the dynamic of those competing for spots at the back of the Red Sox bullpen was suddenly altered. The arrival of Alan Embree meant that other pitchers trying to make an impression on team officials suddenly had to recalculate their odds.
Joe Nelson, after striking out the side in the ninth inning, made clear that he bore no ill will towards Embree, even though the veteran left-hander may ultimately cost him a job in the major leagues. Nelson stood up and assumed responsibility for his professional life. The only thing he could do was perform to the best of his abilities; if the Sox believed they had a superior alternative, then they had an obligation to pursue it.
“The Red Sox owe it to the people who own the team, Red Sox Nation, everybody on the team to exhaust every possible avenue,’ said Nelson. ‘That’s their job, and that’s why they’re good at what they do. They’ll bring in a truck driver if he says he can throw 90 mph and throw a splitter. And if they check him out themselves and he can, they’ll probably keep him around for a little bit and look at him. They have to exhaust every avenue. That’s due diligence. I expect that from the organization that I’m with.
‘I’m not rooting against [Scott Atchison] or [Brian Shouse] or [Embree]. We can only do what we’re capable of. In the end, the decision is going to come behind closed doors, and we’re not going to have any say in it besides what we do on the field,’ he added.
That approach to adversity had been drummed into Nelson nearly two decades ago by an unlikely source. Nelson received an education in media communications as a high schooler when he played alongside future NBA star Jason Kidd in both baseball and basketball.
“The way he handled the media, press, pressure. Jason was the Gatorade player of the year. We played in front of 25,000 at the Oakland Coliseum when the Lakers weren’t drawing 25,000. The way he carried himself was a very good teaching tool for me as far as involvement with pro ball, how to deal with the media,” Nelson explained. “Jason was very accountable at a young age. When we lost, it was his fault. When we won, it was a team effort. That’s an admirable quality.”
Of course, Kidd’s skills were not limited to media management when he teamed with Nelson at St. Joseph’s Notre Dame High School in Alameda, Calif. (class of ’94). His athletic skills across sports were something to behold.
“He could have been a centerfielder in the big leagues or a running back in the NFL. Instead he chose to be a Hall of Fame basketball player. He was unbelievable. He was, without question, the best athlete I’ve ever been around. He was special,” said Nelson. “I watched him hit a ball about 500 feet and break an aluminum bat. The bat shattered in two, the ball went 500 feet. He was strong.”
Nelson played both baseball and basketball with Kidd. The 35-year-old pitcher acknowledges that his basketball skills lagged slightly behind what Kidd was capable of doing on a baseball field.
Nonetheless, Nelson received not only a fascinating lesson in professionalism from his high school teammate, but also became a footnote in history. Kidd owns the high school record for most career assists (1,155). And the player who made the shot that set the record was a certain two-guard who is now pitching for a job with the Red Sox.
“Unless I made a steal, I wasn’t involved in the offense too much,” said Nelson. “I hit the shot that broke the all-time assists record, one of about 10 buckets I made all year. Filling the lane, a little eight-foot bank off the glass. That was my job: playing defense, and filling the lane.”
Now, it is Nelson’s hope that his job in 2010 will be something more than that. He is hoping to continue a major league career that has withstood multiple year-long recoveries from labrum surgery.
He feels that he has found something in this camp, that he fixed a mechanical flaw that may allow him to regain the form that he showed in his career-best 2008 campaign, when he recorded a 2.00 ERA in 59 games for the Marlins. Nelson is convinced that he can contribute. And yet, as badly as he wants to make the Sox roster for Opening Day, he strikes the same professional tone that was taught to him before college.
‘We all think we’re going to pitch in the big leagues. It may not be on our timetable, because we all want to be there April 4, and that’s probably not going to happen. Pitching now, I’m trying to make the team. If I don’t make it, I want to be the first one they call.’
|03.20.10 at 3:43 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The arrival of Alan Embree was noticed.
The veteran left-hander’s minor-league deal — which calls for a $500,000 salary if he is added to the major league team, and includes an April 15 opt-out — adds another presence into the mix for the spots at the back of the Red Sox bullpen. And so, the plot thickens, with Embree joining the group of left-hander Brian Shouse and right-handers Joe Nelson and Scott Atchison to make the club.
