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Long before he threw 100: Hunter Strickland’s Red Sox tenure recalled

10.06.14 at 10:39 am ET
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Hunter Strickland was pitching for Single-A Greenville in 2009 when the Red Sox traded him to the Pirates. (Billy Crowe/Greenville Drive)

Hunter Strickland was pitching for Single-A Greenville in 2009 when the Red Sox traded him to the Pirates. (Billy Crowe/Greenville Drive)

It has represented a parenthetical remark to an extraordinary emergence. Hunter Strickland, the Giants reliever who has been unleashing 100 mph comets in the postseason (including in his 18th-inning save on Saturday night/Sunday morning in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals), was once a Red Sox.

But when he was with the Red Sox, he didn’t resemble the fire-breathing late-innings force that he’s suddenly become in the past five weeks for the Giants.

Strickland was an unheralded right-handed in Georgia when the Sox drafted him in the 18th round of the 2007 draft and signed him to a low six-figures bonus. Area scout Rob English liked the young pitcher’s arm action, pitcher’s build (he was a sturdy 6-foot-5) and particularly his outstanding makeup. English felt that Strickland might grow into a bit more velocity beyond the 90-ish he was showing as an amateur, and that if he got close to the big leagues, his work ethic and drive would permit him to thrive.

That said, Strickland never got close to the big leagues while in the Sox system — or, until this year, anyone else’s. In parts of three seasons in the Sox system — a pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2007, an assignment to Short-Season Single-A Lowell in 2008 and three and a half months with Single-A Greenville in 2009 — he proved a solid performer, going 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Greenville Drive, hunter strickland, kevin boles

Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn won’t return in 2015

10.03.14 at 11:27 am ET
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Greg Colbrunn

Greg Colbrunn

The Red Sox announced that hitting coach Greg Colbrunn “has elected not to return to the position for the 2015 season.” According to multiple sources, he was offered a position in the organization, but declined.

In a text, Colbrunn said he was unsure if he wanted to work in baseball for the coming season, but if he did it would have to be close to his South Carolina home.

One year after Colbrunn served as the hitting coach of a team that led the majors with 5.27 runs per game en route to a World Series, he oversaw a squad that managed just 3.91 runs per game, 11th in the American League. Colbrunn also spent time away from the team in June due to a brain hemorrhage that resulted in his hospitalization. Over time, upon his return to the team in July, he was able to build back to his regular duties amidst a dramatic second-half roster overhaul.

Prior to joining the Sox as the lead hitting coach of their two-coach structure (with Victor Rodriguez, a longtime Sox minor league coach and coordinator, as the assistant hitting coach), he’d spent six seasons as the hitting coach and manager of the Yankees‘ Single-A affiliate in Charleston, S.C., where Colbrunn makes his offseason home.

One name to keep an eye on in regards to replacing Colbrunn is former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. Magadan has one more year on his current contract with the Rangers, but with Texas in the process of looking for another manager a reunion with the Sox might make sense. (Magadan’s wife is from New Hampshire.)


Billy Beane says A’s wouldn’t have made playoffs without Jon Lester trade

10.02.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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Billy Beane insisted that the deal to acquire Jon Lester from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes was the right one. (Getty Images)

Billy Beane insisted that the deal to acquire Jon Lester from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes was the right one. (Getty Images)

At the time, the trade sending Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes sent shockwaves through the baseball landscape. Those continue to reverberate more than two months later.

The A’s season came to a startling halt on Tuesday night, when Lester could not hold a 7-3 advantage that he carried into the eighth inning, with Oakland eventually falling, 8-7, to the Royals in extra innings. The July 31 deal between the A’s and Red Sox had long been controversial in Oakland given the plummeting productivity of the A’s lineup, which averaged 3.5 runs per game while going 22-33 following the trade deadline, going from the best team in the majors and a two-game lead in the AL West to losing 12 games to the Angels in the division and barely holding on to edge out the Mariners by one game for a wild card spot.

But Beane disputed the notion that the trade was the cause of his team’s collapse down the stretch.

‘€œSimply put,” Beane told reporters in Oakland, “if we don’€™t have Jon Lester, I don’€™t think we make the playoffs.’€

Lester was 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts with the A’s, pitching at essentially the same dominant level at which he’d been performing with the Sox prior to the trade. Cespedes likewise performed at a comparable level with the Sox (.269/.296/.423) that he did prior to the trade with the A’s (.256/.303/.464).

Beane suggested that the Angels’ dominance over the season’s final two months would have made it impossible for the A’s to keep pace in the division, regardless of whether or not the trade had occurred.

‘€œOne thing I’€™m going to say right now,’€ Beane told reporters, ‘€œthe Angels were going to catch us. They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point on.’€

Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo to interview with Rangers

10.01.14 at 11:26 pm ET
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Torey Lovullo

Torey Lovullo

According to multiple major league sources, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will interview with the Texas Rangers for their vacant managerial position.

Lovullo recently interviewed with the same role with the Houston Astros, who ultimately gave the job to A.J. Hinch.

The 49-year-old Lovullo has also previously interviewed for managing jobs with the Dodgers, Indians and Red Sox. The former major league infielder began his managing career in the Cleveland organization, where he served at a variety of levels from 2002-09.

