Tagged: Kris Johnson

Spring Training Odyssey: Pirates vs Red Sox 3/13/10

You guys will be proud of me (or maybe disappointed): I did not trespass onto “private” property, nor did I climb fences nor did I open doors that said “authorized personnel only”. That’s not to say the day wasn’t filled with adventures, stories, and a farmer’s tan. My agenda was much more similar to what you’re used to: autograph hunting. For those of you who are new to this blog, I am not one of those autograph sellers; I am merely a collector. For me, there is a story behind every autograph, and a story behind the baseball that the autograph is on. 

The gates open two-and-a-half hours before the game, and it takes two-and-a-half hours to get to the park. If you do the math right, we had to leave at 8 a.m. to arrive when the gates opened. We parked about a block away from the park outside of a church; the money was benefitting the Salvation Army. We were the first car in the parking lot. 
My normal spot (or should I say, last year’s spot), which was at the corner of this lower level area right next to the dugout was already completely full of fans. I guess I should not have been too shocked considering it was a sold-out game on a Saturday. Hope was not lost though, so I parked myself right behind the dugout. The weather was beautiful, much better than Friday’s, which caused rainouts all across Florida and attacked my car. The sun was shining, and I had of course overestimated my skin’s immunity to sunburns. 
One of my favorite parts about getting autographs is the fans you meet. I had the pleasure of meeting Kip, Julie, and their son Zack. They were down from Massachusetts to see a couple of Red Sox games. We were side-by-side identifying players’ numbers and calling their names. 
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The first autograph of the day was from Mike Cameron. He signed for a lot of people before his turn in the cages. His signature is a work of art. He is surely one of the nicest guys on the team, and he has a big characteristic smile that is indicative of his personality. 
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Then, Marco Scutaro came jogging in, and he signed for about three people. He was in a rush, so it was really nice that he signed. 
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Then I noticed Tug Hulett all the way at the end of the dugout. So I employed my vocal abilities and called to him. He came right over and signed for everyone who wanted a signature. Then he really went beyond his call of duty and literally signed for every single fan down the line in that lower level area. When he came back, he continued to sign for people along the dugout and he even threw bubble gum to a couple of fans. I had never seen anything like it! I told him that I awarded him with the good guy award. 
I spotted Darnell McDonald in the dugout, so I called to him, and he signed for a few people. I also spotted Gil Velazquez in the dugout, so he signed for a few people too. 
Then my sunglasses buddy, Lars Anderson, came back into the dugout after stretches, and after signing for some fans down the line. I knew that he was going to come over because as he was signing down the line, I called his name and he waved. I think it was then that he recognized me because I didn’t even have to say anything at the dugout and he remembered me. Of course we talked about my sunglasses! I told him we could trade, or that he could just have the glasses. As he was walking back into the dugout after he had finished signing, I offered one more time, and he came back up smiling and said that it was OK. 
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The game was about to start, but I wasn’t ready to go back to my seat just yet. One of my friends, Colleen, was at the game, so I finally got the chance to meet her! We became friends on Facebook through this site, actually. Colleen is a fantastic Red Sox fan who made the long trek across the state with her family to see the game. It was so great to meet her, and I hope we can talk for longer next time. Baseball really does bring people together. 
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Clay Buchholz was the starting pitcher, and he looked as confident as I had ever seen him. There was a big difference in his presence on the mound from last year to this year. He truly proved himself during the second half of the season last year, and I think that he belongs in the rotation. His first start of the Spring was a little bit shaky, but like I have said, that is completely normal and to be expected. That was all out of his system, and he had a good, dominant demeanor on the mound, and he simply exuded confidence. He focused on his fastball and changeup, but he also worked on his slider and curveball. He hit his spots for the most part, but you could still notice that he would get a bit discouraged if he walked someone. 
Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Boof Bonser, Brian Shouse, and Michael Bowden also got their work in. Papelbon and Delcarmen looked solid, Boof’s only hiccup was the leadoff home run that he gave up, and Brian Shouse had a nice inning of work. 
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To me, Michael Bowden is at the stage that Clay Buchholz was at last Spring. I don’t think that he fully trusts himself yet, so he is not completely confident. It’s not like he had a bad outing (he only gave up one run), but you could tell that he was struggling a bit. He was missing low, he was more often behind in the count, and he was getting frustrated with men on. He has an interesting delivery that seems to work for him, but he really doesn’t use his legs. I feel like pitchers get a lot of power from those leg kicks, and his kick is more like a step. Then again, he has never had a big leg kick, and when you’re a pitcher, you do what works for you. When I talked to him, he told me that he never tried to emulate any other pitcher, and I hope that he never does. 
