Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed several topics today at his annual State of the Winter Meetings address. Here is a sampling:
On the bullpen: “”Well, first, I think having Koji in place to go back to a closer is a key part of the bullpen. He and Junichi’s presence back there are guys that have been good performers for us in high‑leverage situations. We still have some needs there. And that is yet to be addressed. So I’m confident, and I think we’re all confident that the resources are here to bring in the best available guys.”
Will Burke Badenhop return? “He is a guy that we’ve had conversations about. And yet there’s a fairly large number of pitchers that are still available. As Burke is going to have options where he might go. He did a great job for us last year. We’re still addressing all those needs, starter and bullpen.”
How many starters do the Red Sox need? “We’ve looked at two spots in the rotation as being the need to fill. How those are filled remains to be seen, but that’s the approach right now.”
On where things stand with Cespedes: “We’ve talked about the potential position that he could find himself in from a defensive alignment. Center field and right field are both options for him. We know we have a deep and talented group of outfielders. And Ben has been on record and it’s been mentioned that the potential exists for one of those guys to be dealt. Who that is we don’t know. But we have the luxury of a deep lineup and a deep position player group right now and that includes a number about of outfielders.”
How is Pedroia? “He’s doing great. He really is. He’s able to swing the bat a little bit off the tee. Physically the strength and the range of motion continues to improve. And I think one of the more exciting things as we go into and begin to get closer to Spring Training is getting Pedroia back to 100 percent health and strength.”
How is Victorino? “The volume is going to be our guide on how he responds to that. Everything points to him being on the field and in full baseball activity whether camp starts up. There’s been frequent conversation with Vic and some video he will send himself and the workouts he’s going through. He’s in a good place physically and mentally right now.”
What does Victorino mean to the Red Sox? “When we look back to 2014, the first year that he was here, he did such a great job for us, he impacted the game in a number of ways each day he’s on the field. He’s a vocal leader, he leads by example. And we missed him when he was out of lineup.”
Plans for Mookie Betts? “Positionally we still see him as an outfielder. We’ve talked about a deep outfield group. But the one thing that’s been impressive of Mookie, when we look back in the three different times he came up, there was tangible improvements and adjustments he made with each return trip to the Big Leagues. For a young player he’s got such a unique combination of on‑base ability and strike zone awareness. He’s a good‑looking player. And you kind of marvel at the aptitude he shows at an early age. And that’s an exciting thing.”
Mookie at the top? “I think as we get through the remainder of this offseason we’ll have a clearer picture of that. And certainly once we assemble in Ft. Myers, those things will be worked through as we get there. But the work that Mookie did last year and how he profiles, there’s a strong candidate to be in the top part of the order.”
Important to have steady leadoff hitter? “Ideally. I think we always strive to have continuity in the lineup. Guys that come into the ballpark they know when they’re going in the lineup each and every day, they have a general idea where they’re going to be within positions in the lineup. And I think that sits well with guys, just that common thought and understanding.”
Favorite for the leadoff spot? “I hink we’ve got all our in‑house candidates that are there. Mookie being the strongest at this point. But that’s not to anoint him the opening day leadoff guy.”
Allen Craig? “Like every other player, there’s routine checkups, whether that’s as Pat or others will travel out to witness their workouts and check in with them by phone. He’s having what would be considered a normal offseason, and that’s getting past the foot injury he went into. And we fully expect him to be back to full capacity.”
Pablo Sandoval arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday afternoon for a recruiting visit with the Red Sox, who will be one of his main suitors in free agency. It had been reported that Sandoval would be coming to Boston this week, and a local television affiliate, Channel 7, got exclusive video footage of him upon arrival.
It is still very early in the free-agent process for Sandoval, who is expected to meet with several teams. It won’t truly be known what shape Sandoval’s negotiations will take until he meets with the San Francisco Giants, the team the third baseman has won three World Series championships with in the last five years.
The Giants have stated they would like to meet with Sandoval later in the process, after he has met with other teams.
Sandoval could help give the Red Sox the type of production they badly need from the left side of the plate. Aside from David Ortiz, Boston’s lineup is almost all right-handed. Sandoval is a switch hitter, but is stronger from the left side. The Red Sox also haven’t had much production at third base the last two seasons, and Sandoval could certainly change that.
Sandoval, who is 28 years old, could be seeking a contract of five or six years.
He has spent his entire career with the Giants, hitting .294 with 106 homers, 462 RBIs and an .811 OPS.
Nobody was more excited than Red Sox infield instructor Brian Butterfield over Dustin Pedroia winning his fourth Gold Glove, and second consecutive.