Nelson, who struck out the side while featuring an excellent changeup in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 6-0 win over the Orioles, suggested that the group did not resent the addition of a new competitor for a big league job.
“The Red Sox owe it to the people who own the team, Red Sox Nation, everybody on the team to exhaust every possible avenue,” said Nelson. “That’s their job, and that’s why they’re good at what they do. They’ll bring in a truck driver if he says he can throw 90 mph and throw a splitter. And if they check him out themselves and he can, they’ll probably keep him around for a little bit and look at him. They have to exhaust every avenue. That’s due diligence. I expect that from the organization that I’m with.
“I’m not rooting against [Scott Atchison] or [Brian Shouse] or [Embree]. We can only do what we’re capable of. In the end, the decision is going to come behind closed doors, and we’re not going to have any say in it besides what we do on the field,” he added. “We all think we’re going to pitch in the big leagues. It may not be on our timetable, because we all want to be there April 4, and that’s probably not going to happen. Pitching now, I’m trying to make the team. If I don’t make it, I want to be the first one they call.”
Nelson certainly didn’t hurt his cause on Saturday. He made a mechanical tweak to his stride during a bullpen session on Thursday (an off-day in Red Sox camp). The results were almost immediate, with Nelson finding increased life on his fastball and his swing-and-miss changeup. He punched out two left-handed hitters and one right-hander.
“I’m excited about how I threw today. I can honesty say that was the best I’ve thrown in 16 months,” said Nelson. “You have breakthroughs like this every once in a while. At my age, you usually don’t have them. They’re all used up. But I felt like I had one. … Something clicked today. Now I have a few outings to try to work on it, see if I can hone it in and get back to where I was in ’08.”
— Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw two innings in a minor league camp game at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
“It will be nice to get him on that road to coming back,” said Francona.
— Alan Embree threw a bullpen session on Saturday morning. While he suggested this morning that he is nearly game ready after working out on his own in Oregon, the Red Sox will ask him to proceed in more deliberate fashion. He will throw another bullpen session in a couple of days before the Sox contemplate next steps.
“I think his enthusiasm, we don’t want to temper it, but we don’t need to rush this. I think that would be a mistake. He wants to get in a game yesterday. We’re going to try to slow that down just a bit,” said Francona. “We’d like to be in this for the long haul, not for three days from now.”
— Reliever Manny Delcarmen put up a scoreless inning after getting sick while warming up. He experienced some dizziness on the mound. In the inning, he hit 91 mph with his fastball.
— Francona praised minor leaguer Pete Hissey, who worked deep into counts and collected a pair of singles. The left-handed hitter lashed one hit to left, and another to center. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft whom the Sox signed to a $1 million bonus. After a rough first half last year in Single-A Greenville, Hissey put up huge numbers in the second half to finish the year with a line of .279/.356/.347/.703.
— The Red Sox reassigned shortstop Gil Velazquez to minor-league camp, where he will receive treatment for his injured left thumb, while pitcher Felix Doubront and catcher Mark Wagner were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.
|03.20.10 at 10:06 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — An amused Alan Embree popped out of the Red Sox camp and onto the field at City of Palms Park — his spring training home in the 2003-05 seasons — turned around and took stock of his surroundings.
“Fantasy camp!” he mused.
The 40-year-old left-hander, who appeared in 211 games for the Red Sox from 2002 (when he was acquired by the Sox in a trade from the Padres) through 2005, is back on a minor league deal, now returns to the club for whom he produced a signature moment in franchise history, recording the final out of the 10-3 win over the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS in ’04. The Sox will try to determine if Embree — whose 2009 season was cut short by a line drive that broke his right tibia — is ready to throw a bullpen today. The team does not have a timetable for the pace at which it hopes he will progress this spring.
Obviously, Embree’s arrival will command the attention of the other relievers competing for a Red Sox roster spot.
“There’s guys in this camp, I’m sure their radar has gone up,’ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Francona said that pitching coach John Farrell has already touched base with the pitchers to discuss the acquisition of Embree, and the manager planned to do the same.
