|02.27.17 at 5:11 pm ET|
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) February 27, 2017
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is headed to South Korea.
The statement shouldn’t seem natural considering we’re storming into the meat and potatoes of spring training. But that’s the case. Bogaerts got in his last three at-bats Monday before hopping on a plane to Atlanta, before jetting for a 15-hour sojourn to Seoul.
Once in South Korea, Bogaerts will start his new existence for the next two weeks or so, joining Team Netherlands for the World Baseball Classic.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said after notching a pair of hits against the Cardinals in three at-bats.”The travel is probably the only bad part. Being there playing baseball is definitely something you can’t pass on.”
As for the travel, at least Bogaerts has some idea what’s coming, having made the trip back during the 2013 WBC.
“Honestly, I can’t remember about the flight,” he noted. “I can’t remember how long it was. On my way back, I don’t remember much but I remember when I came back, I was extremely tired and couldn’t see the ball at all. I was feeling pretty terrible.”
Then there is the baseball.
Bogaerts clearly is taking great pride in representing the Netherlands, even if it means moving to third base (where he has been working out over the past few days). So, while integrating a flight halfway around the world, and early-March, high-leverage baseball, into his life these days might not seem ideal, the 24-year-old all in.
“I’m going to play baseball. I’m not going on vacation,” said Bogaerts, who has been getting advice from the Red Sox’ doctors as to how to handle the time change and travel. “I’ll be in baseball mode and I’ll be playing in some competitive games, playing for some real important things for the country and playing with teammates you grew up playing with or against so it should be fun.”
“We sent him off with some decent timing and I think overall our regular position players, you can see the timing start to come around better with everyone,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Particularly with Bogey who is going to be facing some more elevated competition here in the next week to 10 days. Just to get three at-bats in two or three games for him was needed before he heads East.”
|02.27.17 at 12:11 pm ET|
As an elder statesman on the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia says he now trains differently than he did as a young player. And he takes some of his cues from Tom Brady, the Benjamin Button of quarterbacks.
In an interview on WEEI’s Bradfo Sho, Pedroia extolled Brady’s approach to playing football. He also cited ways in which he’s carried over some of TB12’s techniques to his own training regimen.
“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia said. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age, and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles –– the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”
Instead of weight training, Brady focuses on muscle pliability. In a New York Times profile, he attributes his remarkable ability to stay on the field to his muscle’s elasticity. Brady hasn’t missed a single game due to injury since he tore his ACL in 2007.
After missing time at the end of the 2014 and 2015 campaigns, Pedroia played in 154 games last season. He posted his highest OPS since 2011, stopping a five-year decline. At 33 years old, Pedroia says he recognizes the pitfalls of intensive weight training, and the advantages that can be gained from living a healthy lifestyle.
“There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” he said. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more –– whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”
Pedroia didn’t reveal how much longer he wants to keep playing baseball, but did say he intends to honor the five years remaining on his Red Sox contract. Whether he keeps playing or not, it’s apparent Pedroia will continue to be cognizant of his body long after he hangs up the spikes. He wants to live until he’s in the triple-digits.
“I plan on living until I’m 100. So, we’re not even halfway home,” he said.
|02.27.17 at 10:19 am ET|
So, it turns out Hanley Ramirez hasn’t played first base yet because there is a bit of discomfort in his right throwing shoulder when tossing the baseball.
“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell Monday morning. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”
Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. The Red Sox went through a similar program with Ramirez this time last year, not letting the first baseman throw extensively throughout the first few weeks of camp.
But this time is different. This time Ramirez will be in the hands of Team Dominican Republic starting Friday thanks to the World Baseball Classic. And while Moises Alou’s club will be communicating on a daily basis with the Red Sox training staff, the idea that Ramirez might actually be jumping into game situations for nine innings at a whack at this point should seem uncomfortable.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com when asked if he planning on playing first base in the WBC. “I’m just going to go there and see”
Farrell said the concern and timetable aren’t currently at the point where the Red Sox would have to step in to mandate Ramirez doesn’t play in the field.
While Ramirez’s first base glove is certainly at the ready, already donning the flag of the Dominican Republic, Team DR does have another option at the position, with Cleveland’s Carlos Santana on the roster.
|02.26.17 at 11:37 pm ET|
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) February 27, 2017
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On the field in an empty JetBlue Park the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner got his work in.
