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Stuffy McInnis getting no love from Red Sox fans 02.28.12 at 2:41 pm ET
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The Red Sox are conducting an ongoing poll to see who might be the best players ever to man their respective positions for the Sox during Fenway Park’s 100 years. (To do your part by voting, click here.)

Thus far, folks have been able to vote for four positions: first base, catcher, right-handed pitcher and left-handed pitcher. Here are the results to date:

catcher Jason Varitek 51.49
catcher Carlton Fisk 47.10
catcher Rich Gedman 0.97
catcher Rick Ferrell 0.26
catcher Sammy White 0.18
catcher Birdie Tebbetts 0.09
firstbase Jimmie Foxx 46.77
firstbase Kevin Youkilis 21.44
firstbase Mo Vaughn 17.23
firstbase George Scott 10.15
firstbase Bill Buckner 4.00
firstbase Stuffy McInnis 0.41
lefthandedpitcher Lefty Grove 22.66
lefthandedpitcher Jon Lester 20.93
lefthandedpitcher Babe Ruth 19.52
lefthandedpitcher Bill Lee 14.32
lefthandedpitcher Mel Parnell 10.77
lefthandedpitcher Bruce Hurst 8.23
lefthandedpitcher Dutch Leonard 2.19
lefthandedpitcher Ray Collins 1.12
lefthandedpitcher Herb Pennock 0.24
righthandedpitcher Pedro Martinez 50.92
righthandedpitcher Roger Clemens 16.99
righthandedpitcher Tim Wakefield 16.45
righthandedpitcher Luis Tiant 5.62
righthandedpitcher Smoky Joe Wood 3.87
righthandedpitcher Jim Lonborg 2.74
righthandedpitcher Dennis Eckersley 2.28
righthandedpitcher Bill Monbouquette 0.91
righthandedpitcher Tex Hughson 0.22
Daisuke Matsuzaka has a plan, and it includes pitching until he’s 40 02.25.12 at 10:46 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Two years ago, Daisuke Matsuzaka told WEEI.com that his goal was to pitch at least he was 40 years-old and do so while performing in the United States.

Friday he was asked if anything has changed having his career slightly derailed by Tommy John surgery.

‘€œI feel the same way,’€ Matsuzaka said through translator Jeff Cutler.

Matsuzaka’€™s future is a topic worthy of conversation, with the 31-year-old entering the final year of his five-year contract. He has pitched in 106 regular season games for the Red Sox, owns a 49-30 record with a 4.25 ERA, having thrown 10,766 pitches. And, by the way, the righty is expected to miss half of 2012 due to elbow injury.

‘€œFive years have gone by pretty quickly,’€ Matsuzaka said. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t feel that way. Going into the last year of my contract, it’€™s hard to fathom. All I can really do is do what I can to make a comeback and give back to the team as much as possible.

‘€œEven though it’€™s the last year of my contract, I’€™m still part of this team. As long as that’€™s the case my job is to do everything in my power to contribute to the team.’€

As one scout who saw Matsuzaka pitch numerous times in Japan recently said, ‘€œYou haven’€™t seen the best of Daisuke.’€

Even with this elbow-induced pitstop, there is still time.

Upon his return, it will be interesting to see how much more Matsuzaka throws his changeup, a pitch Bobby Valentine said he would like to see the pitcher use more. He has never used the offering more than 11 percent of the time against left-handed hitters since his arrival in ‘€™07, with barely any offerings to righties.

‘€œThe changeup is an important pitch for me so I would like to get to the point where I am able to throw it with confidence,’€ he said.

Then there is the velocity.

Those who saw Matsuzaka pitch in Japan insists he lived between 95-97 mph. Partly due to the elbow injury, he’€™s never had a season in which is fastball averaged more than 92 mph.

‘€œI’€™m not sure where my velocity is going to be when I come back, but what I’€™m looking forward to the most is being healthy and that’€™s all that I’€™m worried about at the moment,’€ he said. ‘€œ(Pitching with a lower velocity) was a cause of stress, but I had to find a way to work through that.

