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Tim Wakefield: ‘I can finally say it’s over’ 02.17.12 at 7:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was one brief moment where Tim Wakefield lost it.

But like his major league career spanning 19 big league seasons – the final 17 with the Red Sox, he quickly regained composure and went about his business in a workmanlike fashion.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today,” Wakefield began before pausing to compose himself, “and I’m saddened to say I’ve decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball.”

Wakefield trembled with the final 15 words, words he’s had been preparing the last several hours, weeks and months since the end of the 2011 season.

Wakefield was surrounded by friends, family, agent Barry Meister and teammates – both present and former – as the sun set on jetBlue Park and the career of one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers in MLB history.

“I can finally say it’s over,” Wakefield said.

“For the past 17 years, all I ever wanted to do is what was best for our team and the organization, whether it was starting, closing or whatever I was asked to do. I always had my spikes on and was ready to go. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to wear this uniform and be a part of this historic franchise for as long as I have and I’ve enjoyed many successes along the way. But when it came down to it, I had to take a hard look at what I felt was best for me, my family and the Red Sox. There is nothing I want more than for this team to win and it’s hard sometimes to take yourself out of the decision process.

“But in my heart, I feel that by retiring, I’m giving them a better chance to do that. In saying that, I also feel this is what is best for my family to succeed as well. This a special time in my kids’ life and I’ve never wanted to regret not being there for them. Thank you to the Red Sox for giving me the greatest time in my life.”

Wakefield was offered a minor league contract and an invite to camp, which he declined, leading to Friday’s decision. Wakefield finished with a career record of 200-180 with 22 saves and a 4.41 ERA in 627 big league games, 463 as a starter. He finished third on the all-time Red Sox wins list six behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He goes into retirement as the franchise leader in innings pitched (3,006) and starts (430).

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner represented team ownership and paid tribute to Wakefield professionalism, longevity and success. He also thanked Wakefield for overcoming the 2003 disappointment of Aaron [bleeping] Boone and sacrificing himself in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. That sacrifice of the Game 4 start that season is widely credited with saving the pitching staff and paving the way for the Red Sox to pull off the most dramatic comeback in the sport’s history.

The Red Sox would win the World Series that year and again in 2007, and Wakefield was a key part of both.

“Thank you for the two parades,” Werner said.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, knuckleball, knuckleballer, MLB
The first look inside and around jetBlue Park – the new spring training home of the Red Sox 02.17.12 at 4:46 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox offered a first glimpse of their new spring training home at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Friday afternoon.

The complex, with the 11,000-seat park sitting as the crown jewel, will open for games on March 3 when the team hosts Northeastern and Boston College in a day-night doubleheader. A few notable elements of the new facility:

— The ballpark will offer some elements familiar at Fenway Park, including a left-field wall with similar dimensions to the Green Monster in the team’s home ballpark in Boston, a triangle in right-center field and a right field fence that angles back steeply from the foul pole. The scoreboard on the left field wall is a restored version of the actual manual scoreboard that was used at Fenway Park from 1976 until the middle of last decade.

“When you walk up the [promontory] behind home plate, you really do feel like you’€™re at Fenway because of the dimensions,” noted Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy. “If you stand on the Monster and look out, you know you’€™re in southwest Florida, but that struck me the first time I came down, when they’€™d really made progress, was to see those Fenway dimensions. People from New England coming down here are going to be struck by how much it feels like Fenway on the inside.’€

— The left field fence has an interesting wrinkle. A few feet above the scoreboard, there is a net in front of 258 seats that are “inside” the wall. Balls hit off the net remain in play. In order to be a home run, the ball must be hit a few more feet above the net. There is a “Monster Deck” atop the left field wall, from which spectators can see both the ballpark and the six practice fields behind it.

— Field 1 identically replicates the dimensions of the playing field at Fenway, including the curvature and heights of the various walls.

— A familiar ensemble of retired numbers is on display in right field: No. 9 (Ted Williams), No. 4 (Joe Cronin), No. 1 (Bobby Doerr), No. 8 (Carl Yastrzemski), No. 27 (Carlton Fisk), No. 6 (Johnny Pesky), No. 14 (Jim Rice) and No. 42 (Jackie Robinson) are all on display in right field.

— The canopy over the main seating bowl is meant to evoke the shade of the surrounding cypress trees.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Added pressure on ourselves is ‘where we faltered’ 02.17.12 at 3:24 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Whether or not Jason Varitek reports to camp this spring with the Red Sox, the leadership of the pitching staff will fall directly on the shoulders of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

And Friday afternoon, after a grueling day of work in the burning sun that baked both of his forearms, Saltalamacchia said he doesn’t feel any added pressure after “The Collapse” from last September.

