|02.27.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the games finally begin, there’s no one with a bigger point to prove or bigger chip on his shoulder than Will Middlebrooks.
He made that perfectly clear Thursday, before taking the field as the starting third baseman against Northeastern, batting seventh.
“Night and day,” Middlebrooks told WEEI.com of his feeling this spring compared to 12 months ago. “It’s night and day. It’s just a matter of competing and believing in my own ability and knowing what I’m capable of and just going out and not thinking about the details and just going out to kick a guy’s ass every day.”
It’s not just the extra 15 to 20 pounds of muscle he’s put on during a vigorous offseason workout program. Middlebrooks has shown his manager that he’s mentally ready to put 2013 behind him.
“To date, his spring has been productive,” Farrell said. “His work has been outstanding. He’s come in with a noticeable determination and yet, at the same time, he’s doing everything we could’ve expected, in terms of everybody.”
“It’s evident by the work he did in the offseason to add some strength and I’m looking forward to seeing him playing on the field.”
As Alex Speier documented, 2013 was a nightmare for Middlebrooks, hitting just .227 in 94 games and suffering through a lower back strain that landed him on the disabled list. It got so bad early on that he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for 45 games where he worked to get his swing – and head – right before returning to help the Red Sox down the stretch. All of this after a rookie season in 2012, when he hit 15 homers and drove in 54 runs in 75 games.
“You could point to a number of examples where the second year has been a little bit more challenging and that’s just a matter of the league getting to know the strengths and limitations for a given player, and pitching to it accordingly,” Farrell said. “Will’s very well aware of how pitchers and opponents have attacked him, and that’s just a process of establishing yourself year after year in the big leagues.”
|02.27.14 at 11:30 am ET|
Manager John Farrell announced Thursday before the team’s college doubleheader with Northeastern and Boston College that Shane Victorino is easing his way back into full baseball activities after his legs needed some extra rest after early work in camp.
“Shane continues to address some of the things we discovered in those legs,” Farrell said. “I want to be clear, his first two days of work coming in were extremely good. But then we saw some needs and we’re addressing those right now. He continues to throw and is doing some running and we’re just addressing the overall core strength.”
Farrell said there’s no firm schedule for when Victorino might be ready to get into spring games.
“Not yet. He’s going to be out there when he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “We know this from Shane, he’s going to want to get out there maybe before we might want to put him in games. There’s no reason to think that he’s not going to be ready for opening day. That’s not in our concern right now.”
In addition to surgery on his thumb in December, Victorino battled hamstring, groin and hip issues throughout last season. The Red Sox are trying to be proactive this spring to make sure those ailments don’t recur often.
Farrell also indicated Thursday that, despite the proclamation of Pedro Martinez on Wednesday, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara will be held out for about the first week of games in camp as they get their work in on the side and the back fields. The reason? Simple, both were used in many high leverage postseason situations for a full extra month of baseball last year.
“He and Junichi, they’ll get in games probably around the third-way through the game schedule mark,” Farrell said. “There’s nothing that says otherwise why we’re holding them back. They’re throwing the ball extremely well right now but we’re just trying to balance out the number of appearances last year, as well.”
As for Martinez saying Uehara, at 38, looks like he could already be pitching in regular season games, Farrell said there’s reasons for that.
“One they’re durable. Two, their work ethic in the offseason shows up when they first come into camp and the way they’re able to throw bullpens with shorter rest, so their recovery time has been great. But we still have to balance what they went through last year with a full month of additional pitching,” Farrell said.
|02.27.14 at 9:22 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — He wasn’t banking on this day coming, but the fact that it’s here certainly is a step in the right direction for Grady Sizemore.
The Red Sox outfielder, who hasn’t played a major league game since September, 2011, is jumping right into game action, getting the nod to lead off in his team’s exhibition game against Northeastern on Thursday afternoon.
