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David Ross on D&C: ‘Definitely not happy with what A-Rod’s done’

01.23.14 at 10:30 am ET
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Red Sox catcher David Ross joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss spring training, new teammate A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rodriguez. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Rodriguez filed suit last week against Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association in an attempt to overturn his year-long suspension. A report emerged earlier this week that members of the union were upset with the Yankees third baseman.

“I’€™m definitely not happy with what A-Rod‘€™s done and how he’€™s trying to, instead of looking in the mirror, he’€™s trying to point the finger at everybody else,” Ross said. “That’€™s not how I work. I’€™m the first one to say, ‘€˜Hey, you know what? I’ve messed up,’€™ or when I make an error, I punch out, have a bad game, I’€™ll be the first one to tell you I stunk it up.

“I like guys that hold themselves accountable. Accountability is a huge thing for me. … I can’€™t comment on his personality, but definitely the way he’€™s coming off for me, it looks bad for the game.”

The Yankees won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, reportedly agreeing with the Japanese ace on a seven-year, $155 million deal Wednesday. Ross is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Tanaka [is] still unproven,” Ross said. “Obviously, he’€™s done well over there, but you’ve still got to prove yourself over here. You guys know that first-hand, too, with different Japanese pitchers, everybody that comes over is different. Some guys get a lot of hype and they’re not very good, some guys get no hype and they are really good.”

While the Red Sox have younger players who will play larger roles this season, Ross is comfortable with what general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell did in the offseason to provide depth.

“There’€™s always question marks with young guys, but if the young guys play well they’€™re usually a spark,” Ross said. “The great thing I like about Ben and John is they always seem to find a way to get depth.

“You just saw the move with [Grady Sizemore]. I think that’€™s great depth experience they brought in and it makes things really easy that you know, OK, they’ve got a Plan B and that’€™s always comforting as a player is that you know if somebody goes down — just like last year — if somebody goes down we’ve got good solid experience to back them up.”

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John Farrell: Red Sox won’t be rushing Grady Sizemore

01.22.14 at 11:15 pm ET
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Talking after the Red Sox‘ annual Town Hall (this year conducted at Northeastern University), Sox manager John Farrell explained that newly acquired Grady Sizemore will be eased back into action after missing the majority of the last two years due to knee issues.

Here is what Farrell — who served as the Indians farm director when Sizemore played in the Cleveland organization — had to say.

With your history with Sizemore, what were your conversations like leading into the signing?

“We had a brief conversation, but it was more about getting a comfort level with what he’€™s come off of with the knee injury and surgery, the opportunity and the need to create further depth with our roster. Knowing who he is as a person and a player, yeah, that certainly aided our comfort level. Comfort level being he’€™s going to do whatever’€™s in his power to come back from what he’€™s gone through physically. We’€™re certainly excited to have Grady in the mix.”

What will you do about your perceived excess of outfielders?

“We added Grady because one, he’€™s available and two, it provides some competition. And yet we have to see once we get to spring training, Grady’€™s tolerance physically and what the — we don’€™t have a projected number of games that we look at that he might be available for. We have to gradually build that up, build his endurance up. That’€™s how spring training will be spent with him.”

What do you know about his health and what he’€™s been able to do/not do?

“I know he’€™s running right now. Whether there’€™s been a lot of work with change of direction, I think that’€™s the next step in his progression. But straight away speed, it feels like he’€™s at 90, 90-plus percent. He’€™s swinging the bat every day, he’€™s thrown.

“The one thing he hasn’t done in a couple of years has been on the field for any length of time, or reps had in center field or at the plate. We feel like he’€™s making good progress health-wise, otherwise we wouldn’t have signed him to the deal we did.”

Will you be bringing him along slowly in spring training?

“I think what we have to do is get a read on where he’€™s at from a baseball standpoint, does that project to be ready Opening Day, is more time needed. Those are things we’€™ll adjust to as we get into spring training, particularly the games.”

What does this mean for Jackie Bradley?

“It doesn’t take Jackie out of the mix at all. There’€™s questions that we have to answer in spring training with our roster. So the fact of Grady signing and being added to our roster doesn’t remove Jackie from [consideration]. I think one of the things that Ben and all of us have set out to [do] in these final weeks before spring training is add to the depth of our team, and Grady certainly does that right now.”

