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Tim Kurkjian on MFB: Rick Porcello’s contract extension ‘worth the money in the end’ 04.07.15 at 1:46 pm ET
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ESPN baseball reporter Tim Kurkjian joined Middays with MFB Tuesday afternoon to talk about Opening Day and also the contract extension for Rick Porcello. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Porcello and the Red Sox agreed on a four-year, $82.5 million extension on Monday. The right-hander was traded to the organization in the offseason, and has yet to pitch in a meaningful game, but the team wanted to lock up the 26-year-old while they could, as he was going to become a free agent at the end of the year.

“He’s still a young guy with a pretty darn good track record,” Kurkjian said. “He started so early. I think he showed signs he grew last year being the pitcher everyone thinks he can be. Seems like a lot of money to a guy who maybe is not proven for that amount, but it’s right in line with what everyone else is making, so I certainly didn’t have a problem with it. He’s a great kid and you know he’s not going to get out of shape or try hard enough. I think it was worth the money in the end and if you can lock your pitchers up it’s always a good idea.”

Kurkjian also discussed where he thinks the Red Sox will finish in the AL East, which is in second place behind the defending AL East champion Baltimore Orioles.

“I have them second in the East to the Orioles just because the Orioles won so easily last year and returned every pitcher except Andrew Miller,” he said. “I think Manny Machado and Chris Davis coming back healthy and everything is going to partially make up for he loss of Nelson Cruz and to a lesser degree Nick Markakis. But, the Red Sox, if they find a starting [pitcher] or they make a deal for one, or they find it from within they might win the division because they are going to hit their way to all sorts of things.

“We all know they are little short on starting pitching from what everyone can see at this point, but stranger things have happened. If you send Rusney Castillo to the minor leagues, that is a pretty strong team. And when Mookie Betts can have a day like he did on Opening Day — boy, every time I watch that kid from the first time last year, spring training this year, and again yesterday, boy, it gets more impressive every single time.”

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, mookie betts, rick porcello
For Red Sox to have success in April, offense will need to lead the way 04.04.15 at 1:19 pm ET
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Over the last three April's, Mike Napoli has hit 16 home runs and 46 RBI. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Over the last three April’s, Mike Napoli has hit 16 home runs and has totaled 46 RBI. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Going into the 2015 Red Sox season the general consensus with the team is the offense is going to need to carry the much of the load.

This will be tested right out of the gate, as historically the pitchers in the starting rotation don’t get off to strong starts. On the other hand, the team has some hitters who have been known to put up some pretty impressive April numbers.

Aside from his blistering start to the 2013 season when he started 9-0 before being sidelined with a neck injury and going 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in April, Clay Buchholz has struggled in first month of the year. He has a 4.53 career ERA in the month and besides 2013 he’s had issues of late, going 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA in 2014 and 3-1 in 2012, but with a 8.69 ERA.

The other two pitchers who will be starting in Philadelphia this week — Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson — also haven’t had much success to open seasons. Porcello for his career is 9-12 with a 6.12 ERA in April, while Masterson is a little better at 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA, but has had ERA’s over 4.84 in two of the last three April’s.

The best performers to start the season in the Red Sox rotation are the last two in Wade Miley and Joe Kelly (assuming he’s ready to start April 11 in New York). Miley is 7-3 with a 3.47 ERA and opponents are hitting just .221 against him in the month, the lowest of any month during the season. In 2012 and 2013 he went a combined 5-0 with an ERA less than two. Kelly has only made three starts in April over the course of his career, as he was a reliever to start the year up until last year. In three starts last April he allowed just one earned run.

With the starters not having great success to open season’s, and the importance of getting off to a good start, the Red Sox‘ offense will need to step up.

For the most part Red Sox hitters do get off to good starts, and no one gets off to better starts to the season at the plate than Mike Napoli. The Red Sox first baseman for his career hits .253, but over the last three seasons he has totaled 16 home runs and 46 RBI in the first month of the year.

Also, getting off to hot starts to open the year is David Ortiz. For his career he’s a .273 April hitter, hitting .250 last year, but in 2013 he hit .500 with three homers in just nine games and hit .405 with six homers in 2012.

Although Pablo Sandoval is hitting .300 overall in April’s, he had a very disappointing opening month last season — hitting just .177 with only two home runs and striking out 22 times. If he does struggle again, there are other players in the lineup who can pick him up. Dustin Pedroia has hit at least .270 the past three April’s, including .337 in 2013 (his best month for average that year) and .301 in 2012.

