Tagged: Lars Anderson

2010 Projects & Contract Extensions

Well, a week of spring training has gone by without my physical presence at a Grapefruit League game (now spiritually, that’s another story). Luckily, hope is not lost; in fact,hope is never lost in spring training because of Alexander Pope’s immortal words: “hope springs eternal”. Everyone thinks they have a shot of making the playoffs, and everyone does. You never know what could happen throughout the course of the season. The most unlikely of heroes could emerge and carry his team to the playoffs. Spring Training is where it all begins. 

After 12 straight, agonizing weeks of school, I am on spring break. I have baseball to thank for my survival. Its return late February has been therapeutic among the daunting tasks of being a second semester junior. From a research paper to building a bridge to taking the SAT to starting to think about where I want to go to college: I’ve had a lot on my plate. 

Going to a baseball game almost every weekend in March has been a big help. As many of you have probably guessed, spring training is my favorite time of year. I know that statistically, the games are worthless, but they mean the world to me. It may be a different atmosphere than the regular season, but that’s another reason why I love it. It is so much more intimate and laid-back. I can trespass without severe legal consequences, and I can get closer to the players than I ever could during the regular season. Perhaps my favorite part is that I can watch the present players and the players of the future at the same time. I have to say, right now, my heart is with the prospects. I feel like I can relate to them a bit more. They want to make it to the big leagues; I want to make it to the big leagues of sports journalism and broadcasting. 
As some of you know, I make a list of projects every year during Spring Training. These projects are the guys who have impressed me the most throughout Spring Training. I have been doing this since the 2008 season. Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson were my first projects. I have made some minor refinements to the program though. Originally, the projects were limited to the guys whom I thought would make a significant impact on the team during that specific season. Well, as I have become more enthralled with spring training, I have realized that some of these guys might not make a significant impact until the next year or the year after that. Sometimes the Red Sox just don’t have the spots available for these guys yet; sometimes they just need more development in the minors. In other words, I am going to divide up my projects into sections. 
Being my project is a very special honor, and I highly recommend that you choose a project or two yourself. Not to mention the fact that they love the fact that they’re my projects, especially once I tell them how venerable the program is. 
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Projects who will significantly impact the Red Sox in 2010: 
1. Michael Bowden 
2. Dustin Richardson
3. Josh Reddick
4. Aaron Bates
I think Bowden and Richardson could both serve huge roles in the bullpen. As of right now, the Red Sox are set on finding another lefty specialist for their bullpen, but none of the candidates have performed promisingly. Why do we (or anybody for that matter) need a lefty specialist? How about just a specialist: a guy who can simply get outs? What’s the difference if the batter is a lefty or a righty? It doesn’t matter for guys like Jonathan Papelbon or Daniel Bard. Bard doesn’t discriminate! He blows 100 mph by lefties and righties alike! In other words, I don’t think the Red Sox should be wasting their time looking for a lefty specialist. They should be looking for a solid relief pitcher who can simply get batters out. As of right now, I think Scott Atchinson can fill that role the best. Bowden and Richardson still need some seasoning in the minors (especially Richardson since he didn’t get a lot of spring training action because of a fatigued left quad). In the long run, my intuition says Bowden and Richardson. 
Josh Reddick has had a fantastic spring to say the least. I would be crazy if I didn’t make him my project! The Red Sox already have four outfielders in Ellsbury, Cameron, Drew, and Hermida, but injuries are inevitable. Mark my words: the first guy to get a call-up for an outfield spot will be Josh Reddick. 
Aaron Bates worked hard in the winter leagues, and has had a pretty solid spring as well. He even had a few short stints in the bigs last season. The Red Sox have a lot of options when it comes to first base in Youkilis, Victor Martinez, and Lowell. If there is ever an opening for a first baseman, Aaron Bates should get the call. 
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Projects who will be September Call-Ups in 2010
1. Kyle Weiland
2. Ryan Kalish
3. Lars Anderson 
4. Felix Doubront
5. Junichi Tazawa
6. Luis Exposito
7. Jose Iglesias
8. Anthony Rizzo
I think that Weiland will take a path similar to Richardson’s last year: he will come up and impress when rosters are expanded in September, and then will make a significant impact in the 2011 season. Ryan Kalish will take a path similar to Reddick’s. Doubront and Tazawa will take a path similar to Michael Bowden’s. Anderson needs to build up his confidence and have a nice comeback year. Easier said than done, right? I have confidence in him though. 
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Projects to keep your eyes on
1. Casey Kelly
2. Kris Johnson
3. Jeremy Hazelbaker
4. Nate Spears 
The only reason I don’t mention Casey Kelly in the September call-ups portion is that I really think we need to take it slowly with him. Remember this is his first full year as a pitcher. I’m sure he is going to blow everyone away in Portland; I’m just especially hesitant with pitchers because I think the transition from the minors to the majors is the biggest for them, and it’s so tough mentally too. I feel like the organization rushed Buchholz, and he was just not mentally ready yet. I suppose this is why they’re taking it slow with Bowden now. 
