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Blake Swihart is having throwing problems, but Red Sox (and Blake Swihart) say there’s nothing to worry about 02.17.17 at 1:49 pm ET
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Blake Swihart (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not a lot of people were around to witness the uncomfortable bullpen session Thursday.

But for those who were there, they saw Blake Swihart show an inability to accurately throw the ball back to Rick Porcello on too many occasions. Pitching coach Carl Willis saw it, as did manager John Farrell and catching instructor/bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.

Friday rolled around and while the problems weren’t as dramatic, the inconsistency in Swihart’s throws continued, leading to a collection of media gathered around the catcher to ask him about the issues before he left JetBlue Park for the day.

“I”m not concerned. I’m going back to catching. In the outfield you have a longer arm swing, a longer arm movement. I’m just trying to shorten it back up. They are misfiring, but I’m not too worried about it,” Swihart said. “It’s just a different arm movement. But I’m working every day to shorten it up, get it short and still have good velocity on my ball. … It’s more me just feeling bad for the pitcher that I’m throwing to.”

And then, as the reporters peeled off, Swihart offered one more proclamation.

“You guys shouldn’t be worried about me,” he said.

LeVangie wasn’t about to suggest there was nothing to see over the last few days, even saying when asked that Swihart’s problems were “out of the blue” when appearing Thursday.

But the catching coach did offer some optimism after working with Swihart Friday and then seeing the slow transformation from an outfielder’s arm motion to that of a catcher.

“There were a couple of bad throws today, but to be honest with you we talked about some things and he got better at doing it,” LeVangie said. “It’s still not finished, but there are signs he can get better from it. We were just looking at spin, how it was coming out of his hand. At times he throws a little rotational, and at times he’s allowing his glove to dictate where his arm path should be going. We want his glove front side to dictate more of back to front motion so his arm path stays on line better.

“We want him to throw more like a catcher rather than middle infielder, a shortstop or an outfielder. I saw far more better throws today than I saw yesterday. He’s going to learn how to throw as a catcher. That’s what we’re working on.”

Swihart reiterated that the 11 months between the last time he lived life as a catcher and jumping back into it this week was the cause for the throwing hiccup.

“The last time I caught was, what? The first six games of the season last year,” he said, referencing his move to outfield. Swihart added, “I feel fine. I’m not worried and you guys shouldn’t be worried either. I’m working on my craft and I promise the ball is going to get there.”

Everything you need to know about what John Henry, Tom Werner had to say in their annual spring training get-together with media 02.17.17 at 10:52 am ET
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John Henry, Tom Werner met with the media Friday morning (WEEI.com photo)

John Henry, Tom Werner met with the media Friday morning (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s an annual rite of passage. One that John Henry admitted maybe has been a bit too ambitious (and often times uncomfortable).

Fifteen seasons as owners of the Red Sox, and 15 spring training media sessions where Henry and usually Tom Werner brief the spring training gathering on the state of the organization.

“We might not have started doing this every year,” said the Red Sox principal owner, Henry, when talking about the good and bad decisions made during this ownership group’s run.

Immediately after Werner addressed the entire team, the pair came out and discussed a variety of topics. David Ortiz. Fenway Park. Luxury tax. The Chris Sale trade. Dave Dombrowski. John Farrell. And also the topic of whether or not these two will be hanging on to their pieces of the Red Sox.

“We hope to be healthy and focused for a long, long time. We know nothing is forever. Hopefully we’ll be having these conversations in 10 or 15 more years,” said Werner.

Added Henry, “After 15 years together, and most of us have been together for 15 years, there’s nothing about this … There are a few things we don’t … Almost every day we talk about how fortunate we feel to be part of this organization. It’s a tremendous organization that has accomplished tremendous things. From our perspective it’s a meaningful, wonderful experience to come here every year, to start over every year. We really are focused on that fourth ring as much as we are focused on the first. Anything short of that I would say is a limited success. I know every few years we have swat down rumors that we’re perhaps sellers, but we talk about how long we can do this, not when should we stop.”

