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Red Sox pitcher Roenis Elias on Fidel Castro’s death: ‘I didn’t really like the reaction some people had’

02.20.17 at 10:17 am ET
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Roenis Elias (Elsa/Getty Images)

Roenis Elias (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Roenis Elias would seem to have every right to be bitter towards Fidel Castro.

Elias’ existence as a major leaguer in the United States was only made possible because of a death-defying ocean voyage. He had jumped aboard a make-shift boat at 3 a.m. one morning along with 26 others to take his chances in reaching Cancun, Mexico from Cuba. (For more on that story, click here.)

“Last year was a little weird for me, just in general with the trade, getting used to the clubhouse, getting used to just being here with a new team,” Elias said. “But this year I’m coming in more comfortable, more confident in myself and abilities. Not that I wasn’t more confident before, but the confidence level is there. I’m just going to do my best and hopefully things come out the way I hoped they would.”

It was those kinds of stories that usually highlighted what was considered an oppressive regime, leading to some celebration with Castro passed away on Nov. 26.

Elias, however, was not one of those who reveled in the death of Castro.

“I didn’t really like the reaction some people had,” said Elias through translator Daveson Perez. “They were happy he passed away. But at the end of the day, someone who, in though it was a little bit, helped me out when I was living there for 21 years. I had a normal day when he passed away. I just didn’t like how some people were happy he passed away, because he’s a person, too.

“Good or bad, I think he definitely helped a lot of people who are living here today. People who lived in Cuba, ate his food, they took what was given to them. To have a party, all of a sudden, during his passing doesn’t seem right to me.”

It has now been seven years since Elias made his way to the United States, with the 28-year-old now serving as depth for the Red Sox’ starting rotation.

Last spring training, the lefty was vying for a spot in the team’s bullpen by the end of camp, but ultimately spent the majority of the 2016 season as a starter with the Pawtucket Red Sox. In Triple-A he went 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 19 starts.

Elias did appear in three major league games, getting one start, but the appearances didn’t go well. He would allow 11 runs on 15 hits over 7 2/3 innings. Between Seattle and Boston, the southpaw has appeared in 54 games, making 50 starts.

“Last year I don’t think I was at the level I should have been,” he said. “This year I’ve lost eight pounds, feel stronger and I worked in the Dominican League. I feel better this year.”

David Ortiz checks in from beach: ‘This is my spring training’

02.19.17 at 5:23 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Everybody continues to look for hints as to if David Ortiz might come out of retirement. Sunday’s Instagram/Twitter post by the former designated hitter certainly made it seem like there won’t be a change of heart.

“It’s so good to be retired,” Ortiz said while taking a video of himself. “Oh yeah. At the beach, with the familia, the ladies, Big Papi in the building. This is my spring training, how about that? Enjoy. See you when I see you. Peace.”

Pablo Sandoval’s trainer posts before and after pictures on instagram

02.19.17 at 5:15 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pablo Sandoval’s trainer his client lost around 40 pounds. Now he’s put out some pictures trying to prove it.

Pete Bommarito, owner of Bommarito Performance Systems, took to Instagram to highlight the weight loss and regimen chronicled in a recent ESPN.com article. (According to Joe Ferrer, a trainer at the training facility, Sandoval entered spring training weighing in just north of 240 pounds.)

Bommarito Performance Systems featured on ESPN! Incredible article on BPS client and 3x World Series Champ Pablo Sandoval (@kfp48) and his journey to being the best shape of his life! Here is an excerpt from the article: ”Having watched Ferrer help Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez overcome a 2015 shoulder injury and revive his career last season, Sandoval decided to enlist the strength and conditioning specialist to oversee his workouts. The days began at 7:30 a.m., Ferrer said, with an hour long "turf workout" to improve Sandoval's agility. After a series of core-strengthening exercises, they moved to the weight room, alternating upper- and lower-body lifts every other day. The Red Sox received frequent progress reports — "Panda watch," if you will — because Ferrer is close with Boston strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose. Meanwhile, Sandoval put his new wife, Yulimar, in charge of his diet. She worked with a nutritionist to come up with healthier meals for Sandoval and cooked for him throughout the off-season. "Part of [Sandoval's] issues in the past didn't work ethic. It was other aspects of his life when we start talking about nutrition and those types of things," Dombrowski said. "This winter, I would say he was more committed to the total program." Said Ferrer: "I'm actually really pleased with his progress this off-season. I said that to Kiyoshi multiple times. The Red Sox wanted him to get down to, I think, in the 240s, and he's right there. But with him, I think it's just about his strength levels. He's a strong guy. He's powerful. He took our workouts very seriously all off-season. He's definitely ready to play baseball right now.’” Click the link in our bio to read the full article! #KungFuPanda 🐼  #PabloSandoval #Boston Redsox #RedSox #Soxnation #Bommaritos #HanleyRamirez #ElNino #MLB #Baseball #Baseballtraining #miggy #miguelcabrera #Venezuela

