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Yankees raised money for Red Sox first base coach Johnson’s daughter 03.03.11 at 7:51 pm ET
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Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal wrote a touching story about the generosity of Yankees players in support of Bridget Johnson, the daughter of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson. Bridget Johnson, 11, lost her leg after a car ran into her while she was riding a horse near her home in Tennessee last year.

Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long had played for Ron Johnson in the minor leagues in the 1990s and, while few New York players had a personal connection to the Johnsons, at Long’s behest, they nevertheless collected what the story describes as “significant checks” in support of the Johnson family as they struggled with medical bills.

From the story:

“We got out of the hospital, we got home, and one day this package showed up from the Yankees,” Johnson said.

Johnson opened it, curious, his wife Daphane nearby.

“I said, ‘Huh?’ And it was from Kevin. With a little note, saying ‘I never forgot what you did for me, and I hope this helps.’ It was incredible. I showed it to Daphane, she started crying,” Johnson said.

Since then, some Yankee players have kept up on Bridget’s progress, prodding Long for updates, Jorge Posada said.

Joe McDonald of ESPN.com also detailed the Yankees’ generosity, noting how grateful Johnson is that the competition between the two clubs does not extend off the field.

“Yeah, it’s a rivalry, but it makes everything so much clearer that there’s baseball and then there’s the human aspect,” Johnson said. “I know there’s stuff that happens on the field, but they’re human beings, and it’s real neat [what they did].

“As I’ve seen more than anybody, the support I’ve had from the Red Sox organization is unbelievable. This was just another piece — a phenomenal deed. Amazing.”

Read More: bridget johnson, kevin long, Ron Johnson, Yankees
John Henry on Big Show: MLB fined him $500K for revenue sharing comments 03.01.11 at 4:51 pm ET
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Red Sox principal owner John Henry, in an interview on The Big Show, said that he was fined $500,000 by Major League Baseball for comments that he made about the sport’s current financial system. In late-2009, Henry told the Boston Globe that “seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’€™s highest operating profits,” had received over $1 billion in revenue sharing money.

Major League Baseball took objection to the public comments — which, Henry noted, were subsequently validated by leaked documents about team profits — and fined the Sox owner. As such, he was relucant to discuss the state of baseball’s economics.

“There’€™s not much I can say, because the last time I made a comment, I was fined $500,000. The large markets aren’€™t allowed to give their opinions,” said Henry. “Did you know I was fined $500,000? … I made statements which turned out to be true, or at least there were various documents that were leaked after that. But anyway, the large clubs are not allowed to talk about it.”

Henry said that the Sox received a letter from MLB following recent comments by Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner that voiced similar criticism of the revenue sharing system. He also noted that small-market teams are allowed to comment on baseball’s economic system.

Some other highlights from the interview:

–Henry said that the long-term deal for Carl Crawford did not represent a change of business model, noting that the team has made long-term commitments in the past to Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew, and tried to sign Mark Teixeira to a long-term deal.

–Asked about the Teixeira deal, Henry repeated his stance of the past two years that the slugger — as he said in his introductory press conference — wanted to sign with the Yankees from the outset.

–He said that, had there been massive public funding for a new ballpark, the Sox might have found it more economically compelling to have moved into a new park than to renovate Fenway. However, since there was none available, the team has spent $285 million on renovations with an eye towards remaining in Fenway for decades to come.

–Henry said that while there will be some money for the club to make moves at the trade deadline, it will be limited given where current payroll expenditures are for the 2011 Sox.

–Henry expressed his hope that both manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein would remain with the Sox for years to come, but noted that both perform exhausting jobs that make it uncertain whether they are sustainable. Towards that end, Henry also noted that he and CEO Tom Werner have discussed that they can’t remain owners forever, but that they still love their roles with the Sox, and have no idea to see those roles change anytime soon.

A complete transcript is below. To listen to the complete interview, visit the Big Show’s Audio on Demand page.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Hank Steinbrenner, John Henry
Red Sox options with Hideki Okajima could include minors 02.28.11 at 11:56 am ET
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It was not the way that Hideki Okajima wanted to start his exhibition season.

After a 2010 campaign in which he struggled more than his season-ending 4.50 ERA would suggest, the left-hander is competing for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen after having signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal to return to the club that non-tendered him in Dec. And so, without the guarantee of a roster spot, it was no doubt an unfortunate first step for the 35-year-old that he allowed four runs on five hits in his first spring inning of work.

The Sox are mindful of the fact that he was a critical member of their bullpen from 2007-09, and so they note that it is more important for the reliever to work to regain that form than to concentrate on the roster situation.

“We need Oki to be a good pitcher. He’€™s competing with himself,” manager Terry Francona told reporters in Fort Myers. “We’€™ve all seen what he can do when he’€™s right and how he can help that bullpen. That’€™s probably more how I look at it.”

