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Josh Beckett on 2011 collapse: ‘The biggest mistake I made was not pitching well’ 02.19.12 at 2:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — Starter Josh Beckett made his first extended public remarks about the Red Sox‘ collapse in September 2011 that left the team one game short of the Rays for the wild card as well as his own role in it. Beckett also addressed questions about the improprieties in the Red Sox clubhouse (which included revelations of beer-drinking and fried chicken-eating by starting pitchers) and the matter of his conditioning.

A transcript of Beckett’s remarks is below:

How much did you think about what happened in September?

I kind of had a break from it. My family had some things going on that kind of gave me a break from it. Nobody was more disappointed than the players were. I didn’€™t pitch well. That was the bottom line. My last two starts against Baltimore, they weren’€™t good.

How big a factor was what happened off the field in the clubhouse?

I’€™m not saying we didn’€™t make mistakes because we did make mistakes in the clubhouse. But the biggest mistake we made was — the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore. I was prepared to pitch every time I went out there. I just didn’€™t execute pitches when I needed to.

Are you satisfied with the remarks from Josh Beckett and Jon Lester about what transpired at the end of 2011 on the field and in the clubhouse?

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How do you feel about the idea that you’ve become a lightning rod for fan unhappiness?

I really can’€™t control that. I’€™m sure that manifests itself somehow. I can’€™t control that.

You’ve been referred to as a leader on the pitching staff. Do you feel additional responsibility for what happened in the clubhouse as a result?

For me, I can only speak for myself here. I think that we had — I had lapses in judgment, and I can’€™t speak for everybody else. I want to keep it at that. I can’€™t speak for Jon [Lester] or John [Lackey] or Clay [Buchholz] or [Tim Wakefield] or anybody. It’€™s pretty much, I want this to stay about me. That’€™s how I feel about it. I can’€™t speak for anybody.

Do you regret not taking an active leadership role to stop some of the clubhouse issues?

I had things going on. I got distracted. That was the biggest thing that for me, going forward, I would definitely change, is not to be distracted. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andrew Bailey ready to start building his own Red Sox legacy 02.18.12 at 2:30 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — The sense of symmetry was unavoidable. A bit more than a two-hour drive to the north, Jonathan Papelbon was being introduced for his first spring training in a Phillies uniform, speaking of the legacy he’d left in Boston. In Fort Myers, Andrew Bailey spoke enthusiastically about the impending start of his own tenure with the Red Sox.

Bailey does not shy from the fact that he is Papelbon’s successor. But, after three years (and two All-Star seasons) as the closer of the A’s, he does not feel a compulsion to be the same compellingly wild stew of a closer as his predecessor.

‘€œPap’€™s obviously himself. I’ve met him a couple times, and he’€™s a good dude. He’€™s moved on,” said Bailey. “We’€™re two totally different pitchers. My goal is to have you guys ask the guy who follows me those questions. How are you going to replace Bailey? If I stick with that, I’€™m sure I’€™ll be all right.”

Informed that Papelbon had spoken highly of him earlier in the day in Phillies camp, Bailey expressed gratitude.

‘€œHe’€™s one of the best in the game, so it’€™s an honor coming from him, something like that. He’€™s done it here for a while, he knows what it takes,” said Bailey. “If he believes and I know I can do it, I’€™m looking to have those [Fenway fans] on my side running out of the bullpen instead of rooting against me. Coming out of the bullpen is always an adrenaline rush. I’€™m looking forward to doing it in that uniform.”

One of the things that made Papelbon so compelling as a closer was that it seemed the perfect manifestation of his adrenaline-craving personality — a hold-nothing-back role that came without a safety net. While Bailey’s off-field personality doesn’t have the same evident (and constant) edge as Papelbon’s, on the field, the 27-year-old insists, he is a “closer at heart” whose East Coast upbringing (Bailey hails from New Jersey and resides in the offseason in Connecticut) has him eager for the gladiatorial role of pitching the ninth inning in the AL East.

