Archive for March, 2012

Cody Ross likes hitting home runs and playing for the Red Sox

Friday, March 30th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Cody Ross was intent on putting 2011 in the rear-view mirror, and thus far he’s doing a pretty good job.

Ross launched his fifth and sixth homers of the spring in the Red Sox‘ 9-7 win over the Twins Friday at Hammond Stadium. The outfielder is not hitting .366 during his first exhibition season with the Sox.

‘€œI changed a few things. I watched a lot of video this offseason,” Ross explained. “Just worked on my swing a lot. Instead of playing as much golf as I planned on this offseason, I really worked on my swing. Just focused on staying back and staying relaxed. One of the main keys was starting earlier. It feels good. Like I said, hopefully I can continue with it.’€

“[Last season] was an awful feeling. I was in between. I started off pretty good. Then hit a skid in august, hit .180. just an up and down year. It was just not fun. I just never really felt like I got anything going. That’€™s a terrible feeling.’€

The 31-year-old, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Red Sox in the offseason, is coming off a frustrating year with the Giants. The righty hitter hit .240 with a .730 OPS in 121 games, totaling 14 home runs.

Despite getting more lucrative offers from other teams, Ross decided the fit with the Red Sox would be best, both because of the opportunity to potentially win and play in a home park that was conducive to his swing.

‘€œIt’€™s a great feeling,” said Ross, who hit four home runs last spring training. “Like I said earlier, I think this is my 12th or 13th year of pro ball. I’€™ve been on different teams and I don’€™t care what anyone says. It doesn’€™t matter if you’€™re 18 or 28 or 31, like I am. Any time you go to a new team, you feel like you have to prove yourself again. Especially when you’€™re coming off a bad year, you feel like you have to show people, oh, you know, I can still play, I can still compete at a high level, I’€™m still a good player. It’€™s constant pressure, which is good. You turn that, and so far this spring, it’€™s been easy for me. Well, not easy, but an easy transition with this team. That’€™s it.”

Another note regarding Ross was that manager Bobby Valentine said prior to the game that he foresaw Ross playing in left field until Carl Crawford returns, while moving over to right field if Darnell McDonald is in the game.

‘€œIt’€™s been a joy to have him around, and he’€™s launched em,” Valentine said. “He’€™s played great defens,e that’€™s gone unnoticed, and he’€™s hit a variety of pitches over that left field fence.”

Ben Cherington explains what the Red Sox knew about Carl Crawford’s wrist

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Carl Crawford told WEEI.com that he had been dealing with his wrist pain for ‘€œfour or five years.’€ His former manager with the Rays, Joe Maddon, confirmed earlier this week that the Tampa Bay organization was aware of the issue, although surgery never was broached.

Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington explained to WEEI.com the process that went behind analyzing Crawford’€™s injury heading into the outfielder signing a seven-year, $142 million deal, and what the Sox were aware of:

When we were pursuing Carl as a free agent, we knew he had intermediate wrist soreness in his time in Tampa. He had been a very, very good player over a number of years with Tampa. Then as we got closer to a deal we got access to more information as part of the entrance physical for the contract. Before we got the official contract done, we had access to everything that had happened. We did a risk assessment with him, like we would with any other player. Then we felt, based on what we knew, that this was a risk that was worth taking, that we were comfortable with.

We knew there were going to be things that had to be managed over time, as with any player that has had some symptoms, we were not ruling out at some point in the terms of the contract he would have to have something done. We factored all that in and made the decision to go forward.

We felt confident we could help him manage it. At some point if something had to be done he would recover from it. The issues he was having were things that he could either play with, or manage, or get past if something had to happen, if a procedure had to happen. When he developed soreness this winter, it was obviously not the news we were hoping for. It wasn’€™t ideal, but certainly the timing was better than the last week in March. So we weren’€™t entirely surprised by it. We weren’€™t happy about it, but not entirely surprised by it.

It was one of the possibilities we were aware of at the time we signed him. And we still feel the same way, that he will recover from this and be back to being a very good player.

A lot of players have pathology in different joints. Pitchers, position players ‘€¦ you do a lot of things in baseball the body is not designed to do. For a pitcher that usually involves a shoulder or elbow. A lot of guys are pitching very well with shoulders or elbows that aren’€™t perfect. It’€™s the same thing for position players. The hitting causes a lot of strain on the wrist and the hands. There are a lot of major league hitters whose wrists and hands don’€™t look perfect. It’€™s just a matter of managing it, and at some point sometimes you have to treat it a little more aggressively, and that was the case this winter with Carl.

Clay Buchholz, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Bailey take on some Rays minor leaguers

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With no game scheduled Wednesday, the Red Sox used minor league games at the back fields at JetBlue Park to allow Clay Buchholz, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Bailey to continue their progression through spring training. Other than Jose Iglesias blasting a three-run homer in one of the games, the highlight of the day all four pitchers coming away with their health, and optimism, staying intact.

