|Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield among first-time Hall of Fame nominees in list dominated by ex-Red Sox||11.21.16 at 1:29 pm ET|
The Baseball Hall of Fame released its ballot for the upcoming election, and a number of Red Sox are among the first-time nominees, including slugging outfielder Manny Ramirez, steady catcher Jason Varitek, and dependable knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Ramirez, catcher Pudge Rodriguez, and former MVP Vladimir Guerrero are among the highest-profile newcomers.
There are no fewer than nine former Red Sox nominated for the first time, in addition to the aforementioned trio: shortstop Orlando Cabrera, outfielder Mike Cameron, outfielder J.D. Drew, shortstop Edgar Renteria, infielder Freddy Sanchez, and outfielder Matt Stairs.
Ramirez represents the trickiest candidate of the bunch. His numbers — .312 average, 555 homers — are easily worthy, but he failed a pair of drug tests and is unlikely to attain enshrinement.
Varitek and Wakefield have little chance, though the former made three All-Star appearances and won a Gold Glove, while the latter was an All-Star and 200-game winner.
Of the players returning to the ballot, Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) is the likeliest to get in. Ex-Red Sox Roger Clemens (45.2) and Curt Schilling (52.3) remain a ways away.
|Red Sox notebook: John Farrell comments on Travis Shaw’s late-spring slump||04.02.16 at 12:15 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Travis Shaw’s 2016 spring training numbers are excellent: 20-for-63 (.317) with two home runs, four doubles, 10 RBIs, 10 runs and a .368 OBP over 22 games of action.
However, Shaw has hit a slump at the back end of the exhibition season, with just two hits in his last 25 at-bats. On Friday in Montreal against Toronto, Shaw started and went 0-for-4 with a walk, grounding out twice into the Blue Jays’ defensive shift with three infielders placed between first and second base.
So how should Shaw avoid the shift?
“Don’t hit into it,” manager John Farrell said with a chuckle Saturday. “When Travis is swinging the bat well he’s using the whole field. I would like to think at some point he would get some of those lanes back. Now, opposing pitchers are going to pitch accordingly, so how he looks to combat that, he’s bunted a couple of times which I would anticipate he would continue to do. The shifts are part of everyday baseball now, he’s not the only one.”
As for Shaw’s recent skid, Farrell said he has seen a few trends.
“Travis is very much a rhythm hitter,” explained Farrell. “When he’s in that good spot he’s hitting all pitches in all areas of the strike zone. At times he may get a little bit pull oriented and that might make him a little bit more susceptible to some offspeed. That ebbs and flows a little bit.”
|Red Sox Hall of Fame announces new inductees: Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Larry Lucchino and … Ira Flagstead?||01.11.16 at 11:16 am ET|
The Red Sox on Monday announced the 2016 inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame, and you’ve definitely heard of three of them.
Stalwarts Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, who each won two titles in the 2000s, and former CEO Larry Lucchino, the hard-charging executive who remade Fenway Park, will join someone named Ira Flagstead, a forgotten outfielder from the 1920s, in induction ceremonies to be held on May 19.
Varitek, a three-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger during his 15 years in Boston. He caught a club-record 1,488 games and served as captain for his final seven seasons (2005-11). He retired with a .256 average and 193 home runs. He is now a special assistant to the general manager.
Wakefield spent 17 seasons with the Red Sox and is the franchise’s all-time leader in starts (430) and innings pitched (3,006). He’s second in strikeouts (2,046) and third in wins (186). He also made the playoffs more times (8) than anyone in club history, all on the strength of a knuckleball. He made one All-Star team, in 2009, and recorded the 200th victory of his career in September of 2011. He became honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation and a special assignment instructor in 2013.
Lucchino had already made a name for himself with the Orioles and Padres when he arrived as part of John Henry’s ownership team. Over 14 years, he oversaw the renovation of Fenway Park, as well as the assembling of three World Series champions.
