|01.30.15 at 4:12 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced come to terms on a one-year deal for pitcher Alexi Ogando. FoxSports.com, who was first to surface the agreement, reports the deal is worth $1.5 million. USA Today adds that incentives can push the deal up by another $1.5 million.
To make room for Ogando on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox designated Drake Britton for assignment. Britton is out of options.
Ogando battled physical issues in 2014, making 27 appearances (all out of the bullpen), and compiling a 6.84 ERA. His most recent issues have involved his right (pitching) elbow.
Prior to ’14, the 31-year-old had success both as a starter and reliever. In 2011, he made the All-Star team, finishing with a 13-8 mark and 3.51 ERA in 29 starts. The following season he pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen, totaling a 3.27 ERA in 58 appearances (57 as a reliever).
Ogando was effective in ’13, making 17 starts and 23 appearances on the way to a 7-4 mark with a 3.11 ERA. But he was sidelined with right shoulder inflammation, an issue that plagued him the rest of the season.
The righty was beset with arm problems throughout ’14, leading the Rangers to non-tender him. Ogando recently performed a showcase for interested teams in Tampa, with the Red Sox one of the dozen or so teams attending.
If healthy, Ogando could factor into the Red Sox’ late-inning relief plans. During his best season as a reliever in ’12, the right-hander held righty hitters to just a .179 batting average. Without the bite on his slider last season, that number jumped to .327.
According to major league talent evaluators, Ogando could still be an effective option out of the bullpen, but only if his workload is managed.
|01.30.15 at 7:59 am ET|
Daniel Nava’s story isn’t a secret: Cut from his college team, he became equipment manager; Cut from his independent league team, he was brought back to fill out the roster; Sold to the Red Sox by the Chico Outlaws for $1.
But it is because of this path that taking stock of getting that one-year, $1.85 million contract he secured Thursday seems so important for the 31-year-old. (For details on Nava’s contract settlement, click here.)
“For every player it means something different,” said Nava, who made $800 a month playing in independent baseball as recently as 2009. “If you sign a big signing bonus, you’re fortunate and it’s not as much of a big deal. But being that I didn’t have a big signing bonus, to have this opportunity, to me it means a lot to have this opportunity. It means I was fortunate to be in the league for three years and I honestly didn’t know if I was ever to have a chance to be in the league this long. It has a little bit more of a special place for me than it might have for someone else, and that’s not knocking someone else’s journey. To me, arbitration means a lot. So whatever the number was I almost look at it as an added bonus on top of bonus of just being in the league for three years.
“I’m grateful the Red Sox have allowed me to play for them for three years. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity that the union worked so hard to allow this opportunity to be what it is. The players that have gone before have done a great job of allowing it to be what it is right now. That’s something we shouldn’t forget. I’m grateful I have this chance, I really am. So I don’t take it lightly one bit, especially considering all the things I was doing before I got this point.”
And now that he has settled his arbitration issue, Nava can fully turn his attention to the 2015 season. He continues to workout at EXOS (former Athletes Performance) in Phoenix, while flirting with the idea of altering his approach to switch-hitting.
“Essentially, all I’m going to be doing different is just trying to see how lefty on lefty feels, but I’m still going to be working as a switch-hitter,” Nava said. “I’m not going to completely give it up because I don’t know how I am going to feel doing it. But to clarify, I definitely have thought about going lefty-lefty. But I’m not fully committed to doing one side or another. I really have to see what lefty-lefty feels like. But I’m open to doing to hopefully get myself on the field more and be more productive.”
|01.29.15 at 5:54 pm ET|
This was the first year Nava was eligible for arbitration, who was asking for $2.25 million with the Red Sox countering at $1.3 million. (For the outfielder’s thoughts on the process, click here.)
The Red Sox now have one arbitration-eligible player who remains unsigned, Wade Miley. The lefty pitcher has asked for $4.3 million, with the team countering at $3.4 million.
Junichi Tazawa and Rick Porcello, who were both eligible for arbitration, previously agreed to terms. Tazawa signed for $2.25 million, while Porcello came in at $12.5 million.
|01.28.15 at 3:15 pm ET|
But shouldn’t the most important voice on the matter come from the man who will be charged with guiding the starting staff through the season, with or without that No. 1 guy?
