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David Ortiz planning to take it slow once spring training begins 02.06.13 at 10:14 am ET
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Talking by phone from the Dominican Republic, David Ortiz said he remains encouraged regarding his progress in coming back from an injured right Achilles tendon, but he admits he most likely will have to be cautious during the initial portion of spring training.

“I’m not completely recovered, but I’m going to be ready to go for Opening Day,” Ortiz told WEEI.com early Wednesday morning.

He then added when asked if he would have to somewhat ease into spring training: “Yeah, but it all depends what the doctors say. They say I’m going to have my days I’m not going to feel that well. I haven’€™t had those yet, but I haven’t started the hard stuff. But the one thing I can tell you is I’m able to do the agility drills without any pain, which I wasn’t able to do before, so that’s a good thing. When I was injured those used to cause me a lot of pain, and I don’t have any pain when I do them now.”

The designated hitter, who suffered the injury while rounding the bases July 17, reports that he has been hitting without any issues, and participated in some “small running,” with a plan to participate in some more extensive running Wednesday.

“I think everything is good,” he said. “Hopefully I don’t have any setbacks, but right now everything is good.”

While Ortiz is taking the approach of taking things slow upon arriving in Fort Myers just prior to the Feb. 14 reporting date, he remains cautiously optimistic that he will be ready to participate when spring training games begin. “Pretty sure” he said when asked if he would be ready to go by the team’s spring training opener on Feb. 21.

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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The man who will be in charge of making Mike Napoli a full-time first baseman 02.02.13 at 10:23 am ET
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Brian Butterfield hasn’t seen much of Mike Napoli play first base, either on video or in person. Truth be told, few have really witnessed the new Red Sox infielder man the position on the kind of regular basis 2013 undoubtedly will deliver.

But that doesn’t mean Butterfield — the Red Sox’ third base and infield coach — isn’t already armed with a plan when it comes to molding Napoli.

“The first thing is that we haven’t seen him a whole lot defensively at first base. I just want to get eyes on him during spring training, and that’s off the end of a fungo bat. Just let him do what he does, that’s first and foremost,” Butterfield explained. “From there, with any player, then you might start tweaking and start adding on. In a short period of a time when you watch a guy off the end of a fungo bat you’re able to access some of the things he does well, and not so well. It’s real important we don’t hurry anything too much. We have to get our eyes on him, and let him do what he does and we’ll take it from there.”

Napoli isn’t exactly a first base novice, having played the position both in the minors, and for 133 major-league games. But the first-base playing time, and expectations, will be a completely different dynamic for the 31-year-old.

Fortunately for the player and the team, Butterfield has gone down this road before.

The coach’s latest project took place in his final few years in Toronto, where Edwin Encarnacion went from third baseman, to designated hitter, to the Blue Jays’ starter at first. It was the kind of success story that Butterfield believes might mirror what awaits Napoli.

“Believe or not, I think sometimes when a guy has things go right offensively that will give him more confidence on the defensive side,” said Butterfield, pointing to Encarnacion’s development into one of the American League’s top power hitters. “When he starts feeling some things, and starts enjoying a little bit more success, that’s when you should see him take off.”

“With every player, it’s a little bit different. It’s really important because he’s responsible for a lot of players on the field. A good first baseman is responsible for the welfare of three other infielders and a pitcher. So his ability to handle throws and move on the base, get to a base and get to a comfortable position, to be able to stretch and move athletically on the base are all important. A lot of this comes from third basemen around the league. You talk to to A-Rod and he says, ‘When Tex I don’t have to think about hitting him the chest. I just think about letting it fly. Just make sure I don’t miss high. If I give a chance I feel confident he’s going to get anything I throw over there.’ Guys have said that about Youkilis. Guys have said that about Gonzalez.

“But I would say the primary requisites are getting around the base and feeling comfortable taking throws from all your infielders, being able to dig the ball out, being able to stretch into foul territory, and being in position to take any kind of throw, whether it’s wide or down.”