He spent one season as the skipper for the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket in ’10 before joining John Farrell in Toronto as the Blue Jays’ first base coach.

Also in consideration for the Texas job is former Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, who went 14-8 as the Rangers’ interim manager after Ron Washington stepped down due to personal reasons.

The thinking behind putting Jon Lester’s house on the market

10.01.14 at 3:08 pm ET
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Jon Lester's season came to an end Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Jon Lester‘s season came to an end Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

So, Jon Lester’s house is on the market.

When the news came out that the pitcher was putting his Newton Highlands’ house up for sale — asking $1,850,000 — the assumption was that he was already locked into moving on from the Red Sox.

But according to a source familiar with the situation, the thinking behind Lester surfacing a listing for the house was this:

1. He wanted to get out in front of the process if he did sign with another team.

2. There is an assumption that the window of free agency is short enough that are no guarantees an acceptable offer would come in during that time span.

3. He is putting the house on the market with the obvious understanding that it can be taken off if it appears a deal with the Red Sox can be struck.

4. Lester would not be averse to purchasing a different house in the area if he re-signs with the Red Sox (particularly considering his growing family and annual income).

Lester also just bought a $3.4 million house in the Atlanta suburb of Pleasant Hills in April.

To look the house Lester is putting up for sale, click here.

Looks like Jon Lester’s career in Oakland is over

10.01.14 at 2:08 am ET
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Jon Lester couldn't deliver a win for the A's Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Jon Lester couldn’t deliver a win for the A’s Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

It was supposed to be a showcase for two of the soon-to-be most coveted starting pitchers on the free agent market — Kansas City’s James Shields and Jon Lester of the A’s.

Instead what transpired in an Wild Card play-in game was a pair of forgettable performances from the starters, but an unforgettable 9-8 win for the Royals in 12 innings.

The world of baseball was treated to an unbelievable showdown, with Kansas City manager Ned Yost making controversial moves throughout (tying a MLB postseason record with seven steals), the Royals coming back from a four runs down in the eighth inning, and, ultimately, KC scoring a pair of runs in final frame to claim a walk-off on Salvador Perez’s RBI single.

(To read all about what transpired in the Royals’ win, click here.)

But what most followers of the Red Sox were concerned about was that starting pitching matchup, particularly the fate of Lester.

Lester’s 7 1/3-inning outing was a roller coaster. The lefty allowed KC to claim an 3-2 lead after three innings, only throwing his much-improved curveball four times while trying to get in the groove with catcher Geovany Soto (whom had never caught Lester).

Perhaps the lefty’s biggest early mistake was pitching to Lorenzo Cain with a runner on second in the third inning. Cain jumped on a first-pitch fastball and rifled it into left to tie the game. He would promptly be driven in by Eric Hosmer’s bloop single.

But, with his regular catcher, Derek Norris, in the game due to a Soto thumb injury, Lester found his stride all the way up until the eighth inning. The A’s starter retired 12 of 13 batters before being taken out with one out in the eighth.

Lester was driven from the game after surrendering another RBI single to Cain, leading to a Hosmer walk on the lefty’s 111th (and final) pitch.

Reliever Luke Gregerson added to Lester’s final line, promptly giving up an RBI single to Billy Butler. The six earned runs boosted the former Red Sox‘ hurler’s postseason ERA from 2.11 to 2.57.

It is no secret that when the Oakland season ended, so would Lester’s stay with the A’s.

“I came out here knowing what I am. I’m a two-month rental and hopefully I can somehow help win a World Series for the Oakland A’s,” he told WEEI.com Friday. “It eases a lot of the questioning of the ‘What are you going to do?’ Everybody knows it’s two months and then probably not sign a contract with the Oakland A’s. We’re going to go our separate ways and go into free agency.”

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As for Shields, his night was cut short in the sixth inning when Yost decided 88 pitches was enough for his ace, pulling him with the Royals leading by one, runners on first and second, and Brandon Moss (who had hit a two-run homer in the first) at-bat.

While Shields didn’t have nearly the postseason pedigree of Lester — coming into the game with a 4.98 in six playoff appearances — he was perceived as the Royals’ workhorse. But instead of letting the righty fight through the jam, Yost brought in rookie fireballer Yordano Ventura, who had thrown 73 pitches two days prior, while having relieved just once all season.

The result was another Moss home run, closing out Shield’s line and paving the way for plenty of criticism for the Royals’ manager (with TBS analyst Pedro Martinez leading the charge):

Marlins president David Samson: Giancarlo Stanton will be on 2015 Marlins

09.30.14 at 3:13 pm ET
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Marlins president David Samson told the Miami Herald that the team plans to discuss a long-term extension with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton — who hit .288 with a .395 OBP and .555 slugging mark while leading the National League with 37 homers despite missing the final weeks of the season after getting beaned by a pitch — this coming offseason. That said, Samson also said that the team would not consider trading Stanton even in the absence of a long-term deal.

“He’€™s on this team [in 2015] either way,” Samson told the Herald. “I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’€™re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years.

“We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come.”

Stanton, 24, is under Marlins team control for two more years before he’s eligible for free agency following the 2016 campaign. He made $6.5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2014.

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