Here’s the Red Sox lineup that will face the Orioles today:
Wakefield, SP (followed by Delcarmen, Nelson and Cabrera)
— Victor Martinez played his first game of the spring at first base on Friday, making a fine diving stop on a hard hit grounder. Manager Terry Francona suggested that the team was comfortable with having Martinez play that position as soon as it acquired him last year.
“I actually think we thought he was pretty good,” said Francona. “He’s so conscientious.”
The team does not yet know how often Martinez will play first in the coming season.
— Kevin Youkilis has yet to play in a game at third base this spring, but Francona said that he would do so before the end of camp.
— Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely to have his two-inning minor league outing at the Red Sox minor league facility at 11am on Sunday.
— Jed Lowrie has not been able to return to meaningful physical activity from his diagnosis with mononucleosis.
“He’s allowed to do what is tolerated and he’s not been doing much. I would say that there’s just not much going on right now,” said Francona. “The hard thing is, you don’t know how much of a setback because when you’re not doing much and then when you come back, it’s going to take a toll. Hopefully he’ll be able to tolerate start doing some things.”
— Mike Lowell remains in line to play third base for the first time of the spring on Sunday.
|03.20.10 at 8:13 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Like every Red Sox fan old enough to remember that October night in 2004 at old Yankee Stadium, Alan Embree remembers throwing the final pitch in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
Of course, it resulted in a routine Ruben Sierra grounder to Pokey Reese at second and a throw onto Doug Mientkiewicz at first to complete the greatest comeback in the history of the sport and propel the Red Sox to the World Series.
Now, the pitcher who threw that pitch six seasons ago is back on the Red Sox.
Embree, who turned 40 on Jan. 23, was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to major league spring training on Saturday. The deal includes an opt-out, which the pitcher believed was for April 15. As soon as he put on the Red Sox uniform, he was reminded of his role in franchise history.
“I don’t even have to look back at it very much,” Embree recalled Saturday morning. “You constantly have Boston fans recounting it for you or it’s on TV a lot. People say, ‘I saw you on TV last night. That had to be greatest. What do you think?’
“It was the pinnacle point of my career was that game. And it’s something I’ll cherish forever. To realize not only the impact had for me but the whole [Red Sox] nation sort-of-thing was the greatest part of it.”
“I’m remember watching him at Yankee Stadium, that’s the one clip you see more than anything is when the ground ball [is hit] to Pokey, and seeing [Embree] jump in the air,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona added. “I think he ‘s enjoys pitching. I don’t think pitching in a big game certainly ever got to him. He just loves to pitch.
Jason Varitek remembers being behind the plate for the final pitch from Embree.
“He was a very huge part of a very good bullpen for us. He’s got deception, he’s got experience and he’s got some power,” Varitek recalled Saturday morning.
Varitek and the Red Sox last saw Embree when he was a member of the Oakland A’s bullpen in 2007-08. Last season, he pitched for Colorado.
Embree, who threw a blazing fastball in the mid-90s early in his career and with the Red Sox for nearly four seasons beginning in 2002, has evolved into pitcher who can rely more on off-speed and breaking pitches.
“He seemed to have the ability to kind of mix a little more,” Varitek said. “His secondary pitches, in Oakland, he was still powerful. I don’t where he’s at right now. It’s very welcome. It’ll be a nice face to see.”
Varitek won’t be making the decision as to whether he’s ready, though. Embree, who threw during the offseason in order to be ready to compete should he sign with a club, believes that he might be as little as four or five days from game activity.
That decision, of course, is up to Francona. The Red Sox manager said he and pitching coach John Farrell will watch him closely before making any snap judgments.
‘He’s been throwing a lot,” Francona said. “In his version, he’s thrown a lot of bullpens. He’s trying to get ready for Spring Training and then when something didn’t happen, he took about a week off but then he’s been back at it. but we’ll watch. We’ve seen enough of him. We’ll try to get him to be somewhat honest about where he is and then we’ll watch and move forward.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead because I’m sure they’re guys in this camp and I’m sure their radar’s gone up and that’s not what we’re trying to do either. We just want to watch him first. We’ll just watch him throw and see where it takes us.’