Here were some of the takeaways from the 20-meeting briefing …

MEETING WITH THE TEAM

Henry: “We had a great meeting this morning. And we’re all really happy to be back. We didn’t finish our business last year. It was a disappointing way to end the season. There’s a lot to accomplish the team.”

Werner: “I just started out by thanking them for what they accomplished last year. There’s a lot to be proud of. The team had the best offense in all of baseball. We had a Cy Young winner and two MVP candidates, and the team played beautifully all season. But obviously all of us were disappointed at the abrupt ending. I just thanked them, made a reference to Tom Brady and the Patriots and what we could take from that in terms of hard work and practice. We wished them good luck.”

DAVID ORTIZ’S ROLE

Werner: “That remains to be defined, but I know David expects to have a role going forward. I think he feels like it’s probably good to have spring training start and not be a presence. I would hope that at some point he would come here and address the team about leadership. We are talking with him frequently and I would expect he would have a role that he will principally define, but will be important. … He said he’s retired. I think all of you know that he played last year in quite a bit of pain.”

Henry: “Actually I don’t think they know quite how pain he was in last year. Maybe. Not just last year.”

FENWAY PARK RENOVATIONS

Henry: “I’m not sure we need to go too much further with Fenway Park. There’s been 15 years of tender-loving care going in on an annual basis. It’s been sort of built to last for the next 30 years, if not the next 50 years. I don’t think we see a lot of changes. … I think we have some thoughts outside the ballpark in that area, we own property in that area and I think we should look to develop in a way that’s meaningful for the three million-plus fans that come every year. I think you’ll see probably more changes outside the ballpark than inside.”

LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD

Henry: “As far as the threshold is concerned, there have been years we’ve been over and years we’ve been under. I think that will be the case with the new CBA and CBT this year. We want to be under. Frankly, revenue sharing is a bigger issue than the CBT. We spend a lot of money. There are a lot of money that spend a lot of money. Big, big numbers. … I don’t see a big change.”

PACE OF GAME

Werner: “We’re trying to push the game to under three hours. There are a lot of experiments going on, and I’m for experiments.”

HENRY’S PROCLAMATION LAST YEAR THAT RED SOX WERE TOO RELIANT ON ANALYTICS

Henry: “I think ever since I made that statement I’ve been saying it’s overblown. Because I only talk once a year, maybe twice a year, somethings … I think that was blown out of proportion. We are still heavily analytics based. I don’t think you can function in 2017 as a baseball organization without top drawer analytics.”

PABLO SANDOVAL

Werner: “I think he has a lot he wants to prove. I heard he talked to the media yesterday and was very articulate. He’s an All-Star player and we have a lot of confidence he’s going to have a good year.”

DAVE DOMBROWSKI

Henry: “I think he has done a tremendous job. All of us in the organization believe he has done a tremendous job. Very hands on.”

CHRIS SALE TRADE

Henry: “We still have a lot of prospects. With David leaving I think there was a feeling we should do something. I think our offense has been strong, and will be strong this year. When this opportunity came about it was tough to give up two of the best prospects in baseball. I think we all agreed this was a rare opportunity. … It was important to us that the core of our team was not broken up.”

DREW POMERANZ SAGA

“I don’t know if we want to re-open that discussion. All the facts of that, a lot of the facts, were a little bit different that were generally spoken about. We really don’t want to open that back up again. We’re really glad to have Drew here.”

JOHN FARELL

“He’s an outstanding leader. There’s a lot of facets to being a great manager and I think he fits all of that. not only that, but I think we all know he overcame personal health issues last year and he’s the right guy to be our leader this year and for the future.”

Why Red Sox are taking chance on two-time All-Star Carlos Quentin 02.08.17 at 2:34 pm ET
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Carlos Quentin (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Carlos Quentin (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

There are two ways to look at the Red Sox signing Carlos Quentin to a minor-league contract. (This was first reported by Fan Rag Sports.)

