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Hanley Ramirez holds court on David Ortiz and Red Sox: ‘David, he left everything here’

02.16.17 at 11:24 am ET
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Hanley Ramirez meets the media at the start of spring training on Thursday. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com)

Hanley Ramirez meets the media at the start of spring training on Thursday. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hanley Ramirez misses David Ortiz, but he’s determined to honor the memory of his former teammate.

Making his first appearance of the spring at JetBlue Park, a muscular and fit Ramirez paid tribute to Ortiz while also making it clear the Red Sox must forge their own identity without him.

“I think David, what we did last year was really, really, really nice,” Ramirez said. “But we don’t have the championship. We’re here to win championships and we still have that bad taste in our throat. This year we’re going to go harder even more. Because we want to get the job done. David, he left everything here. We’re just going to keep grinding and let everybody know David was a winner, great teammate who kept everybody together and we’re going to do the same thing.”

For more on Ortiz, and why Ramirez says, “he’s my everything,” check out this story.

Meanwhile, Ramirez touched on a number of other subjects.

— On Pablo Sandoval: “Like I told him, out of five, six games, I just need two good games out of him, at least. We’ve just got to build his confidence back, let him know we got his back, we need him to win. We’re going to need him.”

— On advice Ortiz gave him about DHing for most of the season: “Do you really want to know what he told me? Someday you’re going to get crazy because all you can do is hit and when things are not going good, what can you do? You just go out there and try not to think about it until your next at-bat. Honestly he told me at first it’s going to be a little hard because when you can play defense you can help the team in two ways. But DH it’s pretty much just offense but I’ve just got to find a way to separate between those at-bats and cheer from the dugout.”

— On the team’s young stars, including Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts: “It’s unbelievable how good our young guys are. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen something like it. Everyone has a routine. As soon as they go into the clubhouse, they’re doing something. They’re in the cage, they’re lifting. Everybody — Jackie, Bogey, Mookie, Benintendi. For us, it makes it easy in those moments. When we really need somebody [like Ortiz] is when we’re going through tough times. We need that guy to step it out and talk and let us know to keep our heads up.”

Read More: David Ortiz, hanley ramirez, he's my everything, Red Sox

Minus David Ortiz, Red Sox plan new approach to beating shift — more bunting

02.15.17 at 2:04 pm ET
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John Farrell

John Farrell

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With defensive shifts becoming so common they’re even used against pull-happy No. 9 hitters, the Red Sox plan to alter their offensive approach to beat them by going old-school and bunting.

Per Baseball Info Solutions, the Red Sox faced over 1,300 defensive shifts last year, seventh most in baseball. Almost a quarter of them (408) came against retired slugger David Ortiz, but he wasn’t alone. Jackie Bradley (224) was also shifted frequently, for instance, and manager John Farrell would like to see the team’s approach to such situations evolve.

“One of the things that we’ve really seen is that even with guys coming in the first part of their career, guys are really starting to get shifted against when we’re on offense,” Farrell said. “We’ve got some things that we’ll look to do to hopefully take back some of those lanes that are otherwise shifted away from. That’s just becoming more prevalent around the game. The bat-handlers that can work the ball the other way, or who are the guys that can more readily drop a bunt down to take advantage of that shift, that’s one thing that we’ll look to do more of.”

Before the stats-minded start howling reflexively about the evils of bunting, let’s make one thing clear — Farrell is talking about bunting for hits, not outs. The Red Sox recorded only eight sacrifices last year, and that approach is unlikely to change.

But it only makes sense that if the defense gives a hitter like Bradley the entire left side of the infield, a bunt in the vicinity of third base could equal a baserunner. That’s a shift in philosophy from Ortiz, who generally chose to swing away into the teeth of the shift for fear of costing himself and the team an extra-base possibility.

“The opposition may say, ‘Well, we’re fortunate we got a bunt so it’s working and we’re taking him out of his power swing,'” Farrell said. “But we’re seeing teams shift on guys that aren’t your prototypical power hitters. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit 25 [homers], but that’s kind of a breakthrough year for him. He’s a guy that, to me, we can look to take advantage of and work against the shift to hopefully open things back up for him.