Talking on the phone from his home in North Carolina, Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves weighed in on what has become one of this winter’s weightiest matters.
“Other than that first turn through the rotation, whomever goes out there every fifth day, I’m a firm believer, that’s my ace,” Nieves said. “I also think team generally win without having five aces, but if you have three or four pitchers pitch like a one or a two for two or three months and pitch like a three for the rest of the year, that pitcher is going to win a lot of games. And when that five pitches like a three and gives you some deep innings and some eight-inning outings, and even pitches like a strong No. 2 for a few months, that’s when you see teams winning and never go in slumps. I think overall I’m a firm believer that my five guys in the rotation are my five aces. Whomever is out there for me is my ace.”
Nieves’ philosophy has merit, especially considering it was born from what the Red Sox starters accomplished during their World Series run of 2013.
While Jon Lester was ultimately identified as the team’s no-hold’s-barred ace, it would have been difficult to designate him such on Day 1. He was coming off a 2012 season which encompassed a 4.82 ERA. The guy who ended up as the staff’s No. 2, John Lackey, hadn’t even pitched the year before. Clay Buchholz, who pitched in the No. 2 spot to being the season, had totaled a 4.56 ERA in ’12. And, when it all said and done, the inconsistencies of Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront ultimately forced the Sox go out and get Jake Peavy at the non-waiver trade deadline.
But, to Nieves’ point, what worked for that group in ’13 was that each pitcher went on at least one top-of-the-rotation-type run during that season.
Before his injury, Buchholz began the season with a 9-0 mark and 1.71 ERA over 12 starts (in which the Red Sox went 11-1). Doubront rattled off 15 starts in the heart of the season in which he accumulated a 2.55 ERA, while averaging 6 1/3 innings per outing.
Dempster managed a pair of runs, one coming to start the ’13 season in which he carried a 2.93 ERA over his first seven starts. The other stretching in June and July when he managed a 3.86 ERA over 11 outings, during which the Red Sox went 7-4.
Of course, while it is important to find such stretches from those considered in the middle of on the back end of one’s rotation, it is equally urgent to get a couple of pitchers who can sustain such excellence for even longer period of time. In that case, that’s where Lester and Lackey came in.
So, does this group have what it takes to make Nieves’ way of thinking hold up?
As previously mentioned, Buchholz has gone down this path before. It is also easy to find a similar stretch of dominance from Justin Masterson (although he only went more than two starts in between allowing five or more runs once in ’14, and that was a three-start period).
Joe Kelly experienced success similar to Buchholz in ’13, totaling a 9-3 mark with a 2.28 ERA as a starter in 15 outings. And last season, Rick Porcello’s first three months included an 11-4 record and 3.12 ERA in 16 starts.
There is also obvious hope when it comes to Wade Miley, as well, with the lefty finishing off a subpar ’14 with a 3.43 ERA in his last nine starts. His best stretch? Probably a two-month period in which he managed a 1.96 ERA over 10 starts in the middle of ’13.
So, if Nieves’ theory holds up, there is hope for this current group of Red Sox starters. Now it’s just the question of if they can find enough stretches of ace-level pitching from this bunch.
|01.28.15 at 1:52 pm ET|
Bryant, a former major league catcher best known for catching Don Wilson’s no-hitter for the Astros against the Reds in 1969, spent his final three seasons in the Sox’ minor league system. He was a player/coach for Triple-A Pawtucket under manager Darrell Johnson in 1973, and when Johnson was promoted to manager in Boston in 1974, Bryant followed him.
Bryant also followed Johnson when he was hired to be manager of the Mariners in 1977, serving there until 1980.
|01.27.15 at 7:21 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced Tuesday night that they have traded Anthony Ranaudo for lefty reliever Robbie Ross.
While the 25-year-old is a lefty, his strength may be getting right-handed hitters out, a quality the Red Sox have been looking to add to their bullpen. Ross doesn’t possess a traditional lefty-on-lefty breaking ball, but he does get righties out thanks to what can be an above-average cut fastball.