Buchholz was brought up as a September call-up in 2007 and threw a no-hitter. Unfortunately, he was in for a bit of a reality check the next year when he struggled the first half of the 2008 season after after making the rotation out of Spring Training. Bowden made his major league debut in August of 2008, but he saw more a
ction last year as a September call-up. He also had a bit of a rude awakening (and I say rude because he was thrown into the bullpen–a totally different mentality–after being raised as a starter). Now, he’s trying to regain his confidence. He will be the first guy to be called up when the Red Sox need an emergency starter or another arm in the bullpen. 
Obviously, Casey Kelly’s confidence is going to be shattered at some point. It happens to everybody. It happened to Bard last year, it’s going to happen to Richardson, Weiland, Johnson, Doubront, and the rest of them. All I’m saying is that the Red Sox need to be cautious with these guys and not rush them along too quickly. 
I’ve seen Kris Johnson both start and relieve a game, so I would like to see what he is going to do in Pawtucket before I move him any further in the project program. 
I have really liked what I’ve seen so far in Nate Spears. I feel like he could be what Nick Green was to the team last year. I understand that the Red Sox picked up Frandsen from the Giants because he’s a utility infielder and Jed Lowrie has mono and Bill Hall hasn’t been all that impressive in the infield. I think Spears is perfectly capable though. 
Hazelbaker is very young, but expect him to be a non-roster invitee next year! 
*The only reason Ryan Westmoreland is not on this list is because I think that it is important for him to simply recover before he even thinks about baseball. Like I’ve said before, he will always have my support; I just want him to get better right now. There is no timetable for his return yet. The most anybody knows is that the surgery was as successful as it could have been… it’s just a long road to recovery. If anybody can do it, he can. 
The Red Sox have had a pretty uneventful spring. No big roster battles like last year at shortstop, or the battle between Jeff Bailey and Chris Carter for the last bench spot. By the way, both Carter and Bailey are having fantastic springs for the Diamondbacks and Mets, respectively. The biggest thing in my opinion is the potential contract extension with Josh Beckett. 
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Long story short: he was offered four years (money figures are unknown as of right now). I don’t know what to think of him being offered only four years. Look at some of the recent contract offers to pitchers: Dice-K, the phenom turned health liability from Japan, was given six years before he had even thrown a pitch in Major League Baseball (granted he was very successful in Japanese pro-ball). Lackey, arguably the best free agent pitcher on the market was given five years. 
Beckett, the 2007 ALCS MVP and should-have-been Cy Young award winner has given a lot to the Red Sox. Inconsistent at times, but a workhorse overall. That being said, only four years?? This is a contract extension, not an entirely new contract (that would result from free agency). Thus, it does not include the 2010 season, so technically the Red Sox would have him for five more years, but ever since Burnett signed with the Yankees for five years, that seems to have become the standard for pitchers. Just look at King Felix and Justin Verlander: both guys signed five year contract extensions if I am not mistaken. Beckett is 30 years old; he’s still a very young guy with a lot to offer. If the Red Sox mess up negotiations with him, we all know that he is going to end up in pinstripes, and that is the last thing we want to see. 
Beckett is a key component to the future. If the Red Sox can pull this off, this is what our rotation could look like in two years or less: 
1. Josh Beckett
2. Jon Lester
3. John Lackey
4. Clay Buchholz
5. Casey Kelly
Intimidating right? Look, all I’m saying is to give Beckett what he deserves, and I think that he deserves five years. It’s kind of a similar situation with choosing the Opening Day (or in this case, night) starter: you give it to the guy who has paid his dues for the team. Josh Becket is starting opening night because he has earned the honor. Similarly, he deserves the standard “five-year contract extension” because he has earned it from paying his dues. He is going to pitch his heart out in this contract year, so I sincerely hope that the Red Sox can secure him before free agency starts. 
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A similar situation applies to Victor Martinez. Joe Mauer signed that 8-year $184 million deal with the Twins earlier this week. Much as I would have loved to have Mauer in a Red Sox uniform, I have to say that I’m really happy that he is staying with the Twins. He is their hometown hero. That’s what baseball should be about: playing where your heart is, not going for the money. 
Martinez will be a free agent after this season, and he is still relatively young as well (31, I believe). I think that a two to four year extension for V-Mart would be very nice. He doesn’t even have to catch all of those years. Martinez could move to first (with Youk moving to third) and Luis Exposito could catch. Martinez is one of the few good hitting catchers out there, so he is definitely a valuable asset to have in the coming years. 
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Much as I love spring training, opening day/night is the holiest holiday in baseball. I obviously cannot go to school on Monday, that would be sacrilege! I’m so excited for the regular season to start; the end of spring training is just bittersweet for me. I should be getting back to you guys sometime on Saturday with my stories from Thursday and Friday. 

