|02.22.17 at 12:16 pm ET|
Sure, there was Boston College’s Johnny Ayers hitting a first-pitch double against Daisuke Matsuzaka (having heard the pitcher proclaim he would be throwing a fastball for his first pitch as a Red Sox). That will always be the be-all, end-all spring training debut tale.
But most of the outings are along the line of 2016, when Sean O’Sullivan got the nod.
This year, however, there is something special about the honor of kicking off the exhibition season. At least that’s the case for Brian Johnson.
The lefty was informed Tuesday that he will be getting the nod to start against Northeastern Thursday.
“Yeah, just because it’s my first time being around each other feeling good. Knowing whether it goes good or bad, I still feel like myself,” said Johnson when asked if this start might be special for him.
Two years ago, spring training was where Johnson truly got on the Red Sox’ major league radar, leaving camp as a legitimate option if one of the chief members of the starting rotation was sidelined. But then came an elbow injury, which ultimately led to an uncomfortable major league debut on July 21, 2015 in Houston (4 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks in 4 1/3 innings).
And, finally, there was the anxiety issues that derailed his season at Triple-A Pawtucket, making him restart his season for nearly two months.
“This all started for me when that elbow injury happened,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know if I should say something. I knew I was on the cusp of getting called up. I have no feeling in my hand. I’m having to change arm slots in terms of knowing where the ball is going in the sense of being able to feel my hand. If you throw one, sometimes it felt like I was hitting my funny bone. I was thinking, ‘Is it going to be numb? What pitch is it going to do it on? Is it going to be in first inning, or the fourth inning?’ I never got comfortable and I always had that in the back of my head. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.
“Without a doubt it’s good to get back on the mound, especially after an up and down year last year. It’s good to get back out there.”
After Johnson pitches two innings, Jamie Callahan will come in for relief against the Huskies. The Red Sox will then send out Henry Owens to pitch the Grapefruit League opener against the Mets Friday at JetBlue Park, followed by Roenis Elias vs. the Twins in another home tilt.
@GoNUathletics: Red Sox lineup: Betts, Bogaerts, Moreland, Young, Sandoval, Travis (DH), Hernandez (2B), Castillo. Vazquez, Johnson (P).
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 22, 2017
|02.22.17 at 9:14 am ET|
— Kirk and Callahan (@KirkAndCallahan) February 22, 2017
It’s apparent that Chris Sale has the right attitude to not just play in Boston, but flourish.
In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Wednesday from Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Florida., the southpaw said he’s unfazed by the pressure that comes with stepping inside Fenway Park on a nightly basis.
“It’s just a bunch of crap,” Sale said. “Working hard, being a good teammate and leaving it all out there when I’m out there. Those are the important things. It’s not this [or] that stat, this year [or] that year, or anything else. It’s about winning games and being a good teammate.”
While it’s been a drama-free camp so far for the Red Sox, Sale caused quite a stir with the White Sox last year. He was involved in a number of controversies, including an incident in which he cut up the team’s throwback jerseys prior to a game in July. Sale also feuded with White Sox management over whether Adam LaRoche’s teenage son would be permitted to hang around the team on a daily basis.
Though those issues may have expedited Sale’s departure from Chicago –– there are two years left on his contract –– he says the media exaggerated them.
“That’s another thing that I think gets blown out of proportion a little bit. I was there for, what, seven years, and there were maybe two or three incidents,” he said. “I think people make it out like we were at the Royal Rumble and boxing gloves were the next step. It was nothing like that, it couldn’t have been further from that. It’s just one of those things when you’re passionate about something and you have drive and you care a lot, stuff like that is going to happen.”
The Red Sox traded two of their top prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and flamethrower Michael Kopech, to acquire Sale this offseason. He says the steep price the Red Sox paid to bring him aboard only further motives him to produce on the field.
“When someone makes a move like that, and they put all of their marbles out there, it’s exciting,” Sale said. “They put a lot on the line to get me here, and I’m very appreciative of that. I want to try to do everything I can to help this team get to the championship, get to the postseason, get to the World Series and win it. I’ve said it before: this was one of the best teams in the league without me. So I’m just here to help them push through and get over that hump.”
Despite finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young voting in each of the last five years, Sale has never pitched in the postseason. His performance on the mound will ultimately dictate whether the Red Sox play in October, but right now, he’s saying all of the right things.
|02.21.17 at 5:42 pm ET|
The query came courtesy veteran WBZ reporter Jonny Miller:
“Tony, any concerns over the World Baseball Classic being played in South Korea with that idiot in North Korea with the button? Any concerns with playing in that area?”
After a quick smile and chuckle, Clark offered a succinct response.
