After leaving camp for a couple of days for a personal reason, slugger David Ortiz was back to work on Saturday. In fact, manager John Farrell said that today is the start of the next level in Ortiz’s rehab program — he will do all baseball activities. Ortiz, who is coming off a of a right Achilles injury, had been spending a lot of his time doing agility work.
Today will mark the second time Ortiz has run the bases. He also ran on Wednesday before his temporary leave from camp. Manager John Farrell estimates that the slugger will play in his first Grapefruit League game “at the end of this upcoming week”.
With Mike Napoli returning last night, that means the Red Sox can finally play with their full lineup, minus Shane Victorino, who will be at the World Baseball Classic.
In other news, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will sit out today with lower back stiffness. He seems to get that a couple of times a year — probably just the nature of being a catcher.
Daniel Bard will have a side day today, and then throw in a game on Monday.
Victorino will lead off today in a 1:05 p.m. road game against the Twins and then fly to Arizona tomorrow to join Team USA.
All eyes were on the new first baseman tonight. After weeks — in fact months — of hearing about Mike Napoli’s hips, he played a game for the Red Sox tonight against the Pirates.
And of course, he got tested on the very first pitch of the game. The Pirates’ Darren Ford dropped a hard bunt to first base. Napoli grabbed it and raced to the bag, where he beat Ford on a bang-bang play.
Then he got to bat in the first inning, and Napoli scalded a single off of the foot of Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke. Stephen Drew ripped a double, and Napoli looked comfortable going first to third. Napoli then scored on a wild pitch.
He was again tested on defense in the second. Pedro Alvarez hit a grounder to Napoli, and he made the flip to Jon Lester for the out. Napoli then made a catch on a foul ball by Brandon Inge just in front of the visitors’ dugout. Napoli made a few more routine plays on defense, and struck out in his second at-bat. When the Red Sox came out for defense to start the fifth inning, Napoli was replaced by Lyle Overbay at first.
It was a solid first impression.
The Red Sox had high hopes for Napoli when they originally agreed to terms on a three-year, $39-million pact back in December. Though the contract is now just for one year, the club remains confident that Napoli can be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup.
“Well he’s passed all the tests that we’ve put him through,” said manager John Farrell. “There’s been no restrictions. Even when he was taking BP in the offseason, it was apparent that his lower half was free and we’re looking forward to getting him into the flow of things starting tonight.”
Napoli maintains that he is symptom free from the hip condition — avascluar neucrosis — he was diagnosed with. And he vowed not to be thinking about it when he is on the field.
“Just play the game,” Napoli said. “That’s the best way to go at it. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m just going to play the game and let things happen. When you start worrying about things like, ‘I can’t slide, I shouldn’t slide,’ that’s when you get in between and hurt yourself.”
As for the transition to first base after serving as a primary catcher for all of his career until now?
“I feel a lot more comfortable over there, especially turning the double play, where my feet should be, where I should be taking the ball and receiving the ball,” said Napoli. “It’s been going [well].”
One day, Pedro Martinez is working with the pitchers. The next day, Jason Varitek is instructing catchers. Then Tim Wakefield is mentoring Steven Wright on the finer points of the knuckleball. And then there was Tuesday, and a surprise appearance by Mike Lowell in a Red Sox uniform.
Lowell was in camp as a guest instructor with the purpose of mentoring Will Middlebrooks at third base. The idea was Dustin Pedroia’s.
Life has come full circle for Lowell, who remembers being a prospect at Yankees camp and working with, among others, World Series hero Graig Nettles.
Now Lowell is the World Series hero working with the highly-touted young player.
“Pedroia wanted me to visit him,” said Lowell. “That was Part One. I think Pedey talked to Will and said we communicated and worked well together turning double plays and said he wouldn’t mind doing some stuff. I don’t think it’s anything he does wrong. I love guys who might want to hear something else because you never know what can trigger something good.
“I remember Scott Brosius and Luis Sojo and Graig Nettles, they told me things they probably meant in passing but it sticks with you when you’re young. I don’t know. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’re just going to talk about stuff and hopefully it helps.”
Lowell was always considered a thinking man’s player. “I felt like my physical talent wasn’t top of the line so I had to have an edge any way I could.”
Lowell is expected to be in camp for a couple of days. He will soon be at Marlins camp serving in a similar capacity for his close friend Mike Redmond — the new Miami manager.