Big Papi continues to be fooled by changeups and breaking balls. He was also getting behind in the count, and he was not hitting much out of the infield. Drew also had some problems with the breaking ball. Good guy award winner Tug Hulett produced a two run single to give the Red Sox the lead. 
The defense was absolutely spectacular. Victor Martinez had a great pickoff throw to first, and he also demonstrated great defense on a bunt. Adrian Beltre displayed fantastic range with a backhanded play. Ryan Kalish also impressed defensively out in left field, and he did some great base running too. The most outstanding play was the play that ended the game: one of baseball’s most rarest feats, a triple play. Gorkys Hernandez popped up to Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias. Iglesias not only caught the ball, but also caught former Red Sox Jonathan Van Evry (who had moved too far off second base) by throwing to second baseman Tug Hulett. The guy at first base was also off the bag so Hulett fired to first, but over threw the base! Luckily, catcher Dusty Brown backed up the play so he was able to complete the triple play by throwing back to Hulett at second. What a way to end the game! 
Baseball was not done for the day though. Because Friday’s game had been rained out, an intrasquad game had been scheduled so that the pitchers did not fall too far behind schedule. I had a feeling that the Red Sox would win the second game, so I just had to stay. 
The almost babies (that is how my psychology teacher described a “fetus”, I kid you not) were stretching on the field, and the pitchers were warming up. I was able to get Nate Spears’ autograph, and I mentioned I had seen him last weekend and in Portland. 
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Then I walked over to where the pitchers were warming up. Daniel Bard, Robert Manuel, and Casey Kelly were warming up. “Hey, Casey, did you ever tell Kris Johnson how to spell analysis?” I asked. He smiled, laughed, and said, “Yeah, I did!” I then proceeded to thank him for arranging to pitch on Saturdays. 
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Kris Johnson and Kyle Weiland emerged from the bullpen area to warm up. “Hey Kris, have we learned how to spell analysis yet?” I asked. He smiled a bit and said, “Nope”. Kyle asked how I was doing before they started to warm up. After they finished, Kris tossed me the ball. 
The “B” game was a totally different atmosphere. Fans were invited to stay, but only about 200 did. There was not assigned seating, so my father and I sat right behind the dugout. It was really quiet, so you could really hear the echo of the ball being caught, or the crack of the bat against the ball. The scoreboard was off, the concessions were closed–there wasn’t even an umpire. The scene was serene and sacred: I was attending a special sermon at my church, the church of baseball. 
Hideki Okajima, Fernando Cabrera and Daniel Bard looked solid in their outings. Bard has a nice Papelbon-esque stare. Ramon Ramirez pitched well, but he gave up a home run to Nate Spears. 
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Let me talk about Nate Spears for a second. He may not be one of the non-roster invitees this Spring, but I believe that he will be next year. He was fantastic on defense, and he certainly demonstrated power behind the plate. Keep your eye on him during the year.
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Casey Kelly pitched, and he looked real good. He was working quickly and effectively, and he was consistently getting ahead in the count. He also displayed a fantastic breaking ball.  
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One of my favorite moments of that B game was when catching prospect Luis Exposito hit a home run off of Kelly. Like I have said, Exposito has a very powerful bat, and he also has a gun for an arm. I think he has the potential to throw out a lot of runners. 
Robert Manuel pitched and he got ahead of the count, had good pacing and good placement. He pitched excellently. 
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My buddy Kris came in, and his only problem was that he left a couple of pitches up. Other than that, he looked really good. 
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Then Kyle Weiland came in, and I really liked what I saw from him. I like the way he keeps his glove tucked in for his delivery. He knows how to use the corners, he hit his spots, and he exhibited a good fastball. His only problem was that he looked a little uncomfortable pitching from the stretch. 
After the B game, I was able to get three autographs. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who played in the game last Saturday signed. 
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Ryan Khoury was kind enough to sign, and he even posed for a picture with me. I told him that I had seen him in Portland, and that I was excited to see him this year as well. 
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I was also able to get Luis Exposito’s signature, and he posed for a picture as well. We talked about Twitter.  We were the last car to leave. 
