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Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria put on a BP show for Red Sox fans

03.22.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to their Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox Tuesday night, Rays stars Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez took batting practice.

For Ramirez, it was yet another reunion with several of the Red Sox uniformed staff that have stayed in place since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2008.

Ramirez said hi to several old friends and then, along with Longoria, put on a display for the fans at City of Palms Park. Ramirez, Longoria and B.J. Upton were in the same hitting group and it was Ramirez who belted several out, including a moon shot off the right side of the scoreboard in deep left-center.

Longoria batted third and Ramirez fourth in Tuesday night’s game, a likely scenario to take place when the season opens for the Rays.

John Lackey got the starting nod for the Red Sox. Lackey will start the season as Boston’s No. 2 starter and is in line to start the home opener at Fenway Park on April 8 against the Yankees.

The Red Sox countered with a lineup that will also likely mirror their Opening Day lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford hitting in the top third, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz filling out 4-5-6 and J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro rounding out the lineup.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, B.J. Upton, Boston Red Sox, Evan Longoria

‘Pins and needles’ time for Red Sox relievers as organization meets to map things out

03.22.11 at 5:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — From the day he was hired, Terry Francona has always leaned on everyone in the organization to help in player personnel decisions. It’s a quality that also factored in Theo Epstein‘s decision to hire him in late 2003.

Now, several important decisions are looming for the Red Sox, and it involves the crucial pieces of the bullpen.

The team will hold an organizational meet following Tuesday’s game with the Rays, with the fate of several roster spots in the bullpen possibly in the balance. Of particular note is how to handle the middle relief and lefty specialists in the relief corps and who should make the trip with the team to Arlington when the team begins the season against the Rangers on April 1.

Francona will meet with pitching coach Curt Young, Epstein and front office staffers to discuss how to handle relievers Hideki Okajima, Dennys Reyes, Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers and Scott Atchison.

“Curt and I, Theo and the guys from the front office will sit and talk, and not just talk about how we feel about things, but maybe map out the next couple of days,” Francona said before Tuesday night’s game with the Rays at City of Palms. “We’re getting to the point where innings are going to be at a premium so certainly there are going to be have to be some innings at the minor league complex and innings in big league games and we’ll sit and map that out.”

Asked if he and the team would like to have its major league roster set before they leave for the exhibition game March 30 in Houston, Francona said there’s no firm deadline.

“I’d rather do it right than set some arbitrary deadline,” Francona said. “We’ve done it both ways. There have been situations in the past where Theo felt he had something [trade] going and he wanted to wait so I don’t know. We’re going to take some extra guys to Houston so that’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better for these guys so they’re not on pins and needles.”

The team needs to decide what to do for a lefty or whether to take two north. Okajima and Reyes appear to be the front-runners with Andrew Miller, Randy Williams and Rich Hill on the fringes. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, darnell mcdonald, dennys reyes

Gonzalez’ agent: Extension agreement with Sox expected in April

03.22.11 at 5:05 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Boggs, the agent for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, said that he and fellow Gonzalez representative Tony Cabral met with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Assistant GM Ben Cherington on Tuesday to resume their December conversation about an extension for the former Padres star.

Boggs said that the Sox want Gonzalez to demonstrate the health of his shoulder once regular season games get underway, and that there remain relatively minor issues — including contract language and both performance and award incentives — to work out. That said, he said that he is entirely confident that a deal will get done along the lines of the parameters that were discussed by the Sox and Gonzalez prior to the completion of the 4-for-1 trade that brought the first baseman to Boston from San Diego.

“At the end of the day everything has been as expected. We sat down and discussed where Adrian is at. I just think it’s going to move very positively in the direction of probably trying to get something done sometime in April,” said Boggs. “The main thing is the health issue. When he’s seen to be every day playing competitively in a championship season I think they’re going to have a degree of comfort and obviously that will be a time to probably get something done.

“Prudently probably on their part, they just want him, to see him play back-to-back-to-back-to-back, get into the season, then say, ‘€˜OK, we’€™re good to go,’€™” Boggs added. “I would anticipate something around April. When in April, I don’€™t know. It could be beginning, middle, end, but that’€™s it. That’€™s really the parameters we’€™re looking at. If something drags it on past that, then yeah, we’€™ll probably have to revisit a lot of things, but I don’€™t anticipate that at all.”

