|Report: Red Sox near deal for Japanese pitcher Itsuki Shoda||02.11.11 at 10:50 pm ET|
According to Nikkansports.com, the Red Sox signed right-hander Itsuki Shoda — the 2002 Pacific League Rookie of the Year in Japan — to a minor league contract. GM Theo Epstein said in the article that the deal for Shoda is near completion, and that he is expected to report on time to the team’s minor league camp.
Shoda is a 29-year-old left-hander who reportedly is a curveball specialist. He went 9-11 with a 3.45 ERA as a rookie for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but his numbers dropped significantly from there. He was sent to the minors in 2006, then traded to Hanshin, for whom he spent the next two years in the minors before heading to Taiwan.
There, Shoda was effective, leading the league in wins (14) and strikeouts (115) with a 4.44 ERA. In 2010, he was again effective in Taiwan, going 11-5 with a 2.81 ERA and 116 strikeouts.
Here is video of one of his 2010 games for the Sinon Bulls:
|Dustin Pedroia: ‘My foot is repaired’||02.11.11 at 2:13 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first spring sighting of Dustin Pedroia taking swings in Fort Myers was the source of much intrigue for the Red Sox. That had less to do with the condition of the second baseman’s left foot, however, than with his intriguing new hairstyle.
Over the offseason, he allowed his wisps of hair on top of his head to grow longer. That prompted manager Terry Francona to leave the clubhouse to try to find the 27-year-old in one of the batting cages.
“Where’s Giovanni Ribisi?” he yelled.
Pedroia took umbrage at the characterization.
“The jokes are cool when I’m 20 and losing my hair. But I’m a grown-ass man now,” he mused. “I think it looks solid. My wife likes it.”
The amusement of Pedroia’s coiffure aside, the state of his foot obviously carried more significance for the team going forward. And though he wore a protective pad over the instep of his left foot — the one that was fractured by a foul ball on June 25, and that led him to miss all but two of the Sox’ games over the remainder of the season — and after the workout, pronounced himself healthy and able to participate in baseball activities without restrictions.
“I’ve taken groundballs, turned double plays, run the bases, I’ve done everything. I’m ready to go,” said Pedroia. “My foot is repaired. There is a screw in there holding it together. It’s a ton better. I feel great. there’s not going to be any setbacks or anything like that.”
Pedroia started his rehab almost immediately after flying home to Arizona on Oct. 6, and he started baseball activities in January, which he characterized as standard for an offseason. He was able to do normal sprint and agility work, though he did not engage in distance running, and he won’t participate in the team’s shuttle-running drill for position players.
He acknowledged that he experienced discomfort in his foot at points in his rehab. But he suggested that was more the byproduct of inactivity as it was his foot. In the end, he found a workout and rehab routine that gave him peace of mind with his foot.
“If one part of my leg isn’t firing, it’s going to affect my foot,” he said. “We kind of figured out what the problem was and the last three weeks I felt great.”
Pedroia noted the high expectations for the club after the acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks, among others. At the same time, he said that the Sox are accustomed to such standards.
“[Expectations are] high every year. Not a year where you come into camp and your goal isn’t to win the World Series. If it’s not, then reevaluate the organization,” said Pedroia. “We want to win. We want to win right now. Just not this year, but every year. They’re always high.”
|Why Manny Delcarmen chose the Mariners over the Rays (and others)||02.10.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
Manny Delcarmen is still young. He will turn 29 next week. And yet, after being traded last August by the only team for whom he’d ever played and then being released by the club that dealt for him in December, his career reached something of a crossroads this offseason.
After the Rockies elected not to tender a contract for 2011 to reliever Manny Delcarmen in early December, a number of teams expressed interest in the right-hander. Nine teams requested medicals from his agent, Jim Masteralexis, at the winter meetings in Orlando, and Delcarmen received multiple offers, including one offer of a major league deal with a National League club. One NL team even considered signing Delcarmen with an eye on using him as a starter, believing his three-pitch arsenal (a fastball, curve and changeup, all of which have been swing-and-miss offerings at times in his career) could serve him well in the rotation.
