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Morning Fort: Why Quintin Berry chose to jump into baseball’s most crowded outfield; starters address ‘ace’ issue; Malcolm Butler influence

02.22.15 at 10:21 am ET
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Quintin Berry is returning to the team with which he won a championship in 2013. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Quintin Berry is returning to the team with which he won a championship in 2013. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — You remember Quintin Bery, the outfielder the Red Sox acquired to offer a pinch-running threat throughout the 2013 postseason. Well, he’s back.

His previous stop with the Red Sox made a whole bunch of sense, with the speedster going 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts (including 3-for-3 in the postseason) after being acquired from Kansas City on Aug. 27, 2013. He was billed as the next Dave Roberts — the man whose stolen base in the 2004 ALCS will go down as one of the franchise’s signature moments — and Berry didn’t disappoint.

“I saw [Roberts] when he threw out a first pitch,” Berry remembered. “I told him, ‘You don’t really know this, but you got me a job.’ ”

A fit with the Red Sox wouldn’t have even been out of the question last year with some uncertainty in John Farrell‘s outfield. But Berry ultimately signed with the Orioles, where he played in just 10 major league games.

This time, it’s worth asking the question: Why?

The Red Sox have one of the deepest, most complicated outfield depth charts in baseball. Currently ahead of the 30-year-old Berry are Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Jackie Bradley.

Yet, when it came down to making a decision, Berry chose to take the Red Sox‘ offer to return on a minor-league deal.

“The thing about it is that you have to compete wherever you go,” said Berry, who hit .285 while going 25-for-31 on stolen base attempts at Triple-A Norfolk last season. “Everywhere you go you’€™re going to be fighting the numbers and you’€™re going to be fighting the players. Because of this team and the relationship I had with the coaching staff, the way they treated me and took care of me, I really wanted to get an opportunity to get back here no matter was in front of me.”

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Trying to predict Red Sox roster? Remember Mitchell Boggs

02.22.15 at 7:52 am ET
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Mitchell Boggs

Mitchell Boggs

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Looking for a sleeper at Red Sox camp? You might want to put Mitchell Boggs on your radar.

Yes, we’re talking a relief pitcher who isn’t even on the 40-man roster, entering spring training riding a minor-league deal. (Boggs can opt-out of his contract if he isn’t on the big league club by April 4.)

Still, connecting the dots as to why the big righty might actually have a chance to not only make the team, but ultimately present a valuable piece of the Red Sox‘ bullpen puzzle, isn’t difficult.

We have to start with this fact: Boggs has been not good the past two seasons. That is why he had to settle for the minor-league deal. The 31-year-old pitched in a combined 27 games with St. Louis and Colorado in 2013, totaling an 8.10 ERA in 27 games. Last season, he also struggled, this time in the White Sox and Giants‘ minor league systems, finishing with 8.29 ERA in 37 appearances.

So, why the optimism?

In this case the cause for the downturn seemingly can be fairly easily identified. Ever since participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Boggs had been pitching with a hernia that progressively got worse all the way up until the decision to undergo surgery last October.

“It was something that started off as minor, but as time went on it got worse and worse,” the affable former college quarterback said Saturday. “It wasn’t anything that was debilitating. I could still go out there and pitch. It just took its toll on me. I compromised a lot of things and I paid the price for it.”

The reason Boggs initially attempted to push aside the discomfort was because St. Louis had identified him as their closer to begin the ’13 season. He earned the right to close games after dominating in ’12, finishing with a 2.21 ERA in 78 appearances with the Cardinals, leading the National League in holds.

That stretch as game-ender, however, turned out to be disastrous, with the reliever ultimately being sent to the minors while carrying a 12.66 ERA.

“It was just kind of gradual,” Boggs said. “I felt like it was something I could pitch through, and then when I became closer there was no way I was going to lay on the surgery table when I got the job I wanted my entire career. It was a perfect storm of bad situations, and I paid the price for it. I think I’ve learned from it. I’ve got a new opportunity here and I think I can take advantage of it.”

Now that he’s free and clear of the pain, Boggs can definitively identify how the injury altered his approach.

“I could tell it was affecting the way I delivered the baseball. It changed a lot of little things and caused some discomfort,” he said. “At this level, when the little details change your sinker won’t be as heavy, or your slider won’t be as sharp. It makes a big difference. Then last year it really made a difference. I decided that I needed the surgery to fix some things or I wasn’t going to have many opportunities. But I feel really good now.

