|Finally healthy, Dustin Pedroia proclaims ‘I’m not messing around’||03.02.15 at 9:45 am ET|
The latest bit of good news was clubhouse manager Tommy McLaughlin presenting the second baseman with the stickers for the handle end of his bats. The excitement was only amped up upon seeing the stickers image that had a silouette image of Sasquatch with the number “15” in the background.
But the true elation for Pedroia is not having to show up each morning and get treatment, and then actually swinging a baseball bat with a confidence he hasn’t had since 2011.
“I feel normal,” he said. “I can tell just picking up a bat my hand strength is back. That’s the most important part to me. When you grab a bat, how does it feel? Can you manipulate where you want to hit the ball? It’s all back.
“I knew before I got here. You could tell. Balls come off the bat different. It sounds different. If I’m fooled and I’m out in front I had the strength to flip it the other way or still turn on it. Those are the things I couldn’t do. ‘¦ My swing is normal. My follow through is normal. There’s finish.”
The difference in the physical security was evident from his very first outside batting practice at Fenway South, when he purposely unloaded on the high left field wall on Field 2.
“How did it look? I’m not messing around,” Pedroia said regarding his initial BP salvo.
The plan for recovery last year didn’t work out. He didn’t have his UCL (thumb) surgery until November, and then there was the natural recovery process. It all went really awry during the Red Sox‘ first homestand when the thumb/wrist was aggravated, setting him back once again for an entire season.
This time around, however, he got the “release” on his wrist in September, allowing for the kind of normal offseason that is evidently paying off in the early days of camp.
“A lot of people say my UCL surgery since I played the whole year, it would take a year to feel normal. That’s the waking up and not feeling stiff,” he explained. ‘They said it would take a while to get your hand strength back. And then I had the wrist.
“At the end of October I woke up and I was like, ‘Man, my thumbs not stiff. My strength is back.’ It just took a year. ‘¦ I’m back to being normal. There are no issues.”
But while Pedroia is at peace with his current lot in life, there is still some bristling when it comes to the projection of his power.
“I don’t care. Numbers are numbers,” said Pedroia, who hit a combined 16 home runs over the past two injury-plagued seasons. “We’re here to win the World Series. I don’t care about any of that. If people don’t know that by now ‘¦ We won the World Series and I hit nine home runs and everyone said I lost my power. Well, I’ll lose my power if I win the World Series. What is everyone’s job here? Win. We don’t give a crap about anything else.”
|One Red Sox 19-year-old top prospect (Michael Chavis) weighs in on soon-to-be 19-year-old Red Sox top prospect (Yoan Moncada)||03.01.15 at 3:05 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — With all the talk about Yoan Moncada — the 19-year-old Cuban who is on the verge of signing minor league deal with a $31.5 million signing bonus with the Red Sox — it’s interesting to note there’s another infielder, just 2 1/2 months older than Moncada, already walking through Red Sox camp carrying a fair amount of expectations.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said the Red Sox‘ first-round pick last year, Michael Chavis, of the Moncada deal. “I try not to get wrapped up in the money concept, but if the point is to go out and get the best players possible, why not?
“He might be 19, but I’ve seen how he handles himself and I’ve seen him and I’ve seen how he handles himself. He’s very mature as a person. Obviously he’s shown himself on the field, so I don’t think the age really matters. Wasn’t [Ken] Griffey like 19 when he was in the Show. It’s proven that you can be young and play in the Show. It’s just about talent level and I think he’ll be just fine.”
It was just about eight months ago that Chavis was the teenager put under the microscope, having inked a $1,870,500 signing bonus after being selected out of Sprayberry Senior (GA) High with the 26th overall pick.
But now, the hype has given way to Moncada.
One of the topic of conversation following around the Cuban infielder is how physically put together he is for his age. But the stocky Chavis points suggests such size shouldn’t be shocking for kids their age.
