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Rusney Castillo knows all about being penalized for stepping out of batter’s box

02.26.15 at 4:36 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo shouldn’t have an issue with staying in the batter’s box. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The mystery of what is going to transpire when umpires start enforcing Major League Baseball‘s new rule of not allowing hitters to step out of the batter’s box isn’t a mystery to Rusney Castillo, at all.

As it turns out, Castillo has already gone through such a transition, along with the rest of those playing under the Baseball Federation of Cuba.

The Red Sox outfielder explained Thursday that in an effort to speed up the games (sound familiar) the governing body of Cuban baseball decided to enact the same rule that is creating so much buzz heading into the 2015 MLB season.

“The game used to be really long, but about two years ago they implemented the rule we’€™re trying to implement, with the hitter staying in the box,” Castillo said. “That sped the game up a little bit.

“It did mess with some hitters, but for me, if I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to do it and I didn’t think about all that much. It wasn’t all that difficult for me, personally.”

Unlike the proposed MLB regulation, where the penalty is a warning and a potential fine, the ramification of stepping out of the box in Cuba was a called strike.

(Cuban pitchers also are mandated to throw a pitch within an allotted time span, with somebody — although not publicly-viewed clock — monitoring the seconds. The payment for going over is a called ball.)

“The biggest complaint is that people like to take that time to readjust and refocus,” Castillo said. “It was just happening a little too quick, quicker than they wanted to. They wanted to control the tempo.

“It just took some time, but over the course of a season it just became normal. Now it’€™s just normal. I don’€™t know about a big difference, but it did make a difference.”

Watch the first few pitches of Castillo’s initial professional at-bat, and you can get an understanding of how he has learned to adjust in between offerings:

Read More: 2015 spring training,

John Farrell says ‘it’s likely’ Shane Victorino returns to switch-hitting this season

02.26.15 at 3:29 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — If all goes as planned, Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting this season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that he and the staff have talked to the outfielder about the plan, which will include spring training at-bats from the left side of the plate.

Victorino gave up hitting left-handed late in the 2013 season when he injured his hip running into a wall while chasing a fly ball along the right field line.

“It’s likely that he hits left-handed in games,” Farrell said. “If you think back to ’13 late in the year, he switched solely to the right side because of some physical restrictions. With those being freed up now, the left side of the plate comes back into play.”

In 2014, force to hit right-handed against right-handed pitching, he managed to bat just .241 with a .283 on-base percentage in 90 plate appearances over 27 games. Lifetime, Victorino is .268 hitter with a .329 on-base percentage as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching.

Farrell said the work will begin as soon as possible so Victorino can get up to game speed with left-handed hitting.

“Every guy is going to be a little bit different. He’s going to take all the extra work that he can physically tolerate. I think until we get into games, it’ll probably be a better read on how many number of at-bats left-handed it would require [in spring training]. But if you think about two years ago in ’13 in spring training, I don’t know if he got a hit in spring training. Open up in New York, he’s got three line drive base hits the first day of season. So again, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with that side of the plate, taking some pitches and taking some at-bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB

John Farrell doesn’t think David Ortiz has target on his back: ‘He’ll adhere to the rules’

02.26.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — While infield coach Brian Butterfield was going over bunt fielding drills with his pitchers and infielders Thursday morning outside JetBlue Park, John Farrell spent a good 20 minutes with David Ortiz.

The manager stood and listened to Ortiz reiterate what he told reporters on Wednesday about his concerns and complaints about the new rules designed to speed up play, designed specifically to keep batters like Ortiz in the batters box and keep them from slowing the game down. Ortiz was articulate and animated as always in relaying his feelings to the skipper.

And Farrell came away thinking everything will be just fine when the season gets underway.

“I think he’ll adhere to the rules,” Farrell said. “And I think anytime we’re going through some subtle changes or some adjustments to the pace of game or instant replay, there’s going to be some growing pains. We fully anticipate that. I think it’s important that we all give this a chance to come to fruition a little bit and see how it may or may not affect the flow of a game or an individual routine at the plate. And I think that’s what’s important here, is that there’s a personal routine at the plate or on the mound that is part of the natural flow of the game. Some might consider that flow slow but I think that’s important that it’s preserved because that’s what puts a player, hitter or pitcher, in the right frame of mind to execute what he’s trying to get done.”

