|Pedro Martinez unplugged: ‘I’m hoping to become’ Johnny Pesky||02.18.13 at 6:22 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — In an epic session with reporters Monday afternoon that lasted 23 minutes, 14 seconds, Pedro Martinez provided a glimpse into his personality that defined a legendary career and offered rare insight as to why one of the greatest Red Sox pitchers of all time decided the time was right to rejoin the Red Sox as a pitching consultant.
Toward the end of the session, he admitted that his goal, his main objective with the organization is not to become a pitching coach or manager but rather a character and ambassador like the late, great Johnny Pesky.
“Johnny Pesky, I remember Johnny Pesky hitting fungos in my first year here,” Martinez said of his first year in 1998. “I saw him in his last days. I’m extremely proud to have seen Johnny Pesky. I’m hoping to become someone like that.”
He joked that he also might be a lot like Luis Tiant, who was making the rounds Monday on the practice fields outside JetBlue Park.
“Probably, when I’m an old goat and running around,” Martinez said. “I probably won’t have the goatee. I’ll be around like Jim Rice, like El Tiante, Johnny Pesky.”
One thing he assured everyone, he will not be making an Andy Pettitte-like comeback in mid-season.
“No, not at all, not to play. Coming back to see the Sox in first place? Maybe,” Martinez said. “No chance [of pitching]. I just don’t think so. I did what I was supposed to do and that’s it.
“I hope to add some knowledge, any help I can to the staff in every aspect. Could be mechanically, could be in the field, could be off the field, could be mentally, which I know a lot. I know about going through struggles what we go through in the middle of the season, especially after the first half. So, I can relate to them a lot and actually get them going, hopefully and they can come and ask questions and I’ll be more than willing to answer.
“It’s weird but it feels like the first day to me. I get so excited to be a part of this team and be part of the tradition we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I actually a little funny about putting pair of [uniform] pants on again. In shorts, it’s different. In regular pants like a player.”
Pedro was in uniform, at least gray pants and sweater top.
“Same size, same everything, even though I’m a little heavier,” he said.
Here is the rest of Pedro’s classic and wide-ranging address to reporters:
On the Red Sox letting him go after the 2004 World Series run: “I never held it against them because you have to understand that baseball has a dark side and it’s the negotiations. Every time you’re exposed to arbitration cases and all that, you realize there’s a business part of baseball that forces you to look for a negative about the player and the player actually tries to prove to the team that you’re worth whatever you’re asking. But money makes it all difficult. All that love for one day goes away. Once we settle and we reach agreement, it’s love again. Read the rest of this entry »
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pedro Martinez is a lot of things to a lot people in baseball.
One of the greatest right-handed pitchers of all time. One of the most fearsome competitors ever to take the mound. One of the most genuine personalities in the game.
But to Felix Doubront, Martinez would just like to be the teacher that sets the young lefty on the right track in baseball. Martinez, now a pitching consultant to the Red Sox organization, made that abundantly clear Monday at the Red Sox spring training complex.
Martinez is well aware that Doubront, for the second time in three years, has reported to camp out of shape and was held back due to shoulder fatigue at the start of camp. Martinez plans to get in the ear – and mind – of the 25-year-old Venezuelan lefty, reminding him of the opportunity in front of him as a potential long-term starter in the Red Sox rotation.
“He’s so young and so full of talent that sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we’re given but the same way it comes, the same way it could go,” Martinez said of the lefty, who went 5-2 in his first 10 starts last season before falling off drastically in the final four months. “All it takes is a bad injury and you’re out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work. I believe he just doesn’t know and hasn’t been taught that he’s going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks, and that this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility on top of his shoulder with the whole Boston community and the team.”
It was forearm strain that held him back in 2011. It was a knee injury in 2012. And this spring it’s shoulder fatigue.
“I think he’s so young,” Martinez said. “Nowadays, these pitchers come up so young and so talented that they don’t realize how much they’re going to be counted on. And I think Doubront is a good example. I think he needs to know that he’s really important to this team, this organization, to the community, to Boston, that they’re counting on him to be one of the big names. At the same time, he’s just a young kid trying to develop and he’s already in the big leagues trying to perform. And you have to take that into consideration and be patient with him and at the same time, try to guide him through it. I think I can be a good axis to him to learn about some of the things he has to do.”