Once Boston’s formal workout was complete, Lowell went for a lengthy tutorial on the backfield with Middlebrooks. Pedroia was also there, taking throws.
Virtually every Red Sox regular — except David Ortiz and Mike Napoli who aren’t ready for game action just yet — will play in Thursday’s early game against Northeastern at JetBlue Park. The top prospects will play against Boston College.
The roster against Northeastern at 1:35 p.m. ET:
Catchers: Lavarnway, Ross, Saltalamacchia; Infielders: Ciriaco, Drew, Hamilton, Iglesias, Middlebrooks, Overbay, Pedroia, Sutton; Outfielders: Ellsbury, Gomes, Maier, Nava, Sweeney, Victorino.
Against Boston College at 4 p.m., top prospects Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Deven Marrero will play. No established Major Leaguers will play in that one. Brock Holt and Mauro Gomez are on the roster for that game.
We already covered the pitching in recent days, but as a refresher, John Farrell will go exclusively with bullpen arms. Joel Hanrahan, the new closer, will start against NU. Daniel Bard will also pitch in that game. Andrew Bailey will get an inning against Boston College.
It’s safe to say that Shane Victorino found a coffee shop en route to his first day of work for the Red Sox on Thursday morning. He sounded, well, caffeinated.
Time will tell if Victorino can rebound from the season he had a year ago for the Phillies and Dodgers, but one thing is clear: He won’t be lacking in the energy department.
“That’s who I am,” Victorino said. “Again, being part of this, you think about a high energy guy, a guy like Dustin [Pedroia]. Being around the type of guys who have that energy, that’s what this is about. That’s what makes this game fun, is that you get to put on the uniform every day, go out there and have fun doing it.”
With the money the Red Sox have invested in Victorino — $39 million over three years — they expect he will revert to the type of player he was before last season.
“Again, people are going to try to find a reason and who knows, if I could put my finger on it, I would have stopped it earlier but unfortunately I didn’t,” Victorino said. “I didn’t have the year I wanted to. but again, 2013 is a fresh start for me — a new organization. And what better than to be a Red Sox. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
It is currently pouring in Fort Myers. The Red Sox are likely to just about all of their work indoors today. Position players underwent physicals this morning. Friday will mark the first official full-squad workout.
For a pitcher with Koji Uehara’s experience and stats, he probably had quite a few options when he was a free agent this winter? So why did he wind up with the Red Sox?
“I felt like the Red Sox wanted me more than the other teams. I felt wanted the most by this organization,” said Uehara, who arrived at camp on Sunday. “I feel comfortable about my role. I still have to compete for a position. I heard that John Farrell, when he was with Toronto, he liked me as a pitcher.”
Uehara was one of several Red Sox players to arrive on Sunday, including Mike Napoli and David Ross.
The righty came over from Japan in 2009, but he followed closely when Daisuke Matsuzaka arrived in Boston amid much hype in 2007.
“I was envious,” Uehara said. “I wanted to be there. He was a great pitcher and I also wanted to come over here.”
A starter upon his arrival in the Majors, Uehara has settled into a fine reliever the last three seasons. For the Orioles, Uehara proved he can succeed in the American League East. He put up solid numbers with the Rangers last season.
“Of course it helps, my experience in the AL East,” Uehara said. “Texas was also a small park. That challenge helps.”
Uehara and all other Red Sox pitchers and catchers will undergo physicals on Monday. The first pitchers-catchers workout will be Tuesday.
Looking for a baseball fix to tide you over before Spring Training? Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons have one on Friday night at Fenway Park’s State Street Pavillion, when they host their annual Hot Stove Cool Music Baseball Roundtable.
Though Epstein left the Red Sox for the Cubs following the 2011 season, he continues to have a charitable presence in his home city of Boston.
This year’s roundtable will feature the topic of changing a clubhouse culture. Epstein once did that in Boston, prior to the 2003 season. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is trying to do the same thing this winter by bringing in positive clubhouse influences like Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes and Joel Hanrahan.
The roundtable will include Epstein, MLB.com’s Gammons, Cherington, Red Sox manager John Farrell, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Red Sox assistant general manager MIke Hazen. Gammons will serve as the moderator.
Tickets are $125 and on sale now at FoundationToBeNamedLater.org. Package deals are available for both HSCM Roundtable and Concert. The evening begins at 6 pm with a reception featuring complimentary Harpoon beer, Amberhill wine and a ballpark buffet.