Under a blazing sun, Rick Porcello faced nine batters, throwing 37 pitches to both Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon in a simulated game. It went well enough, with the righty giving up two hits while notching three strikeouts and issuing a free pass.
It was a good first step, but that’s all. And Porcello knew reality of the moment.
That’s why, when talking after the exercise, the idea of joining those pitchers participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic seemed so foreign.
“I mean, I wouldn’t be ready to compete in a game in the WBC,” Porcello said. “I feel really good right now, but that’s just a different type of pitching. Our responsibilities, at least me, my responsibility is with the Red Sox and being sure that I’m ready to go here. I think that that at least in my head would take away from some of the preparation I want to go through.
“If I want to work slow and focus on my fastball command for an extended period of time, you’re not necessarily going to be able to do that when you’re competing in a game and I’ve got Miguel Cabrera at the plate with second and third and one out. I’m not going to just serve up some fastballs to him. There are definitely some guys that are capable of doing it. Right now, at this stage for me, I couldn’t really fathom pitching in a competitive game like that. Not that I’m going through the motions in spring training games, but it’s different.”
Porcello, who is on track to pitch Opening Day after a scheduled six exhibition starts, is intent on taking advantage of the WBC-induced spring training slate, even though he won’t participate in the tournament.
“Yeah, that’s a benefit to us, I think,” he said. “The more time you have, you can work a little bit slower and take some more time to focus on some little details that maybe if you’re rushing through your preparation for the season you might not have an opportunity to pay attention to as much. You just look at it as an opportunity to get some more work in and continue to refine things.”
To read more about the dangers of the World Baseball Classic for pitchers, read John Tomase’s column by clicking here.
|02.26.17 at 10:18 am ET|
The 58-year-old Butterfield is just a couple of months off his second knee replacement in as many years, this time replacing the right one.
“I just want to be ready to go come April,” Butterfield said. “I’m on the field for some of our stuff, but when I stay on my feet right now for longer than a couple of hours I have to get off it.
“The left one I call Gale Sayers because that one is really good right now. The right one is Billy Buck because I’m not able to move on it. Hopefully this one becomes Gale Sayers. Two Gale Sayers I think I’ll get probably 120 yards on 20 totes.”
And of course, when referencing the preseason strategy, the Maine native can’t go without comparing his plight to a New England Patriot. Rob Gronkowski doesn’t need these practice games, so why should his No. 1 fan, right? (He wears No. 55 in honor of former Patriot Willie McGinest.)
“He’s a talented guy so he doesn’t, but I do. I really do need it,” Butterfield said. “I would like to be out there and I would like to be out there watching everything and doing everything. I haven’t swung the fungo yet because there’s a little twist and turn that is blowing it up. My mother called me the other day and said, ‘You don’t want to be a gimp. You haven’t been able to run for four years. Take care of that thing.’ I told her I dream of running again. I had one two nights ago, so that must mean I’m getting closer.”
With the success of his left knee replacement last season, Butterfield is optimistic the surgeries will allow him to continue doing what he’s been doing since 1994, serve as a major league coach.
“Right now, forever,” Butterfield said when asked how long he wants to continue coaching. “I enjoy the preparation. I enjoy this time of year. We have a great group of kids. I’m really excited that I might have two good legs again. The physical part, if you’re not physically right, that wears you down mentally, and that gets you thinking about your future. Do I want to continue to doing this if I keep having problem moving? But I have a chance to be a new man. I feel like if I get these wheels better I can go for a long time.”
|02.26.17 at 7:27 am ET|
Six starters, five spots. John Farrell surfaced a scenario.
“I think a couple of different ways we could go with that,” the Red Sox manager said. “That’s one possibility. Not knowing who that one would be to go to the bullpen. I think more importantly we’ve got to get everybody back up to game speed until we start to maybe address or consider those options.”
First things first. It is very clear one of those players helping construct those options, Drew Pomeranz, has absolutely no interest in entertaining one of those scenarios Farrell is suggesting — heading back tot he bullpen.
“I’m confident enough in myself,” Pomeranz said. “People say bullpen, whatever. I made the All-Star team as a starter, not as a reliever. I had a good year as a reliever the year before and maybe I can fall back in 10 years, hopefully. Right now I just feel like this is the beginning for me.