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. 
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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! 

The Road Less Traveled By

I always seem to start off an entry by lamenting about the lack thereof. There are a multitude of reasons regarding my sporadic entries, but that would require my making of a list of excuses, and I don’t want to do that. Oscar Wilde, my favorite author, once wrote, “The pleasure that one has in creating a work of art is purely personal pleasure, and it is for the sake of this pleasure that one creates… I write because it gives me the greatest possible artistic pleasure to write. If my work pleases the few, I am gratified. If it does not, it causes me no pain.” I write because I want to, and I am certainly happy some people who read this blog enjoy it. I do not write everyday, but that doesn’t bother me. I try to say what I mean and mean what I say. 

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I guess the main point is that junior year is like a dementor: it sucks the fun out of everything, and is very draining. Plus, I have a pretty hefty research paper that is unfortunately NOT on baseball this year (but if any of you are wilde about Oscar Wilde, I could use your help). 

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Not to mention the ubiquitous topic of college that intrudes itself into seemingly every single one of my conversations. I will cease my discussion of college here, and let baseball encompass this entry because that’s what baseball does; it allows you to forget about your problems for a good three hours. I recently read the book, ‘Shoeless Joe’, upon which every baseball fan’s favorite movie was based, “Field of Dreams”. I’ll really delve into it in another entry, but to keep a long story short, it was able to put my love for baseball into words, a task that I tend to fail at. But one quote is really quite relevant to the situation I’m in right now: “Growing up is a ritual, but baseball can soothe even those pains, for it is stable and permanent…” That being said, it would be really nice if baseball season came back because the offseason is cold and lonely. 

Though baseball may not be in its physical form right now, it is still at the forefront of many of our minds on a daily basis. The Red Sox have decided to indulge in a defensive makeover, which I think was a very wise move considering the Sox were second to last in the American League despite their accumulation of 95 wins. 


Makeovers are always entertaining, risky and a little bit awkward at
first. You might be familiar with some of the following scenarios: Glinda giving Elphaba a makeover in Wicked, Kurt Hummel giving Rachel Berry a makeover in Glee, and Mia Thermopolis’ makeover in The Princess Diaries. The thing about Elpheba’s makeover was that she didn’t exactly need it, nor did she want it. Similarly, Rachel Berry’s makeover was unnecessary because the boy whom she was trying to impress, Finn Hudson, liked her for who she was. Neither of these scenarios apply to the Red Sox though. 
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In Mia Thermopolis’ case, her makeover was necessary because she was not living up to her full potential yet. Sometimes, a new look can really kick things into gear, and I think this is the case for the Red Sox. And the offseason is the perfect time to find the best way to make a team fulfill it’s ultimate potential. 

They say that the pen is mightier in the sword, and in baseball terms, perhaps the glove is mightier than the bat. Good offense is one thing, but a lack of solid defense could stifle the efforts of that good offense. So even if the offense is depleted a little bit, a better defense will certainly compensate for it. 

