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How Manny Acta ended up helping Adrian Gonzalez to the finals

07.11.11 at 11:55 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The pre-Home Run Derby notes listed all the participants and their pitchers … except one.

Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder — Sandy Guerrero

David Ortiz and Robinson Cano — Jose Cano

Matt Kemp — Rob Flippo

Matt HollidayYadier Molina

Jose Bautista — Alex Andreopoulos

Adrian Gonzalez — TBA

Well, Gonzalez — who used San Diego coach Ray Crone when he last participated in the event in 2009 — found his pitcher. And here’s how …

“He didn’€™t have anybody to throw to him,” remembered Cleveland manager Manny Acta. “I was just sitting at my locker reading and he said, ‘€˜Hey, I’€™m still looking for somebody to throw to me.’€™ I overheard him and said, ‘€˜I’€™ll throw to you.’€™ So he said, ‘€˜Let’€™s go.’€™ It was good to see. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination.”

With guidance from Gonzalez, Acta got the job done despite having no history with the Red Sox first baseman at all. The result was 31 total home runs, just one shy of the eventual champ, Cano.

“It was impressive doing it in front of so many people. But he took all the pressure off of me,” said Acta, who was instructed to throw waist-high, out over the plate.

“People get amazed by the distance but it’€™s whomever hits the most home runs that wins it. He was very consistent. He would just wait on his pitch and when he got it he didn’€™t miss it.”

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Andre Ethier talks reunion with Dustin Pedroia … with the Diamondbacks

07.11.11 at 10:08 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The rumors have circulated for a few years now: Andre Ethier wants to come to Boston to join forces with his college teammate, Dustin Pedroia.

While Ethier didn’t dismiss the notion completely, he did take the diplomatic route when asked if the Dodgers All-Star could see himself reuniting with Pedroia.

“Maybe when we’re 38 years-old we’ll end up playing here on the Diamondbacks together for the lsat year or two,” said Ethier, who will be eligible for his final year of arbitration following the 2011 season.

“Maybe one day we’ll have an opportunity to play with one another. It would be fun. Right now he has his thing in Boston. We’re trying to do what we’re doing in LA. If the paths meet somehow I guess it would line up perfect for us.”

Ethier resisted any sort of gloating regarding his presence at his second All-Star Game while Pedroia seemingly just missed the cut.

“He has a lot more awards in his trophy case than I do, so I can’t say anything about All-Star Games,” the 29-year-old said.

Ethier not only has remained friends with Pedroia since their college days, but still work out together in the offseason, while also taking family vacations together. So when the outfielder was asked about the second baseman’s up and down first half, Ethier offered a educated perspective

“Relax, right? The Laser Show,” he said. “He’s a great player. I think he’s had a great year up until this point. He’s coming off a tough injury. I saw it first-hand all winter the steps and the stuff he had to do just to get to the point he’s at now. I kept telling him to slow down, take a month or two later than he actually did. But being him he wanted to come back right away. He’s done more than enough to help that team. Once he starts getting that rhythm and starts feeling himself again, especially with the way that lineup is, the way that team is, he’s going to flourish.”

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Adrian Beltre really thought he was going to remain with the Red Sox

07.11.11 at 9:30 pm ET
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You would think that Adrian Beltre’s dream of returning to the Red Sox died when the Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez in early December. Not the case, said the now-Texas Rangers third baseman.

“They made a great choice. I think Gonzalez is one of the best, if not the best, hitters in baseball. But I thought I had a chance at that time that maybe both of us could (be on the Sox),” Beltre, now a two-time All-Star. “All I know was I wanted to be on a team that had a good chance to win.

Beltre, who would sign with the Rangers a month after the Gonzalez deal, was then asked how such a dynamic could have possibly happened, with the former Padre manning first base, Kevin Youkilis at third, and David Ortiz serving as the designated hitter.

“I have no idea,” he said. “But they could figure something out.”

Beltre, who is having another standout season (.273, 19 HRs), reiterated that he is extremely happy with his choice, the Rangers. The owner of a five-year, $80 million deal is in the process of buying a home in the Arlington, Texas area after previously solely putting down roots in Southern California.

But if you asked Beltre where he was going to end up when the 2010 season came to an end, his first answer most likely wouldn’t have been with Texas.

“I thought I had a good chance to go back to Boston,” said the 32-year-old. “It didn’t’ change until a couple of weeks before I signed.”

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Remember when Justin Upton was going to be a Red Sox?

07.11.11 at 9:01 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The fact that Justin Upton was sitting among the National League All-Stars Monday showed exactly why Red Sox fans were bombarded with the outfielder’s name last November.