“You’re seeing the shift on the bottom third of the order type hitters as well. So when it makes most sense, leading off an inning, late in a game when we’ve got to get something started, that’s the opportune time.”

Read More: David Ortiz, jackie bradley jr., John Farrell, Red Sox bunting

Xander Bogaerts believes playing in the World Baseball Classic could once again be a good omen for Red Sox

02.15.17 at 10:50 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts hopes the WBC pays off in 2017 like it did in 2013. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts hopes the WBC pays off in 2017 like it did in 2013. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — On the surface, Xander Bogaerts’ decision to play in the World Baseball Classic appears questionable.

Bogaerts began wearing down towards the end of the first half last year and never stopped. His OPS dropped over 130 points from the first half (.863) to the second (.729), and he ended the year on fumes, hitting just .230 after Aug. 1 while playing a career-high 157 games.

So why travel halfway around the world to Korea to play for the Netherlands in the first round of the WBC next month? Because last time it worked out pretty well for Bogaerts and the Red Sox.

“Probably the main reason is in 2013, we won it all,” Bogaerts said of the surprising World Series title that ended that season. “I went there and I played. Hopefully we can have the same results this year. Those guys I grew up playing with, playing against all the time now, because I’m from Aruba, they’re from Curacao,  we always used to play against each other. This is a chance I could play with them now on a team and hopefully make it far for our country.”

Bogaerts was just a kid in 2013 and the WBC opened his eyes.

“It helped me, to be honest, in 2013 because I never played in a big crowd,” he said. “I remember playing in Japan in the Tokyo Dome. It was so packed. You could barely hear the guy next to you because all the fans were so loud, especially when you are playing the home team. It’s going to help you because of that crowd, the way you can learn how to dominate it or play through it, it will help you.”

Bogaerts also believes playing competitively early in camp could help him lock in his swing. He expects to leave Red Sox camp in about two weeks.

“I mean, I always have issues with my timing, regardless of whether I stay here or go there,” he said. “I always have a time before I get going. That’s always the way I’ve been. I tend not to stress too much on that because I kind of know myself by now. I think to get going quicker this year would definitely help us reach pretty far over there.”

With David Ortiz gone, Bogaerts said his goal is to steal more bases. As for the team, it’s no surprise that he hopes to surpass last year’s first-round playoff ouster.

“[Management] want us to go out there and be the best,” he said. “They want us always to have a chance in our division, go on, and go deep into the playoffs. Winning is always No. 1 here. That’s always how it’s been since I’ve been in this organization.

“Reaching [the playoffs] is not even easy. There are a lot of good teams out there. It’s not something easy to do, or something you can do annually. I mean, the Patriots do it, but they’re football. I’m just going to go out there and compete and trust ourselves and our coaching staff and the guys that are in here and enjoy the moment, because it doesn’t come often.”

Read More: Red Sox, WBC, world baseball classic, xander bogaerts

Eduardo Rodriguez set to return to mound; Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz not far behind

02.14.17 at 4:12 pm ET
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John Farrell

John Farrell

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Perhaps some clarity is coming to the back of the Red Sox rotation.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, and Drew Pomeranz now know when they’ll each take the mound after starting spring training slightly behind the other starters.

Rodriguez, who injured his knee during winter ball, will throw off a mound on Wednesday, manager John Farrell said. He was held out of pitcher fielding drills on Tuesday so he could do more agility work.

“There’s three guys in particular that this first five or six days on the field, we’ve got some specialized routines for them individually,” Farrell said. “He’s one of them, along with Drew and Steven Wright. But he’ll be on the mound tomorrow.”

Rodriguez said he “feels great” and doesn’t need a brace on his leg. “I feel fine,” he said. “My knee is fine. I’ve just got to work with them, go inside, and do the best I can do.”

That leaves Wright (shoulder) and Pomeranz (elbow). Each is scheduled to take the mound for the first time on Monday.