That leaves Flagstead, an obscure name from a dead period in Red Sox history. He spent seven years with the Red Sox from 1923-29, hitting .295 and somehow earning MVP votes in five straight seasons.
|Red Sox put on show to celebrate David Ortiz’s 500th home run||09.21.15 at 7:53 pm ET|
“This is home. This is home. I wish I could’ve got it done here but it’s not that simple, that’s not how it works,” Ortiz said. “But I’m happy to be there, happy to be home and that the Red Sox having a ceremony for me.”
And when it rolled around, it didn’t appear he was disappointed in the aforementioned ceremony.
The first image of the celebration came with children wearing red shirts forming the number “500” in center field.
The 27th member of Major League Baseball‘s 500-home run club was presented with a variety of gifts, including custom-made boots from L.L. Bean (presented by third base coach Brian Butterfield, a Maine native), and a plaque commemorating his 500 homer, handed over by principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president/CEO Larry Lucchino.
The big gift, however, was driven in from center field — a fully-loaded luxury SUV. Adding to the surprise was the emergence of four of Ortiz’s former Red Sox teammates — Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek — from the car.
Varitek took the microphone to help introduce Ortiz, who let Martinez offer a spanish tribute before launching into his speech.
“I’m not much of a talker. Yeah, right,” Ortiz joked, leading off his minute-long speech.
“This organization gave me the opportunity to regroup, to build up my career,” he continued. “Definitely without you guys, the best fans in baseball, I would never get to this number.”
He finished his address by saying, “Let’s keep on hitting bombs.”
|Jason Varitek: Pedro Martinez’s ‘best moment was almost every time he took the mound’||07.28.15 at 7:22 pm ET|
In just the second year of his major league career, the catcher was behind the plate for Martinez’s second start as a member of the Red Sox against the Angels on April 6, 1998. When he pitched in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series for his final Red Sox start, Varitek caught that too.
“You look back and it’s just an opportunity,” he said. “I was so young … it was the most memorable moments that I had to do behind the plate. You don’t appreciate how good someone is until you play your entire career and you don’t really see it again.”
“He had the physical tools with an exploding fastball, location of it, the ability to change speeds, a devastating changeup developed into the same curveball,” Varitek added. “He had plus pitches across the board, but that only goes so far unless you have the competitiveness and the heart that he had when he pitched, and it made him who he was.”
He was emotional when Martinez gave his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday, sitting in front of the television for three and a half hours so he wouldn’t miss a thing.
“You just kept waiting, waiting, waiting, and he took the stage, but it showed what heart he has for both the United States and for his home, the Dominican …” Varitek said. “I’m just so proud and happy for him. It’s his moment, his time and so well deserved.”
There isn’t a whole lot of space on the right field deck for very many retired numbers, and that, to Varitek, speaks volumes of just how big it really is to have No. 45 go up there Tuesday night.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I mean you look on that board, and there’s only a few, there’s only room for a few [numbers], and deservedly so that Pedro’s is going to go right up there with them.”
|Could Christian Vazquez become Red Sox’ catcher of the future?||08.07.13 at 7:07 am ET|
A familiar scene unfolded late last month at Fenway Park. It was a picturesque July afternoon, and after lineup introductions and the national anthem, the home team took to the field for the top of the first.
Settling in his spot behind the plate was a stocky catcher with a big, red ‘33’ on his back.
He was in town with the Sea Dogs, who played the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, in the annual ‘Futures at Fenway’ game. For the 2008 ninth-round pick, it was a landmark event.
‘It’s my first time playing here,’ Vazquez said, noting he had visited for a physical when he signed in 2008 and again during the Red Sox‘ rookie development program in January. ‘It’s fun, wearing the 33 [like] The Captain.’
The question now is whether that opportunity to start behind the plate at Fenway represented a future harbinger.
