Red Sox grab high schooler Ball with first-rounder

The Red Sox, picking seventh in the First-Year Player Draft for the first time in 20 years, took perhaps the best two-way player available in Trey Ball.

Though Boston drafted him as a left-handed pitcher, Ball, a product of New Castle Chrysler High School (Indiana) is also highly-regarded as a let-handed hitter and outfielder.

Listed at 6-5 and 174 pounds, Ball will turn 19 later this month.

“I’m a pitcher and outfielder from New Castle, Indiana and I can hit for power, I can hit for contact,” Ball said during the pre-recorded segment MLB Network displayed immediately after he was picked. “The best word that describes me as a baseball player would probably be athletic. The most influential coach in my baseball life has probably been my dad.

“He’s taught me the game since I was very little and he’s brought me to where I am now. I try to model my game after Cliff Lee. He was always very consistent in the strike zone.”

Ball has a fastball that travels into the low to mid 90s. His changeup is a plus pitch. The curveball is a work in progress, but has promise, according to scouts.

The Red Sox will now start the process of trying to sign Ball, who has a commitment to the University of Texas.

The last time the Red Sox drafted as low as seventh was 1993, when they took a left-handed hitting outfielder named Trot Nixon, who played most of his career in Boston and helped the team achieve World Series championship glory in 2004.

Ball clubbed 10 home runs in his senior year of high school. As a pitcher ,he was 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA.

Iglesias could be sticking around

When Will Middlebrooks returns to the active roster in one week against the Angels, don’t be so sure Jose Iglesias will be heading back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Don’t forget, Iglesias had been getting some work at third and second base for Pawtucket even before the back injury to Middlebrooks.

Pedro Ciriaco hasn’t performed well in a utility role on offense or defense, and Iglesias is at the point in his development where he might benefit more from staying in the Majors — even in a bench role — than playing every day at Pawtucket.

“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “So, he’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously, we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop. At some point, if we’re to strongly and surely consider him for a utility role, then he’s got to get some exposure to second base. The one thing we’re cautious of is just the pivot on the double play. I don’t know how you can emulate that in early work or in simulated-type situations, but I think most importantly, we haven’t ruled out him being in a utility role.”

Red Sox sign veteran lefty to Minors deal

The Red Sox accumulated another lefty reliever on Thursday when they signed veteran Rafael Perez, who had spent his entire Major League career with the Cleveland Indians. It was a Minor League contract and Perez is expected to report to Double-A Portland.

The 31-year-old Perez pitched in 338 games for the Indians from 2006-12, posting a 3.64 ERA.

Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller are Boston’s curent lefties in the bullpen. Franklin Morales would be a third when he comes off the disabled list in the near future.

Ortiz gears up for first reunion with Tito

When the Red Sox played Terry Francona’s Indians in Cleveland from April 16-18, slugger David Ortiz was still in the final stages of his Minor League rehab.

On Thursday night at Fenway, Ortiz will stand in the batters box against Francona for the first time since they parted ways at the end of the 2011 season.

“I mean, yeah, it’s definitely going to bring memories back,” Ortiz said. “I was with Tito for eight years. He’s a good dude. He did a lot of good things. I learned a lot of things from him. It’s going to be a little weird just watching him from the other side. It is what it is, right?”

Ortiz and Francona experienced a lot of success together, winning two World Series championships together, most memorably the one in 2004 that included the comeback from 3-0 down in the best-of-seven ALCS against the Yankees.

“It was weird watching him on ESPN at the beginning until you get used to it,” Ortiz said. “So now you watch him on the other side and it will feel weird for a couple of series. At some point, it will be pretty  normal.”

 

Tazawa to close for now; Webster will start Wednesday

Lots of moving parts at Fenway Park here on Tuesday. Joel Hanrahan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain. With Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list at the same time, Junichi Tazawa assumes the closer’s role for now.

Meanwhile, in another wrinkle, prospect Allen Webster has replaced Hanrahan on the roster and will start tomorrow night, with the struggling Felix Doubront spending the next two days in the bullpen.

Manager John Farrell said that his plan for now is to slot Doubront back into the rotation the next time around.

Ortiz filing for divorce; vows it won’t impact play

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been hitting at a torrid pace since coming off the disabled list. This, even as he deals with a personal matter.

Ortiz and his wife Tiffany are filing for a divorce. The couple has been married for nearly a decade after meeting when Ortiz was in the Minor Leagues.

“There are some situations in life that work out for a period of time and at some point they don’t work out anymore and you have to move on,” Ortiz said in an interview with MLB.com and WEEI.com. “I’m moving on. She’s moving on. Hopefully everybody respects that.”

While Ortiz wanted to release the news before it leaked out, he hopes the public will respect his family’s privacy in the ensuing weeks.

The one thing Ortiz hopes nobody will do is try to look for a connection between his marriage ending and his performance on the field.

“I’m going to separate things,” Ortiz said. “Whatever is happening to me off the field is happening, but I try not to confuse that and bring that into my job. I know how to separate things. Personal life matters, and hopefully everybody respects that.”

The couple raised three children together, daughters Jessica and Alexandra, and son D’Angelo, who remains a constant presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

Ortiz wanted to emphasize that the separation has been amicable, and that both sides want to move forward with their lives.

In Sunday’s win over the Astros, Ortiz went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Over eight games, he is hitting .516 with two homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.400 OPS.

