March 2014

Victorino not a fan of shortened walkup song

Shane Victorino isn’t a fan of Major League Baseball’s rule this season to limit walk-up songs to 15 seconds. In this case, Victorino is speaking out on behalf of Red Sox fans.

His song, “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, turned all of his at-bats into a galvanizing moment at Fenway down the stretch last season. After “Don’t worry about a thing”, the crowd would then roar the rest, “because every little thing is gonna be alright.”

From the start of the song, it takes about 15 seconds to get to “Don’t worry”.

But fear not, Sox fans. Executive vice president Charles Steinberg indicated the club will do whatever it takes to keep the best part of the song going for the fans.

For example, the operations staff at Fenway can modify when the song starts so that the catchy part of the song can get in.

The song could start playing 10 seconds in and still have time for the whole lyric that everybody loves. Or it could start five seconds in, and the crowd could finish the lyric without it playing on the sound system.

“I just think it’s not right. It’s disappointing to hear that,” Victorino said of the rule change.

Victorino reasons that studies proved he was one of the most efficient hitters in the game last season in between pitches.

“Per pitch, I was like six seconds,” Victorino said. “It was the top five fastest between every pitch, getting in the box and going. There were only a few other guys who were ahead of me. Now you’re going to have however many disappointed fans every night because you’re changing that part of the game.

“I don’t want to [keep the lyrics] just because I want to listen to the whole song. It’s just because of the way it’s been picked up and the way it happened towards the end of the season, that’s why I let that part of the song go. I don’t pay attention to it, and I never do with my walkup song.”

Ortiz’s contract terms

Here are the official terms of David Ortiz’s new contract:

2015 season, $16 million.

2016 option starts at $10 million and vests in the following way based on the 2015 season:

425 plate appearances is $11 million.

475 plate appearances is $12 million

525 plate appearances is $13 million

550 plate appearances is $14 million

575 plate appearances is $15 million

600 plate appearances is $16 milion.

The 2017 option is strictly a club option, but it has exactly the same vesting escalators if the Red Sox choose to pick up the option.

For Iglesias, shin problems started with Red Sox

It turns out Jose Iglesias was enduring more than people knew to start the 2013 season at shortstop with the Red Sox and to play third later in the season when Will Middlebrooks was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.

On Monday, Iglesias confirmed to Jason Beck of MLB.com and John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that he has stress fractures in both shins. And he spoke about how much the ailment bothered him as early as last Spring Training.

“No idea. I just feel it from the very first moment of Spring Training [in 2013]. I just told myself to play through it, because I never expected something like that. I just feel pain, but Stephen Drew had a concussion at the time and that was an opportunity for me to start with the team. And I was like, ‘You know what, you’ve got to play through it.’ And I did it,” Iglesias said.

“We didn’t know what it was, but I played through it all year long. Last year I played through the pain all year long. Sometimes Farrell had to give me some days, the same as Jim Leyland here. He had to give me some days or take me out of the game because the pain was so bad. And I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know what to do to get rid of it.’ And I never found out until right now that it was a fracture.”

And in the ultimate irony, the injury for Iglesias could create a job opportunity in Detroit for Stephen Drew, who remains a free agent.

First round of cuts

The Red Sox made their first round of cuts today, sending several of the organization’s best prospects back to Minor League camp.

Right-handed pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Alex Wilson, infielder Garin Cecchini, and outfielders Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Right-handed pitchers Matt Barnes, Miguel Celestino and Noe Ramirez, left-handed pitcher Henry Owens, catcher Blake Swihart, and infielders Heiker Meneses and Travis Shaw were reassigned to minor league camp.

The Sox now have 46 players left in camp, including 35 from the 40-man roster. In other words, 21 cuts to go.

Cecchini and Brentz both had impressive at-bats in game action. Ranaudo was dominant in his first outing. Barnes had shoulder problems early, so we didn’t get much of a look at him.

“And I will say this, as a whole, maybe with the exception of Barnes because he was slowed with the shoulder stiffness, I thought guys showed very well,” said manager John Farrell. “I think it speaks loudly of the unity that Major League and Minor League has. I thought guys came in and handled themselves well. they handled the environment well. and on the field, there was a lot of positive signs, whether it was the consistency of at-bats to Hassan, to Brentz, to the way a young guy like Swihart showed behind the plate …  not that we’re over-valuing or over-evaluating our own players, but that’s a lot of talent.”

Another Opening Day of Spring Training

The slate of Spring Training games started for the Red Sox on Feb. 27. But in essence, today is the true start.

This represents the closest thing manager John Farrell has had to an Opening Day lineup.

Sizemore, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, Nava, Victorino (Spring Training debut), Bogaerts, Pierzynski, Middlebrooks. And Jon Lester, who is all but certain to start on Opening Day, is making his first Grapefruit League start.

“We’re starting to get what shapes up to be our regular roster back on the field. And as we talked about yesterday, this next turn through the rotation we’ll have all of our projected starters on the mound,” said manager John Farrell. “Clay did an outstanding job yesterday and I think the more we get that continuity from the starting staff, as we’ll achieve here in spring training, I think it sets the tone for everything else. and the fact that we get Vic on the field today for the first time, this is definitely a positive step.”

What is Farrell looking to accomplish over the final three weeks of Spring Training?

