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If nothing else, Hanley Ramirez has improved his vertical leap

01.15.16 at 1:43 pm ET
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We have gotten snippets of Hanley Ramirez‘s progress in his quest to come into spring training as a better overall athlete.

There was a complimentary Instragram photo early in the offseason, an appearance at David Ortiz’s Celebrity Golf Classic, and, most recently, a picture at the gym posing with manager John Farrell, first base coach Ruben Amaro and others.

Now comes video proof that … well, that Ramirez’s vertical leap shouldn’t be a problem.

(It should be noted, the last time the Red Sox tested vertical leap in spring training came in 2012, when Ryan Sweeney took first-place. Unfortunately there was a casualty in the competition, with Andrew Bailey hurting his lat muscle during the endeavor.)

(H/T Jared Carrabis)

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Red Sox announce minor league field staffs, hire former big leaguer Greg Norton

01.14.16 at 4:05 pm ET
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Former big leaguer Greg Norton will replace Tim Hyers as Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator, one of a flurry of personnel moves in the minor leagues announced by the Red Sox on Thursday.

Norton, who spent 13 years in the big leagues with six teams from 1996-2009, arrives from Auburn University, where he served as hitting coach from 2013-15. He began his coaching career with the Marlins in 2010.

He replaces Hyers, who joined the Dodgers and new manager Dave Roberts as an assistant hitting coach.

Billy McMillon takes over as minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator. McMillon managed the last two seasons in Double-A Portland, earning Eastern League Manager of the Year honors in 2014. This is his seventh season in the organization.

Brandon Henry has been promoted to minor league athletic training coordinator, Edgar Barreto will serve as strength and conditioning coordinator, and David Herrera has been promoted to Latin America medical coordinator.

The Red Sox also announced their field staffs for each level of the minors.

Triple-A Pawtucket: Manager Kevin Boles, pitching coach Bob Kipper, hitting coach Rich Gedman, coach Bruce Crabbe.

Double-A Portland: Manager Carlos Febles, pitching coach Kevin Walker, hitting coach Jon Nunnally.

High-A Salem: Manager Joe Oliver, pitching coach Paul Abbott, hitting coach Nelson Paulino.

Low-A Greenville: Manager Darren Fenster, pitching coach Walter Miranda, hitting coach Lee May Jr.

Short-season Lowell: Manager Iggy Suarez, pitching coach Lance Carter, hitting coach Wilton Veras

Rookie Gulf Coast League: Manager Tom Kotchman, pitching coach Dick Such, hitting coach Junior Zamora, coach Dave Tomlin

Bradfo Show: Dustin Pedroia explains approach toward playing next to new Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez

01.14.16 at 11:38 am ET
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Bradfo Show podast: Motivating Dustin Pedroia

While Dustin Pedroia spent a good chunk of time on the Bradfo Show podcast explaining away defensive metrics, while elaborating how why he has altered his offseason approach, there was another topic the second baseman answered very directly: Hanley Ramirez playing first base.

Pedroia talked about how he is going to approach playing next to Ramirez, drawing on experiences with the Red Sox‘ last first base newbie, Mike Napoli.

Here is what the second baseman had to say in regards to Ramirez (starting at 12:20 on podcast):

“I’m going to tell Hanley the same thing I told Nap when he moved over to first base, and I’ve already told him. Going back to the zone rating thing, this is what people don’t understand: when you’re an infielder, outfielder or pitcher, you’re connected to somebody. We’re connected together. We have to communicate every single pitch. I’m playing here. I’m letting him know if an off-speed pitch is coming against a left-handed hitter so he can get to the line a little bit quicker. If you’re a pitcher you’re communicating with your catcher to be on the same page. Outfielders are moving together. Infielders the same way. Hanley, we’re on the same team here. If I throw you a ball and you drop it, no problem. You know what I’m going to tell Hanley? No problem, get the next one. That’s what we do. It’s a unit. We move together. We play together. We all have the same thought process. You have to do that. That’s the only way you can be a great defender and have good team defense, you’re communicating and playing together and have each other’s backs. Guess what, Hanley is going to make an error this year. I’m going to let everybody know right now. I’m going to make an error this year. It’s going to happen. Nobody is perfect. You understand? So the goal is to play together and eliminate mistakes. Those are the things that he can’t have, I can’t have, Pablo [Sandoval], Bogey [Xander Bogaerts], nobody can have. You have to be on the same page. You have to be prepared and pay within our system. If he does that he’s going to be fine.