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Owner of first Red Sox arbitration hearing in 14 years, Fernando Abad, says his case was nothing like Dellin Betances chaos

02.19.17 at 5:00 pm ET
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Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There is a reason why the Red Sox did everything they could to avoid going to an arbitration case over the last 14 years. Just look at what happened to Dellin Betances.

Controversy blew up in Yankees camp after the reliever fired back at New York management after team president Randy Levine beat his chest over winning their arbitration decision with Betances. The settlement landed at the team’s number of $3 million after the pitcher’s camp had filed for $5 million.

So, since going to a hearing with Rolando Arrojo in 2002, the Red Sox have managed to steer clear of actually exchanging barbs in front of the three-person arbitration panel, coming the closes when settling with David Ortiz just prior to entering the room in 2012.

But that streak came to an end this offseason when the Red Sox couldn’t settle with reliever Fernando Abad.

So, without a deal in place, Abad flew from the Dominican Republic to the Vinoy Hotel and Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla. to meet up with his agent, Scott Shapiro, for the hearing. He was asking for $2.7 million, while the Red Sox were offering $2 million.

The team won. But evidently, there were no hard feelings. At least nothing close to what has emerged with Betances and the Yankees.

“I went there and didn’t say anything. I just let them talk. They didn’t say anything bad. They filed their part, and my agent filed his part. I wasn’t nervous,” Abad said. “It was fine.”

Having gone through the process, Abad was surprised at the vitriol that came from Betances’ case.

“I thought he was going to win for sure. I was surprised he lost the case,” the Sox lefty said. “[The criticism from the Yankees] is bad. But everybody is different.”

Abad is vying for a spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen after a supbar two-month tenure with the team last season. But with a 95 mph fastball, a revamped changeup and some adjustments to limit potential pitch-tipping, the team is optimistic about the 31-year-old.

“You grade out the raw ability and there’s arm strength and three pitches for strikes,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It’s a matter of consistency.”

Red Sox notes: Andrew Benintendi keeps hype going with batting practice home run; Rick Porcello hit in face with grounder; Blake Swihart eases some fears

02.19.17 at 4:17 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Andrew Benintendi put on a bunch of muscles this offseason, was named the top-ranked prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and MLB.com, and has already entrenched himself as the nearly-everyday left fielder for the Red Sox after just 127 major league plate appearances.

A lot to live up to.

Sunday morning, the 22-year-old did nothing to damper expectations.

Facing Brian Johnson on the first day pitchers faced live hitting in batting practice, Benintendi turned on the first pitch he saw from the lefty and deposited it over the right field fence.

As for Johnson, who had impressed the Red Sox enough two years ago to surprisingly put himself in position for major league time (which he ultimately got before suffering an elbow injury), he seems to be back to his old form.

After battling anxiety issues in 2016, Johnson appears to be putting himself back on the radar on the starting pitching depth chart, joining Henry Owens, Roenis Elias and perhaps Kyle Kendrick.

“When you think to spring training of that year [2016], he threw the ball exceptionally well,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Both in terms of the breaking ball he can throw and still with the ability to spin the ball right now, and today, again. The power in that spring training was probably a little more than what we’re seeing, again it’s the early stages of camp, but evaluations are reflective of the time of camp. But he’s been through a lot, physically and with other issues and challenges that he’s faced or were thrown at him. So it’s good to see him on the mound today and again. Much like Pablo [Sandoval], guys that have challenges they’re overcoming, things they’ve experienced, you start to see it play out in games and you get a better read at that time.”