This is a two-time All-Star who once hit 36 home runs and carries a career .831 in his nine major league seasons.

But then there is the current reality that comes with the 34-year-old.

Quentin last appeared in the majors in 2014, playing in just 50 games with San Diego. Having battled knee injuries and lack of productivity, he hasn’t been seen in professional baseball circles since opting out of his minor-league deal with the Twins last spring training.

The righty-hitting outfielder did play in the Mexican League last season, hitting .211 with a .770 OPS in 21 games.

So, why bother?

For one, the Red Sox’ Triple-A outfield depth isn’t great. They have Bryce Brentz and Rusney Castillo to go along with minor-league free agents Brian Bogusevic and Junior Lake. Quentin, however, will not be in big league camp in spring training, so he certainly doesn’t appear to be leap-frogging the aforementioned group.

Then there is the hope that Quentin’s upside somehow emerges. It is interesting to note that Red Sox scout Eddie Bane reported back that the outfielder has lost 40 pounds, which can only help in terms of evaluating a healthy player.
(For all of Quentin’s career statistics, click here.)

How Red Sox have avoided situations like current lost Tom Brady game jersey debacle 02.08.17 at 10:07 am ET
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The Red Sox have avoided situations like Tom Brady and the Patriots find themselves after losing the quarterback's jersey. (Photo courtesy Boston Red Sox equipment Twitter account)

The Red Sox have avoided situations like Tom Brady and the Patriots find themselves after losing the quarterback’s jersey. (Photo courtesy Boston Red Sox equipment Twitter account)

As elated as Tom McLaughlin was after the Patriots’ Super Bowl win Sunday night, the news he discovered Monday morning made the Red Sox’ home clubhouse manager cringe.

Tom Brady’s game jersey had gone missing.

“It’s horrible,” McLaughlin said by phone from Fort Myers, Fla.

“To me it’s disappointing that it was somebody who was cleared, an employee or someone with a pass of somebody who knows better,” he added. “It’s really disappointing. I’m sure everybody involved feels horrible about it. You try as hard as you can not lose that jersey, but other guys have valuable things in their locker that are just as easily accessible as somebody’s jersey. It’s disappointing.”

McLaughlin, who is headed into his 32nd season with the Red Sox, fully understands the challenges that go with securing all uniforms, equipment and other potential memorabilia after championship-clinching games.

So, with all the chaos that has come with with various celebrations over the years, have the Red Sox fallen victim to a scenario similar to the one involving Brady?

“We’ve been lucky. There hasn’t been. Not that I can remember,” McLaughlin said. “After a clinching game the guy that has a hat or something might be a guy that doesn’t care about it. But nothing that stands out to me that has turned up missing that we couldn’t find, or that we misplaced for a few hours.

“It’s just a vigilance thing. I don’t know if you can ever be 100 percent guaranteed that you’re not going to lose something.”

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Brady jersey was taken during a 15-minute window, sometime between when the quarterback entered the locker room and attended his post-game press conference. (To read the entire story, click here.)

“During that closed period, the only individuals inside were Patriots players, team officials and employees, family of New England executives, NFL employees and security,” Charles Robinson writes in the piece.

McLaughlin points out that the Red Sox have developed a process immediately after clinching games, which starts with proactively taking care of anything and everything in the dugout. The need for such an approach has only increased with the big business that comes with some of the items in question.

Brady’s uniform jersey, for instance, has been valued at about $500,000.

“I think we’ve tried to be a lot more thorough because game-used memorabilia is such a big business now. When a game ends, getting that stuff protected, bats, hats, gloves, helmets,” he said. “All that stuff on the bench as they’re running on the field is wide open for anybody who might slip through security. So you have to clear that stuff and get that stuff put away and locked up. In our case we have an area behind the dugout. Take a lot that stuff off before they get up so it.”

The search for Brady’s jersey continues, with the Houston police and Texas Rangers both getting involved. And until the mystery is solved, McLaughlin will carry the kind of uneasiness only those in his industry can understand.

