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Cubs announce Jon Lester as Opening Day starter

03.02.15 at 3:15 pm ET
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The Cubs took any suspense out of the decision over who will start on opening day against the Cardinals by tabbing former Red Sox ace Jon Lester.

This will be Lester’s fifth straight opening day start, with the added bonus that his appearance against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field will actually kick off the entire 2015 season on the night of Sunday, April 5.

Lester went 1-1 with a 3.70 ERA on Opening Day with the Red Sox, beating the Yankees in 2013, taking a tough-luck loss against the Orioles in Baltimore last year, and pitching poorly (Texas, 2011) and well (Detroit, 2012) in no-decisions.

The 31-year-old left the Red Sox this winter to sign a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs.

College suspends student for vile tweets about Curt Schilling’s daughter

03.02.15 at 12:08 pm ET
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Curt Schilling went on the attack Sunday night after seeing vulgar tweets about his daughter, a high school senior whom Schilling congratulated for deciding to play softball at Salve Regina University next year.

One of the most offensive tweeters, identified as Adam Nagel, a student at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey who hosts a sports talk show on the school’s radio station, was suspended for his actions. [Update: The school emailed to say the student had an hour-long weekly slot on one of the radio station’s student radio streams.]

The school announced the discipline on Facebook, writing:

Students and community members have rightfully expressed concerns regarding recent social media comments made by a Brookdale student.

The Twitter comments posted by this student are unacceptable and clearly violate the standards of conduct that are expected of all Brookdale students.

The student has been summarily suspended and will be scheduled for a conduct hearing where further disciplinary action will be taken. The Brookdale Police are actively investigating this matter. Brookdale takes this behavior very seriously and does not tolerate any form of harassment.

Our sincerest apologies to Gabby Schilling. Her achievement should be celebrated and not clouded by offensive comments.

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Finally healthy, Dustin Pedroia proclaims ‘I’m not messing around’

03.02.15 at 9:45 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia seems pleased these days.

The latest bit of good news was clubhouse manager Tommy McLaughlin presenting the second baseman with the stickers for the handle end of his bats. The excitement was only amped up upon seeing the stickers image that had a silhouette image of Sasquatch with the number “15” in the background.

But the true elation for Pedroia is not having to show up each morning and get treatment, and then actually swinging a baseball bat with a confidence he hasn’t had since 2011.

“I feel normal,” he said. “I can tell just picking up a bat my hand strength is back. That’s the most important part to me. When you grab a bat, how does it feel? Can you manipulate where you want to hit the ball? It’s all back.

“I knew before I got here. You could tell. Balls come off the bat different. It sounds different. If I’m fooled and I’m out in front I had the strength to flip it the other way or still turn on it. Those are the things I couldn’t do. … My swing is normal. My follow through is normal. There’s finish.”

The difference in the physical security was evident from his very first outside batting practice at Fenway South, when he purposely unloaded on the high left field wall on Field 2.

“How did it look? I’m not messing around,” Pedroia said regarding his initial BP salvo.

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One Red Sox 19-year-old top prospect (Michael Chavis) weighs in on soon-to-be 19-year-old Red Sox top prospect (Yoan Moncada)

03.01.15 at 3:05 pm ET
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Michael Chavis celebrates being selected by the Red Sox in last June's draft with former MLB commissioner Bud Selig. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Michael Chavis celebrates being selected by the Red Sox in last June’s draft with former MLB commissioner Bud Selig. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With all the talk about Yoan Moncada — the 19-year-old Cuban who is on the verge of signing minor league deal with a $31.5 million signing bonus with the Red Sox — it’s interesting to note there’s another infielder, just 2 1/2 months older than Moncada, already walking through Red Sox camp carrying a fair amount of expectations.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said the Red Sox‘ first-round pick last year, Michael Chavis, of the Moncada deal. “I try not to get wrapped up in the money concept, but if the point is to go out and get the best players possible, why not?

