Archive for February, 2012

Rays’ Luke Scott rips Red Sox fans

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Luke Scott was unable to play for the Orioles in the final game of the 2011 season. Even so, when Baltimore beat the Red Sox to complete the biggest September collapse in major league history, Scott — now a member of the Rays — was elated.

Scott told that he took immense satisfaction in being on the team that ended the Red Sox’ season owing to his contempt for Sox fans.

“[Red Sox] fans come in and they take over the city. They’re ruthless. They’re vulgar. They cause trouble. They talk about your family. Swear at you. Who likes that? When people do that, it just gives you more incentive to beat them,” Scott told the website. “Then when things like [the last game of last season] happen, you celebrate even more. You go to St. Louis — classiest fans in the game. You do well, there’s no vulgarity. You know what? You don’t wish them bad.”

Scott described an Orioles clubhouse that celebrated the victory like it had won the World Series, and then took the celebration to another level when the Rays won on a walkoff homer over the Yankees to eliminate the Sox.

“We’re like, ‘Go home Boston! Pack your bags. See you next year,'” Scott told the website.

“I got to see a priceless thing driving back to my apartment,” Scott continued. “I see all the Boston fans walking around, and I mean they were crying crocodile tears. … It was like someone shot their dog. I rolled down the window and I’m like, ‘Ah, hah, sucks doesn’t it, when someone laughs or makes fun of you when things aren’t going your way.'”

While one might think that Scott’s outspoken criticism would make him vulnerable to anger from the Sox or their fans, it is worth noting that the outfielder — whom the Rays signed to a one-year, $6 million contract for 2012 — carries weaponry in the clubhouse.

Red Sox notes: Change is starting with the warning track

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ For the first time in the ballpark’€™s young history, JetBlue Park served as the site for the Red Sox‘€™ batting practice.

But while it was interesting to witness Cody Ross launching a home run over the left field, onto the practice fields in back of the stadium, with other players peppering the wall’€™s net three-quarters the way up the structure, the real value came elsewhere.

‘€œI know this $80 million facility wasn’€™t built for me,’€ said new Red Sox third base coach Jerry Royster, ‘€œbut it surely is helping.’€

Royster and the rest of the coaches are taking full advantage of the dimensions of their new spring training home, which conveniently offer many of the intracacies of Fenway Park.

For example, it was determined that warning track at JetBlue Park was much softer than the one at Fenway, a discovery that will lead to one of the first changes at the new facility.

‘€œI’€™ve walked around with [Tim Bogar]. It helps all of us,’€ Royster said. ‘€œWe’€™re able to find all the kinks and see what’€™s going on. Just talking to the guys and seeing what is like Fenway and what isn’€™t.

‘€œIt really helps me tremendously. They can tell me what the ball does off the wall. I can learn that here. Also, coaching third and not being able to see down the line, I can do that here where he didn’€™t get to do that. Bogie had to do his first game, trying to figure out what to do on the fly.’€

Along with batting practice, virtually the entire team was on the main field, practicing calling out pop-ups, with the ball being sent skyward via a pitching machine.

At first either the outfielder or the infielder called for the ball, but then the infielders were instructed to not call for anything and wait for the outfielder to make the call.

‘€œThat stuff’€™s just called pop-up priority,’€ said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. ‘€œWho has the priority? It’€™s basic, one of those things everyone checks off. When it goes up, we want to catch it and not collide with each other. I know that’€™s simplifying it, but that’€™s basically it. There could be more than one person going after it, let’€™s not collide and let’€™s catch it.’€

In other news from Wednesday ‘€¦

  • Aaron Cook and Chris Carpenter threw batting practice for the first time as members of the Red Sox.
  • Ryan Kalish came away from his first game of catch in nearly six months in fine fashion, making 30 throws fro 45 feet.’€œFirst day, feeling it out. It was rusty,’€ Kalish said. ‘€œIt’€™s a milestone, obviously, because I’€™m happy I’€™m throwing. But in scheme of things it’€™s just the beginning of the process.’€ Asked if he saved the ball, he said. ‘€œI’€™ll save a ball when I get back to where I need to be, the big leagues.’€