“Yesterday was an aggressive throwing day for Steven,” Farrell said. “He came out of it in good shape. Felt no ill effects today. Even though they’re taking another week of ground-based stuff as well as building some arm strength without getting on the mound, their progression is solid.”

Wright spent the winter rehabbing from a shoulder injury he suffered when diving back into second base as a pinch runner in Los Angeles last August. He told WEEI.com on Tuesday that he’s keeping a positive attitude.

Pomeranz, meanwhile, received an stem cell injection in his elbow over the winter.

 

Read More: Drew Pomeranz, E-Rod, eduardo rodriguez, Red Sox

Chris Sale comes from a long line of skinny people, including a grandfather nicknamed ‘Streamlined’

02.14.17 at 1:27 pm ET
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Chris Sale

Chris Sale

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale is listed at 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, and the second number might be high.

So how did the new Red Sox ace get so thin? Genetics.

Speaking to reporters for the first time at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, Sale shared a bit of his family history, which is littered with beanpoles.

“[Eduardo] Rodriguez just asked me, ‘How was the food?'” Sale said. “I was like, ‘I’m not skinny because I don’t eat.’ I come from a long line of skinny people. My dad, when he got married, he was under a size-30 waist. My grandfather’s nickname was ‘Streamlined.’ He was a swimmer. Tall, skinny guys for days. My dad I think is 6-3, my grandfather was 6-4, both my grandfathers are 6-4, 6-5, all my uncles. I think my shortest uncle is like 6-2.”

Sale may be built like a wispy small forward, but there’s nothing slight about his game He went 17-1o with a 3.34 ERA last year and league-leading six complete games.

His length helps him bedevil hitters, thanks to a cross-body delivery that makes him destructive on left-handers in particular.

And for that, he’s got his ancestors to thank.

“We’ve got tall, skinny guys all over the place,” Sale said.

Read More: eduardo rodriguez, Red Sox,

So, you believe very little can be learned in spring training? Think again

02.14.17 at 10:08 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr., Chris Young, Andrew Benintendi get their running in. (Jason Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley Jr., Chris Young, Andrew Benintendi get their running in. (Jason Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

“I don’t want to create another one of these football vs. baseball thing, but you learn very little in spring training. Very little. Because when the guys are hitting, you don’t know who’s pitching. You don’t know who’s on the other team at the time.” — Glenn Ordway on OMF, Monday morning.

Actually …

I heard this a lot last year. The “you learn very little in spring training” narrative. So, since it’s the first official day of spring training, I figured it was a good time to address the subject.

What Glenn is talking about is basing his nothing to see here argument on is the hitters’ production during March. Pitchers are often times prioritizing their fourth pitch, while some hurlers who are giving up these hits won’t even be in the major leagues for a single day in 2017.

And sometimes the same goes for hitters. They’re just easing into things. Just ask David Ortiz.

But to say there is nothing to take away from spring training these exhibition? Wrong.

The numbers and production obviously don’t always translate. That’s true. Especially for pitchers. But one look at last year’s spring training and you’ll find plenty of examples where Grapefruit League momentum made a difference when the games started counting.

Travis Shaw won a job after hitting .417 with a 1.147 OPS in spring training. For the first two months of real baseball, he went on to hit .292 with an .866 OPS as the starting third baseman.

Jackie Bradley Jr. Hanley Ramirez. Both needed a springboard to hurdle uncertainty heading into the regular season and used the games in Southwest Florida to make their jumps. Confidence. Altered batting stances. The numbers were really good, but it became clear after continuously watching that group of players that this had become an important 50-or-so days.

Perhaps the best argument against the suggestion this spring training is an ineffective way to form regular season opinions involves Ramirez. Over and over and over again, the consensus north of the Mason-Dixon was that Ramirez wouldn’t be able to handle playing first base. And when anybody covering spring training suggested he might be able to manage at the position, the ridicule and eye-rolling was quick to follow.