“I really feel like he impacted his position more than anybody else has impacted any position in baseball,” Butterfield said by phone. “I think he’s the defensive player of the year. I think until the day they take the uniform off him, he’s always going to be looking for ways to get better.”
“When I vote for the Gold Glove, I look at a lot more than just flash and flare and all the things that make SportsCenter,” said Butterfield. “There’s so much that goes into it. You can see how guys prepare, the way they play, the way they back up bases, the way they get their uniforms dirty, and for me, he is the benchmark for all defenders in our league.”
“When we do our stuff in Spring Training, and we introduce it or talk about it as a a team out on the field, there you see Number 15 front and center,” Butterfield said. “He’s front and center right next to the person talking. It makes you feel good. It’s the same way if manager John [Farrell] is addressing the club or [bench coach] Torey [Lovullo]. It doesn’t matter.
“There’s number 15 front and center where everyone on the team sees him. I think it creates an atmosphere where other people see him and say, ‘well this guy is really intense and really attentive to what we’re doing so I better get in line too.”’
Derek Jeter was emotionally drained from his Yankee Stadium finale, and asked out of Friday night’s lineup at Fenway. He indicated he will DH in the final two games, on Saturday and Sunday.
But the captain did hold a lengthy press conference. Here are some of the highlights.
Thoughts on Fenway as a final destination? “To finish up my season, if there’s anywhere to play besides New York, I guess it’s only fitting that it’s here in Boston because of all the games that I’ve played here, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. If you can’t do it in New York, this is the next-best place, I guess.”
Will it be hard to recharge for the weekend? “Probably. I don’t know; I’m not playing tonight. I don’t know if I could play tonight if I anted to play tonight. I’m sure it will. Last night was as special as it gets. Playing your last game at home at Yankee Stadium, the way the fans were, the atmosphere; it was supposed to rain and people didn’t think we were going to play, and I don’t even think there was a raindrop the whole night. Everything was pretty much perfect in terms of the situation we were in for my last game.”
Remembrances of the rivalry: “This rivalry has been intense throughout the years. It doesn’t get any more intense than playing in the ALCS in back-to-back years. For the most part, for most of my career, the two teams have been 1-2 in the division and we’ve been fighting for first place. The teams have been pretty evenly matched. They’ve won a few World Series and we’ve won a few, but just the electricity, the atmosphere, the excitement – the fans are what make the atmosphere fun for us. It’s always been fun to come here and when they come to New York, it always seems like it’s almost like a postseason game. We play them so many times, but the atmosphere seems like a postseason game.”
Which Red Sox players will you remember the most? “There’s a lot. There’s a few guys that I’ve played against. I’ve been coming here for a long, long time. There’s guys you play against, there’s pitchers that you’ve faced whether it’s Pedro, Schilling or Wakefield. These are guys we had some battles against. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed competing against the best and Boston, their teams have been some of the best that we’ve played during my career. I come here time after tie and enjoyed the games. They seemed like they were draining every time we came here and when they came to New York, but there were so many people we played against throughout the course of the years where when I look back and reflect on it, I’ll be happy I had a chance to compete against those guys.”
Interaction with people in Boston? “I went to lunch. I was outside a little bit. People were just saying congratulations on the career and that I’m a Red Sox fan, I hate the Yankees but I respect you. It was brief. I wasn’t outside much because I hadn’t slept much. I tried to stay in. When I was walking here through the stands, there were fans cheering, which was kind of different. I remember coming here in the All-Star Game in ’99 and the car that was dropping us off went to the wrong entrance. I was out of the car walking to the stadium and I thought they were going to kill me, they were all over me. So it’s funny how things have changed.”
Red Sox fans nicer to you now? “I think after they won, it sort of – I don’t want to say they softened up, so don’t say they softened up, but I think they’ve become a little bit kinder. And thank you for that.”
Can this weekend be as emotional as the farewell in New York? “I don’t know. I can’t imagine it being like it was in New York, and that has nothing to do with where I am, that’s just where I;ve played my entire career. I know, it’s another I don’t know, I can tell you on Sunday, but I can; t imagine it, because that’s pretty much as good as it gets, I think for me. Like I said, I’m playing here because I have respect for this rivalry, for Boston, and the fans. If it was anywhere else I don’t know if I’d play.”