“He might be 19, but I’ve seen how he handles himself and I’ve seen him and I’ve seen how he handles himself. He’s very mature as a person. Obviously he’s shown himself on the field, so I don’t think the age really matters. Wasn’t [Ken] Griffey like 19 when he was in the Show. It’s proven that you can be young and play in the Show. It’s just about talent level and I think he’ll be just fine.”

It was just about eight months ago that Chavis was the teenager put under the microscope, having inked a $1,870,500 signing bonus after being selected out of Sprayberry Senior (GA) High with the 26th overall pick.

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

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

But now, the hype has given way to Moncada.

One of the topic of conversation following around the Cuban infielder is how physically put together he is for his age. But the stocky Chavis points suggests such size shouldn’t be shocking for kids their age.

“Walk in the locker room. We’ve got a bunch of big guys,” the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Chavis said. “Every time you see a bigger younger guy they’re going to have questions and stuff like that. But they’re just looking for reasons why he’s so talented. People never want to accept they put in hard work and it’s a talented kid.”

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Pablo Sandoval isn’t just a switch-hitter — he can throw with both hands, too

03.01.15 at 2:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval brought a football into the clubhouse this afternoon and threw a strike to outfielder Quintin Berry … with his left hand. A minute later, he made another toss, again with perfect form, but this time righty.

It turns out that Sandoval, who throws a baseball right-handed, also has a pretty lively left arm.

“I was born lefty,” he explained. “I learned to throw right-handed when I was 9.”

And why would the native of Venezuela do that, when lefties are more prized?

“I wanted to play shortstop,” he said with a grin.

Sandoval said that he pitched with both hands — sometimes within the same game — as a child.

“It was a long time ago, but I did it a couple of times,” he said. “In between innings, I would switch gloves and throw with the other hand. I couldn’t do it in the same inning.”

Sandoval estimates he can throw 85-86 mph left-handed, and the above video from his days in San Francisco would seemingly support that point, with Sandoval exhibiting a natural motion and some zip on his warmup tosses.

So has he ever had a reason to throw a ball left-handed in a professional game?

“No,” he said with a laugh, “and I hope I never do.”

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Want to know toughest part of playing outfield? Let Mookie Betts explain

03.01.15 at 2:17 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mookie Betts is finally starting to feel like an outfielder.

Lost in the good feelings of his debut last season was the fact that he posted excellent offensive numbers while learning a new position. A second baseman for virtually his entire pro career, Betts basically moved to the outfield in the big leagues and learned literally on the fly.

It was more of a challenge than the natural athlete expected.

“I didn’€™t know it was going to be as hard as it was,” he said. “I knew it would be a tough adjustment. Being at the big league level and everything, it gets kind of magnified. It was a bigger adjustment than I thought, but I feel like I’€™m taking strides.”

Until playing the outfield, Betts didn’t realize how tricky it was to read the ball off the bat, factor in the pitch type, and then put his head down and run to the spot while trusting he had taken the right route. If all went properly, he’d arrive in time to make a catch. If he didn’t the ball could be rolling around in the gap.

“I didn’€™t realize how hard it was to learn those routes as far as different hitters and what the pitcher is doing and all those things,” he said. “It’€™s a lot to take account for. It’€™s not just running and catching the ball.”

Betts has used BP to train himself to read the ball off the bat, but it’s only useful to a point. His real training will come in game action.

“[BP is] the best I can do,” he said. “Just try to run down everything I can. That’€™s been working for me pretty well.”

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Red Sox notes: Allen Craig may have cracked code; Joe Kelly throwing new pitch

03.01.15 at 2:08 pm ET
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Allen Craig (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Allen Craig is looking for a bounce-back season in 2015. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Allen Craig is very cautious when discussing what went wrong in 2014, and how it might go right in ’15. But he is offering hints that the form which allowed for a combined .863 OPS from 2011-13 is on the verge of returning.

“It feels a lot better in cage work and batting practice,” Craig said following Sunday’s workout. “As far as mechanics and strength, I feel like I’€™m in a really good spot right now.