– One bullet dodged came when Rick Porcello took a grounder off the face.

After imploring minor league pitching instructor Bob Kipper to hit harder grounders during the pitchers’ fielding drill, the American League Cy Young Award winner proceeded to fall victim to a bad hop, with the baseball striking just below is right eye.

Porcello went on to continue the drill, along with throwing batting practice, and, other than a little swelling, showed no ill-effects from the incident.

– Among the matchups during the live batting practice were Pablo Sandoval getting a chance to hit right-handed against David Price.

Sandoval is continuing his quest to remain a switch-hitter despite a 2015 which saw him go just 2-for-41 against lefties before taking on southpaws from the left side.

“There has been some and a lot of work done on the right-hand side,” Farrell said. “He went from the first year being here where his swing was a little bit abbreviated or cut off and the results were reflective of that and he went solely left-handed. Then spent a lot of work prior to last season on the right-handed side, so until we see it in games, all of his actions, including the right side of the plate. He looks more free, more natural movement to all his actions so we’ll see how that translates to games. but I would fully expect him to be a switch-hitter from the get go.”

– Blake Swihart calmed some nerves when it came to his throwing, managing to throw back to Owens during the lefty’s bullpen session with few issues.

Swihart, who was having well-publicized problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher Thursday and Friday, was spot-on during warm-ups with Owens, and then had few issues once hitters stepped in. He did air-mail the 6-foot-7 pitcher once, threw low a few times, and lowered the velocity on his return tosses as the session progressed. But overall, the performance didn’t amp up any concerns.

– Other batting practice matchups Sunday included: Porcello vs. Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez; David Price vs. Sandoval and Chris Young; Owens vs. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.

Young did take Price deep over the center field fence during the third round of the starter’s 30-pitch BP session.

“He looks good,” Young said. “First day we are all just trying to get our work in right now. It was nice seeing him back on the mound and get back in the box with a helmet on again, put on shin guards and feel like a baseball player again.”

One noticeable difference were the arms of the lanky Owens, who said he put on almost 30 pounds from this time last season, when he weighed in at 202 pounds.

– Monday is a big day for a couple of pitchers, Brandon Workman and Steven Wright.

Workman is looking to find his way back to the major leagues after a variety of health issues, including Tommy John surgery. He will be throwing his first bullpen session to hitters, having not faced major league hitters since 2015 spring training.

Wright isn’t throwing to hitters, but will take the mound for the first time for his first bullpen session of the spring.

Dustin Pedroia’s kids dominate Saturday’s Red Sox workout

02.18.17 at 6:30 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Time is of the essence for any baseball family. So, with a brief window to take advantage of the availability of spring training, Dustin Pedroia carved out a few days to reunite with his wife, Kelli, and his three young sons, Dylan, Cole and Brooks.

Kelli and the kids flew from Arizona for the weekend before having to head back for school, leaving the family apart for more than a month.

So, with the Pedroias all in attendance — with the sons ranging in age from 7 years old to 2 years old — it was tough to miss their presence.

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox takes a break from practice to talk to his sons Dylan, 7, Cole, 4, and Brooks, 2,  on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.   (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox takes a break from practice to talk to his sons Dylan, 7, Cole, 4, and Brooks, 2, on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18:  Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox gets a hug from his son Cole, 4, during a break in practice on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.   (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox gets a hug from his son Cole, 4, during a break in practice on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY  18: Hanley Ramirez #19 picks up the son of Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox during a team workout on February 18, 2017 at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FT. MYERS, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Hanley Ramirez #19 picks up the son of Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox during a team workout on February 18, 2017 at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY  18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the field with family during a team workout on February 18, 2017 at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FT. MYERS, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the field with family during a team workout on February 18, 2017 at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida . (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18:  Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox is followed by his son Brooks as he runs to a practice field on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.   (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, FL- FEBRUARY 18: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox is followed by his son Brooks as he runs to a practice field on February 18, 2017 at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

(WEEI.com photo)

(WEEI.com photo)

Why Jackie Bradley Jr. wouldn’t hesitate making his third trip to the White House

02.17.17 at 2:34 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley Jr. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner dropped a little Patriots and Tom Brady reference on his team Friday morning during the organization’s kick off to spring training get-together.

