|Story of how Joe Kelly invented dominating new pitch 10 minutes before playoffs||01.04.17 at 9:09 am ET|
The three games he pitched in — retiring all 11 batters he faced — might represent a pretty good jumping off point for defining the reliever in 2017.
And, if nothing else, Kelly can say he managed the feat in large part to the last-minute invention of a new weapon he didn’t use once in the regular season.
Appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast, Kelly explained:
“In the playoffs, it was all sliders. I kind of tweaked the sliders with (assistant pitching coach) Brian Bannister I think the first day in Cleveland. We held the same grip, but did something with my wrist, the way I cocked it a little bit different and I played catch with them warming up before batting practice for about 10 minutes. I liked how it spun, and he liked how it spun and how it went straight down and disappeared, kind of like a Chris Archer-type slider. I got into the game and I shocked to it because I wanted to test it out and got a good swing and miss on it. So I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to keep throwing it.’ There was one point probably in my third appearance in the playoffs where 10 of my 13 pitches I threw were all sliders. I didn’t want to throw it that much but I kind of fell in love with it because it was generating so many swings and misses and so many foul balls and weak contact. It was something I learned probably 10 minutes before Game 1. I was like, ‘You know what, why not?’ That is kind of my personality. If I see something I see works, or I think will work, it’s something I’m going to try.
“It’s another game. It’s just baseball. It’s something where I know they were scouting me. The hitters were saying, ‘OK, high velocity fastball thrown in the top of the zone, and he’s bouncing curveballs. If I break out a third pitch they hadn’t seen, obviously on the video, it was something I thought I had the advantage on their hitters because I didn’t throw it prior to the playoffs. It ended up working and I saw some really bad swings and some really bad timing. Guys were baffled because they didn’t know I had that pitch. I kept throwing that pitch just because it probably wasn’t in the scouting report and it got more swings and misses than I thought it would.”
So now Kelly is heading into spring training with a chance to join newly-acquired Tyler Thornburg, Matt Barnes, and, eventually, Carson Smith, as a candidate to set-up closer Craig Kimbrel.
The righty had already started to establish his identity as a high-leverage reliever, holding opposing hitters to .180 batting average, while striking out 20 and walking just three, in his 11 games after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. During that span he was charged with just one run (the walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira on the night the Sox clinched the American League East in Yankee Stadium).
He had accomplished the month-long success thanks to better command of a 100 mph fastball, and a revamped curveball that came from the same arm slot as his heater. But now he has his new slider, which maxes out his repertoire heading into the new season.
“One hundred percent,” said Kelly when asked if those were the three pitches he would be leaning on from Day 1 in 2017. “That’s what my game-plan is, trying to simplify pitching for this season.”
|Eduardo Rodriguez’s right knee back in news thanks to Winter Ball injury||12.28.16 at 1:11 pm ET|
According to the Boston Globe, Eduardo Rodriguez “tweaked” the same right knee that made the Red Sox’ pitcher miss the first two months of 2016 while pitching for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League. Rodriguez reportedly left after the first inning after feeling discomfort in the knee.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told the Globe in an email, “He tweaked his knee last night pitching. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious.”
The reason Rodriguez has been participating in the winter league was to prepare for the upcoming WBC, with the lefty slated to play for his native Venezuela.
Considering Rodriguez was coming off a season that was curtailed due to both the knee injury suffered in spring training, and a hamstring ailment, it appeared a questionable decision to jump-start his offseason training with the winter ball stint.
It will be interesting to see if the setback gives Rodriguez second thoughts about playing in the WBC. Considering he will be in competition for a spot in the starting rotation — with Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz all positioning for two spots — it would seem to behoove the 23-year-old to play on the cautious side and remain with the Red Sox throughout the entirety of spring training.
Rodriguez made 20 starts for the Red Sox in 2016, totaling a 4.71 ERA. He did post a 3.24 ERA in his final 14 starts after returning from the minor leagues.
TO LISTEN TO ROB BRADFORD AND JOHN TOMASE BREAK DOWN THE RED SOX PITCHING SITUATION, CLICK BELOW
|Sources: Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine being considered for United States Ambassador to Japan||12.09.16 at 12:08 am ET|
According to multiple sources, Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan. The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.