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Red Sox announce Grady Sizemore deal, designate Brayan Villarreal

01.22.14 at 7:57 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced their incentive-laden, one-year, $750,000 major league deal (which can increase to $6 million if he meets sundry incentives) with outfielder Grady Sizemore, who will compete with Jackie Bradley Jr. for the team’s everyday center field job in spring training. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Sizemore, the team designated right-hander Brayan Villarreal – acquired from the Tigers in the July 30 three-team deal in which Boston parted with shortstop Jose Iglesias and acquired Jake Peavy — for assignment.

Villarreal appeared in just one game for the Sox, entering with the bases loaded in the extra innings of a tie game and promptly walking in the winning run. As a right-handed reliever who was out of options, Villarreal was the most obvious candidate to be designated to clear a spot for Sizemore.

Here is the team’s release: Read the rest of this entry »

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Source: Red Sox agree to terms with OF Grady Sizemore

01.22.14 at 6:32 pm ET
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According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox have agreed to terms on a major league deal with outfielder Grady Sizemore. Sizemore will earn a $750,000 base salary with incentives that could increase the value of the deal to $6 million.

The former Indians three-time All-Star — who hit 33 homers and stole 38 bases in 2008 — last played in the majors in 2011, but has missed the past two years while recovering from knee microfracture surgery. When healthy, Sizemore was one of the pre-eminent five-tool players in the game, hitting .281/.372/.496 while averaging 27 homers and 29 steals a season from 2005-08. However, injuries have limited him to just 210 games in the last five years. When he last played in 2011 with the Indians, he hit .224/.285/.422 with 10 homers and no steals in 71 games. He also has a history with Sox manager John Farrell, who was an Indians assistant GM during Sizemore’s first five seasons (2002-06) in the Cleveland organization.

Still, if healthy, Sizemore makes considerable sense for a Sox team that was lacking center field depth behind Jackie Bradley Jr. and Shane Victorino. Utility men Justin Henry and Mike McCoy were slated to split center field duties in Pawtucket, and while the Sox view Bradley as being a player with a high ceiling and a long-term everyday option, he still has to prove that he is ready for such a role. Accordingly, per another industry source, Bradley will compete with Sizemore for the everyday center field job in spring training.

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What Yankees’ signing of Masahiro Tanaka means for Red Sox, Jon Lester, AL East

01.22.14 at 10:51 am ET
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Masahiro Tanaka (AP)

Masahiro Tanaka (AP)

On Tuesday evening, multiple baseball officials guessed that Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka — in the wake of a historic 24-0 season with a 1.27 ERA in the NPB — might receive a six-year, $120 million deal on top of the $20 million posting fee that would be required to land the 25-year-old. That estimate turned out to be light, as Tanaka reportedly landed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees. Combined with his $20 million posting fee, that suggests that the Yankees are willing to spend $25 million a year over seven years for the pitcher considered the best on the market this offseason — though one whom some evaluators view as more of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in Major League Baseball than a true ace.

The cost of a truly elite starter? That bar was set when Clayton Kershaw — also 25, and one year from reaching free agency — inked a seven-year, $215 million ($30.7 million per year) extension with the Dodgers.

Some implications for the Red Sox:

– First, if Tanaka makes a smooth transition to the States to become at least a solid frontline pitcher (No. 3 or better), the shape of the Yankees’ rotation looks significantly more impressive as they look to derail Boston in the division. Tanaka would join left-hander CC Sabathia and right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in New York’s front three, with options like Ivan Nova and David Phelps available to round out the rotation as back-end starters. Of course, that rotation only looks impressive if Sabathia bounces back from his career-worst 2013 (4.78 ERA with a career-high 1.2 homers per nine innings) and if Kuroda shows that his season-ending rut (0-6, 6.56 ERA) was an aberration. With an effective and healthy Sabathia, Kuroda and Tanaka, the Yankees once again would have credible ambitions in the American League East. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reports: Masahiro Tanaka agrees to deal with Yankees

01.22.14 at 9:52 am ET
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Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

According to multiple reports, Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that there is an opt-out after the fourth year of the deal.

Major league teams faced a Friday deadline to finalize an agreement or else Tanaka would have returned to his Japanese team. The Cubs and Dodgers were also believed to be making a strong push for him, with the Mariners, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Astros showing interest.

