Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’

Who is ready for Fort Sunshine?

As I get ready to snowblow my driveway and sidewalk for the 900th time this winter, I thought all of you might be in the mood for some Red Sox fodder.

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona both provided updates on several areas of the team at Monday night’s town hall event.

How is Dustin Pedroia doing? “Pretty good,” Epstein said. “He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot, and doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot immobile for so long. That was reassuring. It didn’t have anything to do with the fracture or the surgery.  He’s healing really well, working out. He’s not wearing cleats yet, but we’re going to be smart about it. We don’t expect him to be limited by the time the season starts.”

The reports on Beckett have been positive: “Very positive,” Epstein said. “He’s been attacking the offseason, working really hard, getting in good shape, doing workouts. He has a personal trainer that he hired. The trainer and Mike Reinold have been in very frequent contact. Mike made a visit recently to see him, as he does with some of the other pitchers. He’s raring to go.”

On the Rays after adding two guys you might have heard of — Manny and Damon. ” Good moves,” Epstein said. “Those are guys that can probably still hit a little bit, to say the least. It makes for some interesting head-to-head matchups. But those guys, the demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar. They’re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and stay and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball given the strength of their farm system. They lose Garza, they have Hellickson ready to step in. They lose Crawford, they have Jennings and Joyce ready to step in. They’re going to be really tough.”

Tito on whether Saltalamacchia is finished with boot camp with catching instructor extraordinaire Gary  Tuck:

“I think it’s the other way around. Camp Tuck may have finished him. DeMarlo said he went down to check on him, say hi to the Tuckster, wanted to see Salty. He thought it would be running through the motions, but after two hours, he felt bad for Salty. They’ve done a terrific job. I’m really proud of them, both of them. How many guys do you see do that? It’ll be interesting to see where he’s at because obviously it’s an important position for us. We’re showing an awful lot of confidence in him. At the same time, I think it’s kind of neat that Tek’s worked to be at the point he is where we feel good about this. Tek’s probably going to catch more than an average backup catcher does.”

More from the day Gonzo was unveiled

An impactful move by the Red Sox is one that makes the Yankees take notice. Yes, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is fully aware of the type of damage Gonzalez might do against his team for the next several years.

“It makes them a great team,” Cashman said. “He’s a heck of a hitter. That’s a huge addition for Boston. We know what our areas of weaknesses are that we need to tackle, and that’s what we need to continue to focus on. But they just obviously improved themselves in a significant way. He’s one of the premier players at that position in the game.”

Gonzalez showed good sensibility in his greeting with the Boston press, immediately talking about his goal of helping the Red Sox topple the Yankees.

“It was very emotional and very up and down,” said Gonzalez. “But I’m very excited that everything was able to be worked out and I’m very excited to be here in Boston. And I’m ready to beat the Yanks.”

He’s also like to help the Red Sox raise some more of those banners — like the ones from 2004 and 2007.

“I’ve had five incredible years in San Diego. My dream as a kid was to play in the Major Leagues and be a Padre and my second dream was to be a Red Sox. So I’m very excited, God has been very, very good to me and I’m just very excited to start the season and look forward to a lot of world championships,” Gonzalez said.

“It was one of the things where you grow up and you always root for a National League team and an American League team and the Red Sox have always been the American League team that I rooted for and I think with Ted Williams and all those things and him being from San Diego and seeing what he did here, everyone knows he’s one of the greatest of all time, there’s always been a lot of connections between me and my heart and the Red Sox.”

Watching Gonzalez hit at Fenway figures to become a must-watch experience, much like Manny Ramirez during his prime years.

“He’s one of the very best hitters in the game, a left-handed hitter with a
tremendous ability to control the strike zone, hit, hit for power, has power to all fields. His natural stroke is probably to the opposite field which is a great fit for our ballpark,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “He hits the ball the other way with ease, so we
think he’s going to wear the wall out. Just going from PETCO to Fenway Park should do wonders for his overall production, not that it needs any help. He likes the ball away from him a little bit. He’s a thinking man’s hitter who controls the at-bats and knows what he wants to do up there and goes up to the plate with a plan every time.