When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.
Such a move would be viewed as another unorthodox appointment by Trump, who named former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration Wednesday.
Yet Valentine’s history, and connections to Trump and Japan, make the possibility of such a decision very real.
The former Red Sox manager has known both Trump and his brother, Bob, since the early 1980’s. He is also very close to Anthony Scaramucci, who is part of the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee. And it was New Jersey governor Chris Christie who, according to a source, first surfaced Valentine’s name for the position.
The connections don’t stop there.
Valentine is still very popular in Japan, having managed the Chiba Lotte Marines for seven seasons, becoming the first U.S. born manager to win the Japan Series with a championship in 2005.
During the former big leaguer’s time in Japan, the Ambassador to Japan was Tom Schieffer, who also was president of the Texas Rangers during Valentine’s tenure as manager with the team. (Caroline Kennedy is the current ambassador, having been appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.)
Valentine is friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like the former All-American, attended the University of Southern California.
A few other elements that may help Valentine’s case include Japan prioritizing bringing baseball back for the 2020 Summer Olympics, along with the athletic director’s familiarity with SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son. Son recently announced after a meeting with Trump that SoftBank would be investing $50 billion in America’s technology sector.
Valentine is also close with McMahon, who serves on the board of trustees at Sacred Heart (where a new student commons building is named after the former WWE executive).
Another recognizable name who served as Ambassador to Japan is former Vice-President Walter Mondale, who manned the post during President Bill Clinton’s administration, from 1993-96.
|Koji Uehara reportedly joining Cubs’ bullpen||12.08.16 at 8:19 pm ET|
Uehara has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth “around” $4.5 million to pitch for the Cubs. In Chicago, he would serve as one of the set-up men for newly-acquired closer Wade Davis.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at the just-completed MLB Winter Meetings that his club did recently extend an offer to Uehara. Since then, however, the Sox traded for set-up man Tyler Thornburg to round out their bullpen.
The 41-year-old Uehara impressed after coming back from a torn pectoral muscle, not allowing a run in any of his 11 appearances after the injury. He finished his fourth season with the Red Sox totaling a 3.45 ERA in 50 appearances.
Uehara’s run with the Red Sox was remarkable, with the righty finishing the four years with a 2.09 ERA while going 86 for 98 in save opportunities. During that span opponents hit just .179 against him, with the Sox going 183-62 in his appearances. He also struck out 308 and walked 37 in that span.
Uehara would end up making $26.5 million with the Red Sox, having signed a one-year deal with a team option, followed by his two-year, $18 million contract.
Along with Davis, Uehara figures to be finishing off games with relievers Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.
|Source: Red Sox making Clay Buchholz available more than Drew Pomeranz||12.08.16 at 8:23 am ET|
But, according to teams talking with the Red Sox, Dombrowski has seemingly prioritized dealing Buchholz over Pomeranz. In fact, one source suggested the Sox aren’t currently showing any inclination that they want to move Pomeranz.
Pomeranz would most likely result in a bigger haul for the Red Sox considering the lefty’s age (28), affordability (he will make around $4 million in arbitration), and potential (the southpaw finished with a 3.32 ERA in 30 starts in 2016).\
Considering Buchholz’s strong finish to his 2016 season – managing a 2.98 ERA in his final eight starts after a return tot he rotation – there would appear to be some interest in the 32-year-old. The roadblock in moving the righty, however, might be the $13.5 million he is slated to make in 2017, the final year of his deal.
Considering his success in the bullpen last season, Buchholz could be considered as a reliever heading into 2017. But the likelihood using the veteran righty in such a role with his price tag, and without the perceived need for late-inning relief help, such a scenario doesn’t seem likely.
|Royals manager Ned Yost has no doubt potential Red Sox free agent target Greg Holland can close again||12.05.16 at 10:54 am ET|
Talking to his former manager, there is an understanding why clubs might be willing to live without the kind of stuff Holland had prior to his Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2015 season.