Even Ortiz cheered for you last night: “That’s probably the first time he’s ever cheered for me to get a hit, I think. But it’s always good to hear it. I’ve heard so many great things from peers throughout the course of the season, whether it’s the younger guys or some of the older guys. You have a mutual; respct for guys you compete against year in and year out. David’s been here for a long time. He’s been a big part of this rivalry. These are the games you’re going to miss when you retire but when you have guys that say things like that it makes you feel good.”
How do you envision your final at-bat at Fenway? “I don’t know. I don’t try to script things. I have no idea.”
Rusney Castillo took his next step up the ladder on Tuesday night, as he joined Triple-A Pawtucket for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup Championship.
Here is what Rusney had to say in today’s pre-game session with the media:
“It’s been good. obviously it’s been a gradual step from one level to the other and it’s helped me find my game, which obviously I hadn’t played in a year and a half. It’s been extremely beneficial just to find myself as a player again.”
Biggest adjustment? “You know it’s just getting back to that daily grind of playing every day and getting live Abs and just being able to make in-game adjustments is something he hadn’t done for a while.”
Moving from Gulf Coast to Eastern League and then International League? “Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a difference from the rookie level up to the eastern league specifically in the pitching, not necessarily about the stuff but more the strike zone and the guys being around the zone a little bit more in the eastern league than in the GCL.”
Getting just one step from the Big Leagues: “You know, it’s human nature to think about the big leagues and playing for the Red Sox at some point. I definitely focus at every level that I’m at. I have my mind on the moment and improving and getting better.”
Adjusting to life in America? “I stay in the room, love music, learning the music of this country. Nothing that really sticks out. Just talking and meeting you people.”
Nice to have some good results in early Minors action? “Obviously I focus on the process which is the only thing he could control. But it’s also a good feeling to see results, to see the discipline and the hard work pay off.”
The Red Sox, after waiting patiently for Jackie Bradley Jr. to start hitting, optioned the rookie center fielder back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Mookie Betts, ranked by MLB.com as Boston’s No. 1 prospect, was recalled from Pawtucket on Monday to take Bradley’s spot on the roster.
This is the third stint for Betts with the Red Sox this season, but he could have a more defined role with Bradley’s spot in center field no available. Betts batted eighth against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson on Monday night at Fenway.
Brock Holt, who has played everywhere but pitcher and catcher this season, could also see more time in center in the coming weeks.
Bradley was originally supposed to start the season at Triple-A. But when Shane Victorino strained his right hamstring in the last game of Spring Training, Bradley was recalled for Opening Day.
The left-handed hitter had spent the entire season on the Major League roster until being informed after Sunday’s game that he was headed back to Triple-A.
Interestingly, the decision to send Bradley down came the same day he had two hits against the Astros, marking his first multi-hit game since July 25.
Though he has played spectacular defense, Bradley has struggled to sustain any kind of consistency at the plate.
He’s batting .216 with 19 doubles, two triples, one home run, 30 RBIs, 45 runs and 31 walks.
The Red Sox felt Bradley was coming around during a 51 at-bat stretch from July 5-25, when he hit .353 with a .411 on-base percentage.
But he spiraled downward at a rapid pace after that hot streak, hitting .115 with no extra basehits and just two walks over his last 52 at-bats.
The reason Bradley stuck around for so long despite the prolonged struggles was made obvious every time he made a great play with his glove or arm.
Bradley leads all Major League outfielders with 13 assists and eight double plays. Over the last two seasons, Bradley has appeared in 149 games and hit .210.
Betts, 21, has appeared in 13 games this season and hit .244 (10-for-41) with two doubles, one homer, two RBIs and six runs while splitting time between right and center field. He has hit .346 in 99 minor league games across Double-A and Triple-A this season.
John Lackey spoke to the Boston media prior to Tuesday’s Red Sox-Cardinals game, just days after being traded by the team he won the World Series with to the team he beat in the clinching game.
Reuniting with old teammates: “Oh yeah absolutely. it’s great to see some friends, for sure. Talked to a couple of them yesterday on the phone and stuff. definitely some guys you’ll miss but kind of part of the deal.”
Going to the Cardinals: “Pretty excited, actually. I wasn’t really surprised. Honestly, it was about as good a place for me to be right now. I was pretty happy with where it happened, I guess.”
The way the Red Sox were dismantling last year’s team, maybe it was best he left? “I mean, yeah, you could see it kind of heading in that direction for sure. I’m happy to be here and happy with what happened and the way Ben handled it was first class so everything was cool.”
Chance to get back to the World Series: “That’s the only reason I’m still playing. I’m still playing to try to win a ring. That’s the only reason I’m still here. to be able to be here and have that opportunity to make a playoff run or try to get into the playoffs is where I want to be.”