“Look at my first half last year. I was one of the top few in the National League. Why would I want to go to the bullpen. Just because I’ve done well people are going to say, ‘He should go to the bullpen. He would be better there.’ At the end of the day I’m here to help the team no matter what, but I fought my way back to being a starter and I’m not going to give up on it very easily.”
At this very, very early point in spring training, Pomeranz sits smack dab in the midst of those aforementioned options. Ironically, it was almost exactly a year ago he did everything to not have anything to do with these kind of uncertainties.
As Pomeranz was cruising on into the spring training games with the Padres last February, the promise of giving him a chance to make the rotation was increasingly becoming a hollow one.
So, the lefty decided it was time for the rubber to meet the road. A meeting with San Diego manager Andy Green was requested, executed and, ultimately, looked upon as what Pomeranz is banking on being his fork in the road.
“Last year was just kind of a fight all around for me,” he said. “I got to the point where I want it so bad, I thought we understood each other and clearly we didn’t understand. From that point forward if I had anything I didn’t understand I could walk into his office and say, ‘What’s going on?’ and he was honest with me.
“I’ve done this long enough that I feel like I know what I need to do to be successful and it’s kind of frustrating sometimes. You want things to go one way and they don’t, you have to keep yourself motivated. Fight for what you want. This game is a fight. No one is going to hand you anything. You have to go out and get what you want. That just kick-started the whole year for me, and maybe my career.”
This was Pomeranz’s turning point. No meeting. No All-Star Game. Probably no chance to become a starting pitcher for the Padres or Red Sox.
“What we had discussed was I was coming in as a starter and at the end of camp if I didn’t get a spot I would go to the bullpen. That was my understanding,” he remembered. “Then when they put the charts up and it said one inning, and day off, and then ‘Pomeranz one inning’ I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ You’ve been around long enough to know if you’re being groomed as a starter or a reliever.
“I asked him and he said, ‘There’s definitely innings available to give you a chance to start.’ I told him, ‘I want it. I’m going for it. If you decide at the end of camp that I’m not good enough than you can put me in the bullpen.’ Immediately they gave me more innings. They changed the chart that day to put me at two innings and I got back on that progression.”
Odds are that, despite these options Farrell speaks of, Pomeranz won’t need one of these get-togethers.
Pomeranz and Steven Wright haven’t thrown live batting practices yet, with the lefty easing back into the new season after receiving stem cell injections in his elbow. But, according to both Farrell and pitching coach Carl Willis, both pitchers are schedule to make their six spring training starts.
And, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski insinuated in the offseason, if all six are healthy, it would seem Pomeranz joins Wright as the favorites to land in the rotation to start the season.
What a difference a year makes.
“You go every year fighting for a spot, and this year is a little different because I had a really good year and figured some things out,” Pomeranz said. “I’m coming into camp in the position I want to be in and am able to take it a little slower. I think it’s a good thing because it will keep me more rested. I think it will only benefit me, the position I’m in.”
|02.25.17 at 5:32 pm ET|
It was uncomfortable watching the new Red Sox eighth-inning guy on NESN, or listening to Thornburg’s 2/3 innings on the Red Sox Radio Network, Saturday afternoon. Seeing a guy pitch for the first time only to be delivered five runs on four hits and a walk in a two-out appearance isn’t easily dismissed.
But, unless there was physical issues contributing to the outing, this was a lesson in spring training patience.
Thornburg, you see, was really, really, really bad in spring training last year with the Brewers. This kind of bad. The righty gave up 12 runs on 18 hits over 9 2/3 innings with the Brewers during last season’s exhibition season. Nine months later he was being coveted by the Red Sox after posting a 2.15 ERA in 67 relief outings for Milwaukee.
“I feel like I do pretty much the same thing every year,” Thornburg said after the Red Sox’ unforgettable, come-from-behind, 8-7 win over the Twins at JetBlue Park. “I always tend to start slow in spring because the lower body wants to go full speed and the arm isn’t ready to do that yet. It’s just a matter of the lower body being gone and my arm was kind of finding it. I pretty much do the same thing every year. It always takes a good five or six outings to get locked in. The good news is every time I have a bad spring I always tend to have a good year.”
Considering the price the Red Sox paid to get Thornburg — Travis Shaw and prospect Mauricio Dubon — it would take a lot for the 28-year-old not to enter the regular season as Craig Kimbrel’s set-up man.