That said, it is worth noting that if Okajima struggles this spring and the Sox wanted to build bullpen depth while giving the left-hander more time to find his rhythm on the mound, his contract status permits the team flexibility to do just that. Okajima has never spent a day in the minors since coming to Boston, and so he has all three of his options remaining. He has four years of service time, and so he cannot refuse an optional assignment should the Red Sox choose to send him to the minors. Nor is there anything in his contract that would prevent the Sox from sending him to the minors.

While Okajima would have to clear major league waivers if the Sox were to option him, that process is considered nothing more than a formality, since teams almost never claim players on that form of waivers.

Among the left-handers in competition for the final bullpen spots — a group that includes Okajima, Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Dennys Reyes, Andrew Miller and Randy Williams — Okajima and Doubront are the only ones on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.

Doubront, who has been shut down while building arm strength, will almost surely open the year in Triple-A. That leaves Okajima as the player who would require the least roster shuffling to keep in the majors.

At the same time, because Okajima can be optioned, the Sox could easily send him to the minors if they wanted to avoid losing Reyes, who can opt-out of his minor league deal in the final days of March if he’s not added to the big league roster. The Sox would have to take someone else off the 40-man roster in order to do so, but that would likely not tie the Sox’ hands.

“When [Sox GM Theo Epstein] thinks somebody can help us, he’€™s not afraid to make it work,” said Francona. “At the same time, when we look at building our team, we look at building depth, also. If you lose a guy that’€™s a roster guy — or a guy you could send down — then, 10 days into the season, if somebody gets hurt and you don’€™t have anybody to call up, we certainly keep those things in consideration.”

There is still time for Okajima to demonstrate this spring that he can be a solid bullpen option for the Sox. That said, the pitcher also gives the Sox flexibility, since they are not in a position where they would risk losing him if he was sent to the minors.

Read More: Hideki Okajima,
Staging Stolmy: Right-hander gets ready for unveiling 02.26.11 at 11:15 am ET
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He’s not Casey Kelly. But as these things go, he’s not a bad alternative.

This year, with Stolmy Pimentel getting the ball to open the Red Sox‘ spring training calendar against Boston College, the fanfare is decidedly more muted than it was a year ago, when Casey Kelly took the mound against Northeastern. Kelly’s outing was greeted with breathless anticipation; the hype about the much-ballyhooed 20-year-old was far-reaching. He only threw one perfect inning that day, but each of his 10 pitches was, in its own way, worthy of intense scrutiny. (Guilty as charged.)

But while Pimentel’s reputation as a prospect does not carry the same weight as did Kelly’s a year ago, among Sox coaches and team officials, he has been turning heads this spring. When the Sox signed Pimentel out of the Dominican as an overlooked 16-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and what the team thought/hoped was a projectable body, he was a tall (6-foot-2), lanky kid who looked like he could get blown over by a stiff breeze. While Pimentel guessed that he weighed about 170 pounds when he signed for $25,000 in 2006, team officials believe that he was closer to 150 or so.

Now? Physically, he appears as robust as did Kelly a year ago. He has put in the hard work in the offseason to bulk up to 225 pounds, and he has also added a couple of inches to check in at 6-foot-4. When he has been on the mound for bullpen or live batting practice sessions, he has commanded the attention of members of the Red Sox.

“I don’€™t think any of us dreamed that he was going to grow and fill in and have quite that big a stature. He’€™s quite a figure in a uniform. There’€™s a presence about him because of his size,” said Goose Gregson, the Sox’ Latin American pitching coordinator. “He’€™s got something you can’€™t teach: he’€™s got a presence about him, a game awareness and savvy when he crosses that white line that you can’€™t teach.”

The Sox have long viewed Pimentel as a starter with enough talent that a future in the Red Sox rotation is a legitimate possibility. He shows good command of a low-90s fastball that touched 94-95 mph last year, an offering that Pimentel hopes will continue to play up as he adds more size and strength.

“When you can feel stronger and bigger, you have more power. You can throw harder,” said Pimentel. “Last year was my first time that I hit 95. This year, I feel stronger. I feel like I can throw harder than that. I was working really hard in the offseason to come in shape, come in ready for spring training.”

He has a swing-and-miss changeup that has long been his out pitch, dating to the days when, as a young boy watching his idol from the Dominican, he was inspired by Pedro Martinez to work on it. Now, he is concentrating his efforts on improving his curveball.

At times, he shows good spin on the pitch, resulting in an offering that dives towards the ground. But it remains an inconsistent offering whose improvement Pimentel has prioritized.

“Sometimes I hang it a little bit, but I’€™ve been working to keep it down,” he said. “It’€™s good when you can see what you need to work on. That helps a lot when you can see that by yourself. When I do something wrong, I feel it and I try to get better.”