“Walk in the locker room. We’ve got a bunch of big guys,” the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Chavis said. “Every time you see a bigger younger guy they’re going to have questions and stuff like that. But they’re just looking for reasons why he’s so talented. People never want to accept they put in hard work and it’s a talented kid.”
|Red Sox notes: Allen Craig may have cracked code; Joe Kelly throwing new pitch||03.01.15 at 2:08 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Allen Craig is very cautious when discussing what went wrong in 2014, and how it might go right in ’15. But he is offering hints that the form which allowed for a combined .863 OPS from 2011-13 is on the verge of returning.
“It feels a lot better in cage work and batting practice,” Craig said following Sunday’s workout. “As far as mechanics and strength, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now.
“I’m always cautious talking about it because you don’t make excuses for anything, but there are reasons for certain stuff. I think that was kind of my job this offseason, to figure it out. A lot of things started with some leg strength. When you have a weakness with something you try and compensate for it and try to find ways to get the job done, then you find yourself doing things you haven’t done before. This offseason was a good chance to look at some video and really physically mechanically to get my body in the best spot to hit the ball hard. I’m still working on it, but I feel like I’m in a better spot.”
“There’s much more life in the bat,” he said. “He’s come into camp in great shape. The foot isn’t an issue at this point and we don’t anticipate it to be. We just see increased core strength and better bat speed. I know it’s just BP but he looks different than we got him. And let’s face it, the shock of the trade is in the rear view mirror now, moreso than when he came to us.”
While Craig didn’t want to get into specifics, he insinuated that the foot injury he endured in ’13 had altered various elements of his lower half. The end result of the injuries, and compensation for the ailments, might have led to a ’14 in which he finished hitting just .128 with a .425 in 29 games with the Red Sox.
And after hitting “a ton in the offseason” at his Southern California home, the first baseman/outfielder feels the combination of improving mechanics and strength is paying off.
“I think any good hitter will tell you the legs are an important part of the swing and learning how to use them properly is really important,” he said. “I’m still the hitter that I am. Just some tweaks and giving myself a better chance to succeed. I’m not fighting myself.”
|Daniel Nava still flirting with idea of not switch-hitting||02.28.15 at 4:28 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Thursday, the Red Sox let Daniel Nava hit left-handed against southpaw reliever Dana Eveland. Saturday, he was in a group that went against another lefty, Tommy Layne.
It’s all part of the process. Where it ends up, Nava has no idea. But he figures this is a good a time as any to at least take a few steps down the path toward hitting exclusively from the left side.
“We’re just seeing if lefty-lefty can be a viable option,” said the switch-hitting outfielder. “There’s only one way to find out, give it a shot.
“Obviously, it’s an adjustment because I’ve never done lefty-lefty and something you’ve never done before is going to be an adjustment period but I’d like to think I can do it based on my approach and not trying to pull the ball, remains to be seen.”
Nava explained in the offseason he had been considering the move for some time, with his splits slanting dramatically in the favor of his work as a lefty hitter. Last year, for example, he hit .293 as a left-handed batter, compared to .159 from the right side.
Red Sox manager John Farrell and Nava said after their team’s Saturday workout that the organization had started conversations with the outfielder about a possible alteration at the end of the 2014 season.
“I think it was because last year I struggled from the right side,” Nava explained. “The year before it was all right but last year was a tough year so we thought it was worth a shot.”
He does insist, however, that just because you’ll be seeing him hit left-handed against lefty pitching in spring training (a practice he hasn’t experienced since Little League), that doesn’t mean Nava has dug in on not switch-hitting.
He still has to figure out if this is exactly the best road to go down.