“Absolutely,” said Royals manager Ned Yost from the MLB Winter Meetings Monday when asked if Holland could once again duplicate the kind of results that made him one of the best closers in baseball through 2013-14. “I don’t know if he is ever going to be what he was … and I mean stuff-wise, 97, 98 mph. But the thing about Greg Holland is I’ve never met anybody that was more of a fierce, fearless competitor than he was. And when you have that in your DNA you can get by at 92, 93 mph. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets back to being the dominant guy he was before because he has that makeup and that mentality. When he steps on that mound he’s some kind of fierce competitor.”
The Red Sox remain interested in Holland while looking for another eighth-inning option. (One MLB source called the reliever a “very popular” player among teams at the meetings.)
The idea of having more than one reliever who can close has become a popular notion on big league rosters, as was first evidenced with Yost’s bullpens in Kansas City. Along with Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox are hoping Joe Kelly and/or Matt Barnes can join a healthy Carson Smith as pitchers the Sox can lean on in high-leverage, late-inning situations.
“I think what teams are trying to do, or what the successful teams have done, they have a seventh inning guy, an eighth inning guy and a ninth inning guy and all three of them can pitch in the ninth inning,” Yost said. “All three of them can pitch in the ninth inning. All three can close. When you have that it’s a huge advantage late in the game.”
|David Ortiz is still retired and talking Donald Trump, Kate Upton, Rob Gronkowski, job with Red Sox||12.02.16 at 3:08 pm ET|
“That’s not good,” said Ortiz when informed of Gronkowski’s back surgery. “Actually, you know what, yesterday I was going through my [phone] and I saw like three photos of him and I just look at it. I received a phone call when I was looking at it, and I never got to read anything.”
But Ortiz had been caught up on some other notable events, such as the presidential election, (“Who didn’t follow all that? Taxes are going to be good, for sure.”)
And the series of tweets from Justin Verlander’s fiance, Kate Upton, after Rick Porcello beat her significant other in the American League Cy Young race, (“Seriously. Damn! You know, you can’t just have people hating you because of somebody else. You know what I’m saying? Like, man, I don’t know how they’re going to play it out next year, but I don’t think that many things are going to go in your favor.”)
As for Ortiz’s foundation, which the annual event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for, that was clearly the host’s priority.
“I’ve been busy. I’ve been doing so many things. That’s me. I’m always doing things here and there. This event, it’s a big event so I want to make sure everybody is happy. The most important thing is these kids,” he said.
“The one thing I want to do with all you is bring you guys to the hospital to see what we do for real. I went to the hospital two days ago, and trust me, every time I walk into the hospital it’s like a new experience. We have so many kids going through situations. The heart don’t play around. You have to make sure everything is OK, and that’s what we do here. It’s like a challenge for me every year, and a motivation at the same time because there’s people who really need what we do. I’m up to the challenge, I’m going to tell you. You guys know me.”
There were other more Red Sox-centric baseball matters that Ortiz did discuss Friday.
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF PLAYING IF RED SOX OFFERED HUGE, ONE-YEAR CONTRACT
“To what? To talk [expletive]?”
ON IF HE WAS SURPRISED THE RED SOX DIDN’T OFFER HIM ANOTHER DEAL?
“No, not really, because I made myself clear, you know? It’s not about the money. It’s how you feel. I’m old, man.”
ON HOW HE FEELS PHYSICALLY
“Well, when I’m not doing all the running and all the crazy stuff that I do, inflammation starts going away, starts feeling better than usual. But the training and everything it takes to get prepared to play a season is when things get complicated. I’m done with it, man.”
ON IF HE IS GOING TO SPRING TRAINING
“I don’t know yet. Probably. I don’t know. I’m into so many things right now that I don’t know if I’m gonna be there. I don’t have it on my schedule right now but who knows, sometimes I can get bored at some point and show up for a couple of days, who knows?”
ON IF HE HAS IDENTIFIED A JOB HE WILL BE DOING WITH THE RED SOX
“Not yet. [Dave Dombrowski] approached me the other day. He asked me whenever I’m ready for it they’re down with it. The Red Sox always want me to part of the organization and some point I definitely will because you guys know I love that organization. That organization is part of what I am, and I’m always going to want the best for the organization. It will come at some point.”
