|02.17.17 at 1:49 pm ET|
But for those who were there, they saw Blake Swihart show an inability to accurately throw the ball back to Rick Porcello on too many occasions. Pitching coach Carl Willis saw it, as did manager John Farrell and catching instructor/bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.
Friday rolled around and while the problems weren’t as dramatic, the inconsistency in Swihart’s throws continued, leading to a collection of media gathered around the catcher to ask him about the issues before he left JetBlue Park for the day.
“I”m not concerned. I’m going back to catching. In the outfield you have a longer arm swing, a longer arm movement. I’m just trying to shorten it back up. They are misfiring, but I’m not too worried about it,” Swihart said. “It’s just a different arm movement. But I’m working every day to shorten it up, get it short and still have good velocity on my ball. … It’s more me just feeling bad for the pitcher that I’m throwing to.”
And then, as the reporters peeled off, Swihart offered one more proclamation.
“You guys shouldn’t be worried about me,” he said.
LeVangie wasn’t about to suggest there was nothing to see over the last few days, even saying when asked that Swihart’s problems were “out of the blue” when appearing Thursday.
But the catching coach did offer some optimism after working with Swihart Friday and then seeing the slow transformation from an outfielder’s arm motion to that of a catcher.
“There were a couple of bad throws today, but to be honest with you we talked about some things and he got better at doing it,” LeVangie said. “It’s still not finished, but there are signs he can get better from it. We were just looking at spin, how it was coming out of his hand. At times he throws a little rotational, and at times he’s allowing his glove to dictate where his arm path should be going. We want his glove front side to dictate more of back to front motion so his arm path stays on line better.
“We want him to throw more like a catcher rather than middle infielder, a shortstop or an outfielder. I saw far more better throws today than I saw yesterday. He’s going to learn how to throw as a catcher. That’s what we’re working on.”
Swihart reiterated that the 11 months between the last time he lived life as a catcher and jumping back into it this week was the cause for the throwing hiccup.
“The last time I caught was, what? The first six games of the season last year,” he said, referencing his move to outfield. Swihart added, “I feel fine. I’m not worried and you guys shouldn’t be worried either. I’m working on my craft and I promise the ball is going to get there.”
Here's video of an example of the issues Blake Swihart had this morning in throwing back to the pitcher. pic.twitter.com/ceKkBHbtqn
— CSN New England (@CSNNE) February 17, 2017
|02.17.17 at 10:52 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s an annual rite of passage. One that John Henry admitted maybe has been a bit too ambitious (and often times uncomfortable).
Fifteen seasons as owners of the Red Sox, and 15 spring training media sessions where Henry and usually Tom Werner brief the spring training gathering on the state of the organization.
“We might not have started doing this every year,” said the Red Sox principal owner, Henry, when talking about the good and bad decisions made during this ownership group’s run.
Immediately after Werner addressed the entire team, the pair came out and discussed a variety of topics. David Ortiz. Fenway Park. Luxury tax. The Chris Sale trade. Dave Dombrowski. John Farrell. And also the topic of whether or not these two will be hanging on to their pieces of the Red Sox.
“We hope to be healthy and focused for a long, long time. We know nothing is forever. Hopefully we’ll be having these conversations in 10 or 15 more years,” said Werner.
Added Henry, “After 15 years together, and most of us have been together for 15 years, there’s nothing about this … There are a few things we don’t … Almost every day we talk about how fortunate we feel to be part of this organization. It’s a tremendous organization that has accomplished tremendous things. From our perspective it’s a meaningful, wonderful experience to come here every year, to start over every year. We really are focused on that fourth ring as much as we are focused on the first. Anything short of that I would say is a limited success. I know every few years we have swat down rumors that we’re perhaps sellers, but we talk about how long we can do this, not when should we stop.”
Here were some of the takeaways from the 20-meeting briefing …
MEETING WITH THE TEAM
Henry: “We had a great meeting this morning. And we’re all really happy to be back. We didn’t finish our business last year. It was a disappointing way to end the season. There’s a lot to accomplish the team.”
Werner: “I just started out by thanking them for what they accomplished last year. There’s a lot to be proud of. The team had the best offense in all of baseball. We had a Cy Young winner and two MVP candidates, and the team played beautifully all season. But obviously all of us were disappointed at the abrupt ending. I just thanked them, made a reference to Tom Brady and the Patriots and what we could take from that in terms of hard work and practice. We wished them good luck.”
DAVID ORTIZ’S ROLE
Werner: “That remains to be defined, but I know David expects to have a role going forward. I think he feels like it’s probably good to have spring training start and not be a presence. I would hope that at some point he would come here and address the team about leadership. We are talking with him frequently and I would expect he would have a role that he will principally define, but will be important. … He said he’s retired. I think all of you know that he played last year in quite a bit of pain.”
