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Red Sox watched Yoan Moncada under armed guards

02.23.15 at 9:17 am ET
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It’s safe to say there’s never quite been a case like Cuban free agent infielder Yoan Moncada, whom the Red Sox worked out privately last week, according to a source, before agreeing on Monday to a deal that will pay the 19-year-old Cuban star a signing bonus of just over $30 million.

General manager Ben Cherington met with James Hastings, the Florida CPA acting as Moncada’s agent, at the workout. According to a source, Cherington also met with Hastings last week.

Prior to that encounter, the Red Sox were one of the teams to watch Moncada’s showcase in Guatemala, an event that included armed guards hired by Hastings to keep away rival agents, according to a source.

Red Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero and senior VP of player personnel Allard Baird were the point men on the pursuit of Moncada, who was not eligible to sign a big league deal because he’s a teen with fewer than five years experience in Cuba’s professional league. Because the Red Sox will owe MLB the equivalent of his signing bonus, Moncada’s price didn’t soar like it could have had he been a true free agent, in which case the bidding could’ve surpassed $100 million.

Red Sox land heralded Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada

02.23.15 at 9:07 am ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Yoan Moncada Sweepstakes are over, and the Red Sox have won.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox snared the 19-year-old infielder with a bonus in the range of $30 million, beating out the Yankees for the prized prospect’s services. News of the deal was first reported by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

The move makes sense, because the Red Sox have already blown past their international bonus pool allotment for 2014, and this was their last chance to spend big before being limited to $300,000 bonuses for each of the next two years.

Whatever bonus Moncada ultimately receives, the Red Sox will owe that amount to MLB as a penalty, thereby doubling the cost of acquisition.

So what kind of player are the Red Sox getting? Moncada is considered one of the better talents to come out of Cuba, with one rival executive comparing the 6-2, 205-pounder to a high first round pick. The Red Sox, according to the New York Post, used Cuban legend Luis Tiant to woo Moncada. The Yankees countered with a renowned countryman of their own in Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.

Opinion is split on what position he’ll end up playing –€“ probably second or third — but he is expected to progress through the minors relatively quickly.

He’s the final jewel in a strong international class for the Red Sox. The Red Sox have already spent $1.8 million on Venezuelan pitcher Anderson Espinosa and $1.5 million on Dominican hurler Christopher Acosta, two of the best pitchers available. Moncada gives them one of the top position players on the market.

Manager John Farrell said he was aware of the reports Monday of the Moncada signing but could not officially comment.

“There’s really nothing to fill you in on,” Farrell said. “I’m aware of the reports and the story that’s been broken but there’s nothing official to announce. I know Ben and ownership will be talking [to media] over the coming days but as of now, there’s really nothing else to say about it.

“I can’t speak to the pursuit of this individual case but I think it’s clear that we’re trying to find the best available talent, wherever that comes from, whether that’s amateur to trades to free agency, that’s an ongoing pursuit for every organization. I think it shows that some of the signings over the offseason clearly have indicated the commitment by our ownership to bring in the best available talent.”

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Allen Craig not concerning himself with trade rumors

02.22.15 at 10:42 am ET
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Allen Craig

Allen Craig

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Allen Craig is a man without a job, but he’s determined to make the best of it at Red Sox camp.

The outfielder/first baseman is a prime candidate to be traded before Opening Day, thanks to a logjam at the positions he plays.

“I think that everybody knows where things are at,” Craig said. “I’m going to come in and compete for playing time and just play my game. That’s all I can do. If my name is in the lineup card, I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can, be a good teammate, and do the best I can.”

The idea of Craig being expendable would’ve been unthinkable just two years ago. He was coming off a season that saw him smash a career-high 22 homers with 92 RBIs with the Cardinals. He then went out and made the 2013 All-Star team before left foot/ankle injuries derailed his career.

He hit just .128 with the Red Sox last year and is no better than sixth on the outfield depth chart, behind Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Daniel Nava.

“I believe I’m an everyday player, but I’m here to compete and be a good teammate and just play the game whenever my name is in the lineup card,” Craig said. “That’s all I can do. I know I have a lot to prove. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Craig at least believes he’s healthy after an offseason that featured a more normal workout schedule.

“It was night and day,” he said. “I had a lot of time. I went into the offseason with a pretty good plan of what I wanted to do as far as physically getting ready for the season, mechanically working on some things. It was a really productive offseason. I’€™m just looking forward to getting here and playing games.”

Craig isn’t afraid of competition.

“That’€™s when teams are at their best, when there’€™s a lot of guys competing for playing time,” he said. “I think it’€™s going to be good for everybody. It’€™s going to be good for this team. I’€™m pretty confident that the best players are going to play. That’€™s the way it’€™s going to be, and I’€™m going to go out there and do the best that I can.”

