|11.20.15 at 9:13 am ET|
“One of the best I’ve ever caught,” said Ross, who was Kimbrel’s teammate in Atlanta before the catcher joined the Red Sox for the 2013 season. “When I caught him it was just that good. He was dominating. I haven’t seen that time of game over since [Eric] Gagne. And then I left Kimbrel and got Koji [Uehara]. You saw that run Koji went on. That was Kimbrel. If somebody hit a home run off of him you were like, ‘What the heck?’ He’s pretty impressive in terms of what he’s able to do.”
Looking back at that run, it’s hard to argue with the current Cubs catcher.
With Ross as his backstop in 2012, Kimbrel didn’t allow a single run in 16 appearances, giving up four hits in 49 at-bats (.082). He struck out 28 and walked just three.
That year, Kimbrel was as good as the 2013 Koji, finishing with a 1.01 ERA while striking out 116 in 62 2/3 innings.
The results in the post-Ross years have done nothing to change the backstop’s opinion. From 2013-15, Kimbrel has allowed a .155 batting average against with a 13.40 strikeouts-per innings, fifth-best of any reliever over that time.
Why so good? Let Ross explain …
“He’s deceptive, one, especially for a righty,” the catcher said. “He’s a little bit across his body. He’s got that shoulder that’s kind of coming at you. It’s like Billy Wagner. You have that short-arm, short guy with the short-arm arm stroke. And rather than a downward plain, his ball climbs. He’s got really good spin on his ball. So it’s really hard to get on top of his baseball, so most guys swing under his fastball rather than over and then when he throws down in the zone it looks like it’s going to be a ball and it isn’t.
“I remember Buster Posey took a 3-1 fastball right down the middle and I remember even before I caught it, him yelling, ‘[Gosh darn] it!’ He didn’t realize how much that ball was going to jump. And when it’s up you’re just not going to get on top of it because he throws too hard. And then he’s got one of the better breaking balls that’s you’re going to see. It just depends if he’s throwing it for strikes.
“He can really blow fastballs by guys. It was pretty ridiculous. He’s not a location guy. He’s a power guy. I think he’s locating a little bit more the older he’s getting. But he would throw it right down the middle and blow guys away. His fastball was too much for guys.”
The other piece of the equation is the ability for Kimbrel to do it in this market, and in the American League East.
Not a problem, explained Ross.
“His personality will be a great fit,” he said of the Alabama native. “You’ll love it. He turns the page really quick. He’s a hard worker. He’s pretty resilient. I don’t know if he’s going to be in place like he’s going to be in, so that will be a little different in terms of all the scrutiny and all the questions. But as far as a person, you’re not going to find a better dude. He’s a typical closer. He’s not going to Craig Breslow you to death. But he cares about winning and he cares about performance. He’s passionate about his job. He wants to dominate.
“I was actually really happy for him. I loved the environment in Boston. I love the expectation of wanting to win every year. I think everyone should be able to play in a place like Boston. I wish everybody could experience that. I was super happy for him. I texted him what a great organization he was going to with great dudes.”
|11.20.15 at 7:52 am ET|
The pair go all the way back to the early 1990’s, when both were breaking into professional baseball with the Minnesota Twins. So it should be no surprise that when afforded the opportunity to make the son of his buddy feel at home this weekend, Ortiz jumped at the chance.
— Ryan Grooms (@NDFBEquipment) November 19, 2015
Torii Hunter Jr., a wide receiver for the Notre Dame football team, will be joining his Fighting Irish in taking on Boston College at Fenway Park Saturday night. He is afforded a spot in the home clubhouse/locker room, of course, because Notre Dame has been designated the host team.
|11.19.15 at 9:30 pm ET|
Toronto’s Josh Donaldson took home the award by a fairly sizable margin over the Angels’ Mike Trout. The Blue Jays’ third baseman received 23 first-place votes, to Trout’s seven. Finishing third was Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
It was the first MVP for Donaldson, who finished 2015 with a .939 OPS and .297 batting average to go along with 41 doubles. Trout finished second for the third time in his career, claiming a .991 OPS with a .299 batting average and 41 homers.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Houston’s Dallas Kuechel, Seattle’s Nelson Cruz, Texas’ Adrian Beltre, Toronto’s Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays’ David Price and Jose Altuve of the Astros.
|11.18.15 at 2:49 pm ET|
The assumption is that Hanley Ramirez, who is slated to play first base in ’16, will be sliding into the designated hitter spot once Ortiz retires. One school of thought was that the Red Sox might be more willing to not try and deal Ramirez knowing that his glove would only be needed potentially one more year.
There was also the possibility that the Red Sox might take advantage of the current market to get a jump start on replacing Ortiz in the lineup a year from now. One very outside the box scenario would have the Sox pursue free agent Chris Davis, who could play left field for a year before sliding to first in 2017. That doesn’t seem likely considering the organization’s unwillingness to sacrifice outfield defense for a second straight year.
If the Red Sox did feel the need to start an influx of offense, knowing their best hitter was in his last season, a trade could be made involving Jackie Bradley Jr. (who continues to draw significant interest throughout baseball) free up room for free agent outfielder Alex Gordon.
That could still very well be a scenario that unfolds, but if it does it won’t be in response to the Ortiz news.
If the Red Sox do wait until next offseason to replace Ortiz’s bat, Toronto’s Edwin Encaracion would figure to be a prime target. The first baseman is in the last year of his contract. The 32-year-old, who was a favorite of Sox manager John Farrell during the pair’s time together in Toronto, finished ’15 with a .929 OPS, marking the fourth straight season he has eclipsed .900.