“To get all of our starters built up to the appropriate number of pitches inside of a given game,” Farrell said. “To make sure our everyday players have gotten there 55 to 65 at-bats in camp. That Vic gets on the field with regularity and gets past some of the physical challenges, the physical challenges. And not just Vic, but any of our guys getting past the physical challenges that they face. And then for us to get a more accurate read on where Grady Sizemore is.”

Toward that end, Sizemore will start again on Tuesday, marking the first time he’ll go back-to-back this spring.

John Farrell also confirmed that the way his rotation is lined up now is likely the way it will be to start the season. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz.

Middlebrooks on praise from Yaz

Count Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski among those who believe Will Middlebrooks will have a bounceback season in 2014.

“I like the way Middlebrooks is swinging,” said Yaz. “Talked to him a little bit and he said he’s thinking up the middle more this year. I think he’s going to have a great year. He’s got a quick bat. There’s no reason for him not to hit .300. If he doesn’t think pulling the ball and just let his reactions take over, he’s going to have a hell of a year.”

Of hearing what Yaz said, Middlebrooks said, “Of course it means a lot. I have a lot of respect for him and how he played the game and obviously his success and what he means to this organization. It means a lot. For him to come up and say he’s coming to watch me take BP … and he has something to say. He wants to help out. It means a lot to me. I had a good talk with him.

When Middlebrooks was in the lower levels of Boston’s farm system, he was one of the many players Yaz would work with in the batting cage.

“That was before I understood who he was and what he had done,” said Middlebrooks.  “I think it means a little more now.”

As for the notion that Middlebrooks might have been too pull-happy last year?

“Not purposely. It’s just something with my body, I don’t know. Yeah [I was], but not purposely,” he said. “I’ve never gone up there with the intent to just pull the ball.”

Saturday’s Sox report

The Red Sox played their first road game of Spring Training today, albeit just a few minutes up the road to play the Twins. Here were the significant events.

Nava drills one from the right side: Daniel Nava hadn’t faced a live pitcher since the World Series last year when he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat on Saturday. It ended with the left fielder pummeling a homer over the wall in left against Scott Diamond. The most significant thing about it was that it came from the right side. Nava has been a far superior left-handed hitter over the years, so it could make him an even more valuable player if he can start contributing as a right.

Last season, he hit .322 with 10 homers, a .411 on-base percentage and .484 slugging percentage against righties. Against lefties, he hit .252 with two homers and a .311 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage.

“I’ll take any of them — left-handed, right-handed — it doesn’t matter,” Nava said. “But, obviously, I know I have work to do from the right side. Any time I can put together a good at-bat, whether the result is a home run or not, that for me is what I’m trying to allow one of the things of Spring Training to be about.”

Britton looks like he belongs: Drake Britton looks like he means business this spring. In his first outing on Saturday, he punched out the first three hitters he faced, and four out of seven, giving up just one hit. Assuming Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow and Chris Capuano are all on the team, whch seems likely, that leaves Britton without a roster spot.

However, the Red Sox don’t want him thinking about that.

“Do just what I’ve been doing,” Britton said. “I’ve been told, ‘Don’t change a thing,’ just keep doing what I’m doing, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

Pierzynski even booed in Spring Training: The one thing the Red Sox haven’t had in recent years is a player who gets booed all the time on the road. Don’t be surprised to see A.J. Pierzynski get his share of jeers. As has been well-chronicled, he is one of those players the opponent loves to hate. Pierzynski even heard it from the fans at Hammond Stadium on Saturday as he stepped in for his first at-bat. Pierzynski played along, tipping his cap..

“Whatever,” said Pierzynski. “It’s fine … [I] expect nothing less. It’s fine, just one of those funny moments. It’s good.”

Webster still trying to prove himself:  When Allen Webster arrived last spring, he dazzled everyone by throwing in the upper 90s. However, he might have set himself back. Webster was trying to impress his new team, so he sacrificed command for velocity. Today, Webster still looked like he was trying to find himself, displaying some of that same spotty location that marked his abbreviated stints with the Red Sox last year.

It could just be a case of Webster trying to refine some of his new mechanics.

“Delivery-wise, he was a guy who went over his head with his hands and was a little bit stagnant with his movement, where he’d begin his delivery and pause at the top with his hands at the top of his delivery,” said Farrell.

And how will that adjustment help him?

“It takes the tension out of his shoulders and, in some ways, it’s comparable to when Clay [Buchholz] made the adjustment, as well,” said Farrell. “You would see Clay begin a game — every pitcher — as they’re trying to get into the flow of the game, there’s anxiety and there’s some uncertainty — and that translates to some tension.

“The key with Clay was, let’s work to get the first ground ball on the infield. Then, you could see the tension come out. This is taking it out naturally by the adjustment in delivery. It just feels more loose and fluid.”

Grady gets a hit: Grady Sizemore played for the second time in three days, and belted a single to right and the last of this three at-bats. The plan is for Sizemore to get two down days and then resume action on Tuesday. However, Farrell said Sizemore could then get another break from game action after that game. The Red Sox are obviously trying to find the right balance to keep Sizemore healthy.

Quip of the day: Johnny Manziel — A K A Johnny Football — paid a visit to Red Sox camp in the morning as part of a sponsorship appearance.

“Maybe he’ll come take over for Tom Brady,” said A.J. Pierzynski, who then added, “I’m joking, I’m joking!!

Sunday’s activity: Felix Doubront makes his first start on Sunday. Edward Mujica, who could be a key man in the bullpen, makes his debut. Regulars Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts and Jonny Gomes should all see action.

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