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Morning Fort: Red Sox’ story being defined by boxing, yoga

02.17.15 at 10:25 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Another day at JetBlue Park, another wave of players.

Pablo Sandoval, who has been in camp sporadically in between working out in Miami, just stepped into the batting cage with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Mike Napoli and Deven Marrero.

It was interesting to see Ramirez’s routine upon joining his teammates, immediately going to grab some boxing gloves before spending some time on the heavy bag. The bag is a fixture just outside the cages, so this would appear to be a regular thing.

Update: Ramirez said the workout is something he did back in 2013, skipping last year after suffering broken ribs. It’s a routine he plans on continuing, hence the installation of the bag.

— Speaking of alternative athletic endeavors, newcomer Robbie Ross Jr. told an interesting story regarding how he found out about his trade.

“I was actually going into Yoga,” Ross said. “I was literally walking into Yoga. We had just gone into do one of the poses to get loose, and then, boom, it was [Rangers general manager] Jon Daniels on the phone. It was with me and my stuff was just sitting there. So I went over and grabbed it.”

While Ross called it a day when it came to his Yoga that time around, his wife, Brittany, found it a perfect setting to digest the family’s life-altering news.

“For her to find out then was a lot less stressful,” Ross said. “I leaned in and said, ‘€˜Hey, I got traded.’€™ She leaned out for a second and then went back in. It was good because she was in her peaceful setting.

Rusney Castillo just before taking batting practice. (WEEI.com photo)

Rusney Castillo just before taking batting practice. (WEEI.com photo)

— Castillo seemingly has a few more muscles, along with a slightly altered hair color.

— Speaking to some folks about the Boston Globe item regarding a potential power struggle between Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and Red Sox owner Mike Gordon. One thing to keep in mind is that Gordon is actually already above Lucchino in the organization’s power structure. Gordon also isn’t the type who immerses himself in player evaluation, as Lucchino has done from time to time. The owner helps oversee a variety of the organization’s properties, not seemingly having much interest in the some of the responsibilities Lucchino currently is involved with.

The true story might be simply if Lucchino is contemplating moving on.

— To Joe Kelly’s credit, he isn’t backing off his Cy Young prediction.

“Everybody has is in them,” he said. “You just have to have a little luck and a little skill and it can happen. It’€™s not my main focus. My main focus is to throw 200 innings and you’€™re going to be in that running. It all starts with innings.”

— As much as highly-coveted Cuban 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada wants to sign and get to a team, it doesn’t appear as though the timetable set by his representation, David Hastings, will play out exactly as planned. Hastings had told ESPN.com that he had hoped to get something done for Moncada by Wednesday.

Read More: Larry Lucchino, Robbie Ross, Rusney Castillo,

A look at how Red Sox starting rotation took shape (and why it doesn’t include Max Scherzer, James Shields)

02.16.15 at 11:36 pm ET
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Max Scherzer (Getty Images)

The Red Sox reportedly had interest in Max Scherzer this past offseason. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The entire Red Sox starting rotation — Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly — walked out to the back fields at Fenway South Monday, ready to partake in another day of drills and throwing.

It is still five days before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and the entire group has already been roaming the JetBlue Park fields in their Red Sox garb for at least a few days.

Cole Hamels rumors or not, this potentially ace-less collection has already dug in on believing they are all the Red Sox need.

“Of course you want to ride with the group we have,” Kelly said. “I don’€™t know if anybody has paid any attention to that. I think everybody’€™s so new here our minds are focused on coming in here, focusing in on spring training and having a good year. But pitching is pitching and we’€™ll see how it shapes up for all five of us. … If everybody had their career year, we would be unstoppable.”

Unless the Phillies’ price drops, the Red Sox are also dug in on this bunch. So, how did they arrive at such a rotation?

According to major league sources, here are some particulars about the Red Sox’ approach to picking these pieces:

— The Red Sox did have interest in free agent Max Scherzer, actually valuing him as much as Jon Lester. But after numerous discussions with Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, it became clear the righty’s price tag was going to be too big for the Red Sox’ to swallow.

According to one source, at no point during the offseason did Boras hint that he was concerned Scherzer wouldn’t get his money, potentially leading to a more palatable reduced rate. In the end, the former Tigers hurler inked a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals.