‘€œHe looks pretty healthy,’€ Valentine said of the outfielder, who underwent shoulder surgery in November. ‘€œOf course you have to see, once guys start new activities, how they feel later. But he did a workout and then he went down and bunted with Bogie for a while. He was bouncing around. He’€™s a pretty good-looking athlete. That’€™s about where we are right now. But he’€™s not hurt. He seems to be recovered pretty nicely. Maybe not 100 percent, but pretty nicely.’€

  • The Red Sox will play a ‘€˜B’€™ game against the Twins across town at Hammond Stadium Thursday (1 p.m.), with nine pitchers ‘€“ including Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves ‘€“ each pitching an inning. Included in those position players participating are catcher Ryan Lavarnway and shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Is Bobby Valentine turning Carl Crawford into a bunting machine?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ For Carl Crawford, something good might come out of this wrist injury after all.

The outfielder, who has been limited in his participating throughout spring training after wrist surgery, has been using his time to work on what has previously been an untapped aspect of his game: bunting for a hit.

‘€œIt’€™s something he wants to do,’€ Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. ‘€œHe thinks it will open up the field for him a little more. I’€™m sure it would. He’€™s not swinging as much. He kind of overdid it yesterday. He was actually sore from what I’€¦ He did two rounds of bunting from what I gathered. If he practices a mechanic there, I think he’€™ll be good. But he didn’€™t have one coming into camp.’€

Valentine has not only worked on the art of bunting for a base hit out on the fields with Crawford, but the manager has also exposed his left fielder to video of some fairly prominent bunters, Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. Pierre, for instance, has more bunt hits (154) since 2003 than any player in the big leagues.

‘€œThere really isn’€™t much for me to do, and that’€™s something I can get better at, so I’€™m just trying it right now,’€ Crawford said. ‘€œHe showed me some video from other guys who bunt really well. There isn’€™t one way to do it, so we’€™re trying to find out what’€™s comfortable for me.’€

Crawford had at least attempted to utilize his speed via bunts early on his career, although without much success. In his first five seasons, the lefty hitter came away with just 18 hits in 100 bunt attempts. The next five years he pretty much abandoned the practice, notching three hits in 21 bunt attempts, going 0-for-2 in 2011.

‘€œI think I could always get better at it, I just never felt comfortable doing it,’€ he said. ‘€œI probably got the reputation of not wanting to do it. If you’€™re not comfortable the way somebody is teaching it to you, you’€™re not going to be comfortable. We’€™ve just been trying to find that comfort zone.

‘€œLast year I don’€™t think I tried to lay down many bunts for base hits, so that should open things up for me a little bit more.’€

Random Red Sox notes from Wednesday morning

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

FORT MYERS — Here are some things you may or may not care about emanating from the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday morning:

Andrew Bailey tested his ailing lat muscle, throwing from 200 feet away and reporting no lingering pain. The plan, he said, is to now get the go-ahead from the medical men to toss a bullpen in the next couple of days.

— Another throwing-related note comes from Ryan Kalish, who on Wednesday is throwing for the first time since August.

— The theme for Wednesday’s positive-reinforcement video — which has been playing in the clubhouse each day to identify aspects of the game the team will be working on — was simply Red Sox hitters hitting. There were a litany of home runs, a few bat-flips, and some hard-hit doubles. Mike Aviles identified it as the “hurting pitchers’ feelings” loop.

— One of those shown executing a bat-flip in the video was Cody Ross, who could also be seen wearing his pants just under his knees. With uniform fitting scheduled for Thursday, it was asked was the strategy was there. Ross explained that the only time he wears his pants lower is in cold weather, but he still has pants measured out just midway down his calf, the highest tailoring job usually on the team.

Bobby Jenks made a quick appearance, stopping to say he is still just doing a lot of pool work to take pressure off his back. There is no timetable to advance in his exercise regimen.