“Different sport, but I guess he was trying to use it as some motivation,” said Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

So, while we’re talking Patriots …

With more than a handful of Pats either flat-out saying, or at least suggesting, they will be skipping the team’s trip to the White House, presumably due to the policies of current President Donald Trump, the topic came up in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

So, if there is another Red Sox championship, and the opportunity to visit the White House presents itself, would Bradley Jr. go?

“If my team is going, yes, I’m going,” he said.

The Red Sox outfielder, who clarifies, “I don’t like politics, not even a little bit,” has already been to the White House twice. The first time came when he went with the national champion South Carolina baseball team. The second, of course, was in 2013 with the Red Sox.

From Bradley Jr.’s point of view, even though enjoyed meeting Barack Obama twice, it wouldn’t be about who is hosting. The motivation for attending, he explained, is to celebrate how the team got to that point.

“The reason why we’re going there is because we did something together as a team. The White House is cool,” he said. “I’m with my team.

“How many people can say they’ve been to the White House? That alone. There is a lot history there, and I’m a big fan of architecture. I think the whole thing is unique.”

Photos: Red Sox open spring training

02.17.17 at 1:58 pm ET
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The Boston Red Sox began spring training in Fort Myers this week. Check out photos from spring training here.


Chris Sale throws in his first spring training with the Red Sox (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart is having throwing problems, but Red Sox (and Blake Swihart) say there’s nothing to worry about

02.17.17 at 1:49 pm ET
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Blake Swihart (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not a lot of people were around to witness the uncomfortable bullpen session Thursday.

But for those who were there, they saw Blake Swihart show an inability to accurately throw the ball back to Rick Porcello on too many occasions. Pitching coach Carl Willis saw it, as did manager John Farrell and catching instructor/bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.

Friday rolled around and while the problems weren’t as dramatic, the inconsistency in Swihart’s throws continued, leading to a collection of media gathered around the catcher to ask him about the issues before he left JetBlue Park for the day.

“I”m not concerned. I’m going back to catching. In the outfield you have a longer arm swing, a longer arm movement. I’m just trying to shorten it back up. They are misfiring, but I’m not too worried about it,” Swihart said. “It’s just a different arm movement. But I’m working every day to shorten it up, get it short and still have good velocity on my ball. … It’s more me just feeling bad for the pitcher that I’m throwing to.”

And then, as the reporters peeled off, Swihart offered one more proclamation.

“You guys shouldn’t be worried about me,” he said.

LeVangie wasn’t about to suggest there was nothing to see over the last few days, even saying when asked that Swihart’s problems were “out of the blue” when appearing Thursday.

But the catching coach did offer some optimism after working with Swihart Friday and then seeing the slow transformation from an outfielder’s arm motion to that of a catcher.

“There were a couple of bad throws today, but to be honest with you we talked about some things and he got better at doing it,” LeVangie said. “It’s still not finished, but there are signs he can get better from it. We were just looking at spin, how it was coming out of his hand. At times he throws a little rotational, and at times he’s allowing his glove to dictate where his arm path should be going. We want his glove front side to dictate more of back to front motion so his arm path stays on line better.

“We want him to throw more like a catcher rather than middle infielder, a shortstop or an outfielder. I saw far more better throws today than I saw yesterday. He’s going to learn how to throw as a catcher. That’s what we’re working on.”

Swihart reiterated that the 11 months between the last time he lived life as a catcher and jumping back into it this week was the cause for the throwing hiccup.

“The last time I caught was, what? The first six games of the season last year,” he said, referencing his move to outfield. Swihart added, “I feel fine. I’m not worried and you guys shouldn’t be worried either. I’m working on my craft and I promise the ball is going to get there.”

Everything you need to know about what John Henry, Tom Werner had to say in their annual spring training get-together with media

02.17.17 at 10:52 am ET
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John Henry, Tom Werner met with the media Friday morning (WEEI.com photo)

John Henry, Tom Werner met with the media Friday morning (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s an annual rite of passage. One that John Henry admitted maybe has been a bit too ambitious (and often times uncomfortable).

Fifteen seasons as owners of the Red Sox, and 15 spring training media sessions where Henry and usually Tom Werner brief the spring training gathering on the state of the organization.