“Just arm angle, way ball comes out, and the way ball moves,” he said regarding the differences he’s noticing when hitting lefty-on-lefty. “Those are things once I get out there — I’ve talked to a lot of guys. I’ve talked to [former major league switch-hitter who changed to just one side of the plate] J.T. Snow as well, as you know he did it. He gave me what he did, as somebody who has walked that road. I’ll try to see what they did and hope that it works.”
|Red Sox notes: Joe Kelly sure knows how to throw a baseball, Christian Vazquez is pretty good at catching it||02.28.15 at 3:59 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a relatively long day for Red Sox players at Fenway South Saturday. First, there was a Major League Baseball-sponsored domestic-abuse education meeting. Then came a morning and early afternoon chock full of drills and activity.
Perhaps the most notable endeavor was pitchers vs. batters showdown. It was the first such occasion that didn’t include the hitters simply tracking pitches.
It was nothing elaborate, with Justin Masterson, for example, throwing 25 fastballs before exiting off the mound. (Pablo Sandoval did take the righty deep on one of the offerings.)
But there were a couple of takeaways that seemed to stand out.
“He’s around the plate, throwing strikes, good curveball and slider. I know it’s still early, but he looked really good today,” Napoli said. “I’ve faced him before during the year. I know what the stuff’s like. He’s just got good arm action, ball comes out of his hand well. He’s good. The ball moves all over the place. He’s just ahead of everyone else right now.
“He has a really good fastball. He just needs to be able to locate it. He’s got a good curveball and changeup. Of the five starters, he might have the best stuff of everybody. He’s just got to put it together.”
So what does Kelly have to do to attain his self-proclaimed goal of winning the American League Cy Young Award?
While Kelly did show flashes of excellence as a starter when getting the chance with the Cardinals in 2013 — going 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 15 starts — he has to show it over the long haul, having never pitched more than 126 innings.
“Being a little bit more efficient,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think we saw a guy with power stuff. To be a little bit more refined with his command overall should keep him ahead in the count and maybe have hitters hit in more defensive counts. There were times last year a four-pitch walk would be mixed in. As he evolves as a pitcher and knows the consistency required, the focus and concentration will to that pitch count being a little bit more in line with the innings. Hopefully that extends him deeper into individual outings.”
|Morning Fort: Edward Mujica reveals last season’s neck injury; Daniel Nava easing away from switch-hitting||02.27.15 at 10:10 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Edward Mujica was bad in his first two months with the Red Sox. Now we have an idea why.
According to the reliever, he was diagnosed with his C1 vertebrae being out of place by Red Sox medical personnel while taking his physical upon signing a two-year deal. Mujica insisted that it was an issue that wasn’t cleared up until midway through the 2014 season.
“My neck was bothering me when I got here, I got treatment and in spring training I felt good because of the weather,” said Mujica, who carried a 7.29 ERA after his first 22 appearances. “But then I felt sore in the neck because of the cold weather. I was also adjusting to the American League, all the teams have pretty good hitters 1-9. I just kept working every single day, watching videos, got that [physical] adjustment and got going in the second half.
“The figured it out in spring training. The CI was a little moved out of place, but they put it in the right place in spring training to get through the season. With treatment every single day it helped me a lot after the first two months.”
Mujica turned it around in the final three months, posting a 2.30 ERA in his final 34 outings. He also went 6-for-6 in save opportunities after assuming the closers role during Koji Uehara’s performance/injury-induced hiatus.
There was some thought prior to Uehara signing his deal, that Mujica might have crack at competing for the closers role. He will instead once again serve a set-up man to start ’15.
“Last year they gave me that opportunity at the end of the season and I did my job,” Mujica said. “It’s out of my hands. It’s their decision what they’re going to do. I’m going to be ready for whatever situation.
“Right now I feel pretty good. I don’t think about that. That’s their decision. I’m going to be out there working hard, trying to do my best when they call me to the mound. Same thing in the season. I’m going to be ready to go in whatever situation.”
|Joe Kelly, other new Red Sox starters learning rules of spring training road||02.27.15 at 12:35 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Four of the Red Sox five starters had never experienced a spring training outside the organization they signed with prior to this year. Now, Clay Buchholz stands alone as only knowing one club’s approach to preparing for the season.