“Well, I think where we’re at right now, we’re going to try to make the best of where we are. To the extent that they may have to be moved, I don’t believe we’re at that point yet based on where we are on the calendar. But should it ever need to be if something does happen that needs to be reflected in a full stop and an adjustment, then we would have to make that adjustment sooner rather than later.
“I think where we’re at right now we’re going to try to make the best of where we are. To the extent that they may have to be moved, I don’t believe we’re at that point yet based on where we are on the calendar. But should it ever need to be if something does happen that needs to be reflected in a full stop in an adjustment we would have to make that decision sooner rather than later.”
The Red Sox will be sending Xander Bogaerts to South Korea to participate with the Netherlands representative in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. The first round involving Pool A (Israel, Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands) kicks off in Seoul on March 6.
|02.21.17 at 1:01 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — They are behind everybody else, but not enough to alter the conversation.
Steven Wright (shoulder) and Drew Pomeranz (elbow) didn’t throw their first spring training bullpen session until Monday, with most of the other pitchers having already thrown to hitters in a batting practice setting. But, according to John Farrell, both starters are still expected to have enough time to be ready for the first time through the rotation come Opening Day.
“Yes, based on where they are right now, with the number of days left in spring training, provided there are no setbacks, we’ll have ample time to get them to the mound to build up their pitch counts with a typical spring training,” the Red Sox manager said.
Farrell noted that the duo — who will remain the same schedule — is slated to throw the next bullpen session Thursday.
– Farrell said the plan is for the Red Sox to go watch the movie “Patriot’s Day” as a team after Wednesday’s workout.
“A team building opportunity. ‘Patriot’s Day’ is the movie,” he said. “Opened up to the players and their families. To me, that’s a part of our recent history, a significant moment, and I think it’s us and the coaching staff and I think really Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] is the only player remaining from that day’s lineup in our organization. Still, it’s a big part of who we are in Boston and I think it will be important for our guys to understand what we’ve gone to.”
– With MLB Players Association chief Tony Clark in town, the topic of rule changes came up with Farrell. One note interest was the manager’s suggestion that a pitch clock is seemingly inevitable.
“The one thing that is, as we’re seeing as it relates to pace of game and so much emphasis on it, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a short period of time, I’m not saying this year, but we’re probably going to be looking at a pitch clock overall,” he said.
Farrell added, “I think we’ve done a good job of not trying to change too many things at once and there’s been incremental changes along the way. Just because we are talking strike zone, pace of play, clocks, I don’t think we’ll see five or six things change at once.”
|02.21.17 at 12:12 pm ET|
There are two ways to interpret David Ortiz’s beach selfie from over the weekend: Either the slugger is enjoying his retirement, or he misses baseball dearly and wants affirmation that he made the right decision to walk away. Regardless, Ortiz will be around Fenway Park this season –– and may announce some of the action on the field as well.
In an interview with Boston Herald Radio Tuesday, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said there’s a chance Ortiz will show up in the broadcast booth sometime in 2017.
“It’ll be fun to watch the next stage of his career,” Kennedy said. “He’s got a lot of different interests. Broadcasting is certainly one. It’d be interesting to see if he goes into national broadcasting. We’d certainly love to have him part of our local broadcast team on a limited basis. He wanted to dip his toe into that water.”
Ortiz has been a part of Fox’s postseason broadcasts in the past, most recently during the 2014 World Series. His former teammates, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar, have carved out lucrative television careers with the MLB Network and TBS, respectively. Earlier this year, Ortiz reportedly met with the Red Sox to discuss joining the NESN team.
The Red Sox will retire Ortiz’s No. 34 on June 23.
|02.20.17 at 2:27 pm ET|
But Monday actually may have eased some fears that Wright wouldn’t be ready when the regular season rolled around.
Throwing off a mound since the Red Sox were in Cleveland for their two postseason games, Wright executed a split of fastballs and knuckleballs in his 25-pitch bullpen session. The result was along the lines of what the knuckleballer was looking for, with no pain or restrictions.
“Encouraging,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I thought Steven Wright today was unrestricted. He was out over his front side with good extension. He was able to throw both his fastball and knuckleball today. He didn’t speak of any lingering issues with his shoulder. A very productive and positive day for Steven.”
“It felt good,” Wright said. “It felt a lot better than I thought it was. The ball was coming out good. It definitely gives me some injury to build off of and take it into the next one.”
Also throwing his first bullpen was Drew Pomeranz, who is being eased into things after receiving stem cell injections in his left elbow in the offseason.
Farrell noted that both Wright and Pomeranz, who have been throwing out to 120 feet, will remain on the same progression, with facing hitters in batting practice serving as the next step.