“That’s the thing, you can’t go into it going, ‘All right, I have to pick every ball.’ No you don’t. You have to take one pitch at a time. Look at me, see where I’m positioned, we’re going to communicate. That’s how you get through this. That’s what Nap turned into being so great at. He was always communicating, moving, putting himself in the right position to make a play. Yeah, there’s going to be times you’re going to miss the ball. Everybody misses the ball. If you’re in the right spot as much as you can be, you’re going to be good.”

To read more about Pedroia’s takes on the podcast, click here.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, hanley ramirez,

Allen Craig, Sam Travis, 6 others round out Red Sox non-roster spring training invitees

01.13.16 at 3:44 pm ET
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The Red Sox have boosted their list of non-roster spring training invitees to 14 players after announcing eight more to the group Wednesday.

Those most recently announced as invitees to major league camp are infielders Josh Rutledge and Sam Travis, outfielders Brennan Boesch and Allen Craig, catcher Sandy Leon and pitchers Roman Mendez, Kyle Martin and Danny Rosenbaum.

Already on the list of non-roster invitees were pitchers William Cuevas, Sean O’Sullivan and Anthony Varvaro, third baseman Chris Dominguez, outfielder Ryan LaMarre, and catcher Ali Solis.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Fort Myers, Fla. Feb. 18, with position players starting Feb. 24.

Bradfo Show: Alex Cora says not to worry about Rusney Castillo

01.11.16 at 1:21 pm ET
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A quick look at Rusney Castillo’s most recent foray into winter baseball might elicit a bit of panic.

Heading into Monday night’s Puerto Rican Winter League playoff game, Castillo was 1-for-16 with six strikeouts since joining Caguas for its postseason run.

But Castillo’s manager this offseason — former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora — is adamant that Red Sox followers shouldn’t worry. As he explained on the Bradfo Show podcast, there is still a belief that Castillo will be the player the Red Sox envisioned when signing him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.

“He’€™s been working. Right now, in the playoffs, pitchers are way ahead,” explained Cora, who also managed Castillo last offseason during the outfielder’s 10-game stint with Caguas. “But you can see the approach is there, it’€™s just a matter of getting more at-bats. But if he doesn’€™t do it here, that doesn’€™t mean he’€™s going to struggle at the big league level. I think he has a plan, he understands what he wants to do. He’€™s going to be OK this season.

“The pressure is on those guys (in the Red Sox lineup, such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, etc.). It can’€™t be on Rusney Castillo. I still think he’€™s going to be a guy who is going to hit for average, he’€™s going to get some home runs, he’€™s going to get some doubles, he’€™s going to steal bases. ‘€¦ .280, 15 home runs, 20 bags. That’€™s the Rusney Castillo I envision.”

Here are some other things we learned from Cora when appearing on the Bradfo Show:

CORA DOESN’T AGREE WITH THE NARRATIVE THAT HAS FOLLOWED CASTILLO

“I was kind of surprised last year when he came down, there were a lot of people up there doubting him as far as his baseball instincts. But being around him day in, day out, it was the other way around. He has a good sense of the game, who he is and what he needs to do. That’€™s a good sign

“He’€™s played for two years and all of a sudden you want him to perform at the highest level in the best league in the world, it’€™s not easy to do. But I do think he’€™s in a good place, and he will be successful, not only offensively but defensively.”

CASTILLO IS STEP AHEAD OF HIS CUBAN TEAMMATES, HECTOR OLIVERA, DIAN TOSCANA

“Comparing those two with Rusney, the kid understands the way we play the game, the American way. If he can just go to Boston again, be himself and stay inside the ball, drive the ball to right-center and hit the breaking ball off the wall.”

BRYCE BRENTZ REMINDS CORA OF DUSTIN PEDROIA

“It takes certain guys to handle that environment, and just watching him go about his business, day in and day out, talking to him about baseball, he fits the mold. Coming down here I thought he would be a free-swinger who strikes out a lot and doesn’€™t hit the ball the other way, but it’€™s the other way around.

“Talking to Dustin all these years, he has the Dustin Pedroia syndrome. He feels he can be that good. The difference between those two is Pedey is 5-foot-6 and Bryce is a big guy. I like him. Defensively, he has a strong arm, can play right field. He has a good sense what he can and can’€™t do defensively. But he puts himself in a spot where he can make plans. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be in spring training, halfway through the season, or in September, but he will make a difference. I feel that way about him. The way he goes about things is the most important thing, I really like him.”

