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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,

Dennis Eckersley isn’t about to welcome Pete Rose to Cooperstown

01.06.16 at 10:49 pm ET
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Pete Rose (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pete Rose (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

When a Hall of Famer speaks, people tend to listen.

So when Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley was asked about Pete Rose’s Hall of Fame candidacy by Mike Mutnansky on the Planet Mikey Show Wednesday night, any answer would have been noteworthy.

The response Eck gave, however, was above and beyond.

“People are sick of it,” Eckersley said. “I was out to Johnny Bench the other night, because he’s down here in Florida. He’s been hassled from Day 1 about Pete. Pete had an opportunity to turn his life around. That’s all he had to do. He should have copped to it a long time ago and shown that he changed his life. He had his chance. No one wants him there. No one. Just all the fans from Cincinnati. All the players know. You do not break that rule, the end.”

The place nobody evidently wants Rose is Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame. The rule that you never break is, of course, gambling on baseball, which is currently keeping the all-time hits leader banned from Major League Baseball.

(To hear Eckersley’s comments, go to the 8:57 minute mark of the following audio)

Read More: Dennis Eckersley, Pete Rose,

Hall of Fame voting totals favor Curt Schilling’s eventual enshrinement, but Nomar Garciaparra falls off ballot

01.06.16 at 7:03 pm ET
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A couple of Red Sox-related Hall of Fame notes . . .

Right-hander Curt Schilling saw one of the biggest jumps of any candidate. The big right-hander shot from 39.2 percent of the vote last year to 52.3 percent this year, his fifth season on the ballot.

This would seem to bode well for the Big Schill, whose candidacy got mired in the PED backlog that cost a number of borderline candidates votes over the last two or three years.

Schilling has five years to gain the remaining 22.7 percent required for enshrinement, and as the years pass, his postseason accomplishments and historic strikeout-to-walk rate (4.383, greatest since 1900) should sway enough voters to his side.

Speaking on the Bradfo Show podcast recently, Schilling said he’s at peace with not getting in, even if he doesn’t understand the electorate sometimes.

“The hard part for me is I don’t want to say the things I say and diminish what I think the Hall of Fame represents,” he said. “But it is the most subjective thing I’ve ever been around. I read an article the other day about a writer that didn’t vote for me, and he didn’t vote for me because I only had 216 wins. And John Smoltz he voted for because he had 214 wins. I made peace with it a long time ago.”

One ex-Sox star who won’t be getting in is Nomar Garciaparra. The former Rookie of the Year, All-Star, and batting champ received only eight votes (1.8 percent) and lost his spot on the ballot.

Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza earn induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

01.06.16 at 6:07 pm ET
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Ken Griffey Jr. is headed to Cooperstown. (Otto Greule/Getty Images)

Ken Griffey Jr. is headed to Cooperstown. (Otto Greule/Getty Images)

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza earned induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, with Griffey pulling the highest percentage of votes in history — but failing to become the first unanimous selection.

Griffey was named on 437 of the 440 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America, easily beating the 75 percent threshold required for enshrinement. His percentage of 99.3 tops Tom Seaver’s 98.8.

Piazza, meanwhile, was named on 86 percent of the ballot.

Those falling short included outfielder Tim Raines, who has become a cause celebre on social media, as well as Astros slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who fell 15 votes shy. Raines, who appeared on 69.8 percent of the ballots cast, has one year of eligibility remaining.

Support rose for a number of players, including ex-Red Sox starter Curt Schilling, who appeared on 52.3 percent of the ballots, just ahead of Roger Clemens (45.2) and Barry Bonds (44.3).

Also falling just shy was former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who missed induction by 34 votes.

Griffey was a no-brainer. The first No. 1 overall pick to reach Cooperstown, the 13-time All-Star hit 630 lifetime homers and won 10 Gold Gloves. He retired as one of the greatest all-around players in history after debuting in 1989 at just 19 years old. He won his lone MVP award in 1997 after hitting .304 with 56 homers and 147 RBIs.

