|For Ryan Roberts, ‘crazy journey’ ends with opportunity with Red Sox||04.07.14 at 6:33 pm ET|
The past 12 days represented a new and unknown journey for Ryan Roberts.
The 33-year-old, entering his ninth season in the majors, found himself without a team to play for when Opening Day rolled around, having opted out of his minor league deal with the Cubs upon learning that he would not make the 25-man roster out of spring training. Falling out of the typical baseball routine presented a challenge and new experienced for the veteran Roberts.
“If I had to relate it best, I’d say, like, the Bud Light commercial where they pick the guy up and take him on a wild crazy night and journey. That’s kind of been my deal here,” said Roberts. “It’s been a crazy journey, an experience that I’ve never dealt with before. They’re long days…the days sometimes go by really fast, but my days went by really slow. It’s been a learning experience.”
Roberts was trying to find the right opportunity, weighing different possibilities. But then, with the injury to Will Middlebrooks and the need for a versatile, right-handed hitter with experience at third base, the Red Sox saw Roberts as a good fit. The deal came together quickly between the two sides.
“[It came together] in a matter of 24 hours,” Roberts said. “I had opportunity to think about other places to go, and then all of a sudden, the best opportunity came up [in Boston].”
Roberts will be part of what manager John Farrell described as a platoon situation with Jonathan Herrera at third base, and with left-hander Martin Perez on the mound for the Rangers tomorrow, Roberts will get the start at the hot corner. Having played six different positions over the course of career, including every infield position, Roberts gives the Red Sox some much-needed versatility and a veteran presence off the bench.
“I’ve been fortunate to play everywhere, I feel comfortable everywhere on diamond,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to claim to be the best at any position, but I do feel comfortable. I make mistakes like everyone else…but I feel confident I can get the job done if needed.”
Barring an at-bat off the bench on Monday, Tuesday will be the first time the 33-year-old will have faced live pitching in about 10 days. Roberts spent spring training with the Cubs, batting .237/.310/.342 with four doubles and an RBI in 18 games, but opted out of his minor league deal at the end of camp. Roberts was very close to making the cut with the Cubs, but they opted for youth with Mike Olt at third base. Though his spring training stats are rather lackluster, they’re not necessarily an indication of how Roberts was swinging the bat.
“I felt great [in spring training],” Roberts said. “Obviously, a lot of people look at numbers, and my numbers weren’t the best. But I would have at-bats where I saw seven or eight pitches and then I would line out. There were at-bats where I would just miss the ball by a hair…that happens in spring training. I just all around felt great. You always want the numbers to be higher, but in perspective of how I felt, I felt the best I ever have.”
Part of that related to an unexpected development: Roberts’ eyesight improved.
“Long story short, I had a stigmatism in both eyes. My left eye was 20/15, which was pretty good, and my right eye was 20/25,” said Roberts. “I went in in spring training this year, I did have contacts. I just couldn’t wear them. I had glasses, and didn’t really ever wear them. I went into spring training this year, my eyesight on my left is 20/14.2, my right eye was 20/14.3.”
Though Roberts represents a valuable asset for a club to have given his versatility and solid bat, he admits that he did entertain the thought that his playing days might be over as the days passed without a team to play for.
“It comes into your mind. I just trust that God will put me somewhere,” Roberts said. “If the door closed on baseball, I figured another would open. It didn’t close yet, and I landed with a championship team, and I couldn’t be more blessed.”
With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, the Red Sox sought to make their roster deeper and more balanced by agreeing to a deal with utility man Ryan Roberts. News of the agreement was announced on twitter by Roberts’ agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, which announced that Roberts was added on a major league deal. (UPDATE: BHSC deleted the tweet. Nonetheless, an industry source confirms that there is an agreement between Roberts and the Red Sox does appear to be close, pending a physical for the 33-year-old.)
UPDATE 2: Per an industry source, Roberts will receive a $1 million base salary in the big leagues. He has no minor league options remaining.
The Red Sox initially called up Brock Holt with Middlebrooks landing on the disabled list on Sunday. However, Holt represented something of a roster redundancy with Jonathan Herrera. Both are utility infielders who can play short, second and third, though Holt’s best positions are short and second; he was introduced to third base by the Sox last spring. While Holt is left-handed and Herrera is a switch-hitter, both have significantly better splits against right-handed pitchers while struggling against lefties, something that led Sox manager John Farrell to acknowledge that the team might pursue more complementary options at third base.
“Right now, Brock is the one on the roster to get someone here currently to fill that spot and in response to need to put Will on the DL. Whether we look to find a better fit, that’s something we’re always looking for, not just in this case but every other case,” Farrell said on Sunday. “We’ll see what transpires over the two week period Will’s going to miss.”