“Defensively, he’s a plus fielder with great hands, good feet around the bag, and he can really throw. He’s a playmaker on defense and has outstanding makeup. He’s a high-character person who leads by example and wants to win. That and he’s working on his speed, he said, this winter, so he can get a lot of doubles to left.”

By the way, Gonzalez did not have a number on his jersey during his unveiling, but Mike Cameron will give him 23 once some friendly high-stakes negotiations are complete.

“We’re in discussion,” laughed Cameron. “You know, I’m going to get something nice for Christmas.”

As for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, his early Christmas present is getting to pencil Gonzalez into his lineup every day.

“This is one of the best hitters in baseball,” Francona said in an interview with WEEI radio in Boston. “This is a big move for us. We’re getting a middle of the order bat, a guy that’s won a couple of Gold Gloves. He’s still young. This is exciting. We gave up some good players to get him, but that’s the only way you can get a guy of his caliber.”

Francona could sense how much Epstein wanted to make the deal happen.

“This was an important one,” Francona said. “I could tell that Theo was really digging his heels in on this one. And I’m glad he did because when he feels that strongly it’s got a chance to really be good for us.”

The perfect match

As the Red Sox unveiled their new slugger today in perhaps the franchise’s most impactful acquisition since Curt Schilling seven winters ago, Theo Epstein stated that, “It seems like Adrian was meant to be a Red Sox, and we’re glad to make it happen.”

It was destined for a couple of reasons. The Red Sox have been coveting a power bat who is in the prime years of his career for at least two years, dating back to when Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. Gonzalez was the most logical person to fill that void, considering his age, his skills and the fact the Padres couldn’t keep him long term. The deal became even more inevitable a year ago, when Jed Hoyer become the Padres’ GM and Jason McLeod left the Red Sox to become his assistant.

McLeod was the leader in Boston’s draft room when they selected the three players that the Sox wound up sending to San Diego.

As Epstein said, “It was a case of all known commodities.”

Hoyer was equally candid about how much the familiarity helped to facilitate the trade.

“The knowledge was a big thing. Boston was clearly the most aggressive team in pursuing Adrian,” Hoyer said. “We really liked this package of players. From a talent standpoint, this was clearly the best package that we had. but the knowledge of the prospects also had a lot to do with it. Jason McLeod was the scouting director when all three of these guys were drafted. I know all three of these players. Perhaps the biggest anxiety you have with any trade is the unknown. You don’t know the players, you don’t know the personality. You don’t know the toughness. All of that is taken out of the equation in this trade for us.

“We know these guys. we know they have a great makeup. That’s a huge variable we don’t have to worry about. It lets you sleep a lot better at night knowing that ultimately the talent will take them as far as they’re going to go, but we know their mental toughness. Their makeup is going to be top notch. That’s a big problem when you make trades. You don’t usually have that knowledge. “

Hoyer also has great knowledge of Gonzalez, and he has good news for Red Sox fans.”I think he’s going to be unbelievable in Fenway Park. I think he’s going to be a monster at Fenway Park.”

Gonzalez also got things off on the right foot with Sox fans when he stated, “I’m ready to beat the Yanks.”

Keep in mind how heavily the rivaly has swung in favor of the Yankees since they signed Teixeira. In 2009, the Yankees won the World Series and the Red Sox lost in the Division Series. Last year, the Yankees advanced to Game 6 of the ALCS. The Red Sox didn’t make the postseason.
 
Gonzalez could go a long way toward leveling the playing field.

Epstein will arrive here in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. later today, so the Boston media will gather with him at some point this evening. More updates from him then on the blog and on redsox.com..

Theo finally gets his bat

The quest started two winters ago, really. That was when Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein knew that the time was near when his team would need a middle-of-the-order bat to carry it through the next several years, much like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez did from 2003-07.

Sure, Ortiz is still around, and still productive. But he’s no longer the guy who can carry a team all season. So Epstein put up a strong fight for Mark Teixeira after the ’08 season, but the first baseman went to New York. It was then that Epstein immediately started eying Gonzalez. He first tried to trade for him in 2009, at the July trade deadline. At the time, two assistants named Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were trying to help him make that swap. It didn’t go through.