Here is a breakdown of each hurler’s performance:

CLAY BUCHHOlZ

The righty allowed two home runs — one to Tampa Bay big leaguer Reid Brignac — while throwing 89 pitches over six innings. Buchholz finished having allowed five runs on six hits, reporting that all systems are go with just one start (the exhibition game in Washington) left.

“My first deal was to go out there and throw a lot of changeups. If I missed with it, throw it again. Unfortunately I did that a couple of times back to back and threw both balls behind in the count and first inning, felt really good,” he said. “Felt like everything was going as planned. Then had a couple of long outings after that. The way I finished, I felt really good about it.”

Buchholz reiterated how much better he feels heading into this regular season than last year at this time.

‘€œYeah, just being able to do all the work in between and not having any ill-effects from last year has helped out a lot and knowing that each one of my pitches has been good at least one or two days throughout the spring,” he said. “I feel like the pitches are there. It’€™s just repetition now and getting it to where I can throw the changeup in any count just like I have the last couple of seasons. Once I get to that point, I think everything else sort of falls into place.”

AARON COOK

The sinkerballer continued to impress, allowing one run on five hits while inducing 11 ground balls. Cook, who threw 68 pitches, said he hasn’t heard what his next step is, and that nobody has broached the subject of relieving to him. The right-hander has a May 1 opt-out clause in his minor-league deal.

‘€œSee where it takes me. I can only control what I can control, and that’€™s going out there pitching,” he said. “I feel like I’€™m doing things I need to do and I feel like I’€™m making it a tough decision for them.’€

VICENTE PADILLA

Padilla continued to work his way into the mindset of a reliever, going three innings, allowing a hit over 41 pitches. After the outing he said through a translator that his preference would currently be to stay with the Red Sox as a member of the bullpen rather than seek a chance in another team’s rotation.

‘€œI see that the red sox are giving me an opportunity so I’€™d like to stay here and continue with the relief pitching,” he said.

ANDREW BAILEY

The closer needed 26 pitches (21 strikes) to get through 1 2/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits while striking out three.

Also of note was the work done by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, who each pitched in simulated games while continuing their comeback from Tommy John surgery. Matsuzaka threw 18 of his 22 pitches for strikes. Hill remains on target to make his minor league debut on April 9 with Single-A Greenville.

Fenway to host Liverpool-AS Roma soccer game July 25

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Fenway Sports Management announced Wednesday that the English soccer team Liverpool will play the Italian club AS Roma at Fenway Park on July 25 as a part of Liverpool’s preseason North American tour.

Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, and the group’s principal owner, John Henry, said he is excited about the opportunity for Liverpool to play at the iconic ballpark.

“During its 100-year history, Fenway Park has hosted some of the best in athletic competition, and a match between Liverpool and AS Roma — two of the world’s most well-known and respected clubs — is an appropriate way to help celebrate Fenway’s 100th anniversary and showcase our ballpark to an international audience,” Henry said in a press release.

Liverpool last traveled to the United States in 2004 for a tour that included games in Connecticut, New Jersey and Toronto. The club’s 2012 North American tour will begin in July and will last 12 days, with the team playing at least two matches in that time.

The match will be a part of Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration. Tickets for the event go on sale April 28. More information can be found at lfctour.com.

Dave Magadan explains what happened to Jose Iglesias

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ In the flurry of analysis regarding Jose Iglesias‘€™ demotion Tuesday, much was made of Bobby Valentine‘€™s comments regarding when things took a turn for the worse for the shortstop.

The Red Sox manager said, ‘€œHe’€™s working on things,’€ Valentine said of Iglesias. ‘€œAbout two weeks he had a mechanic that looked like it was real functional and I think an 0-for-3 took him out of it. That’€™s one of the things that he has to develop: confidence in his program.’€

It was explained that any concern regarding Iglesias’€™ offensive progression didn’t revolve around a spring training batting average of .200 or .280 on-base percentage, but rather the loss of an unflinching confidence heading into the regular season.

It was a month-long progression that Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan witnessed first-hand.

‘€œHe showed up in spring training kind of what we remembered his set-up being when we first signed him, and did really well in the early batting practice,’€ Magadan said. ‘€œHe did great. But it’s just like anything else, once something happens it kind of gets you out of kilter a little bit. He started cheating a little bit he wasn’t recognizing. It’s just a matter of getting the at-bats. He needs to go down there and play every day and get the experience of each at-bat. To me, it’s just a matter of time.’€

Considering the setback represented the kind of hurdle that was inevitably going to come Iglesias’€™ way once he hit the big leagues, could the spring training bump in the road be considered a blessing in disguise?

‘€œYou hope that it is,’€ Magadan said. ‘€œThe good players learn from their negative time at the plate. If you don’t learn from your struggles then it’s going to be tough. It’s where you make the adjustments and you have that experience now in the back of your head and you take that into the season in Pawtucket or the experience hear.