“It’s just terrible,” he reiterated.

Red Sox continue to load up on former first-round picks as backup plans, signing Mike Olt 02.07.17 at 11:07 am ET
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Mike Olt

Mike Olt

First there was Matt Dominguez and Brian Bogusevic, and now comes Mike Olt.

After inking Dominguez and Bogusevic to minor-league deals to compete at third base and outfield, respectively, the Red Sox have agreed to terms with another former first-rounder, Mike Olt, to serve as depth at both first and third base.

The 28-year-old Olt was the 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft, having spent last season in Double- and Triple-A with the Padres organization. The righty hitter has played in 135 major league games, hitting .168 with a .580 OPS.

Olt last played in the big leagues in 2015 with the White Sox, totaling 24 games at both first and third base.

The former UConn star figures to join Dominguez and Josh Rutledge has right-handed-hitting, third base options if Pablo Sandoval struggles against left-handed pitching.

At one time, Olt had been considered a top prospect, entering the 2012 season as Baseball America’s 22nd overall minor-leaguer. He would ultimately serve as one of the key elements in the Rangers’ trade with the Cubs for Matt Garza.

Want some hope Red Sox still have pitching prospects? Start paying attention to Roniel Raudes 02.03.17 at 12:56 pm ET
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Roniel Raudes. (Photo courtesy Greenville Drive)

Roniel Raudes. (Photo courtesy Greenville Drive)

It’s Jason Groome and then a pretty steep cliff.

At least that’s the perception of what the Red Sox have to work with in terms of legitimate potential top of the rotation, minor-league pitching talent.

The 16th (Michael Kopech) and 25th (Anderson Espinoza) ranked prospects in all of baseball, according to MLB.com, used to be in the conversation, but now are long gone. What’s left for the Red Sox is a heavy reliance on last year’s first-round pick, Groome, making it big.

But there is one name that might merit a second glance: Roniel Raudes.

Few have ever heard of the just-turned-19-year-old. But think about where you might have been the first time Espinoza became a talker. So, if you want to seem ahead of the curve, there are worse ideas that to jump on the Raudes bandwagon.

The leap of faith might not be as easy as it was with Espinoza for the sole reason that Raudes doesn’t throw as hard. The righty, who was the second-youngest player in the South Atlantic League last season (just 3 months older than Espinoza), is built on smarts, a good mix of pitches, and, perhaps most impressive, fearlessness.

“He’s not afraid,” said Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero. “He gives up a home run and it’s like nothing happened. That’s a great trait.

“I know those guys [Raudes and Espinoza] really got along well. I think there was a healthy competition between the two. They picked each other’s brain. Espinoza was the power pitcher and got more of the buzz. Raudes was the more conventional guy, changing speeds and throwing strikes. But I do think they learned a lot of from each other. We never thought he was in the shadows. We just thought we had to young guys with good arms and a lot of upside.”

What makes Raudes good now — coming off a season in Single-A Greenville where he went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA — is what drew the Red Sox to him after first seeing the Nicaragua native pitch as a 14 year old in a tournament in Chihuahua, Mexico.

“He was a really skinny, right-handed kid on the mound. He was dominant,” remembered Romero, who was joined by scouts Todd Claus, Rafael Mendoza and Manny Nanita in originally tracking Raudes. “He was going after guys. He was extremely competitive. He wasn’t throwing all that hard, maybe 80-82 mph, which for that age wasn’t bad. But he was a really skinny kid who competed really well.

“One of those things where he didn’t show the power stuff but he could really stuff. That competitive really stood out and had a good feel for spinning a breaking ball. And he always, always, even from the first time we saw him, would throw strikes. He would come in and go after the three and four hitter, where a lot of time you can avoid those guys in those tournaments. But he went right after him. Everybody loved the kid.”

The meetings between the Red Sox talent evaluators would always lead to a hope that Raudes — whose uncle, Julio Pavon Raudes, played in Triple-A with the Giants — could join the Red Sox. Thanks to a signing bonus of $250,000 ($1.55 million less than Espinoza), that became a reality.