He is young (23). He is good (.293 batting average, 15 HR, 14 SB). And he is under contractual control through 2015 with his salary never getting above $14.5 million. (He makes just $4.25 million this season, and $6.75 million next year.)

Upton now finds himself as one of the hosts for this year’s All-Star Game, still serving as part of the foundation for the Diamondbacks. But this past offseason, he was being dangled by Arizona, and the Red Sox were at least listening.

“When I first started to hear [the rumors], you don’t pay that much attention to it, but then you start thinking, ‘Where am I going to be in a few weeks, a few days?’ You you just try and go about your business,” Upton said. “You just try and let it roll off your back.

“To be honest with you, when I first found out I was playing golf and then I just kept playing golf. I wasn’t too worried about it. If you worry about it all the time you’ll never make it.”

Upton’s tone became pointed when it was then suggested Arizona was entertaining a potential deal in order to motivate the outfielder.

“That’s a terrible way to motivate somebody,” he said. “If that was their reason behind it, that’s ridiculous.”

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Home Run Derby Live Blog

07.11.11 at 8:03 pm ET
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WEEI.com Home Run Derby Live Blog

Heath Bell keeping a close eye on Jonathan Papelbon’s situation

07.11.11 at 8:01 pm ET
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PHOENIX ‘€“ Talking during the media availability for the National League All-Star team, San Diego closer Heath Bell admitted that while his priority is focusing on the current season, he is keeping an eye on the closing situation with the Red Sox. Boston’€™s current closer, Jonathan Papelbon, is slated to become a free agent following this season.

‘€œI look at free agency as, ‘€˜I’€™m unemployed,’€™ and I really don’€™t want to be unemployed,’€ said Bell, who is the final year of his current deal with the Padres. ‘€œI knew Papelbon was a free agent, but that was about it, just because my friend Adrian [Gonzalez] was over there, so I wanted to see if I could go over there. That’€™s about it. I haven’€™t really thought much about it. I’€™m just worried about the games of right now. I’€™m not really worried about the offseason.’€

According to a major league source, the Red Sox have not engaged Papelbon in talks regarding a contract extension at any point this season.

Bell has been rumored to be on the trading block as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. He currently has 26 saves to go along with a 2.43 ERA in 37 appearances.

‘€œI’€™d say my dad and my mom have worried about that, my wife. They’€™re worried about where I’€™m going to go,’€ Bell said. ‘€œI can’€™t handle that. If it happens, it happens. Do I want it to happen? No. Is it a reality? Yes. I’€™m fine with it. I just take it as I’€™m going to work my butt off and give everything I have to the San Diego Padres.

‘€œWhen they tell me that I’€™m with Philly or St. Louis or Texas or the Yankees or the Angels or whoever it is, then I’€™m going to give my heart and soul to that team. Until then, I’€™ve got 24 teammates right next to me.’€

One team of interest to the Red So that has been linked to Bell has been the Yankees, who would use Bell in a set-up role for Mariano Rivera.

‘€œI don’€™t want to set up, but if I got traded to a team that was heading to the playoffs and they needed me to set up, I would definitely set up,’€ Bell explained. ‘€œI know I’€™m going to become a free agent, and I want to close after that. I definitely want to close. But if they ask me to set up the last two months of the season, then I would. I know how to do it. I know how to bust my butt, go out there, pitch the eighth inning or get the seventh and eighth. I’€™ll do anything to win.’€

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Trade Deadline: Cubs pitchers most likely not on trade market

07.11.11 at 7:31 pm ET
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According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry already is fielding calls from contenders interested in some of his players. He has said that he thinks the Cubs will be agressive at this year’s trade deadline, looking to get better for the future, but will most likely hold onto its teams pitchers.

‘€œNo matter what, it doesn’€™t really change the focus of what we’€™ll try to do here over the next month,” Hendry said. “Everything we try to do will be designed to try to get better moving forward. And there won’€™t be pieces moved that are going to be integral parts of the club a year from now.’€™’€™

Wittenmyer does not believe the Cubs will trade starting pitchers Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano or Matt Garza. He also believes that Kerry Wood will be staying put.

Third-baseman Aramis Ramirez, is another player that might draw some interest closer to the deadline, but he has expressed little interest in waiving his no-trade clause.

‘€œWe’€™ll try to be aggressive and if some things [arise] that help us get better for next year,’€™’€™ Hendry said.

The Cubs enter the All-Star break with a 37-55 record and trail the NL Central leading Brewers by 12 games.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Carlos Zambrano, kerry wood, matt garza

Trade Deadline: Royals seeking to deal outfielders

07.11.11 at 7:30 pm ET
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With the Royals currently in last place in the AL Central, they will most likely be sellers at the upcoming trading deadline. MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel takes a look at players the Royals might be looking to deal and what they want to receive in return.

