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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
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Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek

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.

Read More: Baseball Hall of Fame nominees, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez
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
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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.

Read More: Ira Flagstead, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino, Red Sox Hall of Fame
Tim Wakefield on MFB: ‘It shocked me that this many trades happened’ 08.04.14 at 12:12 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield joined Middays with MFB at the inaugural Red Sox Foundation charity golf tournament at Belmont Country Club to discuss the departure of Jon Lester and others at the trade deadline as well as the struggles of Clay Buchholz. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Wakefield admitted that he was shocked at the flurry of moves that Boston made last week, especially deals in which the team shipped Lester and John Lackey to Oakland and St. Louis, respectively.

“I was disappointed that it came to this point,” Wakefield said. “I don’t think it needed to be this way, because you talk about a week before this all happened, they were buyers. They really were. And all of the sudden, I don’t know what happened. Being an analyst on NESN, I still can’t put my finger on what happened, except for the lack of run support or lack of runs scored. If you look at their statistics, they were third in the league on getting on base, whether it be a walk or a hit, but they just couldn’t get that one flare that you need every week to drive in a run.

“It shocked me that this many trades happened within a three or four-day period. …  Clay is the ace of the staff right now and that’s not a bad thing. He’s pitching bad right mow, but I think it’s all a mechanical thing.”

Buchholz is mired in one of the worst stretches of his career, as the righty has allowed 14 earned runs over his last two outings. While Buchholz has mostly underwhelmed this entire season, Wakefield said that he believes that Buchholz’s issues can be corrected.

“I just think he’s fallen off to his left side to much,” Wakefield said. “His misses are up and in to a righty and down and away from a righty. He’s yanking balls left and right. It’s one of those things, and I struggled with it too, that you know what you’re doing wrong but you just can’t fix it quick enough. People might disagree with me, but I still like his stuff, and he’s got potential.”

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield
Knuckleballer Steven Wright to get first big league start Tuesday 08.04.13 at 12:57 pm ET
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Fresh off a very good July that extended into a scoreless relief appearance in the big leagues to start August, right-handed knuckleballer Steven Wright will get his first major league start Tuesday in Houston against the Astros.

Manager John Farrell announced the decision Sunday morning, citing an effort to get the regular five starting pitchers an extra day of rest this turn through the rotation.

‘€œIt feels like a normality to me,’€ Wright said of getting the spot start after three MLB relief appearances. ‘€œI haven’€™t really thought too much of it. It’€™s the same as if you’€™re coming in the fifth or sixth, just starting in the first inning. For me it’€™s a key to go out there and throw quality knuckleballs in the zone and hope for the best.’€

Wright, who was hit around for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his major league debut April 23 against the Athletics, just completed his best month of the season. In 32 2/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket, he allowed eight earned runs (2.20 ERA) while posting a 1.25 WHIP, numbers that would look better if not for a six-run, 4 2/3-inning outing late in the month. Mixed in were a pair of complete-game shutouts, as well as 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in the big leagues against the Mariners July 11.

He also threw three shutout innings to pick up the win Thursday vs. Seattle.

Both Farrell and Wright credited that success to the hurler finding consistency in his delivery.

“Compared to what he was in spring training or what he was in spring training from a delivery standpoint, just repeating his release point, it’€™s much more consistent strikes,” Farrell said. “He’€™s starting to throw that knuckleball where he’€™s changing speeds on it, so to me in some ways he looks like a completely different pitcher from that night that he followed Aceves in that rain night against Oakland here [April 23].”