CORA BELIEVES CAGUAS RELIEVER PAT LIGHT WILL HELP RED SOX SEASON THIS SEASON

“Loved him. I think he has a pretty good idea of who he is, and what he can do. He has a big arm, 96-97. His split/slider combo, it’€™s OK. It got better. ‘€¦ He would come in the middle of the game and shut people down, we did that and he was very successful. Hopefully for the Red Sox he can be a big contributor in August, at the end of the season because he can help.

“I know spring training for him is very important, but regardless of the results if they’€™re great or bad, it really doesn’€™t matter. I think this kid is going to contribute with this team in this season and be big part of if they make it to the playoffs.”

Read More: Alex Cora, bryce brentz, pat light, Red Sox

Daniel Bard hoping Pirates can fix what ails him

01.11.16 at 11:47 am ET
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Daniel Bard is hoping he can put his troubles behind him with the Pirates. (Rich Pilling/Getty Images)

Daniel Bard is hoping he can put his troubles behind him with the Pirates. (Rich Pilling/Getty Images)

Daniel Bard is still hopeful, and that’s why he has found himself currently wearing the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The former Red Sox is working out with his new organization this week — having signed a minor-league deal with Pittsburgh — participating in the Pirates’ offseason mini-camp.

Bard hasn’t pitched in a professionally since giving up 13 runs on nine walks while retiring only two outs in four outings for the Rangers’ Single-A team in Hickory. He most recently spent time in the Cubs’ organization, never have officially pitched in a game.

The last time the 30-year-old pitched in a major league contest was with the 2013 Red Sox, making two relief appearances before ultimately being designated for assignment by the club.

Since leaving the majors, Bard’s totals in the minors (and winter ball) have been pitching in 16 1/3 innings, giving up 34 runs and 45 walks.

“I think it’s just a matter of time. I haven’t been ready to give it up,” Bard told MLB.com. “I’ve felt myself continue to get better. Not always as fast as I’d like, but I’ve seen progress the last year. Just glad to have an opportunity here.”

A big reason Bard ultimately chose to sign with the Pirates was their history of helping revitalize pitchers’ careers. In large part due to the work of pitching coach Ray Searage, Pittsburgh continues to get the most out under-performing hurlers, with flame-throwing reliever Arquimedes Caminero serving as one of the most recent examples.

For those who might have forgotten how dominant a reliever Bard was before making the failed transition to starter in 2012, from 2009-11 he totaled a .190 batting average against and 2.88 ERA while striking out 213 batters in 197 innings.

Read More: Daniel Bard, Pirates, Red Sox,

Red Sox Hall of Fame announces new inductees: Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Larry Lucchino and … Ira Flagstead?

01.11.16 at 11:16 am ET
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The Red Sox on Monday announced the 2016 inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame, and you’ve definitely heard of three of them.

Stalwarts Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, who each won two titles in the 2000s, and former CEO Larry Lucchino, the hard-charging executive who remade Fenway Park, will join someone named Ira Flagstead, a forgotten outfielder from the 1920s, in induction ceremonies to be held on May 19.

Varitek, a three-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger during his 15 years in Boston. He caught a club-record 1,488 games and served as captain for his final seven seasons (2005-11). He retired with a .256 average and 193 home runs. He is now a special assistant to the general manager.

Wakefield spent 17 seasons with the Red Sox and is the franchise’s all-time leader in starts (430) and innings pitched (3,006). He’s second in strikeouts (2,046) and third in wins (186).  He also made the playoffs more times (8) than anyone in club history, all on the strength of a knuckleball. He made one All-Star team, in 2009, and recorded the 200th victory of his career in September of 2011. He became honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation and a special assignment instructor in 2013.

Lucchino had already made a name for himself with the Orioles and Padres when he arrived as part of John Henry’s ownership team. Over 14 years, he oversaw the renovation of Fenway Park, as well as the assembling of three World Series champions.

That leaves Flagstead, an obscure name from a dead period in Red Sox history. He spent seven years with the Red Sox from 1923-29, hitting .295 and somehow earning MVP votes in five straight seasons.