Before I end, I need to address some very serious news that the Red Sox released Saturday night. The Red Sox’s top position-player prospect, Ryan Westmoreland, was diagnosed with cavernous malformation in his brain, and will be having brain surgery on Tuesday. This is especially hard for me to hear because I have become somewhat close with him. It is an unprecedented event like this one that makes you realize that there are things beyond baseball. We realize that regardless of whom we root for, we are baseball fans, and we come together to support Ryan. This was out of his control, and all we can do is keep him in our thoughts and prayers. There is not a lot of news out there, so I do not know how soon he will be back on the diamond, but that should not be in any of our minds right now, especially not his. He needs to focus on getting healthy again before he thinks about playing baseball. He has my full support (as he always will), and I truly admire him for his courage. I will always be a fan of his no matter what, and I wish him the best of luck. I actually heard about this via Twitter on my way back from the game. Five minutes after finding out about this, I saw a shooting star. I think you all know what I wished for, and I think I made it on behalf of Major League Baseball fans everywhere. 

Taking you Behind the Scenes of a Red Sox Spring Training Workout

32 autographs and Spring Training games haven’t even started yet; I guess I’ve gotten kind of good at this. You guys know how I got six of them, but here is a refresher if you need one. Tonight, I will share with you the stories behind the other 26 autographs. 20 of them occurred today at the Players’ Development Complex, and five occurred quite unexpectedly (I think I’ll share those on another day though). 
Today was probably the most fantastic, unforgettable day of my life. There was supposedly an open house at City of Palms Park, with family events, tours, and autographs. As many of you can probably guess, the latter was my inspiration. I didn’t really know what to expect at this event, especially with the autographs situation. Were the players really going to take an entire day off just to sign autographs for the fans? The answer was no, so it was a good thing that my father and I arrived early. There were lots of big buses around the stadium that were shuttling fans to and from the Players’ Development Complex right down the street. I had never been there before considering parking is absolutely forbidden, and I didn’t really know what exactly went on around there. I had never been to a workout before; in the past, I had only gone to games. Hopefully this will become a yearly ritual though because the workouts are almost as fun as the games. 
The emotions I’m feeling right now can’t be put into words: I’m on cloud nine. So I’ll just take you through my day, and hopefully, you can live vicariously through me, and experience the kind of elation that I feel right now. 
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When you think of Spring Training, you normally think of warm, sunny Florida or Arizona, right? Well, that was certainly not the case today. It was cold and rainy, but as most of you know, that wasn’t going to stop me. My teeth were chattering the entire time, my lips were probably blue, but I didn’t care because there was no place on earth that I would have rather been. So we walked in, and I immediately recognized one of the security guards, John. He had worked at Spring Training last season, and he is a security guard for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He’s a great guy! We got to talking a bit, and as we got on to the topic of Spring Training games, he mentioned that he had some extra tickets to games on April 1 and 2. They are the first row behind the dugout, and he offered them to us at face value. Not only that, but he also trusted us enough to send him a check because we didn’t have enough cash on us to cover both tickets. 
After that, I wandered around a bit to try and find the best spot for collecting autographs. It was very hard because unfortunately, I can’t be in three different places at once. Unfortunately, guys like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, and Jed Lowrie weren’t too into signing at that point. They went straight from the field to the cages, but I guess we remember that they have a job to do. So I moved to a small, uncrowded path between Fields 1 and 2. Perfect! All of the players had to walk to the other field at some point, so most of them stopped to sign. 
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It all started as Ramon Ramirez (the one you’re familiar with, not the non-roster invitee) walked off the field. He quickly signed for me, as well as some of the people around me. I met an especially nice, young couple from MA, who had been living in the Ft. Myers area for the past few years, but were moving back soon. The woman was having the players sign her “Wally the Green Monster” book for her baby. 
Then, Daniel Bard came jogging along. He signed for a couple of people quickly, but had to move on. 
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Adam Mills followed, a guy who I am very excited to watch this spring. Well, I let him know what I thought about him, and he certainly appreciated it. Not many people around me knew who he was though, so I was boasting about him as he was signing, and he had a big grin on his face. 
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Hope was not lost for a photo with Daniel Bard. On his way out, he was kind enough to pose for a quick photo with me. He seems to be twice my height, much taller than I thought he would be. 
We watched Dustin Richardson throw some batting practice, and I told everyone how excited I was to see him pitch this spring. It was great that I was getting all of these pitchers’ autographs because I rarely have a chance during the actual games since the bullpen is hard to get to. Dustin Richardson jogged by despite my “You’re my favorite pitcher!” plea. I haven’t decided if he’s officially my favorite pitcher, but he’s certainly up there. He said he had to run, but that he would come back. I was determined to hold him to his word, but I was worried for a bit because a lot of the players were leaving through an alternative exit. 
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Well as he finished up his drills, I called to him. He came right over, and I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed watching him during the spring last year, and how well he did during September, and how excited I was to see him this spring. He definitely appreciated it, and I gave him my card with the link to this site. 
