|Ben Cherington isn’t pressured by center field battle or outfield roster spots||02.24.15 at 4:44 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The way Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington sees it, the wealth of candidates for the team’s center field starting job is a good thing. He made that much clear Tuesday when he said he could envision a scenario where every outfielder remains on the organizational roster by the time the team heads north for Philadelphia and opening day April 6.
He also made it clear that he really, really thinks the world of one of the three candidates for center field, Mookie Betts. Cherington was asked about the rumored interest of the Phillies in acquiring either Betts or Blake Swihart should the Red Sox come calling for lefty ace Cole Hamels. Cherington stopped short of calling Betts untouchable but barely.
“We think he’s an exceptionally talented young player, does a lot of things well and obviously has shown an ability to make adjustments quickly and has an aptitude and gives us a chance to help us win games for a long time,” Cherington said. “That’s kind of player we want on our side. I don’t get into the whole untouchable [not] untouchable thing. I’m not even sure what it means. We know what we think he can be and we’re really happy he’s here, and we expect him to be here.”
With the addition of Hanley Ramirez and the return of Shane Victorino, the Red Sox also have a potential glut of outfielders. Three of them, Betts, Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. (whom John Farrell called the best defensive center fielder in the game) will battle for the center field job. Victorino comes in as the right fielder with Daniel Nava and Brock Holt as possibilities. Ramirez will play left. Read the rest of this entry »
|John Farrell on Jackie Bradley: ‘He’s the best [defensive] center fielder in baseball’||at 2:26 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was another long day for John Farrell, having brief meetings with every Red Sox position player. One of the more interesting get-togethers might have been the one with Jackie Bradley.
With all the talk of an outfield competition, along with Farrell’s recent proclamation that Shane Victorino (if healthy) would be the Sox’s starting right fielder, Bradley has become somewhat of the forgotten man.
(Hitting .198 in 127 games last season will do that.)
But Tuesday Farrell brought Bradley’s name back up to the surface with a vengeance.
“There are three prime candidates in that spot,” said Farrell when asked of the center field competition. “If you’re pinning those two positions on Hanley and Vic, what’s left over. That’s where Mookie [Betts], Rusney [Castillo] and Jackie come into play. Individual strength that vary to each person, each player. That’s what it begins to center around. And the durability and the dependability of the guys on the flanks will have some effect to the overall decision in the outfield.”
When asked if all three outfielders were starting on and even playing field heading into spring training, the manager responded, “I think every player is starting on an equal footing. But there are going to be some things that happen over the course of camp that we can’t turn away from. And there might be some things that are unforeseen at this point. We have all of camp to arrive at that initial Opening Day roster.”
Then, in case anybody didn’t realize, Farrell made it clear why Bradley is still in the mix.
“He’s working to establish himself more as an offensive player. In my mind, he’s the best center fielder in baseball and I’m not afraid of saying that,” the manager said. “He’s an extremely talented guy. There have been some offensive challenges, but don’t deny what he can do and he can play center field as good as anybody.”
|Jackie Bradley Jr. literally putting it all on the line||02.13.15 at 4:58 pm ET|
Visitors to Jackie Bradley’s batting cage at JetBlue Park might think he was getting ready to hang some laundry.
A rope stretches across a screen in the right-handed batter’s box at roughly eye level, and Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez believes it holds the key to Bradley regaining the form that made him a top-flight prospect before a disastrous 2014 cast his future into doubt.
The purpose is simple — Bradley shouldn’t swing at anything over the line. By forcing him to consciously swing down on the ball, Rodriguez hopes Bradley can rediscover the approach he utilized throughout the minors, when he looked like a potential leadoff hitter.
“Staying under the line means staying on top of the ball,” Rodriguez said by phone on Friday. “You’ve got to stay short and through the ball. It’s a target that you visualize, and it forces you to stay on top.”
