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Ben Cherington: ‘A motivated Shane Victorino out to prove something is a very good thing’

01.22.15 at 4:19 pm ET
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Shane Victorino has clearly been driven throughout this offseason.

The excess of outfielders, along the journey back from back surgery, has pushed the outfielder to make his progress and motivation clear at a variety of turns this offseason. It’€™s a tone the Red Sox evidently don’€™t mind at all.

“I think a motivated Shane Victorino out to prove something is a very good thing, for him and the Red Sox,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Thursday. “So, I’€™m just excited to see him. I think we’€™ll see him later this week. We know what kind of player he is if he’€™s healthy and on the field. He’€™s certainly done all he needs to do this offseason. When it comes to getting baseball reps, that’€™s another level, another element he has to incorporate and getting into the everyday routine of spring training. But he seems anxious, so that’€™s good.”

There was no definitive clarification, however, regarding how the Red Sox’€™ crowded outfield situation was going to take care of itself heading into spring training.

As of now, the Red Sox’€™ outfield consists of five right-handed bats (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig and Victorino), one lefty (Brock Holt), and a switch-hitter who is likely to be used primarily from the left side (Daniel Nava).

“We’€™ll see where we are at the end of spring training,” Cherington said. “I think I’€™d rather have more possibilities than not enough, at least at this point. We’€™ll see how it all comes together. There will certainly be an opportunity for everyone in spring training and we’€™ll see where we are at the end of March.”

As for how Red Sox manager John Farrell plans to use Victorino, Farrell said Thursday the outfielder’€™s health will go a long way in helping make that decision.

“That’s going to be dependent on what his capabilities are from a physical standpoint,” the manager said. “We’re a better team if he’s on the field every day as was the case in 2013. That’s not to take anything away from anyone else on our roster. He’s doing everything he can right now to be a player of that capacity.”

Ben Cherington: ‘We like where we’re at’ with starting pitchers

01.22.15 at 2:38 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Speaking at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner’€™s media availability Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insinuated that no significant alternations would be made the club’€™s current starting rotation.

‘€œWe’€™re pursuing some stuff but I think it’€™s more what you would classify as depth related. That’€™s what we’€™re focused on this minute,’€ Cherington noted.

‘€œThe free agent market has been pricey this winter, obviously. Starting pitchers who perform at the highest level and do so consistently and are relatively young or near their primes, those guys are hard guys to get and they’€™re valuable and they cost a lot, where it’€™s dollars or talent. We’€™re trying to put ourselves in a position where we have that kind of caliber pitching and hopefully we have some of it internally. There’€™s no question the team benefits from having high-end starting pitching performances. It’€™s just the question of what’€™s the best way to get it. We’€™ve looked at all sorts of things, not just this offseason but previously.

‘€œWe like where we’€™re at. We like the collection of pitchers we have. We think there’€™s untapped potential in the group and the collection we have now can give us a strong pitching staff this year.’€

Currently, the Red Sox starting rotation includes Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson.

As for the level of interest the Red Sox might have in the top free agent pitcher still on the market, James Shields, Cherington reiterated that such an acquisition wouldn’€™t be likely.

We did meet with Shields and his agent back at the winter meetings. We met with most agents there, so it’€™s not to single out him. Most agents have several clients so you talk to people all the time. All I can say right now is as far as the starters are concerned, we’€™re really focused on the guys we have. We’€™re pursuing some opportunities maybe on some depth in certain areas, but there’€™s nothing on the front burner that would grab headlines.

Pedro Martinez (not John Smoltz) will be represented with Red Sox hat in Hall of Fame

01.22.15 at 11:52 am ET
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Pedro Martinez (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be wearing a Red Sox hat on his Hall of Fame hat. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

To nobody’s surprise, Pedro Martinez‘ Hall of Fame plaque will show him wearing a Red Sox hat, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Thursday.

Martinez won two of his three Cy Young Awards with the Red Sox, while also helping the Sox to their first world championship in 86 years with the pitcher’s 2004 performance.

“I cannot be any prouder to take Red Sox Nation to the Hall of Fame with the logo on my plaque,” Martinez said in a statement released by the Hall of Fame. “I am extremely proud to represent Boston and all of New England with my Hall of Fame career. I’€™m grateful to all of the teams for which I played, and especially fans, for making this amazing honor come true.”