Then, the guys from Single-A and Double-AA who weren’t invited to spring training started warming up for their practice. I got autographs from some of them, and even a few pictures. Before their practice, they watched the big league guys practice. Hopefully they’ll be up there soon. 
I looked to my right and saw that s
ome of the big leaguers were signing on their way out. I ran over to Field 3, grabbed my Dustin Pedroia salsa, and stood in what was probably the most inconvenient spot possible. “Dustin, I have your salsa!!” I yelled. He looked over and chuckled, and that’s all that I needed. 
Then Victor Martinez started to walk out with his two, adorable children. He was kind enough to sign, but somehow managed to skip over my ball. The fence was so high, so it was hard to get a good angle. Autographs are much better when you can see the player’s face anyway. 
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I gave up on that endeavor when I noticed that Kevin Youkilis was signing. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, so I ran over to what I think was Field 4, and patiently waited. He was great about signing! Not only did he sign for me, but he also posed for a picture! 
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I walked over to the area outside of Field 2, and I managed to snag Luis Exposito’s signature on his way out. He has promised me before, so he kept his word as well! 
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Then, I noticed that Lars Anderson, Zach Daeges, and a few other guys were standing in a circle talking. I asked them to come around the fence for a second to chat, and they obliged. Lars said that he liked my glasses, I told him that he could have them, but he said they looked better on me. He was happy to wear them for the picture though. 
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Zach Daeges remembered me from when I last met him, and he said that he was real excited to start the season. He had yet to check out this site though, even after I informally interviewed him! 
It seemed like it was over after that, but it was a good thing we stayed because a few more players were coming out. I was able to catch some of Josh Reddick’s batting practice, and he said he would meet me at the bleachers afterwards to sign and talk for a bit. 
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Meanwhile, I was able to catch Tug Hutlett, Gil Velazquez and Aaron Bates on their way out. Tug said I deserved an autograph for waiting in the rain. 
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Perhaps my favorite conversation was the one I had with Josh. For some reason, I remember his very first at-bat during Spring Training of last season, so I asked if he remembered it. We talked about it, and I told him that I knew that he was going to be my project just from watching that at-bat. He seemed to enjoy that, and I also gave him my card. 
Practice seemed to be over for the day, so we hopped on the bus back to City of Palms Park to see what was going on. Most of the activities were cancelled because of the rain, but it was mostly stuff for the little kids anyway. Then again, I’d go in a bounce house if one of the players went with me. 
We were allowed to check out the dugouts though, so I thought that would be pretty cool. I didn’t stop at just the dugout though. I noticed the little path that leads to the clubhouse, and so I decided to check it out. 
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It’s not my fault if people leave doors open. That’s right folks, I went inside the Red Sox clubhouse. The clubhouse: the final frontier. Well, that frontier didn’t last very long. The clubhouse guy, Sgt, (he used to be in the military) asked me to leave, but he let me take a quick picture. 
I was thinking about leaving until I saw a long line of people. They were waiting for Kris Johnson, Casey Kelly, Kyle Weiland, and Ryan Kalish. It took a while for things to get started, and apparently we weren’t allowed to pose for photos. Really? I had just snuck into the clubhouse; I could easily get a photo. 
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These were actually the most amusing guys of the day. They signed my baseball (a new one, because I filled my others and the hat up) and smiled for pictures. I gave them the link to my blog and Kris Johnson said, “What is this? Are you writing good things about me?” “Yes, yes of course!” I said. “Oh that’s what they all say,” Kalish said jokingly. Well, if they do end up checking it out, then they’ll see all the nice things that I say about them. 
It was real nice meeting them, but they were the only autographers for the event. I went back down to the field and decided to check out the visitor’s clubhouse, and to see which doors were open down there. 
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Sgt. was there again! We actually talked for a bit, and he let me stay for a bit longer that time. I have officially been in both clubhouses. 
Then we started talking to this really nice security guard, Tom. He showed us the bullpen area, and he mentioned that I should try and get a press pass for Spring Training. I’m definitely going to get on that. You see, I don’t just want it as a fan, or anything like that. I’m really serious about this. 
Then we saw those Single-A and Double-AA guys, and I spotted Ryan Westmoreland, or rather, he spotted me. He waved to me, so I went down and talked to him for a second. He was real nice! 
As we were getting ready to go, I spotted Ryan Kalish and Casey Kelly walking around with some italian ices. I stopped them to talk to them. “Kris was looking for you…” Casey said. “You spelled analysis wrong on your card”. 
“Analyses is the plural of analysis!” I said. “Can you please tell him that? Make sure he knows!” Kelly promised me he would, but then I got to talking to him a little longer, and he was really down to earth. 
