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Russell Martin wouldn’t mind playing in Boston

10.09.14 at 7:21 am ET
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Russell Martin will be one of the top free agents this offseason. (Getty Images)

Russell Martin will be one of the top free agents this offseason. (Getty Images)

The chances that Russell Martin signs with the Red Sox this offseason aren’t good. But that doesn’t mean such a move shouldn’t be discussed, particularly when the player represents a potential solution to a potential problem.

“It’s definitely a place to consider if the option is there,” Martin told WEEI.com during a late September interview.

(The acceptance of playing in Boston is a departure from the tone struck by Martin in 2011, as stated here.)

Martin is far and away (not even close) going to be the best catcher on the free agent market, having hit .290 with 11 home runs and an .832 OPS (.401 on-base percentage). Pittsburgh will likely offer the 31 year old the $15.3 million qualifying offer, having already stated they will stretch their payroll in an attempt to re-sign the backstop. (Some reports have stated Martin has already been offered a four-year deal from the Pirates.)

The likelihood is the Red Sox lean on Christian Vazquez for the majority of the games in 2015. The potential issues with that road, however, is the uncertainty regarding the righty hitter’s offense, and what you get to complement the young backstop.

Here are the free agent catchers not named Russell Martin: John Buck, Ryan Doumit, Gerald Laird, Wil Nieves, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross and Geovany Soto. Nick Hundley ($5 million) and Jeff Mathis ($1.5 million) both are living under club options.

Switch-hitting Blake Swihart isn’t perceived to be quite ready for big league duty, having played 18 Triple-A games.

That leads us back to Martin.

Team sources suggest it is unlikely the Red Sox go hard after Martin, feeling he will want to go to a team guaranteeing catching around the 120 games he has averaged over the past four seasons. But they did previously explore the Canadian native’s services prior to the 2011 season before he inked a deal with the Yankees.

“I think with the injury I was coming back from, the hip injury, I think [the Red Sox] doctors were concerned and the Yankees were a bit more aggressive,” he remembered. “I think that’€™s what it came down to.

“It’€™s a great baseball town. People love their baseball. For the most part they’€™ve always been competitive. They’€™ve got a great team. [Dustin] Pedroia is one of personal favorites. I love the way he competes so it would be a pleasure playing with him.”

If the dynamic with Vazquez does change, and the Red Sox view Martin as one of the solutions for their offensive woes, there might be a built-in recruitment tool — Pedroia.

Martin has known the Red Sox second baseman since the two played in the Arizona Fall League for Scottsdale, with the duo working out together sporadically throughout recent offseasons. (Martin was part of a collection of players that included Pedroia, Conor Jackson, J.J. Hardy and Howie Kendrick who met at Andre Ethier’s Arizona home for daily workouts.)

“One of the first times I ever met [Pedroia] he was playing ping-pong with somebody and I thought he was joking around, the way he talking to the person he was playing against. He was just super feisty and cocky and everything,” Martin recalled. “It was just funny to see him go at it. It was just funny to see somebody as competitive, if not more competitive, than me. He can definitely dish it out. I just like to be there to listen.”

An in-season reunion for the two isn’t likely, but with free agency fast approaching, the Martin conversation — one involving one of the top free agents and a team boasting a significant chunk of money — is at least interesting think about.

Exploring some Red Sox hitting coach scuttlebutt

10.08.14 at 12:50 pm ET
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Who is going to replace Greg Colbrunn?

Talking to folks throughout baseball about the Red Sox vacant hitting coach job, three names keep coming up: Chili Davis, Bill Mueller and Dave Magadan. None of these men might be ending up with the Sox, but they are being referenced throughout the industry.

Davis’ name has gained the most steam of late, with the Oakland A’s hitting coach having worked in the same capacity with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2011. While he is still under contract with the A’s, there was reportedly some frustration from both sides during Oakland’s offensive slide during the final two months of the season. (Note: Davis could also be drawing from Theo Epstein, who hired him out of the Dodgers’ organization to work with the PawSox.)

Mueller just recently resigned from his post as hitting coach with the Cubs after the team reassigned his hand-picked assistant hitting coach, Mike Brumley. Mueller’s connection with the Red Sox is obvious — having spent three solid seasons in Boston from 2003-05.

Like Davis, Magadan is still under contract, but with a new manager slated to come in for the Rangers, Texas has given the former Red Sox hitting coach permission to look elsewhere. While it is not known if the Red Sox have formerly asked for the right to talk to Magadan, he has already drawn interest from multiple teams around the majors. It is believed he would welcome a return to Boston, particularly his wife hails from New Hampshire.

We shouldn’t forget assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, who really developed a solid rapport with Yoenis Cespedes over the final few months.

Colbrunn wanted to prioritize being close to his South Carolina home, as was evidenced even before his illness this season. The former Sox hitting coach turned down a chance for a contract extension following the 2013 world championship season.

If you’re wondering how the process works when teams are interested in interviewing coaches from other teams: The potential new team contacts the other team and if the coach’s current team grants permission, there is a written form that they sign and gets submitted to MLB. So there you have it.

Also, in case you forgot, the last time the Red Sox had a hitting coach opening, four other candidates (besides Colbrunn) interviewed — Rick Schu, Rodriguez, Craig Counsell, and Scott Fletcher.

Schu is currently the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals, Counsell worked on the Brewers television broadcasts in 2014, and Fletcher left the Braves after this season, having served as the team’s assistant hitting coach.


Long before he threw 100: Hunter Strickland’s Red Sox tenure recalled

10.06.14 at 10:39 am ET
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Hunter Strickland was pitching for Single-A Greenville in 2009 when the Red Sox traded him to the Pirates. (Billy Crowe/Greenville Drive)

Hunter Strickland was pitching for Single-A Greenville in 2009 when the Red Sox traded him to the Pirates. (Billy Crowe/Greenville Drive)

It has represented a parenthetical remark to an extraordinary emergence. Hunter Strickland, the Giants reliever who has been unleashing 100 mph comets in the postseason (including in his 18th-inning save on Saturday night/Sunday morning in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals), was once a Red Sox.

But when he was with the Red Sox, he didn’t resemble the fire-breathing late-innings force that he’s suddenly become in the past five weeks for the Giants.

Strickland was an unheralded right-handed in Georgia when the Sox drafted him in the 18th round of the 2007 draft and signed him to a low six-figures bonus. Area scout Rob English liked the young pitcher’s arm action, pitcher’s build (he was a sturdy 6-foot-5) and particularly his outstanding makeup. English felt that Strickland might grow into a bit more velocity beyond the 90-ish he was showing as an amateur, and that if he got close to the big leagues, his work ethic and drive would permit him to thrive.

That said, Strickland never got close to the big leagues while in the Sox system — or, until this year, anyone else’s. In parts of three seasons in the Sox system — a pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2007, an assignment to Short-Season Single-A Lowell in 2008 and three and a half months with Single-A Greenville in 2009 — he proved a solid performer, going 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Greenville Drive, hunter strickland, kevin boles

Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn won’t return in 2015

10.03.14 at 11:27 am ET
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Greg Colbrunn

Greg Colbrunn

The Red Sox announced that hitting coach Greg Colbrunn “has elected not to return to the position for the 2015 season.” According to multiple sources, he was offered a position in the organization, but declined.

In a text, Colbrunn said he was unsure if he wanted to work in baseball for the coming season, but if he did it would have to be close to his South Carolina home.

One year after Colbrunn served as the hitting coach of a team that led the majors with 5.27 runs per game en route to a World Series, he oversaw a squad that managed just 3.91 runs per game, 11th in the American League. Colbrunn also spent time away from the team in June due to a brain hemorrhage that resulted in his hospitalization. Over time, upon his return to the team in July, he was able to build back to his regular duties amidst a dramatic second-half roster overhaul.

Prior to joining the Sox as the lead hitting coach of their two-coach structure (with Victor Rodriguez, a longtime Sox minor league coach and coordinator, as the assistant hitting coach), he’d spent six seasons as the hitting coach and manager of the Yankees‘ Single-A affiliate in Charleston, S.C., where Colbrunn makes his offseason home.

One name to keep an eye on in regards to replacing Colbrunn is former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. Magadan has one more year on his current contract with the Rangers, but with Texas in the process of looking for another manager a reunion with the Sox might make sense. (Magadan’s wife is from New Hampshire.)


Billy Beane says A’s wouldn’t have made playoffs without Jon Lester trade

10.02.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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Billy Beane insisted that the deal to acquire Jon Lester from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes was the right one. (Getty Images)

Billy Beane insisted that the deal to acquire Jon Lester from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes was the right one. (Getty Images)

At the time, the trade sending Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes sent shockwaves through the baseball landscape. Those continue to reverberate more than two months later.

The A’s season came to a startling halt on Tuesday night, when Lester could not hold a 7-3 advantage that he carried into the eighth inning, with Oakland eventually falling, 8-7, to the Royals in extra innings. The July 31 deal between the A’s and Red Sox had long been controversial in Oakland given the plummeting productivity of the A’s lineup, which averaged 3.5 runs per game while going 22-33 following the trade deadline, going from the best team in the majors and a two-game lead in the AL West to losing 12 games to the Angels in the division and barely holding on to edge out the Mariners by one game for a wild card spot.

But Beane disputed the notion that the trade was the cause of his team’s collapse down the stretch.

‘€œSimply put,” Beane told reporters in Oakland, “if we don’€™t have Jon Lester, I don’€™t think we make the playoffs.’€

Lester was 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts with the A’s, pitching at essentially the same dominant level at which he’d been performing with the Sox prior to the trade. Cespedes likewise performed at a comparable level with the Sox (.269/.296/.423) that he did prior to the trade with the A’s (.256/.303/.464).

Beane suggested that the Angels’ dominance over the season’s final two months would have made it impossible for the A’s to keep pace in the division, regardless of whether or not the trade had occurred.

‘€œOne thing I’€™m going to say right now,’€ Beane told reporters, ‘€œthe Angels were going to catch us. They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point on.’€

Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo to interview with Rangers

10.01.14 at 11:26 pm ET
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Torey Lovullo

Torey Lovullo

According to multiple major league sources, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will interview with the Texas Rangers for their vacant managerial position.

Lovullo recently interviewed with the same role with the Houston Astros, who ultimately gave the job to A.J. Hinch.

The 49-year-old Lovullo has also previously interviewed for managing jobs with the Dodgers, Indians and Red Sox. The former major league infielder began his managing career in the Cleveland organization, where he served at a variety of levels from 2002-09.

He spent one season as the skipper for the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket in ’10 before joining John Farrell in Toronto as the Blue Jays’ first base coach.

Also in consideration for the Texas job is former Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, who went 14-8 as the Rangers’ interim manager after Ron Washington stepped down due to personal reasons.

The thinking behind putting Jon Lester’s house on the market

10.01.14 at 3:08 pm ET
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Jon Lester's season came to an end Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Jon Lester‘s season came to an end Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

So, Jon Lester’s house is on the market.

When the news came out that the pitcher was putting his Newton Highlands’ house up for sale — asking $1,850,000 — the assumption was that he was already locked into moving on from the Red Sox.

But according to a source familiar with the situation, the thinking behind Lester surfacing a listing for the house was this:

1. He wanted to get out in front of the process if he did sign with another team.

2. There is an assumption that the window of free agency is short enough that are no guarantees an acceptable offer would come in during that time span.

3. He is putting the house on the market with the obvious understanding that it can be taken off if it appears a deal with the Red Sox can be struck.

4. Lester would not be averse to purchasing a different house in the area if he re-signs with the Red Sox (particularly considering his growing family and annual income).

Lester also just bought a $3.4 million house in the Atlanta suburb of Pleasant Hills in April.

To look the house Lester is putting up for sale, click here.

Looks like Jon Lester’s career in Oakland is over

10.01.14 at 2:08 am ET
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Jon Lester couldn't deliver a win for the A's Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Jon Lester couldn’t deliver a win for the A’s Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

It was supposed to be a showcase for two of the soon-to-be most coveted starting pitchers on the free agent market — Kansas City’s James Shields and Jon Lester of the A’s.

Instead what transpired in an Wild Card play-in game was a pair of forgettable performances from the starters, but an unforgettable 9-8 win for the Royals in 12 innings.

The world of baseball was treated to an unbelievable showdown, with Kansas City manager Ned Yost making controversial moves throughout (tying a MLB postseason record with seven steals), the Royals coming back from a four runs down in the eighth inning, and, ultimately, KC scoring a pair of runs in final frame to claim a walk-off on Salvador Perez’s RBI single.

(To read all about what transpired in the Royals’ win, click here.)

But what most followers of the Red Sox were concerned about was that starting pitching matchup, particularly the fate of Lester.

Lester’s 7 1/3-inning outing was a roller coaster. The lefty allowed KC to claim an 3-2 lead after three innings, only throwing his much-improved curveball four times while trying to get in the groove with catcher Geovany Soto (whom had never caught Lester).

Perhaps the lefty’s biggest early mistake was pitching to Lorenzo Cain with a runner on second in the third inning. Cain jumped on a first-pitch fastball and rifled it into left to tie the game. He would promptly be driven in by Eric Hosmer’s bloop single.

But, with his regular catcher, Derek Norris, in the game due to a Soto thumb injury, Lester found his stride all the way up until the eighth inning. The A’s starter retired 12 of 13 batters before being taken out with one out in the eighth.

Lester was driven from the game after surrendering another RBI single to Cain, leading to a Hosmer walk on the lefty’s 111th (and final) pitch.

Reliever Luke Gregerson added to Lester’s final line, promptly giving up an RBI single to Billy Butler. The six earned runs boosted the former Red Sox‘ hurler’s postseason ERA from 2.11 to 2.57.

It is no secret that when the Oakland season ended, so would Lester’s stay with the A’s.

“I came out here knowing what I am. I’m a two-month rental and hopefully I can somehow help win a World Series for the Oakland A’s,” he told WEEI.com Friday. “It eases a lot of the questioning of the ‘What are you going to do?’ Everybody knows it’s two months and then probably not sign a contract with the Oakland A’s. We’re going to go our separate ways and go into free agency.”

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As for Shields, his night was cut short in the sixth inning when Yost decided 88 pitches was enough for his ace, pulling him with the Royals leading by one, runners on first and second, and Brandon Moss (who had hit a two-run homer in the first) at-bat.

While Shields didn’t have nearly the postseason pedigree of Lester — coming into the game with a 4.98 in six playoff appearances — he was perceived as the Royals’ workhorse. But instead of letting the righty fight through the jam, Yost brought in rookie fireballer Yordano Ventura, who had thrown 73 pitches two days prior, while having relieved just once all season.

The result was another Moss home run, closing out Shield’s line and paving the way for plenty of criticism for the Royals’ manager (with TBS analyst Pedro Martinez leading the charge):

Marlins president David Samson: Giancarlo Stanton will be on 2015 Marlins

09.30.14 at 3:13 pm ET
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Marlins president David Samson told the Miami Herald that the team plans to discuss a long-term extension with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton — who hit .288 with a .395 OBP and .555 slugging mark while leading the National League with 37 homers despite missing the final weeks of the season after getting beaned by a pitch — this coming offseason. That said, Samson also said that the team would not consider trading Stanton even in the absence of a long-term deal.

“He’€™s on this team [in 2015] either way,” Samson told the Herald. “I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’€™re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years.

“We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come.”

Stanton, 24, is under Marlins team control for two more years before he’s eligible for free agency following the 2016 campaign. He made $6.5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2014.

Read More: giancarlo stanton,

Why Jon Lester feels he’s better heading into this postseason than last year

09.30.14 at 2:12 pm ET
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While the folks at Kauffman Stadium might have skipped an entire generation when it comes to viewing postseason baseball — finally being reintroduced to the playoffs Tuesday night in the Royals’ one-game showdown with Oakland — for Jon Lester it’s old hat.

The Wild Card play-in game will be Lester’s 14th playoff appearance, and 12th start. The lefty’s postseason ERA stands at 2.11. Last year he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 34 2/3 innings during the Sox’ world championship run.

But of all the postseasons Lester has stormed into, he explained during a Friday phone conversation that this one will be executed as a better all-around pitcher compared to any of the other Octobers.

“I think so,” Lester told WEEI.com when asked if this was the best he’s ever pitched. “I’m just in a better place (performance-wise). I think everybody goes back to 2010 and that’s kind of supposed to be my career year. I think by far this is, in my opinion, my best year. Mentally, physically, stats-wise, all that stuff. I feel good where I’m at. I learned a lot over the years and have become more of a pitcher and not just a thrower. I feel better where everything is at. Whether that leads to a win or a loss or leads to a good or bad start, I feel like I’m in a better place mentally every time i take the mound.”

It’s hard to argue.

Lester finished his combined stints with the Red Sox and A’s pitching a career-high 219 2/3 innings, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA, also the best of his nine-year career.

The statistical kudos have continued to pile up: Lester is tied with Felix Hernandez for most quality starts (27), and is one of just four starters this season with a sub-2.50 ERA and 15 wins. The southpaw also possesses the second-lowest ERA in the majors since June 12 (1.80), trailing only Clayton Kershaw.

Now comes a potentially wild few months for Lester — the playoffs and free agency.

“Absolutely,” he said regarding feeling an excitement heading into the coming days. “Right now it’s more the excitement of the playoffs and once the season is done then we can start worry about free agency stuff. I’ve tried, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job this year, to put that on the back-burner and making sure that’s the last thing that’s a worry point for me and my family. So right now I’m taking that same approach. I have to worry about my next start. That’s what I have to focus on, and then once everything is said and done I can sit down with [agent] Seth [Levinson] and my family and we can evaluate. Then we can start getting into the excitement of free agency and all the possibilities and what-ifs and wondering what’s going to happen. That stuff will come when it’s time and when we get there, yeah, I’m sure it will be an exciting time. But right now we’re focused on trying to win and hopefully carrying that over into the postseason.”

To read the entire Lester interview — which includes how the stay in Oakland has shaped his view of free agency — click here.

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