— The Red Sox did meet with free agent James Shields at the winter meetings, but never identified the starter as a great fit. It was determined by the organization that pitching home games at Fenway Park might not be the best avenue for Shields, who carries a career record of 2-9 with a 5.42 ERA. The money Shields ultimately got with the Padres — four years, $75 million with a fifth year club option for $16 million — was in the vicinity of the Red Sox anticipated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer,

Koji Uehara was banged up last year; had little doubt would return to Red Sox

02.16.15 at 2:10 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It turns out there was something going on with Koji Uehara’s health last season, after all.

Speaking after his first training camp workout at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox closer explained his downturn in the season’s second half.

“It was more physical,” Uehara said. “I didn’t talk about it at that time. I think I’m over it.” He added, “I’m not going to go into specifics, but it wasn’t fatigue.”

Uehara went on a six-game stretch in which he allowed opponents a .500 batting average while succumbing to 19.29 ERA. After taking an eight-day hiatus, the righty finished the season with three scoreless outings.

“I probably needed the rest and felt good after,” said Uehara, who started his throwing program upon returning to Japan in late November. “But I’m not going to look back and wonder what I should have done. I’m just going to look toward the future.”

Was the September rest necessary?

“I think if you look back, yeah,” he said.

Uehara also offered an explanation as to why he signed his two-year, $18 million deal with the Red Sox instead of testing free agency.

“No doubt at all,” he said when asked if there was any question he would be re-signing with the Red Sox. “It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox.

“Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. … Because of my age, it was very important.”

The Red Sox have made it clear that Uehara enters the season as their closer. But with the late-season struggles, coupled with the second-half emergence of Edward Mujica (2.30 ERA in his last 34 appearances), the 40-year-old is taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t feel it was guaranteed, the closer role,” he said. “I’m have to earn it, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Read More: Koji Uehara,

Source: Nothing close with Red Sox, Cole Hamels; Phillies know where Sox stand

02.16.15 at 11:13 am ET
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Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels

FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to a major league source, the Red Sox aren’t remotely close on any sort of trade for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. The source says that the Sox have made Philadelphia aware of the parameters of what the Sox are willing to give up for the starter.

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Red Sox were one of four teams to have made offers for Hamels.

The Red Sox are wary of the cost it would take to get Hamels, with three factors weighing into the equation (money, talent, right for the pitcher to refuse a deal) instead of the two some suitors are dealing with.

Hamels is owed $90 million over four years, with a club option for a fifth year that would boost the price to $110 million. While it is assumed Hamels would leverage his no-trade with the Sox to have them pick up his option, the fact that there are other big market clubs in the mix not on the no-trade list could raise a red flag.

Read More: Cole Hamels,

Morning Fort: Equipment truck emptied; Mookie Betts jacked

02.16.15 at 10:07 am ET
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Mookie Betts is reporting to cap at 181 pounds this spring training. (WEEI.com photo)

Mookie Betts is reporting to camp at 181 pounds this spring training. (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The truck arrived at 7 a.m. and was empty by 9:30 a.m. I will never complain about cleaning my car again.

Driver Al Hartz reports that the Red Sox equipment truck made its first-ever publicity appearance outside Boston, stopping at The Villages, a retirement community outside Orlando. The community is the site of the largest outside-New England Red Sox fan base in the country. While there Hartz and the truck took hundreds of photos.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the driver said.

While workers were hurrying everything from little girls bicycles to motorcycles off the 18-wheel equipment carrier, a gathering of Red Sox hitters were making bat meets ball noises in the nearby hitting coach.

Included in the group were Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley, Bryce Brentz and Mookie Betts. Betts reports that he is hitting camp at 181 pounds, which is a long way from his Baseball-Reference page listing of 155 (which obviously is documented from his first pro year).

Some new arrivals this morning include Koji Uehara and Robbie Ross, with virtually the entire big league pitching staff already in attendance.

Outfield coach Arnie Beyeler has gained access to the main JetBlue Field to work with Ramirez and Brentz.

Report: Former Sox coach Wendell Kim dead at 64

02.16.15 at 8:52 am ET
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Wendell Kim

Wendell Kim

Wendell Kim, who served as Red Sox third base coach from 1997-2000, died Sunday at the age of 64, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease following his retirement from baseball 10 years ago.