“He fell into the right price range because some people were concerned about the physicality, or lack of it. We felt comfortable with it,” Romero said. “We knew we were going to have a chance to sign him just because of the level of interest we had shown.”

Raudes hasn’t let the Red Sox down.

The first real sign that life as a pro baseball player wasn’t going to throw Raudes for a loop came when he started and won the title-clinching game in the Gulf Coast League as 17-year-old.

The pitcher’s personality and panache (he implements a bizarre maneuver with his hands and head while getting into the set position, as can be witnessed on the video below) continues to serve his well. WIth Greenville in 2016, Raudes struck out 104 over his 113 1/3 innings, waling just 23.

“I’ve never seen this kid pitch scared,” Romero said. “It’s always a crystal ball your looking into, but he gives himself a shot by mixing pitches, and throwing strikes. It’s not overpowering stuff, but he goes right after guys. We really like him.”

Start paying attention. Raudes might make you (and the Red Sox) look really smart.

Car crashes take lives of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte 01.22.17 at 11:32 am ET
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Tragedy struck the baseball world early Sunday morning.

According to multiple reports, a pair of car crashes in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning took the lives for Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte. The two were reportedly separate incidents.

Ventura was considered one of the most promising young starting pitchers in the American League, going 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts with the Royals in 2016. The 25-year-old went 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 2014, and 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA the following season.

The right carried one of the best fastballs in the league, ranking second in the majors in 2014 for hardest average heater among MLB starters. His performance in 2014 resulted in the Royals signing him to a five-year, $23 million extension.

Marte, who was 33 years old, never played for the Red Sox, but was part of one of the organization’s most memorable trades in recent years.

Prior to the 2006 season, the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox from the Braves in exchange for shortstop Edgar Renteria. At the time Marte was considered the ninth-best prospect in baseball, and immediately became the Red Sox’ top minor-leaguer.

Just more than a month later, however, Marte would be dealt by the Red Sox to the Indians in a trade that brought back Coco Crisp. He would go on to 308 major league games with Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, emerging in the big leagues for the last time in 2014 with the Diamondbacks.

Marte played for KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball League in 2016, and was in the midst of participating in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

How many times must we be reminded David Ortiz isn’t playing? Just in case, here are two more 01.20.17 at 2:09 pm ET
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David Ortiz. (WEEI.com)

David Ortiz. (WEEI.com)

In case you weren’t aware, David Ortiz has retired.

The designated hitter has really bad heels/feet/lower legs, as was described by the man, Dan Dyrek, who helped keep him together for that final season.

But still, we have to execute a seemingly weekly exercise of wondering if Ortiz will magically reappear for 2017.

Well, he’s not. And the past two days, we were allowed a pair of reminders that nothing has changed.

First, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner Thursday night, Red Sox manager John Farrell did his best to punctuate the conversation.

“Oh yeah, he’s retired,” Farrell said. “There’s no fake tweets. No blank tweets. Whatever those might be, I don’t know. Yeah, we’re not waiting for David to walk through the door.​”

And then Ortiz offered what might be construed as a hint that he is still trying to remain in playing shape, a video of him working out. But if you turn on the audio, he can be heard saying, “I’m not a player anymore.” So there you go.

Papi have to keep it real👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿

A video posted by David Ortiz (@davidortiz) on

Pablo Sandoval inexplicably thinking about playing in World Baseball Classic 01.19.17 at 5:07 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Prior to the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner Thursday night, Red Sox manager John Farrell rattled off which of his players he believed would be participating in the World Baseball Classic.

Starting pitchers David Price, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale? Nope.

Eduardo Rodriguez? We’ll see. The lefty was slated to get his right knee checked in Boston this week, with a decision being made after the diagnosis.

Closer Craig Kimbrel remains a maybe, with Sandy Leon, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts all choosing not to play.

Definitely playing will be Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez.