“How was it deciding between being a shortstop and a pitcher?” I wanted to hear it from him. 
He said it was easy once he sat down with the guys and talked about it. They said he would rise faster as a pitcher, so it was easy from there. I asked him if he knew when he was going to be starting during the Spring, but he didn’t. I asked him to start on Saturdays though so that I could see him, and he said that he would ask the organization if he could start on Saturdays for me. 
Well folks, that was the day! I hope that you were able to live vicariously through me, and I hope that my words were able to bring my experience to life–at least to an extent. I know that many of you live up North, so I hope that I can be your vehicle to Spring Training. You can read the recaps and the story lines, but this is one of the only places where you’ll get the true experience of the spring. 
I’ll end this entry by quoting Star Trek: These are my voyages. My ongoing mission: to boldly go to strange new worlds (the clubhouse), to seek out new life-forms (discover prospects) and new civilizations (?); to boldly go where no one has gone before. 

Spring Training Minor League Prospects Preview

With the start of Spring Training quite literally right around the corner, the general media seems to be focusing on the obvious questions that the Red Sox are facing going into Spring Training. Of course there are a lot of “ifs” going into this season, but that’s not just for the Red Sox, that’s for all of Major League Baseball. So instead of trying to answer the same questions that everyone else is focusing on, I’ve got something a little bit different up my sleeves. 

At first, I thought that Spring Training was all about the Major Leaguers getting back into shape and preparing for the season. While it is certainly exciting to watch the Major Leaguers get warmed up for the regular season, we are forgetting a very important aspect of the team: the non-roster invitees. They are perhaps the most important part of Spring Training. The Major Leaguers already know their role with the team, but the Minor Leaguers are trying to find one. 
As many of you know, I have chosen “projects” for the past couple of years during Spring Training. These are the minor leaguers/prospects that I think will make it up to the big leagues sometime during the year… be it early on to substitute for an injury, or as a September call-up. Either way, it is so gratifying to see them finally make it to the Majors (and even more so to succeed), and it breaks your heart when they have a tough night. I encourage you all to choose projects. I’ll start with the prospects that I am familiar with that will be present during Spring Training.
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Among the pitchers I am familiar with (that were September call-ups or on the 40-man roster) are Michael Bowden, Fernando Cabrera, Felix Doubront, Dustin Richardson, and Junichi Tazawa.Bowden made his Major League debut against the Chicago White Sox in August 2008. He also made a start against the Yankees on April 26, 2009; the night Jacoby Ellsbury stole home. He struggled a bit when he was called up during the later part of the year, but I do not think that we can blame him for this. Bowden has been treated as a starter for his whole career in the minors, but he was put in the bullpen during his short tenure at the end of the season. He was brought in at stressful situations to “stop the bleeding”, and he struggled. Think about how starters are treated in the postseason: if they are available in the bullpen, they are ONLY brought in at the beginning of innings, when it’s clean. So please don’t judge Michael Bowden too harshly. He’s a great guy whom I have a lot of confidence in. Nevertheless, I think that he should be prepared to handle bullpen situations because he could end up following a path similar to Justin Masterson’s. 
Fernando Cabrera and Dustin Richardson’s names might also be vaguely familiar to you. They were also September call-ups, and both saw some Major League action, albeit short. I was very impressed with the both of them, and I have been excited to watch the two of them in Spring Training since the end of last season. I noted last year during Spring Training that Richardson had great mechanics, throws hard, and has good command. He gave up a walk-off home run against the Orioles at a Spring Training game I was at, but this is a guy that we seriously need to keep our eyes on. Although Boof Bonser seems to be the favorite to get the bullpen spot, don’t be surprised if Richardson surprises everybody. 
I don’t have many notes on Felix Doubront, but I do remember being impressed with him last year during the Spring. He is one of the top ranked pitching prospects in the organization. I will certainly be keeping my eyes on him during the Spring. I noted last spring that Tazawa had great form and a fast delivery; he was already pitching at a Major League level. He also has a nice breaking ball. 
I am familiar with both Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner; the former was a September call-up. During my time in Pawtucket last summer, I noted that Brown reminds me of Varitek in the way that he has a great sense of his surroundings. I think Brown has a lot of potential; especially if he can become more consistent at the plate. I don’t have much on Wagner, but I know that Bowden is very comfortable throwing to him since he’s just like a target behind the plate, and he has a great arm. 