‘€œWhen I make a comeback I want to be able to throw the ball in a way I can be satisfied with and be happy with my performance. I would like to show everybody a me that’€™s the best they’€™ve ever seen.’€

Vincente Padilla hoping life as a reliever is thing of the past 02.24.12 at 9:48 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Vincente Padilla picked the Red Sox for a reason.

“This is a great opportunity to be a starter,” said the 34-year-old told WEEI.com Friday morning. “I like starting. I’ve started for a long time.”

And it is clear Padilla will get every opportunity to win one of the last spots in the Red Sox’ rotation. But, after showing some promise out of the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ bullpen in 2011 — even serving as the team’s closer for a few weeks prior to having to undergo neck surgery — the idea of the righty contributing to late innings in the Sox’ bullpen would seem interesting.

Not for Padilla, however.

When asked why the Red Sox won out for his services, signing the former All-Star to a one-year, minor-league contract (that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the majors), Padilla said, “Other teams needed me as a reliever.” Then, when the subject of possibly being utilized out of the bullpen once again came up, he shook his head, reiterating that his hope is to put relieving in the rear-view mirror.

“Now I’m working as a starter,” said 13-year major league veteran. “I think my arm is good.”

For the record, prior to the ’11 campaign, in which he made all nine of his appearances out of the bullpen, Padilla he had made just two relief appearances in 206 outings.

Meet the next Red Sox shortstop to wear No. 5 02.23.12 at 10:02 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ He is the next Red Sox shortstop to wear No. 5. But such an honor wasn’€™t taken lightly by Nick Punto.

The new Sox infielder chose No. 5 to wear with his new team, but only after traveling secretary Jack McCormick made a call to the last shorstop to wear the digit ‘€“ Nomar Garciaparra ‘€“ for approval.

‘€œI want to call him, thank him and tell him how honored I am to wear it,’€ said Punto of Garciaparra. ‘€œHe taught me a lot as a young player when we were working out at [Athletes Performance]. I just always looked up to him as a person and a player. I’€™m honored.’€

(It should be noted that one player, Rocco Baldelli, has worn No. 5 since Garciaparra left in ’04.)

Punto had first started wearing the number in honor of George Brett as a kid before being derailed after Double-A, leading to a big league identification of No. 8.

‘€œIt’€™s pretty cool. I was excited,’€ Punto added. ‘€œI didn’€™t know how that was going to be. I knew I wasn’€™t going to be [Carl Yastrzemski], so I had to change it up and, I was a single-digit guy.’€

The first chance Punto had to wear his new number, and new uniform, came Wednesday when he went out to field grounders with Jose Iglesias.

One moment of note: On one slow-roller, Punto charged and casually flipped the ball, on the run, to second base, sailing it over the fielder’€™s head. Immediately a voice bellowed from the nearby dugout.

‘€œIf you turn your foot a little bit more that doesn’€™t happen. You know that Nick.’€

The words came from manager Bobby Valentine, a good 50 yards away, and offered a reminder what was waiting for Punto in the coming season.

‘€œThat’s not typical, but, you know what, it’s Bobby Valentine,’€ he said. ‘€œHe knows what he’s talking about. And what he’s yelling about was right on. I knew what I did. It was spot-on and for him to pick that up at that speed, wow. For me, that was the moment I knew Bobby knows his stuff.’€

David Ortiz talks September collapse, free agency, future with Red Sox 02.22.12 at 10:34 am ET
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Shortly after arriving at JetBlue Park for the first time, Wednesday, David Ortiz took time to field questions from the media. The Red Sox‘ DH touched on a variety of subjects, including last September’s collapse, his foray into free agency, and how he currently views his team. The following is a transcript from the 30-minute session:

(Thoughts about the new year?)

You always have something to prove. A new year, new season. I’m excited, very excited.

(Did you have any beer and chicken?)

Do I look like it?

(Thoughts on the controversy surrounding the team following last season?)

After you finish the way we did always somebody has something to say about it, that’s normal. I think it’s 2012 already. It’s a new season. I think a good way to start things is being positive. Saw most of my teammates out there and it looks like everybody is ready to go. This year is going to be a challenge, like some other times. It’s a year everybody has to come in and pull themselves together and try to change things around.