ON HANLEY RAMIREZ PLAYING BOTH FIRST BASE AND DESIGNATED HITTER
“I think it’ll be good to have him playing both sides of it. Give him some days off with the DH and playing at first base. He did a great job last year at first.”
|Finally, All-Star Game won’t decide World Series home-field advantage||12.01.16 at 7:15 am ET|
According to the Associated Press, home-field advantage in the World Series will no longer be determined by which team wins the All-Star Game. Instead, per the new CBA, that honor will go to the pennant winner with the best overall regular-season record.
The All-Star Game importance started after Major League Baseball suffered through an 11-inning tie in 2002, prompting baseball to use home-field in the World Series as motivation to take the exhibition game more seriously.
Since the rule was implemented, the American League won 11 of 14 All-Star Games, with the AL representative claiming the World Series title in eight of those years. The Red Sox’ three world championships since 2003 all came with Boston carrying home-field advantage.
Players participating in the All-Star Game will be playing for a pool of money, per the report.
It should come as no surprise that determination of home-field advantage in the World Series was altered, with the dynamic coming under increasing criticism since the owners unanimously voting for the rule after the 2002 season. (For David Price’s criticism on the rule, click here.)
Another notable change in the new CBA will be the minimum stay on the disabled list going from 15 to 10 days.
|Mike Lowell talks Fidel Castro on Bradfo Show podcast: ‘I’m not sad he’s dead’||11.26.16 at 5:31 pm ET|
CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO BRADFO SHOW PODCAST WITH MIKE LOWELL
Now Castro is dead, passing away at the age of 90 years old late Friday night. And as the former Red Sox’ third baseman explained on the Bradfo Show podcast, his opinion of the Cuban revolutionary hasn’t changed one bit.
“I don’t think anyone should wish death on someone, but to live in this country and you’re hopeful Osama Bin Laden dies prior to him being killed. I would say probably 99 percent reaction would be, yes. It’s been said that Fidel Castro to the Cubans is Adolf Hitler to the Jews, is Osama Bin Laden to this country. That’s kind of the correlation,” Lowell said
“They had people who politically whose ideals were against Castro and they would put the mom and the dad in the middle of a circle and make the kids watch as they parade around them and then put a bullet in their heads. Now that’s savagery.
“I’m not sad he’s dead. Move on and if this helps change that regime, their thought process or something, it’s better for the Cuban people. I think everybody should pursue what they want to make them happy. That’s basically the bottom line. I don’t think a country should have a say in what you want to make out of your life.”
The angst Lowell and his family has toward Castro is deep-rooted in family members who were killed during the dictator’s regime, and the suffering that was inflicted prior to the opportunity for his parents, and his wife’s parents, to escape Cuba.
One example of the direct impact of Castro on Lowell’s family came in the form of an incident involving his wife’s father, who was jailed for 15 years as a political prisoner after not supporting the regime.
|Remember Sean O’Sullivan? He’s heading from Red Sox to South Korea||11.25.16 at 8:54 am ET|
The 29-year-old, who spent all last season with Triple-A Pawtucket and the Red Sox after signing a minor-league deal with the organization last offseason, has agreed to play for Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization. According to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, O’Sullivan will be making $1.1 million for the 2016 season.
The Red Sox won all four of O’Sullivan’s starts, with the righty getting 39 runs of support in those appearances. His best start came against the Angels at Fenway Park July 3, the day after the Sox had suffered an embarrassing, 21-2 defeat at the hands of Los Angeles. In that outing he only surrendered two runs and four hits over five innings.
He would land on the major league 15-day disabled list (left knee tendonitis) July 9, making room on the roster for reliever Brad Ziegler. The righty came back to make eight starts for Triple-A Pawtucket. With the PawSox, O’Sullivan went 9-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 19 starts.
In his five big league appearances, O’Sullivan totaled a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. He has appeared in 71 major league games with five teams, making 56 starts.
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