There was a report Wednesday night, after Ortiz’s very public comments, that MLB will not only consider aggressively administering $500 fines but will consider suspensions for repeat offenders of the pace rules. Does Farrell think Ortiz placed a target on his back with his outburst?

“No, not at all,” Farrell said. “I think the one thing that David has done is he’s an All-Star player and he’s a guy that is about playing the game the right way. I don’t think he’s putting a target on his back. He spoke his mind and that’s where we don’t make this too much of an issue because I think it’ll end up being a subtlety inside of the game. But this is no different than when they had fines and potential suspensions for relievers coming out of the bullpen that took too long. We dealt with our guys that were a little bit slower than normal in a way that you have to remind them of some things as the game unfolds.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, John Farrell

Ben Cherington on D&C: MLB pace of play changes will be ‘a process’

02.26.15 at 11:04 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things Red Sox and also to discuss the recent MLB pace of play changes. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

A major topic of discussion in the early days of spring training has been the recent pace of play changes in an effort to speed up the game. Cherington feels it is going to be a process, as is almost anything when it comes to implementing changes.

“I think as with anything when there is change it’s a process — and we have spring training to work through that,” said Cherington. “There’s a lot of smart people who have looked at this issue and feel strongly that pace of play is a critical issue for the game, for the greater good of the game. We all have a stake in that. Now it’s a question of how to improve that, how to execute it on the new policy so that it actually works and everyone gets comfortable. That’s a process. We have to use spring training to communicate, to educate, to allow players to feel what it feels like and frankly, our staff has that built into spring training. Since we’re very early in spring training, some of that communication hasn’t happened yet.”

Part of the process is a pitch clock in minor league games. The general manager feels pitchers will end up liking it after adjusting to it, as it will help them establish a good pace.

“It’s a matter of practicing it — this is something we will do at minor league camp — you start throwing your bullpens with a clock so you can get used to it,” Cherington said. “Once you get used to doing that, they’ve left enough time to get the ball and deliver a pitch. It’s a matter of getting in the habit of doing it. I think a lot of pitchers will find that once they get into that habit they will actually like it because it keeps them on a good pace.”

Cherington made an interesting comparison when it comes to Cuban athletes (like Yoan Moncada, who he couldn’t comment directly on as the signing isn’t official) compared to American athletes — the best Cuban athletes are playing baseball, as where in America the best American athletes are playing football.

“I think the thing about the Cuban player market, which is different than just about any that we look at, is baseball in Cuba seems to be capturing a type of athlete that baseball is not capturing in any other place,” said Cherington. “You can say [Yasiel] Puig just looks different, that’s because he is different. If he was growing up in Louisiana he would probably be playing in the SEC. If you’re growing up in Cuba you’re playing baseball, you’re not getting funneled into football programs.

“Some of the players that are coming out, they look different because they are different and if they have been training that long and training their skills, it’s pretty exciting what they can do on the field. We think there are guys, Moncada included, not to speak officially on him, that are capable of doing a lot of different stuff on the field just because they are are different type of athlete.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, ben cherington, John Farrell, Shane Victorino

Xander Bogaerts on D&C admits losing confidence last season: ‘This year is a new year, I feel much better’

02.26.15 at 9:24 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to discuss the upcoming season and what he did in the offseason to try and bounce back from a difficult 2014 season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Last season was a difficult year for Bogaerts, as in his first full season in the majors he hit .240 with an on-base percentage of .297. He struggled even more with runners in scoring position, hitting just .153 for the year. Bogaerts admitted he lost confidence during the year, but 2015 is a new season.

“Yeah, a little bit — going really bad for two months, I mean extremely bad,” Bogaerts said of losing confidence. “Trying to have confidence everyday coming to the park was pretty tough. This year is a new year, I feel much better. I feel much more confident in myself so, it’s something I definitely learned, no matter how tough the situation is it’s just keep your head up.”

Bogaerts switched positions a few times during the year — moving from shortstop to third base when the team signed Stephen Drew, and then back to shortstop once Drew was traded at the trade deadline. He said the changing positions had an effect on him mentally.