“I have that mentality of being aggressive,” said Bailey. “I live and die by strike one is the best pitch in baseball. I try to go out there, throw the ball as hard as I can. There’€™s nothing fancy about what I do. That’€™s my mentality. I think that fits the closer’€™s role pretty good.” Read the rest of this entry »

As Tim Wakefield retires, Red Sox now await the decision of Jason Varitek 02.17.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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FORT MYERS – Jason Varitek was not at JetBlue Park on Friday as Tim Wakefield announced his retirement. But the future of the longtime Red Sox captain remained very much a part of the proceedings.

Just as they did for Wakefield, the Sox have offered Varitek a minor league contract with an invitation to come to big league camp and compete for a roster spot. Just as was the case for Wakefield, the Sox are allowing a longtime franchise cornerstone the space to make his own decision about his future.

“We told him that there was an opportunity to come to camp, and gave him, as we did to Tim, gave him as much of the landscape as we could in terms of what that would mean. … We felt like they had earned that, to be given some sort of stake in the decision and we’€™ve tried to give them as much information as we can,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “[It is] a unique situation, to put that in a player’€™s court and not normally what we do. In these two particular cases, we felt that there was merit to doing it that way because of what the players meant to the team.”

Cherington said that at this point, with pitchers and catchers due to report on Sunday, he is not expecting any additions to the roster. However, the decision will ultimately be Varitek’s as to what to do with his career. Wakefield said that he has talked with his teammate of 15 seasons this offseason, but that it is impossible for him to use his own situation to make any assessments about what is right for Varitek. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Derek Jeter, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada
The first look inside and around jetBlue Park – the new spring training home of the Red Sox 02.17.12 at 4:46 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox offered a first glimpse of their new spring training home at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Friday afternoon.

The complex, with the 11,000-seat park sitting as the crown jewel, will open for games on March 3 when the team hosts Northeastern and Boston College in a day-night doubleheader. A few notable elements of the new facility:

— The ballpark will offer some elements familiar at Fenway Park, including a left-field wall with similar dimensions to the Green Monster in the team’s home ballpark in Boston, a triangle in right-center field and a right field fence that angles back steeply from the foul pole. The scoreboard on the left field wall is a restored version of the actual manual scoreboard that was used at Fenway Park from 1976 until the middle of last decade.

“When you walk up the [promontory] behind home plate, you really do feel like you’€™re at Fenway because of the dimensions,” noted Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy. “If you stand on the Monster and look out, you know you’€™re in southwest Florida, but that struck me the first time I came down, when they’€™d really made progress, was to see those Fenway dimensions. People from New England coming down here are going to be struck by how much it feels like Fenway on the inside.’€

— The left field fence has an interesting wrinkle. A few feet above the scoreboard, there is a net in front of 258 seats that are “inside” the wall. Balls hit off the net remain in play. In order to be a home run, the ball must be hit a few more feet above the net. There is a “Monster Deck” atop the left field wall, from which spectators can see both the ballpark and the six practice fields behind it.

— Field 1 identically replicates the dimensions of the playing field at Fenway, including the curvature and heights of the various walls.

— A familiar ensemble of retired numbers is on display in right field: No. 9 (Ted Williams), No. 4 (Joe Cronin), No. 1 (Bobby Doerr), No. 8 (Carl Yastrzemski), No. 27 (Carlton Fisk), No. 6 (Johnny Pesky), No. 14 (Jim Rice) and No. 42 (Jackie Robinson) are all on display in right field.

— The canopy over the main seating bowl is meant to evoke the shade of the surrounding cypress trees.

Tim Wakefield to announce retirement 02.17.12 at 11:39 am ET
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FORT MYERS — Tim Wakefield, the longest tenured pitcher in Red Sox history, will not return to the team in 2012, the Red Sox announced Friday. Instead, he will retire. The knuckleballer, who had been offered a minor league contract with an opportunity to compete for a job through an invitation to big league spring training, will have a press conference to announce his decision at 5 p.m.

Wakefield, 45, signed with the Sox in spring training in 1995 after being released by the Pirates that spring. He worked with knuckleballers Phil Niekro and Joe Niekro — then in the Sox’ spring training home of Fort Myers as coaches for the Colorado Silver Bullets, a women’s baseball team — to resurrect his career. Wakefield ended up joining the Sox rotation in April of that year, and commenced a spectacular run that saw him go 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA.