Of course, twas not always thus. For a time during the negotiations with the Sox in Dec., Gonzalez and Boggs were ready to walk when the Sox suggested that they were unwilling to meet what the first baseman declared to be his asking price. However, once the Sox said that they were willing to meet the first baseman’s asking price, he agreed to use that figure as the frame of reference for further negotiations once spring training and the season got underway. He did not feel a need to let the contract situations of either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder — a pair of first basemen who could push the market for the position north — impact his talks with the Sox.

“Adrian in his mind, he knew what it was going to take, bottom line. He wasn’€™t concerned with chasing after or breaking records. He just wants to be fairly compensated,” said Boggs. “Obviously we walked away at their last offer and that wasn’€™t it. He had a bottom line and he felt that he had cut it to the bone and then when that wasn’€™t met, we were ready to get up. At that point, it was pretty significant money also but at the end of the day, he gave his word that wasn’€™t going to play. The market was going to be the market, as it was in December. Yes, you think that you’€™re giving away something that might or might not happen.

“In the end, I think he’€™s said it the clearest, you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you don’€™t want to play for or you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you want to play for and is in competition every year. that’€™s really what his goal was. To be treated fairly and be compensated fairly and be on a ballclub that is year after year competitive. I think that was his goal and after that, if he feels that it’€™s fair financially, he’€™s good to go.’€

In the end, the two sides decided that the best way to move the deal forward — without getting bogged down by potential health-related contingencies — was to conclude a deal once Gonzalez had demonstrated his complete return to health following a surgery that was meant to ensure that the first baseman would be in position to play the 2011 season — and beyond — at full health.

“We knew there were going to be caveats, there were going to be contingencies because he was coming off of surgery. It wasn’€™t a hangnail. It was a shoulder,” said Boggs. “You can think of the best scenarios and the worst scenarios and whatever, but the practicality of it was, hey, we’€™re not going to in essence get anything really decided until we see him play in a championship season and he’€™s good to go.”

Boggs — a third cousin of former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs — said that while he does anticipate that Gonzalez faces some transitional issues in going from a relatively quiet baseball existence to a new team in a baseball-crazed town and new league, his client is uniquely positioned to handle that transition.

“I think Adrian has the demeanor, the personality, where I don’€™t think that’€™s going to get to him at all,” Boggs said. “Adrian has always said, hey, we’€™re playing a game and if you can’€™t win, there’€™s no point in playing the game. So the competition to Adrian, I think, is a stimulant, and it’€™s something that really gets his competitive juices obviously going so the pressures, I think, of playing in a big city. No, he’€™s never done it. But I think if you dream about doing it and you’€™ve got the character and the makeup that it’€™s not going to get to you in any way.

“I don’€™t think it will because I don’€™t think he has real highs and real lows. He’€™s almost kind of in a steady hum. I think it will be a win-win. Kind of to answer your question, that was concerning, yet, again, I have to remember, hey, this is Adrian. If you knew anybody who had that best personality to handle this situation, he has the best personality to handle this situation. That’€™s really the long and short.

“The only other thing is, again, OK, it’€™s a new league, so he has to get used to different pitchers but he’€™s a baseball player. You still have to throw strikes. some guys are going to be, wow, he’€™s really got good stuff. it’€™s going to be one of those new things where, he’€™ll adjust. And he adjusts better than anyone. He adjusts with injury. He does a lot of different adjustments. I think that’€™s the success you have as a player. If you have the ability to adjust, you’€™ve got a good thing going for you.’€

Though Gonzalez is returning from an injury, Boggs was unsurprised that the 28-year-old anticipates being able to play everyday, and pursuing his perennial goal of 162 games for his new club.

“At lunch today, I said, obviously this is going to be based on health. Are you feel good playing every game?” Boggs said. “He looked at me like, I don’€™t know, I ordered a bean burrito in a French restaurant or something. He just looked at me, like, what are you kidding me? I’€™m going to play. I’€™m going to play every day. that’€™s my goal. That’€™s what it is, 24/7, and if you don’€™t see him in there on a consistent basis, something’€™s not right.’€

Read More: adrian gonzalez, contract extension, john boggs,

Carl Crawford remembers the day he knew David Price was really good

03.22.11 at 3:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Carl Crawford had no doubt.

Prior to Tuesday night’s spring training game between the Red Sox and Rays — pitting Tampa Bay starter David Price against Sox hurler John Lackey — the new Sox outfielder talked about the moment Price was truly introduced to big league baseball: The eighth inning of Game 7 in the 2008 American League Championship Series.