We have a lot of leaders, a lot of guys capable to change things around. That’s not going to be a problem. Sometimes you get caught in some situations and things get out of hand for a minute. The deal people make about our clubhouse last year was bigger than what it was, that’s the way I see it. That’s why at one point I was like, ‘Whatever.’ You can make any story, you can say whatever you want, but we’re the one who knows how our clubhouse runs. I’m one of the guys who is one of the older guys here on the team and I know there are a lot of people watching what I do. That put me in a situation where I had to try and do things, not perfect because I’m not perfect ‘€¦ my teammates are a group of hard-working guys, I believe in them and when I was listening to everything people had to say last year it got me a little upset because it isn’t like that. But playing the way we played the last month, and the way things went down, of course you’re going to have the right to say whatever you want. But one thing I wasn’t worried about was leadership. I’m not worried about that because everybody takes things personal here. Everybody wants to go out and do something to help this ball club to win games.

(Leadership on the team?)

I always feel that. I’ve been feeling that for years. It’s not like it’s new to me. Like I say, when guys walk into our clubhouse guys already know what our goal is. Based on what happened the last month of the season last year it seemed like everything was going south. It didn’t matter what we did, it seemed like everything was going to end up the way it did. Now this year we’ve changed things around. You learn from your mistakes. You learn from your struggles. So I’m pretty sure everybody is on same page now and things are going to be different. We have a new manager, Bobby, and he has an idea what he wants to do with all of us and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to take over and try and do his job his best.

(On pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games)

Well, I don’€™t think ‘€¦ not because of the beer or the chicken. The problem was when they did it. If they come out and apologize, that means they’€™re not going to do it again. Because of that, you need to turn the page. We’€™re going to be thinking of the fried chicken and the beer that they had last September and March and February of 2012? No. you’€™re not going to resolve any problems with that. Now, we have a new skipper, he is aware of all this stuff and he’€™s going to try to change things around. That’€™s all you can do about it.

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Clay Buchholz got a surprise when he stepped on the scale Monday 02.21.12 at 10:38 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Every spring training, Clay Buchholz‘€™ weight seems to be a storyline.

There was great excitement the previous two reporting dates when the 27-year-old came into camp weighing close to 200 pounds.

Then came Monday’€™s physical, a new reality was thrown Buchholz’€™ way: The scale had him at 184 pounds.

While in past years the thinned-down 6-foot-3 might be cause for concern — suggesting that the righty would have a hard time turning in an ample amount of injuries with such a build ‘€“ the listed weight might actually be an encouraging sign.

Back injuries and extra weight don’€™t usually go well together, suggesting this is trending in the proper direction

‘€œThe weight came off so easy that it felt like it almost needed to come off,’€ Buchholz said Tuesday morning. ‘€œI feel better now just being able to move around. I feel lighter on my feet than I did last year, all year. It came off quick in a month. That’€™s sort of why I don’€™t mind it.’€

Does it mean that this is where the weight should have been all along?

‘€œI hope so, because that’€™s what it feels like,’€ Buchholz said. ‘€œIt feels good.

‘€œI knew I was lighter. I didn’€™t know I was 10 pounds lighter than at the beginning of the offseason. I was talking to Pedroia this offseason and he said, ‘€˜They want me to weigh 185, but I feel good playing at 165 or 170. It doesn’€™t matter how much you weigh as long as you can do your job and help the team win.’€™’€

The legend of Mike Aviles’ calves 02.20.12 at 10:28 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There aren’t too many days in a baseball season — even in spring training — where shorts are the standard issue for a workout. But Monday, that was the case, with whichever Red Sox choosing to participate in voluntary workouts donning red shorts to go along with what was typically a gray t-shirt.

It left Mike Aviles counting the days until baseball pants could be worn again.

With the usual baseball garb, the Red Sox shortstop can usually glide through his days without noticing the conversation-starter that has buzzed around virtually every clubhouse he has been in throughout his baseball-playing plays — Aviles has unwordly big calves. (See accompanying photo.)