What exactly is the message Martinez plans to impart to Doubront?
“Bsaseball is not easy,” Martinez answered. “It wasn’t easy for me. He has to expect it to be tough. One thing I’m going to be with him, just as I was with [media], I’m going to be straightforward. I’m going to say the way it is, point-blank the way it is. If he wants to hear it or if he doesn’t, it’s okay. I just know I want the best for him and I want the best for the organization and I would love to help him. I can’t handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and not give it away. I would love to give it away and I hope he sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication and will to do things.
“Being out of shape a little bit is normal, probably not as much as before, but being out of shape a little bit in spring training, this is the only place where you can be a little bit out of shape but you’re here to get in shape. He has plenty of time to get in shape. I think he’s going to do it right. I think if he does put emphasis on the things he’s going to do, he’s going to do it exactly the way he should. I wouldn’t panic that much on that but at the same time, you have to hold him accountable to go and do his work every day.”
|Steven Wright: R.A. Dickey ‘re-wrote the book’ on the knuckleball’||02.17.13 at 8:52 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — When 38-year-old R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young award last year in the National League, it was revolutionary on many fronts. A pitcher salvaged his career with a pitch still thought by many to be a gimmick pitch.
Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the Mets, and after being traded to the Blue Jays in a package that sent a pair of top prospects to New York, he received a two-year, $25 million extension for 2014 and 2015 on top of his current contract.
Red Sox right-hander Steven Wright was paying very close attention. He knew that Dickey was on the fringe of his major league career before he started throwing his knuckleball harder, with the same arm velocity as his fastball.
“I think he just re-wrote the book on it, to be honest with you, because what he did last year was unbelievable, for any pitcher,” said Wright on Sunday. “The fact that he did it with a knuckleball I think shows you can compete at a high level with the best of the best with a knuckleball. The harder knuckleball is easier to control in a sense because the movement is not as big. He’s just re-writing history as far as the way people look at the knuckleball.
“I think eveyrone thinks they have a knuckleball. I think more teams are going to be open to letting guys try it, I really do. I think that somebody like myself, I was able to compete with my other stuff but I never really had an out pitch. I think if a guy gets to that point, I think teams are going to be like, ‘Okay, let’s see what you’ve got,’ and maybe give him a little more time than previous to R.A.”
Wright was a 2006 draft pick of Cleveland out of the University of Hawaii who could throw 94 MPH. In 2011, with the help of Tom Candiotti and advice of Charlie Hough, Wright added the knuckleball to his repertoire, pitching at both levels of Class A, as well as Double-A and Triple-A. The results were mostly mixed, going 4-8 with a 4.58 ERA.
“That’s why I was getting frustrated,” the 28-year-old Wright said. “I have one good outing then I have one bad outing and I was like, ‘I’m going to throw fastballs and I’m going to throw my knuckleball off of that and adjust from there,’ instead of just flush, throwing hard and try to throw a pitch at 60 miles an hour.
“I’ve been throwing it since I was nine years old. So, it was one of those things I knew how to throw it. So, when I talk to Candiotti and Hough, they were telling me you just have to go with whatever feels good in your hands. So, I would just close my eyes and was like, ‘That’s what it is and that’s my grip.’ But I didn’t really get to understand it until I started working with Charlie Hough. Once I worked with Charlie Hough, he helped me simplify the pitch because it’s not as complex as I thought it was going to be. You just have to have your checkpoints and once you have your checkpoints, you stick with them so you can repeat them so that if something goes wrong, you just go back to what your checkpoints are.”
Last season was a breakthrough. He went 10-6 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A before being dealt to Boston for Lars Anderson. He initially joined the Double-A Portland team before being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four starts. Read the rest of this entry »
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Napoli took grounders at first base for the first time in a Red Sox uniform Sunday and the early reports are very promising, on his hips and his hands.
“He took ground balls after BP today so we’ll gradually build that up,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ” Fifty ground balls at first base. He’s got very soft hands. Even when you watch him take BP, his movements are smooth. We’re confident he’s going to be a very good first baseman.
There’s something else Napoli can provide, a catcher’s perspective on the American League, having caught with the Angels and Rangers. He’ll be able to contribute to conversations with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. How much?
