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Red Sox find relief from Carl Crawford 02.18.11 at 1:51 pm ET
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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.

There was a straight steal of home in 2006 against Jason Johnson. There was the game in 2009 where Crawford stole six bags against the Sox, running circles around Jason Varitek and Brad Penny.

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 »

Read More: carl crawford, Jason Varitek, tampa bay rays,
Red Sox Roundup: What happened in Fort Myers on Wed. 02.17.11 at 7:13 am ET
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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.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Albert Pujols, brandon duckworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka
The art of selling Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Red Sox pitchers, and why it matters 02.16.11 at 3:21 pm ET
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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.

‘€œI think I know him as a person,’€ Beckett said of the still 25-year-old catcher. ‘€œI 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 »

Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, gary tuck
Managerial musings: Francona on Ellsbury, Daisuke and more at 1:54 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: brandon duckworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek
An eager (but relaxed) Josh Beckett thinks these Red Sox have great chance at 100 wins 02.15.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: 2007 World Series, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
Terry Francona takes stock of the Red Sox 02.13.11 at 3:09 pm ET
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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.”


–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 »

Read More: alfredo aceves, bobby jenks, Daniel Bard, dennys reyes
Jason Varitek doesn’t have to worry about Carl Crawford now 12.11.10 at 2:09 pm ET
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After Saturday’s press conference and the news that Jason Varitek will be coming back to Boston in 2011, the Red Sox captain doesn’t have to worry about throwing out Carl Crawford any more.

‘€œIn 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.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, gary tuck, Ichiro
Jason Varitek back with Red Sox: ‘Physically’ ready for a few more years at 12:35 pm ET
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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.

‘€œIt’€™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.

‘€œThis, 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.

‘€œYou 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.

‘€œGoing 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.’€

‘€œI’€™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.’€

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, jarrod saltalamacchia
Victor Martinez’ deal in context: Where his contract ranks in catching history 11.23.10 at 12:04 pm ET
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Former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez appears poised to sign a four-year, $50 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. That would make him the fourth highest-paid catcher (in annual salary) of all time, with his average of $12.5 million per year falling just beneath the four-year deal to which Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is currently signed at $13.1 million per year and the $13 million per year that Mike Piazza earned from his seven-year deal with the Mets.

It is noteworthy that the Sox, according to a major league source, had a three-year, $36 million and four-year, $42 million offer on the table to Martinez. Both of those featured an average annual value in excess of the $10 million per year that the team paid to Jason Varitek over his four-year contract from 2005-08.

Here is a look at how Martinez stacks up against the biggest catching contracts of all time:

Joe Mauer, Twins: 8 years, $184 million ($21.75 million AAV)

Signed a long-term deal one year before free agency for ages 28-34 (2011-18)
Career stat line when signed (through 2009 season, before the final season of a previous contract): .327/.408/.483/.892, 72 HR, 397 RBI, 136 OPS+

Jorge Posada, Yankees: 4 years, $52.4 million ($13.1 million AAV)

Re-signed as a free agent for ages 36-39 (2008-11)
Career stat line when signed: .277/.381/.479/.860, 218 HR, 861 RBI, 124 OPS+

Mike Piazza, Mets: 7 years, $91 million ($13 million AAV)

Re-signed as a free agent for ages 30-36 (1999-2005)
Career stat line when signed: .333/.396/.575/.972, 200 HR, 644 RBI, 160 OPS+

Victor Martinez, Tigers: 4 years, $50 million ($12.5 million AAV)

Signed as a free agent for ages 32-35 (2011-14)
Career stat line when signed: .300/.369/.469/.838, 131 HR, 638 RBI, 121 OPS+

Jorge Posada, Yankees: 5 years, $51 million ($10.2 million AAV) plus club option

Signed before reaching free agency for ages 30-34 (2002-06)
Career stat line when signed: .268/.369/.465/.834, 85 HR, 326 RBI, 115 OPS+

Jason Varitek, Red Sox: 4 years, $40 million ($10 million AAV)

Re-signed as a free agent for ages 33-36 (2005-08)
Career stat line when signed: .271/.347/.451/.798, 97 HR, 418 RBI, 103 OPS+

