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Ross Ohlendorf looks forward to renewed opportunity in Boston

02.16.12 at 2:51 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — The 2011 season was one to forget for Ross Ohlendorf. After recording a 3.98 ERA in 50 starts for the Pirates in 2009-10, he missed the final six weeks of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, worked his way back to the mound for the start of last year and made just two starts (giving up seven runs in 8 2/3 innings) before landing back on the DL with a shoulder injury.

He did not pitch again in the majors until August, when he made seven starts in which he went 1-3 with an 8.40 ERA. That, in turn, led the Pirates to decline to tender him a contract after the season, thus making the right-hander from Princeton a free agent.

“I was hurt almost the whole season. I was on the DL for so long,” Ohlendorf said on Thursday morning, hours after signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox. “Then, when I came back, my arm felt fine but I just didn’€™t get off to a good start. I felt like I had one good game. I definitely plan on pitching better this year.”

Despite the poor numbers, the Sox saw promise when they scouted Ohlendorf late last year. His fastball was up to 95 mph with life and he showed what the team evaluated as an average to plus curveball and changeup. The team met with him and saw him throw during the offseason in his home of Austin, Texas, and became convinced not only of his intelligence and enthusiasm for the game but also saw a pitcher who could be intriguing as either a starter or reliever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is there a problem with Adrian Gonzalez?

02.16.12 at 1:33 pm ET
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One year into his Red Sox career, is it fair to be critical of Adrian Gonzalez?

Well, not at first, second or third glance, no. A quick swing over to his baseball-reference page (tragically, the Baseball Encyclopedia takes a seat next to privacy, the music industry and any chance of making a profit in pornography as just three of about 50 million things wiped out by the Internet) and we see that in his first year in Boston, Gonzalez hit .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI. He was third in the AL with a .957 OPS, led the league with 213 hits and very deservedly won his third career Gold Glove.

OK, maybe you expected a little more power — he was two years removed from a 40-homer season and escaped Petco Park — but any semi-reasonable fan would’ve signed for those numbers from Gonzalez in 2011, right?

Throw in the idea that he was transitioning from a city where absolutely no one cares about baseball (or anything else, really — I lived there for five years and can tell you that sunny and 68 degrees every day sucks the passion out of people, unless we’re talking about guacamole or any Kardashian) to a city where I think we can all agree people probably care too much and didn’t seem at all affected by the change is no small feat.

We see guys crumble all the time around here, I think it happened to the other high-priced addition to the 2011 Red Sox. Carl Crawford looked miscast and frankly uncomfortable from day one of spring training, but Gonzalez stepped in and looked like he had been around for a decade.

So realistically it’s hard to look at Gonzalez as a “problem.” This isn’t John Lackey or Dice-K or J.D. Drew. Just the opposite. In Year One (and he was only making $6 million in 2011) he was worth the dough. But something has happened with Gonzalez, there has been a serious shift in public perception.

And, to be fair, at least part of it was a second-half slump (again, Gonzalez sets a tough standard, but his slugging percentage was .489 in the second half, down 102 points from the first half) and part of it was his failures against the Yankees (.183/.298/.324) and the Rays (131/.293/.279). And, like everything else that followed after Game 162, all or at least much would have been forgiven if the Sox had figured out a way to win just one more game in September.

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Sox sign Ohlendorf, Gomez to minor-league deals

02.16.12 at 12:06 pm ET
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The Red Sox on Thursday announced the signings of free agents first baseman Mauro Gomez and right-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf to 2012 minor league contracts with invites to Boston’€™s major league spring training camp as non-roster players. Both have been placed on the Triple-A Pawtucket roster.

Here’s a complete list of non-roster invitees:

Pitchers (15):

Scott Atchison

Jesse Carlson

Aaron Cook

Brandon Duckworth

Justin Germano

Rich Hill

Will Inman

Doug Mathis

Ross Ohlendorf

Vicente Padilla

Tony Pena Jr.

Carlos Silva

Chorye Spoone

Justin Thomas

Alex Wilson

Positional Players (9)

Daniel Butler (catcher)

Max St. Pierre (catcher)

Pedro Ciriaco (IF)

Mauro Gomez (IF)

Nate Spears (IF)

Alex Hassan (OF)

Josh Kroeger (OF)

Juan Carlos Linares (OF)

Jason Repko (OF)

Dustin Pedroia on The Big Show: ‘I can’t see any of our guys ratting out other teammates’

02.15.12 at 4:45 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia made an appearance on the The Big Show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the state of the Red Sox prior to Spring Training.