Starting the season at or below .500 after the first month in 2012 and 2014 and finishing those years in last place, and then going 18-8 in 2013 leading to a World Series, there is no denying the importance of getting off to a good start to the year, and with this Red Sox team the hitters will be leading the way.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, mike napoli
Observations from Red Sox’ rout of Twins: Mike Napoli clubs broken bat homer, offense explodes, Justin Masterson commands 03.30.15 at 10:31 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — As spring training games go, Monday night’s 14-2 pummeling of the crosstown Twins was about as good as it gets for the Red Sox.

Exactly one week before the season opener in Philadelphia, John Farrell rolled out a lineup that fans can expect to see against the Phillies (and hopefully most of the season). And that lineup produced just as Red Sox management hoped when they put together the new offense over the winter.

Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts continued his scorching spring with two more hits, including an RBI double high off the Monster in a six-run fourth. He scored twice and is now batting .467 on the spring.

Mike Napoli looks as comfortable as anyone in the lineup not named Betts. He has also carried a blazing bat in spring, even when he’s breaking it in half and homering as was the case in the fourth. He muscled up and clubbed a solo homer that carried over the Monster. The barrel of the bat wound up in the dirt next to the third base bag and he ran around it as he circled the bases on his fourth homer of the spring.

“It’s never happened before,” Napoli said of the broken bat round-tripper. “I think I broke it on my at-bat before when I hit the ball to right. I wasn’t sure but I thought I hit it on the barrel. It was just a weird feeling. The bat exploded and I was just kind of sitting there. It’s a weird feeling anytime you do that. I don’t know. I can’t really explain it.

“I was just kind of running around the bases like, ‘What just happened?'”

Napoli, with two hits Monday, is now batting .433 with an .867 slugging percentage in 13 games.

“I feel good. My hands are getting stronger,” Napoli said. “My timing is getting good. Just working hard every day in the cage and my BPs and just trying to take it into the games.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, justin masterson, mike napoli
John Farrell: ‘We’re not a perfect team but I like our team’ at 7:36 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell took a fun swipe the constant questions about his roster Monday before the game with the Twins at JetBlue Park.

“We’ve got some short-term questions with health that are apparent that we’ve talked about a lot,” Farrell said with a smile.

But the Red Sox manager certainly understands the daily queries about his roster given the health of Koji Uehara, Joe Kelly and the loss of Christian Vazquez. Those three changes alone have exponentially increased the complexity of his roster decision in the last week of spring training.

But there are still quality cogs on the roster that Farrell think can be part of the offensive machine that carries his team. On top of that, Farrell beamed about what he’s seen from his projected rotation this spring, starting with Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello. He’s also seen enough from Wade Miley and Justin Masterson.

He made it clear Monday that all four plus Kelly is what he projects heading into the season with as a starting staff.

“I like it. But I like our team,” Farrell said. “I think our rotation is going to pitch well, I really do. We’ve had some performances in spring training that, with guys in the bullpen, give us weapons to match up. Getting Koji back will certainly be a boost. We’re not a perfect team but I like our team.”

Farrell indicated that he was not inclined to keep an extra outfielder, even with the health questions of Uehara and Kelly.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox,
Koji Uehara admits ‘I don’t know when I’ll be back’ at 6:55 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — After Koji Uehara again felt something in his sore hamstring after a 30-pitch bullpen Monday, John Farrell can count on his closer not being ready for the start of the season.

“I don’t think there’s anything to suggest that come next Monday he’s in our bullpen,” Farrell said Monday. And that was before Uehara threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session that was far from 100 percent.

“Same as last time. It’s the same. I feel something in the same area so I’m not throwing as hard as I want to be,” Uehara said.

The question now is just when might the 39-year-old right-handed closer return to action.

“I don’t know when I’ll be back,” Uehara said Monday. “It’s a day-to-day process. I have to do what I have to do to get ready.”

Uehara hasn’t pitched since March 14. He has allowed seven hits and two earned runs in three one-inning stints this spring.

“I think I’m going to start on the DL just because I haven’t had the games,” Uehara said. “If that is the case, if I start on the DL, it certainly will be a disappointment. I knew from the beginning that it’s going to be a slow process. It’s from my experience.”

It would appear all but certain that Uehara will start the season on the disabled list as the Red Sox and Farrell try to patch together the backend of their bullpen, which starts with moving Edward Mujica into the closer’s role for the time being.