Craig said he wants to be here ‘€“ “You look around the clubhouse, guys that have accomplished a lot of things, World Series champions, MVPs, All-Stars, it’€™s definitely something you want to be a part of,” he noted — and isn’t worrying about the possibility of being traded.

“That’€™s not something that I really think about,” he said. “I’€™m focused on where I’€™m at right now. I’€™m wearing the Red Sox uniform. That’€™s where I want to be. That’€™s what I’€™m focused on, just being a good teammate and competing and playing hard when my name is in the lineup.”

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Morning Fort: Why Quintin Berry chose to jump into baseball’s most crowded outfield; starters address ‘ace’ issue; Malcolm Butler influence

02.22.15 at 10:21 am ET
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Quintin Berry is returning to the team with which he won a championship in 2013. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Quintin Berry is returning to the team with which he won a championship in 2013. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — You remember Quintin Bery, the outfielder the Red Sox acquired to offer a pinch-running threat throughout the 2013 postseason. Well, he’s back.

His previous stop with the Red Sox made a whole bunch of sense, with the speedster going 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts (including 3-for-3 in the postseason) after being acquired from Kansas City on Aug. 27, 2013. He was billed as the next Dave Roberts — the man whose stolen base in the 2004 ALCS will go down as one of the franchise’s signature moments — and Berry didn’t disappoint.

“I saw [Roberts] when he threw out a first pitch,” Berry remembered. “I told him, ‘You don’t really know this, but you got me a job.’ ”

A fit with the Red Sox wouldn’t have even been out of the question last year with some uncertainty in John Farrell‘s outfield. But Berry ultimately signed with the Orioles, where he played in just 10 major league games.

This time, it’s worth asking the question: Why?

The Red Sox have one of the deepest, most complicated outfield depth charts in baseball. Currently ahead of the 30-year-old Berry are Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Jackie Bradley.

Yet, when it came down to making a decision, Berry chose to take the Red Sox‘ offer to return on a minor-league deal.

“The thing about it is that you have to compete wherever you go,” said Berry, who hit .285 while going 25-for-31 on stolen base attempts at Triple-A Norfolk last season. “Everywhere you go you’€™re going to be fighting the numbers and you’€™re going to be fighting the players. Because of this team and the relationship I had with the coaching staff, the way they treated me and took care of me, I really wanted to get an opportunity to get back here no matter was in front of me.”

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Trying to predict Red Sox roster? Remember Mitchell Boggs

02.22.15 at 7:52 am ET
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Mitchell Boggs

Mitchell Boggs

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Looking for a sleeper at Red Sox camp? You might want to put Mitchell Boggs on your radar.

Yes, we’re talking a relief pitcher who isn’t even on the 40-man roster, entering spring training riding a minor-league deal. (Boggs can opt-out of his contract if he isn’t on the big league club by April 4.)

Still, connecting the dots as to why the big righty might actually have a chance to not only make the team, but ultimately present a valuable piece of the Red Sox‘ bullpen puzzle, isn’t difficult.

We have to start with this fact: Boggs has been not good the past two seasons. That is why he had to settle for the minor-league deal. The 31-year-old pitched in a combined 27 games with St. Louis and Colorado in 2013, totaling an 8.10 ERA in 27 games. Last season, he also struggled, this time in the White Sox and Giants‘ minor league systems, finishing with 8.29 ERA in 37 appearances.

So, why the optimism?

In this case the cause for the downturn seemingly can be fairly easily identified. Ever since participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Boggs had been pitching with a hernia that progressively got worse all the way up until the decision to undergo surgery last October.

“It was something that started off as minor, but as time went on it got worse and worse,” the affable former college quarterback said Saturday. “It wasn’t anything that was debilitating. I could still go out there and pitch. It just took its toll on me. I compromised a lot of things and I paid the price for it.”

The reason Boggs initially attempted to push aside the discomfort was because St. Louis had identified him as their closer to begin the ’13 season. He earned the right to close games after dominating in ’12, finishing with a 2.21 ERA in 78 appearances with the Cardinals, leading the National League in holds.

That stretch as game-ender, however, turned out to be disastrous, with the reliever ultimately being sent to the minors while carrying a 12.66 ERA.

“It was just kind of gradual,” Boggs said. “I felt like it was something I could pitch through, and then when I became closer there was no way I was going to lay on the surgery table when I got the job I wanted my entire career. It was a perfect storm of bad situations, and I paid the price for it. I think I’ve learned from it. I’ve got a new opportunity here and I think I can take advantage of it.”

Now that he’s free and clear of the pain, Boggs can definitively identify how the injury altered his approach.

“I could tell it was affecting the way I delivered the baseball. It changed a lot of little things and caused some discomfort,” he said. “At this level, when the little details change your sinker won’t be as heavy, or your slider won’t be as sharp. It makes a big difference. Then last year it really made a difference. I decided that I needed the surgery to fix some things or I wasn’t going to have many opportunities. But I feel really good now.