As for the rest of the fielders that are on the 40-man roster (but not the 25-man roster) that I am familiar with are Aaron Bates, Jose Iglesias, and Josh Reddick. Aaron Bates got a bit of Major League action last season, but not enough that we can judge him by. Remember that we have to give all of the call-ups a bit of time to adjust. When I was in Pawtucket, Bates had just been promoted from Double-AA. He had a Triple-AAA swing with at Double-AA eye, which was OK because it was literally his first day. Bates is big, has a nice swing, and makes good contact on the ball. Trust me, keep your eye on him during the Spring. 
Jose Iglesias is a name that many of us are familiar with, but it is his abilities that we are not yet acquainted with. His defensive abilities have been raved about–he has even been compared to a young Nomar Garciaparra. I am very excited to watch him during Spring Training. Josh Reddick is a guy that I have liked since I saw his first at-bat last year during Spring Training. I don’t think he was one of the original Spring Training invitees, but I noticed something special about him in his very first at-bat. He is a fantastic hitter. The main thing he was lacking was confidence, and I think that has definitely built up. He is also really good at bunting, and a great defensive outfielder. 
On to the non-roster invitees! I’ll start with the pitchers again. Technically, Fernando Cabrera is on this list, but I included him with the September call-ups because he was there. I remember watching Kris Johnson and Adam Mills pitch last season, and virtually everyone is familiar with Casey Kelly. Adam Mills looked pretty good last Spring, but he’s definitely someone I need to see more of this year. I didn’t see much of Kris Johnson last spring, but I did like what I saw, and I hope to see more of him. Kelly is arguably the top ranked pitching prospect in the organization, but he needs to focus on fighting for a spot in Double-AA Portland. He is nowhere near ready for the Majors yet because he is still so young. We will see a lot of raw talent out there, and I can’t wait. 
I am vaguely familiar with Luis Exposito. I haven’t seen him play yet, but I have heard great things about him. He is a young catcher, and he is supposed to be very good. In a few years, he could be the backstop, and V-Mart could move to first. 
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I am familiar with infielders Lars Anderson and Gil Velazquez. Anderson did not have the year he was “supposed” to have in the minors, but I hope it’s just a minor set back. He may be perceived as a “power” hitter, but he is more of a doubles kind of guy. He’ll hit for a high average, which is better than those guys who hit for a subpar average,
with lots of home runs, but lots of strikeouts. Anderson had a nice Spring, and he’ll be a great guy to have in the future… he could serve as a fine designated hitter or a great first baseman. Velazquez is a fantastic infielder, and a utility one at that. I can tell he is very hard working, so keep an eye on him during Spring Training. 
Finally, the two outfielders with whom I’m familiar are Zach Daeges and Ryan Kalish. Daeges is a utility outfielder, which is a great attribute to have. He has an interesting batting stance, but I like it. I’ve never seen Ryan Kalish play, but I’ve heard fantastic things about him. Some of you may be wondering where Ryan Westmoreland is. After all, he is the 27th ranked prospect in MLB and arguably the top prospect in the organization. Despite this, he is still only 19. He does not need all the speculation that will come with being in Spring Training yet. He’ll be there next season though.
I cannot wait to watch all of these guys play during the Spring. Pitchers and catchers reported to their respective camps today, which is a sure sign that Spring Training games are right around the corner! For the Red Sox fans who read this blog, I hope that you will keep an eye out for these guys. For those of you who are fans of other teams, like I said before, I hope you pick your own projects! 

Reporting Live from City of Palms Park

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It is pretty obvious to me why Spring Training is held in a place like Florida. In March, the weather is absolutely beautiful, and yesterday was no exception. The forecast predicted a sunny day with a high of 80 degrees, and a low of 63 degrees. My father and I left the house at 8:30 in the morning, drove for two and a half hours through the flat and uneventful landscape of Florida, and finally arrived in Fort Myers around 11 am. Little did I know that batting practice started two and a half hours before the game rather than the accustomed two hours. My pictures are unfortunately too big to share and I don’t know how to make them smaller. 

Like Fenway Park, City of Palms park also offers a nice “tunnel experience”. As you turn into the seating sections, you have to walk up a few stairs, and all you can see is the beautiful blue sky, and as you walk out, the baseball diamond presents itself. City of Palms Park provides a different type of atmosphere than Fenway Park does. It is much more “intimate”, as Kathleen, one of the Red Sox fans I met put it. Everywhere that you sit it feels like you have a great view, even if you’re not in the lower bowl. 
The Red Sox dugout is actually on the third base line, which is odd, because generally home teams are on the first base line and visiting teams are on the third base line. I walked over to the place where a couple of other Red Sox fans were standing. It was a fenced off area next to the dugout that extended down the left field line. Northeastern University was having batting practice, but the time went quickly as I began to socialize with a few Red Sox fans. 