But in the end, Delcarmen’s decision came down to the Mariners and Rays. Both teams feature bullpens in some flux, with Tampa Bay looking to reassemble a relief corps after seeing four pitchers leave via free agency and Seattle closer David Aardsma recovering from surgery to repair his hip labrum. Both clubs offered opportunities for Delcarmen, if healthy and effective, to carve out a meaningful role in the bullpen.
In the end, Delcarmen decided to sign an incentive-laden minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training with the Mariners. The possibility of pitching at critical junctures of the game appealed to him.
“The main factor was opportunity,” said Masteralexis. “There’s opportunity there for him.”
Delcarmen was a tremendously effective reliever for the Sox in 2007 and 2008, forging a 2.81 ERA with 8.6 punchouts per nine innings. The last two years have seen disappointing results, with effective starts to the season giving way to disappointing ends. He had a 4.74 ERA in the last two years, with his strikeouts per nine dropping to 6.6, and his walks totals spiking.
The Mariners present a good opportunity for Delcarmen to rebuild his value, just as was the case for Aardsma, who flourished as a closer after the Sox traded him to the M’s following the 2008 season. The Mariners’ park is one of the best in the game for pitchers and the AL West as a whole tends to see fewer stacked lineups than the AL East (where Delcarmen made his home with the Sox from the time the Hyde Park native was selected in the second round of the 2000 draft until being traded to the Rockies this past Aug. 31). So, if Delcarmen can regain his effectiveness, he has a chance to not only re-establish himself as a late-innings reliever, but also to position himself well for salary arbitration (for which Delcarmen would be eligible as a player with 5+ years of service time after the 2011 season), which is driven by traditional stats such as record, saves, ERA and strikeouts, and doesn’t account for park factors.
Seattle represents an opportunity for the longtime Red Sox pitcher to get his career back on the path that seemed so promising just a couple of seasons ago. Now, it will be up to Delcarmen to take advantage of the situation with his performance on the mound.
Delcarmen flies to join the Mariners in spring training this weekend for a new beginning that he hopes will bring back some familiar results.
|Ex-Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen signs with Mariners||02.10.11 at 7:35 pm ET|
Former Red Sox pitcher Manny Delcarmen signed a minor league deal with the Mariners that included an invitation to spring training, the Mariners announced. Delcarmen, 29, is coming off a season in which he struggled with the Sox and then, following an Aug. 31 trade to the Rockies, in Colorado. He had a 4.99 ERA with a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a career-high 5.5 walks per nine innings in 57 appearances.
However, Delcarmen is just a couple years removed from having been one of the more effective middle relievers in the American League. In 2007-08, he had a 2.81 ERA for the Sox with 8.6 punchouts per nine innings.
The Hyde Park native spent more than 10 years in the Red Sox system after being drafted by his hometown club in the second round of the 2000 draft. While he emerged as an important setup man for the Sox in recent years, he struggled with his mechanics last year, with such struggles responsible in the eyes of the team for him diminished velocity (his fastball, which had averaged 95.5 mph in 2008, according to Fangraphs.com, fell to 93.9 mph in 2009 and 93.1 mph in 2010) and command. His role in the Sox bullpen, in turn, diminished, leading the Sox to shipp him to Colorado last Aug. 31 in exchange for minor league pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller. Delcarmen has a career 11-8 record and 3.97 ERA.
For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
|Red Sox Fort-itude: The rotation shapes up||02.10.11 at 12:45 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Greetings from Fort Myers, where gentle breezes prevail on a calm, overcast day.
As for the players, with pitchers and catchers due to report on Feb. 13, a number of Red Sox pitchers have now reported to the team’s minor league training facility. Indeed, four-fifths of the team’s starting rotation is now on the scene in Fort Myers.
An annual rite of passage renewed, with the arrival of Daisuke Matsuzaka at spring training generating a bit of international interest this morning. That said, the pool of reporters covering Matsuzaka has diminished significantly in spring training this year. Just four reporters from Japan were present to cover the pitcher’s first comments of the spring.
