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Tag:Boston Red Sox
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 7:17 pm
 

Yu the man in Rangers debut

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Quick glimpse, small sample. Two innings, first impression:

Yu Darvish's Japanese legacy and World Baseball Classic dominance looked for one day Wednesday like they will translate beautifully into the major leagues.

Or, if you prefer, you could take it beyond one spring outing.

"They're going back to the postseason," Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson said of a Rangers team with Darvish in their rotation. "That's a no-brainer."

Darvish surrendered two hits -- doubles to Hudson and Will Venable -- no runs and whiffed three Padres in Texas' 6-3 Cactus League win on a cold, windy Arizona afternoon.

He rose to the occasion when needed, handcuffing the Padres to 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. He backed off when the situation suggested, getting Carlos Quentin to swing out of his spikes with a 79 m.p.h. curve to end the first.

He threw first-pitch strikes to seven of eight batters faced, including each of the first six major league hitters he saw. He got nine swing-and-misses, and threw 26 strikes and just 10 balls.

He does not dawdle like Daisuke Matsuzaka, and he does not nibble like C.J. Wilson. He comes right at hitters, and he's got the stuff to do it.

"He's got some deception and he's got some velocity," Texas' Michael Young said. "If he commands the heater, he's going to get outs."

Scouts said he threw six different pitches: Two variations of his fastball, two types of curveballs, a slider and a change-up. Texas catcher Yorvit Torrealba says he throws seven pitches. In a game in which everything plays off of the fastball and changing speeds, though, who really can count?

"At one point, I was thinking about taking my glove off and using two hands" to flash signals while calling pitches, Torrealba joked.

With a fastball that hit 95 and an even slower curve than the one Quentin saw, clocked at 67 m.p.h. to Will Venable, Darvish possesses an exceptional ability to keep hitters off-balance. His fastball ranged from 92 to 95 m.p.h.

Though Hudson yanked a double between Young and second baseman Ian Kinsler in the first, it was Venable's booming double in the second that was the attention-getter. Venable blasted a 2 and 2 fastball some 420 feet off of the batter's eye in dead center.

Not only was it the hardest-hit ball against Darvish, the moment also later provided some pretty good insight into just how stubborn, determined and proud Darvish is.

"The dry air in Arizona and the wind blowing out carried the ball pretty far," Darvish said through an interpreter. "To me, it didn't seem that it was hit very squarely."

To which, a couple of Padres called bull. Mark Kotsay chortled that during his 16 years in the majors, he hasn't seen a ball blasted 400-and-some feet high off of a "50-foot wall" that wasn't exactly, um, smoked.

"Maybe his perception of reality isn't as right on as ... I don't know," Venable said. "No comment."

Translation: Yes, Venable thought, he not only squared that fastball up, he CRUSHED it.

So file that one away. If Darvish is as dismissive of other hitters who take a bite out of him as he was of Venable, well, some awfully entertaining rivalries are about to be born. Or, a bit of a humbling process is about to begin.

Mostly, Darvish said, he was happy to get his first Cactus League start out of the way. He said his teammates teased him a little about being nervous before the game, and "I told them, no, I'm not." He was very happy with the way his secondary pitches were working, though he acknowledged that throwing into the teeth of a strong wind aids the movement of his pitches.

He opened some eyes with two impressive defensive plays, showing some quickness while covering first base on one play and leaping high to grab a high chopper up the middle. He threw home, and Torrealba tagged the runner coming in from third.

Defense-loving Texas manager Ron Washington said those plays were the most impressive things he saw the 6-5 Darvish do.

"That's a big Asian dude," Hudson said. "What's that guy who played basketball for the Rockets? Yao Ming? I looked at him and thought, that dude is big. ...

"Watching him on TV I thought, he's big. Then when I saw him, I thought he's not as big as I thought. Then I got to the plate and I thought, damn."

Hudson had no qualms about admitting his excitement to face Darvish. He said he even had trouble sleeping Tuesday night.

Interestingly, the Rangers picked up on Hudson's eagerness.

"I thought Hudson grinded out his at-bat," pitching coach Mike Maddux said of Hudson's first-inning double. "It looked like one of those emotional at-bats where it's like, 'I'm going to show this guy.'"

Bingo.

One other impression: Darvish worked both innings entirely from the stretch, not the wind-up. Even with nobody on base. He works both ways randomly, he said.

Maddux said he was given two DVDs, one from a game last July in which Darvish worked from the stretch, another from a game last October in which he worked entirely from the windup.