After the session, Pomeranz also supplied some further information regarding his offseason injection.
“It was pretty painful to be honest,” he noted. “I heard PRP [platelet rich plasma] is pretty painful too. The way they do it is they kind of scrape the tendon, the flexor, to create some bleeding I guess and then they shoot the stem cells on top so I guess your body knows to heal there. I was fine five minutes into it then about 20 minutes later I couldn’t bend my arm for like five days. I’ve heard some guys say PRP it’s like that for a few weeks, mine wasn’t that bad, probably just like five or six days.”
– Chris Sale threw his first live batting practice as a member of the Red Sox and was (surprise, surprise) good.
“He certainly gives an uncomfortable feel to the hitter in the box,” Farrell said. “And you combine it with stuff that seemingly moves all over the strike zone. We’re getting a first-hand look at why he’s been so successful and an elite pitcher.”
“You know, more importantly, just kind of competing against myself moreso than the batter that I’m facing,” said Sale, whose session amounted to throwing 30 pitches. “When you’re throwing a fastball away, you try to keep it down and try to see the movement and get some good work in. I know that a lot of people say that spring training is this and that, but this is my time to get ready for the season. It’s a long season, so I try to prepare my body and my mind as best I can.”
– It was a momentous day for Brandon Workman, who hadn’t thrown to major league hitters since the end of the 2015 spring training.
Workman, who underwent Tommy John surgery, showed some flashes of his old self when throwing to hitters Monday, but still has some work to do. The righty hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2014.
“I was excited. It was good to be back out there and have batters in the box and just be part of the regular stuff,” Workman said. “I felt like it got there. Early I was just getting the feeling for it. Getting it going. Then I felt like I settled in pretty good and was locating pretty well. It was a good day, for sure.”
“I thought he got better throughout the session,” Farrell said. “He’s still going to need some innings coming off the surgery and the rehab. There were times where the ball showed the previous carry through the strike zone. You’re just kind of getting a gauge early on, and yet there’s still work to be done certainly before he gets back into games with any projected production on his part.”
Today, Brandon Workman threw to big league hitters for first time since end of 2015 spring training. Proof … pic.twitter.com/ooqNOVLhqf
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 20, 2017
– One of the more impressive feats this spring has already come from the return of Sam Travis.
The first base prospect, who wowed the Red Sox with a .469 batting average and 1.147 OPS in 18 Grapefruit League games last spring, has shown absolutely no ill-effects from the knee surgery which ended his 2016 last June.
“Hard-nosed player. a grinder type, a blue-collar player,” Farrell said of Travis. “The way he went through drill work the first couple of days, there’s no evidence of the ACL surgery that he had. He feels great. The work that he put in on the rehab is certainly paying off. But he impressed last year in his first camp with his ability to impact the baseball and just maybe the determination and the aggressiveness that he exudes when he’s on the field.”
– Farrell said once again that while nothing is set in stone, Sandy Leon currently has the upper-hand on the starting catching spot.
“I can’t say that it’s not without competition. But if we were to open up tomorrow, it’s likely Leon is behind the plate leading things off based on what that group of guys at the catching position did last year and the way Sandy has evolved in his own right,” said the manager. (He would not bite when asked which pitcher Leon might be catching if the season started tomorrow.)
|02.20.17 at 10:37 am ET|
— Chelsea Briche (@cbriche) February 18, 2017
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Robby Scott’s execution was flawless.
The Red Sox reliever decided it was time to ask his girlfriend, Chelsea Briche, to marry him. That was the easy part. How Scott executed his delivery last Friday night was the real feat.
With Chelsea coming into town Wednesday, Scott hatched a plan to not only document the moment he asked Briche to marry him, but also hide a collection of people around the corner from the event in Naples to celebrate the moment.
“I had a dinner set up on the beach. I told Chelsea I wanted to go down a little early and go for a walk on the beach,” Scott said. “I had met the photographer a couple of days before at the venue, had the spot picked out. So the photographer was hiding in the bushes. Once we got there, and as soon as we got on the beach, I was speed walking. Chelsea was like, ‘Why are you walking so fast?’ I was pretty nervous and the emotions and everything were telling me to get me to that spot pretty quick. But she didn’t have a clue up until that point.”
Perhaps the most difficult part of the equation was hitting the times mapped out by the photographer, with Scott scheduled to be at his spot by exactly 5:40 p.m.
But he managed, with friends, family, and a few teammates jumping out to celebrate the moment.