“I don’t feel any added pressure, no, because we’re going to have to do it together,” Saltalamacchia said. “When I mean leader, I’m not going to have a ‘C’ on my chest, I’m not going to tell people what to do. But I’m going to go about my business the right way, lead by example a little bit on that front, and get to know the pitchers, get to know them a little more and find out what we can do.”

Saltalamacchia said he’s gotten a head start on the season by speaking with new pitching coach Bob McClure.

“I spoke with Bob, and he’s been great as far as the pitching side of it and getting feedback from him has been great,” Saltalamacchia said.

“I don’t think last year there was any kind of [lack of] leadership. We all knew what to do. You’re with a team that’s been there, done that. Guys with two rings, guys with one so we knew what we had to do. I think we might have put a little added pressure on ourselves and that’s where we faltered.”

Read More: bob mcclure, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria put on a BP show for Red Sox fans 03.22.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to their Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox Tuesday night, Rays stars Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez took batting practice.

For Ramirez, it was yet another reunion with several of the Red Sox uniformed staff that have stayed in place since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2008.

Ramirez said hi to several old friends and then, along with Longoria, put on a display for the fans at City of Palms Park. Ramirez, Longoria and B.J. Upton were in the same hitting group and it was Ramirez who belted several out, including a moon shot off the right side of the scoreboard in deep left-center.

Longoria batted third and Ramirez fourth in Tuesday night’s game, a likely scenario to take place when the season opens for the Rays.

John Lackey got the starting nod for the Red Sox. Lackey will start the season as Boston’s No. 2 starter and is in line to start the home opener at Fenway Park on April 8 against the Yankees.

The Red Sox countered with a lineup that will also likely mirror their Opening Day lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford hitting in the top third, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz filling out 4-5-6 and J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro rounding out the lineup.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, B.J. Upton, Boston Red Sox, Evan Longoria
‘Pins and needles’ time for Red Sox relievers as organization meets to map things out 03.22.11 at 5:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — From the day he was hired, Terry Francona has always leaned on everyone in the organization to help in player personnel decisions. It’s a quality that also factored in Theo Epstein‘s decision to hire him in late 2003.

Now, several important decisions are looming for the Red Sox, and it involves the crucial pieces of the bullpen.

The team will hold an organizational meet following Tuesday’s game with the Rays, with the fate of several roster spots in the bullpen possibly in the balance. Of particular note is how to handle the middle relief and lefty specialists in the relief corps and who should make the trip with the team to Arlington when the team begins the season against the Rangers on April 1.

Francona will meet with pitching coach Curt Young, Epstein and front office staffers to discuss how to handle relievers Hideki Okajima, Dennys Reyes, Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers and Scott Atchison.

“Curt and I, Theo and the guys from the front office will sit and talk, and not just talk about how we feel about things, but maybe map out the next couple of days,” Francona said before Tuesday night’s game with the Rays at City of Palms. “We’re getting to the point where innings are going to be at a premium so certainly there are going to be have to be some innings at the minor league complex and innings in big league games and we’ll sit and map that out.”

Asked if he and the team would like to have its major league roster set before they leave for the exhibition game March 30 in Houston, Francona said there’s no firm deadline.

“I’d rather do it right than set some arbitrary deadline,” Francona said. “We’ve done it both ways. There have been situations in the past where Theo felt he had something [trade] going and he wanted to wait so I don’t know. We’re going to take some extra guys to Houston so that’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better for these guys so they’re not on pins and needles.”

The team needs to decide what to do for a lefty or whether to take two north. Okajima and Reyes appear to be the front-runners with Andrew Miller, Randy Williams and Rich Hill on the fringes. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, darnell mcdonald, dennys reyes
Jon Lester ‘ready’ for the season to start after a ‘pretty positive’ duel with Roy Halladay 03.21.11 at 3:58 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — At first, Jon Lester said pitching against Roy Halladay in a spring training game didn’t mean anything extra special.

Then the Red Sox 2011 Opening Day starter thought about what he and the rest of the 10,912 on hand at Bright House Field watched from the Phillies starter.

“I’m not pitching against him but it is fun to watch him pitch,” said Lester, who actually not only pitched against Halladay but surrendered his first hit of the day to the Phillies ace after Halladay a pitch earlier fouled a ball off his face.

Halladay pitched into the eighth for Philadelphia, throwing nearly 100 pitches over 7 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking three and striking out six.

Lester was dominant for five innings but came unraveled in the sixth as the Phillies beat the Red Sox, 4-1, Monday afternoon at Bright House Field in Clearwater. The game was a match-up of aces as Lester opposed Philadelphia’s Halladay.

[Red Sox-Phillies boxscore.]

[Lester speaks about his final extending spring outing of 2011.]

Lester allowed five hits, four runs, three earned over 5 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out six while throwing 98 pitches, 56 for strikes. Despite allowing six walks over 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts, Lester feels ready for April 1 in Texas.