"The biggest pitches you make come from the stretch," Maddux said. "If you want to hone that craft, by all means, I'm all for it."

Hone it Darvish did, as his homeland studied through a microscope. Four different networks beamed Darvish's two innings back to Japan live, according to Rangers' PR guru John Blake. ESPN News showed the first four hitters live. Some 150 media members packed the press box in what had to be some sort of Cactus League record.

Yeah, you could see why Darvish and the Rangers were just as happy to get this one behind them.

As the Padres' Hudson said, that's a whole lot on the back of a 25-year-old who is moving to a new country to change jobs, no matter how talented he is. First time you surrender a home run, everyone wants to know what happened. First time you get knocked out of the box after three innings, everyone demands explanations.

Of course, that all comes with $111.7 million -- the $60 mil the Rangers are paying Darvish, and the $51.7 mil posting fee.

"Ichiro kind of set the bar high getting 900 hits a year," Hudson said. "[Darvish] has got to go win a Cy Young."



Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:50 pm
 

Angels, Pujols take first steps toward 2012

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Was it the Angels, or were their halos actually glowing a little brighter in the Arizona sun as they convened for their first full-squad workout with Albert Pujols on Monday?

"Absolutely, you can feel his presence," ace Jered Weaver said.

"There's a sense of excitement, with all the big names," second baseman Howard Kendrick said.

There wasn't any real drama to Monday's workout, unless you count the crush of fans down the right-field line near the team's clubhouse entrance that surged forward so intensely when Pujols stopped to sign that a couple of those in the front row were pinned dangerously against the fence. One cried out in pain.

Maybe that's why Pujols didn't stick around very long to sign.

But though there was nothing to write home about on the field, not even Pujols' live batting practice session against journeyman reliever Brad Mills, the Angels were marking this day on their calendars anyway.

And from Pujols' perspective, he didn't appear to lose his bearings at all.

"He was everywhere," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was where he was supposed to be.

"He ran with us. He stretched with us. He hit in the right group.

"He was following Erick Aybar. Aybar knows where he's going. As long as he wasn't following Howie Kendrick. ..."

Kendrick chuckled when he heard that.

"Torii might be right," Kendrick said.

Following more than a decade of spring training with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., Pujols said there really isn't a dramatic difference in the way St. Louis and the Angels conduct things. It's not like, say, there's a secret entrance to the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"Camps are the same," Pujols said. "There's nothing different."

The nuances will come later.

"It's going to be fun once we start right-side defense," said Kendrick, who will play next to Pujols on that side of the infield. "That's when we'll start interacting.

"I've got to figure out what his range is, how he likes to play. I think with the Cardinals, it looked like he went to his right pretty well. It didn't look like he was afraid to go to his right.

"If he does that, then that allows me to play up the middle more. And we can cover a lot more ground."

Weaver said he got to know Pujols some during the 2006 World Series, when Jered's brother, Jeff, pitched for the Cardinals.

"He's a great guy," Weaver said. "He's always been nice to me and my family. Plus, not only can he hit, but he's a Gold Glove first baseman [winning in 2006 and 2010].

"It's not going to take him long to fit in, I know that. It's exciting. This is my seventh spring here, and there's always been talk in the offseason of us going and getting some people, and we haven't always done it. But with him and C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. ..."

The Angels did it this winter, and now they can't wait to get going.

And that scene with the fans as Pujols was leaving the field for the day?

"It also helps with the autograph hounds," Weaver said, chuckling. "They all run to him.

"It takes a little pressure off the rest of us."

Sunblock Day? Sure was, for now, at 78 degrees. But by the time the Angels were wrapping things up around 12:30 p.m., the wind gusts were already starting to howl. Strong winds are predicted to sweep through the desert tonight and knock the temperature down to a high of 62 Tuesday.

Likes: Looking forward to being a panelist this evening at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in a forum discussing spring training coverage. Other panelists: Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Janie McCauley, the AP writer in San Francisco. ... Not only is Bobby Valentine going to be great as a manager in Boston, it's going to be great fun with him at the helm. Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had barely finished calling Boston's clubhouse beer ban a "PR move" on the radio Monday morning when Valentine fired back after the Sox workout. "Remember, you're getting paid over there for saying stuff," Valentine said. "You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both." Nice. ... Love Craig Counsell moving from the field to being a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. And how about this: The other day, Counsell and Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke went together to scout a pitcher during a game at Arizona State University. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in the crowd at the Oscars on Sunday night, with great seats not far behind Michelle Williams, who was up for Best Actress for My Week With Marilyn. ... Man, with Colletti and Athletics GM Billy Beane both attending the Academy Awards (Beane to support Moneyball, of course), next thing you know, Cubs GM Theo Epstein will become a regular at the Grammys. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday and Friday nights this week. ... Love what I've heard of Wrecking Ball, the new Springsteen record out March 6. Some rock, some Seeger Sessions-style stuff, some gospel, some folk ... great mix.