Even so, the pitcher is throwing this morning, and appears to be in good shape following a year in which his stuff was impressive, even if his results remained typically (and wildly) inconsistent. John Lackey and Josh Beckett also arrived, joining Jon Lester, who has been here for a few days.
–Red Sox right-hander Robert Coello, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Alfredo Aceves, remains in Fort Myers. He actually had just rented a condo for spring training, and so the uncertain predicament in which he finds himself is challenging. He came by the Red Sox minor league training facility to work out and throw on Thursday morning, and said that he has little recourse but to wait for the next 10 days to pass before he can figure out where he ends up.
–As for Aceves, the right-hander’s bullpen session at Fenway Park this week was described as extensive and impressive. (Epstein later clarified that Aceves threw two bullpen sessions for the Sox, and it appears he faces no restrictions. One source suggested that the greater concern was with the pitcher’s lower back — which sidelined him for most of last year — than with the broken clavicle he suffered in a bicycling accident this winter, but that everything checked out well in his physical.) He seems likely to open the year in Pawtucket’s rotation — Aceves, in fact, expressed a clear preference to sign with a team that would give him an opportunity to start. Of course, the possibility of signing with a Red Sox team that offered a chance to stick it to his former club was also appealing. The GM said that Aceves represented an opportunity to address a position of need for the Sox, as the team felt that it needed to find a reliable rotation depth option with the stuff and experience to be an effective AL East starter. Aceves, of course, proved just such an ability while with the Yankees, helping convince the Sox to sign him. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox GM Theo Epstein checks in||02.10.11 at 11:11 am ET|
The biggest question facing the team
Health has to be the biggest question. It usually is. But in our case, we have so many players coming off of surgery or coming off of injury that we’re going to keep a close eye on them and really look forward to having a full squad of healthy players playing out there together.
Epstein repeated that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been consistenly on or ahead of schedule while rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. ‘We all feel like he’ll be ready for opening day,’ said Epstein, who noted that it remained possible that Gonzalez could beat the projected milestones of swinging by March 1 and playing in games by the third week of March.
As for Dustin Pedroia, Epstein said that the team will ‘take a conservative path’ with the second baseman, noting that the priority is for him to be playing on Opening Day, rather than in a college exhibition game later this month.
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is in good shape, since he was hitting without restriction by October, before shutting down and then following a normal offseason program. Epstein noted that because Youkilis was able to resume hitting by the end of last year,he has already ‘addressed some of the mental aspects of returning.’
Epstein said that Aceves threw a pair of bullpen sessions and passed a team physical before signing. He enthused about the right-hander’s versatility and the former Yankee’s proven ability to contribute as a starter in the AL East. Epstein noted that the team was
‘He’s a versatile guy who can compete for a job in the bullpen but also provide starting depth for us,’ said Epstein. ‘That’s one area where we don’t have a lot of depth, with the composition of our roster and where we’re at in the upper levels of our farm system was starting pitching. We really needed to add someone, I think, who can start major league games and compete in the American League East. ‘¦ His versatility, his strike throwing and the fact that he’s pitched well in this division stood out for us and made him a target.’
On Junichi Tazawa
Epstein said that the right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, won’t be unrestricted in big league camp. He will be able to throw off a mound, but Epstein noted that ‘the last two to three months of Tommy John rehab are important, and we don’t want to rush it by getting him in competitive situations too quickly.’
The GM said that it remained uncertain whether he might pitch in games this spring, and that the team would know more once it conducts its medical evaluations this weekend.
On the bullpen
‘It’s no secret that our ‘pen wasn’t very good last year. We kind of ran out of available options of ‘¦ guys who could compete and throw legitimate bullpen innings for us. That’s not a situation you want to find yourself in,’ said Epstein of the situation that prompted the team to sign Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, as well as Aceves and others.
‘We should be stronger than we have been in a long time at the end of games, with Bard and Jenks setting up Pap. Wheeler, I think, is an important addition as well in the middle,’ said Epstein. ‘We have the potential to be a really good bullpen, but that doesn’t really mean anything. We’ve got to go out there and do it.’