Re-signing Jason Bay was at the top of Mr. Epstein’s priorities at the start of this offseason. This was a noble goal considering Jason Bay provided a good majority of the offense throughout the season. I thought that the Red Sox offered him a very fair price: $60 million for four years. That’s $15 million a year! To be honest, he is not worth more than that. Even his bat became anemic throughout the course of the season. 

I understand that he wanted to explore the market, but really, who does he think he is? I cannot deny that the loss of his bat is of some significance, but I don’t think that the Red Sox are going to be struggling offensively. People misconstrued Theo’s comment that this year would be a “bridge year”. The fact of the matter is, we are waiting on the next batch of minor leaguers, whom I refer to as babies. I call some of these signing temporary fill-ins. Think about it, if we had signed Jason Bay to a four year deal, we would be blocking the talent of guys like Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, and Ryan Westmoreland. 

Don’t forget about the infield either. The Red Sox have Lars Anderson in the minors, and he will be flourishing at first base in a couple of years. So in order to allow these guys to come up at the proper time, the Red Sox signed Mike Cameron to a two year deal, and Adrian Beltre to a one year deal. 
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I haven’t talked about Adrian Beltre much. Many of you know my undying affection for Mike Lowell. Part of me still thinks that the Red Sox should just let him ride out his contract because he is one year removed from that surgery. That being said, his defensive range should be improved, and there is nothing wrong with his offense. Nonetheless, he is still a bit of a liability as far as injuries go, and Adrian Beltre is a healthier option. 

That signing basically ensures that Mike Lowell will be traded. Don’t get me wrong, I love having Lowell on the Sox, it’s just economically unfeasible to have him on the bench. Plus, it would be much better for him to play on another team where he will have the chance to play every single day. The truth of the matter is, he just doesn’t fit into the Red Sox’s plans right now. 

The main question is, will the Red Sox be able to perform offensively? I think the answer is yes. All of the players who we have acquired throughout this offseason will compensate for the loss of Jason Bay’s bat. There is Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron, and now Adrian Beltre. Not to mention the fact that we’ll have Victor Martinez around for the whole season. They will be able to pick up the slack. As I was watching MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” segment, broadcaster Mitch Williams said, “good pitching will always beat good hitting”. 

What does that have to do with defense though? Well, a pitcher can’t do anything without solid defense. When I was talking to Michael Bowden, he told me that defense makes all the difference in the world. 

So the Red Sox seem to be taking a bit of a different route than other teams. We didn’t sign a power bat like the Yankees did last offseason; we are certainly not an offensive powerhouse. But fear not my dear friends, because it looks like the Red Sox are taking Robert Frost’s advice: they’re taking the road less traveled by, and it will make all the difference. 

The Sizzling Stove

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When
the last pitch is thrown, and the last out is secured, most people believe that
baseball season is over. They sit in the darkness of their living rooms and
watch the rapturous celebration on the field, even if it isn’t their own team because they are savoring the last moments of the season. Normally I enjoy watching
teams getting their turn to celebrate, but this was obviously not the case this
year. I refused to watch the Yankees take their 27th championship. I
knew it was over as soon as Mariano Rivera was brought in. He is, without a doubt,
the greatest closer of all time, and I have no problem admitting that even as a
Red Sox fan. I try my best to be an objective and respectful baseball fan, but
I just couldn’t bear watching the Yankees celebrate because I just don’t do
self-torture.

Anyway,
I feel like most baseball fans turn off the television, sit there for a second,
and think to themselves: ‘Now what?’ We sink into the baseball fan’s proverbial lent. It may be a bit different than the traditional lent since we don’t willingly give up baseball, but it’s a sacrifice nonetheless. They might pick up another hobby, and let
baseball slowly slip into the back of their minds; we need something to distract something from the offseason blues. If not, we make sink into depression considering the lack of baseball becomes as dormant as the
winter, yet the interest always blooms just when the flowers start to, and
baseball season returns.

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That’s
not me. As soon as the postseason ended, another season began: the Hot Stove
season. Winter may be imminent, but baseball is certainly still the predominant
presence in my life. My hobbies? This blog, and incessantly refreshing every
Hot Stove source I can find. The leaves don’t fall off of my tree of baseball,
it is kept warm by my Hot Stove: the rumors that swirl around teams and
players, the drama that Scott Boras causes… I’m almost as anxious as I am
during the regular season.