Dislikes: Aw, Johnny Cash would have been 80 on Sunday. Happy birthday anyway to the Man in Black. Got a chance to walk through his tour bus a couple of years back when it was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very, very cool. Reading daughter Rosanne Cash's memoir, Composed, now. In turns, a very thoughtful, emotional and introspective work.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I go out on a party
"And look for a little fun
"But I find a darkened corner
"Because I still miss someone"

-- Johnny Cash, I Still Miss Someone
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:42 pm
 

Farewell to 'The Kid' at 57

We've known this was coming now for nearly a year. But when the end finally arrived for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter on a day when the baseball world was readying for the start of another spring training, it still seemed unreal.

The Kid? Gone?

He was only 57, with the smile and heart of a much younger man. His death Thursday came just two weeks after his last public appearance, a poignant visit with a Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball team he helped coach before their season opener near his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

In grave shape with a body ravaged by a malignant brain tumor, it was touching -- and certainly not a surprise -- that Carter would haul himself out to the baseball field one final time. Nobody loved the game and the people who play it more than Carter.

It must have been a lump-in-the-throat scene in person, because just looking at the photos made the eyes well up with tears. The man provided so many memories in both New York, where he starred for the Mets' last World Series champion team in 1986, and in Montreal, where he helped author some of that city's finest baseball moments before the Expos sadly left town.

Gary Carter was an 11-time All-Star, earned three Gold Gloves and, most famously, keyed the Mets' three-run rally in the bottom of the 10th inning as they came back to beat Boston in Game 6 of the '86 World Series.

And while he created so many great memories, what's maybe most satisfying as we remember him today is how much he always enjoyed the ride while he was on it.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 5:10 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 7:07 pm
 

Prince Fielder intrigue continues to build

So why hasn't Prince Fielder signed yet while Albert Pujols has been sitting back and counting that 10-year, $254 million deal for weeks?

Plenty of reasons. Mostly, as Boras would tell you, because the market is still developing.

Start with the fact that the two clubs who in recent years have helped establish the ga-zillion dollar markets -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- are sitting this one out. New York has a long-term first baseman in Mark Teixeira, as Boston does with Adrian Gonzalez.

Beyond them, only a small handful of clubs can play ball at Fielder's asking price. Which, you can be sure, is a dollar or two more than Pujols is getting annually from the Angels.

From the start, barring a stunning early offer, Boras was in no hurry to sign Fielder. It was clear that Pujols would sign, the bar would be set, and then Boras/Fielder would look to exceed it.

Within that, as Boras has explained many times this winter, free agents at this level are ownership decisions. As he did when he represented Alex Rodriguez in 2000 and scored the 10-year, $252 million deal, Boras meets directly with owners (then-Rangers owner Tom Hicks, in that case).

That, too, takes time.

With the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels out, the Cubs, Mets and Dodgers are among the few who could afford Fielder.

The Cubs are under new management, and president Theo Epstein philosophically does not believe in awarding long-term contracts to the tune of seven, eight or more years to free agents. Consequently, they acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Padres this month, the idea being Rizzo will be Chicago's first baseman of the future.

The Mets and Dodgers, of course, have serious financial issues of their own. The Mets, who lost Jose Reyes to the Marlins this winter, are rebuilding and broke. The Dodgers are in the process of being sold.

So that leaves the next tier of suitors. And one other key component: With the Yankees and Red Sox on the sidelines, there is nobody to help drive up the price up via a bidding war.

Boras met with the Nationals several weeks ago. Those two have done several multi-million dollar deals in recent years, including the $126 million Jayson Werth contract last winter, and deals with recent top draft picks Stephen Strasburg (four-years, $15 million) and Bryce Harper (five years, $9.9 million).

The Mariners desperately need a middle-of-the-lineup bat. But whether the M's would spend that kind of dough remains to be seen ... as does whether Fielder would want to play in Safeco Field, notorious for diluting offensive numbers.

Asked at the winter meetings last month whether his client had a geographical presence, Boras quipped, "I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate. That's the geographics he likes."

Baltimore is another city that continues to be linked with Fielder. The Orioles are desperate for a clean-up hitter, not to mention a winner. Owner Peter Angelos has the money, though he is notoriously slow in wading through the free agent market.