Ironically, Butterfield is set to be re-introduced to another of his initial first base projects, newly-acquired Lyle Overbay.

Overbay was drafted by the Diamondbacks when Butterfield was serving on the Arizona coaching staff. The two were then reunited in Toronto when the now-36-year-old was traded to the Blue Jays prior to the 2006 season.

“He went from a young first baseman in Arizona, where people knew he could hit but there were questions about his defense. But he really has played himself into above-average status,” Butterfield said. “He catches balls on the ground, can pick throws, he moves, he’s athletic moving off the base, and the one thing he can really do is throw. For me there are a lot of good defensive third basemen, but what really separates the top tier guys is the ability to throw, and throw fearlessly. He’s really good.

“He’s a guy who is going to seek you out to do extra work. You never have to chase him down. So he’s going to do everything he can. He is still going to take the approach that he has to get better every day.”

Source: Red Sox agree to minor league deal with Lyle Overbay 01.31.13 at 4:09 pm ET
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According to a baseball source, the Red Sox reached an agreement with first baseman Lyle Overbay on a minor league deal. Overbay, who turned 36 three days ago, spent 2012 with the Diamondbacks and Braves, hitting .259/.331/.397/.727 in 65 games, including a .292/.367/.448/.815 line with the Diamondbacks through July before an injury wiped out his August. He struggled after being dealt to Atlanta, where he served primarily as a pinch-hitter in 20 games, hitting .100/.143/.150/.293 in 20 games that spanned 21 plate appearances.

In 12 big league seasons with the Diamondbacks, Brewers, Blue Jays, Pirates and Braves, Overbay is a career .270/.353/.438/.791 hitter who’s averaged 16 homers and 39 doubles per 162 games. If Overbay makes the Sox roster, he represents a potential left-handed complement to Mike Napoli, who was signed to be the Sox’ everyday first baseman. Aside from Overbay, the Sox also have Mauro Gomez and Mark Hamilton as potential backup options at first base.

For complete Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

Bullpen coach Gary Tuck leaves Red Sox 01.29.13 at 7:08 pm ET
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Multiple major sources have confirmed that Red Sox bullpen coach Gary Tuck has chosen not to return for the 2013 season. It is unclear why Tuck has chosen not to return after initially agreeing to join manager John Farrell‘s coaching staff earlier in the offseason.

Earlier this offseason, the Red Sox had retained the services of Tuck, who was in the option year of his contract. The 58-year-old had been with the Red Sox since 2006, serving as both the team’s bullpen coach and catching instructor, having been courted by John Farrell to become the Blue Jays bench coach prior to the ’11 season.

Tuck, who had left the Red Sox for a stretch during the 2012 regular season due to personal reasons and also required time to recover from double hernia surgery in spring training last year, would have been the lone member of the Red Sox’ 2012 major league coaching staff to return for ’13. At this time, there is no known replacement for the highly regarded instructor, though it is worth noting that Chad Epperson, the team’s minor league catching coordinator, filled in for Tuck as the bullpen coach during his leave in 2012.

Tuck was hugely protective of both his catchers and members of the Red Sox bullpen, forming a pirate-themed club among Sox relievers that carried over from season to season. Besides working with the backstops, he also was credited with the development of numerous Sox pitchers, with one example being former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima. Early in the 2007 season, Tuck taught Okajima the changeup (or “Okee-doke”) that helped turn the lefty into an All-Star.

Tuck is believed to be the only coach in major league history to have won World Series rings with both the Red Sox and Yankees. He has developed a reputation as one of the game’s premier catching instructors, having played professionally at the position during a three-year minor league career with the Montreal Expos.

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Will Middlebrooks says not to worry about Mike Napoli 01.27.13 at 8:52 am ET
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Will Middlebrooks has a message for those who might be curious about the status of Mike Napoli: Don’€™t worry.

The Red Sox third baseman has been working out with his new teammate at the Athlete’€™s Performance facility near Dallas and reports he has seen no ill-effects from Napoli’€™s recently-diagnosed avascular necrosis. (In case you missed it, the AVN ailment is a degenerative disease that kills bone tissue.)