Martinez played with the Red Sox for seven seasons, while totaling four with Montreal and the Mets. He originally came up in the Dodgers’ organization, where the righty spent two big league seasons. Martinez finished off his career with the Phillies in 2009.

The plaque will be unveiled during the 2015 Hall of Fame class’ induction in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 26.

“The Museum staff works with each inductee by suggesting an appropriate logo option, or no logo at all,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “For those whose most compelling contributions clearly took place with one team, a logo makes sense. For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable. Regardless of the selection, a Hall of Famer belongs to every team for which he played or managed, as well as every fan who followed his career.”

It was also announced that the plaque for John Smoltz (who spent part of the 2009 season with the Red Sox) would feature the pitcher wearing a Braves cap, Randy Johnson is being represented as a member of the Diamondbacks, and Craig Biggio will go in as an Astro.

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Pedro Martinez among honorees at Writers Dinner

01.21.15 at 4:30 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez is one of the leading candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot that was announced Monday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be honored at Thursday’s writers dinner at BU. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pedro Martinez will be the guest of honor at Thursday night’s Boston Baseball Writers Dinner, which will be held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.

Martinez, who was just elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, will receive the Judge Emil Fuchs Award for long and meritorious service to baseball.

One of the most colorful players in Red Sox history, Martinez retired with the third-highest winning percentage in modern history (.687). He won two of his three Cy Young Awards with the Red Sox, and with the exception of an injury-shortened 2001, finished no worse than fourth in any of his seven seasons here.

Other current and former Red Sox expected to be in attendance include infielder Brock Holt, outfielder Mookie Betts, general manager Ben Cherington, and manager John Farrell. Bernie Carbo will be on hand to honor the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Red Sox, who lost a classic World Series to the Reds in seven games.

Also expected to be in attendance are Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter of the Orioles, whom the writers voted their Executive and Manager of the Year, respectively, as well as Marlins closer Steve Cishek, the Falmouth native voted the New England Player of the Year.

Boston is one of just three cities left that holds a Writers Dinner, along with New York and St. Louis. This is the 76th annual edition of the dinner, which is presented in partnership with the Sports Museum. Tickets remain available for $200 and can be purchased by contacting Renee Quinn at (617) 624-1231 or by e-mailing rfraker@dncboston.com.

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Red Sox avoid arbitration with Porcello, Tazawa

01.16.15 at 9:28 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

The Red Sox avoided arbitration with right-handers Rick Porcello and Junichi Tazawa on Friday night and announced that each had agreed to one-year deals.

According to an industry source, Porcello signed for $12.5 million, while Tazawa will be paid $2.25 million.

The Red Sox have two arb-eligible players remaining — outfielder Daniel Nava and left-hander Wade Miley. Miley has requested $4.3 million and the team has countered at $3.4 million, numbers first reported by CBSSports.com.

Porcello earned $8.5 million last year while going 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA. He has won at least 10 games in all six of his big league seasons, and is expected to compete with Clay Buchholz and Miley to be Boston’s starter on opening day.

As for Tazawa, he has emerged as one of the most reliable arms in John Farrell‘s bullpen, a late-innings power arm with excellent command. He went 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA last season.

Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo ready to make their mark

01.16.15 at 3:54 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

For two guys with barely 60 games between them, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo project to play major roles on the 2015 Red Sox.

The two worked out at Harvard on Friday at the team’s rookie development program, though it’s fair to say they were in very different places than the rest of the prospects in attendance.

In Betts, the Red Sox have the player they believe can take the torch from Jacoby Ellsbury and become their leadoff hitter for the next five or 10 years. In Castillo, they boast an athletic center fielder who will likely start the year at the bottom of the batting order, but is more than capable of hitting atop it.

Betts and Castillo represent energy and excitement, two dimensions last year’s team sorely lacked.

“[The Red Sox] will take care of what they need to take care of, which is the Red Sox,”€ Betts told reporters. “They’€™re going to put the winning nine out there. If I’€™m not a part of it, that’€™s fine. I’€™ll be ready and on the bench to go. And if I am, that’€™s great as well.”

As for Castillo, he’s coming off a successful winter ball stint in Puerto Rico, as well as a nice run in the Arizona Fall League, and is raring to get to spring training and begin his big league career in earnest.