“I had felt like it had been hindering me pretty much all year and I got it done in October. It was something I had pitched with, so I continued to pitch with it. But at the end of the year I knew if I was going to get back at the level I expect myself to be at, the level I had been at for a long time, I needed to get it done. I could have kept pitching with it but I don’t think I would have ever fully gotten back to the guy I can be. So I made that decision to get it done.

“Nothing changed in between 2012 and 2013 except that. My arm was fine. I just had no explosiveness.”

The Red Sox were sold.

“They communicated with me early in the offseason that it was a major league-type opportunity,” Boggs explained. “It wasn’t depth for the entire year. It was a situation where they wanted me to come in and compete and try to make this team. That’s what I care about. Obviously the expectations here, the fan base and what this organization expects to compete for each year, that’s something excites me and something I became accustomed to with the Cardinals. I feel like it’s a natural fit. I’m excited about it, for sure.”

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Shane Victorino has unique perspective on Cole Hamels’ situation

02.21.15 at 5:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The much-anticipated Cole Hamels press conference Saturday wasn’t exactly what some had banked on.

After telling USA Today earlier in the week that he would like to be traded to a team that compete, not viewing his current club, the Phillies, as one of those clubs, Hamels backed off his proclamation in the presser in Clearwater.

“You can’t count us out,” Hamels said, going on to explain the USA Today quotes were a continuation from a January interview. When asked if he still wanted to move on, his response was, “I’m a Phillie.”

Shane Victorino, for one, wouldn’t mind terribly if that changed.

“Do I take that lefty? Hands down,” the Red Sox (and former Phillies) outfielder said.

When asked if he would support acquiring such an acquisition if asked by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Victorino added, “I’ll text him myself, ahead of time. But it’s easier said than done. There’s a bigger picture an organization has to look at.

“We have a whole spring training ahead of us to decide things. What if the five we have now, which I’ll take every day, go out and dominate spring training. Then we don’t need something. Would it be good to have another dominating arm? Of course. But don’t count these guys out, either. And I hope they use the motivation of, ‘You think we need to get Cole Hamels?’ No, no, no. I’ll take those guys as bona fide number ones, too. It is what it is. I love Cole and I’ll take him any day on my team, but I’ll take the five we’ve got now if they can get back to where they were, and I think they can.”

The Red Sox have shown interest in Hamels, but the Phillies are clinging to their ace and asking for more than the Sox (or any other team) are willing to give up.

Other than risking injury, there wouldn’t appear to be any urgency to deal Hamels considering he still has four year (at $90 million) with a $20 million fifth-year club option on his current deal. Even if the Phillies weren’t to contend this year, they might need such a top-of-the-rotation talent sooner than later.

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Read More: Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino,

Ben Cherington wants John Farrell managing Red Sox ‘for a long time’

02.21.15 at 2:12 pm ET
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His work done after a hectic offseason that saw the roster overhauled, Ben Cherington had but one wish entering spring training — get manager John Farrell signed to an extension.

“We almost made it,” Cherington said. “First day of camp.”

The Red Sox don’t mind the extra day after getting what they wanted on Saturday by announcing a contract extension with Farrell that will keep him in Boston beyond the 2015 season, the last one on his original three-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.

“There’s no question in our mind that John is the right man to manage this team,” Cherington said. “We want and expect him to be here for a long time. … This just gets the question out of the way going into the season and allows us to focus on baseball.”

With a World Series and last-place finish on his resume, Farrell’s future may have seemed up in the air, but within the walls of Yawkey Way, there was little doubt.

“I think you guys know there’s a lot that goes into a manager’s job in Boston,” Cherington said. “What happens between innings 1 and 9 is just a very small part of it. John has the ability and is one of the few guys that has the ability, we think, to thrive and excel in everything that comes along with being a manager in Boston. It’s just very clear to us that he’s the right guy. We want to be working together as a group and with him for a long time.”

Farrell was understandably thrilled.

“Well, first and foremost, I’m ecstatic to have the extension, to be able to work alongside Ben and Mike [Hazen] and many others in our front office,” Farrell said. “This is a very special place.”

