Former Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson was saddened to hear that Don Zimmer, the man he referred to as “the best manager I ever played for”, died on Wednesday.
Here is the Rooster on Zim, who managed the Red Sox from 1976-80 and also had two stints as a Boston coach.
“It was a wonderful experience. I was a rookie when he came over there in ’74 to coach third and I got called up basically May 1 of ’74 and he was there and of course I had him that spring. All the players loved him. Then he became manager, I think it was middle of ’76. I was with him from ’76 through ’80 as a player. So five years as a player, and seven years total.”
Burleson played for Darrell Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Gene Mauch, among some others, but he thinks Zimmer was the best he played for.
“He was the best manager I ever played for, without a doubt. Fregosi was wonderful when I was here for a brief time in ’81 when he was with the Angels. Zim was a player’s manager. He knew the game really well. The thing that you knew with him was that you were going to be in the lineup and basically where you were going to hit pretty much every day. We had kind of a set deal there in Boston in those years and he just expected you to go out there and give it your all. And that’s basically what we tried to do and he was outstanding.”
But Zimmer was more than just a manager to Burleson. He was family.
“This was a guy, when I was in Spring Training in ’77, when he was the manager, he asked if he could babysit so that my wife and I could go out to dinner by ourselves. Him and his wife came over and babysat our oldest boy Tyler.”
Burleson marveled at the fact Zimmer worked in baseball — and only in baseball.
“He probably spent 60-some years in the game and he told me at one time he never had a job in his whole life other than baseball. I don’t think there’s many people you can count on your hand that can say that. We all have to do something at some point. So I mean, I feel for his wife Soot and their family and his daughter and son. It’s a sad day to see that happen. He had a great life. He did what he wanted to do. I don’t think you can ask for any more than that.”
In Burleson’s mind, Zimmer’s door was always open.
“He was helpful, he was very helpful as a coach. And then as a manager, he was a good leader. That’s all any player wants, is for someone to be honest with them and there to talk to when you need to talk to him. He was always the guy.He will be missed and he was definitely one of our favorites here in this family, that’s for sure.”
Caught up with Mike Napoli this morning, and the time off has definitely done the big slugger some good. John Farrell said the first baseman will return the first day he is eligible — on June 8 at Detroit.
Though Napoli is sidelined with a left fourth finger sprain – an injury he originally suffered in Chicago on April 15 – he was dealing with a variety of maladies before finally being placed on the disabled list on May 25.
“It wasn’t just the finger,” said Napoli. “I was dealing with a lot of stuff. It was probably the best thing for me. I was going to keep on trying to grind it out, grind it out, but this is probably the best time for me just to get everything fixed, get better so I’m playing somewhat healthy. I think it was just time to do it.”
And the decision was easier for Napoli to accept with the Red Sox going on a tear with him out of the lineup. The club had a six-game winning streak entering Sunday.
“Seeing them playing like this and winning definitely helps,” said Napoli. “I’m concentrating on getting better and coming back and trying to help us.”
What was bothering Napoli aside from his finger?
“Toe issue, calf, hammies,” Napoli said. “My whole body was beat up. I’m feeling great now. I’m just getting treatment.”
And the finger, which he mangled backwards on a head-first slide in Chicago?
“It’s getting better. The swelling is starting to go down,” Napoli said. “I can actually fit my finger in my batting glove now. I don’t have to cut it off.”
After David Ortiz ripped David Price for plunking him in the back, the lefty responded on Saturday.
Was Price surprised that Big Papi crushed him with so many verbal barbs?
“Not really. He was mad. So I get it,” Price said. “We all say stupid stuff when we’re mad. Been there. I’m sure he probably wishes he wouldn’t have said some of the things he said. You can’t relate the game that we play to a war. Kellen Winslow got a lot ofr crap for saying he was a soldier. You’re not a soldier. This is not war. We have troops fighting for us that are in a war. It’s not a good comparison.”
Did it both Price what Ortiz said?
“No. It didn’t bother me. Not one bit, honestly, It really didn’t. I’m not worried about it. Keep going,” Ortiz said.
Stephen Drew’s presence was missed enough by the Red Sox that the club has opted to bring the free agent shortstop back.
And thus ends an odyssey that started with Drew rejecting Boston’s qualifying offer of $14.1 million last November, only to return on a one-year deal that will pay him $10 million for the remainder of the 2014 season, multiple sources confirmed to MLB.com
While the Red Sox haven’t announced the signing yet, manager John Farrell acknowledged that Drew will undergo a physical in Boston on Wednesday. Assuming there are no complications, the deal will become official then.
“I think Stephen helped us out a lot last year,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “Great player, great teammate and hopefully he brings the same attitude that he had last year and helps us win some games.”
Before Drew makes his debut for Boston in 2014, he will need a Minor League rehab assignment of roughly 25 at-bats, according to Farrell.
Rookie Xander Bogaerts, who has been the starting shortstop through the early part of the season, will move to third base once Drew is activated. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is on the disabled list for the second time this season after fracturing his right index finger last week.
When Middlebrooks returns, he could at least start at third base against lefties, with Bogaerts supplanting Drew at short for many of those games.
The Red Sox had a 20-23 record entering Tuesday’s game with the Blue Jays.
“Provided everything works out [with the physical], we’ve added a very good player to improve this team,” said Farrell. “That’s the one thing that [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and ownership have repeatedly shown — when a need exists, they’ll do whatever is capable and available at a given time to improve the team. Stephen’s return to us could very well do that. It’ll add stability to the left side of the infield.”
