|01.25.16 at 10:04 am ET|
The family of five poured into the Foxwoods Resort and Casino elevator Sunday morning, all of them wearing their Patriots jerseys. The day before, they explained, the garb had been Red Sox-related (due to the team’s “Winter Weekend” event), but it was now time to focus on the task at hand — beating the Broncos.
Monday, Saturday’s shirts were pulled out of the hamper.
WIth the Patriots season now officially over, it might be a good time to offer reminders as to where things stand with the next team up — the Red Sox.
With nearly 6,000 people filing into Foxwoods over the weekend to see virtually the entire Red Sox team (those absent included David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa), there were two days of reminders as to what awaits in a few weeks.
Most of New England might not have been paying attention then, but they probably will start altering their focus now.
Let’s help you catch up with some of this team’s key storylines,and where things stand with each of them …
1. Hanley Ramirez is a friendly first baseman
Ramirez swept through Foxwoods with plenty of smiles, handshakes and good cheer to go around. He received a standing ovation at the Town Hall event Friday night, and was the star of the show when participating in a Saturday game show featuring players, coaches and alumni.
But can he play first base? We still have no idea.
Ramirez has started taking ground balls in South Florida with Red Sox exec Laz Gutierrez, and checked in at 234 pounds. (Although he insisted that that is only three pounds difference from where he finished the season at.)
Ramirez told us on WEEI that this has been his most challenging offseason, referencing how many times he has been checked up on by the organization. He also remains supremely confident that playing first base won’t be a problem.
He remains concerned about the play that involves reaching for throws into the runner due to his left shoulder’s history. And the footwork thing is on his radar.
In the end, everything that has unfolded to this point won’t matter if he doesn’t put the time in once in Fort Myers. The kind of time Mike Napoli put in when trying to pull off the same transformation. If he does that, the skill-set would suggest his history as an infielder will allow him to manage. If not, nobody is going to remember any of the feel-good moments of this offseason.
|01.23.16 at 9:11 pm ET|
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Hanley Ramirez believes he’s ready to be a big league first baseman.
Ramirez returned to Boston in 2015 with decidedly poor results. Asked to play left field, the lifelong shortstop struggled mightily in the field, got hurt, and ended up delivering an awful season on offense and defense.
Now that he’s back in the infield, he sees things going smoothly.
“I’ve always been an infielder, so it’s going to be easy,” he said on Saturday. “I know more of the territory. I’m going to feel more comfortable at first.”
To that end, Ramirez has been taking groundballs from instructor Laz Gutierrez near his home in Miami. He joked on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show on Saturday that someone from the team checks in on him every day. He plans on arriving in Fort Myers around Feb. 10, a week before pitchers and pitchers.
“As soon as I get to Fort Myers, we’re going to start working,” he said. “Everything is set up. They’re just waiting for me to get there.”
Ramirez believes first base will come more naturally than the outfield.
“It’s a little bit quiet at first,” he said. “It’s not the same as when you play short. You’ve got to be moving all the time. You’ve always got to have somewhere to go. At first, it’s going to be different. Every pitch, every thing, you’ve got to go to first, you’ve got to cover the bag.”
Thanks to his experiences at short, Ramirez knows what it means to have a first baseman who can scoop an errant throw.
“I told them last year, just throw the ball. Just throw the ball in this area. Throw the ball in the ground,” Ramirez said. “Don’t throw it above my head, over my head. Throw it in the ground, and I’ve got it. I just want them to feel comfortable. That’s the key. When you’ve got a good first baseman — like Adrian [Gonzalez], I played with Adrian in LA, he used to tell me to throw the ball in the ground or, to make it easy, throw it in my chest. That’s the same thing I want to bring to these guys. That’s very important.”
Ramirez said he is down three pounds, though it’s possible he underestimated his weight from last year. In any event, he’s 234 pounds and slimmer through the waist.