“I’ve walked plenty of guys before,” said Lester, who will have a final tuneup this Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles. “It’s not a big deal. Obviously, it’s not something I want to do. It’s something I’m trying to work on but at the same time, it is what it is. I didn’t really get a whole lot of ground balls today. I don’t know what that means as far as the way my stuff played out.

“Sometimes just being stupid, trying to throw the perfect pitch,” Lester added. “I came out of my delivery a couple of times. I don’t know if that’s fatigue or if it’s just me trying to do too much. I had a pretty good five innings as far as efficiency. I don’t know if I just wanted that sixth inning to be over with and in my mind, just put it to the wayside but obviously, not what I wanted.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz
Will more playing time spring David Ortiz to a better start? 03.21.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Terry Francona trusts his players will do the right thing to get reason for the season. He knows that if he shows trust in spring training, he and the team will reap the rewards when it matters.

Francona, of course, has always shown great loyalty to his players and none more than David Ortiz.

So when his slugger expressed a desire – along with Dustin Pedroia – to travel two hours north on a busy Monday to play the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game, Francona had no problem fulfilling the request.

“David wants to play pretty much every day. I don’t think enough to go to Jupiter [Thursday vs. Marlins].” Francona said Monday morning. “I think it’s been beat on him so much. Last year, after that first ‘oh-for,’ the whole world came to an end. I’m sure he’d like to shut everybody up. And from where I sit, I hope he does. It’ll make my life a lot easier.”

[Francona speaks about Ortiz wanting to silence the ‘April’ critics this spring.]

Ortiz went 0-for-7 in his first two games of 2010 against the Yankees and 1-for-11 in the season-opening series. He was asked about it after the second game and suggested fans and media “relax” about his slow start. Ortiz is hitting .263 this spring with one homer and five RBIs in 14 games. Ortiz had 62 at-bats with five walks and three homers in 2010 spring training but with 14 strikeouts and finished batting just .226.

This year, he has 42 plate appearances and has fanned eight times. Francona said he doesn’t have a figure in mind for the ideal number of plate appearances to get ready for the season.

“I don’t even know what the number is,” Francona said. “We keep track of plate appearances but he’s played enough. You just can’t bottle it or turn the switch on. Some guys get hurt, they get two games and they go 4-for-4 the first day, and then they feel good about themselves. It’s the [darnedest] thing.

“He has looked, for the most part, really good. I think there’s been days where he’s gotten a little out of sync. But saying that, everybody does because they don’t play every day. He’ll have one day where he swings the bat well then he sits for a day or he hits a bunch. That’s the way it is with everybody. There’s no way you’re going to keep your swing in tact when you’re not playing every day.”

Francona said Pedroia insisted on making the trip to Clearwater, joining Ortiz and other regulars, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.

“We try to check with them,” Francona said. “That’s the whole idea is to get guys feeling good about themselves as we leave [for the season]. There’s no magic formula. We don’t have to push these guys. They’re good about wanting to be ready. They all want to be ready. We all try to do what they think is in their best interest. Like Pedey wanted to come up here real bad. He wanted to play four out of five. He probably knows himself better than I do.”

Monday marks an important day for Opening Day starter Jon Lester. The starting pitcher had made four starts entering Monday’s contest against the Phillies. Francona said he will have his longest outing of the spring, throwing between 85-95 pitches.

“Hopefully, he gets good and stretched out and then back off a little bit on his last one,” Francona said. “We have a night game [Tuesday] and a day off [Wednesday] and then, except for that Jupiter trip [vs. Marlins], we’ll start trying to play guys a little bit longer or more consistently.

“I don’t think you have to play nine [innings] in spring training to be ready for a season. It just doesn’t translate but we will get them a lot of back-to-back of four at-bats.”

Ortiz and Pedroia aren’t the only regulars wanting to go the extra mile this spring to be ready for the season. Adrian Gonzalez will take part in a minor league game on Wednesday – an off day for the big league team. Francona will be on hand to watch.

“I told him if he doesn’t want to [play], he doesn’t have to,” Francona said. “But I’m planning on going down there with him, just to watch.”

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
Daisuke Matsuzaka effective, efficient but Cards rout Sox 03.20.11 at 4:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective and efficient on Sunday but his two-out walk with none on in the 6th opened the door for a 10-run sixth as the Cardinals routed the Red Sox, 10-3, Sunday afternoon at City of Palms Park.

[Red Sox-Cardinals boxscore].

Matsuzaka allowed three hits and two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out four. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, in his longest outing of the spring. Matsuzaka, who is now 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA this spring, needed just 64 pitches to get through five innings.

“I thought he had good tempo, threw strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s two in a row now so he’s starting to get geared up. He probably could’ve gone a hitter or two more. I wanted to see Andrew face a lefty and it kind of fell apart from there.”