There
certainly are some premier free agents out there this Hot Stove season (what is
this ‘offseason’ people keep speaking of?), but what keeps me up late at night
isn’t only my English homework, it’s how the Red Sox fit into this complicated
puzzle. There is a multitude of things that the Red Sox could do to improve
upon, even though they had a commendable 2009 season. I am briefly going to speculate
on each aspect of the team (starting pitching, relief, offense, defense) and
speculate on what we can improve upon, if any, and what to look for in the
future.

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Starting Pitching: At
the beginning of the 2009 season, the starting pitching rotation was considered
one of the Red Sox’s strongest assets, if not the strongest one. However,
Dice-K’s lack of proper preparation, the failure of Penny and Smoltz to pitch
effectively in the American League, Wakefield’s back woes, and Beckett’s
relative inconsistency combined to make a strong starting rotation on paper struggle throughout the course of the season. So what is there to improve
upon? We don’t need to be concerned about Jon Lester considering he was
phenomenal from May-September and we inked him to a six-year deal last season.
Josh Beckett, on the other hand, is not as secure: he is going into the final
year of his contract with the Red Sox. Beckett has had a nice tenure with the
Red Sox thus far, despite an ERA being near 4.00. His consistency seems to
fluctuate each year, but the fact remains: he is a very dominant pitcher. I
have heard rumors that the Red Sox are seeking a contract extension with him,
and I think that would be a wise move.

I
know that Dice-K had a sub-par, at best, 2009 season, but I think the Red Sox
Organization was very wise in the way they handled it. They paid big bucks for
this Japanese phenom, and I think their systematic approach this year was very
profitable. His 2009 season was short, not very cost-effective, but just
imagine how good he could be for the next two years. If his last few starts
were indicative in any way of how he may perform, then I think that there is a
lot to look forward to.

 Tim
Wakefield’s 2009 season was cut short due to persistent back woes. Nevertheless, the
first half of his season was so good that he was elected to his first All-Star
game. His surgery was quite successful, so I think that the Red Sox were very
wise to sign him to a two-year deal. Wakefield is a very durable guy, and his
knuckleball can be devastating (against every team except the Yankees, it
seems). Last but certainly not least, we have the absolutely fabulous, and much
improved, Clay Buchholz. Again, the Red Sox’s systematic approach with him was
seemingly flawless, and he had a much smoother transition into the Majors this
year. I am very proud to have called him my project, and he will be receiving
an award when they graduate (yes, I am implementing a graduating ceremony).

 That
right there is a pretty strong starting five without even changing anything.
2009 was a tough season for some of those guys, but I have faith that they can
bounce back. There is a lot that we can do externally. John Lackey is up for
grabs, perhaps we can pry King Felix from Seattle’s hands (a girl can dream,
right?), and Roy Halladay is in trade talks, as usual. The thing with trades is
that normally they include prospects, and I am very possessive of the
prospects. I think that if the Red Sox could sign John Lackey for a reasonable
price, that they should do it. I know, “DUH!” Every team would love John Lackey
because he would solidify any starting rotation. I am just concerned that if we were to sign Lackey, we may not be able to keep Beckett. 

There
have also been some serious rumors regarding Roy Halladay. If I had to choose
between Halladay and Felix Hernandez, I’d probably go with the latter because
he is a bit younger, but I wouldn’t complain about having Halladay! He’d
probably be even better to have than Lackey. Unfortunately, Halladay will not
come cheap. I’ve heard rumors regarding Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly being
dangled. Much as I love these two guys, I do think this would be a mutually
beneficial trade. I may have dreams about what Clay can do in the future, but
having “Doc” in our rotation would be perfectly fine by me. The thing that
concerns me more is the status of Casey Kelly. Obviously, he is a huge key to
our future considering the fact that he could be a big shortstop or pitcher.
This would be the blockbuster trade of the offseason if this were to happen,
and as hard as it is to part with our hopes and dreams for the future, I think
Roy Halladay is a worthy investment.

