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Good Thing Red Sox Bucked Convention in Tapping John Farrell

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Tracy Ringolsby examines the positional lineage of major league managers and found pitchers to be least likely to make it as big league skippers.

Writes Ringolsby, according to Stats LLC, there have been 48 former MLB pitchers who have managed in the majors.

Other MLB positions: 113 former catchers, 104 former outfielders, 75 former shortstops, 72 former second basemen, 57 former first basemen and 56 former third basemen. And note: 124 players who never appeared in a big league game.

Red Sox manager John Farrell and Padres skipper Bud Black are the two current managers who were pitchers.

And opportunity, as Ringolsby notes, is the key factor in determining managerial success.

Farrell produced mediocre results during his first two years as a manager in Toronto.

But proved he was the right choice to lead the Boston turnaround.

Uehara Picking Up Where He Left Off

Still early in Spring Training, but it is worth noting Koji Uehara is pitching with the same precision he demonstrated in the 2013 season.

And one of the keys (along with incredible control) to Uehara success is the splitter.

Last season, writes Tim Britton, was the most effective Uehara’s splitter has ever been, with opposing batters hitting only .096 off the pitch. His splitter produced a career-high strikeout rate of 28 percent.

Look for a repeat performance, John Tomase notes, predicting Uehara will make his first All-Star team in 2014.

Middlebrooks – Key to Left Side of Infield

When assessing the left side of the Red Sox infield – the pivotal player is Will Middlebrooks.

Boston entered Spring Training figuring super-prospect Xander Bogaerts would play.

Somewhere – shortstop as a first choice but third if Middlebrooks didn’t show a renewed spark.

The Sox had Stephen Drew – stuck in free agent limbo – as an option to comeback at short – freeing Bogaerts to move to the hot corner.

But Middlebrooks’ play in Spring Training so far has meant Boston has not had to try to play the Drew card.

As Michael Silverman writes, halfway through the spring schedule, Middlebrooks is demonstrating a more selective approach at the plate. Delivering five RBI, two HRs and 15 total bases has placed Middlebrooks in the top three of any Red Sox batter in camp.

What do you think – will Uehara make the All-Star team? Is Middlebrooks primed for a comeback?

Red Sox: Around the Bases

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Four quick hits on Red Sox stories from Spring Training.

Pedroia Powering Up

Expect an uptick in offense numbers from Dustin Pedroia.

Everyone needs to remember Pedroia injured his thumb on Opening Day last season – and played the entire year with the injury.

But off-season surgery repaired the bad thumb.

Says Pedroia, “I don’t have any discomfort and to be honest, it feels stronger than my right one, because this joint is thicker.”

Look for the improved health to translate to an increase in offense production from Pedroia.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last Spring Training, there were questions on whether Mike Napoli could make it through the season healthy.

This Spring Training – armed with a new contract – Napoli is setting his goals higher – a Gold Glove and spot on the American League All-Star team.

Napoli says he is ready to give David Ortiz the line-up protection he desires.

Deep Depth in Bullpen

Because the Red Sox have tremendous financial resources, they can pay ex-big leaguers to play in Pawtucket – with an eye to them helping the big league club during the season.

Witness the PawSox could have a bullpen that includes former major leaguers Francisco Cordero, Rich Hill, Jose Mijares and Tommy Layne.

You can never have enough pitching – and relievers come and go season by season.

The depth Boston is building could pay off in the upcoming season.

Drew Moving to Big League Camp?

Today, media reports say Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias may miss most of the season – putting a team expected to contend for a World Series berth in a bind.

Enter: former Red Sox Stephen Drew.

Drew has been working out at the Lost Boys Camp of agent Scott Boras, along with Kendrys Morales.

He seems like a logical addition for the win-now Tigers.

Hope it works out for Drew – he served the Red Sox well and merits a spot in the big leagues.

Grady Sizemore Could Force Roster Decision for Red Sox

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One of the best feel-good stories in all Spring Training has to be the pending comeback of Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore sat out the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to injuries – with 2010 and 2011 injury plagued, causing him to miss a considerable number of games.

Right before camp, the Red Sox inked Sizemore to an incentive-laden contract – as he attempts to return to the majors.

While the signs are looking good – Sizemore needs to prove his body can endure the rigors of playing baseball every day. And he needs to show he still has it offensively and in the field.

Sizemore said earlier this week, “I feel good, but not great. My timing feels off. It feels a little rusty. But I don’t feel like it’s been two or three years. I feel like it’s just another spring training where it’s early where you’re just trying to get a hold of things and get that rhythm down. I still feel like I have a long way to go. It’s not quite where I would like it to be and I want to fine-tune some things.”