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Pablo Sandoval challenges photographer to workout

02.21.15 at 1:31 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval (WEEI.com photo)

Pablo Sandoval (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Pablo Sandoval clearly is paying attention to the early buzz of camp — the conversation regarding his weight.

Talking with the media following the first official day for pitchers and catchers at JetBlue Park, Sandoval responded to the buzz that followed the circulation of some unflattering images.

“I’€™m ready. I’€™ve been working out,” he said. “Everybody’€™s posting pictures of me. I don’€™t care.”

Regarding the photos, Sandoval added, “I love them. I’€™m making fun of it. I’€™ve put other pictures out there making fun of it (see below) because I want [the photographer of the aforementioned photos] to spend one day with me to see how hard I work. So I’€™m ready.”

(Note: On his way out of the clubhouse, Sandoval reiterated the invitation to Boston.com’€™s Steve Silva, who took the pictures in question, to join the player in a workout. Silva said later that he told Red Sox PR he would accept the challenge.)

According to Sandoval, the out-of-the-gate controversy as a member of the Red Sox isn’€™t consuming the third baseman, who hit with a batting practice group that included Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Napoli.

“Every single day, in and out. Bad days. Good days. You have to be happy,” Sandoval said. “Nothing you can lose out there.

“I love it. Motivate me to work hard and show up and keep his mouth shut. That’€™s what I do.”

Red Sox extend John Farrell through 2017, with option for ’18

02.21.15 at 10:35 am ET
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John Farrell is ready for his third spring training as Red Sox manager. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

John Farrell is ready for his third spring training as Red Sox manager. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell has job security with the Red Sox for the next three seasons.

The team and its manager finalized an agreement Saturday that will extend the 52-year-old manager through the 2017 season, with a club option for 2018. Farrell was in the final guaranteed year of his contract, which included an option for 2016.

General Manager Ben Cherington made the announcement through a club press release on Saturday morning as the team was conducting its first pitchers and catchers workout of spring training.

Over his first two seasons with Boston, Farrell has led the club to a combined 168-156 (.519) record and the 2013 World Series Championship. In 2013, he became just the sixth skipper to win a World Series with Boston, and only the fourth to do it in his first year at the helm. Farrell took over for Bobby Valentine in Oct. 2012 and was hired as the 46th manager in team history.

The last time a Red Sox manager was in this position was 2011, when Terry Francona entered the last year of his contract without an extension. His 2012 option was declined by the organization and he was fired after the team collapsed in September.

Farrell, Francona’s pitching coach from 2007-10, finished second in 2013 AL Manager of the Year voting and was named AL Manager of the Year by the Sporting News after guiding Boston to a 97-65 record, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best mark in baseball. The Red Sox took first place in the AL East and went on to win 11 of 16 postseason games in securing the Fall Classic.

Last season, he saw 55 players and 19 rookies contribute to the Red Sox, both his most as a manager as the club finished fifth in the division at 71-91 (.438). He piloted the AL to a 5-3 win over the National League in the 2014 All-Star Game at Minnesota’€™s Target Field.

In four years as a major league manager for the Blue Jays (2011-12) and Red Sox (2013-14), Farrell has a career record of 322-326 (.497). Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Fort: Dustin Pedroia arrives healthy, proclaims ‘everyone’s fired up and ready to go’

02.21.15 at 9:52 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia is ready to return to full strength after two injury-plagued seasons. (Getty Images)

Dustin Pedroia is ready to return to full strength after two injury-plagued seasons. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia has had enough of hand surgeries. He’s also had enough of last place finishes.

He and the Red Sox have proven the ability to overcome both over the last two seasons. He’s hoping to repeat the comeback story again in 2015.

Last September, Pedroia had season-ending surgery on his left wrist to relieve tendon pressure and remove scar tissue buildup. In Nov. 2013, after helping the Red Sox to a World Series title, the second baseman had UCL surgery on his left thumb. Pedroia suffered an initial thumb injury on a head-first slide into first base on opening day at Yankee Stadium in 2013. In last year’s home opener against the Brewers, Pedroia slid head-first into second base and re-injured the hand.

Pedroia said Saturday morning upon arriving at JetBlue Park that he’s all set and ready to go, with no restrictions.