[Click here to listen to Francona talk about Embree’s return in the clubhouse.]
|03.20.10 at 7:18 am ET|
The Red Sox have signed lefty reliever Alan Embree to a minor league deal with an invitation to the team’s major league spring training camp.
The 40-year-old spent 2009 with Colorado, going 2-2 with a 5.84 ERA in 36 relief appearances before having his season cut short when a batted ball fractured his right tibia on July 10. Embree last pitched for the Red Sox in 2005, having joined the organization in ’02.
During his stint with Boston Embree went 8-9 with four saves and a 4.69 ERA in 211 relief appearances, allowing earned runs in just one of his 19 post season games with the Red Sox. He was also on the mound for the final out of Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series in Yankee Stadium.
Since leaving the Sox Embree has pitched for the Yankees (’05), Athletics (’07-08), and Rockies. He is ninth all-time among Major League left-handers and second among active lefties with 878 career relief outings.
|03.20.10 at 4:05 am ET|
The Red Sox received an encouraging report on the condition of Ryan Westmoreland, who underwent surgery Tuesday to remove a cavernous malformation on the 19-year-old prospect’s brain stem.
The team released a statement on the matter:
According to Dr. Robert Spetzler, Westmoreland’s neurosurgeon and the director of Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Ryan has been moved out of the Intensive Care Unit and into the hospital’s Neuro Rehabilitation Unit, where he will undergo physical and occupational therapy.
“Ryan is right on track and we expect progressive improvement,” said Dr. Spetzler.
‘We are thrilled for Ryan and his family that the surgery went so well,’ said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. ‘While we recognize that the recovery process is long and complicated, we are excited that all of the early indications are so positive. On behalf of the Westmoreland family, we thank everybody who has expressed concern and support for Ryan.’
|03.19.10 at 6:03 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell admits it’s been a while since he played first base, but if things keep feeling the way they do now ‘ both in the field and at the plate ‘ he thinks he’ll be ready for a different role come the start of the season. And even if it means just backing up Kevin Youkilis.
“I can’t say I was totally confident,” Lowell admitted Friday. “I think I played three games in [1998 with the Yankees], and I think I took ground balls before the game and that’s it. I think Tino Martinez turned an ankle or something. It was really minimal, it was just in case he needed to go on the DL or something, I can’t really remember the circumstances. I can’t really even say that I had experience ‘ I just asked the coach where I put my feet, I just don’t want someone to step on me. So that was really more getting thrown in the fire. Here, I feel I have big league instruction, and I tend to notice what other guys do at first, and I think that’s helped me.
“First is pretty comfortable. The responsibilities race through my mind ‘ I know Nomar [Garciaparra] had a recurring dream, but I had a recurring dream that I wouldn’t cover first on a ground ball. It’s always cover first, cover first, cover first. But there’s little things, like backing up the throw on a sure double, or on a possible triple, being the trail guy, those are things that I’m not used to, so I think my responsibilities have gone through my head a lot. But still don’t need to make that throw. So it’s a position where you can actually move around maybe a little bit more. But at third, you don’t really have time to bobble it or what have you. I can literally block it like a catcher and still feel like I have a shot of it.”
What does he make of the challenges?
“I think you can play off the bag a little more on right handed hitters, but there’s a catch ‘ I’ve got to be able to get back to first,” he said. “Youk’s actually very good at it, but I’ve played with some first basemen where you get a hard hit ball, and the first baseman’s still running there, and you don’t want to wait. You kind of want to go through your routine. So I think the thing I’ve been most self-conscious of was getting to first as fast as possible so I could give them a good target. I think that’s pretty minimal. Especially after I broke in my glove. There was a little bit of a difference. There were literally some balls that I didn’t think I caught, but the glove’s so big that it gets caught in the top. But overall, it’s not that big a deal.”
As far as the hitting goes, Lowell, following his homer and RBI single on Friday, feels he’s getting more and more comfortable.