Piazza, meanwhile, is the all-time leader in homers for a catcher. Famously drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, one year after Griffey went No. 1 overall, Piazza won the Rookie of the Year award in 1993 with the Dodgers and went on to make 12 All-Star teams, retiring with 427 homers.

He got in on his fourth year on the ballot.

Read More: Baseball Hall of Fame, Ken Griffey Jr., mike piazza,

Bradfo Show: Five things learned talking Hall of Fame (and other things) with Curt Schilling

01.06.16 at 9:34 am ET
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Wednesday will mark the fourth time Curt Schilling has discovered exactly how many Hall of Fame votes he received. Last year it 39.2 percent. The year before it was 29.2 percent. The first go-round? It was 38.8 percent.

He knows the drill, and that’s why the waiting process leading up to the announcement hasn’t exactly turned the Schilling household inside-out.

“It’€™s colder and I’€™m worried my chickens are getting frostbite on their combs,” he said on the Bradfo Show podcast when asked how this year might be different. “Honest to God, that’€™s what I’€™m worried about.”

But when it comes to the Hall of Fame, Schilling will be a name many continue to keep a close eye on. There is a strong case to be made that the former Red Sox pitcher belongs in Cooperstown. And then there are the debates that surround his debates.

(Case in point: Will Leitch’s recent story, “Are Curt Schilling’s GOP politics keeping him out of the Hall of Fame?”

It is all why narrowing down the wide-ranging interview with Schilling to five things we learned is challenging, but we’ll give it a shot:

SCHILLING IS AT PEACE WITH POTENTIALLY NOT GETTING THE CALL

“The hard part for me is I don’€™t want to say the things I say and diminish what I think the Hall of Fame represents. But it is the most subjective things I’€™ve ever been around. I read an article the other day about a writer that didn’€™t vote for me, and he didn’€™t vote for me because I only had 216 wins. And John Smoltz he voted for because he had 214 wins. I made peace with it a long time ago.

“Ultimately, I say they can’€™t take away the memories and the three rings, and those are the things I was able to walk away with. If it happens it would be great. I don’€™t expect it to happen. I’€™m not going to make a mistake this year and say it’€™s because I’€™m a Republican because I joked around about that last year and it became it’€™s own article when I called John Smoltz a Democrat knowing full well he’€™s as conservative as I am if not moreso, and I took heat for that for six months.

“If I don’€™t have a plague in Cooperstown, nobody can take away everything I had. I think Cooperstown and getting in is a recognition of all the people that were in your life, not of you.”

HE WON’T BE QUIET FOR THE SAKE OF HIS CANDIDACY

“I don’€™t care. I’€™m not going to change who I am, do what I do, or say what I say to make people think differently of me. For better or worse, and my wife would say there’€™s a lot of worse ‘€“ and some of the GMs I played for, well, all of the GMs I played for would say the same ‘€“ but I’€™m passionate with what I believe in. If my mouth keeps me out of the Hall of Fame then it’€™s a flawed process, if that’€™s the reason people don’€™t vote for me. If they don’€™t vote for because they don’€™t think I belong, then that’€™s absolutely a valid point.”

THERE IS A FRUSTRATION WITH THE HALL OF FAME VOTING PROCESS

“Tim Raines is the second greatest leadoff hitter of all-time and he’€™s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he’€™s still not in. That’€™s a joke. I think if a guy receives 85 or 90 percent of the votes and you don’€™t vote for him you should lose your ballot.”

(His personal ballot is as follows: Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Fred McGriff.)

BARRY BONDS AND ROGER CLEMENS WILL NEVER BE IN SCHILLING’S HALL OF FAME

“I think Bonds and Clemens were first ballot guys before I think they started cheating. What they did ‘€¦ as a player and a member of the player’€™s association it’€™s my fault as much as anybody ‘€¦ but what they did to my generation, it’€™s labeled the steroid era forever and they’€™re as symbolic of the era as anything, and I don’€™t think they should be recognized in a good way for that.”