On the Sox’ signing of Te Wara ‘Beau’ Bishop, the promising 17-year-old softball catcher from New Zealand:
Jon Deeble, our Pacific Rim coordinator, lives out in Australia. He sees New Zealand a lot, too. He’s kind of familiar with the softball community out there. There’s not a ton of baseball played in New Zealand, but there’s a lot of softball played by men of all ages. My understanding ‘ I’ve never seen him, just some video ‘ is that he’s one of the most exciting young softball prospects to come around in the last 20 years, out of New Zealand. He had a lot of people talking, and then Deeble saw him play ‘ the size, his athleticism, his swing and his arm strength ‘ and thought that he was a pretty interesting prospect. It’s a pretty interesting opportunity for us and for him to see what happens.
|What to make of the Red Sox’ New Zealand softball signee?||02.10.11 at 9:52 am ET|
An intriguing signing became official this week, with the Red Sox inking 17-year-old Te Wara “Beau” Bishop — a New Zealand softball standout — to a pro contract. Bishop, who received a five-figure bonus, has one of the more unusual pedigrees that you’ll see in a player signed to a pro contract, in that he comes from a country whose baseball tradition is virtually non-existent, and he has never played the game.
So what to make of the young player? For that, we turn to Red Sox coordinator of scouting in the Pacific Rim, Jon Deeble.
Deeble, the National Head Coach for Australia’s baseball team in international play, had been tracking Bishop for some time, and was impressed by his bat speed and his actions as a softball catcher. While it might seem strange to make such judgments about a softball player, Deeble suggests that fast pitch softball actually presents an interesting venue in which to observe a player’s actions, particularly defensively.
“It is amazing how hard they throw over 40-45 feet, it looks way faster than baseball and the ball gets on you in a flash,” Deeble wrote in an email. “This kid handles catching the fast pitches with ease.”
So, it didn’t take long for Deeble to be convinced of Bishop’s good hands. But that is not his only tool. The Sox saw a player with plenty of projectable talent, though for obvious reasons, he is extremely raw, and for him to advance in the professional ranks, it will take a great deal of work by both the player and the player development staff to help his transition to a new sport.
That said, the Sox were impressed by the early glimpses of what might be possible for the catcher.
“We have been following Beau for a while now. He is one of the best softballers in [New Zealand]. He is a catcher with good arm strength and real good hands, he shows good raw power,” Deeble wrote. “He needs to make some adjustments both offensive and defensively. He showed in our workouts the ability to make those adjustments quickly.”
Bishop will report to spring training in the first week of March and spend this year in extended spring training before heading to Major League Baseball’s Australian Baseball Academy later this year. These are the first steps in what is an undertaking with little precedent.
Bishop is the first player to sign directly out of New Zealand since Travis Wilson signed with the Braves in 1997. Only one native New Zealander has since entered the ranks of professional baseball in the U.S., but Scott Campbell entered the Blue Jays system after going to college at Gonzaga. No one from New Zealand has ever reached the majors, though both Campbell and Wilson did advance as far as Triple-A.
The Sox are mindful of that history, and of the challenges that face Bishop in his new profession. That being the case, the team is trying to measure expectations of the 17-year-old, even as they are eager to see what lies ahead for him.
“It is going to be a tough transition for him, we don’t want to put any pressure on him,” said Deeble. “We just want him to go out and play, show the skills he has. We need to be patient with him but he does have raw tools.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Help Wanted: Writers
- Top 40 in Review: Heath Hembree and Steven Wright
- Top 40 Season in Review: Javier Guerra and Henry Ramos
- Top 40 in Review: Simon Mercedes and Carlos Asuaje
- Top 40 Season in Review: Anderson Espinoza and Alex Hassan
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Rivero, Castillo make early impressions
- Top 40 Season in Review: Noe Ramirez and Luis Diaz
- Top 40 Season in Review: Bryce Brentz and Christopher Acosta
- Top 40 Season in Review: Justin Haley and Jake Cosart
- Top 40 Season in Review: Drake Britton and Dalier Hinojosa