And that is a far cry from the starter-turned-reliever Thornburg found himself last year, just trying to crack the Brewers’ roster.
“It’s definitely easier. When you’re competing for a spot and you have a bad spring, you end up putting a lot of pressure on yourself to get things going as soon as possible,” he said. “That’s definitely one of the positives right now. After a bad first outing, I’m not trying to make sure I have an incredible second and third and whatever. It’s a process. There’s a reason we have as long as we do in spring training to get ready. We’re going to end up with 12 or 13 outings. It’s a process. We’ve got a full other month or so.”
— Perhaps the most impressive pitcher of the day for the Red Sox was Joe Kelly, who pitched a flawless fifth inning, blowing away Minnesota’s Matt Hague for the final out.
“He started his throwing program earlier this offseason and I think it’s paid dividends just the way he’s responded to the work to date,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell of Kelly. “He looked midseason form today.”
Relievers Robbie Ross Jr. and Heath Hembree also pitched scoreless innings, while Matt Barnes, who had to come in for Thornburg, was charged with a run on two hits while striking out three.
— Pablo Sandoval had an interesting day at the plate.
The switch-hitter tried to take advantage of the Twins’ shift in his first at-bat, bunting from the left side. But the play resulted in an out, with Minnesota pitcher Phil Hughes getting to the bid in time.
“That was on his own,” Farrell said. “But it’s something we’ve talked about trying to get some lanes back, and the next at-bat you see them back in a 2-and-2 on either side, but you like to see those types of things attempted.”
Sandoval also notched a hit in his first try hitting from the right side, although the sinking line-drive probably should have been caught by Minnesota left fielder Leonardo Reginatto (who is vying to become the fourth native of Brazil to make the major leagues).
– Dustin Pedroia, who had a hit while playing in his first spring training game, summed up the reality of these games after the Sox’ win.
“Our job isn’t to play in these games, it’s to play at Fenway and help the Red Sox win games,” he said. “We’re working. We’re not worried aobut results. I don’t care if I get a hit the rest of Spring Training. As long as I feel good and I’m preparing for what’s coming – that’s the goal.”
|02.25.17 at 12:07 pm ET|
But it was the other guy who participated in session on Field 4, Chris Sale, that offered any semblance of news in the hours leading up to the Red Sox big game against the Twins at JetBlue Park.
Following the successful BP exercise, Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis revealed that Sale will be making his Red Sox Grapefruit League debut March 6 in West Palm Beach against the Astros.
Leading up to the start on Florida’s East Coast, Sale will toss a simulated game at JetBlue Park Wednesday before one more side session two days later. The plan is to have the southpaw — and the rest of the Red Sox starters — to make six spring training starts before Opening Day.
As for what Willis has learned about Sale since he started throwing baseballs in a Red Sox uniform …
“I guess from watching him from the side as an opponent, I’m really impressed with the direction that he’s able to maintain through the strike zone,” said the Red Sox pitching coach. “You would think with the slot and some of the body movement it would be probably more across his body. But he really has a good line to home plate. More than anything else I’ve been impressed with … and he told me early on, ‘Hey, I can throw strikes in the middle of the night.’ But it’s not even that. It’s obviously the action he gets, but the command he has. It’s electric stuff with well above average command that I’ve seen at this point. Guys with his type of stuff have a little bit more margin for error, but at the same time he’s executing location as an elite level right now.”
Chris Sale is pitching right now pic.twitter.com/3ryCZKiwiY
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 25, 2017
Rodriguez and Kimbrel both came through their forays into pitching to live batters without any issues, with Willis identifying Thursday as Rodriguez’ first spring training start.
“Right now he’s showing us his delivery,” said Willis of Rodriguez. “I think last year, coming off the injury, the first time he’s experienced it with that leg, there was maybe a little bit of uncertainty in his mind. This was an injury but not as serious. He was pitching in Venezuela when the injury happened, so he had gotten to the point of not just coming into spring training and getting ready, but he was ready to pitch. What he’s doing right now is showing us there hasn’t been any hesitation or doubt in his mind that’s going to affect his delivery. That’s first and foremost what we wanted to see, and he’s been able to show us that since his return to the mound.”