Bradley moved to Naples after the season and has been working out in and around JetBlue for more than a month and a half. Rodriguez believes the results have caught the attention of manager John Farrell and other members of the coaching staff.
“Guys who haven’t seen him — [hitting coach] Chili Davis, the manager, the coaches — they’ve been real happy with what they’ve seen,” Rodriguez said. “To give him credit, he’s put in a lot of good time to get it done.”
In 530 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Bradley has hit only .196 with a .548 OPS. Both numbers rank in the bottom three in baseball.
The struggles took a mental toll and led to reports that Bradley stubbornly resisted the advice of his coaches. Rodriguez views it a little differently.
“I’ve been with him for a while,” he said. “I saw him in the minor leagues. You want him to do what he’s capable of doing. The last two years, he really didn’t show that, or at least what he showed me in the minor leagues.
“What’s more, he believes in himself so much that he trusted what he was doing and really didn’t want to go out and try something different. A lot of times we gave him opinions and he probably thought that his way was going to be better. It’s tough, because he believes in himself so much, and he wanted to go his way.
“I believe that was a learning year for him. All that is behind him. He really wants to do things the right way. I’m very positive that this guy’s going in the right direction.”
The fruit of Bradley’s labors will be apparent this spring. If he hits, he’ll force himself back onto the big league radar, even in a crowded outfield. If he doesn’t, we might never see him in a Red Sox uniform again.
All Rodriguez knows is that he’s not closing to giving up on Bradley, as he made clear when asked what kind of player Bradley can be if he figures things out at the plate.
“Oh my dear Lord,” Rodriguez said. “Something good. I know his name is not mentioned too much. But the defensive ability this guy has, if he’s able to bring that offensive part of the game on a consistent basis, I think we’ve got something good, something really good.
“And for me, it’s not a bad thing that Jackie Bradley will come out and show people the kind of player he is. It’s going to benefit the team.”
|Red Sox notebook: Jackie Bradley’s market; Yoenis Cespedes’ fielding future; Rusney Castillo’s health||11.11.14 at 7:11 pm ET|
Included in that mix is Jackie Bradley.
When asked if teams are viewing Bradley as an everyday center fielder, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, “I do think there are some teams that think of him in that way, as they should. And we think of him in that way. You don’t know on what date it will all happen. But we certainly think of him as an everyday caliber center fielder.”
The question revolving around Bradley, of course, is his ability to hit. The outfielder barely avoided possessing the worst batting average of any player with at least 384 at-bats, hitting .198.
But then there’s that defense, which allowed for the rookie to finish among the finalists for an American League Gold Glove.
“Teams have come a long way, the industry has come a long way on separating out the myth from the facts — this is what we know, this is what we can predict, this is what we can’t predict,” said Cherington of measuring defense. “There’s probably more volatility in the defensive projections than there are in other areas because so much of it is environmental and contextual. There’s more noise in the data. You look at longer sample sizes with defense to try to get as long a sample as possible when you’re evaluation as opposed to offense, where you may be able to look at smaller. It’s not precise, but I think teams are a lot further ahead than they were 10 years ago.”
— Cherington said no definitive decision had been made on whether Rusney Castillo would be playing in the Puerto Rico Winter League (as planned). The GM did note, however, that Castillo’s bruised hand was no longer a concern.
“He got seen yesterday in Boston. He’s fine, coming along, basically passed everything,” Cherington said. “We’re going to make a determination in the next several days as to whether to continue the offseason get him back to Puerto Rico at some point. He would need a period of ramp up now, but the injury essentially is healed.”