Setting the scene …

The Red Sox trailed by a run, but had the bases loaded after Tampa Bay reliever Chad Bradford walked Kevin Youkilis. With J.D. Drew coming up, Sox manager Joe Maddon made the decision to turn to the then-rookie left-hander, Price.

“When he came in, I was thinking this was our secret weapon,” Crawford remembered. “I just knew he was a guy who was going to like that kind of moment. We weren’t nervous about it, I can tell you that. We were just like, ‘Throw it as hard as you can! Don’t leave nothing out there.’ I had seen what he could do.”

Price had pitched just two other times in the series, coming on in Game 1 to get Jacoby Ellsbury on a lineout, and then in Game 2, walking Drew before retiring Mark Kotsay and Coco Crisp. Before that the only big league experience the lefty had was five regular season appearances, including one start.

The move against Drew paid off, with Price getting the lefty hitter swinging for a strikeout. The rookie hurler would stay in the game, getting the save and leading Tampa Bay into the World Series.

“Trust me,” Crawford said, “nobody was complaining about that.”

So now that he has to go up against Price, according to Crawford what will be the toughest part of getting best of his former teammate?

“Just trying to catch up to that 97 (mph),” the outfielder said. “It’s going to be tough. He throws hard. Just got find a way, some kind of way, to hit it.”

Read More: carl crawford, David Price, J.D Drew,

Video: Jonathan Papelbon re-enters the world of the minor leagues

03.21.11 at 5:31 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard summed up the experience after throwing to Rays’ minor-leaguers Monday at the Red Sox‘ minor league training facility.

“There was zero adrenaline,” Bard said. “It was like throwing a side session.”

While Jonathan Papelbon didn’t talk to the media after his 1 1/3-inning outing, he was undeniably thinking along the same lines. Papelbon allowed one hit and two walks while striking out a batter in his outing, showing a good slider and a fastball that touched 93 mph.

The closer threw 27 pitches. Here are the first 20 of them:

Read More: Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon,

Jon Lester ‘ready’ for the season to start after a ‘pretty positive’ duel with Roy Halladay

03.21.11 at 3:58 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — At first, Jon Lester said pitching against Roy Halladay in a spring training game didn’t mean anything extra special.

Then the Red Sox 2011 Opening Day starter thought about what he and the rest of the 10,912 on hand at Bright House Field watched from the Phillies starter.

“I’m not pitching against him but it is fun to watch him pitch,” said Lester, who actually not only pitched against Halladay but surrendered his first hit of the day to the Phillies ace after Halladay a pitch earlier fouled a ball off his face.

Halladay pitched into the eighth for Philadelphia, throwing nearly 100 pitches over 7 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking three and striking out six.

Lester was dominant for five innings but came unraveled in the sixth as the Phillies beat the Red Sox, 4-1, Monday afternoon at Bright House Field in Clearwater. The game was a match-up of aces as Lester opposed Philadelphia’s Halladay.

[Red Sox-Phillies boxscore.]

[Lester speaks about his final extending spring outing of 2011.]

Lester allowed five hits, four runs, three earned over 5 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out six while throwing 98 pitches, 56 for strikes. Despite allowing six walks over 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts, Lester feels ready for April 1 in Texas.

“I’ve walked plenty of guys before,” said Lester, who will have a final tuneup this Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles. “It’s not a big deal. Obviously, it’s not something I want to do. It’s something I’m trying to work on but at the same time, it is what it is. I didn’t really get a whole lot of ground balls today. I don’t know what that means as far as the way my stuff played out.

“Sometimes just being stupid, trying to throw the perfect pitch,” Lester added. “I came out of my delivery a couple of times. I don’t know if that’s fatigue or if it’s just me trying to do too much. I had a pretty good five innings as far as efficiency. I don’t know if I just wanted that sixth inning to be over with and in my mind, just put it to the wayside but obviously, not what I wanted.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz

Will more playing time spring David Ortiz to a better start?

03.21.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Terry Francona trusts his players will do the right thing to get reason for the season. He knows that if he shows trust in spring training, he and the team will reap the rewards when it matters.

Francona, of course, has always shown great loyalty to his players and none more than David Ortiz.

So when his slugger expressed a desire – along with Dustin Pedroia – to travel two hours north on a busy Monday to play the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game, Francona had no problem fulfilling the request.