“Maybe it messed with me mentally a little bit, but I guess that was my fault being young and not understanding they really got him to help the team,” Bogaerts said. “We needed someone to come in and play either short or third because [Will] Middlebrooks was injured.”

The shortstop spent much of the winter in Arizona working out for roughly four hours a day. Focusing on building muscle was one of his major goals, as he said his body wore down last year.

“Really gained a lot of muscle,” said Bogaerts. “Trying to be fast, quick. Last year towards the All-Star game my body started wearing down and I think [that was why] I was struggling so much, I was mentally weak and it just dragged on me physically and stuff like that. It just went downhill from there. The All-Star break boosted me up a little but and then it went back down.”

The 22-year-old learned a lot from his first full season in the majors, but feels his experiences last year will only help him moving forward.

“It’s a really tough game,” said Bogaerts. “Especially in the Boston market — a lot of media attention, especially after winning the World Series, a lot of eyes were on us. I think this year will probably be the same because of all the new acquisitions that we have. You just have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. You go through your ups and downs. It’s definitely easy to lose your confidence.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Stephen Drew, xander bogaerts,

David Ortiz thinks like Tom Brady: ‘We are like wine, remember that’

02.25.15 at 4:43 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tom Brady and David Ortiz will be forever linked in Boston sports lore. They have led their respective teams to unlikely championships when many thought they were either incapable or washed up.

Before last season, Tom Brady famously told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan, “When I suck, I’ll retire.” Of course, after a 2-2 start that started his critics wondering if that time had come, Brady rebounded nicely to win his fourth Super Bowl title and his third Super Bowl MVP.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was paying attention to Brady this season and made reference to the Patriots quarterback Wednesday when asked how much longer he thinks his 39-year-old body will let him play.

‘€œPeople asked the same question of Tom Brady,” he said. ‘€œNow what? I bet you want him to be your quarterback once again. All the trash people were talking about him, this and that bro, I was listening to that in the Dominican. We barely watch football over there. But I watched the Super Bowl. I was like, ‘€˜Man, they’€™re not going to learn in Boston.’€™

“We are like wine. Remember that.”

Ortiz and Brady have always been linked, and that was never more evident than on Oct. 13, 2013. That’s when Brady fired a game-winning pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with six seconds left to beat the Saints and then three hours later, David Ortiz hit a game-tying grand slam against the Tigers to wipe out a 5-1 hole in the bottom of the eighth in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Ortiz is nearly two years older than Brady, who turns 38 in August. He hit 35 home runs last season, his most in any season since hitting 35 in 2007, and is just 34 shy of 500 in his career.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Big Papi, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz

Video: Yoan Moncada spends day in Fort Myers before heading to Boston

02.25.15 at 3:57 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada spent the day with Red Sox personnel at JetBlue Park Wednesday. (WEEI.com photo)

Yoan Moncada spent the day with Red Sox personnel at JetBlue Park Wednesday. (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Yoan Moncada crept a little closer to becoming an official member of the Red Sox Wednesday.

Moncada, the 19-year-old infielder who has agreed to a $31.5 million signing bonus and minor league deal with the Red Sox, began the process of formalizing the agreement with an all-day visit to JetBlue Park.

Moncada arrived at the facility at 8:15 a.m. and left at 3:15, heading to the Southwest International Airport for a flight to Boston where he will take his final physical.

If all goes as planned, some are estimating an official announcement will come early next week.

The plan is for the switch-hitter to join minor leaguers for workouts at Fenway South after his deal is done.

Read More: 2015 spring training, yoan moncada,

Tom Werner: Hype over Larry Lucchino is ‘tempest in a tea pot’

02.25.15 at 3:15 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tom Werner never knew a simple masthead could be so troublesome.

The Red Sox chairman was asked Wednesday about the continued role of Larry Lucchino in the organization after reports surfaced that Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon was listed above Lucchino on the corporate masthead, and just below John Henry and Tom Werner.

“I’ve never even seen a masthead in my life until it was shown to us [Tuesday] night,” Werner said. “Mike is involved with FSG and I don’t want to argue about whose name is above whose. But that was a mistake that we’re going to correct.”

The masthead leads one to believe that Gordon carries more power than Lucchino because Gordon is in charge of the parent company of the Red Sox. Gordon is in charge of many financial matters in the organization and helps run Liverpool of the Barclay’s Premier League. Lucchino is his counterpart with the Red Sox. Is there any difference?