So this time, Epstein dealt with Hoyer, the Padres GM, and McLeod, San Diego’s assistant GM, to get the big lefty bat. He trades three very legitimate prospects in Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes, all of whom were selected when McLeod was running Boston’s draft board.

Epstein, meanwhile, gets a 28-year-old lefty bat who should be nothing short of a force in 2011. There’s no contract worked out just yet. But the same could be said in November, 1997, when Dan Duquette traded Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr. for Pedro Martinez. By the time the 1998 season started, Martinez was signed for the next six years, and ultimately for a seventh year thanks to a club option. The same should happen for Gonzalez. The Red Sox wouldn’t make this trade if they weren’t fully confident they were keeping him for the long haul.

Suddenly, the Sox have a certifiable buzz about them again in a trade that might be as big as the one that brought Curt Schilling to Fenway in November, 2003.

As presently constituted, the Red Sox Opening Day lineup would look something like this:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Gonzalez 1B
Youkilis 3B
Ortiz DH
Drew RF
Cameron LF
Saltalamacchia/Varitek C
Scutaro SS

But Epstein is still likely to pursue another bat in the outfield. Stay tuned. But he has made one huge move that will have fans eagerly anticipating 2011.

Captain transitioning to mentor

We’ve heard about this scenario for a couple of years, but now it sounds like it will finally happen. Jason Varitek, who made the transition to back up catcher in the middle of the 2009 season, will now become an official mentor for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Peter Gammons was among those to report today that Varitek is about to re-sign with the Sox for one year at $2 million. This is a different dynamic than when Varitek was backing up Victor Martinez, a star hitter who had already reached veteran status.

Saltalamacchia is 25 years old and hasn’t come close to reaching full potential. He can not only work regularly with catching instructor Gary Tuck on tricks of the trade, but also Varitek. When Saltalamacchia arrived last year, Varitek was focusing on getting his right foot healthy. Now, it can become a true veteran-prospect catching tandem.

Look for Saltalamacchia to get the bulk of the playing time, but Varitek should be a nice fit against a lot of left-handed pitching. Both players are switch-hitters.

It will be interesting to see if general manager Theo Epstein acquires another veteran catcher as insurance this winter in the event that Saltalamacchia has problems with either his production or his health.

Young replaces Farrell

While replacing John Farrell as pitching coach was a less than ideal endeavor, it worked out about as well as possible for the Red Sox, as they were able to land one of the best in the game in Curt Young.

Under Young’s tutelage, the A’s posted the best ERA in the American League last season, at 3.58. He turned down the offer to return to the A’s shortly after it became clear Farrell was leaving Boston to become the manager of the Blue Jays.

“We are lucky to be able to add an experienced pitching coach the caliber of Curt Young to the organization,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “Curt has a proven track record of success in this job, mixing excellent relationship-building skills with expert knowledge of pitching and how to get hitters out at the Major League level. Pitchers who have worked with Curt swear by him, and the results speak for themselves. We think he will work well with our pitching staff and within the culture of our clubhouse.”

Here is some other relevant info, clipped from the press released issued by the Red Sox:

“The 50-year-old Young has spent the last seven seasons as the Oakland Athletics pitching coach from 2004-10.  Under his guidance, Oakland pitchers have posted an American League best 4.03 ERA (4,535 ER/10,135.1 IP) and held opponents to an AL low .257 batting average (9,939-for-38,616) while allowing the fewest home runs in the circuit (1,062).  A’s hurlers led the American League with a 3.56 ERA (566 ER/1,431.2 IP) in 2010 and topped the league with 17 shutouts.  The staff also allowed the fewest hits (1,315), runs (626) and earned runs (566) in the AL this season and faced the fewest batters (6,011) in the Majors.  Additionally, Oakland starters posted a Major League best 3.47 ERA (383 ER/992.0 IP), the lowest such mark in the AL since 1990.

