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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.

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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.”

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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.

Alex Cora on MFB on Rusney Castillo: ‘No doubt he’s going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues’

02.12.15 at 12:18 pm ET
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Former Red Sox player and current Criollos de Caguas winter ball manager Alex Cora joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, who he managed for 10 games this past winter. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Cora had nothing but good things to say about Castillo, who in 10 games with Criollos de Caguas under Cora’s watch, hit .405 after coming back from a thumb injury suffered in the Arizona Fall League.

“He has a great approach,” said Cora. “He only played 10 games for us and to be honest with you, I don’t know how many hits he had, but everything was back up the middle or to right center. As you guys know, if he keeps that approach for a long period of time, you’re going to hit for average. I was very surprised with that. Usually with the guys we’ve seen from Cuba coming to the big leagues they are dead pull hitters, very aggressive, a little bit out of control. He was the total opposite.

“Talking to him offensively, he said he was working with [Red Sox asst. hitting coach] Victor Rodriguez at the end of the year with the leg kick. In the beginning he had a little bit of trouble getting it down on time, but the more he played the better he was. I have no doubt he’s going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues.”

With a crowded Red Sox outfield, and Castillo’s ability to play multiple positions, there has been some questions of where Castillo is best served to play in the field. Cora said no doubt he’s a center fielder, where he played 10 games in the big leagues last September. Cora noted some of the in-game adjustments he was able to make during his time playing for him this past winter.

“He’ll be a center fielder,” Cora said. “He will be a center fielder in the big leagues. I know the decision is for John [Farrell] and for Ben [Cherington] to make. The way he reads bats and the way he gets jumps, he’s a very athletic guy. We thought coming in when he came down everyone was talking about how raw he was, especially defensively. He used to play in the infield and he made an adjustment right away. He was a guy that we would give him the scouting report and after the third inning you could see he was taking charge. He was moving the right fielder, he was moving the left fielder, he was playing shallow, he was playing deep — he was making adjustments with the game and that was a great thing to see.”

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Nothing like a mid-February Yankees, Red Sox bidding war (thank you Yoan Moncada)

02.12.15 at 12:05 pm ET
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It appears as though Yoan Moncada isn’t going to wait around, making the middle of next week potentially a semi-pivotal time for the future of the American League East. It’s also the latest head-to-head battle between the Red Sox and Yankees.

In case you weren’t up to date on Moncada, he is a soon-to-be 20-year-old shortstop from Cuba who has recently been designated as a free agent. Over the coming days, teams will extend offers (signing bonuses) for Moncada’s services, with the man handling the player’s negotiations, David Hastings, telling ESPN they were hoping to reach a decision by Feb. 23.

The Moncada situation is somewhat complex, with teams expecting to potentially allocate in the vicinity of $30 million for the right to sign the youngster. For some teams, such as the Red Sox and Yankees, they will have to match whatever signing bonus they commit to in a payment to Major League Baseball since they already went over allocated international signing pool. (For the Red Sox that was just under $2 million and was crossed upon signing highly-touted pitchers Christopher Acosta and Anderson Espinosa.)

(For a complete primer on Moncada’s situation as it pertains to the Red Sox’ interest, click here)

The simple conversation that should be had, however, is this: the decision could be a difference-maker when it comes to the future of Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. And even if it’s not, having a good ol’ fashion jostling match between the two organizations is always a hoot.

Sure, the offseason financial showdown for the services of Andrew Miller was interesting. But Moncada presents next-level type of drama.

We all know teams are starving for impact bats, particularly if the offense can be complemented by middle-of-the-diamond defense. (And I don’t know if you’ve heard of a guy named Derek Jeter, but he’s not playing shortstop anymore for the Yankees.)

Moncada? “Easily top of the first-round talent,” one talent evaluator recently told WEEI.com.

There are some teams that don’t view Moncada as a shortstop long-term, but even so, he represents the type of talent teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will be trying to get ahead of before the awkwardness of 30-something free agency becomes the only options.

There are no guarantees, of course. You probably lost track of a kid named Michael Ynoa, but his signing bonus of $4.25 million as a 16-year-old in 2008 stood as the highest international offering of its kind for at least a few years. Last season as a 22-year-old, he made 31 relief appearances for the A’s high-A affiliate in Stockton, totaling a 5.52 ERA after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was traded with Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox this offseason.

