|Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Friday||02.19.11 at 7:31 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The gang’s all here.
The Red Sox are set to conduct their first full-squad workout of the spring on Saturday, one day after position players went through their physicals. That will occur after a rare full-squad meeting that manager Terry Francona does with his players, in which he goes all Knute Rockne to discuss the team’s expectations for its players and its organizational values. Other participants to that conversation will include GM Theo Epstein and the men who opened the Sox’ wallet this offseason, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO/President Larry Lucchino.
Somewhat remarkably, Henry, Werner and Lucchino are entering their 10th season at the helm of the Red Sox. Almost inevitably, whether from the owners themselves or from a reporter, joking mention will be made this morning of the fact that they remain the “new owners.”
As for the product that they are paying for this year:
–Much to the relief of several members of the Red Sox (most notably Jason Varitek), Carl Crawford will no longer torture them. The former Rays star was a constant thorn in the Sox’ side for several years, and so his new teammates are looking forward to having the shoe be on the other foot.
–Crawford shrugged off the notion that his seven-year, $142 million deal will result in any kind of added pressure on him this year.
—The outfielder recalled with gratitude a key piece of advice he received early in his career from a current Red Sox instructor.
–On the Dennis & Callahan Show, GM Theo Epstein discussed how the Sox “stumbled into” signing Crawford after initial skepticism about their ability to do so, as well as a host of topics surrounding the team, including areas of concern for team depth and the questions about the team’s starting pitching. For that, click here.
–Food was apparently on the Red Sox’ brains on Friday. Marco Scutaro said that manager Terry Francona‘s affirmation that the Sox gave him reason to host a couple of celebratory barbecues this offseason.
–Red Sox prospect Stolmy Pimentel was a rail-thin 16-year-old when he signed for $25,000 out of the Dominican in 2006, but he had what VP of International Scouting Craig Shipley suggested was a projectable body. Well, that projection now seems to have been fulfilled. Pimentel has grown a couple inches and, thanks to a rigorous commitment to the team’s strength program, he’s added quite a bit of muscle. He is now 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, touched 95 mph at times last year in High-A Salem and expects that he might be able to add even more velocity. The starter, who was added to the 40-man roster this winter, is likely to spend much if not all of the coming year in Double-A Portland.
–Not quite Sox-related, but there was an interesting chance encounter with “Jim Leyland.”
|Carl Crawford: Pressure, what pressure?||02.18.11 at 3:50 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Carl Crawford is feeling any pressure from signing a seven-year, $142 million deal on Dec. 11, he certainly isn’t showing it. In a 17-minute session with reporters outside the player development clubhouse, Crawford talked about making up with Jason Varitek, chatting with David Ortiz and hearing from Jim Rice about the great left fielders like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski who have preceded him in a Red Sox uniform.
“If I’m not, I better get ready pretty soon,” Crawford said when asked if he’s ready for the pressure that comes with wearing a Red Sox uniform after nine seasons with Tampa Bay. “I’m not worried about fans being at games. That’s one of my least worries. I’m excited to have the chance to play in front of all those people. Whether I do good or bad, it’s just a chance to have the opportunity to do that is exciting enough and I don’t really think I’m going to falter that much.”
And given the fact that he has led the American League in steals four times and triples four times, there’s no reason to change his offseason approach just because he changed uniforms.
“I just took the same approach like I take every year, get ready for the season the same way,” Crawford said. “My main goal is to worry about winning and that’s all I’m worried about.”
On Thursday, Ortiz said he had a good conversation with Crawford about hitting at Fenway. On Friday, Crawford spilled the beans.
“He was like, ‘If you can hit that Green Monster, try to because all times the wind might be blowing in a lot so you might get into a ball good and it might not go anywhere.’ That’s pretty much the plan I had already but to hear him say it makes me more comfortable trying to do it.”
Crawford certainly showed no nervousness when he laughed hard when asked if his big stolen base totals will go down now that he can’t torture Red Sox catchers, in particular Jason Varitek.