“My dad has big legs, my brother, my sister. It runs in my family. It’€™s like a known thing in our family. The first thing you look for when the baby comes out is, you look for the calves,” he said Monday. “You know exactly whose kid that is.”

When Aviles was traded to the Red Sox last summer, the immediate buzz around the clubhouse wasn’t regarding the infielder’s playing abilities, but rather the uniqueness of his leg muscles. And it wasn’t just members of the Sox who took note.

Orlando Cabrera would always say all the time, ‘€˜I don’€™t understand why you don’€™t wear those pants up. If I had those calves I would wear them up all the time.’€™ I told him it was because everybody looks at them all the time and asks me about them, so I just wear pants all the time,” he explained.

But the truly fascinating part about Aviles’ unique physical stature is the road he has taken to get to this point. It is one that leaves inquiring minds in disbelief.

“In all honesty, I don’€™t workout my calves, ever, because if I work out they’€™ll just get bigger,” he said. “I’€™m not lying to you. I don’€™t do anything with my calves. They would just get bigger and they’€™re already big. Ever since I was in Little League, it is the first thing everybody notices. When I was younger, before I got to college, I was always skinny. I had always been just bones and huge calves. There would be this skinny kid running around with big calves, and that was me until I started growing into my body.

“That’€™s the first thing everybody always tells me. They say, ‘€˜Nice calves. Are those real?’€™ I go to the gym at home and guys who are doing body-building ask, ‘€˜Are those real? What do you do? Did you have implants?’€™ I’€™m like, ‘€˜I promise you, you can shadow me in this gym and I’€™ll not do any calf exercises.’€™ My mom and my dad have big legs. In our family we have strong, muscular legs. Nobody notices the rest of my legs because all they see is the calves. … Now you see why I wear my pants down low.”

Aviles leg muscles are so developed, he explained, that he can’t wear certain style of jeans, and when he does buy a pair it has to be a size 36 waist even though his waist is only 32 inches.

And even though Aviles doesn’t incorporate his calves into workouts, he has managed to maintain a better overall fitness level over the years. In 2008, the last time the former Royal played shortstop on a regular basis, he weighed 210 pounds while maintaining 13 percent body fat. Now, with his latest opportunity to become an everyday shortstop upon him, Aviles tilts the scales at 205 with nine percent body fat.

“I’€™m actually ligthter now because believe or not back then I never watched what I ate. I ate whatever I wanted and didn’€™t care until I got hurt and then I really took a whole new focus on my career,” said Aviles, referencing his Tommy John surgery in 2009. ” I had never been hurt before so I didn’€™t realize why it was important to take care of myself.”

John Henry: Terry Francona ‘will always be a part of the Red Sox family’ 02.20.12 at 9:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — Two days after a report in the Boston Herald suggested that he had not returned several phone calls from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona this offseason, Sox owner John Henry wrote in an email that he had not been trying to avoid contact since the former manager parted ways with the Sox. Henry said that he did talk to Francona on Monday, in the process dispelling misunderstandings that the two might have had, and that the two plan to get together in Fort Myers this spring.

“I called Tito about this today. We spoke also about a number of things, but regarding what you inquired about, he said he had called on my cell phone but didn’€™t leave any messages. We simply missed each other apparently a few times,” Henry wrote. “Had he left me a message, I would have certainly called him back. We talked extensively and agreed that we had waited far too long in speaking and both of us had probably come to some wrong conclusions as to why we hadn’€™t. We are looking forward to sitting down in Ft. Myers this spring for lunch or a game. He will always be a part of the Red Sox family.”

Henry also praised his former employee, who managed the Sox for eight seasons, reaching the playoffs five times and winning two titles.

“Tito was the best manager the Boston Red Sox ever had,” he wrote. “We won two World Series together. He’€™ll be terrific on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. And no one can doubt that he will be managing again very soon.”

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Bobby Valentine on beer in clubhouse, Bobby Jenks, Carl Crawford and rule changes 02.20.12 at 5:35 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ On the last day of informal workouts prior to the Red Sox pitchers and catchers participating in the official start of spring training activities at JetBlue Park, Bobby Valentine took stock of various items when it came to his new team:

On if there would be alcohol in the clubhouse

‘€œI’€™m not going to say what I decided yet. I think the players should hear that first.’€

On how much rules might change

‘€œThere is a posting of rules that probably aren’€™t going to change one iota from what they were last year for spring training. The only thing that might change is driving to other ballparks. There might have been one other thing. Where’€™s Bogie when you need him?