Pedroia addressed questions regarding how the players will handle figuring out and dealing with whomever leaked clubhouse secrets (such as eating fried chicken and beer) prior to the season. Pedroia downplayed the importance of addressing the stories about the team that emerged after last season prior to beginning the season. Pedroia also said he does not believe the person who leaked the information was a player.

“I honestly, I can’t see any of our guys ratting out other teammates,” Pedroia said. “That’s over the line. I don’t know who it was or what was going on or who had their source or what. As far as I’m concerned, I’m showing up ready to play baseball. I don’t care about any other of the [stuff] that goes on. The media or none of that stuff. That’s not going to affect how I go about my job. If they ask me a question about last year, I’m just going to say, ‘Listen, bro. It’s 2012. We’re getting ready for that. Go to the archives pal.'”

Pedroia, when pressed, acknowledged that he will confront team staffers such as security guards or clubhouse attendants who may have leaked the information once he arrives in Ft. Myers.

“And that’s where some of the things that I’ve read have come out is oh, a security guy in station whatever was saying that he saw some of the guys go up there and drink a beer or something,” Pedroia said. “That part pisses me off, and I’ll definitely deal with that. Because that’s the part that whoever wrote about it said, oh yeah, there was a security. So I might tell the security guard, ‘Go get a hot dog or something. I’ll handle this. This is our office.'”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

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Which Red Sox are out of options heading into 2012 season

02.15.12 at 12:13 pm ET
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Per usual, Tim Dierkes and MLB Trade Rumors came up with another informative post this morning, listing those major league players out of options heading into the 2012 season. Of note were the list of Red Sox who fell under the option-less umbrella — Pitchers Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Matt Albers, along with outfielder Darnell McDonald.

The list — which only includes players on the 40-man roster — offers a reminder when it comes to what the Red Sox might be weighing in when it comes to cut down day. In other words, if it is coming down to a pitcher in the aforementioned group and somebody like Junichi Tazawa (who does have an option) when making a decision for the Opening Day roster, even with a slight performance edge Tazawa would find himself back down in Triple-A Pawtucket.

In case you forgot, any player out of options would have to clear waivers if he was sent to the minors. Only one option is used per year when a player is called up to the major leagues, no matter how many times they are promoted.

Looking at the roster today, going off 2011 performance, it would appear that both Morales and Albers have jobs to lose heading into spring training, with Doubront and Miller certainly getting heavy looks because they are lefties and possess significant upside when healthy and mechanically sound.

Of the pitchers, it is Bowden whose fate would be most connected to his performance in spring training (perhaps in large part because he is not a left-hander and no longer is viewed as a starter).

The 25-year-old seemed to find his niche in 2010 when moved to the bullpen. In ’11, Bowden saw two stints with the big club, being called up at the end of May and pitching through the end of June, and then resurfacing just before September. From Sept. 15 through to the end of the regular season, he pitched just three times, but allowed just a single hit over four innings.

From 2007-09 Bowden was ranked as a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, and hasn’t allowed more than a 3.66 ERA in any of his past four minor league seasons (all spent with Pawtucket). In fact, ’11 might have quietly been his best year to date, finishing with a 2.73 EA while appearing in 41 games for the PawSox, striking out 61 and walking 18.

As for McDonald, the outfielder came close to leaving the organization because he was out of options in 2010, having been actually informed by the team that it would be designating him for assignment during a series against Tampa Bay. But an injury to Jacoby Ellsbury that day put a halt to all paperwork, keeping McDonald with the Red Sox.

Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Real shift in philosophy’ with Red Sox front office

02.13.12 at 12:39 pm ET
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Shortly after breaking the news that the Red Sox had reached a deal with David Ortiz, ESPN senior baseball writer Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni and talked about how the deal came to fruition, as well as how it represents a change in philosophy for the Red Sox front office.

The Red Sox and Ortiz agreed on a one-year, $14.575 million deal, a midpoint between what the team was willing to offer and what Ortiz wanted. Though Ortiz ideally wanted a multiyear deal from the Red Sox, Olney said the team just felt better taking it one year at a time with the 36-year-old designated hitter.

“He was hopeful at some point that the Red Sox would eventually begin some dialogue on a multiyear deal, but they were so far apart,” Olney said. “From the beginning of this process when the Red Sox offered him that two-year, $18-19 million [offer] whatever it was, which obviously is very far from where they wound up. I think, too, the Red Sox were comfortable going one year at a time and I’€™d be willing to bet that’€™s probably the way it will be for the rest of his time with the Red Sox.”