Crawford also joked that he “hugged” Varitek and “buried the hatchet” with the Red Sox captain after giving him nightmares on the base paths. The Red Sox certainly won’t miss facing him in a Rays uniform.
Crawford stole six bases on May 3, 2009 against Varitek and has won the American League stolen base title four times since 2003.
“I try to get as many as I can every year,” he said. “That’s my goal, to come out and put pressure on the other team and steal as many bags and try and get into scoring position.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox find relief from Carl Crawford||at 1:51 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As an opponent, he inflicted a strange form of torture. Members of the Red Sox simply hated to face Carl Crawford.
That notion truly commenced on Opening Day of the 2003 season, when one unlikely walkoff homer golfed from just off the ground against a Chad Fox slider managed to blow up the Closer-By-Committee concept before it ever had a chance to succeed. Over the years, the frustrations continued.
Crawford has played nearly a full season’s worth of games (144) against the Sox in his career. He is a .300 hitter with a .330 OBP, .442 slugging mark, .772 OPS and 12 homers against them, but those numbers barely tell the story. He has swiped 62 bags against the Sox — far and away his most against any club — while being thrown out on just four occasions.
And then, of course, there were the innumerable times that Crawford tracked down anything that was hit into the left field corner or the left-center field gap against the Sox.
“The ball never hit the ground,” said manager Terry Francona.
In short, he was a source of tremendous frustration to virtually every member of his new club — something that came up even on the day that he first put on a Red Sox uniform for his introductory press conference, when he encountered catcher Jason Varitek. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Wed.||02.17.11 at 7:13 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The second day of Red Sox workouts was tranquil, particularly in comparison to the expected-yet-still-stunning news across the state that the Cardinals and franchise icon Albert Pujols had not been able to reach an agreement on a long-term extension. By comparison, nearly any news would seem trivial, particularly on a day that featured little more than another round of drills and side sessions being tossed by pitchers.
Of course, the news that Pujols intends to test the free-agent waters also raises a fascinating question. In a world in which the Sox didn’t already have Adrian Gonzalez — and an agreed-upon framework to keep the newly acquired first baseman in Boston for years to come — would the team be better served pursuing Gonzalez or King Albert? For a closer examination of that quandary, click here.
In other news from Sox camp:
—Jacoby Ellsbury arrived in Red Sox camp eager to put 2010 behind him while looking forward to the coming season. The return of Ellsbury to full speed could create the basis for a fascinating competition between him and new teammate Carl Crawford, the latter of whom is expected to arrive in Fort Myers on Thursday. Ellsbury faces no restrictions this spring.
–Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka is in his fifth spring with the Red Sox. He is healthy and has already been given the green light to pursue a more aggressive throwing program than some of this teammates. This year, he is able to enjoy a spring in near anonymity, as the following of his every move has dwindled. For the 30-year-old, that could be a good thing.
—Jarrod Saltalamacchia is earning early raves in camp. The trust he’s earning from his teammates is important.
—Mike Cameron asked manager Terry Francona if he could play both left and right field during spring training. Cameron shows no reservations about moving from center to a corner position, despite the fact that he had a devastating injury the last time he was not playing center field.
—Jon Lester had a shot at 20 wins in his final start of 2010. The fact that he failed to reach that goal left him with a “bitter taste” during the winter. Lester said that he wants to cut down on walks this year.
—Brandon Duckworth and Tony Pena Jr., a couple of non-roster invitees, received clean bills of health after undergoing MRIs.
—Jason Varitek showed up in phenomenal shape, and has put himself in position to play as long as he wants to, said Francona.
–Prospect Oscar Tejeda is not your usual second baseman. The 21-year-old is turning some heads in Red Sox camp.
|The art of selling Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Red Sox pitchers, and why it matters||02.16.11 at 3:21 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There’s a common theme that’s been ringing through camp in the first two days of workouts for Red Sox pitchers and catchers – Jarrod Saltalamacchia looks just like Jason Varitek behind the plate.