That initial success turned out to be merely the first chapter in a pairing of pitcher and team that lasted 17 seasons, most of them campaigns in which Wakefield was an above-average pitcher who offered stability to the Sox rotation (as well as the bullpen for a period of time in the late-1990s and early-2000s).

Wakefield made no secret of his enthusiasm about being part of the Red Sox, to the point where he signed an unprecedented contract extension in 2005 that would pay him $4 million in 2006 and give the Sox a perpetually renewing option at that same price. The Sox exercised it three times before renegotiating a two-year, $5 million deal with Wakefield for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Though Wakefield enjoyed a career highlight in 2009 when he was named an All-Star — at 42, he became the oldest first-time All-Star in big league history — back problems rendered him unable to pitch for much of the second half. When he returned to the Sox in 2010, it was in a far less certain role, and Wakefield spent the last two years as a sort of sixth starter who provided the team insurance (needed in both seasons, as it turned out) for injuries to its five primary starters.

In the last two years, Wakefield made 65 appearances and 42 starts, going 11-18 with a 5.22 ERA. He did reach a career milestone in 2011 with his 200th major league victory, though that win proved to be the knuckleballer’s only one in the season’s final two months. Wakefield also had to endure a stretch of eight winless starts between his 199th and 200th victory.

Still, when the milestone arrived at Fenway Park on Sept. 13, a night in which Wakefield gave up five runs in six innings, it provided for an emotional scene as the knuckleballer received a sustained ovation from his home crowd as well as a champagne dousing from his teammates.

Wakefield concludes his Red Sox career with a 186-168 record, six wins shy of the franchise record for victories that is held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. He had been spoken on multiple occasions this offseason of his hope that the Red Sox would bring him back for one more opportunity to set the franchise record for victories — and to contribute to a team with postseason ambitions — but ultimately, with no offer of a guaranteed role, he opted to end a run with the Red Sox that was nothing short of remarkable, particularly given its obscure and uncertain origins.

Wakefield finishes his Red Sox career ranked first in innings (3,006), third in wins (186), first in losses (168) second in games pitched (590), second in strikeouts (2,046) and first in starts (430). Yet his Red Sox legacy was not merely in his statistics and on-field contributions, as Wakefield was recognized for his exceptional public service and charitable activities in 2010, when he was named the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award.

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Ross Ohlendorf looks forward to renewed opportunity in Boston 02.16.12 at 2:51 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — The 2011 season was one to forget for Ross Ohlendorf. After recording a 3.98 ERA in 50 starts for the Pirates in 2009-10, he missed the final six weeks of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, worked his way back to the mound for the start of last year and made just two starts (giving up seven runs in 8 2/3 innings) before landing back on the DL with a shoulder injury.

He did not pitch again in the majors until August, when he made seven starts in which he went 1-3 with an 8.40 ERA. That, in turn, led the Pirates to decline to tender him a contract after the season, thus making the right-hander from Princeton a free agent.

“I was hurt almost the whole season. I was on the DL for so long,” Ohlendorf said on Thursday morning, hours after signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox. “Then, when I came back, my arm felt fine but I just didn’€™t get off to a good start. I felt like I had one good game. I definitely plan on pitching better this year.”

Despite the poor numbers, the Sox saw promise when they scouted Ohlendorf late last year. His fastball was up to 95 mph with life and he showed what the team evaluated as an average to plus curveball and changeup. The team met with him and saw him throw during the offseason in his home of Austin, Texas, and became convinced not only of his intelligence and enthusiasm for the game but also saw a pitcher who could be intriguing as either a starter or reliever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Larry Lucchino on Red Sox payroll, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and more 02.10.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino rebutted claims that his team is scaling back its spending this offseason, saying in multiple settings that his team plays on blowing past the $178 million luxury tax payroll and suggesting that the Sox will exceed the $189 million franchise payroll record, which was set last season.

In an appearance on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio’s “Inside Pitch,” