|02.12.16 at 10:17 am ET|
Former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks and former NESN personality Jenny Dell will marry this weekend in Arizona, culminating a courtship that began in Boston in secret and ended with the duo proudly stepping out as a couple.
The pair got engaged over a year ago, but couldn’t find a date that would fit their busy schedules until Valentine’s Day, according to the Boston Herald’s Inside Track. Dell, who turns 30 in July, covers the college football for CBS Sports Network and was busy at the Super Bowl, while Middlebrooks recently signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers.
The two met while Middlebrooks was playing for the Red Sox and Dell was covering the team as part of NESN’s broadcasts. She was removed from the telecasts shortly after they went public with their relationship.
Middlebrooks has had a rough go of it since. He hit 17 homers and won a World Series ring with the 2013 Red Sox, but was shipped to the Padres for Ryan Hanigan in December of 2014 after batting just .191 with the Red Sox.
Middlebrooks hit .212 for the Padres last year before being given his walking papers and latching on with the Brewers.
|02.11.16 at 6:36 pm ET|
Another day, another high ranking for the players in the Red Sox farm system.
ESPN’s Keith Law, one of the most respected names in prospect evaluation, released his top 100 prospect list on Thursday, and three Red Sox cracked the top 20, with another making the top 40.
Law rated third baseman Rafael Devers as the No. 7 overall prospect in the game. Devers has been overshadowed by the heralded arrivals of Yoan Moncada (No. 17) and Andrew Benintendi (No. 18), but Law sees the 19-year-old as the jewel of the system, praising the 6-foot, 195-pounder’s, “acumen to match his prodigious tools.”
“The bat would profile at first base, of course, with the power and contact upside there, but the potential for above-average defense at third on top of 30-35 homers and a high batting average (even if it’s without a high OBP) is what makes him a top-10 prospect,” Law wrote.
Law is more cautious in his evaluation of Moncada, whom he pegs for 15-18 home runs a year, noting that his swing from both sides of the plate isn’t really geared for the long ball. He still considers him a player with “a couple of paths to becoming an All-Star.”
Law is actually more bullish on Benintendi, whom he could see making a Kyle Schwarber-like jump to the big leagues this year as a potential 20-20 center fielder down the road.
The other Red Sox prospect on the list is right-hander Anderson Espinoza, who’s still only 17 years old. Law says he could be Pedro Martinez as a starter or Aroldis Chapman as a closer, at least according to the hyperbole, but he praises the youngster’s feel for three pitches, one of them being a 99 mph fastball.
“With three big league-caliber pitches and shocking feel for his age, Espinoza is the living definition of a player being ‘scary good,’ because we haven’t seen a player like him in quite a while,” Law wrote.
As for the rest of the list, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager checked in at No. 1, while two former Red Sox — Manuel Margot (No. 25) and Javier Guerra (No. 34) — both cracked the top 50 after being acquired from the Padres in a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel.
|02.10.16 at 4:13 pm ET|
“If you’re going to go out, Cracker Barrel is awesome,” Barnes said. “That new Twin Peaks place is a lot of fun.” (When questioned about the merits of the latter’s menu, he responded, “The wings are good. They’ve got some bacon strips in some brown sugar. It’s a heart attack in an appetizer.”)
But the real alteration in Barnes’ lifestyle is that he enters spring training as a relief pitcher for the first time. Why? In large part because he carries the skill-set so many bullpens are looking for these days — the righty throws hard.
Besides Joe Kelly, Barnes threw 97 mph or better more than any Red Sox pitcher in 2015 (22 times). And while he has no documented proof, his brother did once email him a tweet from a scout in Barnes’ first pro year suggesting he had hit 101 mph.
“It’s definitely pretty cool, whether or not I actually did it,” he admitted. “You can’t just dig down and get it. Going from 96 or 97 to 100, it’s hard.”
But the velocity is just a start for Barnes, as he found out in ’15.
Having just been introduced to relieving midway through last spring training, Barnes took his lumps for much of his stint in the major leagues. As he explained on the podcast, simply throwing hard wasn’t going to be the answer, with the righty totaling a 6.89 ERA and .338 batting average against through 23 appearances before being sent down.
But, after his promotion from Triple-A, Barnes came back in September to allow just one run on eight hits while striking out eight and walking three in nine games. And, just for good measure, he was also afforded one last reminder courtesy Alex Rodriguez, who turned around a 97 mph heater for a solo homer in Barnes’ second-to-last outing of the season.
Following the A-Rod homer, Barnes explained on the podcast that he sat in the dugout with teammate Rick Porcello, who helped guided the rookie through what he might have done right and wrong.
“Velocity helps, I’m not going to say it doesn’t. But if you’re throwing 97 down the middle of the plate these guys are going to hit it,” he said. “Ninety-six, 97, 98, if it’s not located, it’s going to get hit.
“September was a turning point, how I needed to go about being a reliever, how my stuff best played.”
Barnes will be competing for a spot in what already appears to be a fairly crowded Red Sox bullpen, with Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne, and Roenis Elias all having proved themselves in the majors. Steven Wright (who is out of options) and Heath Hembree, also figure to be in the mix.
For now, however, Barnes is at least thinking like a member of the Red Sox bullpen.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if some of the attention sent the way to the highly-touted Yankees pen should be diverted to the Sox. “It’s always going to be a competition, especially when you talk about division rivals. … I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, too.”
|02.09.16 at 10:10 am ET|
On Tuesday morning Travis Shaw let the world know who he would be living with throughout spring training.
‘ Travis Shaw (@travis_shaw21) February 9, 2016
Now, it’s unclear if Deven Marrero, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart and Shaw decided upon this living arrangement because of the tough housing market in the Greater Fort Myers area, or if they viewed it as a the potential for a “Life in Lee County” reality show.
But it does offer the reminder of the uniqueness that comes with putting players up in the Southwest Florida area for what is basically two months.
Rick Porcello? He bought a house in nearby Naples and plans on living with Joe Kelly. (Kelly’s wife is expected to be staying back home, with the couple’s first child slated to be born any day now.)
Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. also bought houses in the area.
|02.09.16 at 9:48 am ET|
Even while having to live in an major league existence/parking lot of tricked-out cars (see Yoan Moncada’s glow-in-the-dark BMW I8), Eduardo Rodriguez drives a Toyota 4Runner and makes no apologies for it.
“I know those kind of guys. They just buy the car. They don’t care what kind of car they got,” said Rodriguez, who just got his driver’s license last year. “They just buy the car and take it to that guy and the guy pulls out a Lamborghini. But I’m not that kind of guy. I just buy a car to drive in, especially with my wife and kids.”
But that doesn’t mean Rodriguez is adverse to mirroring. And there’s one person in particular that he’s all in on emulating this spring training — David Price.
“Having him here, for me, it’s going to be pretty good because he can teach me how to pitch because he’s a lefty and we have almost the same mechanics,” said Rodriguez, who was one of the first pitchers to arrive at JetBlue Park last week. “We throw the same, 94-97 [mph]. So it’s going to be pretty good for me having him here in spring training. If they put him in the same group with him it’s going to be way better for me because he can teach me everything. Whenever we do something, he can teach me how to control the game. For me? It’s going to be great.
“Two years ago I got Johan Santana in Baltimore and he taught me a lot, and that’s why I got in the big leagues last year and did pretty good. He taught me how to do this, this and this. So now I have him here and he can teach me with every start how to get better.”
|02.09.16 at 9:06 am ET|
For those who like to define seasons, the Red Sox once again are attempting to help you with their annual Truck Day taking place Wednesday morning.
With Milford’s Al Hartz behind the wheel, a 53-foot truck will be loaded starting at 7 a.m. before leaving Fenway Park for the 1,480-mile trip to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Wally the Green Monster, along with his newly unveiled sister Tessie, will lead the parade on a flatbed truck.
In case you were wondering what will be on board …
— 20,400 baseballs
— 1,100 bats
— 200 batting gloves
— 200 batting helmets
— 320 batting practice tops
— 160 white game jerseys
— 300 pairs of pants
— 400 T-shirts
— 400 pairs of socks
— 20 cases of bubble gum
— 60 cases of sunflower seeds
|02.09.16 at 8:50 am ET|
Join Rob Bradford of WEEI.com for a live chat to discuss all things Red Sox, MLB and anything else that’s on your mind as spring training looms just more than a week away. It all kicks off at 1 p.m., so get your questions in now …
|02.08.16 at 10:02 am ET|
With football season officially over, big league baseball players will begin to really flock toward Arizona and Florida in preparation for the coming season.
But it never hurts if there some sort of segue to help the transition. The Red Sox had their Winter Weekend, but that was still in the heart of the NFL playoffs.
Well, when it comes to making the most creative bridge from one sport to the other, the Blue Jays won the day.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) February 8, 2016
That’s right, the Blue Jays had a Super Bowl party in which admission was contingent on wearing onesie pajamas.
When contacted by WEEI.com for comment on his group’s get-together, Toronto manager John Gibbons sent this along in a text …
“I was at a party where my daughter’s band performed pregame. But I would have loved to watched it in PJs.”
|02.05.16 at 11:27 am ET|
But if you want to compare the pitcher’s lot in life now — as he joins fellow rotation-mates Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez in getting early February workouts in at JetBlue Park — to a year ago, there is one enormous difference.
Porcello is now officially one of 15 major league pitchers to be making at least $20 million in one season.
But thanks to that contract, which will pay the 27 year old $82.5 million over the next four seasons, he has the luxury of viewing what transpired in the free agent market this offseason from a safe distance.
“This winter? No,” Porcello said when appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast when asked if he monitored how the pitching market was unfolding. “Those were things I went through in my head last spring when it was a possibility of me signing an extension, and things that I discussed with my family and my agent and the possibilities of free agency heading into the offseason following last year. I knew the possibilities if I went out there and had a good year, what could be out there. And if I had a bad year, what could happen. I understood that and I just felt like the deal with the Red Sox gave me ‘¦ It was a place I wanted to be. It was an organization that I felt like has a chance to win over the next five or six years, and that was the biggest factor in being here.”
While the easy narrative would be that Porcello might have run into trouble if he chose not to sign his extension with the Red Sox last April, and became a free agent after 2015, that might have not necessarily been the case.
It’s undeniable that the majority of Porcello’s first year with the Red Sox was a mess, with the righty going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA over 172 innings. Still, he would have had a few things going for him heading into a potential free agent run. First, after coming back from a month-long layoff due to a triceps issue, the final eight starts resulted in a 3.14 ERA. And then there was that age — Porcello would have been the youngest starting pitcher on the market, by far.
Compare Porcello’s situation to a pitcher who did hit free agency this offseason, Jeff Samardzija.
While Samardzija totaled 214 innings for the White Sox in 2015, his ERA was virtually the same as Porcello’s, while actually possessing fewer strikeouts-per-nine innings than the Sox’ sinkerballer. And he’s three years older.
Yet, we’re heading into the offseason with Samardzija carrying a five-year, $90 million deal that will pay him $18 million in each of his last four seasons with the Giants.
A 31-year-old Ian Kennedy, coming off a 9-15 mark with a 4.28 ERA in just 168 1/3 innings (while pitching in the ultra-pitchers-friendly Petco Park), just hauled in a five-year, $70 million deal from Kansas City, that includes an opt-out after Year 2.
Jordan Zimmermann, who turned 29 in last May, will make an average of $22 million a year with the Tigers after producing a so-so season (13-10, 3.78 ERA) with the Nationals in ’15.
“I don’t think so,” Porcello said when asked if any of the free agent contracts signed this offseason raised an eyebrow. “Obviously the market fluctuates offseason to offseason. But I think everybody signs a deal for different reasons. Everything is publicized so you know what guys are signing for. It’s really kind of a personal decision, when it comes down to it. You’re talking about your career, and those guys, and where their families are going to be for the next five or six years. You see certain deals and maybe scratch your head, but you really don’t know what’s going in their personal life and the reasons why they signed it. So I don’t think anything really surprises you. You just observe and take it for what it is.
A year ago, during spring training negotiations with the Red Sox, these were all things that Porcello had to at least occasionally consider/predict. Not anymore.
“Honestly, for the entire spring my main focus was to prepare for the season,” Porcello recalled. “I would hear about things that were going on through my agent and progress that was being made. Really, I just felt whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. If it becomes something that was going to become a realistic possibility, then we would address it when the time comes. I didn’t focus on it at all. When I was at the ballpark I was focused on working and preparing for the season. Toward the end of spring training when things started to get serious, that was when I sat down with my agent, had a couple of conversations, talked with my family about the opportunity that was being put in front of me and kind of went from there.”
Now, with his newly-purchased Naples, Fla. home serving as offseason/spring training headquarters, Porcello has settled into what he hopes will be a much more predictable routine.
“It’s just a comfort level you establish,” he added. “When you come to a new place, it’s probably similar for anybody. You start a new job and the first couple of days, first weeks or months, you’re trying to get familiar with everybody. You’re feeling out what’s going on and how they do it. I think that’s the adjustment period I went through last year in spring training. Now, having a year under my belt here in Boston, I know what’s going on now. I’m familiar with everything and a lot more comfortable.”
Bradfo Show: Rick Porcello, one year later
|02.04.16 at 5:50 pm ET|
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 4, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is exactly two weeks from the date when pitchers and catchers are mandated to report to spring training. It seems like a long time, right?
For evidence on how close things are creeping all anyone had to do was check out Fenway South at JetBlue Park at 8 a.m. Thursday. There throwing the baseball was a collection of six pitchers who included Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Tommy Layne. (By 9 a.m., the group had completed their running and finished with a group cheer for only a vacant complex to see.)
Porcello and Barnes each have bought houses in the area, while Buchholz, Rodriguez and Layne all have been recent arrival into the area.
While Buchholz spent his offseason in Texas, working out with former teammate John Lackey, Rodriguez split his time between his native Venezuela and Miami. Layne, who works as a hunting host for the richest of the rich in the St. Louis area, joined his wife and 3-month-old daughter in getting a head-start on things in Florida.
Others seen at the facility in recent days include outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospect Yoan Moncada.
The expectation is that there will be many more bodies — including much of the coaching staff, who were involved in organizational meetings the past few days — starting Monday.
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