Whether it’s Terry Francona, catching coach and guru Gary Tuck (via Francona) or pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the sentiment is that the newly tabbed regular catcher will do just fine because of how hard he has worked.
“Tuckster said he’s never seen somebody buy in so much as Salty did,” Francona said. “Tuckster really rode him pretty hard. We talked about the opportunity for Salty, I think he’s actually earned this. He’s worked hard at this. We wouldn’t have just done this out of the goodness of our heart. We want to win really bad. He’s bought into everything. The idea that somebody is dropping a Varitek [comparison] on him is a pretty big compliment.”
What Saltlamacchia is ‘buying into’ is the meticulous way Red Sox catchers go about physically preparing for the season and getting accustomed to the mechanics of each and every pitcher they could handle over the course of a season.
‘I think I know him as a person,’ Beckett said of the still 25-year-old catcher. ‘I definitely want to throw to him some. I’m looking forward to it. He’s got the best catching instructor in the world I think working with him. It’s funny. He does things like Tek now. There’s a lot of things, and there’s not a better guy to follow if you’re in that position, I would think. Everybody said the same thing, ‘He looks like Tek when he [catches] us.’ That’s a pretty damn good guy to look like.’
“That’s the way it should be,” Lester added Wednesday. “That’s way guys like that fit in around here. We’re don’t like guys that kind of pussyfoot around. We’re used to Tek. You know how he is. He comes out and tells you the way it is. There’s no getting around it, and you listen to what he has to say. You may not agree with it at that time, but you know that when it’s all said and done, he’s probably right. Salty’s got that same kind of mindset.”
Saltalamacchia has made it clear he appreciates the support of the pitching staff and the organization.
“It’s real important,” he said. “Pitchers and catchers are a family. We work together. So,the main thing for me is just get to know them, their situation as far as what they like to do with people on base, with nobody on base, just get into their heads a little bit and be able to work on the same table.” Read the rest of this entry »
FORT MYERS, Fla. — After the Red Sox‘ second day of spring training workouts, manager Terry Francona touched on the news of the day. Naturally, as one might expect from a time of year when games have yet to begin, the topic was primarily about who is and is not camp. Towards that end, Francona was asked whether any position players are expected to be late to report, or if all are expected to check in by Thursday.
“I haven’t checked to see if Manny will be here,” he said with a grin, in memory of the annual tardy arrival of former Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez. Incidentally, Ramirez checked into Rays camp on Wednesday.
Among current members of the Sox, Francona expects all position players to be in Fort Myers by Thursday.
In other news of the day:
—Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 45-pitch bullpen session, surpassing the 30 pitches that most of his teammates logged. The right-hander did that with the Sox’ blessing, however. Whenever possible, he wants to throw at some length, and the Sox are willing to sign off on that so long as his physical condition suggests that he can tolerate it.
“He’s obviously worked very hard. You can tell by the way he came into camp. We’ve always told him, it’s no secret, he wants to throw more, generally, than most of the guys we’ve had because of his background. We always told him, if he could withstand that, we had no problems with that,” said Francona. “Today he threw 45 pitches. Most of our other guys threw 30. That’s because he’s in good shape. We have no problems with that. If that’s a comfort zone for him but he can handle it because he’s strong enough, I think that’s terrific.” Read the rest of this entry »
|An eager (but relaxed) Josh Beckett thinks these Red Sox have great chance at 100 wins||02.15.11 at 1:32 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not that the length of a press conference is an indication of what lies ahead, but Josh Beckett spoke for over 15 minutes Tuesday morning and joked about Mike Lowell‘s golf game, Terry Francona nailing him in the face during the “rag ball” fielding drill and 2010.
The fact that he could speak openly and frankly about that last part may be the most encouraging news of all for the Red Sox.
Beckett said his back is healthy and he is ready to put his nightmarish 2010 season behind.