“That’s a fair question,” Werner said in an attempt to clarify. “It’s not like I have reviewed the club directory. It probably was a mistake. We don’t have an FSG masthead. We should’ve created one. I really do think it’s a bit of tempest in a teapot.”

“And that was not a club directory,” Lucchino added. “It was a listing put out by the [MLB] central office, trying to figure out where FSG goes and where the Red Sox go. The official club directory comes out in the press guide, which is due out in a week or so.”

Overblown. That’s the way the two view the entire controversy over the power structure in the organization. Lucchino, who will turn 70 this season, feels his role is still the same.

“Tom and John are probably the best ones to talk about it,” Lucchino said. “To me, there’s not much of a story there. You’re better off hearing it from Tom or John. Mike Gordon’s role has evolved over time, to be sure. I was just saying to Tom that two years ago we were down here talking about Dustin Pedroia‘s contract, and Tom and I and Mike Gordon and Dustin’s representatives had a dinner together so he’s been involved in things over the years. I really don’t …”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner

David Ortiz destroys new MLB pace of game rules, thinks pitchers get off easy

02.25.15 at 2:12 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the Players Association, announced last week new rules and guidelines for speeding up the pace of games starting this season, one Red Sox batter immediately took offense.

And on Wednesday, the whole world found out just how ticked off David Ortiz is with rules designed to make sure batters keep one foot in the batter’s box while the pitcher has the baseball between pitches.

Ortiz was asked about the new rules Wednesday and it didn’t take much to get him started.

“Is that new? [Shoot], it seems like every rule goes in the pitcher’s favor. After the pitch, you have to stay in the box, basically? One foot?”

Told baseball executives were just trying to speed up the game, Ortiz wasn’t buying.

“I call that [bull crap],” Ortiz said. “Bro, when you come out of the box, you’re thinking about what the [pitcher] is trying to do. This is not like you go to the plate with an empty mind. When you see guys pitch and guys are coming out the box, we’re not doing it just for doing it. Our minds are speeding up. I see one pitch, I’m thinking what is this guy going to try to do to me next. I’m not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place and I want my buddies to see me and this and that. It doesn’t go that way.

“When you force a hitter to do that, 70 percent you out because you don’t have any time to think. And the only time you have to think about things is that time. So, I don’t know how this baseball game is going to end up.

“It don’t matter what they do, the game is not going to speed up. That’s the bottom line. When you argue for the pitch and then they have to go review it, that takes some time. Is that our fault? No. It’s their fault. But we still have to play the game.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, pace of game

John Farrell would like to see pitchers work faster, too

02.25.15 at 2:07 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hitters aren’t the only ones who can speed up the pace of play in baseball. Pitchers can do their part, too, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Major League Baseball recently unveiled changes designed to speed up the pace of play, from batters keeping one foot in the box at virtually all times, to managers staying near their dugouts during challenges.

“I’€™ve always subscribed to the fact that if you ingrain (the idea) into a pitcher of working fast, changing speed and throwing strikes, that’€™s a recipe for success for a number of years,” Farrell said. “I think that will assure a steady flow of the game, but that’€™s not always the case and that’€™s why these changes are being implemented.”

One Red Sox pitcher who could stand to work a little faster is right-hander Clay Buchholz, who recently acknowledged that he wants to speed up his tempo this year.

“If any part of it is on the pitcher, you’ll have to step up your pace a little bit,” Buchholz said. “Actually, I’ve been trying to work on that anyway, getting the ball and getting back on the rubber and letting the hitter determine whenever I throw the ball, instead of me lagging.”

Farrell described the benefits for a quick worker.

“If you have a good tempo on the mound, the game should flow,” Farrell said. “We recognize the TV broadcast is going to drive a lot of this with the time in between innings, but that’€™s an area we can adhere to more strictly, is make sure we start on time coming out of an inning break.

“I think it needs to be given a chance to let it play out and see what happens. I’€™ve talked to a number of pitchers in the offseason when it was focused on the pitch clock. They thought, ‘Why is it always us being targeted?’ I think everybody is going to look upon themselves as ‘Why me?’ a little bit, but I think it’€™s important to let these changes take hold.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, John Farrell,
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