Young began his coaching career in Oakland’s minor league system in 2000, serving as pitching coach for Double-A Midland.  His Midland staff compiled a 4.64 ERA that season, which was the lowest figure posted by the club in 15 years.  In 2001, Midland pitchers bettered the previous year’s figure by 24 points, finishing with a 4.40 ERA, and in 2002 the RockHounds finished with a 3.88 ERA.  Young was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento for the 2003 season and the River Cats posted the fourth best ERA in the Pacific Coast League at 3.90 en route to the PCL Championship.

Originally drafted by the A’s in the fourth round of the 1981 June draft out of Central Michigan University, Young pitched parts of 11 Major League seasons with Oakland  (1983-91, 1993), Kansas City (1992) and the New York Yankees (1992).  The left-hander compiled a 69-53 record and a 4.31 ERA (530 ER/1,107.0 IP) in 251 appearances (162 starts) and was a member of the A’s starting rotation when they won three consecutive American League pennants from 1988-90.”

Westmoreland speaks about recovery

Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland was upbeat in a conference call today with reporters, speaking about how he is feeling in his recovery from brain surgery back in March.

What is his therapy schedule like these days? “It’s four days a week. The therapy consists of physical therapy, occupational therapy, which is your everyday kind of things, and then speech therapy also. four days out of the week I’m doing those three and so far, so good and I’m excited to continue it.”

How is he feeling? “I feel a lot better. If you asked me three months ago, the progress has been amazing. I heard from a bunch of doctors and the progress has been remarkable. I’m just excited to keep it going.”

What is it like going to Red Sox games and Minor League games? Is it tough at all? “Yes and no. I definitely enjoy going to the games and getting to watch them. they’re my favorite team anyway, besides the fact that I’m playing for the minor leagues, it’s just great to go out and watch baseball. At the same time I do miss it, getting to see those games, and then to picture yourself out there, it’s tough to see yourself on the sidelines. At the same time, I’ve come to terms with what I’ve gone through and I know it’s going to take a while but I’m ready for it.”

Westmoreland has been touched by all the support.

“It’s been amazing, it really has,” Westmoreland said. “Ever since we kind of released what was going on, I’ve been getting non-stop messages and e-mails from people I do know, as well as people I don’t know.”

The emotional aspect of all this?

“Well, initially, to be honest, I didn’t really know what was going on. I knew it was a serious situation but before that situation, I felt great going into Spring Training, I felt really strong and when that news kind of hit, I didn’t honestly know what to expect and things kind of went on from there and I learned more, I gained more knowledge about the whole situation I was going through and it started out not knowing much and it really kind of went downhill just knowing everything and knowing all the risks and what was going on, but I tried to keep an even head about it and stay positive.”

Ron Westmoreland was also on the call. What has all this been like for him?

“There was certainly some, at the beginning, some very tough days and nights and tough weeks but once the surgery happened and he came out of it OK and over the next few days in ICU, we saw some progress and even the second day in ICU, he actually got up and walked down the hall,” Ron Westmoreland said. “From that day forward, we got to a point where it just became an everyday positive where we could see the progress and nowadays, seeing what he’s doing and actually being out on a field and doing some running and throwing and things like that, every day is positive. Every day I can’t wait until after therapy to talk to him about what he’s gone through. Even though at the beginning, it was very, very difficult, horrifying for us as a family, it got to a point where it was just positive. Every day was positive from that point on.”

Does Ryan Westmoreland know when he might get back on the field?

“From the doctor’s point of view, not one of them has set a time-table as to when I’m going to get back to playing,” Westmoreland said. “I can think in my head, I’m really confident. And going to see the Portland games and the minor league games and the boston games just gives me that extra motivation and confidence that I’m going to get back again but as far as the time-table, I’m not really sure. I’m just really focused on the next day ahead and just trying to get better every day.”

As an organization, the Red Sox have been inspired by the way Westmoreland and his family have handled a difficuilt situation.

“The thing that stands out from our end is just how proud we are of Ryan, the courage he’s shown, facing the initial diagnosis and the surgery, and the determination he’s shown in his recovery. It’s been really awe-inspiring,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “We got to know Ryan and his family pretty well during the signing process. We knew we were getting a great kid from a great family,we knew we were getting someone who could handle adversity, but the type of adversity we were thinking of was a long slump or something like that.