ERod throwing to hitters for first time this spring pic.twitter.com/O1IN2fXro7
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 25, 2017
Regarding Kimbrel, the pitching coach said, “He was really good today. All pitchers, there’s a direction. And that’s not to say all of them have the same exact direction or path to get there. But today we saw after the first four or five pitches his ability to repeat that good location, or good direction. I saw a really good curveball top to bottom. We didn’t see him yank the pitches today after the first two or three when he was able to kind of get a feeling for what his body is doing. It’s a progression. I think what we’ve seen again since the first day of spring training, each time he’s stepped to the mound it’s been a little bit better and a little bit better and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
|02.24.17 at 2:15 pm ET|
But David Price has hope.
“I remember looking at the Yankees a couple of years ago. I was like, ‘Man, there are 15 guys on this team with 10-plus years in the big leagues.’ I don’t know how many they have now, but it’s not double digits. It’s probably nowhere near,” Price told WEEI.com. “When the Yankees are getting younger, you know baseball is getting younger. That’s for sure.”
He might be on to something.
Neither the Yankees and Red Sox have a player born in the 1970’s.
Sure, the pace of baseball might not play to the attention span of the younger demographics, but there might be something to be said for the power that is not having wrinkles on the face of MLB. Just two years ago, a study by ESPN stated that the median age of MLB viewers were 53 years old, compared to 37 for the National Basketball Association.
“As time goes, it will probably get younger and younger,” Price said. “We’ll continue to have fans and it will continue to get younger and younger, just like the game is. Look at the last couple of All-Star Games. There are a lot of first-timers, a lot of guys under the age of 24 or 25. I feel like the younger the game continues to get, the younger the audience is going to get.”
But according to Price, there is something very simple the game can do to help along the demographic dilemma, and it has nothing to do with altering the flow of the product. As he stated last spring training, the Red Sox pitcher is all in when it comes to getting MLB to loosen its regulations on the color cleats.
Even with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the rule still states that players can’t wear cleats that are made up of more than 51 percent of their team’s designated color. (For instance, the Red Sox have identified black as their main color.)
“Let us wear whatever cleats we want, that will increase interest,” Price said. “I think that’s very simple and would make everyone happy.”
Price has broached the subject with both MLBPA chief Tony Clark, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. When it town earlier in the week, Clark said that he is full agreement with Price, but MLB continues to dig in on the rule (which is penalized with a fine).
“That’s one of the easiest thing we can do that is going to please everybody,” he said. “There’s nobody who is going to be mad. If you want to wear all black cleats like Jackie Bradley, you can wear all black cleats. For guys who want to express themselves, they need to be able to do that. Guys are turning to express themselves on the field with their play and whatever it is. You should be able to do it on your shoes and express themselves that way as well.”
It’s a dynamic that we’re about to see in the World Baseball Classic, and have already witnessed via Johnny Cueto’s bright orange footwear in the All-Star Game.
“Guys get to the locker room and they don’t look at anything else in their locker,” Price said. “They open their shoes, take a picture of them and tweet. That’s all I’m looking for when I go to an All-Star Game is my cleats. I don’t care what else is in my locker. I want to see what kind of cleats I’ve got. Everybody loves shoes.”
As for all the other ideas to improve interest the game, Price likes some of the ideas, but hopes the motivation is universal.
“I hope what why we’re doing it, to improve the fan base and not just make the game go by faster,” he said.
|02.24.17 at 10:40 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the 2013 spring training unfolded, one of the unique elements of the Red Sox clubhouse became how accountable the players were to each other.
Jonny Gomes. David Ross. There were a bunch of them who set the tone that year. Do something wrong, you were going to hear about it.
Thursday, this Red Sox team got their first test when it comes making sure there are some sort of checks and balances when Rusney Castillo forgot how many outs there were, didn’t run out a ground ball and ultimately fell victim to a 6-4-3 double play.
“I’m confident in saying that same mutual accountability exists, even though that was a more veteran team,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell Friday morning. “This is a young group that, in that instance yesterday, there was a collective acknowledgement that that’s not the way we play the game. Whether it’s conversation in the dugout or after the game, that gives me that confidence to know that there’s a clear understanding of what we expect.”
The Red Sox’ core group of position players is significantly younger than the group in ’13, with only four players (Dustin Pedroia, Chris Young, Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez) older than 30 years old.
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