With a new general manager in Ben Cherington, Olney said that the deal with Ortiz is indicative of a greater change in thinking in the Red Sox front office with former GM Theo Epstein now with the Cubs.

“There’€™s no question that there’€™s a real shift in philosophy that’€™s been going on around the Red Sox, around baseball,” Olney said. “I think David Ortiz is a dinosaur — he’€™ll be one of the last guys where you’€™ll see a team devote a lot of money to someone to be a designated hitter I think teams, for the most part, like to keep that position more flexible, to give injured guys rest.”

Given Ortiz’ age and position within the team, Olney indicated that the DH is on a short leash if his production starts to decline, even to the point where the Red Sox may let him go.

“If he has any kind of a drop-off, he’€™s reached the age where if he has a 10 percent drop-off from this year going into next year, then the Red Sox would probably be inclined where they would look at it and say, ‘€˜I think we can save some money,’€™ ” Olney said. “I think David’€™s in a position where, as long as he continues to have seasons like he did last year, he’€™ll continue to get paid. And if he regresses at all at his age, I bet the Red Sox will bail out on it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ben cherington, buster olney, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia

What Ben Cherington said after signing David Ortiz, and before leaving the Vinoy

02.13.12 at 12:09 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At approximately 10 a.m. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and Fern Cuza, the agent for David Ortiz, walked through the lobby of the Vinoy Hotel and Resort, adjourning to a second floor meeting room.

Less than an hour later, a deal had been reached.

The Red Sox representatives, which included Cherington, assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran and director of major league operations Zack Scott, had arrived at the site for Ortiz’ arbitration hearing Saturday, two days before the scheduled arbitration hearing, which was slated to begin Monday at 2 p.m. They were fully prepared (PowerPoint productions at the ready) to go to the organization’s first hearing since 2002, as was Ortiz’ group, led by Cuza.

But, once again, it never got to that point, and by noon all parties involved were on their way out of town.

The agreement was the midway point for the two sides, settling in at $14.575 million. It’s a non-guaranteed deal (which doesn’t mean much), and doesn’t alter the organization’s budget since the midway point of all arbitration case is what most teams use to plan their payroll. And, yes, Ortiz was on location, ready to attend if need-be.

Here is what Cherington told WEEI.com before leaving the premises:

“From the outset of the offseason we made it very clear we wanted to have David back on the team and we knew once he accepted arbitration he was going to be on the team and that was a great outcome for us. The question was just how much he was going to make. As we got closer to the hearing I’m happy that both David and the team both felt there was some value to avoiding a hearing, settling in the middle, moving on and getting ready for spring training.

“We haven’t gone to a hearing for a long time so when you get this close you have to be prepared to go. I had never been that close to a hearing before. It’s an exercise, like anything else, where you’re getting ready for the potential of a hearing. So you go through your case, how you’re going to present your arguments. All along there were certainly an openness to try and settling this and we’re happy we did.

“I don’t want to speak for David, but we’re happy this is done and we can agree on something that is really fair for both David and the team and move forward and get ready to move into our new complex and get going with spring training.”

Red Sox, David Ortiz avoid arbitration with $14.575 million deal

02.13.12 at 10:55 am ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Ortiz may be the best designated hitter in baseball history. In 2012, he will be paid accordingly.

According to an industry source, the Red Sox and Ortiz reached an agreement just a few hours before a scheduled salary arbitration hearing on a non-guaranteed, one-year, $14.575 million deal. The agreement represents the midpoint between what Ortiz requested ($16.5 million) and the Sox offered ($12.65 million) for the 2012 season.

Ortiz made $12.5 million in 2011, a season in which he hit .309 with a .398 OBP, .554 slugging mark, .953 OPS, 29 homers and 96 RBI. He was named to the American League All-Star team and was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award as the top DH in baseball in 2011, in the process garnering bonuses that pushed his earnings for 2011 up to $12.65 million.

The contract is the largest, in terms of average annual value, ever conferred upon a designated hitter, surpassing the $14.25 million AAV being earned by Travis Hafner from 2009-12 and the four-year, $56 million deal ($14 million AAV) to which the White Sox signed Adam Dunn last offseason.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and Ortiz’s agent, Fernando Cuza, met in the Vinoy Hotel (where the arbitration hearing was scheduled to take place at 2 p.m.) at approximately 10 a.m., working together quickly to reach the agreement. With the deal, the Sox have now gone 10 years without an arbitration hearing; the team now has resolved all nine of its cases with arbitration-eligible players for 2012.