Kim played minor league ball for the Giants in the 1970s and then coached in the organization’s minor league system in the 1980s. The diminutive Hawaiian moved up to the majors and coached for the Giants from 1989-96 before joining the Sox for four years.

He left Boston to serve as manager of the Brewers’ Triple-A team in Indianapolis. After one season, he returned to the majors, becoming the bench coach for the Montreal Expos. He moved on to the Cubs in 2003 and served as third-base coach for two seasons before leaving the game for good.

Known for his aggressiveness in sending runners home, Kim was nicknamed “Windmill Wendell” and “Wave ‘em in Wendell.”

Kim reportedly started suffering short-term memory loss while with the Cubs, and his situation worsened as he was taken care of by his family in Arizona.

Read More: Wendell Kim,

Nevada reminds us American League East isn’t scaring anybody this time around

02.16.15 at 12:11 am ET
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David Ortiz and the Red Sox are battling an unrecognizable American League East this season. (Getty Images)

David Ortiz and the Red Sox are battling an unrecognizable American League East this season. (Getty Images)

The kind folks in Nevada have weighed in on the upcoming Major League Baseball season. One of their takeaways? The American League East isn’t scaring anybody this time around.

The Atlantis sports book in Reno is the first to release their projected 2015 win totals for all MLB teams, using the numbers to encourage bettors to either bet that clubs will finish over or under the set number.

While we understand the impetus setting such a number for each team is to get betting action, it also offers a representation as to how the professionals in the sports betting industry view the landscape of the coming regular season.

It translated into good news for the Red Sox.

It also reminds us that this division is, to be kind, unpredictable.

Atlantis sports book director Steve Mikkelson slotted the Sox with an over/under of 86 wins, the most of any AL East team. Baltimore was second with 84.5, the Blue Jays are at 83.5, the Yankees slot in at 80 and Tampa Bay have been tagged at 77.5.

While the numbers will ultimately be off base (because, despite the best efforts of Mikkelson and the rest of his Nevada counterparts, they always are), it is interesting to note the perception of the once-all-powerful AL East. The Red Sox’ win over/under is the lowest of any of the other projected division leaders. That isn’t what this division is supposed to be all about.

Put it this way: If the Red Sox actually do win the AL East with 86 wins, it would be an unbelievable aberration.

Since the leagues were broken up into three divisions in 1994, there have been just two times the top team in the East hasn’t won at least 95 games. The Yankees needed just 87 wins to claim the division in 2000 — (the first year in MLB no team finished with a winning percentage below .400 or above .600) — and also won the division crown with 92 victories in ’96.

But with what appears to be an unusually top-to-bottom flawed AL East, it’s a scenario that could surface.

Basically, the entire division mirrors how we view the Red Sox. Cases could be made for and against every single participant. Usually the East offers some certainty thanks to at least one roster constructed with top-to-bottom proven success. Not this time.

Take a look ‘€¦

RAYS

Why they’ll go over: With Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Chris Archer — along with the June return of Matt Moore — they could have the division’s best starting rotation.

Why they’ll go under: The offense is yucky. And if you don’t believe me, remember that John Jaso is currently scheduled to be the Rays’ designated hitter.

ORIOLES

Why they’ll go over: They have shown a propensity to figure things out, while getting good enough pitching. The return of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado won’t hurt, either.

Why they’ll go under: The O’s no longer have a guy named Nelson Cruz and added little in the offseason.

YANKEES

Why they’ll go over: If Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda prove they can stay healthy, New York’s offense and intriguing bullpen will keep them competitive enough until a midseason, game-changing move can be executed.

Why they’ll go under: The Yanks have to rely on the health of Tanaka, Sabathia and Pineda.

BLUE JAYS

Why they’ll go over: The addition of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin allows for one of the best lineups in the American League. The emergence of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman would also make a world of difference.

Why they’ll go under: Brett Cecil is the Jays’ closer, and the top of the rotation is being manned by R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle with a bunch of unpredictability behind them.

RED SOX

Why they’ll go over: A lot of players with at least some history of success.

Why they’ll go under: A lot of players with at least some history of uneven performances.

This isn’t your older brother’s American League East. Thanks for the reminder Nevada.

