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Understanding Lars Anderson: A study in baseball makeup 07.27.13 at 3:10 pm ET
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Lars Anderson (AP)

Lars Anderson (AP)

My phone buzzed a few days ago. Ryan Kalish was calling.

“Lars just got released.”

That’s the way it works in baseball. When a family member goes down, we all hear about it.

Ryan and I share Lars Anderson in common, Ryan as a longtime organization mate with the Red Sox and me as his 2007 manager at class A Greenville. Ryan and I also both count Lars as a dear friend. Ryan and I discussed how to approach Lars, to be supportive and to let him know how much we care.

Lars, now 25, was ranked the No. 17 prospect in all of minor league baseball by Baseball America in 2009. As a pure hitter, he may have been No. 1. He was ahead of Dominic Brown, Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Ben Revere and Desmond Jennings, just to name a few on BA’s list.

As his manager, I identified him as a man who could take walks, repeat his swing, impact the baseball and drive it all over the ballpark and play average (for a major leaguer) defense at first base. He was a physical specimen who resembled a young Chris Davis in size and fluidity if not power. When I met Lars for the first time and extended for a shake, his right hand (Lars hits left-handed) dwarfed mine in the same way Alex Rodriguez’s did when I met him initially in Texas in 2001.

Lars was inquisitive, often asking questions related to art, history and music. We talked about philosophy and our family history and how it shaped us emotionally and intellectually. Both of our fathers and my mother were active politically and had different values than traditional baseball families. Both Lars and I were taught to embrace life outside of baseball and to seek out answers rather than accepting reality as it was dictated to us.

Our fathers both suggested a “question authority” approach to sports and life in general. Lars’ father in particular used to tell him, “Part of figuring out the boundary is stepping over it.” Though his manager (and 31 at the time), I actually related to Lars better than I did the staff members who shared the coaches’ room with me.

Despite his evident gifts as a player, Lars was also astonishingly hard on himself. He had difficulty stepping outside of himself to recognize that he was performing beautifully. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox-A’s series preview 07.12.13 at 9:22 am ET
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It’ll be a showdown of the two best teams in the American League, as the Red Sox head to Oakland to wrap up the first half of the season before the All-Star break begins on Monday.

Josh Reddick (AP)

Former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick has struggled this season after an impressive 2012 campaign. (AP)

It was an offensive explosion for the Red Sox in Seattle, with the club scoring a total of 34 runs over the four-game set, taking three of four and leaving Seattle with a three-game win streak. The 57-37 Sox improved to 26-21 on the road with an 8-7 10-inning victory over the Mariners on Thursday, and sit atop the AL East with a 3½-game lead over the second-place Rays. The club’s 57 wins are the most in the majors, while its winning percentage is good for the best in the American League.

Boston’s high-scoring series shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since the Red Sox offense ranks second in the majors in batting average (.279), first in OBP (.353) and first in slugging percentage (.449) while leading all teams with 492 runs scored, 28 more than the team with the second-highest total. Red Sox hitters have shown a lot of patience at the plate, drawing more walks than any other team in the majors with 352.

The Red Sox pitching staff has been middle of the pack all year, but the bullpen ranks in the bottom third of the majors with a collective 4.19 ERA. While Boston starters struggled in the series with the Mariners, their 3.84 ERA is good for second in the American League.

Thursday’s win, the Red Sox’ fourth extra-innings victory in seven games, was impressive for a few reasons. The resilient Sox were down early and clawed their way back into the game, despite starter Ryan Dempster going only 3 1/3 innings. “I think, fortunately and unfortunately, we were down early, but that allows plenty of innings to get back and more opportunities to do so,” said Daniel Nava, who delivered the hit that scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. “That’s how it goes sometimes.”

With the 3-1 series victory over the Mariners, the Red Sox have taken a league-leading 18 series, only one less than their total number of series wins in 2012.

The Red Sox will face a formidable foe in the A’s, who come in with the second-best winning percentage in the American League and a one-game lead in a tough AL West division. The A’s, who are 54-38 on the year, may have been shut out in the finale of their series with the Pirates, but they come into Friday playing very good baseball.