Castillo, who signed a contract in August that runs through 2020 for $72.5 million, hit .278 with a .333 OBP and .361 slugging mark with three doubles, three walks and six strikeouts in 39 plate appearances for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. He was originally scheduled to start playing for former Red Sox’ infielder Alex Cora‘s team in Puerto Rico on Nov. 7.
|Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia and Yoenis Cespedes finalists for AL Gold Glove||10.23.14 at 5:58 pm ET|
Three members of the Red Sox were named finalists for the 2014 Rawlings Gold Glove Award, which recognizes one player from each league at each position. Three-time winner Dustin Pedroia was named a finalist along with Robinson Cano of the Mariners and Ian Kinsler of the Tigers. Jackie Bradley Jr. was named a finalist in center field along with Adam Jones of the Orioles and Adam Eaton of the White Sox. And Yoenis Cespedes, acquired in midseason from the A’s, is a finalist in left field, along with Michael Brantley of the Indians and reigning winner Alex Gordon of the Royals.
Fangraphs had Pedroia as the major league leader by a considerable margin in UZR. John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system had Pedroia as second to Kinsler in both runs saved and defensive plays made above average.
Fangraphs had Bradley leading the American League, also by a significant margin, in UZR, while Dewan’s system had Bradley behind only Leonys Martin of the Rangers in runs saved (14), but placed him behind Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson of the Royals as well as Eaton in plus/minus.
Though Fangraphs had Cespedes being below average in range, his howitzer of an arm permitted him to rank second in the AL (behind only Gordon) in UZR, according to Fangraphs. Dewan’s runs saved system likewise pegged Cespedes as the second most impactful left fielder in the AL with 12 runs saved, behind only Gordon’s 27.
Arguably short-changed as a nominee for the second straight year: Mike Napoli, who according to Dewan, ranked third in the AL to a pair of Orioles (Steven Pearce and Chris Davis) in first base runs saved and led the AL with 10 plays above average. Fangraphs pegged Napoli as having the third best UZR (behind Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira) in American League UZR.
|Buster Olney on MFB: ‘A little scary’ that Red Sox are so reliant on David Ortiz||09.17.14 at 12:59 pm ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox‘ prospects for next season and other baseball news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
David Ortiz recently talked to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford about how he feels he proved his worth this season after being disrespected last offseason. Olney said he understands Ortiz’s feelings, but he also appreciates that the Red Sox can’t go overboard to keep the aging slugger happy, despite his solid production.
“He was tremendous. He certainly I think added to numbers that are already Hall of Fame-worthy,” Olney said. “But in some respects it’s got to be a little scary for the Red Sox, because I kept on hearing from people with other teams, they’re like, ‘You know, David Ortiz is great, but when you’re in a position where the Red Sox are and you have a player in his late 30s who’s your best offensive players, that’s a little scary. And you don’t want to be out on that ledge. The fact that they were so reliant on him this year, where it felt like if Ortiz didn’t hit they really didn’t have much around him, it probably is an impetus for the Red Sox to go out and make some improvements. He was great, there’s no question about it.
“And I know that part of [his attitude] is related to David’s feeling about the contract and was it handled right. The bottom line is, is that where we are in 2014 is that designated hitters, like closers, do not get huge dollars. That’s part of the reason why — and age has a lot to do with it — why the Red Sox are never going to go way out on a long-term contract on a player in that position.”
Asked what was the key to the Sox’ struggles this season, Olney said: “Offense. Taking a big step back. AJ. Pierzynski was supposed to be more than what he was, it just didn’t work out. They clearly didn’t get as much out of [Xander] Bogaerts than they thought they would. Jackie Bradley Jr. wasn’t close to being what they thought he would. And I know Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t had a huge season with the Yankees, but he’s a much better offensive players than Jackie Bradley Jr. was, and they never made up for what Jackie couldn’t do. And that’s been a problem all year for the Red Sox.”
Olney said it’s not unreasonable to think the Red Sox could return to the top next season, pulling off another worst-to-first, especially when looking at issues the rest of the American League East teams have.
“I do think if [Rusney] Castillo makes an impact for the Red Sox next year, if you see Bogaerts bounce back, if Mookie Betts is a great player for them all season and if they get one rotation anchor, then yeah, you could absolutely see the Red Sox bounce back,” Olney said.