‘€œNot at all,’€ said Middlebrooks when asked if Napoli has shown any signs of being hindered by the condition. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t hurt him, and he’€™ll tell you the same thing. It’€™s just one of those things that’€™s tough because he doesn’€™t have any of the symptoms, but it’€™s there.’€

Physical issues aside, after spending time with Napoli at the training facility, Middlebrooks feels the first baseman is a great fit for what the Red Sox need.

‘€œHe’€™s awesome,’€ the third baseman said. ‘€œHe’€™s fun to be around. He’€™s been one of my main hitting partners during the past month. He’€™s going to be great for this clubhouse.’€

One of the chief concerns which surfaces when analyzing Napoli’€™s effectiveness at first base is what it might mean for Middlebrooks’€™ mindset.

With Napoli entering into being a full-time first baseman for the first time in his career ‘€“ having previously played 133 of his 672 career games at the position ‘€“ his ability to prevent errant throws from the other three infielders has been a talking point.

MIddlebrooks, who has been playing catch with Napoli at AP, doesn’€™t foresee the dynamic being an issue.

‘€œYou have to trust him to know if have to make a play, or you have to throw a ball low and one-hop it to him, he’€™s going to catch it,’€ the third baseman said. ‘€œThere’€™s a lot of balls you have to just get rid of and I’€™m not going to make the best throw. Having Adrian over there was nice because he caught everything.

‘€œI don’€™t think it’€™s a problem, but of course I haven’€™t short-hopped him playing catch. I think everything is going to be fine, and if I make a bad throw that’€™s on me. But I think it’€™s going to be fine.’€

Middlebrooks believes that the time he put in on major league fields during 2012 ‘€“ before having his season ended with a fractured right wrist ‘€“ is going to make everybody’€™s life easier.

The improvement started with getting a new glove, (‘€œThey sent me one of the gloves that Pedey uses and it was so much better. I had that old glove I was using in the minor leagues and it just wasn’€™t cutting it anymore,’€ he said) and continued with improved confidence.

He didn’€™t make an error in any of his last 17 games (47 chances) after having committed nine miscues in his previous 56 appearances.

‘€œMost of that was studying and knowing how to play certain players,’€ said Middlebrooks, who saw the Red Sox go 42-31 when he played. ‘€œThat first month or two up here, my first time seeing hitters, I didn’€™t know how to play them. I might be playing too far in and they’€™re smoking balls at me. And then other guys are fast guys and I’€™m playing too deep and they’€™re beating my throw over there. It’€™s just learning where to play guys in certain situations.’€

And what about the health of his wrist?

‘€œI have no restrictions at all, he said. ‘€œI can say I’€™m 100 percent.’€

Red Sox agree to minor league deal with OF Ryan Sweeney 01.25.13 at 8:00 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement on a minor league deal with outfielder Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney, who turns 28 next month, spent 2012 with the Red Sox after being acquired from the A’s in a trade along with right-hander Andrew Bailey for outfielder Josh Reddick and minor leaguers Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.

Sweeney hit .260 with a .303 OBP, .373 slugging mark and .675 OPS in 63 games, with his season coming to a sudden halt on July 30 when he broke his hand (requiring season-ending surgery) by punching a clubhouse door at Fenway Park. However, his production diminished considerably after he suffered a concussion while making a spectacular diving catch against the Phillies. At the time of that injury, he was hitting .311/.341/.443/.784. Thereafter, he hit .183/.247/.268/.515. In parts of seven big league seasons, he owns a lifetime average of .280 with a .338 OBP, .378 slugging mark and .715 OPS.

The Red Sox elected to non-tender the arbitration-eligible Sweeney last December. However, the team maintained interest in bringing him back on a minor league deal.

The agreement occurred earlier today — at a time when it appears likely that Ryan Kalish will require shoulder surgery that is likely to sideline him for months at the start of the 2013 season. Sweeney has an opt-out in the deal that would allow him to elect free agency if he is not added to the major league roster prior to the end of spring training.