The A’s have been a remarkably consistent team, winning exactly 16 games in each of their first three months. With a win on Tuesday, they moved to 17 games above .500, their highest mark of the season. They’ve won five series in a row after taking two of three from the Pirates.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: The rare air of Xander Bogaerts and Keury De La Cruz, the struggles of Daniel Bard 08.17.12 at 1:36 pm ET
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Outfielder Keury De La Cruz slammed his 17th and 18th homers of the season on Thursday (Darrell Snow / Greenville Drive)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

Daniel Bard allowed three unearned runs, allowing one hit and two walks while throwing 14 of 29 pitches for strikes. It marked the first time in just over a month that Bard — who threw just 10 of 27 pitches for strikes in his prior outing on Tuesday — had thrown more balls than strikes in consecutive outings. Though the runs were unearned, Bard’s command struggles prevented him from minimizing the damage in an inning that saw the PawSox commit two errors (with Bard committing one and Jose Iglesias committing the other). In his last four outings, Bard has now allowed nine runs; he’s given up 12 runs in his last seven appearances spanning 6 2/3 innings.

Jose Iglesias continued to make the case that his career-best performance in May (prior to his back injury) was not a mirage. He went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. He has seven walks (one shy of his career high for any month) and eight strikeouts in 15 games in August en route to a .305/.379/.390/.769 line. His overall Triple-A stat line this year (.260/.310/.301/.611) still show a picture of a player who needs to develop his offensive game in order to make his case for a regular big league job, but at 22, he is still young and showing signs of improving against his competition. In other words, while his extraordinary defense is a given, it remains premature to say whether he will or will not emerge as a viable big league starting shortstop, but for the Sox, the fact that the most recent signs have been decidedly positive for a player who remains younger than every member of the Red Sox’ big league roster is a promising one.

Juan Carlos Linares slammed his sixth homer in 47 games in Triple-A, with the blast coming against former Red Sox left-hander Justin Thomas. Linares is hammering lefties to a .324/.378/.647/1.025 line in Triple-A, albeit in a small sample of just 37 plate appearances.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-1 WIN AT ALTOONA (CURVE)

(BOX)

– It’s a small sample, but thus far, it’s hard not to be impressed with what Xander Bogaerts is doing at the start of his Double-A career. On Thursday, he slammed a double to right-center, an extra-base hit notable for a number of reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox draft picks Rounds 11-15: Reaching for Reddick redux; scraping high school ceiling 06.06.12 at 1:11 am ET
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The Red Sox spent most of Rounds 5-10 focused on selecting inexpensive and eminently signable college seniors who will liberate their draft budget to sign other higher-ceiling players. (More on that strategy here.) But once the team got outside of the first 10 rounds — the ones that are being used to define the draft bonus pool parameters that were set by Major League Baseball — the Sox returned to taking younger picks with upside, most of whom come with signability questions.

Some of these players may end up going to the Sox with the money freed up by the signings of college seniors. Others likely will remain unsigned. Even so, these selections are at the least intriguing, particularly given the connections between some of these players and past Red Sox draft selections.

11TH ROUND: JAMAL MARTIN, CF, WILLIAM DWYER HS (FLA.), 19 YEARS OLD

Martin is considered one of the fastest players in Florida, and was widely recognized as one of the best players in Palm Beach County. He has a small (listed anywhere from 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10), powerful build, and quit football for his senior season to focus full-time on baseball. In addition to his speed, he also showedt the ability to drive a ball with a wooden bat in a summer league prior to his senior season. He has a scholarship commitment to Florida State.

12TH ROUND: MIKE MEYERS, 2B, SILVERADO HS (NEV.), 18 YEARS OLD Read the rest of this entry »

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Josh Reddick gets his introduction to Moneyball 01.19.12 at 5:11 pm ET
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Josh Reddick took time to watch a movie after being traded to the A's. (AP)

Josh Reddick was already scheduled to go on a cruise the day after he was informed by GM Ben Cherington that the Sox were close to trading Reddick to the A’s as part of a three-player package for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, and so when the news became official, he’d already turned off his cell phone when the inevitable wave of calls came following his trade.