For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
|Mookie Betts to play second down stretch as Brock Holt sent to concussion specialist||09.11.14 at 10:33 pm ET|
Dustin Pedroia is out for the rest of the year. Brock Holt, after the persistence of symptoms (nausea and light-headedness) that were initially viewed as the flue, is now on his way to see a concussion specialist. And so, with second base in flux, Mookie Betts will move back to second base, the position where he’d spent nearly all of his professional career until this May when the Sox had him transition to the outfield.
The Sox had initially resisted the idea of moving Betts back to second based on their desire to give him consistent exposure to his new position. But that commitment was based on the expectation that Holt would be the everyday second baseman. With Holt sidelined, the team viewed moving Betts to second as a chance to get regular playing time in center for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Manager John Farrell said that Betts, who took grounders with infield coach Brian Butterfield prior to Thursday’s game, could get a start at second as soon as Friday.
“With Pedey being done for the remainder of the year, we’ll look to get Mookie at second base going forward,” Farrell told reporters. “With Castillo coming, center field would be shared by Jackie and Rusney. … It’s based on the changes that have taken place to the roster. It was unforeseen. At the time, when Pedey went down, Brock was going to get the remainder of the reps at second, but with that being in question, this is a chance to keep Mookie on the field every day and get Jackie and Rusney on the field as well.”
Despite the fact that Betts will play second base to give the team an opportunity to offer playing time to Bradley and Castillo, Farrell said the Sox have not altered their outlook of the 21-year-old as someone who can patrol the outfield. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox notes: Rusney Castillo moving up to Triple-A; Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Gold Glove question||09.07.14 at 12:26 pm ET|
What’s next for Rusney Castillo?
After the Portland Sea Dogs’ season game to an end Sunday thanks to an 8-5 loss to Binghamton, Castillo will now be moving on to Triple-A.
The newly-signed outfielder is scheduled to make his debut with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Tuesday at McCoy Stadium.
Castillo went 2-for-5 with a double, run scored and RBI in in his final game with the Sea Dogs. Thus far, in six minor-league games, he’s hitting .357 (6-for-19) with four runs, three RBI and a stolen base. He has struck out twice and walked twice.
“It’s a matter of him getting his timing down,” said Farrell. “The reports have been favorable, just with the overall explosiveness, the speed, the bat speed, but still, we’re looking at roughly 14, 15 at-bats.”
Farrell said that he’s simply been following reports on Castillo rather than spending time looking at video footage of the 27-year-old.
“I don’t want to make too much out of the number of at-bats that he’s had already,” said Farrell. “But, just talking to those who have been there in the ballpark during games played, he looks to be an exciting player.”
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
— Mookie Betts has shown improved comfort in center field in this callup as opposed to his previous ones, showing better jumps on the ball and more direct routes. He has looked better in center — where he’d spent part of his amateur career and had most of his minor league experience this year — than in right. Jackie Bradley Jr., on the other hand, has looked tremendous in every outfield position. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ben Cherington: Concerns about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s coachability ‘absolutely not’ part of sending him down||09.03.14 at 6:20 pm ET|
NEW YORK — It has been a difficult time for Jackie Bradley Jr. The 24-year-old hit .212/.288/.290 in the big leagues, a performance that resulted in his being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in mid-August. His results have been little better there, as he’s hit .212/.246/.273 in Triple-A.
As reported at the time of his assignment to Pawtucket, there have been questions inside the Red Sox organization about whether Bradley was receptive to some of the messages that he was receiving from team officials and coaches — a concern that is distinct from his willingness to work or his desire to improve. While those questions were real, however, GM Ben Cherington suggested that such concerns had nothing to do with the move to demote Bradley and call up Mookie Betts to be the everyday center fielder in mid-August.