“I don’t have seven names to give you right now,” Farrell said of his uncertain bullpen. “We’ve still got some things to determine how we’re going to form the rotation, whether we go with an additional left-hander or right-hander, what the ramifications coming out of the mix for the short run, does that likely move Edward back into the closing role, and you’re down to a couple of right-handers, likely three, with two being a little bit better against righties.

“All of these things are factored in. I do know this that we’re in a point in time in camp where guys are throwing the ball as expected, that includes Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes. Brandon Workman’s last time out was encouraging so as we get to final week of camp here, the guys we felt would be in contention for spots are moving in the right direction.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Koji Uehara,
John Farrell hints Sandy Leon has edge over Humberto Quintero, Blake Swihart could start in minors at 4:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With so many moving parts at once right now, it would be hard to blame manager John Farrell for choosing his words very carefully when asked to project his roster, including the catching position.

Reading between the lines of Farrell’s meeting with reporters before Monday night’s game with the Twins at JetBlue Park, it appeared that 26-year-old Sandy Leon has the inside track to be Ryan Hanigan’s backup over 35-year-old Humberto Quintero, primarily because Leon is out of options and was immediately placed on the 40-man roster Monday while Quintero is not on the 40-man.

“I can’t deny that that is a factor,” Farrell acknowledged. “And it’s probably the same reason why he became available to us. That’s a factor in all of this, particularly when you look at trying to build depth. That’s not to take anything away from Humberto because he’s done a very good job for us.”

Leon walked through the clubhouse doors at JetBlue Park Monday afternoon before the game with the Twins, with his equipment bag in tow, and expressed his desire to help right away.

“It’s really good. I’m happy just to be here and learn a new team, new teammates, new pitchers. Just trying to communicate with them. I was enjoying my spring training, having fun playing. It was really difficult. I didn’t know what was going to happen. This morning I wasn’t expecting this. After 20 minutes, they were like, ‘Hey, you got traded.’ It feels kind of weird. But I feel good, just happy to be here.”

“I think it’s going to be good. I was really positive. I just want to play and help the team to win and get to a World Series. That’s what I want.”

Leon was asked if he was competing for a starting or backup catching job with Ryan Hanigan.

“I have no idea. You just have to wait to get into the games and see what happens,” Leon said. “It’s a really good challenge. I feel good.”

Quintero, who came over to give his native Venezuelan a hug at Leon’s locker, has an opt-out deadline of Tuesday. If he accepts an assignment, he likely would begin the season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

“There’s no decisions on where we go but we needed to build depth, for sure,” Farrell said.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Humberto Quintero, Ryan Hanigan
NFL’s Brandon Magee thinks he can make Red Sox: ‘If I focus on this, that’s not even a concern’ at 1:40 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Give Brandon Magee this much: He’s not afraid of failing.

The linebacker who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week is vowing to give his full commitment to the Red Sox, the team that saw his talent on the other side of the field at Arizona State, as an outfielder. All of this despite not having played in a competitive game on the diamond since 2011, his junior year at college.

The Red Sox drafted Magee in the tenth round of the 2012 draft. But instead of choosing baseball, the two-sport star at ASU chose to focus on his NFL dreams. He’s gotten a taste of it with the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns before his release last week by the Bucs.

He arrived at the Red Sox complex on Sunday, with his only goal of listening to coaches and taking directions.

“As of right now, I don’t even know exactly what I’m going to do next week,” Magee said. “I’m just taking it day by day and see where it goes.”

Few athletes have been able to pull off what Magee is pursuing. There’s Deion Sanders in baseball and football. Michael Jordan gave baseball a shot while cooling his Hall of Fame basketball heels.

But perhaps the most successful of all of the two-sport stars of the modern era is Bo Jackson. And Bo knows Brandon. Or, more to the point, Brandon has met and talked to Bo. Last spring, Jackson paid a visit to Fort Myers to chat with Magee.

“He’s a great guy,” Magee said. “He’s been here before and he’s an encouragement all the time I’ve talked to him. He’s just encouraged me to stay humble and keep working hard. Try to outwork everybody out here. That’s his main key.”
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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, brandon magee, Cleveland Browns
Red Sox officially place Christian Vazquez on 60-day DL with elbow sprain, add catcher Sandy Leon at 10:42 am ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have admitted they’ll be without catcher Christian Vazquez for a while.

The club placed him on the 60-day disabled list Monday with a sprained right elbow. The move allows the Red Sox to add newly-acquired catcher Sandy Leon to the 40-man roster. With the transaction, the Red Sox now have 44 players in big league camp, including 32 active players from the 40-man roster, 11 non-roster invitees, and one player on the disabled list.