If it was not for them, I would not have realized something very, very important. Johnny Pesky was sitting just above the fence, and anyone could go get an autograph. I have no idea what my heart did when I heard those words, but some kind of palpitation is probably the appropriate diagnosis. I walked up the stairs, my hands shaking a bit, and I told myself not to become hysterical. I walked over slowly, said hello, and asked for an autograph. 
“Sure!” He said happily as he took my ball and sharpie from my hand. He also agreed to take a picture with me. He was SO nice and friendly, and he gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek. Words cannot describe how incredible it was to meet a Red Sox legend– appropriate too considering that I dedicated my latest ranking to him. 
I walked back down as others began to come over asking for his autograph and continued to socialize with the Red Sox fans. I love you all here on the blogosphere, but it was nice to finally have someone to talk to face to face about the Red Sox and what happened last season and what we think about this year. Finally, a few of the Red Sox started filing into the dugout: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Terry Francona, Kevin Youkilis, and Lars Anderson were among the first few who were hanging out in the dugout. 
I was standing near this girl, who looked about my age and we decided to start respectfully calling the players names to see if they would come over. Starting pitcher Kris Johnson came out first, and even though we called to him, he nicely explained to us that he had to warm up. At least he responded to us. 
We then started calling out to Dustin, who smiled and gave us a wave, and Jacoby who smiled and waved from the dugout. I was pretty much in shock when I saw Kevin Youkilis– the Youk Fu is gone! He doesn’t have a beard anymore. He didn’t look over to us, which is understandable because I’m pretty sure that he blocks everything out before the game. 
We waited for a little while longer, and Wally the Green Monster came over so I was able to get his autograph. Then, right when it was about time for the game, the players started coming back. Most of them went straight to the dugout, but Jacoby stopped and started signing but on the other side of where I was. There was no way I would be able to get over there since there was already a cluster of people. I was happy enough that he waved to me. Lars Anderson also came over, much closer to where I was, so I tried to squeeze my way through. He literally reached into the crowd and grabbed my ball to sign it. He gets to be my project. 
The lineup for the game was as follow:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. Kevin Youkilis 1B
4. Lars Anderson DH 
5. Jed Lowrie SS
6. Angel Chavez 3B
7. Josh Bard C
8. Zach Daeges LF
9. Josh Reddick RF
SP: Kris Johnson
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Kris Johnson gave up only one hit over two innings, and struck out three. The hit came in the top of the first inning and it was a triple to Josh Gustafson. 
Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out in the first inning and Kevin Youkilis struck out (I watched him on the way back to the dugout and he didn’t break anything!!!). Pedroia, Anderson and Lowrie got on, and Angel Chavez, a third-base prospect hit a grand slam! He had really nice form as well. Josh Bard also hit a home run that inning and he hit a long ball later, but it wasn’t far enough to be a home run. He was definitely getting some wood on it, which is nice to see. The most important thing for him is to work on throwing guys down at second, especially if he is going to be catching Wakefield. 
I didn’t know that Luis Tiant was in the dugout, and he has a gigantic white mustache that kind of makes him look like a walrus. He was the one that suggested that the Red Sox sign Charlie Zink (whom I did not see play in either game). 
I noticed that Jacoby is watching more pitches, and even though he grounded out twice (in one inning), the fact that he is being patient is great, and his eye is improving even more if that’s possible. 
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I was impressed with Angel Chavez’s fielding, it was completely solid. He had an incredible game as he hit another home run later in the game. 
I noticed that Jed Lowrie swings that bad pitches sometimes, which he can easily work on, but he had a great bases clearing double and his fielding was solid. He made a great first impression on me for ’09. 
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Dustin Richardson, a pitching prospect, came in to pitch and he had great mechanics, he throws hard, and he has good command. A little more fine tuning in the minors and I could see him coming up– that is, if we EVER need help for pitching. 
Zach Daeges, who played left field, had a very weird stance, his back foot is entirely out of the box. He did get a nice double though, so maybe it works for him. 
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Josh Reddick, who you may remember from the Minnesota game, takes too many pitches, he needs more confidence, but he did have a nice hit as well. 
Pedroia and Youk had nice cuts, and Ellsbury ripped a tripple into left-center field which could have been an inside the park home run at the speed he was going, but he was stopped by the third base coach. It was his first extra base hit of the Grapefruit League season. 
I was lucky enough to see Junichi Tazawa pitch, which was what I was hoping for because I wanted to see how he was. In two beautiful innings of relief, he struck out four, and walked one. He has a fast delivery, and some nice breaking balls! 
Felix Doubront, another Red Sox pitcher posted a great 1-2-3 inning. 