Read More: Ira Flagstead, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino, Red Sox Hall of Fame

Making sense of MLB Hall of Fame numbers

01.10.16 at 12:11 pm ET
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Hall of Fame discussions always get messy.

That’€™s what makes them a terrific sports topic, I suppose; lots of people love the carnage and chaos of arguing who was good, vs. who was great, vs. who was truly elite. And unless we’€™re talking Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, there’€™s always something about a player’€™s on-field legacy to pick apart.

So like everyone else, I’€™m always up for a good Hall debate, and with this week’€™s annual Cooperstown vote revealing two new inductees, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, I tuned into Tuesday’€™s WEEI Hot Stove Show featuring Mike Mutnansky, Rob Bradford, and John Tomase to hear their thoughts on this year’€™s ballot.

One part of the guys’€™ debate centered around how to begin with a baseline for discussion as to whether a player is Hall-worthy, and the thought came up of using a hitter’s number of top-10 or top-15 appearances on MVP balloting through the years.

I liked this idea, so I thought I’€™d do a little more research on the subject, and start by combing back through all the inductees of the 2000s to see what I’€™d find.

The results?

Unfortunately, not good. As in, it’€™s just not that simple.

It’€™s not that the Baseball Writer’€™s Association of America does a poor job in their yearly voting for the MVP; the top-15 vote-getters in any year I believe are an accurate one-year snapshot of greatness. But how many Top 10’s or Top 15’s should a player have to get in? Are six or seven years enough, the length of most guys’€™ primes? Seems reasonable, even if Carlton Fisk played for 24-years and Kirby Puckett only 12.

However, when evaluating a player’€™s lifetime body of work, it just doesn’€™t seem to hold up.

If having six Top-10 MVP ballot finishes were the standard, here are recent Hall inductees who wouldn’€™t be enshrined in Cooperstown: Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Fisk, and Tony Perez.

And that’€™s just over the last 15 years. Carl Yazstremski, for instance, only had five Top-10 MVP finishes.

Stretching it to Top-15 appearances didn’€™t help much, getting only Dawson, Boggs, and Fisk in.

Not to mention guys like Fred McGriff, who did have six Top-10 MVP finishes, but got less than 30% of the vote this year, would be in.

And we know Fred McGriff was not the ballplayer, say, Cal Ripken was. Ripken racked up 19 All-Star game selections, two Gold Glove awards, and eight Silver Sluggers at SS, not to mention his immortal consecutive-games streak. McGriff had five ASGs, no Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers, respectively.

Now, two prominent baseball writers, Bill James and Jay Jaffe, have come up with their own player-metrics for Hall of Fame rankings, and they come much closer to getting a definitive, intellectual answers of who deserves to be immortalized.

Jaffe’€™s ‘€˜JAWS’€™ numbers, using the Wins Above Replacement metric, does a terrific job of comparing players through different eras, ballparks, and all the while including offense, defense, and baserunning into one unified number.

You can check out Jaffe’€™s work here.

However, the WAR numbers don’€™t take a player’€™s postseason success, career milestones, league leads in various stats categories, historical importance, etc.

Smart-guy Bill James tackled those latter categories with his ‘€˜Hall of Fame Monitor’€™ metric, and you can see that here.

I particularly like the wRC+ metric that Fangraphs uses (strictly an offensive measure of a player’€™s run-creation value per the league averages), so I included it in my research, and broke it down to show a player’€™s seasons of ‘€˜Elite’€™, ‘€˜Great’€™, and ‘€˜Above Average’€™ at the plate.

The Fangraphs wRC+ explanation is here.

And here is my chart assembling all of these numbers for recently-debated players (click on the link below):

MLB_HALLOFFAMERS_CHART

The bottom line is, Hall of Fame arguments are complex and disorganized for a reason, and that reason is that there is no completely unifying theory of relativity that can solve the Hall of Fame debate for every player.

But the debates are fun every year, and maybe next year I’€™ll be more prepared for it.

There’s another late-inning reliever in American League East

01.08.16 at 10:54 pm ET
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Drew Storen

Drew Storen

First it was Craig Kimbrel going to the Red Sox. Then Aroldis Chapman landed with the Yankees. And now the Blue Jays have a new late-inning reliever: Drew Storen.

Toronto has acquired the former Nationals closer, along with cash considerations, in exchange for outfielder Ben Revere and a player to be named later.