“Afterwards she was like, ‘No wonder why you were acting so weird,’ because I was stone-faced the whole car ride there. I just wanted to get there and not screw it up,” Scott said. “It worked out well.”
|02.20.17 at 10:17 am ET|
Elias’ existence as a major leaguer in the United States was only made possible because of a death-defying ocean voyage. He had jumped aboard a make-shift boat at 3 a.m. one morning along with 26 others to take his chances in reaching Cancun, Mexico from Cuba. (For more on that story, click here.)
“Last year was a little weird for me, just in general with the trade, getting used to the clubhouse, getting used to just being here with a new team,” Elias said. “But this year I’m coming in more comfortable, more confident in myself and abilities. Not that I wasn’t more confident before, but the confidence level is there. I’m just going to do my best and hopefully things come out the way I hoped they would.”
It was those kinds of stories that usually highlighted what was considered an oppressive regime, leading to some celebration with Castro passed away on Nov. 26.
Elias, however, was not one of those who reveled in the death of Castro.
“I didn’t really like the reaction some people had,” said Elias through translator Daveson Perez. “They were happy he passed away. But at the end of the day, someone who, in though it was a little bit, helped me out when I was living there for 21 years. I had a normal day when he passed away. I just didn’t like how some people were happy he passed away, because he’s a person, too.
“Good or bad, I think he definitely helped a lot of people who are living here today. People who lived in Cuba, ate his food, they took what was given to them. To have a party, all of a sudden, during his passing doesn’t seem right to me.”
It has now been seven years since Elias made his way to the United States, with the 28-year-old now serving as depth for the Red Sox’ starting rotation.
Last spring training, the lefty was vying for a spot in the team’s bullpen by the end of camp, but ultimately spent the majority of the 2016 season as a starter with the Pawtucket Red Sox. In Triple-A he went 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 19 starts.
Elias did appear in three major league games, getting one start, but the appearances didn’t go well. He would allow 11 runs on 15 hits over 7 2/3 innings. Between Seattle and Boston, the southpaw has appeared in 54 games, making 50 starts.
“Last year I don’t think I was at the level I should have been,” he said. “This year I’ve lost eight pounds, feel stronger and I worked in the Dominican League. I feel better this year.”
|02.19.17 at 5:23 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Everybody continues to look for hints as to if David Ortiz might come out of retirement. Sunday’s Instagram/Twitter post by the former designated hitter certainly made it seem like there won’t be a change of heart.
“It’s so good to be retired,” Ortiz said while taking a video of himself. “Oh yeah. At the beach, with the familia, the ladies, Big Papi in the building. This is my spring training, how about that? Enjoy. See you when I see you. Peace.”
My spring training 😎 pic.twitter.com/6efcdohjlJ
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) February 19, 2017
|02.19.17 at 5:15 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pablo Sandoval’s trainer his client lost around 40 pounds. Now he’s put out some pictures trying to prove it.
Pete Bommarito, owner of Bommarito Performance Systems, took to Instagram to highlight the weight loss and regimen chronicled in a recent ESPN.com article. (According to Joe Ferrer, a trainer at the training facility, Sandoval entered spring training weighing in just north of 240 pounds.)
Bommarito Performance Systems featured on ESPN! Incredible article on BPS client and 3x World Series Champ Pablo Sandoval (@kfp48) and his journey to being the best shape of his life! Here is an excerpt from the article: ”Having watched Ferrer help Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez overcome a 2015 shoulder injury and revive his career last season, Sandoval decided to enlist the strength and conditioning specialist to oversee his workouts. The days began at 7:30 a.m., Ferrer said, with an hour long "turf workout" to improve Sandoval's agility. After a series of core-strengthening exercises, they moved to the weight room, alternating upper- and lower-body lifts every other day. The Red Sox received frequent progress reports — "Panda watch," if you will — because Ferrer is close with Boston strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose. Meanwhile, Sandoval put his new wife, Yulimar, in charge of his diet. She worked with a nutritionist to come up with healthier meals for Sandoval and cooked for him throughout the off-season. "Part of [Sandoval's] issues in the past didn't work ethic. It was other aspects of his life when we start talking about nutrition and those types of things," Dombrowski said. "This winter, I would say he was more committed to the total program." Said Ferrer: "I'm actually really pleased with his progress this off-season. I said that to Kiyoshi multiple times. The Red Sox wanted him to get down to, I think, in the 240s, and he's right there. But with him, I think it's just about his strength levels. He's a strong guy. He's powerful. He took our workouts very seriously all off-season. He's definitely ready to play baseball right now.’” Click the link in our bio to read the full article! #KungFuPanda 🐼 #PabloSandoval #Boston Redsox #RedSox #Soxnation #Bommaritos #HanleyRamirez #ElNino #MLB #Baseball #Baseballtraining #miggy #miguelcabrera #Venezuela
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