So don’t pencil Sizemore onto the roster – never mind pushing aside Jackie Bradley Jr. as the starting center fielder – quite yet.

Boston manager John Farrell said, “We came into camp with Jackie as the guy. We projected him as the starting center fielder, and I don’t think anything has radically changed that thought. But we can’t deny the fact that Grady Sizemore has looked very well in camp, and we’re still in the process of trying to get our arms around his durability.”

Red Sox Outfield Options

Last season, in addition to starters Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino, the Red Sox had Daniel Nava and Mike Carp in bench roles – with both players able to play outfield and first base.

Take the four returning players (with Ellsbury off to New York) and Sizemore and Bradley – there are six players for five roster spots.

Some options:

  • Red Sox decide Sizemore needs more playing time to shake off the rust – so they send him to Pawtucket. Roster: Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Nava, Carp.
  • Sizemore wins the starting center job. Bradley to Pawtucket. This seems unlikely. It is too much to expect Sizemore can play every day. When he sits, Victorino would need to move to center and Nava to right, weakening overall outfield defense.
  • Sizemore and Bradley make the big league club. And either Nava or Carp gets traded. This would require a big leap of faith in Sizemore by the Red Sox (that he can physically make it through the season) – giving up outfield depth in Carp or Nava. Or it could be seen as a vote of confidence that Bryce Brentz is close to the big leagues – and ready to come to Boston if needed.

What do you think the Red Sox outfield will look like on Opening Day?

Clay Buchholz Durability – A Key to Red Sox 2014 Success

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There is no denying the talents of Clay Buchholz – as evidenced by his 12-1, 1.74 ERA performance last season.

The big issue with Buchholz is durability – witness his 16 starts in 2013.

Getting close to 30 starts or 200 innings from Buchholz in 2014 are key for the Red Sox to in their quest to  return to the playoffs – and for Buchholz to establish himself as an elite pitcher.

Says Buchholz, “That’s the name of the game for a starting pitcher. You can’t be among the elite guys in the league unless you do that. It’s a results-based industry. Everybody knows that.”

Perhaps a turning point for Buchholz was Game 4 of the 2013 World Series when he realized he didn’t need to feel perfect or have his best stuff to win.

According to Buchholz, “I was going to do it, regardless of how I felt. You never know when you’re going to get an opportunity to be in that position again. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night, knowing I didn’t go out there and at least try. It actually ended up being a lot better than I was expecting, especially with the way it felt the day before and the day before that.”

Looking to the upcoming season, Boston needs Buchholz to deliver quality – and innings.

Manager John Farrell is hoping for the best from Buchholz saying, “We’re very hopeful he lasts the entire season, and right now he’s in with every other pitcher in terms of his throwing days, his progression to batting practice today, and everything he dealt with from a physical standpoint last year he addressed in the offseason. His shoulder strength is very good, so we’re looking forward to another productive year from Clay.”

Pedro and the Staff

Speaking of pitching, one great asset the Red Sox have (still) is Pedro Martinez.

Martinez is working with Boston’s pitchers this Spring Training.

Says Martinez, “It’s just that I think I have so much to offer. It’s stuff that I’m not going to put into use anymore, so I might as well pass it along, and I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to get more involved in baseball, more with young players and veteran players — whoever needs me.”

One player that has gained the attention of Martinez is pitcher Drake Britton.

According to Martinez, “When I saw him struggling in Double-A (in 2013), I chose myself to go and see him and let him know that everything he had before was still there. It was just a matter of putting his mind, his heart, his desire, where it had to be. He took it graciously.”

What do you think – can Britton crack the Red Sox bullpen for Opening Day?

Written by Albie Jarvis

March 2, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Chris Capuano Comes Home to Red Sox

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Lefty pitcher Chris Capuano has joined the Red Sox – filling the gap opened when Ryan Dempster announced he would not play in the 2014 season.

Going to Boston is a homecoming for Capuano – who hails from West Springfield, Mass.

Capuano grew up as a Red Sox fan but has never pitched in Fenway Park as a big leaguer.

He knows he is currently the sixth man in a five man starting rotation – a spot not unlike what he faced with the Dodgers last season.

Los Angeles had a Spring Training staff overflowing with 8 starters, only to be hit by injury during the season and opening up a starting role for Capuano.

Most likely, Capuano will be vying for a bullpen job – competing against Brandon Workman.