“Honestly, I feel light,” he said. “I’m 234, 235. It’s good. It’s going to be good for my batting. After I started working out, dropping some weight, I was feeling the difference. It’s a good idea. Even I’m going to keep trying to go down. It’s very important. They know what they’re doing. Now that I’m doing it, I’m like, ‘Wow.’ It’s good.”
|01.23.16 at 8:53 pm ET|
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Injured catcher Christian Vazquez checked in from the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods on Saturday looking noticeably trimmer. He provided updates on his surgically repaired right elbow, his weight loss (25 pounds), and the hopes that he’ll be ready come Opening Day.
Vazquez, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, is working out in Fort Myers and is throwing up to 150 feet. He threw two days ago and said he has felt no pain, no setbacks. He’ll throw to bases this week and anticipates being 100 percent the first day of spring training.
“I feel great. Thank God,” Vazquez said. “I’m working hard. My shoulder is more important now. My elbow is fixed. I’m working hard to get strong.”
Vazquez has spoken to Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who has returned from Tommy John surgery himself. Vazquez DHed in Puerto Rico this winter.
“He told me take your time, don’t rush,” Vazquez said. “The good thing with me was it was in the offseason and I don’t need to catch in Puerto Rico, so I was hitting, DH. I felt good man. I’m hoping tomorrow is Opening Day to get started.”
Vazquez noted it’s his desire to make the team out of spring training, but if they put him in the minors, he won’t complain.
“That’s not my decision,” he said. “I’m going to play hard. If I feel good, I’m going to play hard. They make the decision. I’ll play where they put me.”
As for the weight loss, it’s immediately noticeable.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” Vazquez said. “I lost 25 pounds this season. I feel good, man.”
|01.23.16 at 11:36 am ET|
He has played in 90 major league games, hitting .262 with a .680 OPS.
He is 28 years old.
He is signed for another five years and owed another $56.5 million.
Other than that, there is still a lot up in the air. Appearing at the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods after a short stint playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, Castillo offered updates as to where he believes things are at (through translator Brian Cruz):
ON HIS TIME IN PUERTO RICO: “It went very well, just like last year. I was excited and it was a good experience. I’m just trying to get ready for the upcoming season. … It did help me a lot to prepare for spring training.”
ON COMING TO CAMP WITH PERCEIVED SPOT ON ROSTER:: “I feel comfortable now I’m ensured a spot. Either way, I’m going to continue to work hard on making the team better. I’m just blessed I have the opportunity to perform.”
PHYSICALLY SURVIVING SEASON: “I know what it takes to take a toll of the games. I’m preparing hard and what it will take physically, so I’m prepared from now on and I’m ready to face that challenge. … In Cuba we didn’t play as much, obviously, but now I know how many games are played I will keep on preparing. Physically, unfortunately, injuries held me back, but I’m going to keep on working to make sure it won’t happen again.”
END OF SEASON: “I felt a little bit worn out. What held me back was the injury, and ever since then I tried to focus a little bit more on a different training style to cope with that in the future. … I’m just working harder and making sure I’m healthy for the season.”
OPPORTUNITY TO REUNITE WITH FAMILY: “I would take it in a heartbeat if presented the opportunity to go see my family, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. If they ever brought that opportunity to me I wouldn’t think about it twice. I would take it. … I’m very hopeful that happens.”
ADJUSTMENTS SINCE ARRIVING WITH RED SOX: “Mentally, they’ve been helping me a lot, just the adjustment from Cuba to here. The Red Sox have been a very big help in terms of the adjustment for me, and I’m ready to move on to the next season.”
ADJUSTMENTS TO SWING: “It has changed a little bit. I’ve shortened up my swing a little bit more because of the faster speed in the pitching. I’m confident this year I will see a different because of that adjustment.”
ON PLAYING LEFT FIELD: “I worked hard out there to get adjusted to the wall. I feel confident I can manage the wall wherever the ball takes me. I’m working hard every single day to really get accustomed to all the bounces they will take.”
|01.22.16 at 8:55 pm ET|
It’s the Second Annual Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods, a time that offers the ownership group to deliver their final thoughts before heading to Fort Myers in a few weeks.