“I can’t change last year.said Beckett, who was just 6-6 with a career-worst 5.78 ERA in 21 starts. “I just have to do the best I can this year. Like my dad said, just throw the rear view mirror away because you can’t change anything that’s already happened. As frustrating as 2010 was, I have to move on because this is 2011.”
Beckett missed two months after straining his lower back during a start on a wet Yankee Stadium mound last May 18. Beckett agreed with Francona that he likely tried to do too much when returning from the injury.
“We’re all guilty of that, from time to time, trying to do too much right now when really all you need to focus on is this start, not five starts from now, or two starts from now, or even two pitches from now,” Beckett said. “In that aspect, we’re all guilty of that at times, and yes, I think I was guilty of that sometimes.
“I’m trying to have the best 2011 I can and put this team in a position to do what I think we’re all capable of doing, and that’s winning another World Series.”
Just like the time in 2007, when he singlehandedly turned around the 2007 ALCS against the Indians and blew away the Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series. But something he’s never done is pitch for a team that’s won 100 games in season, something the Red Sox haven’t done since 1946.
“I’ve always wanted to been on a team that won 100 games,” Beckett said. “I don’t think I’m more determined, but I feel like this team has a chance to do something really, really special like that. I think that’s where some of the determination comes from. I’m not trying to change last year with 2011. I don’t want anybody to look back and say 2010 was pretty [crappy] but 2011 was really good so, oh, well. That’s not me. Read the rest of this entry »
|Terry Francona takes stock of the Red Sox||02.13.11 at 3:09 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona held court with the media for the first time since arriving in spring training. He had spent the last two days huddled with team officials and coaches to formulate individual spring plans for the players in camp.
The Sox skipper welcomed the big expectations that exist for his club. One reporter noted that former Sox bench coach Brad Mills told Francona, after Boston’s active offseason, “Don’t [bleep] it up.”
“I actually had a few of those,” chuckled Francona. “One of them was from [GM Theo Epstein].”
Francona touched on a number of topics. Among them:
–Francona said that the team would try to manage any concerns about outfielder J.D. Drew‘s hamstrings. The outfielder has been concerned enough to have received medical attention from Dr. James Andrews in Alabama as well as doctors in Boston about his discomfort, though Francona suggested that the concern was not a huge one.
“It’s something that he has voiced some concern about,” said Francona. “I don’t think he’s real concerned about it, but it’s been there. I don’t think we want it to be a concern, so we’ll certainly monitor it.”
–The team doesn’t feel that it will have to put restrictions on second baseman Dustin Pedroia in his return from a broken foot, but it will try to structure his work to prevent him from having to stretch his foot out.
“When he does his work, we need to probably not break it up in segments. We try not to do that anyway. When they go out and do their infield stuff, they put their gloves down and then go to hitting,” said Francona. “But we’d rather not beat up guys ‘ and a guy like Pedroia is a good example ‘ for no reason. We’ll keep an eye on him. For as much as he talks and he likes to talk, he’s pretty honest with me about stuff. So I’m not too worried about that. there’s a reason we like him as a player, but at the same time we realize what’s happened to him, and we’ll keep an eye on him.”
BULLPEN: PAPELBON AND THE SETUP GROUP
–The manager does not foresee an issue arising with the acquisition of Bobby Jenks, a closer-turned-setup man. Francona, does, however, believe that closer Jonathan Papelbon will be able to use both the disappointment of his down year in 2010 as well as his status as a free agent following the 2011 season as sources of motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jason Varitek doesn’t have to worry about Carl Crawford now||12.11.10 at 2:09 pm ET|
‘In my opinion, he’s probably the most athletic player that’s in the game,” Varitek said. “Seeing him develop as a hitting, just being an athlete, playing more. Every year he just seems to get better. The dynamic, like Johnny Damon, his athleticism is his biggest attribute. Sometimes things happen at the plate that are so far against the book because he’s just an athlete. Him on the bases speaks for itself. Him running down balls speaks for itself. It’s a pretty interesting dynamic.’