Ross — a second-round pick in 2008 — struggled for the Rangers for much of 2014, finishing with 6.20 ERA in 27 appearances (12 of which were starts). The previous two seasons, however, he was one of Texas’ best relievers, totaling a 2.22 ERA in 58 games in 2012 and 3.03 over 65 relief outings.
In 2013 Ross held righties to a .211 batting average, with lefty hitters managing a .343 clip. Last year he wasn’t very good against either side, having more success against left-handed batters (.283) than righties (.336).
So, what happened last season?
Ross struggled mightily with his fastball command throughout 2014 and didn’t possess any sort of effective secondary pitch. He had nothing to use on the inside part of the plate against lefty hitters or on outside part of the plate vs. righties.
In 78 1/3 innings in ’14 Ross struck out 51 but walked 30. He did, however, finish a streak in April of not walking a batter in 99 straight plate appearances. The lefty started the season as a starter, pitching well in his first five outings, managing a 2.45 ERA. As a reliever, Ross finished with a 7.85 ERA.
Giving up on Ranaudo wasn’t easy for the Red Sox, who drafted the starter 39th overall in the 2010 draft. After dealing with injuries for much of his first few pro seasons, the LSU product bounced back to make himself a viable big league starting candidates.
With Triple-A Pawtucket last season he went 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts. Ranaudo made seven starts with the Red Sox, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA. Not considered a candidate to fill one of the bullpen roles, the 25-year-old righty would seem to be blocked by such young arms as Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes.
|01.24.15 at 11:43 pm ET|
Hundreds of fans poured into Foxwoods Resort and Casino for the Sox’ first-ever Winter Weekend to participate in a variety of activities and events. One of the byproducts of the festivities was the opportunity for the majority of the Red Sox roster to gather together prior to heading to Fort Myers for the first official reporting date, Feb. 20.
Here are some of the takeaways from the player availability:
Joe Kelly offered the most pointed comment Saturday, proclaiming on WEEI, “I want your listeners to know, I’m going to win the Cy Young this year. Just letting everyone know so when I win it you heard it here first.” (To listen to the audio, click here.)
Kelly also offered some interesting insight when it came the topic of doctoring balls. Playing off the Patriots Deflategate controversy, the Red Sox pitcher surmised that 95 percent of baseball pitchers use some sort of non-sanctioned substance to get a better grip on the ball.
“The hitters would say please do it. They don’t want to get hit with 98 [mph],” he explained, adding, “If it’s Bull Frog [sunscreen] and it’s sunny out, I don’t’ want skin cancer. I’ll put on sunscreen, there’s a rosin bag and I’ll throw rosin on my arm.”
— Dustin Pedroia proclaimed himself ready to go, suggesting he will be ready to play every game on the schedule.
“I plan on playing 162 [games],” he said. “I don’t look at it any different. I started 178 games [in 2013] with a torn thumb. Obviously I’m a human. The next year, you’re going to have a tough time. I’m back, like, my body’s back. I feel strong. I’m lifting everything. Right back to normal.”
Pedroia also touched on his disappointment when Jon Lester left via free agency.
“Yeah, it’s tough, it’s part of the business,” the second baseman said. “That’s the part you really don’t understand. It’s not fun. But yeah, I was his host on his recruiting trip at Arizona State. I’ve known him forever so it’s definitely tough. It’s going to be weird showing up for spring training not seeing him there.
“I’m his friend. I’m pretty involved in a lot of things. I’m a lot smarter than him. Let’s be honest. Wouldn’t you talk to somebody starter than you?”
|01.22.15 at 4:54 pm ET|
Speaking at the media availability for the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Thursday, both Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell said they are proceeding as if Craig will be just another versatile player on their roster.
“Allen can play first in addition to the two corner spots in the outfield. I think we’re focused short-term with Allen right now,” Cherington said. “By that I mean let’s get him into spring training, give him every at-bat he needs and give him a chance to get back into an offensive routine and get back into doing the things he’s capable of doing. It’s one of the things we’ll be able to figure out as it gets closer to opening day. He can protect us at a bunch of spots and we know if he’s doing what he’s capable of doing he can play everyday somewhere to.”