But with the roster seemingly set for some time, some of the key storylines were more of a big picture variety than normal. An example of the state of this subdued final full month of the offseason came in the form of Henry’s most notable quote, which involved thoughts on David Ortiz‘ last year as a big league ballplayer.
“Given his track record in the postseason, it would be a disaster ‘ that’s a strong word, I guess, but a big disaster ‘ it would be terrible if he doesn’t end his career in the postseason.”
For the record, Ortiz has failed to make the postseason six times during his 13 years with the Red Sox.
– There should be more definition as to what the new netting in front of the first and third base line seating might result in soon, according to Werner.
“We actually have a meeting next week to look at various alternatives,” he said. “Obviously the most important thing for us is to find the right kind of quality materials that it can be as transparent as possible.”
Werner did note that the Red Sox have been in communication with those whose sight-lines might be influenced.
“We reached out to all season-ticket holders who might be affected, asked them to come to the seats that they have, and if they’re displeased, then we’ll make other arrangements,” he noted. “But it’s our hope, obviously, that most everyone will be happy, and we’re doing this because it’s important for us to deal with fan safety.”
– Henry said that the offseason — which the Red Sox involved themselves in early and often — unfolded fairly similarly to how the organization projected.
“Generally it doesn’t unfold the way you expect it to. And ‘expect’ is the wrong word. I think it unfolded the way we hoped it would unfold,” Henry said. “I thought Dave did a great job, baseball ops did a great job. From the very beginning, the strategies for how they went about it were strong and effective.”
Prior the group answering questions, the members of the Red Sox who are in attendance for the weekend event were introduced.
The only Red Sox players not to make the trip were newcomers Carson Smith, Craig Kimbrel and Chris Young, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. David Price was scheduled to arrive Saturday after his induction into the Vanderbilt Hall of Fame Friday night.
|01.22.16 at 8:30 pm ET|
In case you forgot, he is the Hall of Fame third baseman who is going to have his No. 26 retired by the Red Sox this season. He last played for the Sox in 1992, and retired from big league baseball after the ’99 season.
But now, he is formally being re-introduced the organization that brought him into the world of professional baseball.
“Right now I sort of feel like Tom Hanks, that I’ve been on an island for 20 years and they found me,” said Boggs from the Red Sox’ Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods. “So now I get to come home and enjoy the lobster and I’m back in the Red Sox family where I should have been in 1992 when Mrs. Yawkey offered me a seven-year deal to finish out my career with the Red Sox and I wouldn’t have had to have gone anywhere else to play. This is, I’m back. It’s great to be back. It’s been nothing but huge, positive feedback all along.”
The obvious question, considering the time span in between his last big league game and the year his number was finally retired by the Red Sox, was why it took so long to put his digits up in right field.
But, as Boggs’ pointed out, the combination of new ownership and forgiving spending five years with the Yankees as key elements.
‘I don’t know. You’d have to ask the individuals that came on board with the Red Sox after I left,” Boggs said when asked why the honor took so long. “I’m sure that going to New York, and riding the horse had something to do with it. Spending five and a half years in the minor leagues and spending 11 years in the big leagues with the Red Sox, going in as a Hall of Famer with the Red Sox, having a ‘B’ on my cap and having arguably my finest years in Boston.
“But when I got drafted at 17, my dad said, ‘You got drafted by Boston in the seventh round. Fenway Park was built for you.’ Truer words were never spoken because I played the wall like a fiddle. I just needed to get a little bigger and stronger because I did PEDs every day, poultry every day. I give Peter Gammons a little plug on that one. Just a little bigger and stronger and to where I could hit a long enough flyball to left-center so I could utilize the wall and my opinion, the greatest place to hit on the face of the earth.”
Boggs also mentioned he was open to talking with the organization about possibly filling some sort of instructional spot within the Red Sox.