Pudge Rodriguez, Tigers: 4 years, $40 million ($10 million AAV) plus club option

Signed as free agent for ages 32-35 (2004-07)
Career stat line when signed: .304/.344/.488/.832, 231 HR, 914 RBI, 113 OPS+

Jason Kendall, Pirates: 6 years, $60 million ($10 million AAV)

Signed before reaching free agency for ages 28-33 (2002-07)
Career stat line when signed: .314/.402/.456/.858, 45 HR, 265 RBI, 121 OPS+
(NOTE: Kendall’€™s career stat line is through the 2000 season; he signed the extension, which took effect in 2002, after the 2000 season, with one year left on a prior deal)

Read More: jason kendall, Jason Varitek, joe mauer, mike piazza
Red Sox prepare for life without Victor Martinez at 11:02 am ET
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As of Monday night, multiple major league sources said, the Red Sox recognized the likelihood that Victor Martinez was slipping away to the Detroit Tigers. It became clear that the catcher was not going to accept the Sox’ last offers of either three years at $36 million or four years and $42 million.

That scenario appears to have unfolded as of Tuesday morning. Ignacio Serrano reported from Venezuela that Martinez and the Tigers were closing in on a four-year, $50 million deal for the switch-hitting catcher. Serrano reported that the Red Sox talked to Martinez’ agent last night, and that the team was not willing to match the Tigers in years. Serrano also reported that the Orioles had a four-year, $48 million offer on the table, while the White Sox had a three-year, $48 million deal available.

Martinez ranked among the most productive catchers in the majors from the time that he joined the Sox at the 2009 trade deadline, following a deal that shipped Justin Masterson and prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to Cleveland in exchange for the four-time All-Star. Martinez hit .313/.368/.497/.865 in his time with the Red Sox, including a line of .302/.351/.493/.844 with 20 homers and 79 RBI in 2010.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said on multiple occasions this offseason that the team’s first choice for addressing its catching situation remained to re-sign Martinez. That said, he also suggested that the team was comfortable turning to 25-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the job.

For now, it appears the team is planning on trying to develop Saltalamacchia into an everyday player while signing another catcher to complement him. The team has also left open the possibility of re-signing free-agent Jason Varitek to partner with Saltalamacchia.

The Red Sox entered 2010 with some reservations about Martinez’ ability to remain a catcher long-term. (Indeed, at the time that the Indians traded him to Boston, they felt that his days as a catcher were already numbered.) At the start of the season, it seemed difficult to argue with such hesitation given that opposing teams were running wild on the catcher.

But he improved over the course of the season thanks to extensive work with bullpen coach and catching instructor Gary Tuck, and ended up throwing out 21 percent of would-be base stealers. Still, that was below the 26 percent American League average, and the Sox ended up allowing an AL-worst 80 percent success rate on stolen base attempts and an AL-worst 169 steals.

Perhaps as a result of such a performance, the Red Sox offered Martinez a two-year deal during the season. He told WEEI.com that he saw that as being too conservative given his age and performance.

“They came with something, and that might just be where the negotiations start, but I don’t see myself signing a two-year deal. I’m young enough. I work so hard and I give it all. I just want to be treated fair,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t hard because it was something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting a two-year deal, anyway. I wasn’t expecting for them to come to me during the season anyways.”

The Sox remained engaged until at least last night in hopes of bringing Martinez back, but ultimately, the Tigers offer apparently proved to be one they did not want to match.

The Red Sox stand to receive a pair of draft picks with Martinez’ departure. Unless the Tigers sign outfielder Jayson Werth, the team would stand to receive Detroit’s first-round pick (No. 19 overall) as well as a sandwich-round draft pick. The Sox have, in the past, been able to leverage such draft pick compensation into important prospects. (More on that here.) Moreover, the No. 19 pick would be the earliest selection by the Sox since they took David Murphy with the No. 17 overall pick in 2003. Given the anticipated outstanding quality of the draft (and the fact that the Sox leveraged compensation picks in the last great draft, 2005, to acquire the likes of Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie), the Sox view the value of the draft picks as significant.

Read More: Detroit Tigers, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, victor martinez
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