“Things still feel kind of quick, to be honest with you,” Lowell said. “It’s just my third day seeing live pitching, and I think, In the beginning of spring, even though you don’t swing half the time, I didn’t want to get the urge to stand in with those guys ‘ I didn’t even have the ability ‘ well, not have the ability, I just chose not to.
“But I think it comes quick. I felt a little bit better each at bat. I was purposely taking a couple times, because I didn’t want to swing at the first pitch, because even if I hit well, I don’t really think I was doing anything productive. I viewed my first at-bat as productive even though I struck out. I saw a changeup, curveball, two-seamer, and that was my goal. So, under the circumstances, I thought it was pretty good.’
|03.19.10 at 2:17 pm ET|
BRADENTON, Fla. — Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, pitching for the first time in 11 days, was roughed up for four runs on six hits and two walks in 3.1 innings against the Pirates. He also struck out a batter and allowed a homer. Yet Beckett, who remained hoarse from the aftereffects of the flu, suggested that the most important number he posted on the day was positive.
“The numbers are obviously what they are. The most important number for me today was 70 pitches,” said Beckett. “Would it be nice to go out there and shut everyone out in spring training? Yes. But the most important thing is to get your innings in, especially for me right now.”
“I was bed ridden for four days. I couldn’t do anything else the other three days. We just pieced this week together,” he added. “I missed a lot of workouts. We just pieced this week together. That’s why I like to get my workouts in ‘ it makes me feel better about my start. I don’t really feel like I was completely prepared for this start. I went out there and did what I need to do.”
Beckett was scratched from a scheduled start last Sunday, remained completely bed-ridden for three of four days, could not follow his normal between-starts workout routine and admitted that he felt fatigued by the end of his outing. Despite the mid-spring disruption to his schedule, Beckett said that he did not anticipate any problems preparing for the start of the regular season on April 4.
Beckett had no insight to share about the status of negotiations with the Red Sox on an extension to his current deal, which is set to expire after the 2010 season. A report on SI.com suggested that there has been progress towards a deal, with Beckett seeking slightly more than the five-year, $82.5 million received by new teammate John Lackey, but Beckett had nothing to say on the matter.
“That’s not my deal. That’s the management and my agent’s deal,” said Beckett. “I just try to stay out of it. People get paid for those things.”
|03.19.10 at 2:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell was in a good mood on Friday. He is feeling stronger and more comfortable every day.
He agreed to speak with the assembled media following five plate appearances – including a homer in his final at-bat of the day – in two minor league exhibition games on one condition – no questions about his playing ‘situation’ with the Red Sox this season or whether he even expects to be with the team when the season starts April 4.
“I don’t worry about playing that one day,” Lowell said of his physical conditioning. “It’s the 100th game, although under my circumstances I might not see 100 games. I started that. No follow-ups.”
But halfway through, he acknowledged what he’s battling in the back of his mind.
“In a sense, I’ve been like, ‘Does it really matter?’ But I think it’s still my job to be ready because you never know what’s going to happen,” Lowell said. “You just don’t. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m just going to sulk because you never know. Crazy things happen.”
Lowell said he is feeling strong at the plate and more comfortable at first base but his only concern is running the bases and just how well his hip will hold up.
Asked if he could handle not getting regular at-bats because he has a history of picking up his offense quickly after time off, Lowell said this year is totally different.
“I think there’s a big difference when you get spring training at-bats, April, May at-bats, you take 20 days off and you come back,” Lowell said. “You start the season without getting at-bats, that’s why role guys don’t hit .320. I think if you get a guy who hits a solid .250, he’s viewed as an asset.
Lowell said he is hoping to have about 25 consistent at-bats this spring – with results – to feel ready for the season.
“Being in a role where I don’t start the season playing every day, I honestly have never been in that situation. I have no past experience to base it on,” he said.
Lowell did not play in the field on Friday, just his third time this spring against live pitching. He had a productive afternoon, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and an RBI single as he continues to get ready for the season.
Lowell, who faced four left-handed pitchers in his first four plate appearances before homering off a righty in his final appearance, said he wasn’t overly concerned about fanning in the first inning because he was interested in seeing pitches and reacting to them.
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