“David wants to play pretty much every day. I don’t think enough to go to Jupiter [Thursday vs. Marlins].” Francona said Monday morning. “I think it’s been beat on him so much. Last year, after that first ‘oh-for,’ the whole world came to an end. I’m sure he’d like to shut everybody up. And from where I sit, I hope he does. It’ll make my life a lot easier.”

[Francona speaks about Ortiz wanting to silence the ‘April’ critics this spring.]

Ortiz went 0-for-7 in his first two games of 2010 against the Yankees and 1-for-11 in the season-opening series. He was asked about it after the second game and suggested fans and media “relax” about his slow start. Ortiz is hitting .263 this spring with one homer and five RBIs in 14 games. Ortiz had 62 at-bats with five walks and three homers in 2010 spring training but with 14 strikeouts and finished batting just .226.

This year, he has 42 plate appearances and has fanned eight times. Francona said he doesn’t have a figure in mind for the ideal number of plate appearances to get ready for the season.

“I don’t even know what the number is,” Francona said. “We keep track of plate appearances but he’s played enough. You just can’t bottle it or turn the switch on. Some guys get hurt, they get two games and they go 4-for-4 the first day, and then they feel good about themselves. It’s the [darnedest] thing.

“He has looked, for the most part, really good. I think there’s been days where he’s gotten a little out of sync. But saying that, everybody does because they don’t play every day. He’ll have one day where he swings the bat well then he sits for a day or he hits a bunch. That’s the way it is with everybody. There’s no way you’re going to keep your swing in tact when you’re not playing every day.”

Francona said Pedroia insisted on making the trip to Clearwater, joining Ortiz and other regulars, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.

“We try to check with them,” Francona said. “That’s the whole idea is to get guys feeling good about themselves as we leave [for the season]. There’s no magic formula. We don’t have to push these guys. They’re good about wanting to be ready. They all want to be ready. We all try to do what they think is in their best interest. Like Pedey wanted to come up here real bad. He wanted to play four out of five. He probably knows himself better than I do.”

Monday marks an important day for Opening Day starter Jon Lester. The starting pitcher had made four starts entering Monday’s contest against the Phillies. Francona said he will have his longest outing of the spring, throwing between 85-95 pitches.

“Hopefully, he gets good and stretched out and then back off a little bit on his last one,” Francona said. “We have a night game [Tuesday] and a day off [Wednesday] and then, except for that Jupiter trip [vs. Marlins], we’ll start trying to play guys a little bit longer or more consistently.

“I don’t think you have to play nine [innings] in spring training to be ready for a season. It just doesn’t translate but we will get them a lot of back-to-back of four at-bats.”

Ortiz and Pedroia aren’t the only regulars wanting to go the extra mile this spring to be ready for the season. Adrian Gonzalez will take part in a minor league game on Wednesday – an off day for the big league team. Francona will be on hand to watch.

“I told him if he doesn’t want to [play], he doesn’t have to,” Francona said. “But I’m planning on going down there with him, just to watch.”

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia

The case for Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the season

03.21.11 at 10:00 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The claim that Jacoby Ellsbury has been the most impressive hitter in spring training thus far stretches beyond just the fact he’s hitting .421 with a .463 on-base percentage. It’s how he’s doing it that truly stands out.

“He looks good,” said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “I know he missed a lot of time last year, but he looks ready. He looks ready to hit. When Ells gets in trouble he’s late, but he hasn’t shown that at all. He’s driving the ball. He look really good.”

The hope for the Red Sox all along was that Ellsbury would be able to shake off whatever rust there was from playing in just 18 games in 2010 and own the leadoff spot sooner than later. Thus far, the centerfielder has done about as much as he possibly can to put any fears to rest regarding his readiness to assume the lineup’s top spot.

Perhaps the only question is whether or not Ellsbury will kickoff his comeback by going head-to-head with Texas Opening Day starter C.J. Wilson, a lefty who held left-handed batters to a .143 batting average in ’10, along with a .224 on-base percentage.

With no real history between the two — Ellsbury has faced Wilson just once — there is a case for the outfielder to get a crack at Wilson right out of the gate. While the drama of last season might have made some forget, but Ellsbury has actually been a very solid hitter against lefty pitching during his young career.

Ellsbury has actually hit lefties better (.307) than right-handers (.285),with an on-base percentage that is skewed 20 points higher when facing southpaws.

