January 2010

Tickets available Saturday

I know a lot of you are probably clamoring for a chance to go to a Sox game at Fenway in 2010.

Well, you will have your chance, starting Saturday at 10 a.m., when tickets to nearly all home games will go on sale at http://www.redsox.com.

The Sox have the longest sell-out streak in Major League history, so you best pounce on tickets while they are still available.

The only games that won’t be available Saturday are all Yankees games and the three-game set against Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers in June. Tickets to those games will be available in a random drawing, to be held at a later date.

On June 17, 2009, the Sox became the first team in Major League history to sell out 500 consecutive home games. The streak started on May 15, 2003.

In trying to allow as many people as possible a chance to go to a game at Fenway, the club will set a maximum purchase of eight tickets per person.

Fans who requite accessible seating can call 877-REDSOX9 while hearing impaired fans should call the TTY line at (617) 226-6644.

The Sox will open their 2010 season on the night of April 4 – which is Easter Sunday – against the Yankees.

After the three-game series against New York, the Red Sox will hit the road for a six-game journey to Kansas City and Minnesota. In that latter stop, they will help the Twins open their new ballpark, Target Field.

Boston’s first extended homestand off the season is set for April 16-25 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.

There you have it. If you have any other questions, I’ll do my best to get them answered!

The Bay saga had several twists

Great job of reporting by Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, giving readers an in-depth look at all the twists and turns that ultimately led to no deal between Jason Bay and the Red Sox.

First, Bradford confirmed what was reported earlier this week by MLB.com’s Peter Gammons — that Bay and the Sox had agreed on a four-year, $60 million deal in July, only to have it fall apart due to a medical dispute. Bradford’s account is the first time that Bay confirms the story.

“That,” Bay tells Bradford, “is just one-tenth of the story.”

Bay took a physical in July, and the Red Sox’s medical staff had some red flags, namely the condition of the left fielder’s knees. Bay’s agent Joe Urbon had come to Boston, presumably for a press conference announcing the new deal. Instead, general manager Theo Epstein informed him of the team’s concerns, and the deal was put on hold.

The Red Sox said that they would keep Bay’s AAV — average annual value — the same, at $15 million per year. But they wanted protection in the third and fourth year, in the event Bay’s knees and shoulder acted up. The team also wanted Bay to undergo surgery at the end of the 2009 season.

Bay felt that his knees were fine and sought the advice of another doctor, who confirmed his belief.

The sides revisited the situation in the offseason, when Urbon informed Epstein of the second opinion. The sides than agreed to get a third opinion, and once again, Bay was given a clean bill of health.

On the first night of the Winter Meetings, according to Bradford, Epstein updated his proposal and made it three years guaranteed, with protection for the fourth year. The Red Sox also wanted Bay to pay part of the insurance policy he would need.

“Listen, I could understand the club wanting all these medical contingencies if I had spent any recent time on the DL,” Bay said to WEEI.com, “but I had no history of being a risk for injuries and I wasn’t hurt.”

At any rate, Bay found another suitor — the Mets — that didn’t share Boston’s concerns about his long-term health. And that was where he ended up.

If Bay has knee problems at some point over the next four years, the Red Sox will be proven right to take the conservative approach they did. If not, perhaps they will have regrets about losing out on the slugging left fielder, who fit in so well to the fabric of the team during his year and a half.

The Wave of the future

The next batch of Red Sox prospects is in town for the team’s annual Rookie Development program, a group that includes Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, Junichi Tazawa and Luis Exposito.

We had some media availability in the bubbled practice facility at Boston College on Wednesday. Here are some snippets we gleaned.

Casey Kelly is now just a pitcher and happy about that. It makes training for the season a little more straightforward.

“It’s a lot easier than last year trying to train for two positions, but this year has been great. Knowing what position I’m going to be playing throughout the season has helped my training. Been training hard, started throwing program a couple of weeks ago. So I’m ready to get the season going,” Kelly said

Where is Kelly in his development?

“He’s going to compete for a spot in the Portland rotation. The criteria that we hold in terms of progressing players through the system, especially a starting pitcher, which is repeating your delivery, throwing your fastball to both sides of the plate and throwing your secondary pitches for strikes, Casey demonstrates a lot of those things already,” said director of player development Mike Hazen. “We feel pretty good that, if everything continues to progress, he could move pretty quickly. It wasn’t so much of a sell as a decision that we sat down and talked about. We didn’t feel like we had to sell him on this. We just felt like we needed to sit down at the end of the year and talk about what we felt like was going to be in the best interests of Casey moving forward, then hear what he had to say about what would be in the best interests of Casey moving forward, then putting it all together and coming to a joint decision. If Casey wouldn’t have bought into pitching, this wouldn’t work. It was very much how we hope all of our relationships with players is – it’s a partnership.”