‘€œThat’s the unknown variable with him. He hasn’t had a lot of experience as a professional player, so now how does he respond to this little roadblock. He did a pretty good job last year, when he made the adjustment at the halfway point, now he made an adjustment at spring training, hit a roadblock, so let’s see how he responds to it.’€

The Red Sox have their starting shortstop, and his name is Mike Aviles

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles spoke briefly with the media following batting practice Tuesday afternoon at JetBlue Park. Aviles seemingly emerged as the starter after the Sox demoted Jose Iglesias to Triple-A earlier in the day.

(Thoughts on earning the job) I feel good. Iggy’€™s a great ballplayer and he’€™s going to be a great ballplayer but it just so happens they sent him down to work on some things. I wish him the best, I know he’€™s going to be back at some point, you know how that is. I came into camp, worked hard and I’€™m just happy the way things are.

(On accomplishing the goal of becoming starter) I’€™m happy because I knew deep down I could play short, it’€™s just a matter of getting the opportunity, I’€™m just fortunate to get an opportunity and I’€™m going to try to help the team win. Bottom line, this team’€™s not about Mike Aviles, this team’€™s about the Boston Red Sox winning a championship and I’€™m just a piece of the puzzle. That’€™s what I’€™m trying to do, be my piece, do my part and help the team win in any possible way.

(Proud of the accomplishment?) In all honesty, my pride is putting on my uniform every day. It’€™s great I’€™m going to be out there Opening Day and be the starting shortstop but my pride honestly is coming to the ballpark and putting on this uniform because you think about how many people have put this uniform on and just to be thrown into that mix, that’€™s what I consider my pride.

(What has been said to him) Nobody said ‘€˜you’€™re my guy’€™ but I talked to Bobby, I knew about the decision but nobody said, ‘€˜you’€™re the guy.’€™

(Pressure?) No different than any other day, I’€™ve got to come to the park and perform regardless whether I’€™m starting or sitting on the bench coming in in the fifth inning. either way I have to be ready to play every day. That’€™s why either way it doesn’€™t bother me. I prepare to play everyday but like I said before, if the situation was ‘€¦

A look at why the Red Sox have sent down Jose Iglesias

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Jose Iglesias‘€™ reaction when Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington broke the news to him Tuesday morning that he wouldn’€™t be making the major league club coming out of Red Sox‘€™ spring training?

‘€œDisappointment,’€ the Sox’€™ manager said. He later added, ‘€œ’€œHe was very professional in his conversation. We all felt there was emotion in the room.’€

Understandable.

Then Valentine was asked if it was a difficult call sending out Iglesias, thereby anointing Mike Aviles the Red Sox’€™ Opening Day shortstop.

‘€œIt was not a tough a decision,’€ he said. ‘€œEventually things play themselves out and it’€™s easy to do the right thing, I think.’€

So, then the came the next logical question: Why?

Valentine’€™s explanation had to do with a combination of Iglesias perhaps starting to go the other way in regard to his confidence, along with the continued encouragement gained from watching Aviles.

‘€œHe’€™s working on things,’€ Valentine said of Iglesias. ‘€œAbout two weeks he had a mechanic that looked like it was real functional and I think an 0-for-3 took him out of it. That’€™s one of the things that he has to develop: confidence in his program.’€

‘€œHe’€™s pretty close,’€ the manager later added. ‘€œI mean if something crazy happened tomorrow and Mike was traded for Greg Maddux, who’€™s making his return or something, I think that Jose could be our shortstop. He’€™d just have some more difficult developing days at the major league level than I think he will at the minor league level. It’€™s real tough to sharpen your teeth with major league pitching, as Frank Howard used to say.’€

Then there was the presence of Aviles, who has totaled nearly twice as many spring training at-bats as Iglesias while making just one error and totaling a .333 batting average and .867 OPS.

‘€œThere were a couple factors in what we were evaluating. Mike just didn’€™t do anything wrong, that’€™s for sure,’€ Valentine said. ‘€œHe did most everything right.’€

And, finally, Valentine explained the explanation regarding the process of coming to the decision. As the manager pointed out the day before, it was, and continues to be, a collaborative effort when formulating the roster.

‘€œDebate? I think we’€™ve had discussions every day on our team, a couple of times on Jose. It was never a debate,’€ he said. ‘€œI never even knew what side [Cherington] was taking and I don’€™t know if he ever knew what side ‘€“ if that’€™s what it was ‘€“ that I was taking. We spoke of both players, every day evaluated them and ‘€“ not only me and Ben, I mean as a staff, this was a staff meeting last night ‘€“ I think it was a pretty universal ‘€“ I wouldn’€™t say 100 percent ‘€“ but it was a group decision where everyone was on the same page. ‘€¦ I’€™m totally onboard. I like to think it was partly my decision. I like to think that.’€