Roberts, who has played third, second, left, right, first and short in his career — with the majority of his big league time coming at third base — is a career .245/.321/.392 hitter in 510 games spanning parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays, with a .266/.341/.444 line against left-handed pitchers, including a .305/.345/.500 line in 87 plate appearances against southpaws in 2013 for the Rays (when he hit .247/.295/.377 overall). He hit .237/.310/.342 in spring training with the Cubs, and opted out of his minor league deal at the end of camp. Throughout his career, his defense has graded as mostly average at second, third and first.
Roberts has gained a measure of fame for the saturation of his skin with ink. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times offered an excellent profile of “Tatman” — and how his tattoos support noble causes — in this article.
While the Red Sox‘ 40-man roster is currently full, the team does have the ability to place knuckleballer Steven Wright — currently working his way back from sports hernia surgery in extended spring training — on the 60-day disabled list to open up a spot.
|Why not Garin Cecchini?||04.06.14 at 3:21 pm ET|
With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, the Red Sox elected to call up Brock Holt — who likely will serve as a utility backup man, with Jonathan Herrera assuming primary duties at third base — from Triple-A Pawtucket. In a vacuum, the decision makes sense. The Sox need a versatile infielder, preferably one on the 40-man roster, in a world where Herrera is at third. But of course, the Sox did have another option: third baseman Garin Cecchini.
In a perfect world, calling up Cecchini is less than ideal. After all, the 22-year-old has played just three games above Double-A, having opened this season in Pawtucket by collecting five hits and walking twice in 11 plate appearances, good for a robust .556/.636/.667 line. That said, there have been other instances where inexperience in Triple-A has not prevented the Sox from promoting a position player, such as in 2009 when the team summoned Josh Reddick to the big leagues from Double-A, at the start of 2013 when Jackie Bradley Jr. opened the season in the big leagues without ever playing in Pawtucket, and when both Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Kalish were promoted with less than two months in Triple-A.
And in the case of Cecchini, there is an offensive maturity and polish to his approach as a hitter that suggest a player capable of being fast-tracked to the big leagues. Read the rest of this entry »
|Sunday notes: Will Middlebrooks (right calf) heads to DL, Brock Holt recalled, Garin Cecchini on hold for now||at 11:40 am ET|
After feeling a twinge in his lower right leg during pre-game sprints Saturday night, Will Middlebrooks was diagnosed Sunday with a Grade 1 strain of his right calf and immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The third baseman underwent an MRI Sunday morning that revealed the nature of the injury. Taking Middlebrooks place on the roster is utility infielder Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.
In playing the first four games of the season, Middlebrooks was 4-for-13 (.231) with one homer, one double and four strikeouts.
“He was disappointed when he first felt the calf grab him,” Farrell said. “The exam probably confirmed some of the thoughts based on the way he was reacting and responding to the sprints he went through and what he felt afterward. Unfortunately, we’re missing a power right-handed bat that was getting off to what looked to be a pretty darned good start.”
“It’s going to be case. He’ll be back on the field when he’s first available but it’s not going to be for another two weeks.” Longer? “Could be but we don’t know that yet.”
Farrell said the organization decided against promoting top infield prospect Garin Cecchini due to the desire to see Cecchini get more defensive reps with Triple-A Pawtucket.
“While he’s had some good at-bats there there’s still some development defensively that’s taking place,” Farrell said. “His time is coming but we didn’t feel like it was right now.”
Cecchini is hitting 5-for-9 (.556) in his first four games with Pawtucket this week.
Holt comes to Boston after being one of the last cuts in camp, when the team decided to keep infielder Jonathan Herrera.
“We’ll see what the best matchup might provide with those two guys,” Farrell said of Herrera and Holt. “Right now, Brock is the one that is on the roster. To get someone here currently to fill that spot and then in response to put Will on the DL. Whether we look find a better fit, that’s something we’re always looking for, not just this case but every other case so we’ll see what transpires over the two-week period that Will is going to be missed.”
Herrera was thrown into the fire Saturday night as the emergency fill-in at third base when Middlebrooks was initially scratched.
“This is a veteran guy who’s been accustomed to that role,” Farrell said of Herrera. “He finds a way to contribute based on his skills and he was able to do that [Saturday] night. Short notice, given the level of experience he has, he’s been in that position before and did everything we could’ve asked.”
|Red Sox-Brewers series preview||04.04.14 at 11:20 am ET|
The ceremonies are set to begin at 1 p.m. and include a helicopter flyover from the U.S. Coast Guard, a performance by the Dropkick Murphys and Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and of course, the ring ceremony, as well as a tribute to the fallen firefighters who died in the nine-alarm blaze in the Back Bay on March 26.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be emotional,” first baseman Mike Napoli told MLB.com. “Boston knows how to put on a good ceremony. I’ve seen it before. I imagine the atmosphere is going to be amazing and the fans are going to be going nuts. It’s going to be a fun day. I’m looking forward to it.”