Upon Reddick’s return to land, the A’s wanted to fly their new outfielder to Oakland. Given the destination of his trip, his movie choice was fairly straightforward.

“It was actually quite funny,” said Reddick. “When I got traded, I came back from the cruise and they wanted to fly me out there, and one of the movies that was showing on the plane was Moneyball. I said, ‘Why not?’ I went ahead and got the feel for it and watched it. It turned out to be a pretty good movie.

“As long as we don’t have to pay a dollar for Cokes in the clubhouse,” he added, joking about one of the clubhouse matters that was addressed in the movie, “I’ll be all right.”

The news was bittersweet for Reddick. The Red Sox drafted him in the 17th round in 2006 and signed him for $140,000. Over the course of five pro seasons, he developed from an obscure non-prospect into someone who served as Boston’s primary right fielder in 2011, hitting .280 with a .327 OBP, .457 slugging mark, .784 OPS, seven homers and 28 RBI in 87 games (278 plate appearances).

He has roots in the Red Sox organization and none in Oakland. Indeed, Reddick said that he knows no one with the A’s and will be starting anew. Still, he will enter 2012 being given every opportunity to establish himself as an everyday big league outfielder, with a more certain opportunity in Oakland than the one he would have had in Boston.

“Obviously, it’s going to be upsetting to leave Boston, but that’s how the business goes and that’s how you’ve got to deal with it,” said Reddick, who is being recognized by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America as the team’s Rookie of the Year. “It was a bit of a surprise. I thought, if it was going to happen, it was going to happen at the winter meetings. Once we got past that point, I was laid-back with all the media talk with Bailey at the winter meetings, so it was kind of just sit by your phone and wait kind of deal. Once that passed over, I thought, I’ll be going to Fort Myers in spring training. Right back after the cruise, I was planning on going right back to Fort Myers and continuing to finish the rehab. It didn’t work out that way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Josh Reddick and the art of finding diamonds in the rough 01.04.12 at 3:02 pm ET
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Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick was a scouting find in the 17th round of the 2006 draft. (AP)Two-time All-Star closers with 2.07 career ERAs come with a price, and such was the case when the Red Sox landed Andrew Bailey (along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney) last week. The Sox had to part ways with outfielder Josh Reddick, right-hander Raul Alcantara and first baseman Miles Head, with Reddick having been the primary piece whom the A’s had to have in the deal — the young starting outfielder with several above-average tools (hitting for average, power, defense, arm) who will be under team control for the next five seasons.

The Sox didn’t have to give up any of their top prospects in the deal, but even so, the cost of those three players was meaningful. Reddick, after all, had been penciled in as the Sox’ opening day right fielder in 2012 prior to the deal.

In many ways, that fact was remarkable. Reddick entered professional baseball from a position of almost complete obscurity. He was undrafted out of high school. The Red Sox were one of three teams (along with the Reds and Angels) to show any real interest in scouting him in his one year at Middle Georgia College. Even though Sox scout Rob English and cross-checker Mike Rikard had evaluated the outfielder as a sixth-round talent, he lasted into the 17th round because the team was confident that it wasn’t in jeopardy of losing Reddick in the draft in the earlier rounds.

“This kid was a raw junior college kid who (Red Sox scouts) dug out of nowhere,” Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen noted in this look at the process that led Reddick to the Sox. “It’s a true scouting story. It’s a true, good evaluation, a gut instinct signing.”

Indeed, one can make the case that Reddick represents as impressive a “true scouting story” as the Sox have had in the last 10 drafts. He had virtually no profile when he was taken, and even though he had a great summer league performance that put him on the scouting map after he’d been drafted, Reddick received a relatively modest $140,000 bonus when he signed with the Sox. Read the rest of this entry »

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Five quick thoughts on the Red Sox trade for Andrew Bailey 12.28.11 at 5:52 pm ET
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A major league source has confirmed that the Red Sox have traded outfielder Josh Reddick, first baseman Miles Head and right-hander Raul Alcantara to the A’s for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. A few quick reactions to the trade:

1) The Red Sox have built a solid back-end of their bullpen, with further reinforcements such as Ryan Madson unlikely. Both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, along with — in all likelihood — either Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves (one of whom is likely to end up in the rotation, the other in the bullpen) and Bobby Jenks (whom the Sox expect to have back) creates late-innings depth, particularly if Matt Albers and/or Felix Doubront and/or Franklin Morales can further lengthen the group.