“Ells has always done pretty well against lefties,” said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. “I don’t have any issues with him against lefties. But C.J. Wilson is a different animal. The numbers, over his career, against lefties are pretty tilted toward righties. Everything he throws has late movement. He’s just got great stuff. He’s got a quick arm, so it’s tough to pick him up and for lefties his arm is on your side and is quick coming through the zone. He’s just tough to pick up.”

There aren’t any great alternatives, however, with the logical alternative, Marco Scutaro, managing just two hits in 16 at-bats against Wilson.

“I spent a lot of time this offseason swinging, and I haven’t really changed too much since I got here,” Ellsbury said. “The main thing to me is I want to be ready, early. I want to be ready to hit. I feel confident whether it’s lefty or righty, that’s the most important thing.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka effective, efficient but Cards rout Sox

03.20.11 at 4:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective and efficient on Sunday but his two-out walk with none on in the 6th opened the door for a 10-run sixth as the Cardinals routed the Red Sox, 10-3, Sunday afternoon at City of Palms Park.

[Red Sox-Cardinals boxscore].

Matsuzaka allowed three hits and two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out four. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, in his longest outing of the spring. Matsuzaka, who is now 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA this spring, needed just 64 pitches to get through five innings.

“I thought he had good tempo, threw strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s two in a row now so he’s starting to get geared up. He probably could’ve gone a hitter or two more. I wanted to see Andrew face a lefty and it kind of fell apart from there.”

[Francona explains why he was happy with Matsuzaka’s outing Sunday vs. the Cardinals.]

Matsuzaka was coming off a start last Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers in which he allowed just two hits over five shutout innings, walking one and striking out five.

“I thought the last outing he had pretty good life too,” Francona said. “Again, you’re getting to that point in spring training where they’re probably gotten through the dead-arm period and they’re starting to get built up now where we’re getting pretty close to the start of the season.”

After getting two quick outs in the sixth, Matsuzaka walked Albert Pujols and then surrendered a long run-scoring double to right-center by Matt Holliday.

Francona pulled Matsuzaka for lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who struggled badly. The former No. 1 pick of the Tigers in 2006 faced six batters and didn’t retire a batter, allowing four hits and six runs while walking two.

“He walked the first hitter and that’s kind of a reminder when coming out of the bullpen of how important it is to attack the strike zone,” Francona said of Miller. “He had an infield single and a bloop and it kind of fell apart from there.”

Scott Atchison came in and allowed a bases-loaded double to Pujols to make it, 9-0, before Holiday followed with another run-scoring double. The Cardinals had 11 consecutive batters reach in the sixth with two outs.

The Red Sox travel to Clearwater Monday as Jon Lester matches up against Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Albert Pujols, andrew miller, Boston Red Sox

Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez: Different approaches, same results

03.20.11 at 12:50 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was good news for those attending the Red Sox‘ spring training game against the Cardinals Sunday at City of Palms ParkAlbert Pujols made the trip.

With the Cardinals’ first baseman in attendance, along with the Red Sox’ first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, it led to the question: Were the folks with ticket stubs seeing the best two hitters in baseball?

“The argument could be made,” said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan.

In his 10-year career nobody has approach Pujols’ body of work. He has hit 37 or more home runs in seven of those 10 campaigns, while never totaling a batting average of below .312. And while Gonzalez’ numbers don’t quite approach Pujols throughout the Sox’ first baseman’s initial five big-league seasons, it isn’t a great leap of faith to conclude that playing in the hitter-hurting Petco Park might have put a dent in the overall outcome.

But what is perhaps more interesting is the fact that both hitters, while playing the same position and anchoring similar spots in their respective lineups, have such different approaches when it comes to the art of hitting.

“They’re not really similar,” said Magdan, going beyond the obvious fact that Pujols is a right-handed hitter while Gonzalez hits lefty. “Adrian is a little more rhythmic, with movement fro pitch to pitch. He’s got a lot more going on. But I wouldn’t say the mechanics of their swing are similar.

“Obviously there are certain things that string through all good hitters. But as far as load, set-up, where they stand at the plate … Adrian strides, Pujols really doesn’t. He’s very still and just kind of cocks his hands. Adrian is more a center of a center-to-left field hitter, whereas Albert probably pulls his home runs. Obviously whatever they’re doing it works for them.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Albert Pujols,
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