Even with Cole Hamels, Phillies projected as worst in baseball; Red Sox best in AL East

02.15.15 at 9:22 am ET
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Wondering why it is so important the Phillies get the right haul of players for Cole Hamels? Check out the latest projected win totals for all big league teams by the Atlantis sports book in Reno, Nevada. (It is the first Nevada sports book to release such lines.)

Spoiler: Atlantis identify the Phillies as the team believed to be trending toward the worst season in all of MLB.

According to the projections, Philadelphia are heading into spring training with the expectations of winning just 67 games, 1 1/2 more than the next worst club, the Twins.

The Red Sox? They’re locked in at 86 games right now, the best of any other American League East team. The Orioles (84.5), Blue Jays (83.5), Yankees (80) and Rays (77.5).

The top teams in baseball, according to Atlantis, are the Nationals (93) and Dodgers (91). (Click here for all the projections.)

Do you concur?

Jackie Bradley Jr. literally putting it all on the line

02.13.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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This is the line hitting coach Victor Rodriguez has installed in the cage to help Jackie Bradley Jr. maintain a short, level swing and stay on top of the ball. (Photo by Rob Bradford)

This is the line hitting coach Victor Rodriguez has installed in the cage to help Jackie Bradley Jr. maintain a short, level swing and stay on top of the ball. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com)

Visitors to Jackie Bradley’s batting cage at JetBlue Park might think he was getting ready to hang some laundry.

A rope stretches across a screen in the right-handed batter’s box at roughly eye level, and Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez believes it holds the key to Bradley regaining the form that made him a top-flight prospect before a disastrous 2014 cast his future into doubt.

The purpose is simple — Bradley shouldn’t swing at anything over the line. By forcing him to consciously swing down on the ball, Rodriguez hopes Bradley can rediscover the approach he utilized throughout the minors, when he looked like a potential leadoff hitter.

“Staying under the line means staying on top of the ball,” Rodriguez said by phone on Friday. “You’ve got to stay short and through the ball. It’s a target that you visualize, and it forces you to stay on top.”

Bradley moved to Naples after the season and has been working out in and around JetBlue for more than a month and a half. Rodriguez believes the results have caught the attention of manager John Farrell and other members of the coaching staff.

“Guys who haven’t seen him — [hitting coach] Chili Davis, the manager, the coaches — they’ve been real happy with what they’ve seen,” Rodriguez said. “To give him credit, he’s put in a lot of good time to get it done.”

In 530 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Bradley has hit only .196 with a .548 OPS. Both numbers rank in the bottom three in baseball.

The struggles took a mental toll and led to reports that Bradley stubbornly resisted the advice of his coaches. Rodriguez views it a little differently.

“I’ve been with him for a while,” he said. “I saw him in the minor leagues. You want him to do what he’s capable of doing. The last two years, he really didn’t show that, or at least what he showed me in the minor leagues.

“What’s more, he believes in himself so much that he trusted what he was doing and really didn’t want to go out and try something different. A lot of times we gave him opinions and he probably thought that his way was going to be better. It’s tough, because he believes in himself so much, and he wanted to go his way.

“I believe that was a learning year for him. All that is behind him. He really wants to do things the right way. I’m very positive that this guy’s going in the right direction.”

The fruit of Bradley’s labors will be apparent this spring. If he hits, he’ll force himself back onto the big league radar, even in a crowded outfield. If he doesn’t, we might never see him in a Red Sox uniform again.

All Rodriguez knows is that he’s not closing to giving up on Bradley, as he made clear when asked what kind of player Bradley can be if he figures things out at the plate.

“Oh my dear Lord,” Rodriguez said. “Something good. I know his name is not mentioned too much. But the defensive ability this guy has, if he’s able to bring that offensive part of the game on a consistent basis, I think we’ve got something good, something really good.

“And for me, it’s not a bad thing that Jackie Bradley will come out and show people the kind of player he is. It’s going to benefit the team.”

Read More: jackie bradley jr.,

Video: Red Sox fans sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ as equipment truck leaves for Florida

02.12.15 at 1:23 pm ET
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Thursday was the annual Red Sox Truck Day, and fans came out despite the snow to celebrate the approaching baseball season. Here’s a video of Sox fans singing “Sweet Caroline” as the truck gets ready to depart:

And here’s a look at the truck leaving. Next stop: Fort Myers.

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