Texas? The Rangers' deadline for signing pitcher Yu Darvish is next week. Some industry sources think the Rangers are holding off on Fielder while they negotiate with the Japanese free agent. Then, they'll either go full bore after Fielder if they don't sign Darvish (unlikely, they're expected to sign the pitcher) or see if there's a way to fit Fielder in after signing the pitcher.

The Blue Jays? Hmmm ... interesting thought, and lots of speculation surrounding them. Maybe the exchange rate is slowing those talks down.

Milwaukee remains in on the fringes, but only if the price falls.

Always, with Boras, there is the threat of a "mystery team" stepping up. No other agent in the game is as skilled at luring suitors down the path ... and then obtaining a pot of gold ... as Boras.

But now, as it gets deeper into January and an industry awaits Fielder's decision, it may take Boras' biggest play yet to get what he and his client want.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:57 am
 

Beltran talks hot, Indians now in mix

Carlos Beltran continues to sort through interest from at least five clubs -- maybe more -- and hopes to make a decision by Christmas, sources with knowledge of the discussions say.

The Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays were all said to be "in the mix" on Wednesday, and talks were heating up. By Wednesday night, the Indians had joined them in serious talks with the free agent outfielder.

Beltran is said to have offers for both two and three years, with the dollars varying significantly. He earned $20 million last season in the final summer of a seven-year, $119 million deal.

At this point, the six-time All-Star appears to be weighing his preferred city (cities?) against average annual value (AAV) in yearly salary. The many American League clubs involved suggest that, at this point in his career, teams view Beltran more as a designated hitter than as an everyday outfielder.

While Beltran still prefers the outfield, one source close to him said Wednesday that he would be open to DH'ing part-time.

One team that probably would offer Beltran the most time in the outfield is St. Louis. The Cardinals have been aggressive all along, especially since Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. St. Louis figures to move Lance Berkman to first base and go with Allen Craig in right field, with Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center field. Beltran could mix in both in center and right in a rotating Cardinals cast.

Beltran has intrigued the Blue Jays all winter -- enough, according to a source, that their pursuit remained unchanged after it was revealed this week that the Rangers had won the posting for Japanese free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. In other words, did the Blue Jays, who were believed to be knee-deep in the Yarvish bidding, up their ante after losing the pitcher? No, they've been aggressive all along.

In Toronto, Beltran projects more as a DH-type, because the Jays, of course, have Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center. As of now, they've got newly acquired Ben Francisco, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in left field. Beltran has played very little left field in his career.

The Red Sox have had an exceptionally quiet off-season, losing closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies and so far failing to add any significant pieces. They have been looking for a bat to lengthen their lineup, and with right-fielder J.D. Drew gone, Beltran makes some sense in Boston. Right field can be demanding in Fenway Park, however, with the configuration of the fence, and David Ortiz is back as the Red Sox DH.

Tampa Bay, on a tight budget, needs help at both first base and DH, where Johnny Damon got most of the at-bats last year.

The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision. Cleveland has been a distant admirer before -- the Indians spoke with the Mets last July about acquiring him in a deal. Beltran had no-trade powers then and, eventually, approved a deal to San Francisco. The Giants talked about bringing him back early in the off-season but scotched that idea fairly quickly because of a tight budget.

Adding Beltran not only would give Cleveland another potent bat that it seeks, but also depth behind center fielder Grady Sizemore. Banged up severely in recent years, Sizemore has undergone five surgeries in the past two seasons, including one to fix a microfracture in his knee. The Indians are set at the corner outfield spots with Mickey Brantley and Shin Soo-Choo, and at DH with Travis Hafner.

Now 34, Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He's had serious knee issues in the past but was strong enough to produce an All-Star season in 2011.

The Rockies also were talking with Beltran, but earlier this week they signed former Minnesota Twin Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:46 am
 

Darvish brings to mind Daisuke memories

DALLAS -- High-profile Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish wrote on his blog that he will be posted on Thursday and, thus, formally become available to major league clubs as a free agent.

As such, let's remember two words.

Daisuke Matsuzaka.

A handful of recent Japanese pitchers have disappointed in the majors. While Hideo Nomo had some very good moments, Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa and Matsuzaka all did not live up to their billing.

Matsuzaka landed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 following an incredibly high profile chase in which the Red Sox paid a $51 million posting price and $52 million in salary.

He went 15-12 in his first season and helped fuel a Red Sox World Series win, then went 18-3 in 2008.