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Relief:

I think that Boston’s bullpen was probably their strongest
asset during the 2009 season, for the most part. However, at times it was
simply atrocious; specifically, Manny Delcarmen’s meltdown during the second
half of the season. It was great to see projects like Daniel Bard come through,
I was so proud of him in so many ways. I knew he was something special the
moment I saw him in Spring Training. I was also very impressed with Ramon
Ramirez for the entire season, and overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with
Takashi Saito (despite his low ERA). And even though our last memory of
Jonathan Papelbon is of him destroying our lead, he still had a fabulous season
overall. Plus, every closer was terrible during the postseason (except for
Mariano Rivera). Picking up Billy Wagner ended up being an excellent move, and
it seems as though he would be willing to accept a lesser role as a set-up man
through arbitration. I would be glad to have him back. Like Wagner, Jose
Valverde is a Type-A free agent who posted the best ERA of his career with the
Astros this past season. He would certainly be worth looking at, but he is not
a necessary asset considering we have a lot of talent in the minors.

 I hope you guys
remember our September call-ups too. I really liked the way Fernando Cabrera
and Dustin Richardson looked. Cabrera is a free agent right now, and I think it
would be wise if the Red Sox signed him. Michael Bowden also did some relief
pitching, but I think he is more effective as a starter (he prefers it too). If
the Red Sox cannot work anything out with Halladay, Lackey or Hernandez, than
Bowden can certainly compete for a spot this upcoming spring. If you want my
advice (being the amateur scout that I am), I suggest keeping an eye out for
Cabrera, Richardson, and Bowden.

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Around the Diamond:

I was a bit surprised this 2009 season at how the offense
would go into collective slumps at really inconvenient times. Take the end of
July for example, before the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez (whose
option the Red Sox picked up, if you didn’t know), the Red Sox offense was
pretty much dead. The Red Sox may have the best right side of the diamond in
baseball with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia: two gold glovers and silver
sluggers, MVP caliber men, the Red Sox could not possibly ask for more (I will
talk about Adrian Gonzalez when I get to third base).

The left side of the diamond? Not so much. As usual, perhaps
the biggest question the Red Sox face this offseason is the shortstop position.
Nick Green, my project, was a pleasant surprise. He is a great hitter and a
solid defender for the most part. I sincerely hope that the Red Sox re-sign him
in the offseason. Jed Lowrie, my first project ever, was plagued with injuries
again, but hopefully he can exercise his full potential in 2010. However,
because he is so unreliable at this point, the Red Sox need a shortstop that
they can count on. Alex Gonzalez is no longer an option because he signed with
the Toronto Blue Jays last night. Gonzalez is a great guy, probably one of the
best defensive shortstops in the game, but his offense is sub-par at best.
There are two other shortstops I’m interested in, and one that I will love
forever. I think that the Red Sox should look into acquiring either Marco
Scutaro or Orlando Cabrera (the one that I still love is Nomar Garciaparra, but
I do not see him coming back). I have been saying to acquire Marco Scutaro
since the middle of this season. I think that he would be great insurance, and
I certainly wouldn’t mind swapping shortstops with the Blue Jays.

I am a huge Mike Lowell fan. I have grown up loving him and
I think that he is the prototypical baseball guy. I thought that he was pretty
solid offensively, but defensively, his range was deterred a bit due to his
surgery. I would be completely fine with keeping Mike Lowell, but this is an
area that we can improve in. The name Adrian Gonzalez has been tossed around,
the gold glover first baseman of the Padres. First of all, I don’t think that
the new Padres GM (and former Red Sox assistant GM), Jed Hoyer, would be too
keen on giving a guy like him up. Secondly, this situation is quite similar to
the Mark Teixeira one last year. If Adrian Gonzalez was acquired, Kevin Youkilis
would move across the diamond, which would certainly make Mike Lowell
attractive trade bait, but could he also serve as a DH? I will address that
point in a bit. There have also been rumors regarding Mariners third baseman,
Adrian Beltre, who is coming off of a down season. I would prefer the Adrian
Gonzalez scenario, but Adrian Beltre would not be a bad acquisition.