All of the decisions really didn’t come with any surprises. But then there was one: Pablo Sandoval.

According to Farrell, the third baseman is considering playing for his native Venezuela in the upcoming WBC. Considering Sandoval is coming off a serious shoulder injury, and he has to still compete for the starting job at third, such a scenario wasn’t really on anyone’s radar.

“I think that’ll probably garner more discussion because those three weeks, the potential of those three weeks in a situation where you’re competing for a job is important,” Farrell said. “We don’t want to stand in a player’s way if there’s not a pending health situation. Granted he went through a shoulder surgery last May. Still, that would be in discussion if that were to come up.”

Farrell confirmed that despite the optimism surrounding Sandoval, thanks in large part to the wave of Instagram posts has offered throughout the offseason, he will still have to prove his worth heading into 2017.

“Compliments to Pablo, he’s done a great job with the work he’s put in, the commitment he’s made,” Farrell said. “He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there is work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance. That’s the reason he was signed here. We’ve got a versatile team as well. In the event, we have to find what the best matchup is for us, whether that’s Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge — the beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp. That was born out of third base last year and that won’t change.”

Sandoval did participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Wondering if Red Sox, Mookie Betts are talking contract extension? ‘Not a peep’ 01.19.17 at 4:28 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will be facing some tough contract decisions the next few years. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will be facing some tough contract decisions the next few years. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

A lot has been made of the window of opportunity the Red Sox may have. Within the next 3-4 years, the foundation of the team will see their contracts expire, leading to some intrigue when it comes to the possibility of extending certain deals.

One of those players who will continue to be a centerpiece of the conversations regarding possible contract extensions is Mookie Betts.

Betts is heading into his final year before becoming arbitration-eligible, having just finished second in the American League MVP voting. Considering he is entering the same service time Mike Trout did when he inked a six-year, $144.5 million extension just before the start of the 2014 regular season, the idea that the Red Sox and their outfielder might have had some talks is a very legitimate road to go down.

But, according to Betts, there are no signs any kind of extension is in the works.

“Not a peep. Not a peep. Nothing at all,” the 24-year-old told WEEI.com at the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner Thursday afternoon when asked if his representatives have had any contract discussions with the Red Sox.

Would it be something he would like to push for?

“Nah. Not right now,” Betts explained. “One year at a time. One year at a time and we’ll go from there. I’m going to go year by year and worry about one year at a time. Just go out, win and kind of keep my focus there.

“There are so many different views of things. I know what me, my parents and my agents talk about. We have one view and I don’t want to have three or four different views on that thing. I just want to have one view and kind of stick to it.”

And that one view is …

“One year at a time,” he reiterated.

As for one of the other 24-year-old foundational players on the Red Sox roster, Xander Bogaerts, he continues to keep his intentions close to the vest when it comes to the possibility of an extension. When asked if his agent, Scott Boras, has had talks with the team, the shortstop offered, “I would definitely say I’m looking forward to next year.”

Bogaerts recently agreed to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration in his first year he was eligible for the process. That leaves him with two more offseasons of arbitration-eligibility before having a crack at free agency following the 2019 season.

“I haven’t even played my first arbitration year. I have two more years to go. Maybe after that first year I’ll be like, ‘Oh crap, I have only two more years.’ But I still feel like I’m at the minimum right now. But I haven’t got it so I can’t tell you that feeling,” said Bogaerts, who was also attending Thursday’s event.

“I like the city, and I enjoy my time here, but in the end if you go out there and do your job to help the team win, anything can happen. If you go out there and play well, the team will see that and maybe you can get something done. If not, we’ll see what happens. I know I enjoy my time here, I like it here and I have three more years here. I’m looking forward to it.

“You see numbers every day. Offseason is the time where you see everybody signing, and a few extensions here and there. It all depends. In season you probably don’t want to talk as much. So offseason is probably the best time. I just know I have two more years here, for sure, if they don’t get rid of me. If you play good, there are a lot of things that are possible. It’s on me to go out there and perform.”

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