UPDATE: Sweeney tweeted the following:

He later added:

A look at which Red Sox might be getting qualifying offers next time around 01.24.13 at 12:35 am ET
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The first year of going through this ‘Qualifying Offer Era’ has shed some light on what awaits potential free agents following the 2013 season. Nine players were offered qualifying offers, with all but one, David Ortiz, declining the chance to make $13.3 million for the 2013 season. (Ortiz signed with the Red Sox before hitting the free agent market.) Here are the results for the other eight:

Josh Hamilton: Angels, five years, $125 million.

B.J. Upton: Braves, five years, $75 million.

Nick Swisher: Indians, four years, $56 million.

Rafael Soriano: Nationals, two years, $28 million (with enough deferred money to push the present-day value of the deal to about $11 million per season).

Adam LaRoche: Nationals (his previous team), two years, $24 million.

Hiroki Kuroda: Yankees (his previous team), one year, $15 million.

Kyle Lohse: Not signed.

Michael Bourn: Not signed.

Of course, the reason a qualifying offer was presented to these players was to siphon a draft pick if they sign with another team. (The signing team — if not the one previously employing the free agent — would have to surrender a draft pick.) The risk of extending the offer is that the player accepts the chance to make $13.3 million, a cost that might put a short-term strain on some payrolls.

It all opens up an interesting conversation regarding what might transpire for a collection of Red Sox players following the ’13 season.

There are five players currently on the Red Sox’ roster — Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalmacchia, Joel Hanrahan and Stephen Drew — who have legitimate chances to be offered qualifying offers. For most, it would require near-career years for such an opportunity to be presented, while Ellsbury could be just pretty good and still get the star treatment.

Here is a look at whether those players might be in line for qualifying offers, in order of likelihood of getting the one-year offer of what figures to be more than this year’s $13.3 million level: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox announce one-year deal with Mike Napoli; designate Chris Carpenter for assignment 01.22.13 at 3:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox officially announced the signing of infielder Mike Napoli to a one-year deal worth $5 million, that can get to $13 million with incentives. If counted from the day the original three-year, $39 million was agreed upon, on Dec. 3, to Tuesday’s announcement, it took 51 days for the contract to be reworked due to concerns regarding Napoli’s hip. (For details of the contract, click here.) To make room for Napoli on the 40-man roster the team designated Chris Carpenter for assignment.

The following is the complete press release from the team:

The Boston Red Sox today signed first baseman Mike Napoli to a contract for 2013.  To make room for Napoli on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter was designated for assignment. The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Ben Cherington.

Napoli, 31, hit 24 home runs in 108 games for the Rangers in 2012, his first All-Star season.  It was his third consecutive year with at least 24 homers.  In addition, Napoli ranked sixth in home run rate (14.7 AB/HR) and eighth in walk rate (56 walks , 7.5 PA/BB) among American League players with at least 400 plate appearances this past season.  Adam Dunn was the only Major Leaguer with better rates in both categories (13.2 AB/HR, 6.2 PA/BB).

The right-handed batter saw 4.41 pitches per plate appearance, trailing only Dunn (4.43) and A.J. Ellis (4.43) among big leaguers.  His career rate of 4.27 pitches seen per plate appearance ranks fifth among Major Leaguers active through 2012 (min. 2,500 PA).

Napoli, who will wear Number 12, split time between catcher (69 starts), first base (24 starts) and designated hitter (9 starts) last year, totaling a .227 average (80-for-352) with 56 RBI to go along with his 24 home runs.  He hit seven homers and drove in 16 runs over his final 16 regular season games following a stint on the disabled list.

Among American Leaguers with at least 700 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Napoli ranks fourth with a .931 OPS behind Miguel Cabrera (1.017), Jose Bautista (.990), and David Ortiz (.981).  He set career highs in most offensive categories in 2011, including a .320 batting average, 30 home runs, 75 RBI, and 58 walks in 113 games.