“Yeah, I feel great,” Pedroia said. “I’m ready to go. I’m excited. It’s fun. Getting back to work. It’s a new year. Everyone’s excited so it should be fun.”

As for his offseason?

“Lifted weights. Got ready, man,” Pedroia said. “Same as every other offseason except the last couple I’ve had to deal with surgeries and stuff. I got this one done quick so I was able to have a normal offseason of lifting weights and conditioning and all that stuff. I’m ready to go.”

As for his team, Pedroia is well aware of the worst-to-first-to-worst trend from 2012 through 2014. Now, with a rebuilt starting rotation and the additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, there are great expectations again after a 71-91 finish last year. And Pedroia shares that optimism.

“Yeah, we’ve obviously done it before. But you have to take it one day [at a time]. We have to worry about today’s practice and go out there and try to get better today,” Pedroia said. “You can’t look at the big picture. If you do the right things every day, at the end you’ll be where you’re at.

“We made a lot of great moves. Obviously, we have a very talented group. It’s our job to form it together and play together. Everyone’s excited and ready to play baseball. It was kind of a long winter. Everyone’s fired up and ready to go.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester,

Mookie Betts has no problem sitting behind Shane Victorino

02.20.15 at 2:03 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ John Farrell says a healthy Shane Victorino is his Opening Day right fielder. You’ll never guess who agrees with him.

Mookie Betts.

The player presumably most affected by Farrell’s statement wants to make two things clear. One, there’s no animosity between him and Victorino. And two, he can’t dispute anything Farrell said.

Shane Victorino is Shane Victorino,” Betts told WEEI.com on Friday. “He’s a Gold Glover. He’s won the World Series, had huge hits in the World Series. I completely understand that. That doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.”

If anything bothers Betts, just a little, it’s the perception that the competition for the right field job has driven a wedge between the two. The fact is, the veteran admires the youngster and has worked with him to improve his game.

“I have no problem being behind him, watching him go,” Betts said. “He has taught me, and he’s still teaching me, even though people are trying to make it like we have a big rivalry going on or something. I feel like we’re brothers, the way we talk. Nothing’s changed between me and him. The first time I met him, I asked him a bunch of questions, and I’m still asking him questions.

“I have nothing bad to say about anything to do with him. At the end of the day, it’s not about me and Vic. It’s about the Red Sox. I think we both have that in our vision. We were talking earlier. It’s just about winning. Whether it’s me or him (starting), I just would love to be a part of winning a World Series.”

The irony of the situation is that if there’s a player who reminds Victorino of his young self, it’s Betts. And to hear Red Sox personnel discuss Betts, it’s easy to think they’re talking about Victorino. Both play with a fearlessness belying their size, both can make things happen on the bases, both are table setters atop the order, and both bring an edge.

Betts discussed his admiration for Victorino’s toughness and swagger.

“He’s kind of inadvertently shown me that,” he said. “I’ve picked that up just watching him playing. I’ve taken that into my game, I feel like.”

Betts recognizes what Victorino has accomplished during an All-Starcareer that includes four Gold Gloves and a pair of World Series titles, which is why he won’t throw a tantrum if he ends up sitting behind the veteran.

“I still have a long way to go,” Betts said. “He’s where he needs to be, that’s why he’s been around for so long. I see what it takes. He’s showing me the steps of what it takes. That’s the type of person he is, the type of player he is.”

Both players want the starting job. Victorino has made no secret that he believes it’s his. But they’re not rooting against each other, as often happens when a veteran is pitted against a youngster.

“It says a lot,” Betts said. “Going in, I didn’t know what to expect. But now that I’ve gotten to talk to him ‘€“ I didn’t act any way at all, and he hasn’t acted any way at all. It’s just like we’ve always been. We both talked, no matter what, let’s win. Whatever it takes is what it takes. He said, ‘If it takes me sitting and helping you and guiding you the way, that’s perfect.’ And if it takes me sitting and watching him and doing what he does, that’s fine with me as well.

“As long as we win and both get better, that’s the main thing.”

Read More: mookie betts, Red Sox, Shane Victorino, spring training 2015

John Farrell proclaims Shane Victorino ‘full-go’, will be Red Sox RF if ‘fully healthy’

02.20.15 at 1:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Shane Victorino needed any pat on the back from his manager for his offseason work to rehab from back surgery, he got it and then some Friday.