[Francona explains why he was happy with Matsuzaka’s outing Sunday vs. the Cardinals.]

Matsuzaka was coming off a start last Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers in which he allowed just two hits over five shutout innings, walking one and striking out five.

“I thought the last outing he had pretty good life too,” Francona said. “Again, you’re getting to that point in spring training where they’re probably gotten through the dead-arm period and they’re starting to get built up now where we’re getting pretty close to the start of the season.”

After getting two quick outs in the sixth, Matsuzaka walked Albert Pujols and then surrendered a long run-scoring double to right-center by Matt Holliday.

Francona pulled Matsuzaka for lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who struggled badly. The former No. 1 pick of the Tigers in 2006 faced six batters and didn’t retire a batter, allowing four hits and six runs while walking two.

“He walked the first hitter and that’s kind of a reminder when coming out of the bullpen of how important it is to attack the strike zone,” Francona said of Miller. “He had an infield single and a bloop and it kind of fell apart from there.”

Scott Atchison came in and allowed a bases-loaded double to Pujols to make it, 9-0, before Holiday followed with another run-scoring double. The Cardinals had 11 consecutive batters reach in the sixth with two outs.

The Red Sox travel to Clearwater Monday as Jon Lester matches up against Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Albert Pujols, andrew miller, Boston Red Sox
Don’t read too much into that Red Sox lineup, yet 03.20.11 at 12:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A quick glance at the lineup posted in the Red Sox clubhouse Sunday morning and you could draw the natural conclusion that it very well could mirror the one that will be in the visitors clubhouse on April 1 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

But Terry Francona said the lineup consisting of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Marco Scutaro wasn’t even his creation.

“We make them out three or four days ahead of time. DeMarlo [Hale] may have actually done it,” Francona said.

So, Sunday’s lineup against the Cardinals isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s going to be exactly the same on Opening Day?

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “Probably, no.”

One thing Francona did address is how important it will be to manage the speed at the top of the lineup with Ellsbury and Crawford likely to be somewhere in the top of the order to start the season and Dustin Pedroia in between.

While it might seem Francona would like to control when and how his speedsters run the bases, he realizes that he has to leave that up to the good judgment of his players.

“I don’t know if we really have to pick our spots,” Francona said Sunday. “What we care about is just not making outs. They’re going to get thrown out [stealing] and they’re going to get picked off. They have to but, again, they’re going to have the freedom to run.

“I’ve talked to Pedey because Pedey is going to be smack in the middle of those guys, I don’t want him to just sit there and take pitches, either. If Pedey is a little bit aggressive and they’re running, and Jacoby steals 65 instead of 70, what a weapon to have a guy that’s fast, a hole opening and a good hitter up. That’s a nice combination.”

Francona doesn’t want to hear about how a hitter is bothered by runners dancing off second base. That job is up to the hitter to communicate with his teammate.

“If you have a guy on second and it’s bugging the hitter, then they need to be still,” Francona said. “And that’s their responsibility to know each other. I get aggravated when somebody comes back in July and says [it’s bothering me], you should have talked about that two months ago because we encourage guys to be aggressive, they’re fast. We also encourage them to communicate with each other.”

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, demarlo hale
Red Sox notes: Daniel Nava, Mark Wagner headed to PawSox as part of latest cuts 03.20.11 at 10:30 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nearly every Red Sox fan remembers how Daniel Nava broke into the majors last June.

With the bases loaded, he drilled the first pitch he saw in the big leagues – an offering from Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton – over the fence in right at Fenway.

On Sunday morning, he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket by the Red Sox as the team trimmed three more players off the major league squad. Also optioned was catcher Mark Wagner while righthander Matt Fox was reassigned.

Such is the life of a major leaguer on the fringes. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona offered perspective Sunday in assessing where the 28-year-old in his development.

“He didn’t swing the bat real well this spring, which in the grand scheme of things means nothing,” Francona said of Nava, who batted just .205 this spring in 19 games, with three RBIs.. “I think he was fighting it all spring. He got a little length in his swing. He knows he needs to shorten it up but he’s improved so much [defensively] in the outfield.”

“I mean, last year at this time, I’m willing to bet no one ever asked me a Daniel Nava question. He’s come a long way. He just needs to go play and then whatever happens, happens. Guys play themselves into the mix. The fact that we’re talking about Daniel Nava means he’s come so far.”

Francona added that the organization still projects Nava as primarily a left fielder.

Wagner hit .167 in nine games this spring while Fox was 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five relief appearances. But Francona was quick to point out that it’s Wagner’s defensive skills – especially game managing behind the plate – the organization really values. Last year, that was stunted when he missed nearly half the season with Triple-A Pawtucket because of a broken bone in his left hand. Surgery was eventually required and now, he begins 2011 with a fresh start. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, adrian gonzalez, bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox
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