I’ll expand on what I said before about the designated
hitter situation. Much as I love David Ortiz for what he did for us in 2004,
and all of the walk-off home runs that he has hit, his last two seasons have
been pretty bad. He improved after a poor start in 2008, but his 2009 numbers
were even worse. I know he was near 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but I do weight a
lot in batting average, and he didn’t even bat .240. Believe me, I love David
Ortiz, but from an objective standpoint, I think the Red Sox should look at
other options (within the organization that is). If the Adrian Gonzalez
situation were to happen, Mike Lowell would obviously be the odd-man out, but I
wouldn’t have him sitting on the bench. His defense may not be as good, but his
offensive numbers are actually great! I don’t think anyone can complain about a
.290 batting average. If I am not mistaken, David Ortiz is going into the last
year of his contract, and I don’t think that we can move him around. I guess we
just have to hope that he comes around (for the second year in a row). If the
Red Sox do end up acquiring someone like Adrian Gonzalez or Adrian Beltre, I
don’t think that it would be a feasible option to keep Mike Lowell on the
bench. I have heard a rumor that the Red Sox have been dangling Lowell for
Oakland’s Justin Duscherer, but I don’t feel comfortable giving up an asset as
valuable as Lowell before the Red Sox have a reliable replacement (and by
replacement, I mean improvement).

As for the up-and-coming, continue to keep your eye out for
power-hitter and first baseman Lars Anderson (didn’t have the best 2009, but I
have faith for his 2010). Also, look out for Jose Iglesias and Casey Kelly,
more hope for our shortstop position. The Red Sox have also secured their
backstops for next season when they picked up Victor Martinez’s option for
2010, and Jason Varitek picked up his player option. Picking up Martinez’s
option was an obvious move, but I am glad to see that Varitek is coming back.
He will be great to have during Spring Training, and he is invaluable towards
our pitching staff.

Outfield

Save the most important for last, right? Jacoby Ellsbury’s
spot in center field is perfectly secure for next season, but I would love to
secure him for even longer. In my opinion, I think that he is the best center
fielder in the league. His numbers in 2009 were fabulous, and his fielding was
nearly impeccable. I know a lot of people tend to hate on JD Drew, but I really
enjoy having him on the team. Sure he slumps sometimes, but he is a fabulous
right fielder, and he can be great at the plate. Plus, as soon as his contract
is up, we have some fine up-and-comers, but I’ll get to that later.

The most important void that the Red Sox need to fill this
offseason is left field, and our left fielder is one of the most coveted men on
the market along with Matt Holliday. Obviously, either one of them would be a
great pickup, but I, like many Red Sox fans as well as the organization, would
prefer Bay. Even though Matt Holliday has a higher batting average, I really
like what Bay has brought to the organization. He is such a nice guy, great
with autographs, and he has really thrived in Boston. I don’t blame him for
wanting to explore other options; it would not be fair to him if the Red Sox
tried to prevent him from doing that. In the same sense, I think the Red Sox
should explore their options as well (and by options, I mean Matt Holliday).

There are three big prospects that you should keep your eyes
on: Ryan Westmoreland, Ryan Kalish, and Josh Reddick. I was really proud of
Reddick for his time up in Boston, and I know that there will be more
opportunities for him to do so. There are a lot of complicated situations
created for the Red Sox this offseason, but I am quite confident that the front
office will do everything in its power to create the best Red Sox team
possible.

Before I go, I would like to offer my sincerest
congratulations to Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Joe Mauer, and Albert Pujols.
Relatively obvious choices for the recipients, but they all had spectacular
seasons. It is quite admirable to me that Greinke overcame a depression
disorder, and I hope that other players can overcome this disorder as well
(Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, etc.). I hope to hold a sort of graduation
ceremony over here for the projects that have completed their program. 

Baseball is Spoken Here

Spring Training.JPG

Saturday was all about baseball for me, but in two very different atmospheres. The first, was at Spring Training, a very intimate environment. It doesn’t really matter, but the minor leaguers are trying to impress, and the major leaguers are working on their stuff. In fact, the only regular starter from the Red Sox that played was Jed Lowrie. Then at night, there was the World Baseball Classic, and that was an experience different from anything I’ve ever felt before. 