But when it comes to simply cutting a one-time check for the opportunity to develop such a player, such a scenario has to be deemed as rare for the likes of the Sox and Yanks. (Yes, there are other teams heavily involved, such as the Dodgers and Tigers.)

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So, evidently Phillies really want Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart

02.11.15 at 9:53 am ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

A source told FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal that the Phillies preference is to strike a deal with the Red Sox in which they would send Cole Hamels to Boston for a package that would include Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart. (To read entire story, click here.)

That is not, however, the Red Sox’ preference. And it shouldn’t be.

The conversation in the article was born from Rosenthal reporting the Padres made a hard push for Hamels before signing James Shields. That move, obviously, took one potential landing spot for the Phillies’ lefty off the market. It also, evidently, pushed the Red Sox up the list of teams that might be a fit for a Hamels deal.

A few weeks ago, a source told WEEI.com that the Phillies have been “unrealistic in their expectations” when it comes to the asking price for Hamels. Totally understandable. With four guaranteed years left on the lefty’s deal — (with a fifth-year option he would surely make the Red Sox pick up considering they’re on his no-trade list) — Philly GM Ruben Amaro has to make this a no-doubter.

That’s why he’s asking for a package that would have to include Betts or Swihart. By most accounts, they are no-doubt type of pieces. (As much as prospects can offer such a tag.)

Yes, the Red Sox would seem to need a proven top-of-the-rotation guy like Hamels. That’s why there has been interest. A five-year, $110 million commitment to a pitcher of the lefty’s ilk would seem to be palatable while they figure out the rest of the rotation.

But a big part of team-building is deciphering the most difficult positions to lock in and prioritizing those players that can fill any such voids.

Betts would not only seem to be a productive outfielder, both offensively and defensively, but also has the potential to own the Red Sox’ leadoff spot for years to come. It’s the type of skill-set that would be tremendously expensive to find via trade or free agency going forward. They just paid $72.5 million for Rusney Castillo to offer similar attributes, although most in the organization would identify Betts as a better fit in the leadoff spot.

As for Swihart, perhaps one of the most difficult things to uncover in baseball these days is a catcher who can evolve into a middle of the order presence while excelling defensively. That’s the way the switch-hitting 22-year-old is trending.

It used to be that top of the rotation pitching was the most difficult thing for an organization to find. Not anymore. That’s why the Red Sox were so proactive in their pursuit of bats, not only with Castillo but also by inking Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to long-term deals.

Hamels would undoubtedly be the best pitcher on the Red Sox pitching staff right now if acquired. And that’s a title the 31-year-old might very well hold for the next three seasons.

But the reality is that there are potentially other options for the Red Sox to unearth their ace (including the possibility of trading for Hamels down the road at a less painful price). If Amaro’s demands thin out and a package is highlighted by one of the Red Sox’ top pitching prospects, the conversation should change.

For now, however, the Red Sox should be stiff-arming the Phillies when it comes to these two guys. You also can’t blame Amaro for asking.

Snow reprieve: Virtual stroll around Red Sox spring training complex

02.09.15 at 11:48 am ET
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While many in the Northeast continue to deal with this winter wonderland, know that pitchers and catchers report for Red Sox spring training in less than two weeks. Here is a primer for the workouts, with a virtual tour of the team’s training facility in Fort Myers …

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to honor Pete Frates at Red Sox-Boston College game

02.09.15 at 9:47 am ET
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Pete Frates (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Pete Frates (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

According to the Salem Evening News, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox‘ March 3 exhibition game against Boston College at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers in honor of former BC player Pete Frates.

Manfred’s appearance is part of the tribute to Frates that will include both the Red Sox and BC wearing No. 3 jerseys for the game. The Eagles uniforms will be the same style worn by the Eagles when Frates played for BC in the mid-2000s. (For more details on the uniforms, click here.)

The 30-year-old Frates suffers from ALS, a disease he has battled for the past three years.

Frates has helped draw worldwide attention to ALS, serving as one of the motivations for the ice bucket challenge, which he participated in last summer with members of the Red Sox in front of Fenway Park‘s Green Monster.

To read more about Manfred’s appearance, click here for Phil Stacey’s report.

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