“I had felt like it had been hindering me pretty much all year and I got it done in October. It was something I had pitched with, so I continued to pitch with it. But at the end of the year I knew if I was going to get back at the level I expect myself to be at, the level I had been at for a long time, I needed to get it done. I could have kept pitching with it but I don’t think I would have ever fully gotten back to the guy I can be. So I made that decision to get it done.

“Nothing changed in between 2012 and 2013 except that. My arm was fine. I just had no explosiveness.”

The Red Sox were sold.

“They communicated with me early in the offseason that it was a major league-type opportunity,” Boggs explained. “It wasn’t depth for the entire year. It was a situation where they wanted me to come in and compete and try to make this team. That’s what I care about. Obviously the expectations here, the fan base and what this organization expects to compete for each year, that’s something excites me and something I became accustomed to with the Cardinals. I feel like it’s a natural fit. I’m excited about it, for sure.”

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Shane Victorino has unique perspective on Cole Hamels’ situation

02.21.15 at 5:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The much-anticipated Cole Hamels press conference Saturday wasn’t exactly what some had banked on.

After telling USA Today earlier in the week that he would like to be traded to a team that compete, not viewing his current club, the Phillies, as one of those clubs, Hamels backed off his proclamation in the presser in Clearwater.

“You can’t count us out,” Hamels said, going on to explain the USA Today quotes were a continuation from a January interview. When asked if he still wanted to move on, his response was, “I’m a Phillie.”

Shane Victorino, for one, wouldn’t mind terribly if that changed.

“Do I take that lefty? Hands down,” the Red Sox (and former Phillies) outfielder said.

When asked if he would support acquiring such an acquisition if asked by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Victorino added, “I’ll text him myself, ahead of time. But it’s easier said than done. There’s a bigger picture an organization has to look at.

“We have a whole spring training ahead of us to decide things. What if the five we have now, which I’ll take every day, go out and dominate spring training. Then we don’t need something. Would it be good to have another dominating arm? Of course. But don’t count these guys out, either. And I hope they use the motivation of, ‘You think we need to get Cole Hamels?’ No, no, no. I’ll take those guys as bona fide number ones, too. It is what it is. I love Cole and I’ll take him any day on my team, but I’ll take the five we’ve got now if they can get back to where they were, and I think they can.”

The Red Sox have shown interest in Hamels, but the Phillies are clinging to their ace and asking for more than the Sox (or any other team) are willing to give up.

Other than risking injury, there wouldn’t appear to be any urgency to deal Hamels considering he still has four year (at $90 million) with a $20 million fifth-year club option on his current deal. Even if the Phillies weren’t to contend this year, they might need such a top-of-the-rotation talent sooner than later.

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Ben Cherington wants John Farrell managing Red Sox ‘for a long time’

02.21.15 at 2:12 pm ET
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His work done after a hectic offseason that saw the roster overhauled, Ben Cherington had but one wish entering spring training — get manager John Farrell signed to an extension.

“We almost made it,” Cherington said. “First day of camp.”

The Red Sox don’t mind the extra day after getting what they wanted on Saturday by announcing a contract extension with Farrell that will keep him in Boston beyond the 2015 season, the last one on his original three-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.

“There’s no question in our mind that John is the right man to manage this team,” Cherington said. “We want and expect him to be here for a long time. … This just gets the question out of the way going into the season and allows us to focus on baseball.”

With a World Series and last-place finish on his resume, Farrell’s future may have seemed up in the air, but within the walls of Yawkey Way, there was little doubt.

“I think you guys know there’s a lot that goes into a manager’s job in Boston,” Cherington said. “What happens between innings 1 and 9 is just a very small part of it. John has the ability and is one of the few guys that has the ability, we think, to thrive and excel in everything that comes along with being a manager in Boston. It’s just very clear to us that he’s the right guy. We want to be working together as a group and with him for a long time.”

Farrell was understandably thrilled.

“Well, first and foremost, I’m ecstatic to have the extension, to be able to work alongside Ben and Mike [Hazen] and many others in our front office,” Farrell said. “This is a very special place.”

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Pablo Sandoval challenges photographer to workout

02.21.15 at 1:31 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval (WEEI.com photo)

Pablo Sandoval (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Pablo Sandoval clearly is paying attention to the early buzz of camp — the conversation regarding his weight.

Talking with the media following the first official day for pitchers and catchers at JetBlue Park, Sandoval responded to the buzz that followed the circulation of some unflattering images.

“I’€™m ready. I’€™ve been working out,” he said. “Everybody’€™s posting pictures of me. I don’€™t care.”