Leon, 26, has appeared in 13 games this spring for the Nationals, batting .286 (6-for-21) with one double and three RBI. A switch-hitter, he appeared in 20 games for Washington last season, making 17 starts behind the plate.

The native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, has hit .189 (18-for-95) with three doubles, one home run, five RBI, and nine runs scored in 34 big league games, all with Washington (2012-14). Considered a defensive specialist, Leon has thrown out six of 15 potential base stealers in the major leagues. The Nationals won 16 of his 26 starts (.615) over the past three seasons.

Over four stints with the Nationals in 2014, he went 10-for-64 (.156) with a double, a home run, and three RBI while throwing out five of eight potential base stealers from behind the plate. In 51 games with Triple-A Syracuse last season, he batted .229 with nine doubles, five home runs, 25 RBI, and 23 walks, and caught 12 of 21 would-be base stealers.

Leon, who will wear No. 3, was originally signed by Washington as an international free agent on Jan. 17, 2007. Over his eight minor league seasons, he has thrown out 45 percent (245 of 543) of attempted base stealers. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Sandy Leon
Source: Red Sox acquire catcher Sandy Leon from Nationals at 8:42 am ET
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Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have acquired some organizational catching depth.

A source confirms to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that catcher Sandy Leon is on his way to the Red Sox. Details as to who would be going the other way in the deal were not immediately available. Leon first told James Wagner of The Washington Post about the deal Monday morning.

Leon is 26 and out of options, and was considered a long shot to break camp with the Nationals. Christian Vazquez is scheduled for a second opinion on his right elbow with orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews Wednesday in Pensacola. He has been all but ruled out for the beginning of the season and his availability this season is up in the air. Manager John Farrell repeated again Sunday that the Red Sox are focused on internal candidates to fill the role of a second catcher on the team.

With Ryan Hanigan the clear choice to start most of the games, the battle for backup was between super prospect Blake Swihart and 35-year-old veteran Humberto Quintero.

Leon is a switch-hitter who has played sparingly over the past three seasons, totaling just 107 plate appearances in the majors, hitting just .189/.280/.253. Leon has fared better at Triple-A where he’s posted a .257/.358/.414.

Leon has, for the most part, been a minor league catcher, batting .236/.324/.329. Like Quintero, he’s considered a defensive specialist, throwing out 45 percent of would-be base stealers in his minor league career.

Read More: 2015 spring training, blake swihart, Boston Red Sox, Chistrian Vazquez
Observations from Red Sox’ 3-2 win over Rays: Rusney Castillo makes play for right, Brian Johnson depth option 03.29.15 at 5:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rusney Castillo is making it harder and harder to leave him off the Opening Day roster.

The Cuban outfielder, who has overcome oblique issues early in camp, showed again Sunday in a 3-2 10-inning win over the Rays at JetBlue Park why he is regarded as such a dynamic player, and why the Red Sox invested $72.5 million over seven years in his potential.

With one out and the go-ahead runner at third in the top of the tenth of a 2-2 game, Castillo ranged far to his left, slid in foul territory and caught the ball just before it hit the grass. He popped up and fired a seed to catcher Matt Spring, who applied the tag on the runner trying to score for the inning-ending out.

“I don’t know that you can make a play better than the one he made,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Diving play into foul territory, gets up, sets his feet and throws a 150-foot strike. A dynamic player when you consider the skill set he has. If there was any question on whether he could play right field, I think he’s certainly answering those for us in camp here. We were over in Jupiter, he handled a sinking line drive that was going towards the line. His reads and routes are fine. Obviously, he has enough arm to play the position. A very good athlete.”

“It turned out to be a good play,” Castillo said. “I’m always kind of anticipating that kind of thing to happen. You have men on third in a big situation, you hope that you can make a play like that and execute the way it turned out. Just fortunate everything went our way.

“It’s just as natural to me as center field is. I played both center and right field in Cuba. It’s not a new position. It’s not a foreign position. I pretty comfortable in both.”

Leading off the bottom of the inning, he did not homer over the Monster, as he did to win the game against the Twins last Thursday. Instead, he settled for a single to left to open the inning. He advanced to second on a passed ball and sped to third on an Allen Craig fly to medium center.

One out later, Castillo scored the game-winner again when Deven Marrero singled off the netting in left field for a 3-2 victory. Castillo is now batting .263 with five runs scored in his seven spring games.

“I feel pretty good,” Castillo said. “Thankfully, I’m healthy, having no restrictions. I feel good. My swing is in a good place.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, brian johnson, Rusney Castillo
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