He's done very little in the ensuing three seasons, combining to win just 16 games before landing on the disabled list last summer and undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June.

"He was in Florida, doing well, and we fully expect that within the time frame of the surgery, within a year, he'd be back and ready sometime this summer," Scott Boras, Matsuzaka's agent, said.

Boras said the fit with new Boston manager Bobby Valentine should be comfortable. Valentine managed seven seasons in Japan since he last managed in the major leagues.

"Daisuke knows a great deal about Bobby Valentine, he's obviously very well respected," Boras said. "Certainly, Daisuke has a familiarity with him. I think the two have a lot in common. And I'm sure Bobby will take Daisuke to his favorite sushi restaurant, rather than vice-versa."
Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Valentine Day coming this week for Red Sox

During the past decade, Bobby Valentine has almost managed twice as many big-league clubs as he's actually managed.

He was ticketed to manage the Florida Marlins two summers ago until that blew up.

Now he's on-deck to manage the Boston Red Sox.

Every indication Tuesday night was that Valentine will be calling the shots from the dugout when the Red Sox open their 2012 season in Detroit on April 5. But hey, when you're romancing Bobby V, as Yogi B. would say, it's never over 'til it's over.

And given the downright shameful way the Red Sox let runner-up Gene Lamont twist into Tuesday night without even the courtesy of a phone call as Valentine speculation became deafening, there were still a few loose ends to tie up before what is expected to be a Thursday press conference to introduce the new manager.

Valentine is charismatic, energetic, whip-smart, passionate, arrogant, enthusiastic, old-school, new-school, inquisitive, condescending, confrontational, sharp-tongued and hard-edged in one blinding, kaleidoscope of a package.

How that mixes with the New York Yankees will be riveting. How that mixes with the rest of the American League -- especially with Baltimore manager Buck Showalter -- will be highly entertaining.

How that plays within the Red Sox's own organization eventually will be the stuff of pure drama. There is no way the egos of Valentine and club president Larry Lucchino won't eventually clash and spark like positive and negative electrical currents. There is no way Valentine won't steamroll young rookie general manager Ben Cherington -- or, at least, try.

Fenway Park isn't nearly big enough to contain Valentine's out-sized ego. It isn't small enough to limit the possibilities of what this man and this team, together, could accomplish.

The process that led the Red Sox to this day was nearly as tortured as their fall-off-the-cliff September. Valentine's personality profile is not even in the same country as the group of candidates the Red Sox paraded through for a first round of interviews.

Three candidates from that first group had zilch for managerial experience: Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo and Dale Sveum (OK, so he had 16 games' worth of of interim managerial experience in 2008). One more had just two interim managerial stints under his belt (Pete Mackanin). The fifth, Lamont, actually had experience in managing the White Sox (AL manager of the year in 1993) and the Pirates.

All of those guys are quiet. Thoughtful. Each of them fell under the category described by Cherington when he said of Sveum, "He's somebody we know we can work with."

Then, Sveum picked the Cubs and the Red Sox took a hard right.

No matter how they spin it, clearly, ownership took the managerial search steering wheel away from Cherington.

The only guarantee from here is that the ride will be an adventure neither side will ever forget.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:07 am
 

BoSox manager decision to drag out later in week

The curious case of the Red Sox manager search drags on: Though Boston appears close to choosing between veteran baseball men Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont, that decision will not come on Tuesday, according to sources with knowledge of the Red Sox plans.

With Valentine apparently flying home from Japan on Tuesday, speculation early Monday centered on the Sox informing the two men of their choice later Tuesday. But Boston is said to not be ready to make a decision by then.

Industry speculation has Valentine, 61, as the favorite to get the job, though he is nowhere close to the parameters of the first group of candidates brought in to interview by the Red Sox. New general manager Ben Cherington appeared to be looking for a solid baseball man without much managerial pedigree, a guy who would grow into the Boston job and may be open to front-office suggestions.

That man is not Valentine, who will do things his own way -- and who was contacted by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino after Dale Sveum accepted the Cubs job. Sveum was among the first group to interview with Boston and appeared to be Cherington's first choice.

Valentine guided the Mets to their last World Series appearance in 2000, managing them for parts of seven seasons after piloting the Rangers for parts of eight seasons.

Lamont, 64, is Detroit's third-base coach, managed the White Sox from 1992-1995 and was named as AL Manager of the Year in '93 when the Sox won the AL West title. He had the Sox in first place again in 1994 when the players' strike occurred and the season was wiped out. He also managed Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.
 
 
 
 
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