Pimentel has consistently held his own at every level he’s pitched at, despite being young at each minor league stop he’s made. Last year, he was 9-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 26 starts for Hi-A Salem, solid numbers considering he was the fourth youngest pitcher in the Carolina League to make at least 10 starts. While those are impressive numbers, however, it is worth noting that his ERA and strikeouts per nine innings have slipped in each of his four professional seasons.

Even so, the Sox have seen steady progress in Pimentel’s stuff as he has grown. As was the case with Kelly last year after he added roughly 20 pounds of muscle, the team anticipates that Pimentel’s new-found strength could create some command challenges this year, which he will most likely start in Double-A Portland.

“For the last two years, we’€™ve seen the power increase year over year, a couple miles an hour on the fastball each year. As he continues to gain size and strength, hopefully that will continue to improve. He’€™s always had a pretty good feel for throwing strikes with his fastball,” said Sox farm director Mike Hazen. “With the added size, sometimes it gets a little bit more difficult to sync it up. But he’€™s doing a good job of it.”

The team hopes to see him maintain that fastball command, repeating his delivery and improving both the consistency of arm speed and power on his curveball. If he can do that in 2011, then Pimentel — who was added to the 40-man roster this winter and is in big league camp or the first time — could see his prospect status elevate in the coming year.

He will take the first step in that process on Saturday.

Read More: casey kelly, Stolmy Pimentel,
Who’s on the mound? Red Sox announce pitching schedule 02.25.11 at 8:05 pm ET
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With spring training games set to get underway on Saturday with the Red Sox‘ day-night doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern University, the Sox released their anticipated pitchers for the first five games of the exhibition calendar. Of the 30 pitchers in big league camp (18 on the major league roster and 12 non-roster invitees), 23 are slated to appear in games. The exceptions are: John Lackey, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes (late to camp due to visa issues), Junichi Tazawa (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), Jason Bergmann (working his way back from a shoulder issue at the start of camp) and Felix Doubront (shut down for at least 10 days with an elbow issue).

Here is the schedule of pitchers as outlined in a team press release on Friday: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Spring Training,
Red Sox announce seven front office promotions 02.25.11 at 7:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox promoted seven members of their front office, including four members of the baseball operations department.

–Craig Shipley, who had served as the Vice President of International Scouting for the past five years, was named Senior Vice President of Player Personnel and International Scouting. During Shipley’s time in charge of the Sox’ International Scouting efforts, the team has expanded its global operations, signing players from the Dominican (just from the 40-man roster, Stolmy Pimentel, Oscar Tejeda and Yamaico Navarro were all signed under Shipley), Cuba (Jose Iglesias), Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Japan (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa), Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and more.

Allard Baird, previously the Assistant to GM Theo Epstein, was named Vice President of Player Personnel and Professional Scouting. Baird, formerly the Royals GM, is involved in most player personnel decisions already. He was the one in charge of the Sox’ efforts to scout Carl Crawford, and his imprint has also been felt on anything from the Sox’ efforts to more aggressively scout and sign players from the independent leagues (such as Daniel Nava) to the teams’ discussions of players going in both directions in potential trade discussions.

Mike Hazen, who has been the Sox’ Director of Player Development since early-2006, was named Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting. Since he joined the Sox five years ago, players such as Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury have graduated from prospect status to regular big league roles.

Brian O’Halloran was promoted from Director of Baseball Operations to Vice President of Baseball Operations. He plays a key role in the organization’s contract negotiations and payroll management, as well as compliance with Major League rules. His imprint has been on a number of creative contracts that the Sox have reached, notably including that of Adrian Beltre before last season.

Here is the full announcement: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: allard baird, brian o'halloran, craig shipley, mike hazen
For $2 million, Daniel Bard could have been a Yankee 02.21.11 at 10:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard is now arguably the most important member of the Red Sox bullpen. He emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in the game last year, forging a 1.93 ERA and striking out more than a batter an inning over 73 appearances. Manager Terry Francona used him in almost any pivotal situation that arose prior to the ninth inning, and the 25-year-old had no problem with attacking lefties or righties, whether for three outs or more. He is a young and inexpensive weapon with few peers.

All of that makes it intriguing to wonder how close he came to becoming a Yankee.

Bard was already a highly regarded pitcher in high school thanks to his easy mid-90s velocity. No projection was needed to wonder if he had a big league fastball, and he also featured a curve and change. He was named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, and so would have been viewed as an early-round draft pick had he wanted to turn pro.

But Bard, at that time, wasn’t that interested in life in the minor leagues. He had a scholarship offer to the University of North Carolina, where he would be able to enter the starting rotation immediately. And so, when he was eligible for the draft in 2003, teams were in no rush to waste a draft pick on him.

More than 600 players were selected before Bard’s name was finally called. The Yankees selected the young right-hander in the 20th round. Conversations with New York were brief. Bard did not rule out turning pro, but it would take a big dollar figure for him to sign with the Yankees. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2003 draft, Daniel Bard, jeff karstens, Jonathan Papelbon
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