“I am once again excited to join this year’s distinguished panel to talk about changing a clubhouse culture in baseball. The panel’s expertise and knowledge will provide fans an in-depth look behind the scenes,” said Gammons. “I’m appreciative of everyone’s continued involvement and support of Hot Stove Cool Music and The Foundation To Be Named Later. This year’s roundtable will surely lend itself to a great discussion for a very worthy cause.”
Here is the following info from a press release:
“The Roundtable is a special addition to the thriving Hot Stove Cool Music concert series which celebrates music, baseball and giving back. Proceeds benefit the Foundation’s Peter Gammons College Scholarships and nonprofit beneficiaries including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Citizen Schools, City Year Boston, The Home for Little Wanderers, Horizons for Homeless Children, Roxbury Youthworks, Steps to Success and West End House Boys & Girls Club.
This winter’s Hot Stove Cool Music concert takes place Saturday, January 12th, and features an ensemble of musical performances by two-time Grammy nominee Tanya Donelly, the dynamic multi-instrumentalists Parkington Sisters, Boston Music Award winners Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters, Billboard Music Songwriting winners The Chad Hollister Band and the returning Hot Stove All-Stars featuring Gammons, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz and indie rocker Kay Hanley with Robin Lane. Hollywood actor Mike O’Malley will again take the reins as emcee for the charity concert.
Hot Stove Cool Music events are sponsored by Ipswitch Inc., Comcast Business Class, Mintz Levin, Walmart, Hotel Commonwealth, Harpoon Brewery, Amberhill Secret Blend, Greenberg Traurig, Distrigas GDF Suez, RISO, Aramark, Abby Lane, Church, Boston Scientific, The Boston Red Sox and The Boston Foundation.
ABOUT HOT STOVE COOL MUSIC
Celebrating Music, Baseball and Giving Back
Hot Stove Cool Music is a biannual charity concert and musical variety show held in the winter and summer months. The event was created in December of 2000 by Hall of Fame Baseball journalist Peter Gammons and former Boston Herald sports writer Jeff Horrigan. Over the past 13 years, Hot Stove Cool Music has become a staple on Boston’s entertainment calendar and has raised more than $5 Million for the Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later.
ABOUT FOUNDATION TO BE NAMED LATER (FTBNL)
The Foundation To Be Named Later (FTBNL) was founded in 2005 by then Red Sox Executive Vice President and General Manager and current Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein and his twin brother Paul, a social worker in the Brookline public school system. Inspired by Paul and Theo’s commitment to creating positive opportunities for disadvantaged children and families in the Boston area, the Foundation expands the impact of youth-focused nonprofits by raising awareness and critical resources. Over the past six years, the Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and in-kind donations to local organizations and has sent more than 4,000 children to Red Sox and Celtics games. Central to FTBNL’s work are strategic partnerships with a team of nonprofits that serve disadvantaged children and families, including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life); Citizen Schools; City Year Boston; The Home for Little Wanderers; Horizons for Homeless Children; Roxbury Youthworks; Steps to Success; and West End House Boys & Girls Club. With the generous support of RISO, FTBNL also created the “Peter Gammons College Scholarship,” named for the beloved Hall of Fame sports journalist and humanitarian, to provide 28 college scholarships to exemplary Boston area students who have overcome tremendous disadvantages but have great potential. Visit www.FoundationToBeNamedLater.org for more information.
Let’s face it — the Red Sox’ clubhouse has not exactly had that 2003-04 vibe to it the last couple of years. So an important side benefit to the recent signing of Jonny Gomes is that he can loosen up a team during the heat of summer, much like Kevin Millar, Johnny Damon and some others used to do back in the day.
Fittingly, Millar has been ever-present around the proceedings at the Winter Meetings, doing a light-hearted interview with Sox general manager Ben Cherington on Monday.
“There’s something about Jonny, yeah. I saw Millar right there. I was thinking of Millar right there,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “Jonny Gomes, he’s a different cat. He really cares. He really cares about the rest of the group. Kind of like what I described with David Price, what he does, the lunacy in the clubhouse, et cetera, which is a very positive way.”
Maddon also thinks Gomes has become a much better hitter than when he managed him in Tampa Bay from 2006-08.
“And furthermore, I think he’s really improved his batting stance and shortness of his swing the last couple of years have been more effective, and I know the kind of hitter that he plays in that ballpark. I know he’s going to ingratiate himself to the fans there. He’s the perfect guy. John is going to fit in really well there. Good for the Red Sox,” Maddon said.