“€œIt’s gone really well actually,”€ he said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “€œIt’s helping me build some experience and on top of that, when I got back to Miami after playing in those leagues, I really stepped it up with my preparation and my training so I feel really good going into this season and this spring training.”

Betts hit .291 with an .812 OPS at age 21 in 52 games with the Red Sox last year. Castillo arrived in mid-September and hit .333 with a pair of homers in 10 games.

If they make an impact in 2015, the Red Sox will be in business.

“The first thing that stands out about playing in Boston is the difference in the size of the crowds, playing in front of tens of thousands of people is an obvious difference,” Castillo said. “But I guess I was able, especially towards the end of my stint, I was able to do well in controlling that and keeping the nerves down and I think that’s something I’ll take to help me out moving forward.”

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Top prospect Blake Swihart preparing to take final step

01.16.15 at 3:20 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart’s time is coming. But he won’t be rushed.

The team’s No. 1 prospect –€“ and one of the top prospects in baseball –€“ is on the cusp of the big leagues. He’s everything a club could want in a developing catcher, a switch hitter with legit power potential, a live arm, and an athletic build that’s reminiscent of Giants MVP Buster Posey.

The Red Sox have resisted including Swihart in deals for established talents like All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels of the Phillies, because they believe he has the chance to be something special.

The 22-year-old has only played 18 games at Triple-A, though, and the Red Sox have learned from the problems that a number of their prospects faced last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Swihart spends most or all of this season in the minors. Quicker isn’t always better.

“That’s always a goal, but no matter where I’m at, I need to just play where I’m at and do what I know I can do,” Swihart told reporters on Friday at Harvard, where he was one of 10 prospects to take part in the team’s rookie development program. “There’s always opportunities. You’ve got to take them in stride and take advantage of them.”

There’s plenty to like about Swihart, who hit .293 with 13 homers and an .810 OPS between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last year. Drafted in the first round as a raw high school talent out of New Mexico in 2011, Swihart has slowly but surely improved while ascending through the minors.

He has grown as a game caller, and last year he threw out an impressive 45.6 percent of opposing base stealers (31 for 68).

“Just the knowledge of catching,” Swihart said when asked how far he had come. “Like you said, I was new when I first came in. Now that I’m more grown into it, I guess you’d say, I’ve developed in overall aspects. I know how to call pitches now. I know how to get chemistry with my other pitchers. That’s what it takes, is get your chemistry going and get your feet wet and now everything’s running smoothly.”

Farm director Ben Crockett knows the team struggled integrating Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts into the lineup last year. Without speaking directly about Swihart, he said the club plans to be sensible about promoting its prospects, while also cautioning against being over-cautious.

‘€œThere were a lot of areas that, organizationally, from our end and on the field, it could be done better,” Crockett said. “We try to learn from that. At the same time, we’re not going to be shy or hesitate to trust the next young player to make an impact and to have an important part on the team.”

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Don’t count on Cole Hamels coming to Red Sox (yet)

01.15.15 at 3:57 pm ET
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Cole Hamels. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Cole Hamels. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Remember a few years ago when Arizona was floating out Justin Upton in the offseason? He was the then-23-year-old, super-talented outfielder who had already put in two full seasons of star-level production.

Upton also had just signed a six-year extension for $51.25 million, making him a reasonable investment all the way through the outfielder’s 2015 season (when he would be 28 years old).

No deal was done, with then-Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers asking for three significant players in return.

Moral of that story: you never know unless you ask.

It sure seems like this is the way things are trending in regards to the Phillies’ approach to trading Cole Hamels.

According to a source familiar with the Phillies’ thinking on the matter, Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro and his club have been “unrealistic in their expectations” in regard to a return on Hamels.

The Red Sox are still are keeping an eye on Hamels’ availability, with a report from CSN Philly stating that the Rangers, Cardinals, Padres and Red Sox are the “primary suitors” for the lefty.

It seems clear the Phillies won’t deal Hamels unless they get the haul they’re looking for, with the pitcher owed $96 million over the next four seasons. If the Red Sox make a move, Hamels would surely ask them to exercise the fifth year option — pushing the deal up to $110 million — since the Sox are on his no-trade list.