“We might not have started doing this every year,” said the Red Sox principal owner, Henry, when talking about the good and bad decisions made during this ownership group’s run.

Immediately after Werner addressed the entire team, the pair came out and discussed a variety of topics. David Ortiz. Fenway Park. Luxury tax. The Chris Sale trade. Dave Dombrowski. John Farrell. And also the topic of whether or not these two will be hanging on to their pieces of the Red Sox.

“We hope to be healthy and focused for a long, long time. We know nothing is forever. Hopefully we’ll be having these conversations in 10 or 15 more years,” said Werner.

Added Henry, “After 15 years together, and most of us have been together for 15 years, there’s nothing about this … There are a few things we don’t … Almost every day we talk about how fortunate we feel to be part of this organization. It’s a tremendous organization that has accomplished tremendous things. From our perspective it’s a meaningful, wonderful experience to come here every year, to start over every year. We really are focused on that fourth ring as much as we are focused on the first. Anything short of that I would say is a limited success. I know every few years we have swat down rumors that we’re perhaps sellers, but we talk about how long we can do this, not when should we stop.”

Here were some of the takeaways from the 20-meeting briefing …


Henry: “We had a great meeting this morning. And we’re all really happy to be back. We didn’t finish our business last year. It was a disappointing way to end the season. There’s a lot to accomplish the team.”

Werner: “I just started out by thanking them for what they accomplished last year. There’s a lot to be proud of. The team had the best offense in all of baseball. We had a Cy Young winner and two MVP candidates, and the team played beautifully all season. But obviously all of us were disappointed at the abrupt ending. I just thanked them, made a reference to Tom Brady and the Patriots and what we could take from that in terms of hard work and practice. We wished them good luck.”


Werner: “That remains to be defined, but I know David expects to have a role going forward. I think he feels like it’s probably good to have spring training start and not be a presence. I would hope that at some point he would come here and address the team about leadership. We are talking with him frequently and I would expect he would have a role that he will principally define, but will be important. … He said he’s retired. I think all of you know that he played last year in quite a bit of pain.”

Henry: “Actually I don’t think they know quite how pain he was in last year. Maybe. Not just last year.”


Henry: “I’m not sure we need to go too much further with Fenway Park. There’s been 15 years of tender-loving care going in on an annual basis. It’s been sort of built to last for the next 30 years, if not the next 50 years. I don’t think we see a lot of changes. … I think we have some thoughts outside the ballpark in that area, we own property in that area and I think we should look to develop in a way that’s meaningful for the three million-plus fans that come every year. I think you’ll see probably more changes outside the ballpark than inside.”


Henry: “As far as the threshold is concerned, there have been years we’ve been over and years we’ve been under. I think that will be the case with the new CBA and CBT this year. We want to be under. Frankly, revenue sharing is a bigger issue than the CBT. We spend a lot of money. There are a lot of money that spend a lot of money. Big, big numbers. … I don’t see a big change.”


Werner: “We’re trying to push the game to under three hours. There are a lot of experiments going on, and I’m for experiments.”


Henry: “I think ever since I made that statement I’ve been saying it’s overblown. Because I only talk once a year, maybe twice a year, somethings … I think that was blown out of proportion. We are still heavily analytics based. I don’t think you can function in 2017 as a baseball organization without top drawer analytics.”


Werner: “I think he has a lot he wants to prove. I heard he talked to the media yesterday and was very articulate. He’s an All-Star player and we have a lot of confidence he’s going to have a good year.”


Henry: “I think he has done a tremendous job. All of us in the organization believe he has done a tremendous job. Very hands on.”


Henry: “We still have a lot of prospects. With David leaving I think there was a feeling we should do something. I think our offense has been strong, and will be strong this year. When this opportunity came about it was tough to give up two of the best prospects in baseball. I think we all agreed this was a rare opportunity. … It was important to us that the core of our team was not broken up.”


“I don’t know if we want to re-open that discussion. All the facts of that, a lot of the facts, were a little bit different that were generally spoken about. We really don’t want to open that back up again. We’re really glad to have Drew here.”


“He’s an outstanding leader. There’s a lot of facets to being a great manager and I think he fits all of that. not only that, but I think we all know he overcame personal health issues last year and he’s the right guy to be our leader this year and for the future.”

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