First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m., with the Brewers coming to Fenway for the first time since 2011.
The Red Sox opened the season on a positive note, taking the final two games of the series against the Orioles after dropping the opener. The Brewers, on the other hand, dropped two of three to the Braves despite solid performances from their starting pitchers. This is the earliest in the season the Brewers have ever faced an American League opponent in interleague play. The Red Sox have won seven of the nine interleague contests between the two clubs.
Here are the pitching matchups for the first home series of 2014.
Friday: Jake Peavy (0-0, 0.00) vs. Marco Estrada (0-0, 0.00)
Saturday: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wily Peralta (0-0,0.00)
Sunday: Jon Lester (0-1, 2.57) vs. Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 0.00)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
— Xander Bogaerts isn’t having much trouble adjusting to his role as the team’s everyday shortstop. The 21-year-old has reached base in eight of his 11 plate appearances, going 5-for-9 with a double and drawing three walks in the opening series. Batting out of the 5-hole in the rubber match with the Orioles on Thursday, Bogaerts went 3-for-4 and scored twice. While he’s batted either fifth or seventh in the lineup so far, he’s making a case for a shot at an audition in the leadoff spot, since there seems to be some uncertainty at the top of the order.
|Morning notes: John Farrell talks progress of Christian Vazquez, Allen Webster, Deven Marrero; Will Middlebrooks still nursing injured finger||03.17.14 at 10:55 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to the Red Sox‘ spring training game with the Cardinals Monday morning, manager John Farrell discussed the progress made by each of the players sent out in the latest round of roster cuts.
Allen Webster: “Obviously with Allen Webster, I thought his spring training this year was more impressive than a year ago when he was the talk of our camp on a pitcher that comes in late in the game because of how powerful his stuff was. We’re seeing a guy that’s maturing on the mound. The use of his two-seamer particularly. And the number of strikes in the bottom of the strike zone has been very encouraging.”
Christian Vazquez: “The progression with the bat. His willingness to go the other way with some base hits. He’s starting to impact the baseball a little bit more in some advantage counts. He has the ability to shut down a running game with the way he defends and the way he throws. This is a guy, there would be no hesitation if the need were to arise to call upon.”
Deven Marrero: “A well-above-average defender. Last year, he had a little bit of exposure to us while he was in big league camp. But this year, a very good defender right now. And I think he’s settling in to an approach at the plate that’s not only consistent, but one that works best for him. He does have a tendency to tinker with some things and he’s always searching for what the right feel is. But we’ve seen him the last five, six days really impact the baseball to the pull side.”
— Will Middlebrooks was out of the Red Sox‘ lineup with a hyperextended finger on his right hand, having attempted to play with the injury Sunday.
Farrell noted that Middlebrooks — who did take batting practice Monday — feels the ailment more when throwing the baseball. The third baseman suffered the injury Thursday when bracing himself during a feet-first slide.
“He’s got an ability in the two-hole to play the game a little more,” said the manager of Victorino. “If there’s a guy on base, he’s got the ability to bunt. He’s already seen some pitches by the guy ahead of him. Can’t deny the track record of what spots in the lineup show and the performance, getting on base particularly. And, you know, it gives us another guy with some speed at the top or an on base and speed guy at the top in addition to who might be leading off with him in the two-hole. And the fact that we had Pedey and David [Ortiz] in the 3-4 hole for pretty much the majority of last year, that’s not a new thing for them either.’
— Sizemore is expected to play in back-to-back games again, Wednesday against the Pirates and Thursday vs. the Yankees (both at JetBlue Park).
— Ortiz is just 2-for-25 heading into Monday’s game, but his manager isn’t worried.
“I think more than anything if we can get to roughly 50 at-bats here, that’s the goal, enough at-bats where he’s seeing pitches, he’s getting his timing down, and that’s a round number, not to say we’re holding steadfast to that number, last spring he didn’t have any at-bats and I think he was pretty good last year. David’s getting in shape to start the year.”
|Red Sox split squad beats Orioles and pitcher Alfredo Aceves||03.11.14 at 4:25 pm ET|
A split squad of Red Sox players in Sarasota showed no dearth of firepower against the Orioles, as Boston’s used three homers and a rally against former Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves to claim a 6-5 victory over the Orioles. Will Middlebrooks homered for the second time in as many games against Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter, while Brock Holt and Ryan Lavarnway both went deep for the first time of the spring. Lavarnway’s homer came against former teammate Aceves, who allowed three runs on five hits (including an RBI double by Daniel Nava and RBI triple by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the seventh inning and Lavarnway’s eighth-inning solo homer) in two innings of work. Nava went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, while catcher A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-3 and drove in a run.