Amaro has to hit a home run on this deal, and he knows it. That’s why the asking price. But the caveat to waiting things out is any risk the Phillies run in regards to an injury to the 31-year-old.

Hamels has been sturdy, making at least 30 starts in each of the last seven seasons, but as the Phillies learned in the Cliff Lee situation, such runs can easily come to an abrupt halt.

The Red Sox are also in a position where they can let a more palatable deal come to them, with a collection starters the organization feels comfortable heading into spring training with. There are also a myriad of starters with one year left on their current deals, making the acquisition of such a frontline starter potentially more reasonable closer to the non-waiver trade deadline.

Dustin Pedroia evidently is feeling pretty good: ‘I’m full go’

01.14.15 at 11:28 pm ET
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While John Farrell‘s statement on MLB Network Radio Wednesday offered some enlightenment in regards to the status of the Red Sox‘ second baseman — revealing that Dustin Pedroia had been cleared for baseball activity — for the 31-year-old it was old news.

“If [spring training] started tomorrow, I’€™m ready,” Pedroia said by phone. “I’€™ve got all my strength back. I’€™m lifting like a maniac. I’€™m pretty excited. Last year at this time I couldn’€™t hit yet. It’€™s obvious a lot different offseason this year than last year.

“I’€™m full go. I’€™ve been throwing, hitting, taking some ground balls. I’€™m ready to go. … I’€™m done with the rehab. I haven’€™t missed a beat. I haven’€™t had my strength like normal for few years. I’€™m excited.”

Pedroia has settled into his usual offseason routine. Wednesday it included the usual weight lifting and a visit to his Arizona home’s batting cage to continue his hitting (which he has been participating in since just before Christmas).

This time, the day also included a trip to the store to buy his 5-year-old, Dylan, catchers gear. (“This guy rakes,” Pedroia said of his oldest son’s hitting skills.)

“Every day of my life is pretty good,” he explained.

These days, in this offseason, seem a bit better than years past if no other reason than Pedroia feels back to normal. After undergoing surgery on his left wrist in September, he has given himself enough healing time to hit the ground running come mid-February for the first time in the past few years.

With hand, wrist and foot injuries, Pedroia’s offseasons have been uneven of late. Last year, the Sox’s World Series run, coupled with thumb surgery and early-season injury, had the infielder playing catch-up until ultimately shutting down his season with a month to go.

“It’€™s been a while,” said Pedroia of having a semi-normal offseason. “You go through times you have some injuries, have to have some surgeries, things like that. You just have to prepare the best you can. When we won the World Series I had surgery and there’€™s time you have to rest and recover, so I got a late start and it caught up with me. Now I’€™m full steam ahead. I’€™m ready, I feel strong and there’€™s nothing I’€™ll be thinking about when I get on the field other than winning games.

“I never worry about if this is going to be my best year. Every year I try and come out and win games. As far as I’€™m concerned. I’€™ve had two good years and both years we’€™ve won the World Series. That’€™s what you play for, that’€™s what we all play for and that should be everybody’€™s mindset coming in. If we lose our last game we don’€™t accept that. That’€™s the way I’€™m going to look at it and that’€™s the way all the guys are going to look at it.”

And just in case it wasn’t clear …

“I’€™m ready to go, dude,” Pedroia concluded.

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In shocking development, ESPN picks Red Sox vs. Yankees for early season Sunday night games

01.14.15 at 10:37 am ET
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It’s nice to know some things remain the same when mapping out a baseball season.

In this case, it’s ESPN using the matchups between the Red Sox and Yankees for two of its first five Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.

ESPN released its early season schedule for the broadcast — which will include Curt Schilling this season after the pitcher took last season off due to cancer treatments. It is the following (with all games starting at 8 p.m. ET):

April 5: Cardinals at Cubs (Jon Lester‘s debut with the Cubs)
April 12: Red Sox at Yankees
April 19: Reds at Cardinals
April 26: Mets at Yankees
May 3: Yankees at Red Sox

Of course, when it comes to the Red Sox playing these games, the next question always trends toward what the next day looks like.

As for the April 12 tilt, that will lead into the Red Sox’ home opener, which starts at 3:05 p.m. against the Nationals. The May 3 game in Boston is followed the next day by a night home game against Tampa Bay.

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