Reds manager Dusty Baker is another former manager of Gomes.
“Jonny’s a great teammate,” said Baker. “I had somebody call me this winter and ask me what does Jonny Gomes bring to the team? He brings a positive attitude. He may not like how he’s used, but he’s never a distraction. He never brings the team down. Jonny Gomes is one of the best guys I’ve ever had on the team. And I talked to Chili Davis this winter, and Chili feels the same way about him. A guy that can help your young players learn how to be professional. He can teach them how, hopefully, which is one of the toughest things to do, teach them how to be an unselfish player, especially in a selfish society, that’s very tough to do. Jonny Gomes is one of the best.”
The Red Sox are in the market for at least one starting outfielder, if not two, and a familiar name is out there. Jason Bay was a popular run producer during the year-and-a-half he played in Boston, but then went to the Mets, where he has had three horrific, injury-plagued seasons. Some thought that Bay was a bad fit for the Mets right from the outset. Could coming back to Boston resurrect his career?
It is at least a possibility. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted the following: “The Red Sox are among the teams in contact with Jason Bay, as he considers his options for 2013. Looking for opportunity, familiarity.”
Fenway’s friendly dimensions in left field are a far better fit for Bay’s swing than CitiField ever was.
The Red Sox’s interest in Bay could depend on how things go with Cody Ross, who was a positive presence on the field and in the clubhosue for Boston in 2012. Ross is a free agent and said to be seeking a three-year deal. The Braves are among the teams who have shown early interest.
John Farrell was the man of the hour on Tuesday, unveiled as the 46th manager in Red Sox history.
Here are some of the many topics he discussed.
Can the Red Sox contend in 2013? “I think a couple of things will need to happen. certain players return to the form and the performance that they’ve established for themselves and not just one-year situation. Guys who have estabilished a cereer path and a career recod of being above average and get the guys back who were taken out because of injury, to get them back fully healthy and then whatever additions are brought forward into this group. I think this has got an opportunity to be a fairly quick turnaournd and get to the point of contending next year.”
Where do thing stand with the coaching staff? “I wouldn’t say were really advanced. I would say we’ve got a number of names who are candidates for the roles that exist. Still determining the coaches who were here last year and will they continue to go forward. We’re probably in the third or fourth inning.”
How critical is the pitching coach hire? “Yeah, I think with any position, I think stablility is critical. I think it’s important to know for the pitching coach to know coming in this isn’t going to be a position, because so much has been brought out with the return here, that it’s not going to be micromanaged. Certainly there’s going to be involvement but that person needs the freedom to do his job and to the best of his ability. That’s why, to me, it’s important to get the most qualified pitching coach available and bring him in here.”
In essence, here was Farrell’s mission statement. “As far as what you can expect on the field, I truly believe that in an uptempo aggressive style of play. It will certainly take into account the strength of our roster. That’s a given. But I think to play that style of game, it does create an attitude, which I think is critical to win at the major league level, and that’s to be relentless. With our effort, with our preparation, with the work and the competitiveness that we take the field every night, that is of the utmost importance of how we play. So for the fans that will watch this team take the field, that’s, in some ways, a non negotiable as far as I look at it. our effort is controlled every night. It’s something we can control.
“And to give forth our best effort is a minimum. As far as dealing with players, I firmly believe that there’s an amount of professionalism that every player who comes to the big leagues and certainly would come to the Red Sox would have. That guides their preparation, their motivation, all those adjectives you can attest to it or attach to it. most importantly, because I’ve been here before, there will be no taking for granted that relationships exist. I will work my butt off to earn their trust, earn their respect and create an environment in that clubhouse that is just that. it’s a trusting that, it will be a learning one, and yes, it will be a competitive one and hopefully a very successful one at the same time. If that’s being described as a player’s manager, then maybe that’s what I am. That’s still forming. I’m still learning.
“But I feel, as I mentioned before, I’m in a much better place today than I was two years ago because of those experiences. And finally, my many conversations over the last few days with Ben, we do have a number of things we’ve got to take care of. First will be the staff to get that in place and that’s ongoing. We’ll have those updates as they become available. Just one note, on probably the attributes and the characteristics of the people that we would like to assemble here – they are guys that are going to be credible. They will have different sets of experiences. But the fact that they will have the players backs and interests in their minds, maybe their guide, will be a criteria that I’ll look to include in every guy that’s added to the staff. I think it’s critical that we work as a unity. There’s the ability to challenge once another and express opinions in that coach’s room and in our offices downstairs, but when we go out, we will be on the same page and working on one voice and I think that’s something that’s important to the overall approach of a club. We’re eager to get started and hit the ground running.”