Napoli is one of six American Leaguers with at least 20 homers in each of the last five seasons.  Among all Major Leaguers, only Jose Bautista (14.0) and Albert Pujols (14.8) have averaged fewer at-bats per home run than Napoli (14.9) in those five years (min. 1,500 PA).

Since 2008, Napoli ranks fifth in the American League with a .522 slugging percentage and ninth with a .879 OPS.   He leads big league catchers in home runs (120) and slugging during that time.

Napoli is the only catcher ever to reach double-digits in home runs in each of his first seven seasons appearing in the majors (min. 60 games caught per season).  Brian McCann is the only other catcher with at least 20 homers in each of the last five years.

A seven-year Major League veteran, he has hit .259 (587-for-2,270) with 113 doubles, six triples, 146 home runs, and 380 RBI in 727 career Major League games.  He spent the last two seasons with the Rangers (2011-12) after beginning his big league career with five seasons for the Angels (2006-10).

Of his 146 career homers, 109 have come while catching.  His career average of 15.3 at-bats per home run as a catcher is the best among all Major League backstops over the past 35 years.  In that time, only Mike Piazza (.559) has a better slugging percentage while at the position than Napoli (.516).

The Rangers went 79-47 (.627) in his 126 starts behind the plate over the last two seasons, the best winning percentage for any Major League catcher with at least 65 starts.  His 3.80 catcher’€™s ERA since 2011 ranks fifth in the AL (min. 1,000 innings).

Napoli, selected by the Angels in the 17th round of the 2000 June draft, was signed by Todd Claus, now the Red Sox’€™ Latin American Coordinator and International Crosschecker.

In 19 career games at Fenway Park, Napoli has hit .306 (19-for-62) with four doubles, seven home runs, and 17 RBI.  His .710 slugging percentage ranks third all-time at the ballpark (min. 70 PA) after Dave Kingman (.816) and Frank Robinson (.724).  He also leads active players with a 1.107 OPS and just 8.9 at-bats per home run in Boston.

Napoli’€™s clubs have reached the postseason in five of the last six seasons (except 2010).  In 32 career postseason games, he has hit .272 (25-for-92) with five home runs, 19 RBI and 13 walks for a .373 on-base percentage.  He led the Rangers with a .328 batting average (19-for-58) while starting all 17 postseason games during the club’€™s run to the World Series in 2011.

Carpenter, 27, opened the 2012 season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow on March 29.  Before joining the Red Sox as a September call-up, he posted a combined 2.08 ERA in 21 appearances between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, Greenville, Portland and Pawtucket. With Pawtucket alone, Carpenter pitched to a 1.15 ERA with four saves in four chances in 16 games.  He finished the season making eight relief appearances for Boston, and earned his lone win, the first of his major league career, on September 14 at Toronto.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: ‘When I catch, that’s when I play my best’ 01.22.13 at 12:37 pm ET
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The Red Sox have a need for a left-handed complement to Mike Napoli at first base. They also are heading into spring training with three catchers ‘€“ Jarrod Saltalmacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway ‘€“ who are all at points in their career which would suggest they would each be earning spots on the major league roster.

So, where does that leave the starter of a season ago, Saltalmacchia?

He is heading into what would be perceived as the prime of his career at 27-years-old, and will become eligible for free agency following the upcoming season. Saltalamacchia is also fresh off showing the kind of power (25 homers) most teams drool over when trying to lock in backstops.

According to Saltalmacchia, little has changed.

At no point this offseason has he been asked to break out a first baseman’€™s glove for spring training. ‘€œI haven’€™t had any conversations about first base,’€ he said by phone from his Florida home.

Catching, he reiterates, is still his thing.

‘€œWhen I catch, that’€™s when I play my best,’€ said Saltalamacchia, who started a career-high 95 games at catcher in ‘€™12.’€œI’€™ve learned that about myself. I’€™m a better player when I catch, and catch on a regular basis. I think that’€™s something a lot of people learned last year.’€

Saltalmacchia did hit all but two of his home runs while catching, finishing with an OPS .143 higher (.755-.612) catching than his 47 plate appearances as a designated hitter. It was DH he spent quite a bit more time at in the final month or so, with Lavarnway getting to 15 September starts at backstop, compared to Saltalmacchia’€™s 11.