Game 2
I could have gone to a nice dinner at this Italian place called Carrabba’s, an Italian place where I heard that a lot of Red Sox players go. Instead, I opted to go back to the park 2.5 hours early to try and get autographs. As I was walking in, I was pretty much alone and not many people were there. I saw Big Papi talking to a few guys on the Reds, but I didn’t want to interrupt him so I continued walking. Then I saw Jason Varitek all alone on the field and I tried to open my mouth to say something, but nothing came out! I didn’t want to disturb him anyway.
This time I brought water so I wouldn’t get as dehydrated as I did last time. I waved to Varitek who acknowledged my presence but did not wave. What the heck do I say to a guy who is all alone? The Red Sox were up for batting practice, and let me tell you, Big Papi looked great. He looked a lot more comfortable in his swing, and he was hitting some long balls. 
I became the official yeller to the players. I wasn’t as intimidated yelling to the minor leaguers because I assumed that they would want to sign for us. I first yelled to Nick Green who looked, and came right over to us! He signed my ball first :). 
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Then Heidi Watney of NESN came over and started talking to us! She was so nice to us, and she was just asking how we were. Before she left, I felt I had to ask, “Any advice for an aspiring Sports Writer?” I saw someone motion to her in the dugout so I thought he wouldn’t respond but she told him to wait a second and answered my question. 
“Intern,” she said. And then she told me about where she interned and how she got into the business. I am so glad that I asked her. 
We waved to Terry Francona as he came back into the dugout and he smiled and waved back but didn’t stop to sign. I socialized with some more Red Sox fans, including Kathleen and Karen who I ended up talking to the entire night! I also talked to this nine year old girl who was dying for a Big Papi autograph but was happy enough with what we got. We looked up all the minor leaguers numbers who we didn’t know and started calling to them.
About 30 minutes before the game, Clay Buchholz was in the dugout. ‘Clay!’ we yelled, he looked up, smiled and waved, and then went back to his mental routine. I didn’t yell again because I wanted to allow him to mentally prepare– after all, we remember what happened last year. 
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We then yelled at Chris Carter, who smiled waved, and came right over! He signed my ball first again! He was so sweet! Big Papi and Lugo waved to us, and as everyone was coming back, I climbed on to the ledge so I could hold my arm out longer. Lugo was coming down the line signing and as I held my arm out, Gil Velazquez came right over to me and signed!
‘Good luck tonight!’ I said, he smiled and said, ‘Thank you,’. Julio Lugo then signed my ball right after! After he signed, I yelled again at Chris Carter!
‘Hi Chris!!’ he laughed a little and waved, and on his way back in the dugout, I yelled ‘Good luck tonight Chris!’. He smiled again and semi-tipped his cap at me. I’m pretty sure that we are best friends now. 
I said goodbye to all of my new Red Sox fan friends, and walked back over to my section with Kathleen and Karen, who were sitting with us. 
The lineup was as follows:
1. Julio Lugo SS
2. Brad Wilkerson CF
3. David Ortiz DH
4. JD Drew RF
5. Jason Bay LF
6. Jason Varitek C 🙂 
7. Chris Carter 1B
8. Nick Green 3B
9. Gil Velazquez 2B 
Lugo had two nice hits and looked great defensively, so he ALSO made a great impression on me. Wilkerson had a great home run and a double. Papi, Drew and Bay were looking great and collected a few nice hits. Jason Varitek had a bases clearing double and looked great behind the plate. 
Chris Carter, my new friend, had some nice plays at first, and had a nice double. Nick Green played well at first and collected two hits. One down the third base line and a great infield single! Gil Velazquez had two nice hits and played a great game at second base. These three guys looked great. 
Pitching:
Clay Buchholz pitched two innings of one hit ball with one strikeout. The only problems I see is that he gets behind in the count sometimes, and he had too many 3-2 counts. His changeup could be improved as well. 
Ramon Ramirez had nice control, gets great distance off the rubber, has a quick delivery and had a great strike out when the count was 3-2. The only thing I see is that he needs to work on pitching around the strikezone. 
Javy Lopez, as Red Sox fans know, is either totally on or totally off. He looked more like the “off” guy as he didn’t shut down the side. Manny Delcarmen had a nice inning and Billy Traber actually didn’t give up any runs! He does have to work on his control though. Daniel Bard also closed out the ninth nicely with a strikeout. 
More to come tomorrow! I would like to concentrate on the Red Sox vs Twins match up now. 0-0 in the 6th! Great game on MLB Network. 
I’m sending pictures to Julia, do you want some? E-mail me
-Elizabeth