“We’re going to talk, absolutely,” he said. “I’m back. Whatever role they want me to play, I’m back in the fold. As an advisory, I don’t know what my agent Alan Nero has in mind. We’re going to sit down and talk. Special advisor to something, for the dietitians how to cook chicken. I think there’s a certain role I could fill.”
|01.22.16 at 12:43 am ET|
At least that was the message coming from the Red Sox brass when asked about the conditioning of both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval during media availability prior to the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner.
“Physically they look great,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who recently visited with both players in South Florida. “There were clear markers set out for them right at the end of the season, to what offseason goals were going to be and playing weight was one of them. Both guys looked to be at that target. Hanley right now is I think at 234 (pounds), which is quite a bit down where he finished season at. I think Panda probably dropped 20-22 pounds since last game he played for us. They’re doing what’s in their control to start spring training and put themselves in a position to have a solid year.”
Farrell went on to say that Sandoval “speaks very candidly on his desire to make amends. He’s eager to get back and prove to people that he’s worthy of his deal and looking forward to getting back on the field.”
Ramirez has returned to his Miami-area home after spending some time this offseason in the Dominican Republic. He has just recently started taking ground balls, with an eye on reporting a few weeks early to Fort Myers.
“Hanley is going to report to spring training with pitchers and catchers, so he’ll be on the field so he’ll get a full 45 days of work or 45 available days to work on the transition to first base,” Farrell said. “It’s probably going to be more the nuances of the position. Cutoffs and relays, some positioning that we ask the first baseman to do, that Butter [infield coach Brian Butterfield] asks to do in anchoring back to the bag. As far as the mechanics of fielding a groun dball, he’s been an infielder his whole career. It will require work and repetition but we’re confident he’ll be fine at the position.”
|01.21.16 at 6:41 pm ET|
Bradfo Show with Don Orsillo
Five months later, Don Orsillo still doesn’t know why he’s no longer broadcasting Red Sox games.
Speaking to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford on the Bradfo Show podcast Thursday, Orsillo opened up for the first time about his departure from Boston and his new job in San Diego, where he’ll eventually replace broadcasting legend Dick Enberg as voice of the Padres.
First order of business: why does he think the Red Sox and NESN made the change?
“I really don’t know, still,” Orsillo said. “I’ve read things in articles and things that have been said. I’ve heard terms like ‘upgrade’ and ‘re-energize’ and both really kind of upset me, because obviously we had a lot of energy and I felt like we were quite good. Over the last 15 years and over the last five years, especially, with the way that we did have so many fill-ins, NESN’s No. 1 product is Red Sox baseball, and I felt like it was done very well over that period. Unfortunately, they didn’t agree. And so that was a big surprise.”
Orsillo was particularly surprised when he first got wind of the news that he’d be replaced, which he learned in July, after the All-Star break, from an unlikely source — WEEI broadcaster Dave O’Brien, who ended up taking Orsillo’s place.
“I actually heard it from Dave O’Brien,” Orsillo said. “My replacement actually mentioned to me that I would not be returning next year. He had heard that, and I said, ‘I hadn’t heard that.’ That was the first that I had heard of it. I tried to make some phone calls after he had mentioned it to me that I may not be returning, and I didn’t have much success in the early going getting some of those phone calls returned. As it turned out, he was quite right.”
The news didn’t become public until August, when Gerry Callahan mentioned it on D&C with Minihane. Orsillo, however, had already received confirmation a week earlier that the season would be his last.
“I don’t know which was harder — the seven or eight days when I knew myself, or the next six weeks, when everyone knew,” he said. “Because, when I knew it myself, I was doing the games and it occurred to me while I was doing the games that I was not going to be returning, which was very hard. But then when you go to do a game and you know everyone knows you’re not returning, you kind of change your mindset as well.
“It broke on the morning show, as you mentioned, John [Dennis] and Gerry. As it turns out, we were in Chicago, there’s a time difference there. When I woke up, my phone had absolutely exploded, people saying they had heard it had gotten out.”