Hazen had one very noteworthy quote on Exposito, the big catcher.

“He’s got tremendous raw power. He might have the best right-handed raw power in the system,” Hazen said.

As for Iglesias, he is learning the culture as much as he is trying to figure out what it takes to get to the highest level of baseball. He is working hard to learn English, even taking in American movies. His favorite thus far? “Avatar”.

There you have it.

Wake and MDC

Here are some leftovers from the Boston Baseball Writers DInner.

Tim Wakefield? It doesn’t sound like the Red Sox envision him for a relief role, despite having six starters for five spots at the moment.

“I haven’t thought about that a lot. He’s a starter,”Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I think what we need to do is … for the last three or four years we haven’t had him at the end of the year. It’s probably hard for Wake to understand. He sees us signing guys and probably that’s a normal human reaction. What we’re trying to do is have our guys stay healthy and productive. You hear us say that all the time, all year. I think this is the best way we can do that. How that slots out, we really don’t know yet.”

While it’s true the Red Sox didn’t go out and make a major bullpen addition this winter, pitching coach John Farrell made a very interesting point.

“One acquisition we made this offseason would be getting Many Delcarmen back to what he was for two and a half years prior to the second half of last season,” said Farrell. “He was one of the top four or five middle relievers in all of baseball and he’s a key part of our bullpen. Getting him back to the form he pitched at for a two and a half year stretch will go a long way toward putting him back in that category of performer that he was. A lot of times, most recent outings are the most fresh in guys minds and how they draw confidence from that. It’s important for us to get him in to a confident state as we start the games in spring training and continue to build on. I think there was some fatigue that set in with him toward the end of the season and kept him off the postseason roster. They weren’t to the extent of a major injury, but the result of certain outings. He didn’t have the need for any repair or anything like that. We expect and anticipate he’ll get back to that level.”

Boras on Beltre, Ellsbury

Say what you will about agent Scott Boras, but it can be interesting to hear what he has to say. At today’s Adrian Beltre press conference, Boras spoke about how his client’s deal came to fruition with the Red Sox.

“We had to sit down and kind of marshall through the competitive balance tax, which I learned more phases to it. There’s a signing bonus aspect to it, a plate appearance aspect to it,” said Boras.

This contract, in the eyes of Boras, was a “pillow contract” because there is a soft landing to it that will keep the player comfortable for the short term.

“We have tremendous respect for his abilities. For that reason, I approached Theo and said, ‘I don’t want a three-year deal. I understand your situation. Let’s see if we can work something else.’ I said, ‘I need a pillow contract, some sort of back end on this, but basically it’s going to be a one-year deal.’ Theo, I think, I was on the phone with him, but I think a smile came to his face.”

Boras also spoke of another one of his clients — Jacoby Ellsbury — being moved to center field.

“He’s been a center fielder his whole life. On the other hand, Mike Cameron is clearly a guy who has been a center fielder his whole life. He’s a veteran. To make an adjustment at this point in his career, we agreed that it’s probably better for the Red Sox to keep Mike in centerfield. Jacoby’s a good teammate and said, ‘I understand that.’

“The other thing is, [Ellsbury] is an intense offensive player. When you’re out there, with that body type, banging 60, 70 stolen bases… I studied who has 60, 70 stolen bases, who scores 100 runs and who plays centerfield long term. Check it out. The metrics don’t work. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. So the idea was, there is benefit and detriment to it. The idea was that your contribution to this team is so important to us, and the stress [centerfield] puts on your body is extraordinary.”

Theo stays on the defensive

It was the day after the Red Sox had been knocked out of the 2009 postseason, and general manager Theo Epstein was asked about areas the club needed improvement in.

“There are a lot of different ways to get better,” Epstein said on Oct. 12. “You probably start with your weaknesses because there’s the greatest room for improvement there. And if you look back at this year’s club we weren’t the defensive club that we wanted to be. So I think there’s room for improvement with overall team defense and defensive efficiency.”

And here we are, almost three months later, and Epstein has added Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and, pending a physical, Adrian Beltre.

Yes, the Red Sox should catch the ball a whole lot better in 2010 than they did in 2009. And John Lackey will make the team’s run prevention all the more stingy.

But will the Red Sox hit enough? Here is the way the lineup looks as we speak:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Martinez C
Youkilis 1B
Ortiz DH
Drew RF
Cameron LF
Beltre 3B
Scutaro SS

I think it is most likely that they stick with what they have now on offense, see if Ortiz can have a big rebound at the plate, see what Beltre does, and then evaluate if a big bat is still needed in July.