Wright explained that he has three knuckleballs in addition to his fastball and curve ‘€” his standard version, one in which he takes something off and another that he throws harder. The key, however, is finding the same release point. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: John Farrell, steven wright, Tim Wakefield,
Tim Wakefield named Red Sox special assignment instructor 04.12.13 at 4:27 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced Friday that longtime knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is rejoining the organization as a special assignment instructor and honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation. Wakefield, 46, played 17 of 19 major league seasons with the Red Sox, earning 186 wins with Boston, the third most in franchise history. Below is the full press release from the Red Sox:

BOSTON, MA — Tim Wakefield, whose knuckleball flummoxed Red Sox opponents for 17 years and who helped the club win World Championships in 2004 and 2007, returned to the organization today as Honorary Chairman of the Red Sox Foundation and as a Special Assignment Instructor in the club’s baseball operations.

Wakefield, who announced his retirement from baseball in February 2012, was among the most devoted Red Sox ever in community service.  Major League Baseball awarded the Roberto Clemente Award, its highest honor in that area, to him in 2010. In that same year, the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) named a Red Sox community service award in his honor. The award is given annually to a player or individual who best exemplifies Wakefield’s charitable spirit.

With the foundation, Wakefield will bring his vast experience to a variety of areas, including fundraising events, community service days, and the personal visits that characterized his community commitment throughout his career.

On the field, Wakefield will handle specific instructional assignments for General Manager Ben Cherington and his staff.

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John Farrell: Monday reunion with Tim Wakefield in Dunedin 02.19.13 at 8:55 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell will apparently have a reunion with Tim Wakefield on Monday in Dunedin as the former knuckleballer visits his former team and their current knuckleball prospect, Steven Wright.

“Right now, he’s tentatively scheduled to see him up in Dunedin on Monday, see him throw,” Farrell said Tuesday. “He’s coming off a family vacation but he has every intention of seeing that game and then be down here [in Fort Myers] the rest of the week.”

Farrell initially said he hadn’t decided whether or not to make that trip to Dunedin or the much shorter trip to Port Charlotte for the other split-squad game against the Rays, in which Alfredo Aceves will be pitching. Pressed on the matter, Farrell said with a smile, “I’ll see you in Dunedin.”

Another pitcher was under the microscope on Tuesday as Farrell raved about the work ethic of right-hander Junichi Tazawa, the 26-year-old right-hander who came back last season from Tommy John surgery to impress the Red Sox and those who watched him down the stretch, like Farrell when he was managing the Blue Jays.

“He’s come back with almost different stuff,” Farrell said. “When he first signed here, he was a guy who controlled the running game, could throw multiple pitches for strikes. But what’s most impressive since he came back from Tommy John is the increase in velocity. I don’t know if anyone projected him to be a mid-90s type of guy, and he’s been that, particularly in the second half of last year, and having not sacrificed command and location. You look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio totals are outstanding and he does all the little things inside the game that really show up in those later innings.”

Indeed, Tazawa struck out 45 batters while walking just five in 44 innings, while posting a 1.43 ERA in 37 games and a stunning 0.955 WHIP. Tazawa made the transition from starting pitcher in 2009 to reliever in 2011, after missing all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

“Combination of both [move to bullpen and usage pattern] but the strengthening he did throughout the rehab is one of the reasons the arm strength has continued,” Farrell said. “The adrenaline and he’s such a good athlete, he’s able to channel that adrenaline in such a good way that his stuff really played up. His lateness [in break] of the split, he really emerged as the season went on last year. He’s got weapons, very good pitcher. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, junichi tazawa
Steven Wright: R.A. Dickey ‘re-wrote the book’ on the knuckleball’ 02.17.13 at 8:52 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — When 38-year-old R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young award last year in the National League, it was revolutionary on many fronts. A pitcher salvaged his career with a pitch still thought by many to be a gimmick pitch.

Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the Mets, and after being traded to the Blue Jays in a package that sent a pair of top prospects to New York, he received a two-year, $25 million extension for 2014 and 2015 on top of his current contract.

Red Sox right-hander Steven Wright was paying very close attention. He knew that Dickey was on the fringe of his major league career before he started throwing his knuckleball harder, with the same arm velocity as his fastball.