To Wil Myers, Fenway Park isn’t just the place he got heckled in the playoffs last year, but also the place he made his Major League debut earlier in the 2013 season. He was the American League’s Rookie of the Year, though Boston fans remember him most warmly for losing sight of a flyball by David Ortiz in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs.
“Yeah, it’s good to be back here where I made my debut. But I’m excited to get back here after the playoffs,” said Myers. “As bad as it was last year, it was kind of a cool experience to have all of the Fenway faithful chanting my name. So that was kind of cool. Obviously, it sucked that it happened. But the whole stadium cheering my name was kind of cool.”
Throughout Games 1 and 2 of last year’s ALDS, Fenway fans taunted the young outfielder with “Myers, Myers, Myers.”
“I was just trying to make light of the things and just kind of move past what happened and looking forward to the game today,” said Myers.
Though Tuesday night’s game was set to be played under chilly conditions, Myers expected the Fenway faithful to light up at him given the chance.
“Absolutely. I think for sure they’ll cheer or chant my name — I don’t know about cheer. They’ll definitely chant my name tonight. It’s all in good fun. But we’re looking to come out tonight and win” Myers said.
Myers admits he underestimated just how strong the crowd reaction would be to his gaffe.
“Yeah, I was. I was definitely not expecting that. The fans here are smart baseball fans. They knew that play really turned the momentum. They’re smart about what they did.”
It was a tough offseason for Myers, he can now admit.
“To be honest, it stayed with me for most of the offseason, to know that play kind of turned the series, especially the momentum. It really made helped me work harder this offseason to get better. It’s definitely something I learned from, the playoff experience,” Myers said.
The personal collection of late Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky will be up for auction on Saturday at noon at Fenway Park. The event is open to the public and free of admission.
There will be over 200 items available, including Pesky’s 2004 and ’07 World Series rings and his AL championship rings from 1975 and ’86. Other items include autographed baseballs, trophies, Pesky’s Rolex watch and more. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund, which was always a cause near and dear to Pesky’s heart.
The way Pesky’s son David looked at it, those items hadn’t been getting much use.
“We kept quite a bit. You’d be surprised,” said David Pesky. “We kept a lot of stuff that means something to the family or might be more personal things. It’s always tough to move on and have these things. Frankly, they weren’t getting displayed or seen by anybody.
“The rings were in a box in the bank, and that’s no fun for anyone. I really do think that some of Johnny’s memorabilia should be out there with the fans. They loved him so much and he was such a public person. He loved the fans. This is something that he would definitely appreciate. Having it at Fenway, even better. that’s his second home. He loved Fenway. He loved the Red Sox.”
Pesky, who had his number 6 retired by the Red Sox in 2008, died in August, 2012.
He was one of the fabled “Teammates” written about in David Halberstam’s book, along with Dominic DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. In fact, Doerr, the last surviving teammate, turned 96 earlier this week.
“Isn’t he a wonderful guy? I went out to visit him last summer and saw him out in Oregon,” said David Pesky. “Had a great time seeing him and talking about the old times.”
As for dealing with the loss of his father, David Pesky said, “I’d give anything to have him back but that’s the way life works.”
Live bidding for the auction will begin on Saturday, April. 12 at 12:00AM EST. Bids can either be made in person at the auction, via telephone at 610-524-0822, or online at www.HuntAuctions.com. Online pre-bidding ends on Friday, April 11th at 9:00PM EST. Absentee and phone arrangements must be made by Friday, April 11 at 6PM EST. More information on the event and photos of all the items being auctioned can be found at www.HuntAuctions.com.
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.
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.
President Barack Obama was in Boston to speak on healthcare reform before the decisive Game 6 of the World Series last Wednesday. On Monday, he called manager John Farrell.
“I’m sure customary to past winners during his administration, he called to congratulate,” Farrell said. “And hopefully there’s a chance somewhere around Opening Day next year when we open up in Baltimore that we might be able to swing by [the White House] and say hello.”
Boston opens the season in Baltimore on March 31.
President Obama noted the great job that Farrell did in his first year managing the team, remarked on the incredible pitching performance by closer Koji Uehara and extended his congratulations to David Ortiz on being named the World Series MVP, according to a team press release.
The Red Sox were also invited to the White House, as they were the year following their World Series titles in 2004 and ’07.
– Jason Mastrodonato
With a chance to win the World Series in Wednesday night’s Game 6, right fielder Shane Victorino returned to Boston’s lineup after missing the previous two games with tightness in his lower back.
However, for the first time in this postseason, Victorino was dropped from his usual No. 2 spot in the batting order and instead batted sixth.
Victorino came into the night 0-for-10 in the World Series. Since the start of the American League Championship Series, he is 3-for-34, though one of those hits was the game-breaking grand slam in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series which helped the Red Sox win the AL pennant.
Manager John Farrell said that the overriding factor in moving Victorino down was that he liked the look of his Game 5 lineup, when Dustin Pedroia batted second and the red-hot David Ortiz hit third.
“In talking with Vic about this yesterday, he was understanding of it,” said Farrell. “He’s hit in the five-hole quite a bit, particularly against right-handed starters when he was hitting left-handed. I gave him my reasons for it, for what we mentioned as well as to keep the other two guys at the top of the order.”
Victorino was just happy to be able to return to the mix in Game 6. He probably could have played Game 5, but he agreed with Farrell to play it safe.
“I feel a lot better,” Victorino said. “Progressively, I’ve gotten better every day.”