A 25-year-old right-hander, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Gold Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League in 2013.

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Why Red Sox prospect Blake Swihart is his ‘own breed of catcher’ (15-second edition)

01.18.14 at 7:31 am ET
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Catcher Blake Swihart was named Red Sox Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Catcher Blake Swihart was named Red Sox Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Blake Swihart is a catcher. He occupies a position where most of his peers are characterized charitably as something between lumbering and immobile. That being the case, it takes very little time to understand that the 21-year-old represents a different sort of prospect for his position.

The Sox were drawn to Swihart’s athleticism when they drafted him, believing that his body type, quickness and strong arm would allow him to develop into a solid defender behind the plate and contribute to well above-average offense as a switch-hitter. Yet it is one thing for a player to be described as athletic, and quite another for him to display the trait.

But on Friday, during the portion of the Red Sox Rookie Development Program that was open to the public, the 2011 first-rounder offered a head-turning display of his athleticism in a mere 15 seconds. Paired with shortstop Deven Marrero in a shuttle run drill, Swihart proved much quicker than the player with whom he played in Salem in 2013. A player who is at a position that is supposed to struggle to keep up with first baseman instead ended up flying past another up-the-middle player.

Here is the Zapruder evidence (Swihart is the blur in the foreground, Marrero the one in the background):

Swihart has managed to add 40 pounds to his frame (going from about 160 pounds at the time he signed to 200 pounds now) without compromising his agility or athleticism. Adding to both traits is something that Swihart has prioritized.

“I’ve always been able to run really well. I’ve got a really quick first couple steps. My dad had me play basketball for a couple years just so I could get my feet quicker so I can move. That’s what makes me different from most catchers, I believe,” said Swihart. “I’m just kind of a different-looking catcher I guess. I feel really athletic back there. I can move really well back there. If I’m confident in myself to get in front of a ball that maybe someone else won’t get to, that may take me to the next level.

“I’ve talked to [Chad Epperson], our catching coordinator, and I’ve talked to a bunch of people about who I need to look at catching-wise. Who am I like? They say, ‘You’re not like anybody. You’re your own breed of catcher, the way you move, how quick your feet are.’ I like kind of figuring it out on my own, succeeding my way.”

Swihart shows an overall diverse skill set. He’s a switch-hitter who barrels the ball for loud contact from both sides of the plate. He hit .298 with a .366 OBP and .428 slugging mark in High-A Salem this past year, with an outstanding .367/.419/.519 line against lefties and a solid .279/.352/.404 line against righties, all while showing the bat speed to expect that he might add more extra-base ability down the road. He’s described by team officials as having “off the charts” makeup and leadership abilities (traits that were evident as he guided Salem’s pitching staff to the Carolina League championship). He possesses plenty of arm strength, with his home-to-second pop times typically registering from the 1.8s to 1.95 (1.95 is considered major league average). And his athleticism has allowed him to make rapid strides behind the plate, even though he’s relatively new to catching, having only become a full-time backstop after being drafted.

“Blake really has continued to make a lot of progress on both sides of the ball, but particularly defensively. I think we kind of recognized that with the Defensive Player of the Year,” said Sox farm director Ben Crockett. “Tremendous athlete, someone who has gotten a lot better behind the plate. He’s got plenty of arm strength and I think that athleticism is really starting to translate behind the plate. He took more leadership this year and I think the leadership, the game-planning, the relationship with pitches are things that he will continue to prioritize as someone who’s kind of new to the position. And then I think offensively, the approach improved quite a bit this year but will continue to be a focal point for him. He’s someone that is a very good hitter and feels like he can hit a lot of pitches. I think as he moves up a level — and we saw it from Greenville to Salem — he became more selective. He became more aggressive to pitches he can handle a little bit more often. That’s something that he can continue to try to refine.”

The overall view of the young catcher is one of a player with an unusually diverse set of skills for his position, something that suggests a considerable ceiling as he continues to move up the ladder. After playing all of 2013 in High-A Salem, he’ll be in Double-A Portland to start 2014, with his first big league camp on the horizon (Swihart will take part as a non-roster invitee). There, Swihart — ranked the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system by Baseball America — will have an opportunity to show whether he is indeed his “own breed” against the more advanced competition of the upper levels.

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