“First of all, as far as the question about whether that was part of the decision to send him down, I can say absolutely not. The decision to send him down was based on our feeling at the time that the offensive part of the game — that he needed to develop a routine that worked for him and it was going to be easier for him to do that for some period of time in Pawtucket,” Cherington said in Yankee Stadium. I’m not a coach. I know that every player is different, is going to respond differently to guidance. We know that Jackie has had a ton of success in his life as a baseball player, at the major league level, at the minor league level. It hasn’t come as quickly for him, at least on the offensive side at the major league level, and that’s not easy for a guy to deal with. There’s never been an issue from the Red Sox’s perspective of whether he’s willing to work or whether he cares, anything like that. We’re trying to find the right way to reach every player, including Jackie, and then the player has to have a responsibility then too. That’s a relationship that we strive to reach. We want to build a good, functional relationship with any player. And if one is struggling it means we still have to work on that, but it had nothing to do with sending him down to Pawtucket.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox expect renewed commitment from Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks||at 1:18 pm ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Red Sox as the team’s miserable season moves into its final month. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Red Sox and Yankees are in the midst of a series in Yankee Stadium, and Olney noted that you’d have to go back to the days of Babe Ruth (during one of his rare off seasons) to find a time when both teams were ranked so low in offense.
“We’re closing in on a century since we’ve seen these two teams struggle this much offensively,” Olney said. “As you guys know, the Red Sox are always typically a good offensive team, the Yankees usually have their share of left-handed hitters who thrive in their home park. It just hasn’t been the case this year. It’s been a completely aberrational year.
“And as they play tonight, I was talking to a person within the Yankees organization today, they feel like they’re at the tipping point. The question is whether or not the Red Sox are going to shove them over the edge.
Rusney Castillo started playing in the Red Sox minor league system last week, and he’s moving up to Double-A this week. Olney said he isn’t sure if the Cuban outfielder will make an appearance at Fenway before the season is over.
“I think they should, because they think he’s going to be part of the team next year, and why not?” Olney said. “I know, for example, a lot of teams are doing that these days. The Cubs are doing it with Javier Baez, they’re doing with with Jorge Soler. … If I were the Red Sox, sure. Because you’re not going to pay a guy $72 million unless you think he’s ready to translate right away. So, why not? It’s a signed, sealed deal, so the arbitration clause doesn’t come into it, you might as well throw him into the deep end of the pool.”
Jackie Bradley Jr., who was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 17, is expected to return to Boston for the last few weeks of the season, although his offensive struggles have continued with the PawSox.
“[A return] would make sense,” Olney said. “And if they don’t, then let’s face it, it would have to be taken as punitive. It would have to be taken as a sign from the Red Sox organization that they want Jackie to focus more on making adjustments. That’s the big question now about him within the Red Sox organization: Will he make adjustments? Because I know that during the course of the year when he was approached about that, his response was, ‘Look, I’m fine. I’ll work my way through it. I feel good.’
“Now that we’re near the end of the season, they feel like that just wasn’t done in the way that it should have been done. And they’re going to want him to do that going into next year, and they’re going to want to have him respond. And given the fact that they have this volume of outfielders, I really think next spring is going to be absolutely huge for him.
“And this winter’s going to be huge — I was going to bring this up, too — for Will Middlebrooks. I know that there is desire within the Red Sox organization that Middlebrooks go and play winter ball to get more at-bats, to get more experience and to turn the corner. And if he doesn’t, then I think there’s a good chance he’s going to spend next year in the minor leagues. They don’t want to give him away. And I heard this from a couple of different teams, that when they approach the Red Sox, the Red Sox know that they have a really talented guy in Middlebrooks who hits for power, but they want to give it every opportunity for that to happen with them, because they know if they trade him now it’s essentially going to be at a cut rate, and it’s not going to be at what they believe his value to be. So if he’s going to be in the big leagues next year I think winter ball is going to be a big part of it, and a good spring training would have to be a big part of it.”
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