Orsillo came to view that disclosure as a blessing, because it put him on the market, and the Padres pounced. With Enberg planning to retire after this season, they knew they’d be in the market for a broadcaster in 2017, and Orsillo represented a marquee name.
“Actually in hindsight, it was kind of a good thing in some ways that it did break, because that then gave the Padres the opportunity to come get me,” Orsillo said. “They joined me in Baltimore on the next trip. They flew out their owner, Ron Fowler, along with their president and CEO, former Red Sox executive Mike Dee. They flew out there to visit with me and basically make an offer at that point.”
Orsillo admits sweating out the job market.
“When it happens, you have 29 other places that you can work. I am a one-trick pony, as it were,” he said with trademark self-deprecation. “You have a limited amount of choices, and very thankfully, the Padres were very aggressive and came to me in September and starting talking to me about becoming their voice. Dick Enberg was in the process of retiring, a legend out there, and they wanted me to come to Southern California with open arms and a six-year deal in tow. So I took the opportunity and the offer to go, and that’s why I am now the voice of the San Diego Padres.”
Continued Orsillo: “It was a very long six weeks, really mid-August when everything kind of broke, and getting through the end of the year, doing games on a nightly basis was very difficult, I mean having been here for 15 years, in what obviously was my dream job, that was very disappointing, and something that took me a long time to get over and to move on to a new location. I really thought, honestly, when it happened, that I’d be unemployed for maybe a year or better, just because these positions really don’t open that often. I mean, guys stay forever. Look at Joe Castig [WEEI’s Joe Castiglione], he’s been there forever. It’s like that in a lot of towns, so I was very fortunate, very thankful to the Padres for being as aggressive as they were.”
When news of Orsillo’s impending departure broke, the tributes poured in. Red Sox fans gave him an extended standing ovation after a video montage of his greatest calls aired on the scoreboard during the team’s final home game. After the season finale in Cleveland, which marked Orsillo’s final broadcast, Red Sox players and coaches saluted him from the field.
Both acts moved him.
“First of all, the last home game, which I mentioned with the fans, and the great video tribute that the Red Sox did do, followed by the fans’ reaction and then chanting my name in Fenway is something I’ll never forget,” Orsillo said. “I missed two batters afterwards. Jerry [Remy] picked it up, because I couldn’t speak, I was so emotional. And then in Cleveland, to have the entire team come out and salute me at the end was something I never expected. You don’t see that very often now in Major League Baseball. The guys that had been here were tremendous. Torey Lovullo and his staff and everybody else that was involved in that, it really got me.”
Orsillo also received a call that stood out.
“I had a lot of people reach out to me through major league baseball and former Red Sox players, and one that sticks out in particular was Dwight Evans,” he said. “He reached out to me afterwards and he said, ‘You know, you got something a lot of us did not get over the years.’ He’s talking about from a player’s standpoint. ‘You got a salute and a goodbye from the Fenway Faithful. You had a final chapter there. A lot of us never did.’ That meant a lot to me. This was my boyhood idol who was reaching out to tell me this and it occurred to me how special it really was, and I will never forget it.”
Orsillo has repeatedly referred to broadcasting the Red Sox as “my dream job,” and it clearly stings that it’s over, especially since he remains blindsided by the decision.
“Continuing to do the job on an every-night basis while that’s going on was probably the toughest,” he said. “Trying to concentrate on balls and strikes, the score and everything else on a nightly basis, doing the games was very, very hard. To me, that might’ve been toughest part of it. I think the realization that the job I loved so dearly and did for 15 years was coming to an end, and really trying to figure out why it happened. To this day, I really don’t know. So that part was really hard.”
|01.21.16 at 5:14 pm ET|
Talking prior to the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner at the Copley Marriott, both Bogaerts and Betts confirmed that they haven’t opened discussions regarding contract extensions with the Red Sox. And, according to general manager Mike Hazen, the message is the same coming from the organization.