Crawford has been a living nightmare for Varitek and other Boston catchers, going 62-for-66 in his career in steal attempts against the Red Sox. Even the great catching coach Gary Tuck had reached his wits’ end with Crawford.
“I don’t think I’ve thrown him out. I was telling him this [Friday],” Varitek said. “Tuck and I call it a window. I get to throw a ball, boom. When I throw a ball, I know if a guy’s in that window, where’s he at, if he’s going to be safe or out. I know I’m going to get him, know it’s going to be close or I know I don’t have a chance. It’s just a certain area you vision.”
The game that haunts Varitek more than any other came on May 3, 2009 at Tropicana Field when Crawford was 6-for-6 against Varitek, tying the modern MLB record for steals in a game.
“There’s probably been three times that I’ve known I’ve thrown the ball on Carl and said, ‘I’ve got him. No, I don’t got ’em.’ His acceleration the last 15-to-20 feet was the most different view. And I’ve seen Rickey [Henderson] slide into second. I’ve seen Ichiro [Suzuki] slide into second. I’ve seen some really good basestealers. But he was different. He’s almost accelerated to the bag more than any player from that view so it’s nice to have him.”
Turns out Varitek was underselling his skills against Crawford as he has thrown out Crawford before – once in 2004.
“Oh, I did? Good for me,” Varitek said in slamming his hand down on the conference table in celebration.
Sporting the World Series championship ring from 2007, Jason Varitek sat comfortably Saturday in his seat at the end of a conference table in room off the EMC Club at Fenway Park, declaring that he’s is more than ready to return for the 2011 season.
‘It’s awesome, it’s awesome,” said Varitek, who signed a one-year deal for $2 million, plus incentives. “Did I hope for it? Yes, I hoped for it and wished that it would happen. Did I necessarily this go-around, they may go in other directions? Yeah. I was excited I didn’t have to make that final decision.’
What Varitek returns to is one of the best scenarios he could have hoped for with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez on board.
“It’s like a tale of two different [scenarios],” Varitek said. “The [Red Sox] Nation wasn’t as happy as they are now with what’s gone on. To expect it, no. To expect us to win, yes and how much that takes to do that, you have to be in the right places. That gives us a chance but we still have big steps to take for this team to be good.”
But he admitted that between the end of the season and Saturday, this was the off-season he actually thought he might not return as captain as the Red Sox.
‘This, more than any time in my career, I had probably the most interest from other teams and it was probably in the same regards that they have a need for the same and have a same type thing and it might not be here [in Boston],” said Varitek, who did not disclose the teams or how far along he was in the process.
‘You don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen with injuries, etcetera. So I have to prepare like I know how to prepare everyday to physically and mentally be ready to play every day. That’s not necessarily the case but physically that’s what I have to do.’
A broken right foot limited Varitek to just 39 games in 2010, when he hit .232 and belted seven homers for the Red Sox as a back-up to Victor Martinez. He comes back in 2010 and actually could have a more prominent role on the team as he helps Jarrod Saltalamacchia learn the pitching staff.
‘Going into this last one, I figured a few more years but I don’t know,” Varitek said. “At this point of my career it’s almost a year to year basis of seeing where I’m at but physically, I think it’s a few more years.’
‘I’m excited,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I think ‘Tek did an amazing job on the transition. That’s not an easy thing to do, to be like a stalwart. For many, many years be the captain, and then be asked to handle a reduced role, I think what Tek did, his role didn’t get reduced. He didn’t allow it to be.
“He picked it up in other areas, whether it was helping out the other catchers or his teammates, and as much as we appreciated, that’s why we appreciate it, because it’s not easy. He handled it with a lot of class and dignity. We’re actually thrilled he’s back. I think it’s easy to lose sight, because he got injured last year. but he was having a really productive year. this isn’t all about helping salty. This is about helping us win games. he’s going to catch.’
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