Catching up with Tito

Obviously the circumstances weren’t ideal for Terry Francona’s reunion with the Red Sox. Boston was devastated by tragedy on Monday, with three people getting killed and more than 100 injured by multiple bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Here is a look at what Francona said to the media before today’s game.

Obviously Francona has roots in Boston, where he lived year-round for most of his eight years as Red Sox manager.

“I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that,” Francona said. “Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. It just seems when you turn the TV on, it’s hard for everybody. Whether it’s personal or not, it seems like it gets personal. You turn on the TV and you hear left wing, right wing. I wish there were no wings. I just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are somehow, some day able to figure this out, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough being an adult. You can imagine being a little kid growing up now? It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.Can baseball help heal people during a tough time?

“I hope so. That would be terrific. If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific. I think that is the case. Just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, and New England. There’s no way, I don’t know how you quantify what happens. It’s unfair. I just hope maybe this game does help some people.”

How did Francona hear about the news?

“I was here at the ballpark and one of my daughters, I saw I had a bunch of missed calls, so I called her back. That’s how I knew.”

When did he realize the magnitude of it?

“I couldn’t get to anything right away. I was tied up for a while. Then I went and turned the TV on and saw right where it was. It’s personal for just about everybody. Some of those views, you can see the church my daughter got married in. It’s very unsettling, for everybody,” Francona said.

How about playing the Red Sox for the first time?

“It’s OK. Just being as honest as I can, I had a year removed. We’re not in Boston. I had mostly eight really good years. I don’t think I’d have scripted the way it ended, but sometimes it’s time to move on. I’m really happy where I’m at here. I think it’s unfair to the players for me to have a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them, and it is them. It doesn’t take away anything, the people I’m close to there, there’s a lot of them. I like where I’m at. I think they like where they’re at. Everything’s pretty good. I do think it will be harder when we go to Boston for me.”

How does Francona think Boston will react to the recent events?

“I really don’t know. I don’t know how anybody could answer that. I imagine they’ll be very resilient. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Did Francona have time to see his old buddy, Dustin Pedroia?

“I went out and saw him for a minute, me and [former Sox catcher Kevin Cash]. He didn’t get any better looking. Neither did I.

Francona on John Farrell?

“It’s hard when the season starts. You get tunnel vision. But the day he got hired, I said the glass became half full, and I still believe that. I hope for the next three days everything that could go wrong does for them. But he’s one of my best friends, not just in baseball, but in life. They got a good hire.”

The Indians come to Boston May 23-26. That should be a far more emotional time for Francona.

On Tuesday night, 11 of the 25 players on Boston’s roster played for Francona during his time in Boston. They are: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Add in three players on the DL (David Ortiz, John Lackey and Franklin Morales) and there are 14 Francona holdovers left.

Iglesias to start Home Opener

Jose Iglesias will get the thrill of playing in Monday’s home opener, as Stephen Drew will need an extra day at Double-A Portland thanks to a postponement on Saturday.

Drew, who sustained a concussion on March 7, will make his debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday.

“I think just talking with him late yesterday afternoon, he felt an additional eight to 10 at-bats would be helpful,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s starting to feel much more comfortable but he felt like two additional games, to go nine innings each day, would put him in a better position to return to us.”

Meanwhile, Iglesias was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing Saturday’s game with a bruised right forearm.

“Yeah, and even yesterday, he was available yesterday but we had planned a down day for him, day game after the night game, just trying to balance guys’ not being accustomed to the turf here, which is the same reason Napoli is DH-ing today with Daniel at first. Jose is fully ready to go,” said Farrell.

Red Sox could be close to full Starting 9

David Ortiz will be on a plane to Florida on Thursday to continue his rehab there, and could be playing in extended Spring Training games by the beginning of next week.

An official Minor League rehab assignment might not be too far behind. In fact, it’s starting to sound as if Ortiz could play for the Red Sox in April.

“In talking with David, I think he’d feel comfortable with 25, 30 at-bats, likely to be taken place at Pawtucket,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When that rehab assignment begins remains to be seen. We’re still hopeful of a target timeframe of sometime middle to third week of April.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Drew played in an extended Spring Training for the second day in a row and will play at Double-A Portland tomorrow. Drew could play for Boston in the Fenway Park Opener on Monday.

Lester gets the nod for Opener

Jon Lester might have had a down year in 2012, but the Red Sox still view him as an ace. And that’s why the lefty will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on Monday for Opening Day.

After weeks of speculation, manager John Farrell finally made it official on Wednesday morning. Lester will be Boston’s first pitcher out of the gate for the third consecutive season.

The news was revealed just hours before Lester got ready to make his final start of Spring Training against the Miami Marlins.

“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” said Farrell. “At the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of Spring Training for every pitcher, including Jon, before we got into the rotation [order].”

In his first five starts of Grapefruit League action, Lester went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, looking a lot more like the pitcher who dominated in 2008-11 than the one who stumbled last year.

“He’s gotten back to a delivery that was similar to what he had in the past,” Farrell said. “I think he’s executing pitches with the consistency we saw before that made him one of the top left-handers in the game. He’s had a very strong Spring Training. “

Right-handers Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in New York, pitching Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Left-hander Felix Doubront and righty John Lackey will round out the rotation, pitching the first two games in Toronto.

Buchholz is on tap to pitch the Home Opener on April 8 against the Orioles.

Lester was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in 2012.

“I didn’t really like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched,” Lester said earlier this spring. “That’s solely on me – that’s not on anyone else, that’s not on the revolving door of pitching coaches, that’s not on our manager, that’s not on anybody but myself. I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again.”

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