Changing the culture in the clubhouse? “I can’t speak to what the Red Sox clubhouse was last year. I think it’s important that we communicate consistently to the players, we outline expectations and we have to hold players accountable to what we’re trying to get done. That’s leading people. At the same time, they have to have a voice in this to give their input. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a leader at the head or a rudder to guide the ship. But I think it’s important their inclusion is there. It has to be a positive place that they want to come to every single day.”
Things he learned from Toronto. “There were times where I could have, and this comes from those experiences in Toronto, in my relationship with Alex and the conversations we would have regarding the roster, there might have been opportunities for me to speak a little bit more passionately towards some suggestions or recommendations to the roster. We also introduced and brought in a number of young players. We created a diverse offense that was aggressive. We looked to incorporate a much more aggressive running game. Some of that was overboard and some of that we ran into some outs. Creating that environment and that approach and then putting young players into it, there probably were opportunities where I should have shut them down as far as the Xs and Os of the game. Maybe I would have changed closers a little bit quicker.”
What makes Boston so special? “One, I think Boston is in my mind and it may be debatable across the country, this is the epicenter of the game. To come in and have at least four years experience previous to, not having sat in this seat, but close to it to see the demands of this position and the passion of this region, the energy that’s in this ballpark every single night. That energy and what people expect holds our players accountable for the effort they put out every single night. Yes, there are some relationships still existing with some of the players here, but by no means will that be taken for granted. There’s familiarity, there’s an understanding maybe of the person I am and who they are, but it’ll be my approach to go back in — and it’s already started with conversations; I had a sitdown with David here earlier today — to start to earn his trust and regain and reestablish all those relationships.”
Helping to restore Lester, Buchholz, etc. “Setting aside Jon’s mention, setting aside Clay’s name, we all recognize how important pitching and particularly starting pitching. You look at every team that has advanced to the postseason, and let’s face it, that’s how we’re going to be measured, not if we get into the postseason, but how deep do we progress into the postseason. And it typically starts and ends with your starting rotation. So that is a priority. Not only with the returning guys, which I think is a very strong, core group, when you consider Jon, when you consider Felix, Clay, the return of John Lackey, that is going to be an important part of that. So there are things across the field .. There was a question before about across the field, what did you see some things differently? Yeah, from a pitching standpoint there were some very obvious things with Jon that he and I have already talked about that you saw with his delivery that he kind of drifted into that might have affected his overall consistency. You can’t underemphasize the importance of a starting rotation.”
On the separation between being a manager and pitching coach. “There’s demands during the day that are going to keep me from going down to the bullpen and working with a pitcher on his side day. Certainly my conversations with the pitching coach, whoever that becomes here, will happen naturally because of my background. That’s what happened in Toronto. It will be no different than a former catcher managing a club and talking to a hitting instructor or positional coach there. I see that dynamic being very comparable. The one thing I will be very clear with the pitchers here prior is that it becomes an open line of communication, and not to bypass that passing coach. There can be no confusion in message. The player is ultimately the one who loses out in that and then we ultimately lose out, because there’s the potential for confusion.
The Red Sox have their hands full. “There’s a list of to-dos, no question. But with the roster that’s there now, there’s a core group there that you can build around. Having a comfort level with Ben and Mike and Brian and BOH and everyone in baseball ops, there’s no communication barriers. There’s no reluctance to give a gut feel or an educated opinion on a given player, on a given combination of things that might currently or what we’re trying to achieve from a roster standpoint. But the game also fosters change, whether it’s through free agency or opportunity. It would be the same if I were able to assemble a coaching staff that would get opportunities elsewhere to become managers. We would champion that. That means we’re getting quality people and putting our players in the best environment to have success as well.
Getting Daniel Bard back on track. “We’ve exchanged a couple of text messages and voice mails. Before getting a chance to talk with him in depth, I couldn’t begin to say what the steps to adjustments might be. But I think we all recognize, it wasn’t too long ago that this might’ve been the best eighth inning reliever in baseball. He’s not injured. That gives you every reason to believe that he might regain that performance ability.”