Vazquez finished the contest 1-for-4, his lone hit a grounder deep in the shortstop hole that he beat out. He didn’t throw out any runners, but he didn’t the chance to try, either. None of Harrisburg’s eight baserunners tested the arm of the man who has cut down half (41 of 82) of would-be stealers in 2013.
While that day wasn’t spectacular for Vazquez, it wasn’t terrible, either ‘ much like his season on the whole. He is hitting .277 with a .366 OBP, .394 slugging mark and .760 OPS, a bit better than his career numbers of .260/.342/.394 and .736 in six minor league seasons.
According to Portland hitting coach Rich Gedman, Vazquez has made strides this year, part of which can be seen in his even strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has fanned 37 times and drawn 37 free passes, a far cry from his 79 strikeouts and 48 walks in 2012.
|Clay Buchholz: ‘I felt good all the way through’||04.14.13 at 6:05 pm ET|
Relaxation can be a wonderful thing for a starting pitcher. For Clay Buchholz it was the key to nearly repeating history.
Buchholz had the most dominant of his three outstanding outings so far this year, holding the Rays hitless for the first seven innings, allowing just two hits over eight scoreless frames and improving to 3-0 in a 5-0 win Sunday at Fenway Park. Buchholz lowered his ERA to 0.41 and has allowed just one earned run in 22 innings this season.
“Well, I felt pretty relaxed,” Buchholz said after Sunday’s masterpiece. “It’s an easy clubhouse to be relaxed. Everyone jells really well. I didn’t feel much different than any other day.”
But he admitted after his 109-pitch gem over eight innings that it was a lot more relaxing than the last time he seriously flirted with a no-hitter at Fenway.
“A lot more [relaxed] than the other time it happened [Sept. 1, 2007]. I was basically going out every inning after every pitch, telling myself to make a pitch and don’t worry about anything else. I felt good all the way through.”
Buchholz explained why was it so different than Sept. 2007, when Jason Varitek all but held the rookie right-hander’s hand through a dismantling of the Baltimore lineup.
“Because I had captain behind the plate and I didn’t want to shake him off because I was scared of him,” Buchholz said.
Skipper John Farrell had a good feeling from the start on Buchholz, who had 99 pitches after seven innings and was starting to approach that red-line area for pitchers early in the season.
“He had four pitches working for strikes,” Farrell said. “I think he struck out guys on four different types of pitches. After the seventh inning, the pitch-count is climbing. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy to walk out there with him with a no-hitter in tact. But on a day when we needed a starter to go deep in a game, he did that for us. An outstanding outing on his part. He made some key pitches, particularly in that sixth inning where things started to get a little extended. It was about a 22-pitch inning for him. He continued to make outstanding pitches throughout the course of the day.
“I think think the only thing we can speak to is the feel in the dugout. And after the fifth inning, you start to get a sense with each out recorded. Obviously, the crowd was getting into it.”
Farrell was never forced to make to the ultimate tough decision, hinting after the game that he would not have allowed Buchholz to get into the high-120s in pitch count.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know, will we?,” Farrell said with a laugh of relief.
The biggest key Sunday was not just first-pitch strikes but what he was using all day to get ahead of the Tampa Bay batters.
“I was able to throw first-pitch curveballs for strikes a lot today,” Buchholz said.
But that may have led to his undoing in trying to throw the second no-hitter of his career. Kelly Johnson opened the eighth inning by taking a curve for strike one. Then Buchholz went back inside to the left-handed hitting left fielder. The pitch didn’t quite get in on the hands enough and Johnson was able to get around, breaking his bat in the process, and dump a clean single over the head of Mike Napoli into right field.
“The second one I threw him it was basically supposed to be a purpose pitch, just to make it fall right on top the plate and see if we get a swing. I didn’t quite get it there and he was able to put the bat on it. It was just one of those things.
“I haven’t even seen it. When I released it, it felt like it was going to be a good pitch but obviously, I left it close enough to the zone if it wasn’t in the hitting zone, for him to get a bat on it,” Buchholz said.