— Since Ryan Sweeney came away with the team’s best vertical jump (37 inches), he was asked to identify his best athletic achievement. Answer: dunking in eighth grade. In case you’re wondering, he was recruited to play basketball by more than a few Big 10 schools.

Jose Iglesias was one of the first to get his new shipment of bats, a development he was clearly excited about, partly due to his decision to switch to a new model. Iglesias is using a Louisville Slugger B363 instead of a C271, which means he will be wielding a bigger barrel. It’s a practice he started at the end of last season.

— Iglesias clearly is in Dustin Pedroia‘s torture chamber. First Pedroia said he doesn’t touch bats that don’t hit bombs, but then asked to see Iglesias’ new bat, asking if it was made out of balsa. The second baseman then promptly put up a sheet of paper that had two columns, with three checks under “Me (champ)” and none under “Iggy.” Evidently there is a fielding contest going on between the two.

Bobby Valentine has every intention of improving the outfield arms

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012


FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox held their first formal workout inside the brand new jetBlue Park Tuesday morning as manager Bobby Valentine threw and batted balls off the left and right field walls to simulate cutoff plays and throwing in the park that has the identical outfield dimensions as the club’s Fenway Park home.

Valentine said he is making a point this year of improving outfield defense and throwing strength, trying to improve the throwing arms of all of his outfielders.

“Part of the program today was cutoffs and positioning with our relays,” Valentine said. “This is our ballpark and we’€™re going to play at least 81 games in it and it’€™s great to have it and practice in. So, because there are a couple of nooks and crannies that are particular to ours, I think, obviously, our cutoffs and relays are a little different at times so, it’€™s good.’€

Eight-time Gold Glover Dwight Evans paid a visit to Red Sox camp on Tuesday.

“I’€™d love to talk to Dwight about that,” Valentine said. “He’€™s one of the good men. And, I hear [Carl Yastrzemski] comes to camp, too. I hope I can get him over. There hasn’€™t been an invite out only because I didn’€™t know he’€™d be down here.’€

While Valentine was poking fun at Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for fighting the now-retired Jason Varitek, Valentine took a shot at another Yankee, Derek Jeter, and his famous cutoff play near the plate that resulted in a crucial put out of Jeremy Giambi in Game 4 of the 2001 ALDS.

‘€œWe’€™ll never practice that. We’€™ll never practice that. I think the ball gets him out if he doesn’€™t touch it, personally. But the Jeter-like simulation today is the idea what the first baseman and third baseman do as the ball is coming in.’€

Outfield prospect Che-Hsuan Lin has already impressed with his arm in the outfield in workouts.

‘€œI know we have one outstanding thrower according to [outfield instructor/first base coach]Alex Ochoa, and it’€™s not Alex and he was an outstanding thrower. Lin is in a different place. From reports, a couple of the arms are a little lower on the rating scale, and we’€™re going to try to adjust for that.’€ (more…)

Stuffy McInnis getting no love from Red Sox fans

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The Red Sox are conducting an ongoing poll to see who might be the best players ever to man their respective positions for the Sox during Fenway Park’s 100 years. (To do your part by voting, click here.)

Thus far, folks have been able to vote for four positions: first base, catcher, right-handed pitcher and left-handed pitcher. Here are the results to date:

catcher Jason Varitek 51.49
catcher Carlton Fisk 47.10
catcher Rich Gedman 0.97
catcher Rick Ferrell 0.26
catcher Sammy White 0.18
catcher Birdie Tebbetts 0.09
firstbase Jimmie Foxx 46.77
firstbase Kevin Youkilis 21.44
firstbase Mo Vaughn 17.23
firstbase George Scott 10.15
firstbase Bill Buckner 4.00
firstbase Stuffy McInnis 0.41
lefthandedpitcher Lefty Grove 22.66
lefthandedpitcher Jon Lester 20.93
lefthandedpitcher Babe Ruth 19.52
lefthandedpitcher Bill Lee 14.32
lefthandedpitcher Mel Parnell 10.77
lefthandedpitcher Bruce Hurst 8.23
lefthandedpitcher Dutch Leonard 2.19
lefthandedpitcher Ray Collins 1.12
lefthandedpitcher Herb Pennock 0.24
righthandedpitcher Pedro Martinez 50.92
righthandedpitcher Roger Clemens 16.99
righthandedpitcher Tim Wakefield 16.45
righthandedpitcher Luis Tiant 5.62
righthandedpitcher Smoky Joe Wood 3.87
righthandedpitcher Jim Lonborg 2.74
righthandedpitcher Dennis Eckersley 2.28
righthandedpitcher Bill Monbouquette 0.91
righthandedpitcher Tex Hughson 0.22

Video: Injury update on John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Rob Bradford is joined by Dr. Nick Leung of Newton Wellesley Orthopedic Associates to discuss Tommy John surgery and the recovery process associated with it. Red Sox pitchers John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill all underwent the surgery in 2011 and continue their rehab as the Red Sox prepare for their 2012 season.

Red Sox react to retirement of Jason Varitek

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news spreading of the retirement of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek on Thursday, the players he leaves behind in the clubhouse began to react on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz:
‘€œIt was awesome being a part getting to play four seasons with him and being able to throw to a guy that everybody is going to remember as the captain of the Boston Red Sox. It was a good time for everybody. I hope his decision makes him and his family happy and they go with their lives and know that he was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate.’€

What he learned from Varitek:
‘€œHow to pitch. He’€™s a guy that you know when you’€™re on the mound and you shake him off and he sort of just stares at you, you’€™re like, ‘€˜OK, I won’€™t throw that pitch. Don’€™t worry about it.’€™ Especially being a young guy coming up and you’€™re already intimated by just pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway and then you have Jason Varitek catching you.

‘€œHow to slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball.

What he remembers about Varitek calling the no-hitter of Sept. 2, 2007 vs. Orioles:
‘€œA couple of times, early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit and they were caught but after that, it was like, ‘€˜OK, I’€™m just going to throw what he puts down.’€™ The game started to speed up on me a couple of times. I remember him calling timeout, running out there and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch wherever, down and away, get a ground ball and get out of an inning. That’€™s what I’€™ll always remember about him, he was always the guy that could always calm you down when he things were starting to speed up.”

Did he expect Varitek to show in camp?:
‘€œHe’€™s an animal. You see how every year he comes into spring training, what he looks like, how his body is a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome behind [the plate] and still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball but that was his and his family’€™s decision.’€

Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
‘€œHe meant a lot obviously. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before, he was trying to recover from injury so we didn’€™t get to spend a lot of on-field time together but still picking his brain a lot. But last year, [he] was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. And just the person he is, you can’€™t find a better person.

‘€œJust the way he went about his business, watching him. Wasn’€™t even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that.’€

What Varitek did for helping him lead the Red Sox pitching staff:
‘€œI was definitely a little hesitant. I didn’€™t know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked toward him, ‘€˜Get this meeting started, get this started.’€™ But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn’€™t expect that, didn’€™t expect him to be so helpful and [tell me], ‘€˜Hey man, this is your team.’€™ I said, ‘€˜You’€™re the captain, it’€™s your team.’€™

“That’€™s the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help me out, stuck up for me and I can’€™t thank him enough for jump-starting my career.’€ (more…)

Sox ban on beer is meaningless

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

“I think it’€™s a PR move. I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one.”

Terry Francona

He’s right.

Bitter? Probably. Sensitive? You bet. But Terry Francona (already far more outspoken as an analyst than I ever imagined) proves that being blinded by bias doesn’t always get in the way of finding the truth.

I swear this column will feature my final chicken and beer references of 2012. Even by Boston sports media standards it was and is a spectacularly overblown issue. But this back-and-forth between Francona (formerly the manager of the Red Sox and now an ESPN analyst) and Bobby Valentine (formerly an ESPN analyst and now manger of the Red Sox) is guilty fun, right?