‘€œSometimes guys drove to ballparks when we played away. We’€™re not going to do that.’€

Regarding Carl Crawford’€™s batting stance

‘€œWell, his agent told me that he had worked on some things and we liked it. Obviously he’€™s not swinging yet. As long as he has a good image of himself, that’€™s all that matters.’€

On meeting up with Crawford face-to-face for the first time

‘€œI didn’€™t know he was there. He was throwing the ball. It was great to see him. His health looks much better than I expected. I’€™m pleasantly surprised.’€

On Aaron Cook being held back a bit

‘€œWe decided there’€™s going to be one more conference with the training staff and with him ‘€¦ he threw 35 pitches today to determine whether he’€™s a step behind or on pace.

‘€œAaron Cook has had shoulder issues in the past where, when he’€™s come back, he’€™s come back too soon and he’€™s done a step forward and two back. We’€™re trying to prevent that from happening again. We’€™re trying to get him so he can cruise on through. He’€™s not hurt. He’€™s just trying to learn from the past.’€

(Valentine also mentioned that Ross Ohlendorf would be the other pitcher being held back)

On Bobby Jenk’€™s status

‘€œBobby said he’€™d like to take it one week at a time. I’€™d say that means he’€™s a long ways away from thinking about baseball activities. He’€™s really had a terrible offseason health-wise so he’€™s a real backburner guy. I don’€™t expect to see him in many baseball activities for a while, if at all this spring.

“I would think that he would be that in-season trade that everyone would be looking for and we’d have him right here already. That’s what I’m hoping for at this point. I would think some time into the season. Things happen differently and that’s my opinion. That’s not written in any Holy Grail.”

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Which Red Sox are out of options heading into 2012 season 02.15.12 at 12:13 pm ET
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Per usual, Tim Dierkes and MLB Trade Rumors came up with another informative post this morning, listing those major league players out of options heading into the 2012 season. Of note were the list of Red Sox who fell under the option-less umbrella — Pitchers Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Matt Albers, along with outfielder Darnell McDonald.

The list — which only includes players on the 40-man roster — offers a reminder when it comes to what the Red Sox might be weighing in when it comes to cut down day. In other words, if it is coming down to a pitcher in the aforementioned group and somebody like Junichi Tazawa (who does have an option) when making a decision for the Opening Day roster, even with a slight performance edge Tazawa would find himself back down in Triple-A Pawtucket.

In case you forgot, any player out of options would have to clear waivers if he was sent to the minors. Only one option is used per year when a player is called up to the major leagues, no matter how many times they are promoted.

Looking at the roster today, going off 2011 performance, it would appear that both Morales and Albers have jobs to lose heading into spring training, with Doubront and Miller certainly getting heavy looks because they are lefties and possess significant upside when healthy and mechanically sound.

Of the pitchers, it is Bowden whose fate would be most connected to his performance in spring training (perhaps in large part because he is not a left-hander and no longer is viewed as a starter).

The 25-year-old seemed to find his niche in 2010 when moved to the bullpen. In ’11, Bowden saw two stints with the big club, being called up at the end of May and pitching through the end of June, and then resurfacing just before September. From Sept. 15 through to the end of the regular season, he pitched just three times, but allowed just a single hit over four innings.

From 2007-09 Bowden was ranked as a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, and hasn’t allowed more than a 3.66 ERA in any of his past four minor league seasons (all spent with Pawtucket). In fact, ’11 might have quietly been his best year to date, finishing with a 2.73 EA while appearing in 41 games for the PawSox, striking out 61 and walking 18.

As for McDonald, the outfielder came close to leaving the organization because he was out of options in 2010, having been actually informed by the team that it would be designating him for assignment during a series against Tampa Bay. But an injury to Jacoby Ellsbury that day put a halt to all paperwork, keeping McDonald with the Red Sox.

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