“As he switches to first base fulltime, some of that remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “But he’s not going to look past his own personal history with the league. And I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of conversation between he, David and Salty just to share their experiences to come to some commonality that we also would have through our advance reports. But as far as funneling that from the adrenaline rush of leading a pitcher through a given game, that remains to be seen, how that’ll play out on the field.”
Then there’s Ross.
“An encouraging catcher, and encouraging from the standpoint encouraging the pitcher,” Farrell said. “Just talking to the guys that have thrown to him, there’s such positive feedback on the interactions they’ve had, either after a bullpen or while they’re actually throwing their pen, just on David’s comments in between pitches. He engages every guy he catches and I think that pitchers feel that connection and they feel the support from him, and that’s one of the things that makes him so valuable to get the most out of a given pitcher.
“That goes back to his game-calling ability. Not only is he smart in reading swings and getting a feel of a guy in the batter’s box when he’s trying to make an adjustment, but he speaks with confidence to the pitcher. And I think anytime that a pitcher hears that, as Ross speaks with that kind of conviction, they feel it and trust a pitch that is called in a given moment.”
Farrell said Ross can have a big impact, even on the days he doesn’t catch.
“As he builds a rapport with each pitcher, yes,” Farrell said. “It’s not to step over Salty or whoever else he might be with, it’s to know that his intentions are from the right spot and he cares about the guy on the mound, and you sense that.”
On Stephen Drew and comparisons to brother J.D. Drew: “A lot more talkative than J.D. That there seems to be no ill-effect from the ankle injury, through his ground ball work, the team defense that we’ve run through so far. He’s very particular in just looking for feedback, whether it’s in between rounds of BP, to the way the ball carries across an infield, trying to generate the exact rotation and backspin on throws to keep them true. He’s pretty meticulous in his work.”
On the bizarre lob-toss of Alfredo Aceves during live BP to Jonny Gomes and Saltalamacchia: “His session on the mound didn’t go as intended. He’s healthy and it’s been addressed.” WEEI.com’s Alex Speier has an in-depth look into the incident.
On Ryan Dempster: “A very consistent and professional approach. He’s a competitive guy, even in those games where things might not go well in the early innings, he finds a way to get through the middle or latter part of the game to keep some of the pressure off the bullpen on a given night. There’s a long history of big inning totals in given years and we’re looking for more of the same, to provide that leadership by example, more than anything.
“I think we’d sign up today for four guys who would give us 200-plus innings but it’s a consistent point for us to begin a game every night for that starting pitcher to control the tempo in the game into those later innings, and it sets us up for a chance to win on a consistent basis.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Ben Cherington: Conditioning is ‘something we’ve talked to [Felix Doubront] about’||02.16.13 at 6:39 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The moment of truth might finally be here for Felix Doubront.
Based on his performance in 2012, the left-hander entered spring training as a member of the rotation upon whom the Red Sox planned to rely. But the question hanging over the 25-year-old Venezuelan is: can he stay healthy?
In a three-season career with the Red Sox, Doubront has a 17–19 record with a 4.57 ERA and a 3.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio (228-to-72) in 271 2/3 innings.
Two seasons ago, after promising glimpses as a starter and reliever in the big leagues in 2010, Doubront’s growth was stunted when he reported to camp out of shape prior to the 2011 season. He subsequently came up with forearm tightness in his throwing arm at the start of camp, the first of a succession of injuries — arm, groin, hamstring — that left him in Triple-A for most of the season and rendered his contributions to the big league team minimal.
A minor knee injury slowed him briefly during the 2012 campaign. Still, Doubront entered last season as a starter and started strong, beating out Aaron Cook and Alfredo Aceves in spring training. With Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester getting off to relatively slow starts, and Daniel Bard being demoted to the minors Doubront got off to a good start, going 5-2 in his first 10 starts.
There have been glimpses of greatness. Last June, Doubront took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins. He finished the game giving up two runs on three hits and earned a win. He ended the season with a positive first year having a full time starting job, with a record of 11-10 and more than a strikeout per inning.
Now, Doubront is being held back because of shoulder fatigue.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington stopped short of calling out the pitcher for reporting to camp out of shape Saturday, lumping him in with the rehabbing Craig Breslow and Buchholz. All three took part in pitchers’ fielding drills Saturday.