Regarding the photos, Sandoval added, “I love them. I’€™m making fun of it. I’€™ve put other pictures out there making fun of it (see below) because I want [the photographer of the aforementioned photos] to spend one day with me to see how hard I work. So I’€™m ready.”

(Note: On his way out of the clubhouse, Sandoval reiterated the invitation to Boston.com’€™s Steve Silva, who took the pictures in question, to join the player in a workout. Silva said later that he told Red Sox PR he would accept the challenge.)

According to Sandoval, the out-of-the-gate controversy as a member of the Red Sox isn’€™t consuming the third baseman, who hit with a batting practice group that included Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Napoli.

“Every single day, in and out. Bad days. Good days. You have to be happy,” Sandoval said. “Nothing you can lose out there.

“I love it. Motivate me to work hard and show up and keep his mouth shut. That’€™s what I do.”

Red Sox extend John Farrell through 2017, with option for ’18

02.21.15 at 10:35 am ET
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John Farrell is ready for his third spring training as Red Sox manager. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

John Farrell is ready for his third spring training as Red Sox manager. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell has job security with the Red Sox for the next three seasons.

The team and its manager finalized an agreement Saturday that will extend the 52-year-old manager through the 2017 season, with a club option for 2018. Farrell was in the final guaranteed year of his contract, which included an option for 2016.

General Manager Ben Cherington made the announcement through a club press release on Saturday morning as the team was conducting its first pitchers and catchers workout of spring training.

Over his first two seasons with Boston, Farrell has led the club to a combined 168-156 (.519) record and the 2013 World Series Championship. In 2013, he became just the sixth skipper to win a World Series with Boston, and only the fourth to do it in his first year at the helm. Farrell took over for Bobby Valentine in Oct. 2012 and was hired as the 46th manager in team history.

The last time a Red Sox manager was in this position was 2011, when Terry Francona entered the last year of his contract without an extension. His 2012 option was declined by the organization and he was fired after the team collapsed in September.

Farrell, Francona’s pitching coach from 2007-10, finished second in 2013 AL Manager of the Year voting and was named AL Manager of the Year by the Sporting News after guiding Boston to a 97-65 record, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best mark in baseball. The Red Sox took first place in the AL East and went on to win 11 of 16 postseason games in securing the Fall Classic.

Last season, he saw 55 players and 19 rookies contribute to the Red Sox, both his most as a manager as the club finished fifth in the division at 71-91 (.438). He piloted the AL to a 5-3 win over the National League in the 2014 All-Star Game at Minnesota’€™s Target Field.

In four years as a major league manager for the Blue Jays (2011-12) and Red Sox (2013-14), Farrell has a career record of 322-326 (.497). Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Fort: Dustin Pedroia arrives healthy, proclaims ‘everyone’s fired up and ready to go’

02.21.15 at 9:52 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia is ready to return to full strength after two injury-plagued seasons. (Getty Images)

Dustin Pedroia is ready to return to full strength after two injury-plagued seasons. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia has had enough of hand surgeries. He’s also had enough of last place finishes.

He and the Red Sox have proven the ability to overcome both over the last two seasons. He’s hoping to repeat the comeback story again in 2015.

Last September, Pedroia had season-ending surgery on his left wrist to relieve tendon pressure and remove scar tissue buildup. In Nov. 2013, after helping the Red Sox to a World Series title, the second baseman had UCL surgery on his left thumb. Pedroia suffered an initial thumb injury on a head-first slide into first base on opening day at Yankee Stadium in 2013. In last year’s home opener against the Brewers, Pedroia slid head-first into second base and re-injured the hand.

Pedroia said Saturday morning upon arriving at JetBlue Park that he’s all set and ready to go, with no restrictions.

“Yeah, I feel great,” Pedroia said. “I’m ready to go. I’m excited. It’s fun. Getting back to work. It’s a new year. Everyone’s excited so it should be fun.”

As for his offseason?

“Lifted weights. Got ready, man,” Pedroia said. “Same as every other offseason except the last couple I’ve had to deal with surgeries and stuff. I got this one done quick so I was able to have a normal offseason of lifting weights and conditioning and all that stuff. I’m ready to go.”

As for his team, Pedroia is well aware of the worst-to-first-to-worst trend from 2012 through 2014. Now, with a rebuilt starting rotation and the additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, there are great expectations again after a 71-91 finish last year. And Pedroia shares that optimism.

“Yeah, we’ve obviously done it before. But you have to take it one day [at a time]. We have to worry about today’s practice and go out there and try to get better today,” Pedroia said. “You can’t look at the big picture. If you do the right things every day, at the end you’ll be where you’re at.

“We made a lot of great moves. Obviously, we have a very talented group. It’s our job to form it together and play together. Everyone’s excited and ready to play baseball. It was kind of a long winter. Everyone’s fired up and ready to go.” Read the rest of this entry »

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