“You never imagine one of your players having to go through something like this.
But every step of the way, he’s showed really incredible maturity and bravery, and for us I think right before the initial diagnosis came. It was really intersting to see how the entire organization reacted like a family.You look at your players and you think of them as having bright futures,but then when something like this happens that’s life threatening, and you
see how it impacts all of his teammates, all of his friends, all of the people in the organization who care for him on a personal level. it really makes you appreciate what we have in this organization as a family, and Ryan obviously is a big part of that family.

“So going through this with him was a pretty emotional thing for many people in the organization. We’re proud of him and with him and his family every step of the way. And we’ll be here for him when he’s ready to return to organized baseball.”

Theo talks state of the team

On the last three games: “We’ve played well the last three days. The key is to keep it going. Guys who are new to the team are settling in, it’s natural for them to need a little bit of time. Guys are able to take a deep breath, relax, and be themselves out there. Making plays that are more characteristic of them. Not trying to do too much, either.”

Of the early problems: “We were just in a funk, for a month. Sometimes they don’t last long, sometimes they do. This one lasted a long time.”

Meeting of the minds: “Tito had a good meeting Monday, and the players certainly were tired of the funk we were in, so hopefully this is a little cathartic.break, and we’ll play some good baseball, that’s what we’ve done so far.”

The standings: “It’s not something that you fixate on. When you play below your capabilities for a month, the focus is on stringing one good game together, and then two and three. Maybe we can go out and play the type of baseball we’re capable of for a month, and then look up and see where we are, I think that’s the approach. When you’re scuffling, most days, you’re struggling to put a few good games together, you can’t be concerned with what anyone else is doing. You do what we did, which is focus inward, try to figure out what we need to do to do better, which in this case is probably relax, be ourselves, and go out and play. You can’t concern yourself, at this time of year, with what anyone else is doing. Everyone knows it’s going to take a high standard to get into October this year.”

Bad starts get magnified: “One-sixth of the season is 27 games, and we ended up going 13-14 our first sixth. Every year I’ve been here, since 03, except one, we’ve had a sixth of the season when we went 13-14 or worse. You just don’t realize it at the time because you’re in the middle of a pennant race. It’s deeper in the year – when we’ve never done it in that first sixth. Getting out of the gate slow, means that there’s no context for your slump, makes things look a lot worse than they are sometimes. and it amplifies it… I think it’s important to keep it in context.”

And now? “Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, put your head down, play good ball for a month or so and see where we are.”

Of Theo’s quote to the Herald on Sunday that there would be changes if things don’t improve soon: “One reporter came up and asked me a question, what kind of baseball are you guys playing. And I don’t think there’s a single player in that clubhouse that would disagree with me. I didn’t call anyone out. I didn’t call our players out. We’re all in this together. But the fact of the matter is we were not playing good baseball. We all know that. We weren’t playing the kind of baseball we were capable of. Tito had a meeting, a couple other things – there’s a reason you do those things, not that they ultimately matter. Ultimately it’s how our players play, and they’ve done a great job this week. It’s nice to see guys take a deep breath, relax, be themselves and go out and play good baseball.”

He says that by change, he didn’t mean a roster shakeup.

“I was asked ‘will this change by itself?’ And I said ‘Yeah, it’ll change by itself or we’ll have to find a way to change it.’ I actually didn’t even mean personnel changes. Obviously that’s the natural connection when a GM says that, but I actually meant, ‘have a meeting, find ways to put guys in a better position to succeed. There was no follow-up, which I understand, because that’s naturally what you would expect when a GM says that. But I was actually alluding to the meeting we were going to have the next day. And Tito had a meeting. You can’t make personnel changes this time of year that are anything more than symbolic. Maybe once a decade you’ll find a trade you can make this time of year. But they’re really symbolic. And we don’t really believe in change for change’s sake.”