“I know Kelly, I’ve played against him, played with him. I know he’s a good fastball hitter, so we stuck with our game-plan of getting ahead with some breaking balls trying to keep him off of it,” Buchholz’ battery mate Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Earlier in the game we were pounding him in. He hadn’t really looked too good on that curveball so I think that’s why we wanted to go back-to-back with it. Tip your cap, he broke his bat and it fell in.”
The Tampa Bay outfielder was just looking for something to work with. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jason Varitek ‘learning a lot’ as Red Sox catching instructor||02.21.13 at 7:59 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Former Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek spoke Wednesday about what it means to him to be back in the organization as a catching instructor. Varitek is serving as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, working with major-league and minor league catchers during spring training.
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia: ‘It feels good’ to have Jason Varitek back in camp||02.19.13 at 3:54 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The irony of the situation was rich Tuesday.
Jason Varitek, the former Red Sox captain, was in front of the pitcher’s mound on Field ‘2’ throwing pitches to catchers, observing how they called defensive signals, received the ball and threw to second and third base. Manager John Farrell and new bullpen coach Dana LeVangie was a close observer.
For 14 years, from 1998-2011, Varitek was the backbone of the Red Sox battery as its primary catcher. Now he wants to impart wisdom.
‘It feels good, having a guy like him that you respected growing up and got to play with him,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Tuesday. “It’s nice having him out there because he’s a guy that I’ve gone to in the past and I can still go to him. He’s there but you don’t feel like he’s stepping on anybody’s toes. He’s there for them, which is special.’
Saltalamacchia joined Varitek on the bench as Ryan Lavarnway was the starting catcher for the last game of Varitek’s career, Sept. 28, 2011, when the Red Sox lost their season finale and their season in Baltimore.
After taking 2012 off to spend time with his family, Varitek is back as a “special assistant” to general manager Ben Cherington. On Monday it was Pedro Martinez – another “special assistant” – showing his willingness to give back to Red Sox Nation. On Tuesday, Varitek appeared on the practice fields.
“I would say it’s very similar,” Farrell said. “You’ve got two very successful players who have been leaders in their own right at their respective positions. They’ve achieved team success as much as anybody has ever played in this game, particularly in this uniform. They’re both so well respected and I think they’re so respective of the city of Boston, the organization, they want to give back. They have a great opportunity to do just that. I know that Tek, even in his last couple of years, Salty would pick his brain a lot. And now Tek has the ability to do that on a broader scale. Most importantly, they both want to give back, and I think it’s a great thing.”
|Jason Varitek not a likely candidate to replace Gary Tuck||01.30.13 at 3:06 pm ET|
There will come a time, and it may be in the near future, that former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek can commence his big league coaching career with virtually his pick of jobs. But for now, even though the Red Sox have a newly created need for a bullpen coach and catching instructor on their big league staff with the sudden retirement of Gary Tuck, it does not appear that Varitek is being considered — or even wants to be considered — for a full-time return to uniform, according to a major league source.
Varitek retired because he wanted to spend time with his family, and while the 40-year-old embraced the opportunity to return to the Sox as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, that job seemingly represents the work-life balance that Varitek would like to maintain for now. There’s little question that a coaching future is available to him, but for the present, he’s likely to remain in his role.
That, in turn, means that the Sox must work to find a replacement for Tuck with less than two weeks before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Given that compressed timetable, while the Sox had yet to contact candidates about interviews as of Wednesday afternoon, the team plans to select from an internal pool of candidates already within the organization.
Three stand out as fairly obvious:
— Chad Epperson spent the last two years as the Sox’ roving catching instructor, a capacity in which he’s worked with the likes of Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (as well as minor leaguers such as Dan Butler, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart) for years. Last year, when Tuck had to take a leave of absence for personal reasons, Epperson joined the big league staff as his fill-in. He also knows a number of the team’s homegrown pitchers, having coached or managed players like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront and Daniel Nava while they were coming up through the system. Read the rest of this entry »
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