So now, after a few days of immersing themselves in the Red Sox way, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley can take stock of the differences when it comes to training in Southwest Florida.
For Kelly, the indoctrination to life in and around JetBlue Park was helped along the other night on Daniels Parkway (the road that leads to the Red Sox‘ complex).
“Don’t speed,” Kelly said when asked about what he has learned in regards to his new surroundings.
“I got pulled over the other night with my dogs,” the pitcher said. “They thought I was drunk driving but I was telling them to sit down in the back and got pulled over. The cop asked for my license. I didn’t have my wallet or proof or insurance, and he let me go. So it was pretty cool.”
Was his escape hastened by dropping the name of his employer?
“No, I didn’t,” said Kelly when asked if he mentioned he played for the Red Sox. “He got called in for I think a robbery. He was like, ‘I got to go. Drive slow.'”
Other than the difference in speed traps along the roads of Fort Myers and Jupiter, where he previously trained, Kelly suggests the first-time switch in spring training surroundings hasn’t been all that awkward.
“No. It really isn’t. Not really at all, for me,” the Cardinals’ former third-round pick said in regards to the suggestion the new surroundings might seem bizarre. “Same drills. Same kind of way to go about your business. The only thing different are the faces.
“In St. Louis we did more hitting and running and stuff because it was the National League. It’s a little bit easier here because you don’t have to do as much from a pitching standpoint as you do in a National League camp, where you have to take swings every day.”
Porcello, on the other hand, can identify a difference compared to what he came from with the Tigers, the team that drafted the righty with the 27th overall pick in 2007.
“It is different,” he said. “You’re working on the same stuff, but the way you go about it is a little bit different from where I came from. It’s been awesome. The intensity level is high. You get after it. It’s something you don’t see as consistently in other plays.
“It’s definitely more structured, more up-tempo. We’re going hard right from the get-go, right from Day 1. There’s not feeling it out or taking it easy. We’re pretty much going game-speed, making it as realistic as they can make it.”
Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks’ first-round pick in 2008, explained his biggest challenge in entering his new world.
“The hardest thing for me is putting names with faces,” he said. “I was in Arizona since I was drafted, to you know everybody. Now, even some of the players I haven’t gotten name to face yet.”
|How would David Ortiz speed up game? No more instant replay, fewer pitching changes||02.26.15 at 11:43 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Much has been made of David Ortiz criticizing baseball for implementing a new rule preventing hitters from stepping out of the batter’s box in an attempt to shorten games.
But if not the MLB-mandated batter’s box regulation, then how would Ortiz shave time off these games? Appearing on the Hot Stove Show: Spring Training Edition Thursday night, the Red Sox designated hitter offered one of his solutions.
“First thing I would do would be cancel the replay thing,” Ortiz said. “That takes a lot of time. When you have to review a play that just happened, man, sometimes that takes forever. If you call safe or out, they should just leave it right there like it used to be.
“It’s taking forever, and we’re talking about shortening up the time. It’s taking forever. They have to go review and make sure the guy from New York say whatever he has to say. Sometimes you’ll be like, ‘Man, this is taking forever.’ ”
According to an MLB report in the middle of the 2014 season, the average time for a replay was 1:50. One adjustment made to the process for ’15 is the ability for managers to inform umpires they want to challenge a play without leaving the dugout.
Another solution offered by Ortiz to speed things up would be to limit pitching changes made by managers. According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, such an idea was floated by Cubs president Theo Epstein at the most recent GM Meetings.
Epstein’s idea was to make it mandatory that all relievers be forced to face at least two (and possibly as many as three) batters per appearance.
“How about every manager wants to match up every hitter after the fifth inning,” Ortiz said. “That takes forever, too. There’s games you see five or six guys pitching. That takes forever. So, if you’re talking about timing, it’s critical. The time you plan on saving, it’s not going to be saved.”
