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Why Jonathan Papelbon will be forever grateful to Mariano Rivera and Gary Tuck 02.18.12 at 9:08 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thanks to a lesson learned from Mariano Rivera the first time Jonathan Papelbon met him at the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, Papelbon won’t be obsessing about that fateful ninth inning from last September that ended his career in a Red Sox uniform.

“I don’t think about it at all,” Papelbon said Saturday while wearing his new Phillies uniform. “When I was a rookie and I made my first All-Star Game, I had a chance to talk to Mo about what was the biggest thing that was going to make me successful in this game. His first answer was, ‘short-term memory.’ So, you have to be able to learn from them still, learn from those situations but man, I don’t sit there and think about it all spring. You go over things and you try to learn from them but you have to be able to turn the page.”

Papelbon still has in his mind the goal of someday passing Rivera for the all-time saves lead. But that might be next-to impossible as Papelbon has 217 coming into this season, the first of a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies. Rivera currently sits at 603. If Rivera doesn’t throw another pitch, Papelbon, now 31 years of age, would have to average 39 saves over the next 10 seasons to pass him.

“I think what Mariano has meant to the game pretty much speaks for itself,” Papelbon said. “But for me, I call him ‘The Godfather’ jokingly because he’s the Godfather of closers but at the same time, I think that he’s the guy you have to go after. Every time I saw him last year, I told him, ‘Man, you’re making my job harder to catch you every year. He’s found some kind of Fountain of Youth somewhere. To me, he’s always been special because I may not be sitting here today if it wasn’t for him.”

But there’s someone else Papelbon is grateful to, someone with a bridge from Rivera in New York to Papelbon in Boston and now Philadelphia – bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who stayed behind with the Red Sox and manager Bobby Valentine.

“For so many years there in Boston, I was able to be under Gary Tuck, who was also with Mo for all those championship runs in New York,” Papelbon said. “How many times I heard ‘Repeat [your] delivery,’ I don’t know, but repeating your delivery and conditioning your body to do one thing, repeat your delivery. Mariano was religious about it and Gary kind of took of that into his role with me and making me realize how important that aspect is. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, gary tuck, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera
Jonathan Papelbon believes in his former Red Sox teammates 02.18.12 at 3:06 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — The reaction of Jonathan Papelbon to the six Boston reporters who made the two-hour trip north up I-75 was totally understandable Saturday – on the occasion of his first spring training press conference with the Phillies.

“What the hell are you guys doing here?,” he teased the group at the beginning of his 23-minute session inside the Bright House Field media center.

The man who threw the final pitch of the biggest pennant stretch collapse in baseball history says the Red Sox won’t be affected this season. As a matter of fact, Papelbon said he expects his former team to come out stronger than ever this season to prove a point.

“They’ll be motivated, no question about it,” Papelbon said in his first spring training press conference Saturday with the Phillies. “There’s too many good guys in that clubhouse and too many competitors and too many guys who have too much pride to just lay down and say, ‘we can just come lay down.’ Those guys aren’t going to come into this season and just lay down. They’re going to work hard. There’s no doubt about it.”

He was honest as he always was in a Boston uniform, answering questions thoughtfully on 2011, his successor with the Red Sox and his former setup man for the last two seasons.

Still, there were questions about whether he has forgotten about the night the sinking liner off the bat of Robert Andino came out of the glove of Carl Crawford at Camden Yards on Sept. 28, ending the Red Sox season in stunning fashion. And there were questions about how much he knew of the clubhouse discord that became apparent days and weeks later.

“I don’t think it was a matter of being surprised or not surprised,” Papelbon said. “I know everybody has had their own opinion about that situation and what went on there. But nobody truly knows what was truly going on. I don’t even truly know because I’m worried about myself and doing my own job. Just because a team struggles or somebody struggles doesn’t mean they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Is that why we lost, no, that’s not why we lost because of what was going on in the clubhouse. That had nothing to do with it.”

Papelbon leaves behind Daniel Bard, who won’t move into his closer’s role but rather start spring training in the Red Sox rotation – a move Papelbon believes is perfect for him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon
What Jason Varitek really taught Jarrod Saltalamacchia 02.18.12 at 11:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Jason Varitek has indeed caught his last game in a Red Sox uniform and will be retiring his spring, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will remember one act of kindness and generosity in particular.

Saltalamacchia was with the Braves in 2007 as a minor leaguer and made the trip to Fort Myers for a spring training game. He sent a Red Sox No. 33 jersey over to the Red Sox clubhouse to have the captain sign for him.

“He signed a jersey for me, and on it it said, ‘catch with pride.’ You take that and that’s what he’s done his whole career and I’m going to do the same.”

Now, ironically, Saltalamacchia – after taking over primary catching responsibilities in 2011 – is in position to assume the leadership role of the Red Sox pitching staff, with Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway behind him.

Salty said Friday he hasn’t been preoccupied with whether Varitek will accept the minor league contract offer from the Red Sox and report to camp on Sunday.

“Honestly, I haven’t really though about it,” Saltalamacchia said. “I can’t assume anything. I don’t know where he’s at. I don’t know if he’s thinking about coming. I know they’ve offered him a minor league invite.

“I’m just preparing for myself. It’s like a game day, if I’m not playing, not in the lineup, I’m still going to prepare to play that day. So, I’m prepared for him to be here and for him not to be here.”

The final words of advice he take from Varitek?

“Just be yourself, be who you are,” Saltalamacchia said. “People are going to like you for who you are. People are going to respect you for what you do about your business. There’s a lot of little things as far as catching, that I learned. It’s mainly to be a good person, a good teammate and respect the game.”

Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
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
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