Ortiz, 36, reached free agency this offseason for the first time since signing with the Red Sox in 2003. However, he elected to accept the Sox’ offer of salary arbitration in December, thus bringing him back under team contractual control for the 2012 season, his 10th in Boston.

News of the agreement was first reported by Buster Olney of ESPN (via twitter).

Read More: David Ortiz, salary arbitration,

Larry Lucchino on Red Sox payroll, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and more

02.10.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino rebutted claims that his team is scaling back its spending this offseason, saying in multiple settings that his team plays on blowing past the $178 million luxury tax payroll and suggesting that the Sox will exceed the $189 million franchise payroll record, which was set last season.

In an appearance on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio’s “Inside Pitch,” Lucchino painted a picture of a far-reaching commitment by team owners to the payroll, both over the duration of the group’s tenure (which began in 2002) and in 2012.

“Look at what we’ve done and not what we say. Since we have been here — we are now beginning our 11th year — our payroll has consistently been at the top end of Major League Baseball,” said Lucchino. “It has not been No. 1. That position has been reserved, probably permanently, for the New York Yankees, but it has been second most every year, and we have invested lots of money in amateur draft picks. We sign our draft picks at a much higher percentage than used to be the case. We’ve invested in international signings — you can look at some of our Cuban players and some of our Japanese players — and so we have invested dollars into this franchise because we recognize that the fundamental question about a franchise and about its ownership is, is there a commitment to winning. I think that our track record demonstrates that there is that commitment.

“Now, this year, if you want to talk specifically about 2012, we will have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox in 2012,” Lucchino continued. “Will we eclipse the luxury tax threshold? To be sure, we will — once again. So I think the talk of us not spending needs to be viewed in the context of real facts and in comparisons to real dollars.”

In earlier comments to MLB.com, Lucchino also disputed the notion that the Red Sox’ spending has been impacted by the Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of the Liverpool Football Club.

“That has not been the case,” Lucchino said of the idea that the Red Sox ownership group was channeling its resources towards soccer players. “There has not been a situation where that was cited for a reason for us not to do something here.”

Asked for how he feels when his team is characterized as being “cheap,” Lucchino suggested amusement.

“It makes me laugh. It just proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You certainly can’t please all of the sportswriters much of the time. But that’s OK,” said Lucchino. “What’s important to us is that our fans realize that we are in this to win it, and we operate accordingly.

“Are there financial constraints from time to time? Of course there are. No one has an unlimited budget to do absolutely everything they want to do. But with some common-sense parameters, as I said, we’re going to have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox this year, and the commitment to winning from the very highest levels — John Henry, Tom Werner — throughout the entire organization, there is a powerful sense of obligation that our job is to commit to win, provide our fans with entertaining, competitive, winning baseball.”

(For a detailed look at the Red Sox payroll, click here.)

Lucchino also touched on a number of additional topics. Among them: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino

Report: Rich Harden to miss 2012 due to shoulder surgery

02.09.12 at 9:08 am ET
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According to MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons (via twitter), right-hander Rich Harden underwent season-ending surgery to repair his right shoulder. Gammons tweeted: After 5 years of ‘always being hurt’ with a torn capsule, Rich Harden last week had surgery, aiming to come back in 2013–healthy. Finally.

The development offered a reminder of the trade to which the Red Sox and Athletics agreed on July 30 (one day before last year’s trade deadline) only to have the Sox call off the deal upon reviewing Harden’s medical records. The deal would have sent Harden to the Sox for first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named (both Raul Alcantara and Brandon Workman were on a list of players from which the A’s could select a player).

Harden, who turned 30 following the season, was 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 1/3 innings at the time of the almost-trade. Though the Sox thought that he was unlikely to make more than a handful of starts down the stretch, Harden remained healthy enough to make 10 starts over the final two months of the season, albeit with mixed results. He struck out an impressive 61 batters (and walked 21) in 53 1/3 innings, but went just 2-3 with a 5.57 ERA while averaging 5 1/3 innings per start.

Erik Bedard, the pitcher whom the Sox ended up adding after missing out on Harden, struggled with injury issues of his own with the Sox. The left-hander made eight starts and pitched just 38 innings, going 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA while striking out 38 and walking 18.

While the Red Sox have remained open to the idea of adding depth to their rotation, according to a major league source, the team had not explored the possibility of signing Harden this offseason.

Read More: Erik Bedard, Rich Harden,
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