“I didn’t think about it,” Sizemore said regarding getting the chance to see game action in the first spring training game. “My plan was to get down here and see how I felt. It was one of those things I wanted to get here and see how the body felt on a day to day basis. It was one of those things where I was going to leave it up to these guys, having communications with the training staff and see how it reacted. I didn’t expect anything but I didn’t limit myself either.”
Sizemore has spent the majority of his career hitting leadoff, manning the top spot in 705 games with the No. 2 hole serving as his second-most popular position by a wide margin (61 games).
“I feel comfortable anywhere,” said Sizemore, who has a .366 on-base percentage and .853 OPS in the leadoff spot for his career. “Obviously I’ve been there most of my career so I’m used it, but honestly it doesn’t matter. As long as I’ve been in the big leagues I’ve pretty much been the leadoff spot. I wasn’t really a power guy until I got in the big leagues.”
“Just to get a couple of at-bats, like all the other position players,” Farrell said. “With Grady particularly, there’s been so much made about what he’s come off of, it’s probably the day after he’s on the field in games and how he comes out of those physically.
“We probably look at it like every seven or eight days and maybe it’s three to four games, in that eight day span, just to gradually get some information on him physically. We gave him a day off two days ago when it wasn’t requested on his part. We just got him off his feet, more precautionary, just to balance out the fact that there’s been a couple-year gap here and yet he’s get back at it every day. So far, so good.”
Farrell was asked if Sizemore would get a chance to play all three outfield positions.
“In time. We just want to get his legs underneath him, getting on the field, first and foremost,” Farrell said. “If he appears in those three spots, I think that’s probably likely at some point but primarily I would see him in left and center.
“I think the one thing we’ve established here is that we have a very good medical staff that is here to help guys. There’s been many, many cases where they’ve kept guys on the field. I don’t think there’s reluctance on the player’s part when he has physical needs. That’s part of the atmosphere here, that they’re not going to be looked upon negatively if there are [medical] needs.”
The following is the lineup the Red Sox will send out against the Huskies at JetBlue Park:
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Ryan Lavarnway C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Brandon Workman P
|02.26.14 at 5:49 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The 2013 season was a revelation for Pedro Martinez.
It wasn’t just that a Red Sox organization that had hit its low point in 2012 rebounded to claim a title, though Martinez — who arrived in Fort Myers and was in uniform during and after Wednesday’s workout — said he took considerable pleasure in that turnaround. Still, in his fourth season away from the game, the retired three-time Cy Young winner — named a special assistant to Red Sox GM Ben Cherington at the start of 2013 — discovered how much he enjoyed the opportunity to offer counsel to pitchers.
That was particularly true of the minor leaguers with whom Martinez worked. In his stops at various minor league affiliates, he found a wealth of talented players who were and are eager to learn. Martinez loved offering the players feedback and to influence their development positively, and he hopes to spend more time with Sox prospects this coming year.
“I want to be more involved with the players,” said Martinez. “Because when you get the results that I got when talking to [Drake] Britton, [Rubby] De La Rosa, [Brandon] Workman, all those kids, [Allen Webster], you feel like a proud father and you want to be around your sons. I was just going blind, trying to touch in some places, but now I know that my influence can help a lot of those kids. I’d love to do it. I’d love to do it and spend more time with them this year.
“I think I have so much to offer, stuff that I’m not going to put into use anymore,” he added. “I might as well pass it along. I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to get involved more in baseball and more with the young players and the veteran players. Whoever needs me. I would just love to pass everything I know, all my knowledge, all of my experience to some of those guys and hopefully get some good results out of every one of them.” Read the rest of this entry »
|02.26.14 at 4:36 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. When Pedro Martinez holds court, every word is gold.
That’s the way it was again Wednesday when the former ace pitcher talked about his odds of Cooperstown on the first ballot in 2015, his impact on young pitchers, his future with the team and his attempt to reach out to Curt Schilling after Schilling was diagnosed with cancer.