“I think we’re kind of taking advantage of a longer spring training to go slow, and I guess you could say the same with Buchholz and Breslow,” Cherington said. “Guys that are moving a little bit slower out of the gate. I think if the opening day clock was coming on us quicker, you’d probably see them further advanced in their schedules by now. All three of those guys are feeling good and on a schedule now. Felix should be off the mound some time this coming week. So he’s got plenty of time.” Read the rest of this entry »
|John Farrell notes Saturday: Tim Wakefield can help Steven Wright, Daniel Nava stands tall at 1B||at 3:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — For years, Phil Niekro gave advice to Tim Wakefield when the Red Sox pitcher was, at times, trying to find consistency on the mound.
It appears the time has come for Wakefield to return the favor and he’s only too glad to do so.
John Farrell said Saturday that he spoke at length with Wakefield on Friday and that the retired knuckleball pitcher will come to camp next week and advise promising knuckleballer Steven Wright.
“It’s such a unique pitch and it’s going to be unique to the individual as well,” Farrell said. “Actually, Wake and I had a pretty lengthy conversation [Friday] and he’ll be in camp here in about another week to work with Steven directly so, understanding what worked well for Wake is not to say the same it’s going to be the same exact checkpoints for Steven. That’s such a fraternity, a tight-knit fraternity, the knuckleball pitcher. I think to have Wake as a resource and have him in here, he’s more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.”
Farrell made it clear that he is not putting the cart ahead of the horse when it comes to projecting where and when Wright might be able to help in the organization.
Acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline last year, Wright made a total of 30 starts for Double-A Akron, Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket and Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, accumulating a 10-8 record and 2.53 ERA while punching out 7.3 and walking 4.0 batters per nine innings.
As WEEI.com’s Alex Speier pointed out, the right-hander was drafted by the Indians out of the University of Hawaii in 2006 as a pitcher with good command of a low-90s fastball and a good slider that he could throw for strikes. Farrell first got a look at him while farm director with the Indians.
“I think it’s a little premature to begin to talk about Steven, just not knowing him all that well,” Farrell said Saturday. “It’s going to take a few outings to get a better understanding of what works well for him.”
Other notes from Saturday:
On the first day of live BP: “I thought it was a good work day overall, particularly pitchers making their next step, seeing hitters in the box. We came out healthy out of today so it was a good day.” Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury batted against Koji Uehara while David Ortitz and Jonny Gomes batted against Junichi Tazawa. It was while Tazawa was facing Gomes, that the Red Sox had their first scare of camp as Tazawa drilled Gomes in the back with a fastball, causing Gomes to turn to catcher David Ross and shout, “Old Ironsides,” an apparent reference to brushing off the ball. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mike Napoli: MRI provides ‘good news’||at 9:07 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Napoli returned to the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park Saturday morning from an MRI on his hips and pronounced himself ready to begin getting ready for the 2013 season.
“I found out that nothing’s changed, which is a good thing,” Napoli told reporters Saturday morning before Day 2 of full-squad workouts. “Medicine is working and the doctors were happy with the MRI. I’m going to be able to move forward, doing a lot more things. I’m going to start taking ground balls on my knees and progress from there. I’m going to start increasing my running program on the treadmill and go from there.”
The 31-year-old Napoli has a diagnosed condition called avascular necrosis. He has been on medication for several weeks, and doctors have told him that because it was caught early, it’s fully treatable and manageable. That, along with Thursday’s MRIs have provided a great deal of comfort as he looks to prepare for his first season in Boston.
“A lot,” Napoli said. “Talking to the doctors they were telling me that it was going to get better with this medicine. But to actually take the MRIs and get the results, it’s good news.
“It’s stayed the same, it didn’t get worse and that’s what we wanted. It’s only been six weeks of the medication. Doctors said it will get better over time but that’s probably going to take a year or maybe more for it to get better on this medication. It’s doing what we wanted, it’s staying the same so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.
“As of now, I’m not a full, full go but I’m able to progress and do a lot more stuff. Like I’ve said before, I’ll be ready for opening day but we’re going to take it slow and take everything that I have to do now.”
Napoli and the Red Sox had originally agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract before it was shortened to a one-year, $6 million deal with incentives. Now, he can get on with the business of preparing to be Boston’s regular first baseman, which means staying after workouts and working with infield coach Brian Butterfield. Read the rest of this entry »
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