The Sox may prefer Workman stay stretched out as a starter in the minors rather than placing him in the bullpen. Although he handled both roles fine last season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell sees Capuano as someone who could throw an inning out of the bullpen or face a single batter, lefty or righty.

Capuano would provide a third lefty in the pen – along with Craig Breslow and the comebacking Andrew Miller.

Miller Moving Forward

Early returns are positive on the comeback of Miller from a foot injury that knocked him out for the 2013 season on July 6.

Miller throws big-time heat – making him tough on lefties and righties. He averaged a career-high 14.1 strikeouts per 9 innings last season.

Says Farrell, “We’re looking forward to him being a mainstay in this bullpen. To have him 100 percent healthy, a guy you can go to with men on base for a strikeout, provided he picks up where he left off, that is a huge weapon.”

Who do you think lands on Boston’s Opening Day roster? Capuano? Workman? Both? Neither?

Xander Bogaerts Stakes Claim to Shortstop

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It’s still very early in Spring Training but with each passing day, it looks like the Red Sox starting shortstop job will belong to Xander Bogaerts.

And once Bogaerts settles in, it could be the 21 year old’s spot for a long time to come – bringing stability to the position.

Joe McDonald points out that Dustin Pedroia has played with nearly a dozen shortstops over his 8 seasons with Boston – from Julio Lugo to Stephen Drew, with Nick Green (remember him?) mixed in too.

And Pedroia welcomes the stability of potentially having a long-term double play partner, saying, “That’s fun to have, and I haven’t had that, yet. I mean, a couple of years here and there, but you build a relationship with the guy and you don’t have to go into camp and get used to anybody.”

So what can we expect from Bogaerts?

Scott Lauber spoke with 6 rival scouts and executives, and the consensus was Bogaerts will be a standout major leaguer.

High praise comparisons like Hanley Ramirez and Manny Machado were offered.

One step in getting to that level will be Bogaerts learning how to handle the grind and nuances of the long major league season. He got a big head start on that process finishing the last 6 weeks of the 2013 season with the Red Sox – which included performing well on the biggest stage, the World Series.

Where is Drew Headed?

Drew has still not found a home – which means he could perhaps come back to Boston.

But New York is a more likely landing spot.

With Jim Bowden making a plea that the Mets should grab Drew (subscription required) – providing a big upgrade over current SS Ruben Tejada.

The Mets have their first draft pick in the 2014 draft protected – and they have already given up a second rounder as Curtis Granderson compensation.

So the cost for Drew would only be a third round pick – plus his salary.

Draft pick compensation is heating up as an issue with Tony Clark, new executive director of the MLB Players’ Association, calling it “a concern. Obviously we still have guys — very good players, quality players – that can help a number of clubs who are still on the market.”

Clark conveniently omits that Drew and others turned down one year, $14.1 million offers from their previous teams in the early part of the free agent season.

Jon Heyman points out other potential homes for Drew, listing the Blue Jays, Yankees, Pirates and Athletics.

Where do you think Drew will end up playing the 2014 season?

How Red Sox Prospects Stack Up

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The MLB.com website has been making its way around the diamond – looking at the top 10 baseball prospects at each position.

No surprise, Red Sox super-prospect Xander Bogaerts led the way at shortstop – a position which has a great group of elite prospects.

Among left-handed pitchers , the Red Sox landed two in the top 10 – Henry Owens (#2) and Trey Ball (#9). Fellow Sox prospect SS Deven Marrero says Owens is the next Clayton Kershaw, high praise indeed.

Boston was shutout at right-handed pitcher. But don’t fret. Allen Webster may not be on prospect radar but his former manager Gary DiSarcina says he has the most dominant potential among Red Sox AAA pitchers.

At catcher, Blake Swihart placed #5. The Red Sox like the athleticism Swihart brings to the position.

And, while he is not on the top 10 list, keep an eye on catcher prospect Christian Vazquez, who is an elite defender.

When the rest of the positions are released, they will be covered.

Steamer Projections

MiLB.com ran the Steamer Projections for the 2014 season for Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Both are projected to produce very respectable (and similar) rookie numbers.

Bogaerts – 16 HR; 9 SB; .261 AVG; .738 OPS; 3.2 WAR

Bradley – 16 HR; 16 SB; .256 AVG; .714 OPS; 2.4 WAR

Gary Hughes Profile

Nice article by the great baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby on Red Sox scout Gary Hughes.

Hughes discusses his long history in pursuing two-sport stars in his scouting.

He calls out three players that stand-out among his draftees — John Elway (Yankees), Delino DeShields (Expos) and John Lynch (Marlins).

Which Red Sox prospect are you expecting big things from in 2014?

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