|‘It’s nice to have peace and tranquility on Day 1′||02.12.09 at 12:45 pm ET|
Those are the words of the Boston Red Sox general manager on the first official day of spring training. He, of course, went on to remind those listening that drama comes and goes and it’s usually never as bad inside the inner-sanctum of the clubhouse than the outside world might suggest.
About 30 minutes after Hideki Okajima followed up his 79-pitch, Tuesday bullpen session with a 73-pitch stint (more on that later), Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona met with the media at the team’s minor league facility.
Here is one of the more interesting quotes from Epstein regarding not needing to trade young players:
“That’s always one of our goals heading into the winter. If we can build a club and accomplish what we need to accomplish without sacrificing our best young players, we feel like that’s a victory in and of itself.
“We try to focus on building the organization, not just building the 2009 Red Sox. Teams, the 2009 Red Sox, will be a product of work from a lot of people over a lot of years who built this organization up. If you have to give up your best young players in a trade, you better be getting something pretty good in return because those are the building blocks of the organization.
“The way we’ve had success and the way we’ll continue, I hope, to have success is by bringing young players up through the system, having them become important parts of the big-league team. That’s the foundation for sustained success. If you make sacrifices and piecemeal one version of the team, one version of the Red Sox, without thought for the foundation of the organization, you’re not going to have success over a long period of time. It felt good to get through the winter that way, but we’re realistic. Not every player that we draft and develop or sign internationally is going to come up for the Red Sox. We’re going to make some trades along the way. But we didn’t have the right trade this winter.”
Here are some of the other highlights …
- Epstein reported that Mike Lowell has been progressing in his return back from hip surgery, experiencing no pain while doing baseball activities. The team, however, still plans on easing Lowell into game-shape once the third baseman reports to camp next week. “We’re going to take it slow,” Epstein said. “We’re going to hold him back …”
- Epstein said that unlike last season when Clay Buchholz had a clear path to the Red Sox’ starting rotation, the hurler understands he will have to “fight for everything he gets” this year. The GM spoke of how accepting Buchholz has been to understanding the importance of the mental approach, which the righty has been working on with the Sox’s sports psychology coach Bob Tewksbury.
- The only pitcher who won’t be on time is Marcus McBeth, who has been excused for personal reasons. He had been claimed off waivers from the Reds this offseason.
- Epstein spoke to Jacoby Ellsbury’s offensive struggles, citing that the league had found a hole in approaching he leadoff hitter, the kind of which many young players are faced with adjusting to. The organization, said the GM, is ‘pretty bullish’ on Ellsbury long-term, pointing to his offensive success in the minors. Epstein pointed out that Ellsbury is already an impact player defensively.
- The team will talk with Justin Masterson about his role going forward Friday. Epstein pointed out that the pitcher will know his role by the time camp breaks, although it will most likely be determined definitively closer to the end of spring training. Masterson will start out his progressions as a starter.
- Epstein said the team is still on the lookout for their catcher of the future, whether it be by trade or from within the organization.
- Francona said there is “no way to have an answer right now” regarding the competition for the team’s starting shortstop between Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie. The manager has said before that it the role will be determined after watching the two play in camp.
- One reporter asked Epstein if the offseason had been more stressful this year compared to previous years, pointing out that he had a bit of gray hair. After saying that the offseason had been pretty typical and nothing outside the norm, the GM deadpanned that maybe he should go to Target and get some ‘Just For Men’.
As for Okajima, here he is throwing …
But this is what I found interesting: Okajima asked his translator, Jeff Yamaguchi, to crouch next to the catcher with a video camera to film what the reliever’s pitches look like from that perspective. No mitt, no mask, no protection at all. Just a video camera.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the bravest man in professional baseball … Jeff Yamaguchi.
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