Storen, who had been bumped from the closers role with Washington after it acquired Jonathan Papelbon midway through the 2015 season, is headed into his last year of arbitration eligibility, with MLB Trade Rumors estimating he will make close to $9 million.

Revere is in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and is estimated by MLBTR to make close to $7 million. With outfielder Michael Saunders returning after missing all of ’15, the speedy outfielder was expendable from the Blue Jays’ perspective.

Storen strengthens a Blue Jays bullpen that features 20-year-old Roberto Osuna as its other ninth-inning option. He finished saving 29 games in 34 chances last season, totaling a 3.44 ERA while striking out 67 and walking 16.

The 28-year-old righty’s best year came in ’14, when he closed out 11 of 14 save chances, finishing with a 1.12 ERA, along with 46 strikeouts and 11 walks.

The Jays have kept pace with their American League East competitors in maintaining a stellar bullpen, also possessing the hard-throwing Aaron Sanchez and lefty Brett Cecil.

The group compares favorably to the improved Red Sox late-inning options, consisting of Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.

The Yankees, of course, still possess the most daunting group, with Andrew Miller, Delin Betances and Chapman finishing off games.

The Orioles’ bid at keeping pace in the relief pitching arms race has come in the form of re-signing righty specialist Darren O’Day. Zach Britton remains their closer.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman was first to report the deal.

David Ortiz is optimistic he will get into Hall of Fame, and he should be

01.07.16 at 11:53 am ET
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Now that there is a definitive end date to his career, David Ortiz can talk about the Hall of Fame with a bit more purpose. That’s exactly what he did when sitting down to talk about the subject at his celebrity golf tournament.

“I am,” said the Red Sox designated hitter when asked if he was optimistic he would eventually be inducted into Cooperstown. “I think I did, and still do, what I’m supposed to. So, that’s all I can control.

“Numbers-wise, it shouldn’€™t be a problem because that’€™s what the Hall of Fame is all about. Numbers and not being someone being part of controversy, so I guess on that side of it I think I’€™m doing OK. Getting in the Hall of Fame is not an easy thing to do. There is always going to be someone who has something to say, so we’€™ll see how that plays out.”

He’s right, numbers probably won’t be Ortiz’s roadblock.

Starting with my very unscientific approach to starting the Hall of Fame conversation for position players — charting how many times they finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting (showing a dominance in their era) — the DH passes muster, accomplishing the feat six times. Conversely, new-inducted Mike Piazza reached such levels seven times, while the guy just missing out this time around, Jeff Bagwell, was a five-timer.

We also know about the 503 homers, and, of course, the historic postseason success.

Ortiz’s hurdles will be his link to performance enhancing drugs (the 2003 survey test) and the position he plays, designated hitter.

Wednesday’s results offered some additional clarity when analyzing Ortiz’s chances.

Even though neither Piazza or Bagwell have no direct link to PEDs, the suggestion that they might have dipped into that well certainly has been the reason it took them so long to get this far in the voting. But here they are.

And even the guys Curt Schilling recently called the “poster children” for the steroid era, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, saw jumps after staying fairly stagnant in their first three years on the ballot. Each jumped about eight percent.

But, perhaps most important for Ortiz’s candidacy, was how Edgar Martinez was viewed by voters.

Frank Thomas is the only semblance of a designated hitter in the Hall of Fame, although he played almost as many games at first base. That has left Martinez — the player the award for best DH each season is named after — as the position’s current hope to crack the Hall.

But, for Martinez, it hadn’t been going well.

In six times on the ballot, he had yet to crack 36.5 percent, dropping to 27 percent last year. And this is a guy who carried a career .312 batting average and .933 OPS over an 18-year career.

But, presumably thanks to weeding out of some of the older voters, Martinez and the DH position took a big, 16.4 percent leap forward. He now stands at 43.4 percent. That, along with closer Trevor Hoffman getting a whopping 67.3 percent on his first try, was an enormous step toward silencing positional bias.

Here’s a guess: If Martinez cracks 50 percent — which it would seem a very real possibility — Ortiz isn’t weighed down by the position and he is in.

“I don’€™t know,” said Ortiz when asked if there would be another designated hitter to come along like himself. “They said the same thing about Edgar Martinez, that there wasn’€™t going to be another guy born to be that good and God blessed me for being who I am. So I don’€™t doubt that some point in baseball somebody else pops up like me, or better than me. That’€™s something that nobody can dictate.”

Read More: David Ortiz, hall of fame,
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