But anybody who witnessed Ramirez on a day to day basis up until April could see this was probably going to work. Looking back, that seemed like a productive exercise.

And for those who suggest that spring training didn’t do it’s job when trying to figure out if Hanley could handle left field the previous year, understand that actually also offered some insight into how important the exhibition games can be. There were probably four balls hit Ramirez’s way throughout that Grapefruit League schedule, highlighting the importance that March is important to figure out what will work and what won’t.

You could watch Pablo Sandoval last March and see that his lack of conditioning was effecting his fielding. And during that run, it was also evident that Travis Shaw might be able to handle his new position better than anybody thought possible.

There are other examples.

Take last season’s spring training home run champ, Philadelphia’s Maikel Franco. The third baseman followed up his nine-homer Grapefruit League season with 25 home runs in the regular season in first full regular season. The year before it was Kris Bryant who went deep more than any other spring training hitter on the way to his Rookie of the Year season. My opinion? There is something to be said for entering the real games with some sort of swagger.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to ignore when it comes to spring training.

Cesar Crespo made the Red Sox in 2004 after leading the Grapefruit League in walks. That led to his last 79 big league plate appearances, during which he didn’t draw a single free pass.

Once again, pitchers’ performances are almost always meaningless. Remember the excitement of Allen Webster throwing 99 mph? Or how bad Keith Foulke was before storming into his memorable 2004 season?

But to suggest this entire exercise is useless? Nope. And besides, those palm trees aren’t going to sit underneath themselves.

LISTEN TO GLENN ORDWAY, CHRISTIAN FAURIA, LOU MERLONI TALK ABOUT THE MERITS OF SPRING TRAINING

Dave Dombrowski: Red Sox ‘never came close’ to trading Andrew Benintendi for Chris Sale

02.13.17 at 3:32 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Andrew Benintendi never had anything to worry about this offseason. He wasn’t going anywhere.

When the Chris Sale trade went down in December, Benintendi was eating at a Subway in St. Louis with a college teammate. He briefly wondered if he was part of the deal, and his agent texted him to say that he’d have an answer within two minutes.

The answer was no, Dombrowski made clear on Monday afternoon, because it was always going to be no.

“Well, we were never planning on it,” Dombrowski said. “That was not a goal of ours to trade him. We like him a lot. I know we’ve traded a lot of good, young players, but I think it’s important to break young players in. He’s going to be one of the young players to break in the door. We’ll have some other young guys breaking in on a year-in, year-out basis. But our goal was that he really was our left fielder. We never came close to trading him.”

This became a story after Benintendi’s comments earlier in the day were misconstrued. His agent never told him he was almost traded. He was merely saying they’d have an answer within two minutes, when the names of the players involved would be released.

In any event, Dombrowski elaborated on what makes Benintendi special and why it was easier to deal Yoan Moncada (and right-hander Michael Kopech) to Chicago for Sale.

“He’s a very talented individual in many ways,” he said. “The way I looked at it at that perspective, we were looking at him as a starter with our big league club. We looked at him as being our left fielder this year. For me, we had Moncada, who we liked a great deal. But Moncada, we didn’t look at it the same way where we really penciled in to have Benintendi in left field for us. Moncada, we thought, needed some more development. But Benintendi is an all-around player.

“I think he’s got a beautiful swing. He’ll hit with some power. He’ll drive the ball. I don’t know if he’s going to be a big, big power guy but he’ll hit with enough power. He’s a good defensive player. He throws well. Good instincts on the bases. He’s a driven guy, great makeup. So I think he really has the capability to be a fine player for all those reasons.”

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox,

NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy being treated for relapse of lung cancer

02.13.17 at 11:06 am ET
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Jerry Remy

Jerry Remy

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jerry Remy’s lung cancer has returned.

NESN announced on Monday that the popular broadcaster, who is due to start his 30th season in the booth, is being treated for a relapse of the disease.

The 64-year-old was first diagnosed in 2008. The lifelong smoker had a cancerous growth removed that year and missed part of the 2009 season while recovering from depression. He was treated for a relapse in April of 2013, though he didn’t miss time due to illness.