“I think he just re-wrote the book on it, to be honest with you, because what he did last year was unbelievable, for any pitcher,” said Wright on Sunday. “The fact that he did it with a knuckleball I think shows you can compete at a high level with the best of the best with a knuckleball. The harder knuckleball is easier to control in a sense because the movement is not as big. He’s just re-writing history as far as the way people look at the knuckleball.

“I think eveyrone thinks they have a knuckleball. I think more teams are going to be open to letting guys try it, I really do. I think that somebody like myself, I was able to compete with my other stuff but I never really had an out pitch. I think if a guy gets to that point, I think teams are going to be like, ‘Okay, let’s see what you’ve got,’ and maybe give him a little more time than previous to R.A.”

Wright was a 2006 draft pick of Cleveland out of the University of Hawaii who could throw 94 MPH. In 2011, with the help of Tom Candiotti and advice of Charlie Hough, Wright added the knuckleball to his repertoire, pitching at both levels of Class A, as well as Double-A and Triple-A. The results were mostly mixed, going 4-8 with a 4.58 ERA.

“That’s why I was getting frustrated,” the 28-year-old Wright said. “I have one good outing then I have one bad outing and I was like, ‘I’m going to throw fastballs and I’m going to throw my knuckleball off of that and adjust from there,’ instead of just flush, throwing hard and try to throw a pitch at 60 miles an hour.

“I’ve been throwing it since I was nine years old. So, it was one of those things I knew how to throw it. So, when I talk to Candiotti and Hough, they were telling me you just have to go with whatever feels good in your hands. So, I would just close my eyes and was like, ‘That’s what it is and that’s my grip.’ But I didn’t really get to understand it until I started working with Charlie Hough. Once I worked with Charlie Hough, he helped me simplify the pitch because it’s not as complex as I thought it was going to be. You just have to have your checkpoints and once you have your checkpoints, you stick with them so you can repeat them so that if something goes wrong, you just go back to what your checkpoints are.”

Last season was a breakthrough. He went 10-6 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A before being dealt to Boston for Lars Anderson. He initially joined the Double-A Portland team before being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four starts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, charlie hough, knuckleball
John Farrell notes Saturday: Tim Wakefield can help Steven Wright, Daniel Nava stands tall at 1B 02.16.13 at 3:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — For years, Phil Niekro gave advice to Tim Wakefield when the Red Sox pitcher was, at times, trying to find consistency on the mound.

It appears the time has come for Wakefield to return the favor and he’s only too glad to do so.

John Farrell said Saturday that he spoke at length with Wakefield on Friday and that the retired knuckleball pitcher will come to camp next week and advise promising knuckleballer Steven Wright.

“It’s such a unique pitch and it’s going to be unique to the individual as well,” Farrell said. “Actually, Wake and I had a pretty lengthy conversation [Friday] and he’ll be in camp here in about another week to work with Steven directly so, understanding what worked well for Wake is not to say the same it’s going to be the same exact checkpoints for Steven. That’s such a fraternity, a tight-knit fraternity, the knuckleball pitcher. I think to have Wake as a resource and have him in here, he’s more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.”

Farrell made it clear that he is not putting the cart ahead of the horse when it comes to projecting where and when Wright might be able to help in the organization.

Acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline last year, Wright made a total of 30 starts for Double-A Akron, Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket and Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, accumulating a 10-8 record and 2.53 ERA while punching out 7.3 and walking 4.0 batters per nine innings.

As WEEI.com’s Alex Speier pointed out, the right-hander was drafted by the Indians out of the University of Hawaii in 2006 as a pitcher with good command of a low-90s fastball and a good slider that he could throw for strikes. Farrell first got a look at him while farm director with the Indians.

“I think it’s a little premature to begin to talk about Steven, just not knowing him all that well,” Farrell said Saturday. “It’s going to take a few outings to get a better understanding of what works well for him.”