The Sox have seen Bailey — a two-time All-Star — show the kind of stuff to be one of the elite closers in the American League. He’ll almost surely be the end-of-game option for the Sox as well. Though there have been health questions about him in recent seasons, the other pitchers with closing experience and/or potential (Melancon, Jenks, Bard/Aceves) permits the Sox to be insulated (at least on paper) should he be sidelined.

2) The Sox still have money to spend. They won’t be spending a ton, but in adding Melancon and Bailey through trades, the Sox acquired two solid late-innings arms who will cost less than a third of Jonathan Papelbon next season. As such, the team still has some money to either sign or trade for a starter. That will be their primary offseason need going forward.

3) In exchanging Reddick for Sweeney, the Sox parted with a major league outfielder with upside in Reddick in exchange for a player whose on-base skills and ability to play all three outfield positions will fit into the club’s short-term needs. Right now, Sweeney and Darnell McDonald wouild be the Sox’ right field combination, though the Sox are still looking at right-handed outfield bats. Regardless, the Sox were likely going to get to a point where they had to trade either Reddick or Ryan Kalish at some point given the potential positional redundancy of the two. In a best-case scenario for the Sox, Kalish would be ready to be an everyday big league outfielder by the middle of 2012. Reddick would have been that for them right now, but the upgrade to Bailey with the anticipated availability of Kalish in the not-too-distant future made this deal feasible.

Sweeney, a former second-round pick, is a career .283/.342/.378/.720 hitter. The Sox believe that his swing and approach will both play well at Fenway Park.

4) Alcantara was the clear second component of the deal. When the Sox were scared away from the Rich Harden trade this summer, it was because they couldn’t stomach the prospect of losing Alcantara as the second piece in the deal.

It’s almost impossible to say what the 19-year-old will be. He’s a relatively raw right-hander with a big arm. He dominated in the Gulf Coast League (0.75 ERA in 48 innings) and faced adversity after a mid-year promotion to Lowell (6.23 ERA in 17 1/3 innings). His fastball/breaking ball combination suggest at least long-term big league bullpen potential, and he has the upside of a starter. Still, he’s likely at least five years from a regular job in the majors, and there’s immense uncertainty about his future. That being the case, he’s precisely the type of player for whom the A’s (whose visions of contention are entirely driven by the long term) should deal, and the type of player for whom the Sox cannot sabotage a deal.

5) Head made a significant jump in his prospect status this year by producing a dominant stretch with Single-A Greenville and then holding his own as a younger player in the Carolina League with High-A Salem. He doesn’t wow anyone with his physique or athleticism (he would be an atypical success story, having to follow a path of someone like a Billy Butler), but the 26th rounder (who signed for $335,000 in 2009) has always left the Sox convinced he can hit.

The first baseman garnered little attention in the Sox’ system while hitting .240/.328/.341/.669 with one homer in Short-Season Lowell in 2010. But in Greenville this year, Head asserted himself in a way that ensured he could no longer be overlooked.

The 20-year-old earned a promotion to Hi-A Salem in late-June after leading the South Atlantic League in average (.338), slugging (.612), OPS (1.022) and extra-base hits (41 in 66 games). His consistent results reflect both improved conditioning as well as an improved mental approach to the game.

“Last year, I was getting myself out chasing pitches or swinging at maybe not a hitter’s pitch in a hitter’s count,” said Head. “This year, I’ve figured out my approach and stuck with it.”

Still, Head was never going to leapfrog Adrian Gonzalez as the first baseman of the future, so he represented a moveable piece. He hit .254/.328/.405/.733 with seven homers in 63 games with the Salem Sox.

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