“I think the most encouraging one is the way Vic has reported,” John Farrell declared Friday outside the JetBlue clubhouse. “He is full-go baseball activity. I think the way he is talking in the clubhouse indicates that he feels good about himself. We’ll find out as we go through camp here the durability from day-to-day and the volume that increase throughout camp.”

Farrell, unprompted, went even further when raving about the physical shape of his 34-year-old veteran outfielder.

“If Shane Victorino is fully capable and fully healthy, he’s our right fielder,” Farrell said. “That’s pretty simple. He was one of the best right fielders in the game two years ago. When you come back from injury, you shouldn’t have lost your job because of an injury. He’s rehabbed it successfully to date, and going forward, we just have to monitor the recovery rate. And we’ve got a full spring training to do that, and probably into the first part of the year.”

Victorino only played in 30 games in 2014, spending much of last season on the disabled list. He had season-ending back surgery on Aug. 5. In those 30 games, he batted exclusively right-handed. Farrell did not say Friday if he expects Victorino to return to switch-hitting, or when that might take place in camp.

Here are some other takeaways from Farrell Friday morning as the full compliment of pitchers and catchers invited to camp reported for physicals and 1-on-1 interviews.

On whether he or the organization is concerned about the physical condition and weight of Pablo Sandoval: “No, not concerned about his weight. There’s a number of people he’s working with here to make sure he’s on the field every day. And that would be the case throughout the course of the regular season. We were well aware of Pablo’s career, who he is as a person, long before he signed here. We’re looking forward to getting him on the field and acclimating him into this roster.

“You’ll get to know that Pablo has an infectious personality. He cares about his teammates and plays the game the right way. We’re extremely excited that he’s in our uniform. He’s going to be a productive player for us.”

On the main spot of competition on the pitching staff: “There’s probably an area in the bullpen that we’ve got some competition for, whether that’s one or two spots we have some guys competing for, that will work itself out during camp.”

On his rebuilt starting rotation: “I’m excited about the five guys in the rotation. I think this is a group that has established themselves at the big league level. There’s been All Star performance capability to that level and there’s been a lot of talk that we lack a true No. 1 guy. I like the fact that this is a deep and talented rotation and I’m confident in it.”

On his excitement on the eve of the first pitchers and catchers workout on Saturday: “Even as far back as a week ago, we had 40-plus players that had already reported to camp and I think it is an indication of the eagerness and the want in the attitude of the players to get spring training underway and put last year behind us even further and establish a tone in camp that will carry us through the start of the season.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Shane Victorino,

Mike Napoli on Hot Stove show: I considered retirement after last season

02.20.15 at 1:14 pm ET
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Mike Napoli joined Rob Bradford and Mike Mutnansky on the Hot Stove show on Thursday to talk about his thoughts on the Red Sox entering spring training, as well as his career and the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. To hear the interview, go to the WEEI audio on demand page.

Napoli has suffered from sleep apnea, and had surgery to correct it in the offseason.

“It’s all worked out,” Napoli said. “I’m really excited, working out hard, and I think it could be a really good year.”

The Red Sox first baseman admitted that his condition caused him to consider retirement after last season.

“At the end of the year, I wasn’t playing at all,” Napoli said. “I was banged up, but it was so frustrating that, in my mind, I was like, I don’t know if I can go through another year of just feeling like this.”

Last year wasn’t just a tough one for Napoli. After winning the World Series in 2013, the Red Sox finished last in the AL East.

“[Last year] we had a lot of different guys and a lot of younger guys and there were a lot of challenges for us last year, and it just didn’t work out,” Napoli said. “But we brought in a lot of veteran good hitters and some veteran pitchers that, you know, as I’ve been here early, and a lot of guys are showing up early, it’s been a great vibe.”

Many players and fans attribute the team’s 2013 success to the camaraderie in the clubhouse. Napoli said that he has already noticed a better atmosphere than last season.

“It’s been great,” Napoli said, adding: “We had a lot of young guys, and I feel like they learned and saw some things and they’re a little more comfortable around in the clubhouse just being able to talk to with some of the veterans and stuff. It’s just been different.”

Added Napoli: “We don’t even have [Dustin] Pedroia here yet, and it’s been great. Once he gets here and he’s all over everybody, it’s going to be fun.”

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