Henry: “Actually I don’t think they know quite how pain he was in last year. Maybe. Not just last year.”
FENWAY PARK RENOVATIONS
Henry: “I’m not sure we need to go too much further with Fenway Park. There’s been 15 years of tender-loving care going in on an annual basis. It’s been sort of built to last for the next 30 years, if not the next 50 years. I don’t think we see a lot of changes. … I think we have some thoughts outside the ballpark in that area, we own property in that area and I think we should look to develop in a way that’s meaningful for the three million-plus fans that come every year. I think you’ll see probably more changes outside the ballpark than inside.”
LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD
Henry: “As far as the threshold is concerned, there have been years we’ve been over and years we’ve been under. I think that will be the case with the new CBA and CBT this year. We want to be under. Frankly, revenue sharing is a bigger issue than the CBT. We spend a lot of money. There are a lot of money that spend a lot of money. Big, big numbers. … I don’t see a big change.”
PACE OF GAME
Werner: “We’re trying to push the game to under three hours. There are a lot of experiments going on, and I’m for experiments.”
HENRY’S PROCLAMATION LAST YEAR THAT RED SOX WERE TOO RELIANT ON ANALYTICS
Henry: “I think ever since I made that statement I’ve been saying it’s overblown. Because I only talk once a year, maybe twice a year, somethings … I think that was blown out of proportion. We are still heavily analytics based. I don’t think you can function in 2017 as a baseball organization without top drawer analytics.”
Werner: “I think he has a lot he wants to prove. I heard he talked to the media yesterday and was very articulate. He’s an All-Star player and we have a lot of confidence he’s going to have a good year.”
Henry: “I think he has done a tremendous job. All of us in the organization believe he has done a tremendous job. Very hands on.”
CHRIS SALE TRADE
Henry: “We still have a lot of prospects. With David leaving I think there was a feeling we should do something. I think our offense has been strong, and will be strong this year. When this opportunity came about it was tough to give up two of the best prospects in baseball. I think we all agreed this was a rare opportunity. … It was important to us that the core of our team was not broken up.”
DREW POMERANZ SAGA
“I don’t know if we want to re-open that discussion. All the facts of that, a lot of the facts, were a little bit different that were generally spoken about. We really don’t want to open that back up again. We’re really glad to have Drew here.”
“He’s an outstanding leader. There’s a lot of facets to being a great manager and I think he fits all of that. not only that, but I think we all know he overcame personal health issues last year and he’s the right guy to be our leader this year and for the future.”
|02.16.17 at 2:21 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pablo Sandoval looked the part, and said all the right things. Now comes the only part that matters.
Can he be a productive starting third baseman for the Red Sox?
Sandoval re-entered JetBlue Park on the first official day of spring training Thursday looking as advertised. He has lost a significant amount of weight — having integrated boxing into his regimen over the last month — while looking capable during a batting practice session on Field 1.
Then, when meeting with the assembled media, Sandoval did what he needed to do.
Do you think you have something to prove?
“Everything. I have to prove everything. Especially when you’re coming from an off year after the injuries and you come back and you have to prove a lot of things to the fans, to the team, to your teammates, to the sport. You have to prove a lot of things out there on the field.”
Can you sustain the weight loss over the course of the season?
“It’s going to be different because the schedule, the travel. But the program is going to be there. It’s not going to be as hard as I’ve done in the offseason, but I’m going to continue to work and get the program done.”
How about not playing in the World Baseball Classic?
“You know, it’s not my choice, especially when you’ve been hurting. I want to play for my country but it’s not my decision. It’s the team’s decision. They made their own decision that I have to follow, and I’m completely happy. They told me all the things. I’m happy to be in spring training right now, focusing on my teammates, doing the best that I can for the team.”
“My family. My baby. I want to play eight more years to show my son, so he can see his dad play growing up.”
How much weight did you lose?
“I don’t know. I don’t focus on the scale. I focus on doing my job. The team staff and the program I’ve been working on, they’ve been touching on that, but I don’t focus on the scale.”
All of it right on. But it’s been three years now since Sandoval was an everyday player, and that season his final regular season numbers weren’t exactly eye-popping, hitting .279 with a .739 OPS in 157 games with the Giants.
And since he has been with the Red Sox, the team is 56-73 in games he has played in, with Sandoval hitting combined .242 with an OPS of .651.
There is a long way to go for Sandoval, but at least Thursday was a good start.
More Hanley and Pablo pic.twitter.com/rOONmIUzLL
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 16, 2017
|02.16.17 at 11:24 am ET|
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.”
|02.15.17 at 2:04 pm ET|
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.”
|02.15.17 at 10:50 am ET|
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.”
|02.14.17 at 4:12 pm ET|
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.
|02.14.17 at 1:27 pm ET|
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.
|02.14.17 at 10:08 am ET|
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.
|02.13.17 at 3:32 pm ET|
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.”
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