Three rings for three teams? “That’s getting a little bit too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s see how I do in my next start.”
Any talks with Red Sox about an extension before you left? “No, not … not really. We didn’t get that far ahead.”
Why not? “I’m glad to be here.”
Was Lackey hoping for a trade? “I’m not going to go that far. I wasn’t surprised.”
Your time in Boston: “There were definitely some ups and downs, for sure, some fun and some not so fun, I guess.”
What will you remember most? “I’ll concentrate on last year and winning a championship and really enjoying that year and having fun with those guys.”
Were the tough times he had in Boston toughest of his career? “I’ve moved on.”
Glad he didn’t have to pitch in this series against Boston? “I would have been OK pitching against the Red Sox, yeah. Yeah.”
But five or six days after the trade? “That would have been a little crazy, for sure, for it to be that quick. I’m going to concentrate on getting outs and I would have gone on and done my thing.”
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy tells Lackey he doesn’t seem very sentimental about Boston: “I mean, I don’t know what you want me to say.”
Talk to Lester much lately? “Oh yeah. We talked every other day at least. We’ve already talked a little trash. Hopefully I’ll see him later on.”
How about a chance to face Lester in the World Series? “That’s what we talked about, yeah. Hopefully it works out, we’ll see.”
You said you have no problem pitching for the player minimum next year with Cardinals. Would you have done that for Boston? “I don’t know about that honestly. I didn’t get that far ahead to think about it at that point.”
What is different about doing that in St. Louis vs. Boston? “You guys are trying to stir stuff up. I didn’t get that far ahead thinking about it.”
Shane Victorino cringed when he saw the results of an MRI on his back, and will go see specialist Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles hoping he can avoid surgery.
At this point however, surgery seems like a legitimate option, if not a likely one, and Victorino has probably played his last baseball game in 2014.
“I’m definitely disappointed, news that I didn’t want to get,” Victorino said. “Obviously I think we need another opinion, see where we’re at and we’re going to go from there.””
Victorino didn’t disclose what the MRI showed. “I’m not a doctor. Obviously this showed some signs of some things going on with my back that obviously it’s important for us to get a second opinion. We’ll go and see what happens and go from there,” Victorino said.
The right fielder is curious to see if Watkins agrees what the findings of the Red Sox medical staff. “Yeah, that’s why I’m going to go get that second opinion just to see what he might have since he’s what they call and consider a back specialist. But any time you have to go and see someone like that, it’s never what you want to hear. You’re just hoping that what you see in an MRI doesn’t come out with that kind of information. We’ll get that second opinion and see how it goes.”
“That’s more of the reason. you want to know what’s going on and what’s happening but as I’ve said, any time you get news that you don’t want to hear, you obviously want to see what’s going to happen. as I said, I’m going to go out to LA and see what’s being said. For me, it’s never good, but it’s all part of it. I tried to play through it, I try to do the best I can. the training staff did the best we could to try to get me back out there but things are showing that there might be some things that, as I said, we didn’t want to see. We’ll go from there.”
“I don’t want to talk about what we discussed. I think that, as I said, it wasn’t the news that we wanted. Some of the things that were shown were a little bit more than what we had hoped for, at least I had hoped for. But obviously being out there and not being able to go and having those things hamper me, I knew something was wrong. I don’t mind playing through pain, I don’t mind playing through an injury. But the continuation of it happening was the thing that was worrisome to me. the other night when I felt it, it was something that kind of woke me up a little bit. It was kind of sharp and sudden when it happened and we obviously found out why, with what the MRI revealed. To go get another opinion from Dr. Watkins and see what he has is important to me to get that view of things and we kind of have an idea of what’s going to happen. as I said, I hope it’s not going to be as serious. That’s what I’m hoping.”
At the July 31 trade deadline, the Red Sox acquired two outfielders — Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig. With Victorino out, Cespedes will transition to right field (though he started in left on Saturday) and Craig will play left.
Jon Lester spoke to the media upon his arrival in Oakland today.
Here are the highlights, courtesy of my MLB.com teammate extraordinaire Ms. Jane Lee.
Relationship with the Red Sox: “Any time you negotiate with a team and it doesn’t go the way everyone wants it, there’s always a little bit of disappointment, but that’s not to say the effort wasn’t there on both sides to get something done. But my time in Boston will be something I always remember and cherish, from 2002 to yesterday. I’ve got nothing but great things to say about the organization, the way they treated me, treated my family through the good times and bad times. We’ll see where that relationship goes later on, but right now I’m an A and I’m going to go out and perform for these guys and do the best I can to bring the championship here.”