“I’€™m always cautious talking about it because you don’€™t make excuses for anything, but there are reasons for certain stuff. I think that was kind of my job this offseason, to figure it out. A lot of things started with some leg strength. When you have a weakness with something you try and compensate for it and try to find ways to get the job done, then you find yourself doing things you haven’€™t done before. This offseason was a good chance to look at some video and really physically mechanically to get my body in the best spot to hit the ball hard. I’€™m still working on it, but I feel like I’€™m in a better spot.”

Craig’s comments came immediately after a round of similar optimism from Red Sox manager John Farrell.

“There’€™s much more life in the bat,” he said. “He’€™s come into camp in great shape. The foot isn’€™t an issue at this point and we don’€™t anticipate it to be. We just see increased core strength and better bat speed. I know it’€™s just BP but he looks different than we got him. And let’€™s face it, the shock of the trade is in the rear view mirror now, moreso than when he came to us.”

While Craig didn’t want to get into specifics, he insinuated that the foot injury he endured in ’13 had altered various elements of his lower half. The end result of the injuries, and compensation for the ailments, might have led to a ’14 in which he finished hitting just .128 with a .425 in 29 games with the Red Sox.

And after hitting “a ton in the offseason” at his Southern California home, the first baseman/outfielder feels the combination of improving mechanics and strength is paying off.

“I think any good hitter will tell you the legs are an important part of the swing and learning how to use them properly is really important,” he said. “I’€™m still the hitter that I am. Just some tweaks and giving myself a better chance to succeed. I’€™m not fighting myself.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Allen Craig,

Daniel Nava still flirting with idea of not switch-hitting

02.28.15 at 4:28 pm ET
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Daniel Nava continues to work on hitting from the left side of theplate against lefty pitchers. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com photo)

Daniel Nava continues to work on hitting from the left side of theplate against lefty pitchers. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Thursday, the Red Sox let Daniel Nava hit left-handed against southpaw reliever Dana Eveland. Saturday, he was in a group that went against another lefty, Tommy Layne.

It’s all part of the process. Where it ends up, Nava has no idea. But he figures this is a good a time as any to at least take a few steps down the path toward hitting exclusively from the left side.

“We’re just seeing if lefty-lefty can be a viable option,” said the switch-hitting outfielder. “There’s only one way to find out, give it a shot.

“Obviously, it’s an adjustment because I’ve never done lefty-lefty and something you’ve never done before is going to be an adjustment period but I’d like to think I can do it based on my approach and not trying to pull the ball, remains to be seen.”

Nava explained in the offseason he had been considering the move for some time, with his splits slanting dramatically in the favor of his work as a lefty hitter. Last year, for example, he hit .293 as a left-handed batter, compared to .159 from the right side.

Red Sox manager John Farrell and Nava said after their team’s Saturday workout that the organization had started conversations with the outfielder about a possible alteration at the end of the 2014 season.

“€œI think it was because last year I struggled from the right side,” Nava explained. “The year before it was all right but last year was a tough year so we thought it was worth a shot.”

He does insist, however, that just because you’ll be seeing him hit left-handed against lefty pitching in spring training (a practice he hasn’t experienced since Little League), that doesn’t mean Nava has dug in on not switch-hitting.

He still has to figure out if this is exactly the best road to go down.

“Just arm angle, way ball comes out, and the way ball moves,” he said regarding the differences he’s noticing when hitting lefty-on-lefty. “Those are things once I get out there — I’ve talked to a lot of guys. I’ve talked to [former major league switch-hitter who changed to just one side of the plate] J.T. Snow as well, as you know he did it. He gave me what he did, as somebody who has walked that road. I’ll try to see what they did and hope that it works.”

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Red Sox notes: Joe Kelly sure knows how to throw a baseball, Christian Vazquez is pretty good at catching it

02.28.15 at 3:59 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a relatively long day for Red Sox players at Fenway South Saturday. First, there was a Major League Baseball-sponsored domestic-abuse education meeting. Then came a morning and early afternoon chock full of drills and activity.