The discussions he has had with Red Sox manager John Farrell over the past few months, in fact, have done nothing to dissuade the switch-hitter from believing Saltalmacchia won’€™t get further opportunities to prove his theory regarding production in relation to playing time.

‘€œI’€™ve had a few conversations with Farrell and every conversation is great,’€ Saltalmacchia said. ‘€œHe told me, ‘€˜Listen, we signed Ross to complement you. You’€™re going to get right-handed at-bats.’€™ Stuff like that. I’€™ve been happy with it. I’€™m just looking going into spring training having already gone through the mental grind of the game, so it’€™s just best to go out there and let your play show for itself. You can’€™t control what the manager does. We have to go out there, and if the manager says, ‘€˜You’€™re going to play one day this week and get two at-bats,’€™ that one day and those two at-bats have to be the best they possibly can be. I just have to be prepared at the max level.’€

Although Lavarnway could very well enter the playing time equation, he does still hold an option, allowing the Red Sox the flexibility of returning the righy hitter to the minor leagues to start the season.

The challenge in identifying plate appearances for last season’€™s starter comes primarily when looking at Ross’€™ success ‘€“ and Saltalamacchia’€™s struggles — against left-handed pitching.

The dynamic may not be all that different than when the right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach resided on the roster. Although there was some grumbling from Shoppach regarding playing time, the situation seemed to fit Saltalamacchia, who just missed out on making the American League All-Star team after having totaled an .807 with 17 homers in the first half.

But while Saltalamacchia would catch 472 2/3 innings in the season’€™s first three months, he served as the Sox’€™ backstop for just 353 2/3 frames in the final three. Despite the role change (which was pushed along by a combination of David Ortiz‘€™ injury and the team’€™s desire to see more of Lavarnway), Saltlamacchia felt like the ‘€™12 experience was still a big step in the right direction.

‘€œA lot of times I forget where I was at two or three years ago, and a lot of people forget that, as well,’€ he said. ‘€œJust physically and mentally, what your body goes through, nobody understands your body is really, really tired and you have to depend on skill. But I always felt differently with myself where I felt as the year goes on I get better and better and my body gets used to it. Last year splitting time and really DHing in the last couple months of the season, it was tough. I had to learn on the go again.’€

Red Sox avoid arbitration with seven players, including Jacoby Ellsbury 01.18.13 at 6:08 pm ET
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The Red Sox have announced they came to terms with seven of the eight unsigned arbitration-eligible players Friday, leaving just Craig Breslow as the only one of the group unsigned. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.com, Breslow filed at $2.375 million, while the Red Sox countered at $2.325 million.

The players agreeing to terms were pitchers Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales, along with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury’s deal was the richest of the bunch, at $9 million for 2013. It was the final year of arbitration-eligibility for the outfielder, who was paid $8,050,000 last year after becoming eligible for arbitration for the second time. It was a significant bump in salary from the 2.4 million he made in 2011, due to his breakout 2011 season. Following his memorable 2011 season in which he finished as runner-up in American League MVP voting, Ellsbury suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2012, playing just 74 games. He hit .271/.313/.370 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.

Hanrahan’s deal is for $7.04 million deal, a considerable increase on the $4.1 million the right-hander earned in 2012. Hanrahan, who was arbitration-eligible for the third time this offseason, could earn an additional $60,000 in incentives, according to the website, with $15,000 bonuses for finishing 45, 50, 55 and 60 games.

According to Aceves’ agent Tom O’Connell has told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier that the pitcher’s contract is for $2.65 million.

The other figures for the signees are as follows: Bailey: $4.1 million; Bard: $1.8625 million; Miller: $1.475 million; Morales: $1.4875 million.

The last Red Sox player to go to arbitration was pitcher Rolando Arrojo in 2002.

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