The last last few days: “The anxiety of it, not knowing where you’re going to be … having a family makes it difficult. When you leave someplace you call home for eight years, that made it harder. But, like I said, I’m happy to be here and happy to be a part of this, and hopefully I can contribute.”
Going from Fenway to the Coliseum: “Obviously having the Monster 300 feet away isn’t exactly great for pitching, but it’s a lot more foul territory, bigger in gaps, it’s going to be fun to see what those doubles that scrape the wall are fly balls to left. It’ll be nice to see that instead of the cheap doubles. We’ll see. I’ll just pitch my style and see what happens.”
Familiarity with pitching coach Curt Young: “Huge. That’ll definitely make the transition a little bit easier. You go through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of trials and errors, stuff you get into in bullpens, during a game, and he knows how I am as a competitor and a person. That makes a transition for me as a pitcher, and our catchers, defense, a little bit easier. You don’t have to learn someone all over again. He knows that from a full season, so it’ll make it a lot easier on me and hopefully on the team.”
So, how much sleep did Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington get on Trade Deadline eve?
“Didn’t [sleep] last night and maybe not much the previous couple nights,” Cherington said. “A lot of coffee and other stuff. We had to see what we could do and try to take advantage of the unfortunate position we’re in. Hopefully we were able to do some things that give us a headstart on that.”
The first domino fell between 3 and 4 a.m. Thursday, when Cherington and Billy Beane created a rare blockbuster of All-Star Players. Jon Lester, along with Jonny Gomes, went to the A’s. Yoenis Cespedes, who could give the parking lot behind the Green Monster a workout, comes to the Red Sox.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get the time exactly right — but we had an agreement in principle on like the structure, it was probably between 3-4 this morning,” Cherington said. “And then, you know, you’ve got to get through medicals and Major League approval and all of that stuff, so it doesn’t get really official until later. So sometime in the middle of the night.”
Then, there was the deal that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Then, the one that sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles for lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. And finally, the one that sent shortstop Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson.
Cherington put his battle plan in motion about a week ago, when the Red Sox went through yet another slide that took away the momentum of winning eight of nine.
“We’ve made a series of trades today that we believe give us a good head start on building again and hopefully building towards a very good team as quickly as possible,” Cherington said. “Our intent going into today and really this week was just, given where we were, given where the team was in the standings and given the math that we’re fighting coming into this week, our intent was to try to see what opportunities are out there for us. There was a lot of interest in our players and we wanted to see if there were opportunities to turn that into moves that like, I said, could give us a head start on building again and becoming better as quickly as we can. That was our general sort of guiding philosophy this week and hopefully we turned it into some moves that make us better now and give us a real head start the rest of the season and going into the offseason with the full intent of building a strong contending team for 2015.”
It was a collaborative effort, as Cherington and much of his staff worked into the wee hours of Thursday to re-shape the roster.
“We had a group of 15 or so of us that were sort of consistently in the room, and that’s a combination of front office folks and scouts and ownership’s in and out,” Cherington said. “Roughly 15, and then that gets bigger, gets smaller sometimes. It gets a little smaller by 4 in the morning. But yeah, you know, we were here the whole time.”
That’s been the case for the last week or so.
“Long days and long nights. As everyone knows, you all know, for every trade you do make, there’s 20 or 30 other iterations that don’t come together. Even for the ones you do make, especially bigger ones, and some of these are bigger ones, those require a lot of phone calls, a lot of work from a lot of different people. We haven’t slept much the last three or four days,” Cherington said. “You can probably tell. But we knew coming into this week that we had a job to do: We had to find a way to take advantage of the unfortunate position that we’re in and try to kickstart a little bit building the next team. So that’s what we try to do. It was a great team effort from a lot of people, including ownership, but certainly baseball operations, and John Farrell is involved. We worked around the clock, literally.”
“I think I’m proud of the group that I work with because it’s a group that literally worked around the clock for about 4-5 days to try to do this. And again, time will tell what the results are, but I’m proud of the people I work with for how hard they worked. They were prepared and ready and, you know, everything we needed to give ourselves a chance to make decisions was there thanks to the people that I work with. As far as challenging, I just think this year has been challenging. Use any word you want. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, hard to explain at times, and certainly as I said before, I take responsibility for where we are. So I think the year, it’s not the last two days, it’s the whole year’s been challenging. We’ve got to get better. We know that.”
Thursday might have been the first step back to contention for 2015 and beyond.