“Remember,” Valentine said on Monday when asked about Francona’s “PR” assertion, “you’re getting paid over there [ESPN] for saying stuff. You get paid over here for doing stuff. I’ve done both. … How was it PR? It means like 20 teams are looking for PR and that’€™s why they’€™re making good decisions.”

OK. Perfectly reasonable answer. And yup, the Red Sox and 19 other major-league teams ban beer in the clubhouse. And I get why, particularly when you measure the possibility of potential liability. You know, Player X has four beers after a game and runs over a BU student, that kind of nightmare scenario.

But here’s the thing: That scenario — and all other possible alcohol-related disasters — existed last year. And the year before that and on and on. The Red Sox organization didn’t collectively wake up and realize this, of course. This isn’t about that.

The Red Sox are as PR obsessed as any franchise in professional sports. That’s fine, I suppose, it drives me a little crazy at times (and get ready for six months of Fenway’s 100th anniversary shoved down our throats) but it’s impossible to argue with the success.

And that’s why you and I or anyone else with a Boston sports IQ of 40 or higher knew that if Dave Martinez or Pete Mackanin or Dale Sveum or Morris Buttermaker or Connie Mack were managing the 2012 Red Sox there was going to be an announcement on February 25 that alcohol was banned in the clubhouse.

This isn’t about Bobby Valentine, though the Red Sox are perfectly happy to let it be. Adds to the General Valentine image, the new sheriff who won’t let the same stuff happen on his watch. This is really about doing whatever is possible to start making September 2011 go away.

But let’s not pretend the 7-20 September happened because guys were drinking beer. Look, Francona deserves plenty of blame for what happened — the Bob Hohler piece and subsequent fallout actually hid some of the on-field blunders from Francona in 2011 — but does any clear-minded person truly believe that the Sox would have won 92 games instead of 90 if Francona had instituted a ban on clubhouse drinking on, say, August 26th?


Source: Jason Varitek to announce retirement

Monday, February 27th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to a major league source, catcher Jason Varitek will announce his retirement on Thursday. The 15-year veteran will accept a role in the Red Sox organization, according to the Boston Globe, which first reported the news of his retirement.

The Red Sox had offered Varitek a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training camp with the opportunity to compete for a role with the 2012 Sox. However, with no clear opening, Varitek evidently decided it was time to walk away.

Catherine Varitek, the wife of the catcher, wrote (via twitter): “I could not be more proud of my husband! What a truly remarkable 14 years with the Boston Red Sox. You are a true Champion!”

Varitek, 39, played in 1,546 games with the Sox, including a team record 1,488 as catcher. He hit .256 with a .341 OBP, .435 slugging percentage and .776 OPS, hitting 193 homers and driving in 757 runs. A three-time All-Star, Varitek was also the recipient of a Gold Glove award in 2005.

The catcher spent the entirety of his big league career with the Sox. He is one of just four players in franchise history to play an entire career of 15 or more seasons in Boston. The others are Carl Yastrzemski (23 years), Ted Williams (19) and Jim Rice (16).

The Sox acquired the former first-round pick, along with pitcher Derek Lowe, from the Mariners in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb on July 31, 1997, in one of the most lopsided trades in team history. Varitek emerged as the primary catcher by 1999, a role in which he remained cemented through two World Series triumphs.

However, after long being viewed as one of the top offensive and defensive catchers in the game, Varitek’s performance at the plate started to decline precipitously in 2008, and by the middle of the 2009 season, the Sox felt compelled to make a trade to acquire Victor Martinez. Varitek became a part-time player (backing up Martinez) in 2009 and 2010, then hit .221 with a .300 OBP, .423 slugging mark and .723 OPS along with 11 homers and 36 RBI in 68 games for the Sox last year while backing up Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Varitek, who was named team captain when he signed a four-year, $40 million with the team following the 2004 season, ranks ninth in franchise history in games played and 10th in doubles (306).