Did the meeting work? “So we had the meeting, some good conversations. Maybe it doesn’t amount to anything, maybe it’s changed the mood a little bit. I think, most likely, a couple guys have just found that comfort zone and relaxed. We’re not doing anything we’re not capable of this week. We’re  just playing good, clean baseball. This team looks a lot better when the starters are going deep into games, supported by a defense that allows the bullpen to have a more realistic goal of making nine outs, six to nine outs, on a given day. Instead of 12 to 15. That makes your team look a lot crisper. The starting pitching really sets the tone, and I think we’ve played good overall baseball because of that.”

Critical homestand underway

During the Theo Epstein regime, which started in 2003, this is probably the first time that a homestand that opened on May 3 was considered critical. But there’s no overstating how important these games are for the Red Sox right now, who entered the night trailing the Rays by seven games in the American League East.

If circumstances were different right now, the focus of tonight would be on how the Red Sox are playing the Angels for the first time since being knocked out in three straight in last year’s Division Series. That, and the fact that John Lackey is seeing his former team for the first time. But the Red Sox have no time for subplots right now. Their sole focus is winning, and getting out of this funk.

General manager Theo Epstein called out the team a bit in a great piece by the Boston Herald’s John Tomase.

“Things haven’t really changed,” Epstein told the Herald. “We talked about this last week. We’re still playing bad baseball. Unintelligent, undisciplined, uninspired baseball. It’s got to change. It either changes itself or we have to do something to change it.”

Manager Terry Francona thinks players have been trying too hard to change things, resulting in over-aggressive mistakes.

“And I agree it appears at times — we’ve run ourselves out of some innings. We’ve thrown to the wrong bases,” Francona said. “We’ve made some physical errors. I agree with that. The reasoning behind it varies sometimes. I think, when things aren’t going the way you want them to, guys try to do more than they’re capable of, as opposed to spending their energy doing what they are capable of.”

Injuries haven’t helped, particularly playing without ignigtor Jacoby Ellsbury since April 12.

“Oh sure, he gives our team a different look,” Francona said. “He’s that guy that can change the game. All the concerns we’ve had with [Carl] Crawford or whoever, he does the same thing to other teams, sure. Now saying that, I think that we’re lucky we have Marco [Scutaro]. He’s a guy, we hit him first and we don’t have to wake up every morning and say, ok, he’s going to hit leadoff. He can do that just fine.”

Meanwhile, I’m sure everyone would like to extend their best wishes to 2004 folk hero Dave Roberts, who is being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“I expect Davey can outrun anything,” Francona said. “He’s got a lot of people here pulling for him. I think he probably feels that everywhere. Everywhere he’s been, I would think he’s got people pulling for him.”

No fifth year for Beckett?

If Red Sox ace Josh Beckett can avoid free agency and sign a new pact with the team he has pitched for since 2006, it apparently won’t be for the same length as the five-year deal John Lackey agreed upon back in December.

ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes, citing a source with “knowledge of the negotiations”, reported Saturday night that the Red Sox won’t go past four years in their negotiations with Beckett.

However, the sides are still believed to be negotiating, as the Red Sox would like to keep Beckett and the right-hander has a desire to stay in Boston long-term.

Both Beckett and the club have stood by their vow to keep all negotiations private. There have been no public words from either side about the status of talks that could prevent Beckett from reaching free agency for the first time in his career following the 2010 season.

Beckett will start for the Red Sox in the first game of Major League Baseball’s 2010 season – on the night of April 4 at Fenway against the New York Yankees.

Though it has been Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein’s policy not to go five years for a free agent starter, he made an exception on Lackey, in large part because A.J. Burnett had set a bench-mark of sorts when he signed for that length with the Yankees in Dec., 2008.

According to the ESPN report, concerns about the long-term health of Beckett’s right shoulder is the main reason the Red Sox are hesitant to go five years.

Beckett, who turns 30 on May 15, is 65-34 with a 4.05 ERA in 122 starts for the Red Sox. In his career, he is 106-68 with a 3.79 ERA. The righty forever notched a place in Boston’s postseason lore by going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in October of 2007, lifting the Red Sox to a World Series championship. Beckett was equally heroic in leading the Marlins to a World Series title in 2003, firing a shutout against the Yankees on three days rest in clinching Game 6.

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