Sox starter Allen Webster was dominant early, allowing two hits (both singles, one of the infield variety) and striking out three through the first three frames while getting one groundball after another. But he issued three straight walks with one out in the fourth to end his day on a down note; he was ultimately charged with two runs when reliever Alex Wilson permitted two of his inherited runners to score.
Still, the Sox managed to keep the game in check until breaking a 3-3 tie with their trio of runs in the seventh and eighth innings against Aceves.
|Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Brentz go deep but Henry Owens struggles as Red Sox fall to Orioles||03.08.14 at 4:12 pm ET|
Will Middlebrooks is at his best when he’s driving the ball to the opposite field, capitalizing on his considerable all-fields strength to deny opposing pitchers a go-to area against him. Thus it came as one of his more promising signs of the early spring that the third baseman got ahead in the count against Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter — a notoriously tough opponent for right-handed hitters — and drove a 2-1 pitch out to right-center for his first homer of the spring.
Outfielder Bryce Brentz, meanwhile, continued to offer a glimpse into his considerable power, going deep to left against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. The homer was Brentz’s third of the spring in 19 plate appearances; he’s 6-for-18 with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“He’s had a very productive camp so far,” manager John Farrell told reporters of Brentz prior to Saturday’s split-squad game against the Orioles in Sarasota. “You see the raw skills. You see the raw power. He’s got all-field power. With that comes along with some aggressive and maybe some swing and miss in there.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Jerry Remy on D&C: ‘We’re going to do a game the way we always do it and that’s it’||03.03.14 at 9:19 am ET|
Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss his return to the NESN broadcast and what he’s seen from the Red Sox in spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Remy called his first Red Sox game Sunday after he took leave from NESN because his son Jared was accused of murder. Remy did not discuss his family situation on the air.
“I made my press conference back before I left, and I did that for a reason so that when I got down here I could just answer questions about baseball and talk about baseball and not talk about my personal life,” Remy said. “That’s what I wanted to do when I had that little conference back at NESN prior to coming to spring training. I didn’t want it to be a distraction when I got down here. I did not want it mentioned on air. I said all I had to say about everything and it wouldn’t be fair to anybody else listening to a game to have to listen to that. That was my feeling.
“Don [Orsillo] asked me, ‘How are we going to go about this?’ and I said, ‘We’re going to do a game. … We’re going to do a game the way we always do it and that’s it.’’
The veteran broadcaster admitted that he was nervous covering the spring training game.
“I made my decision and my decision was to go on and be myself during a game, and that’s what I plan on doing,” Remy said. “If that plays well, great. If it doesn’t, I’m sure the people with NESN, the people with the Red Sox will make the proper adjustments. This is the way I’m going to go about doing things, and I was nervous. I’ve never been nervous about a spring training other than my first one.
“Once I got to the ballpark, and once I got in my comfort zone and back on with Don, who made it very easy for me, it felt right.”
|Will Middlebrooks is looking forward to ‘just going out to kick a guy’s ass every day’||02.27.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the games finally begin, there’s no one with a bigger point to prove or bigger chip on his shoulder than Will Middlebrooks.
He made that perfectly clear Thursday, before taking the field as the starting third baseman against Northeastern, batting seventh.
“Night and day,” Middlebrooks told WEEI.com of his feeling this spring compared to 12 months ago. “It’s night and day. It’s just a matter of competing and believing in my own ability and knowing what I’m capable of and just going out and not thinking about the details and just going out to kick a guy’s ass every day.”
It’s not just the extra 15 to 20 pounds of muscle he’s put on during a vigorous offseason workout program. Middlebrooks has shown his manager that he’s mentally ready to put 2013 behind him.
“To date, his spring has been productive,” Farrell said. “His work has been outstanding. He’s come in with a noticeable determination and yet, at the same time, he’s doing everything we could’ve expected, in terms of everybody.”
“It’s evident by the work he did in the offseason to add some strength and I’m looking forward to seeing him playing on the field.”
As Alex Speier documented, 2013 was a nightmare for Middlebrooks, hitting just .227 in 94 games and suffering through a lower back strain that landed him on the disabled list. It got so bad early on that he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for 45 games where he worked to get his swing – and head – right before returning to help the Red Sox down the stretch. All of this after a rookie season in 2012, when he hit 15 homers and drove in 54 runs in 75 games.
“You could point to a number of examples where the second year has been a little bit more challenging and that’s just a matter of the league getting to know the strengths and limitations for a given player, and pitching to it accordingly,” Farrell said. “Will’s very well aware of how pitchers and opponents have attacked him, and that’s just a process of establishing yourself year after year in the big leagues.”
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