Other notes from Saturday:

On the first day of live BP: “I thought it was a good work day overall, particularly pitchers making their next step, seeing hitters in the box. We came out healthy out of today so it was a good day.” Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury batted against Koji Uehara while David Ortitz and Jonny Gomes batted against Junichi Tazawa. It was while Tazawa was facing Gomes, that the Red Sox had their first scare of camp as Tazawa drilled Gomes in the back with a fastball, causing Gomes to turn to catcher David Ross and shout, “Old Ironsides,” an apparent reference to brushing off the ball. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, daniel nava, MLB
Steven Wright takes stock (sort of) of ‘The Next Knuckler’ 02.14.13 at 10:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Steven Wright couldn’t watch it.

The Red Sox right-hander, in spring training as a newly minted member of the 40-man roster, does not have The MLB Network channel at his residence in Fort Myers. As such, he was unable to watch Wednesday’s premier of “The Next Knuckler,” the reality show that features former Red Sox knuckleball practitioner Tim Wakefield (with co-host sidekick Kevin Millar) judging the efforts of five former quarterbacks (including Doug Flutie) to learn how to throw the pitch that made Wakefield a 200-game winner.

Wright’s curiosity about the program has been elicited by the promos he’s seen. After all, he’s now entering his third year as a full-time knuckleballer. Though a relative newcomer to the pitch, he’s shown enough promise that the Sox didn’t want to expose him to the Rule 5 draft for fear of losing him as a starting depth option to another team. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Millar, steven wright, Tim Wakefield,
Red Sox react to retirement of Jason Varitek 02.28.12 at 10:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news spreading of the retirement of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek on Thursday, the players he leaves behind in the clubhouse began to react on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz:
‘€œIt was awesome being a part getting to play four seasons with him and being able to throw to a guy that everybody is going to remember as the captain of the Boston Red Sox. It was a good time for everybody. I hope his decision makes him and his family happy and they go with their lives and know that he was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate.’€

What he learned from Varitek:
‘€œHow to pitch. He’€™s a guy that you know when you’€™re on the mound and you shake him off and he sort of just stares at you, you’€™re like, ‘€˜OK, I won’€™t throw that pitch. Don’€™t worry about it.’€™ Especially being a young guy coming up and you’€™re already intimated by just pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway and then you have Jason Varitek catching you.

‘€œHow to slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball.

What he remembers about Varitek calling the no-hitter of Sept. 2, 2007 vs. Orioles:
‘€œA couple of times, early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit and they were caught but after that, it was like, ‘€˜OK, I’€™m just going to throw what he puts down.’€™ The game started to speed up on me a couple of times. I remember him calling timeout, running out there and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch wherever, down and away, get a ground ball and get out of an inning. That’€™s what I’€™ll always remember about him, he was always the guy that could always calm you down when he things were starting to speed up.”

Did he expect Varitek to show in camp?:
‘€œHe’€™s an animal. You see how every year he comes into spring training, what he looks like, how his body is a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome behind [the plate] and still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball but that was his and his family’€™s decision.’€

Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
‘€œHe meant a lot obviously. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before, he was trying to recover from injury so we didn’€™t get to spend a lot of on-field time together but still picking his brain a lot. But last year, [he] was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. And just the person he is, you can’€™t find a better person.

‘€œJust the way he went about his business, watching him. Wasn’€™t even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that.’€

What Varitek did for helping him lead the Red Sox pitching staff:
‘€œI was definitely a little hesitant. I didn’€™t know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked toward him, ‘€˜Get this meeting started, get this started.’€™ But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn’€™t expect that, didn’€™t expect him to be so helpful and [tell me], ‘€˜Hey man, this is your team.’€™ I said, ‘€˜You’€™re the captain, it’€™s your team.’€™

“That’€™s the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help me out, stuck up for me and I can’€™t thank him enough for jump-starting my career.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, jarrod saltalamacchia
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