“I wouldn’t say on the outside looking in,” Farrell noted. “He’s been an everyday player. In talking with Allen throughout the winter, he’s aware of the role coming in. We may take a look at some things positionally from a defensive standpoint that gives him a chance to get more regular at-bats. But much as we talk about with the depth of the outfield, this is another situation that spring training will allow itself to work out.”
As Cherington pointed out, Craig does have a history of playing multiple positions, including both corner outfield spots along with first base and even third (where he hasn’t manned since 2008).
“We’ve had that conversation,” said the manager regarding playing all of the aforementioned spots. “He’s open to it. The best thing about where Allen sits right now is he’s eager, he’s open to the work, or the thought of third base. We’ll see how that plays out, at least to answer the question in spring training. Where it goes from there remains to be seen. This is a very talented player who’s having a good offseason physically.”
Craig has spent the offseason working out in California, attempting to have an entirely healthy offseason after spending the year still recovering from a foot issue.
The 30-year-old struggled after coming over to the Red Sox from St. Louis at the non-waiver trade deadline, hitting .128 with a .425 OPS and one home run in 29 games.
|01.22.15 at 4:19 pm ET|
The excess of outfielders, along the journey back from back surgery, has pushed the outfielder to make his progress and motivation clear at a variety of turns this offseason. It’s a tone the Red Sox evidently don’t mind at all.
“I think a motivated Shane Victorino out to prove something is a very good thing, for him and the Red Sox,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Thursday. “So, I’m just excited to see him. I think we’ll see him later this week. We know what kind of player he is if he’s healthy and on the field. He’s certainly done all he needs to do this offseason. When it comes to getting baseball reps, that’s another level, another element he has to incorporate and getting into the everyday routine of spring training. But he seems anxious, so that’s good.”
There was no definitive clarification, however, regarding how the Red Sox’ crowded outfield situation was going to take care of itself heading into spring training.
As of now, the Red Sox’ outfield consists of five right-handed bats (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig and Victorino), one lefty (Brock Holt), and a switch-hitter who is likely to be used primarily from the left side (Daniel Nava).
“We’ll see where we are at the end of spring training,” Cherington said. “I think I’d rather have more possibilities than not enough, at least at this point. We’ll see how it all comes together. There will certainly be an opportunity for everyone in spring training and we’ll see where we are at the end of March.”
As for how Red Sox manager John Farrell plans to use Victorino, Farrell said Thursday the outfielder’s health will go a long way in helping make that decision.
“That’s going to be dependent on what his capabilities are from a physical standpoint,” the manager said. “We’re a better team if he’s on the field every day as was the case in 2013. That’s not to take anything away from anyone else on our roster. He’s doing everything he can right now to be a player of that capacity.”
|01.22.15 at 2:38 pm ET|
‘We’re pursuing some stuff but I think it’s more what you would classify as depth related. That’s what we’re focused on this minute,’ Cherington noted.
‘The free agent market has been pricey this winter, obviously. Starting pitchers who perform at the highest level and do so consistently and are relatively young or near their primes, those guys are hard guys to get and they’re valuable and they cost a lot, where it’s dollars or talent. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position where we have that kind of caliber pitching and hopefully we have some of it internally. There’s no question the team benefits from having high-end starting pitching performances. It’s just the question of what’s the best way to get it. We’ve looked at all sorts of things, not just this offseason but previously.
‘We like where we’re at. We like the collection of pitchers we have. We think there’s untapped potential in the group and the collection we have now can give us a strong pitching staff this year.’
As for the level of interest the Red Sox might have in the top free agent pitcher still on the market, James Shields, Cherington reiterated that such an acquisition wouldn’t be likely.
We did meet with Shields and his agent back at the winter meetings. We met with most agents there, so it’s not to single out him. Most agents have several clients so you talk to people all the time. All I can say right now is as far as the starters are concerned, we’re really focused on the guys we have. We’re pursuing some opportunities maybe on some depth in certain areas, but there’s nothing on the front burner that would grab headlines.
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