“I think we’re open to anything, but that hasn’t’ been something we’re focused on right now. We’re just getting through arbitration season,” Hazen said. “At some point I’m sure we’ll talk about it as a group, internally. But we haven’t done that yet. So I don’t have an answer on a strategy on how we view those types of things. Certainly we want to keep these guys around as long as we can, but we haven’t sat down and specifically discussed it.”
It is about that time in both players’ careers where the conversation regarding reworking their contracts should heat up.
Bogaerts is eligible for arbitration following the 2017 season, with the chance to hit free agency in ’20, with Betts a year behind. He is, of course, represented by agent Scott Boras.
“I don’t know of anything right now. But if anything pops up we’ll talk about it and see what we’re going to do,” Bogaerts said. “It all depends on what the person wants. Sometimes a team won’t approach them. It just has to come from both sides, I would imagine, for something like that to happen. Everyone knows I love it here. That’s all I can say.
“Anything can happen in between that time (when he becomes a free agent). We’ll see what happens. But I enjoy it here and hopefully we can win a few more championships.”
The 23-year-old Betts, who finds himself at the same career point Miami’s Christian Yelich did a year ago just before the outfielder inked a seven-year, $49.570 million deal, is exhibiting a similar approach to his slightly older (by a week) teammate.
Even last offseason, however, the Red Sox at least had internal discussions as to the idea of locking Betts up.
“Right now, I’m not even thinking about it. I can’t say I’m fully interested in it right now,” said Betts, who is represented by Stephen Veltman of Relativity Baseball. “I’m just going to keep playing, go year by year and keep trying to win World Series, keep my focus there. As things pop up I’ll let my guys take care that type of stuff.
“There’s nothing right now. If they have something I’ll go to my agents and talk about it then. But for right now, I’m just going to focus on playing.”
Even within the Red Sox’ recent history, there are plenty examples of the team buying out arbitration and free agent years with long-term extensions.
When asked about his experiences with new Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in such matters, Boras said, “Dave is rather patient about that. Dave has always worked for organizations that can sign their players, at any time, whether it be in the fourth year, fifth year, sixth year and free agency. He’s always done that. Because of that I don’t think there’s any sense of urgency on his part to do things as he goes forward. Obviously if he thinks it’s time to do something, he will. But he’s the kind of guy if he values players, he usually retains them, truthfully.”
Now would seem to be the time when such evaluations will surely be made, both by the Red Sox and a couple of their core players.
“I have a little bit of time in the big leagues, so you kind of know what’s the deal or what’s up,” Bogaerts said. “One thing you can’t do is come to the park and think about that. All you have to do is try and do your best, and the rest will take care of itself.
“Everyone knows I love the Red Sox. This is all I know as of now. I signed with them. I’ve been with them my whole career so far. Everyone knows I love it here.
It’s always a possibility to talk about it. But that would have to go through my agent. If anything pops up we’ll see how that goes.”
“It’s still pretty weird.,” said Betts concerning even talking about an extension. “I feel I haven’t established myself to get that point. It’s still a work in progress.”
|01.21.16 at 2:37 pm ET|
Speaking to reporters in Florida, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said the club will do something to honor Ortiz during the Red Sox’ last visit to New York, from Sept. 27-29. Ortiz has already announced that the 2016 season will be his last.
“I am sure we’re going to do something,’ Steinbrenner said. “We have not formally, minute by minute, figured out exactly what we’re going to do yet. He’s a great player, great part of that franchise. Everything you like to see in a player.”
Elsewhere in the story, Steinbrenner also said the Yankees are treating new closer Aroldis Chapman as “completely innocent until proven otherwise,” in relation to MLB’s investigation into an October domestic dispute that could lead to a suspension.
“I think we should keep that in mind right now,” Steinbrenner said. “A lot of thought was put into it, but the benefits for the organization as a player, if you just look at the baseball side of it, tremendous upside, needless to say.”
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