In the morning, I was forced to be a “filler” at a debate tournament– a complete waste of my time! I was able to get out by 11 though, so I was off to Fort Lauderdale stadium. I arrived there around 12:30 so I had a half an hour to get autographs. 
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The first came from Josh Reddick, and I’m pretty sure I was the only one there who knew his name. ‘JOSH!’ I yelled. I’ve been pretty impressed with him throughout Spring Training. The last time I was at a Spring Training game, I noted that Reddick needed more confidence. I think that has come. 
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Then it was Lars Anderson. I had his autograph from before, but how could I just let an opportunity pass? So I took off my hat, and when he pointed to me, I threw it at him. Lars and I definitely have a connection seeing that I have his autograph twice. 
The last autograph of that day came from Rocco Baldelli. Rays Renegade was right, Rocco does sign for the ladies :). One of my foul balls is all filled up– by minor league or bench players! It’s going to be pretty cool when I see them in the Majors so I can say: ‘Hey, I got his autograph before anyone knew who he was!’. That has already happened with Jed Lowrie. 
So what are my impressions for this Spring Training game? 
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Josh Reddick had a beautiful lead off double, and he had a great attempt at a bunt. It literally rolled perfectly down the third base line before rolling foul after he had reached first base. When a home run was given up by Adam Mills, (I’ll get to him later) Reddick wasn’t able to get it, but he climbed the wall pretty high!
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Jed Lowrie looked pretty good as he had a double and looked pretty solid defensively. Rocco Baldelli was the designated hitter and he has a pretty big swing, which later produced a nice double down the third base line and a hit through the gap to tie the game at one point. 
Chris Carter didn’t have his best day ever, but that was simply because he was swinging a bit too early at bad pitches. Josh Bard continues to make a good run for the backup catcher as he got a couple of nice hits and did well behind the plate. 
Jeff Bailey hit a triple, and had some great hustle to get there, and Nick Green looked pretty nice defensively. Mark Wagner, also competing for the backup catcher job had a great throw to get the runner out at second. 
Pitching
Besides giving up a two run homer, Adam Mills looked pretty good, I would love to see more of him. Devern Hansack followed him and gave up two home runs in his outing, and needs to work on his pickoff attempts, or just avoid them. 
Marcus McBeth had what was probably his best outing of the Spring. He didn’t even give up any home runs! He throws pretty hard, has nice placement, and struck out two. He was followed by Hunter Jones who gave up a home run, but also has nice placement and form. 
Watching Wes Littleton warm up is very entertaining. He throws from the side but has beautiful command, and spots the ball well. Despite this, he is unable to execute on the mound. 
The Sox tied up the game in the top of the ninth, but Dustin Richardson gave up a walk-off home run to end the game. I loved seeing the minor leaguers play, it was like a ‘Projects Game’. 
World Baseball Classic 
There was a beautiful juxtaposition between Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic. I had assumed that there would be one, but to actually be there was absolutely incredible. It evoked a sense of patriotism that I had never felt before. 
There were definitely more Puerto Rican fans than there were American, which was so cool because it made me realize that this is all about national pride! Before the game, as we stood to listen to each country’s respective national anthem, it made me feel really proud to be an American, it gave it a new meaning. It was the same version that Ken Burns opened his ‘Baseball’ series with. 
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The stadium erupted when the rosters were announced, especially for Puerto Rico– it was absolutely deafening. Then, as five people walked out carrying five different flags, it made me realize that I really had never been a part of something like this. 
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It was truly a playoff atmosphere, it felt I was out of the Olympics. And you know how cool it is to see all those flashes going off throughout the stands? Well, it was pretty cool to be one of those flashes. 
The game itself though, w
as a bit disappointing to say the least. After all, the United States did get mercy ruled. If you were watching the game (or even listening to it), you knew that Jake Peavy didn’t have his stuff. I have to say though, if it’s really different from me going from Spring Training to the WBC, I can’t imagine how it is for him. 
Velazquez looked great though, and so did Ivan Rodriguez. He is probably the most impressive player of the Classic thus far. The fact that he does not have a job yet is still “flabbergasting” to me (I felt I just had to use that word). 
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The coolest part though for me, was realizing how baseball is a universal language. Baseball is spoken here. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from– we all know that after four balls you get walked, and after three strikes, you’re out. Everyone knows what a home run is, and everybody cheers at the same time. It is incredible what baseball does–it brings us together.
Photo Credit: me
-Elizabeth