Martinez admitted Wednesday that when he was in his first season as special assistant last spring he thought lefthander Drake Britton had the stuff to make it on the big league roster out of camp. Soon, he and the Red Sox found out that while he may have impressive pitches in his arsenal, he was far from ready with his off-the-field command of his behavior. On March 2, 2013, the 24-year-old lefty was arrested by Lee County police for driving under the influence, property damage and reckless driving.
Then Britton struggled badly in the early season. Martinez felt the time was right to actually travel to Portland, Maine (home of the Double-A affiliate) and reach out like a parent and deliver some fatherly advice to a pitcher he thought had great potential but no control.
“I was straightforward with him and I told him exactly what I would probably love to hear if I was in the same situation,” Martinez said. “I talked about his personal life, how he should treat some of the things that were happening, how much of a battle he wanted to put up after things like that happened. When I saw him struggling in Double A, I chose myself to go and see him and let him know that everything he had before was still there. It was just a matter of putting his mind, his heart, his desire where it had to be. He took it graciously, and thanks to God, he proved to everybody he was able to battle through it.”
Britton made Martinez proud, going through the legal process in Lee County while improving his effort on the mound. In July, Martinez’s spring training vision was fulfilled, as Britton was promoted to the big leagues. He was posted a 3.86 ERA in 18 relief appearances, helping the Red Sox add depth to their bullpen down the stretch.
“I’m extremely proud of him, extremely proud to see him overcome all that and actually pay me back,” Martinez said. “Pay me back, that’s all I wanted. I wanted to see him have success and to see him at the end of the year pitching so well and doing so well for the team, helping the team so much, it really made me like a proud father.”
|02.26.14 at 4:22 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to multiple industry sources, with the Red Sox on the verge of starting spring training games, the team has not been engaged in substantive talks since the opening of camp with shortstop Stephen Drew. The team has not ruled out categorically the possibility of re-signing the shortstop, but it views such a scenario as unlikely at this time — in the same way, for instance, that team officials imagined hypothetical scenarios where they became engaged on a free agent such as Ubaldo Jimenez if his market absolutely cratered.
Manager John Farrell said earlier this month, at the start of camp, that he did not want the Drew situation to become a “lingering what-if” for players in camp. With games set to start, the team is comfortable with the roster as currently comprised. Again, that could change if there were an injury on the left side of the Sox’ infield, but at the present, the team is comfortable moving forward with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base.
“I don’t know that we had a hard date in mind,” manager John Farrell said regarding whether the start of games marked a time when the possibility of acquiring Drew might be dismissed. “I think it was in fairness to the guys that are here and focusing on their own preparation for the season. We also know we’re in an endless pursuit to build and fortify our roster. I don’t have any update on the status of that particular situation. We never agreed upon a hard date, but it was more just the team that we currently have. My view is always, these are the players that we have and what can we do to put them in a better situation? If that’s through their focus and concentration along with their physical work, that’s our focus as a staff.”
Farrell did say that the team feels “very good” about Bogaerts at shortstop.
“I feel good about him. I think his movements have become a little more efficient, particularly with his first step quickness. That lends to added range at the position,” said Farrell. “More than anything, he’s getting to know a feel for the game at the major league level.”
That view was echoed by third base and infield coach Brian Butterfield.
‘He’s got great body control, he’s a great athlete,” said Butterfield. “The main thing that we’ve been concentrating on is his feet. I think with all young shortstops it just becomes a matter of time before they know where to put those feet down. He’s getting there. He’s still not there completely, and he’d be the first one to tell you that. But extremely athletic. And when he does it right with his feet, you see the explosion, the body control, and a guy that’s going to be able to be creative, gets the ball in the air quickly and with some arm strength. He’s going to be a guy that we’re really looking forward to seeing, and I can’t wait to see some reps here in spring training.’
|02.26.14 at 4:08 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Alex Speier discuss what the Red Sox will be looking to accomplish and who has something to prove once spring training games begin Thursday against Northeastern and Boston College. They also talk about Pedro Martinez‘s arrival Wednesday in camp and his Hall of Fame worthiness.
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