HE BELIEVES PED GUYS WILL GET IN (HE JUST HOPES THAT DOESN’T INCLUDE BONDS AND CLEMENS

“Listen, this is like anything else. We don’€™t’€™ have staying power. We don’€™t have the ability to hate forever. No matter how bad a person anybody is at some point ‘€“ with the exception of guys like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson ‘€“ everybody kind of gets that second chance. The only guy in my lifetime who hasn’€™t really gotten it is Pete Rose. I love the man. I’€™ve known him for a long time, but he made his own bed. But these guys, I think at the end of the day they lost the one thing they could never buy which was legacy.

“Bonds and Clemens will go down as the poster children for my generation of players and they both will do so for the wrong reason. I’€™m not a fan of recognizing that.”

OH, AND THERE WAS A LOT OF BASEBALL TALK, INCLUDING AN INTERESTING NOTE ABOUT THE ROLE OF RED SOX OWNERSHIP

“There’€™s meddling and there always has been. It goes back to when I was here [in Boston] I know the [ownership] meddled with the lineup, not just the roster. The other thing is that you have some guys not just in baseball, but football, who are fantasy baseball playing rich people. It’€™s not a bad thing until it gets down into clubhouse, and it has and it does.”

Read More: Curt Schilling, hall of fame, Red Sox,

Red Sox manager John Farrell on Hot Stove Show: Chris Young will get ‘every at-bat against left-handed pitching,’ notes on Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval

01.06.16 at 12:00 am ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined the Hot Stove Show on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming season and provided a little more clarity with the role of fourth outfielder Chris Young, while also providing updates on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, two key members of the lineup.

Farrell said that Young, “signed here under the notion that he’s going to get every at-bat against left-handed pitching.” He added that he’ll also get spot starts against righties to stay fresh, because the team wants to take advantage of his extreme pull stroke in Fenway Park.

“He’s well aware of the role when he comes in,” Farrell said. “We also know the way his swing is built, he fits Fenway Park very good with that pull approach. We’re all competitors. I never want to just limit the total number of at-bats a guy can accumulate.”

The natural followup is if Young plays against every lefty, who will sit — Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo (it typically won’t be Mookie Betts)? It sounds like Bradley, who hit over .300 against left-handed pitching last year, will be the odd man out on most days, but not all of them.

“To sit here in early January and say that every left-hander, Jackie’s not going to play, I wouldn’t go that far, because there might be some things that crop up, a day for Rusney, a day for Mookie might be advantageous, so we’ll take the best matchups and keep everybody involved,” Farrell said.

This is obviously a big season for both Bradley and Castillo.

“The way Jackie swung the bat when he came back up from the minor leagues was really a positive and encouraging sign,” Farrell said. “We know he’s going to play premium type of defense, but still, you look at the long-term track record of both he and Rusney, there’s some checkered past early in their careers. We like the abilities, we’ve got some depth, and we can keep some guys from getting overexposed. The overall athleticism is certainly a plus in the group of four.”

As for Ramirez, Farrell acknowledged that he won’t be a “seven-day-a-week” player at first base, with Travis Shaw getting some starts while Ramirez transitions to a new position.

“We’re talking about a longtime career infielder that granted, we made the move to put him in left field and now we’re coming off that and putting him at first base, but we’re also taking a career-long infielder and moving him across the diamond,” Farrell said. “As far as the footwork and fielding a groundball, we feel that’s kind of a pickup from where he’s been his whole career. Now his footwork around the bag, and the responsibilities with cutoffs and relays and understanding certain game situations, yes, that’s going to be different.”

Farrell added that Sandoval has been two-a-day workouts for about a month, with baseball activities in the morning and strength and conditioning in the afternoon. Farrell spoke to Sandoval on Tuesday and says they’ve remained in contact about every 10 days during the winter. He senses a driven player.

“It was a humbling experience from him last year, and he’s bound and determined to make good on that,” Farrell said.

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