In case you forgot, Ortiz had the seventh-best OPS in the American League (.913) along with 37 home runs. Mookie Betts was the only Red Sox regular to claim an OPS over more than .800, finishing at .823.
|11.18.15 at 2:33 pm ET|
Even with Craig Kimbrel, there is still some building to be done within the Red Sox bullpen. But if they are going to add the top reliever on the open market, it’s evidently going to a bit more uncomfortable than some anticipated.
Sources: O’Day asking for four-year deal in $28M to $36M range. Most accomplished reliever on open market.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 18, 2015
The Red Sox have expressed interest in the 33-year-old O’Day, who specializes in retiring right-handed batters. The righty has appeared in at least 68 games in each of his last four seasons, totaling a combined ERA of 1.92 and .196 batting average against during that span.
In his four years with the Orioles, O’Day held right-handed hitters to a .178 batting average, giving up just nine home runs in 264 outings. Last season, righties hit just .192 with four extra-base hits.
|11.18.15 at 11:28 am ET|
And now it’s official: 2016 will be David Ortiz‘s last in the big leagues.
Speaking in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune, a web site founded by former Yankees star Derek Jeter, Ortiz announced his pending retirement.
“For every single one of us, athletes-wise, we run out of time at some point,” Ortiz said. “Life is based on different chapters, and I think I’m ready to experience the next one in my life.”
Wearing a “Ride or Die” t-shirt and speaking directly into the camera, Ortiz relayed the thinking behind his decision.
“I pick this day to announce that next season I’m going to be done with my career playing baseball,” Ortiz said. “I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family, a guy that was trying to do the best, not only on the field, but with everyone around him. Baseball is not just based on putting up numbers. This is our second family. Whoever is around you on a daily basis is like a second family, and I always had good thoughts for everyone around me.”
Ortiz will miss the fans.
“Baseball, besides God, it helped just flip my whole life over, not just mine, but my whole family,” Ortiz said. “I see how people struggle out there. I struggled before. And I know how hard it is to make it to the top. It’s something you’ve got to thank God every day for. I’m really proud of what I had accomplished through the years. I’m very thankful for having fans like guys who have supported me through my career. I wish I could play another 40 years, so I have you guys behind me, but it doesn’t work that way.
“After next year, time is up, so let’s enjoy next season.”
For the complete video, click here. And for more on Ortiz’s impending retirement and what it means to the Red Sox, his legacy, and the chances he makes the Hall of Fame, check out Rob Bradford’s column from this morning.
|11.18.15 at 6:37 am ET|
Rob Bradford, John Tomase and Mike Mutnansky gathered together in the WEEI studios Tuesday night to discuss all the Hot Stove news of the week, most notably David Ortiz‘s impending retirement. The guys also talked Craig Kimbrel, free agents starters and everything else Red Sox offseason in Week 3 of the Hot Stove Show.
|11.17.15 at 1:01 pm ET|
Ortiz will turn 40 years old Wednesday (tomorrow) and next year will be his 20th year in the league.
The designated hitter’s contract kicked in for the 2016 season after he reached 425 plate appearances in 2015, which was part of the vesting option he signed back in 2014 when he signed his last contact. There was also a vesting option for 2017 based on 2016 plate appearances, but if the report is true, that will not come into play.
For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
|11.17.15 at 10:20 am ET|
Join WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford for another Hot Stove live chat, starting at noon Tuesday. Ask questions and discuss all things Red Sox offseason (and anything else on your mind) leading into Tuesday night’s Hot Stove Show, which airs at 9 p.m. on WEEI. This week’s guest on the show will be Red Sox manager John Farrell.
|11.16.15 at 7:42 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the free agent lefty is expected to sign with a team this week. It is not expected the Red Sox will be a candidate for Hill’s services.
Hill became one of the more intriguing starting pitchers on the free agent market thanks to his late-season performance with the Red Sox. In his four starts, he allowed runs in just two of his 29 innings, resulting in a 1.55 ERA. The 35-year-old also struck out 36 while walking just five.
During the three-week span, Hill was second only to Washington’s Stephen Strasburg in terms of runs allowed. Immediately after Hill on the ERA list over the September stretch? Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. It’s a group of five pitchers who made up the top four highest-paid pitchers in the game, and another (Cole) who ultimately would join the elite club.
Hill faced all American League East teams with the Red Sox, going up against Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Orioles, whom he pitched a complete game, two-hitter against.
“I’ve never spoke like this before in the past because for me to be humble is extremely important. But in this part of the game you have to go out and stand up for yourself and that’s something I’m looking forward to doing in the offseason,” Hill told WEEI.com after his last start of the 2015 season, at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s confidence. It’s going out there and saying, ‘I can pitch for anybody, against anybody, anytime, anywhere.’ I feel very [full of conviction].”
The most Hill has ever made in one season is $1 million, when he inked a minor-league deal with the Indians in 2013.
Hill was signed by the Red Sox after trying out in his hometown of Milton. He would go on to start for the Independent League Long Island Ducks, where the 11-year big leaguer experienced success as a starter after moving to the third base side of the pitching rubber, while also altering his arm angle.
“I’m looking forward to it,” the pitcher regarding the offseason after his final 2015 start. “It’s just that body of work. You can’t look at that and deny what’s going on. Anybody in baseball who knows the game, if you’re looking at it you have to acknowledge there’s a lot there. I think for me, I have to be a proponent of myself and go out there and continue to fight off the field as much as I did off the field.
“The four games I pitched aren’t four games you look at and say, ‘That was just dumb luck.’ I faced the best hitters in the American League, and doing it in the American League East is something that can’t be denied.”
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