Perhaps the most notable endeavor was pitchers vs. batters showdown. It was the first such occasion that didn’t include the hitters simply tracking pitches.

It was nothing elaborate, with Justin Masterson, for example, throwing 25 fastballs before exiting off the mound. (Pablo Sandoval did take the righty deep on one of the offerings.)

But there were a couple of takeaways that seemed to stand out.

Most notably were the hitters reaction to Joe Kelly’s stuff. The righty starter left an impression on the hitters he faced, which included Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Sandoval.

“He’s around the plate, throwing strikes, good curveball and slider. I know it’s still early, but he looked really good today,” Napoli said. “I’ve faced him before during the year. I know what the stuff’s like. He’s just got good arm action, ball comes out of his hand well. He’s good. The ball moves all over the place. He’s just ahead of everyone else right now.

“He has a really good fastball. He just needs to be able to locate it. He’s got a good curveball and changeup. Of the five starters, he might have the best stuff of everybody. He’s just got to put it together.”

So what does Kelly have to do to attain his self-proclaimed goal of winning the American League Cy Young Award?

While Kelly did show flashes of excellence as a starter when getting the chance with the Cardinals in 2013 — going 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 15 starts — he has to show it over the long haul, having never pitched more than 126 innings.

“Being a little bit more efficient,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think we saw a guy with power stuff. To be a little bit more refined with his command overall should keep him ahead in the count and maybe have hitters hit in more defensive counts. There were times last year a four-pitch walk would be mixed in. As he evolves as a pitcher and knows the consistency required, the focus and concentration will to that pitch count being a little bit more in line with the innings. Hopefully that extends him deeper into individual outings.”

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MLB meets with Red Sox coaches, clarifies batter’s box rule

02.28.15 at 3:51 pm ET
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Torey Lovullo

Torey Lovullo

The batter’s box rule has some clarity.

Representatives of Major League Baseball met with Red Sox coaches this morning to review rules changes for the 2015 season, and one of them dealt with the much-discussed pace of play adjustment requiring batters to keep one foot in the box at all times.

According to Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, that rule will be interpreted more liberally than first reported.

“It’s not going to be a drastic change,” Lovullo said. “What they’re trying to avoid is the long-term delays where guys are into their routine and doing things outside their preparation. We know hitters are trying to slow the game down, but if it crosses the line, the umpires are going to call it to the attention of the batter.”

So where is the line? There’s more leeway than you might think.

“If there’s consistent abuse, they’re going to say hey, we’ve got to address this,” Lovullo said. “If it’s a pitch that’s taken, called strike or ball, that’s when they want to keep you around the batter’s box. But if you take a swing, or there’s some activity, or a pick(off) of some sort, and you step out of the box and get into your routine, that’s OK.

“I think they want to avoid the guys who get a called a strike, raise their hand, step out of the box, walk around a little bit. That was my interpretation, that they’re trying to get people to stay engaged in that area, but not take away from the routine.

“We have to keep in mind, these players are taught to slow the game down. That ball is moving by them very quickly. I don’t think they want to take that away.”

When the Red Sox open their Grapefruit League schedule next week, they’ll break in the new clock between innings that counts down from 2:25 during local broadcasts and 2:45 during national ones.

“That clock starts when that out in the previous half inning is recorded,” manager John Farrell said. “And when a reliever comes out of the bullpen, as soon as he touches the warning track, that’s when the 2:25 clock starts. Basically it’s standardizing the amount of time allowed.”

The most scrutinized rule is going to be the batter’s box one, though, and Farrell said it’s only there to curb the most egregious offenses.

“Regardless of if a guy is in or out of the box, there’s a natural flow to his at-bat,” Farrell said. “In this case, if his back foot remains in the box and he steps out to adjust the batting glove or to regroup from the previous pitch, I think that’s all within reason. What they want to avoid is the guys walking around behind the catcher out of the batter’s box after a pitch is taken.”
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