He names outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur as outfielders the team might concider dealing. Also he names corner infielder Wilson Betemit and starting pitchers Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis and Kyle Davies as other players who could be traded.

According to Royals general manager Dayton Moore any deal that the team makes would need to help the team in the future.

“Any deal that we would potentially make would be something that we felt would help us long term,” Moore said. “We’ll be open-minded as we move forward, as we always are, but there’s no specific strategy in place where we’re trying to push a certain player.”

Cabrera is currently batting .293, with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs. Francoeur is batting .265 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Jeff Francoeur, melky cabrera,

Scott Boras on Jacoby Ellsbury: ‘We’re seeing what we expected’

07.11.11 at 4:48 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Entering the 2011 season, Jacoby Ellsbury appeared to represent something of a question mark rather than a certainty. Coming off a 2010 season in which he missed nearly 90 percent of the year while recovering from five rib fractures, it was natural to wonder whether Ellsbury would return to his pre-injury form in 2011.

But his agent, Scott Boras, had no such doubts. While the physical trauma of the rib injuries was enough to wipe out his 2010 season, Boras had no concerns that his client would struggle to make up for lost time in 2011.

“Obviously when athletes go through injuries, this was not the type of injury that there would be a high risk of skill diminution. Because of that, we weren’€™t really concerned about him returning to who he was as a player,” said Boras. “The kind of rehab you have to go through is sometimes a very difficult path when you have an athlete who is a quick-twitch athlete, a lot of striding muscle. He has to take a very extensive approach to get that done.

“He did that,” Boras added. “We’€™re glad he’€™s healthy and we’€™re seeing what we expected to see from Jacoby.”

Ellsbury has returned not just to his excellent form of 2008-09 but has instead seen his game flourish. He has been a dynamic, multi-dimensional player who has impacted the game as a hitter — assembling a .316 average, .377 OBP, .490 slugging mark and .867 OPS along with a career high 11 homers — on the bases (he is leading the AL with 28 steals) and in the field, where he has covered tremendous ground in centerfield.

At a time when Carl Crawford received a seven-year, $142 million deal from the Sox, and when Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is being eyed as one of the top players who will be on the market this coming winter due to their relative youth and diverse skill sets, Boras suggests that Ellsbury should be viewed as a similarly rare talent.

“When you can steal 50-plus bases, hit for power and play a premium defensive position, there are few men who can do that. As a matter of fact, you’€™re talking one hand,” said Boras. “Those are hard positions to hold down. They’€™re hard metrics to achieve. Your skill set to play centerfield and steal bases obviously generates itself around speed. So, to go beyond and add an offensive power to that is hard to do. It’€™s a rare skill set.”

For his part, Ellsbury suggests that he prides himself on precisely that — being a well-rounded player who can impact the game in any number of ways. During offseasons at Athletes’ Performance, he trains to develop both his speed and power in order to ensure that he maximizes his skills.

Asked whether speed or power is more fun to watch, Ellsbury broke into a smile.

“I would take both. I’ll take both — have the combination, be a complete player,” he said, noting that he grew up idolizing Ken Griffey Jr. when he was a Mariners star, in no small part because of Griffey’s well-rounded game. “They’re both impressive. Speed may be something you can see each at-bat, each game. They say that speed doesn’t slump. … And obviously people are coming out to see the Home Run Derby.”

“You just want to be a complete player. That’s at least what I strive to be — a complete player. You don’t want to be known as a speed player or defense player. You want to have that whole package. That’s only going to make your team better as well. In the offseason, that’s where you can progress in all of those skills and make yourself better.”

Read More: 2011 mlb all-star game, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, jose reyes

Trade Deadline: Francisco Rodriguez does not want set-up role

07.11.11 at 3:33 pm ET
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Francisco Rodriguez‘s new agent Scott Boras said Monday that his client will not accept a deal to a team on his no-trade list if it means the closer switching to a set-up role, tweets Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal.

Rodriguez will receive $17.5 million from the Mets for 2012 if he finishes 21 more games and is healthy after the season. He told the New York Post that he hopes the Mets will allow him to finish the season with the team.

“I’m waiting for any decision they come up with, and hopefully the decision is they let me stay here and finish my year herebecause I want to go nowhere else,” Rodriguez said Sunday.

The closer can veto trades to 10 unknown teams. On the year Rodriguez has recorded 23 saves.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Francisco Rodriguez, Scott Boras,
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