The diagnosis comes just weeks after NESN announced it had extended Remy’s contract.

“I’m very excited and pleased to be able to continue doing the job that I love, now heading into my 30th year and beyond with NESN,” Remy said then in a statement. “I want to thank NESN and the Red Sox for all their support in the past and going forward.”

Remy will address his cancer’s return in an interview with NESN’s Tom Caron that will air at 5:30, 6, and 10 p.m. According to the station, he also plans to stress the importance of periodic screenings and checkups.

Read More: Jerry Remy, NESN, Red Sox,

Dustin Pedroia says he’s completely healed from offseason knee surgery everyone forgot about

02.13.17 at 10:50 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox made the announcement via an October press release, and fans can be forgiven if it slipped their notice — second baseman Dustin Pedroia underwent left knee surgery to repair a meniscus injury.

That’s the last we heard about the injury until Monday, when Pedroia arrived for spring training and declared himself ready to go.

“I did rehab stuff most of the offseason,” Pedroia said. “But you know, I feel great, normal, just like previous years. That’s it. I’m good.”

Pedroia reportedly injured the knee on Sept. 11 against the Blue Jays and his production suffered thereafter, though he only missed one game down the stretch. He hit .238 over his final 18 games before going 2-for-12 in the ALDS loss to the Indians.

Following the season, Dr. Peter Ansis performed a partial medial meniscectomy and chondroplasty.

This season marks a significant change for Pedroia, who turns 34 in August. For the first time since he joined the Red Sox after being drafted in 2004, he’s not sharing a clubhouse with David Ortiz, who retired after a walk-off season for the ages in 2016.

“It’s going to be different,” Pedroia said. “He’s been here every year I’ve been here. We have to just try to find a way to do things to overcome his absence. It’s going to be a team effort to do that and we’ll do it, and put the work in.”

Pedroia doesn’t expect to change in order to fill a leadership void.

“I don’t look at  it any differently than previous years,” he said. “You show up to win every day. That’s what we’re going to try to do. Obviously the guys know if they need anything, they can come to me or anybody. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia surgery, Red Sox spring training,

Andrew Benintendi recalls waiting in Subway to find out if he’d been traded for Chris Sale

02.13.17 at 10:32 am ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Andrew Benintendi was as excited as anyone when the Red Sox acquired left-hander Chris Sale from the White Sox in December.

But first he had to sweat out whether he’d be part of the deal.

Benintendi said on Monday that he was eating in a St. Louis Subway with a college teammate when news of the deal broke. The texts and calls began flooding in, including one from his agent.

“He’s like, ‘You’re either going to go or not in the next two minutes,'” Benintendi said. “I was just like, ‘Well, there’s not much I can do.’ After that two minutes was up, I saw everything on Twitter. People were texting me. Obviously, it was a big move for both sides. I’m excited he’s on our side and I’m not facing him.”

Benintendi, who is about as chill as personality as you’ll meet in a baseball clubhouse, was asked if those were the longest two minutes of his life.

“Nah,” he said with a shrug. “It wasn’t that bad.”

Big things are expected of Benintendi in 2017. ESPN’s Keith Law recently named him the No. 1 prospect in baseball, and he’s the runaway favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award after a knee injury last August ended up preserving his rookie eligibility.

“I don’t think about it at all,” Benintendi said of the hype. “I think that’s all for other people to look at. That’s all talk. I’ve just got to go out and play well. That’s what it comes down to. I don’t pay attention to that and don’t let it get to me.”

Benintendi hit .295 with an .835 OPS last year. He then homered in his first postseason at-bat, though he also didn’t hustle a throw back to the infield in Game 1, allowing catcher Roberto Perez to tag and take second before scoring a pivotal run in a 5-4 loss.

“Obviously coming up was a dream come true of mine,” Benintendi said. “I enjoyed the two months I was up and playing in the playoffs. Looking back, I think I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to this year.”

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale trade, Red Sox,
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