Also on the show, Ortiz reiterated his stance regarding the batter’s box rule.
|Shane Victorino on switch-hitting: ‘I would like to try it again’||02.26.15 at 5:29 pm ET|
The Red Sox outfielder proclaimed after taking batting practice on the Fenway South fields that he would be hitting from both side of the plate this season. Victorino had abandoned hitting from the left side at the end of the 2013 season due to thumb and hamstring injuries.
“Yeah, absolutely,” the outfielder said when asked if he was looking forward to returning to life of a switch-hitter. “Everything feels great. It’s something I’ve been successful at and that I would like to go back to. The body feels good, and we’ll go from there. It’s a good thing to have in your back pocket, being able to switch-hit.
“I came into camp, I spoke to them about it and I told them I would like to try it again and they were all for it.”
Victorino did mix in three at-bats as a lefty hitter during the 2013 postseason, but the other 60 plate appearances came from the right side. He didn’t have any at-bats as a lefty in ’14.
“I feel awkward taking BP sometimes, and that’s the kind of things I want to work on,” he explained. “It’s about feel, it’s about path. But I have to get that feel. I’ve got to get that understanding of letting myself go. I have time. I’ve always been an aggressive hitter, but sometimes I can’t control my hands because it’s not natural so I have to slow everything down. I’m working on those kind of things. But it’s more about at-bats and seeing pitches. I feel great taking BP, but once that ball starts sinking, moving and changing speeds it’s a different ballgame. But I’ve been there before.”
Over his career, Victorino has better success from one side of the plate, excelling as a righty (.865 OPS) more then as a left-handed hitter (.724). His last two seasons (2012-13) as a full-time switch-hitter he had a combined .879 OPS as a right-handed hitter, and .655 OPS as a lefty.
New Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis is optimistic about Victorino’s return to a practice he began back in 2005.
“From one year to the next, even if you’ve done it before, you come back to spring training and you try and refine it,” said Davis, who was also a switch-hitter. “He hasn’t forgotten anything. I think the thing with him is that it’s going to be such a pleasure to get back on that said and do the same things. All he’s doing is trying to retrain himself with the habits he had left-handed. He’s going about it the right way.
“I’m sure for him, you jump on the right side guys who didn’t throw that little slider, now they figure they can play with him differently. He feels good and he works at it. It’s probably going to come back quicker than he thinks.”
|Rusney Castillo knows all about being penalized for stepping out of batter’s box||02.26.15 at 4:36 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The mystery of what is going to transpire when umpires start enforcing Major League Baseball‘s new rule of not allowing hitters to step out of the batter’s box isn’t a mystery to Rusney Castillo, at all.
As it turns out, Castillo has already gone through such a transition, along with the rest of those playing under the Baseball Federation of Cuba.
The Red Sox outfielder explained Thursday that in an effort to speed up the games (sound familiar) the governing body of Cuban baseball decided to enact the same rule that is creating so much buzz heading into the 2015 MLB season.
“The game used to be really long, but about two years ago they implemented the rule we’re trying to implement, with the hitter staying in the box,” Castillo said. “That sped the game up a little bit.
“It did mess with some hitters, but for me, if I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to do it and I didn’t think about all that much. It wasn’t all that difficult for me, personally.”
Unlike the proposed MLB regulation, where the penalty is a warning and a potential fine, the ramification of stepping out of the box in Cuba was a called strike.
(Cuban pitchers also are mandated to throw a pitch within an allotted time span, with somebody — although not publicly-viewed clock — monitoring the seconds. The payment for going over is a called ball.)
“The biggest complaint is that people like to take that time to readjust and refocus,” Castillo said. “It was just happening a little too quick, quicker than they wanted to. They wanted to control the tempo.
“It just took some time, but over the course of a season it just became normal. Now it’s just normal. I don’t know about a big difference, but it did make a difference.”
Watch the first few pitches of Castillo’s initial professional at-bat, and you can get an understanding of how he has learned to adjust in between offerings:
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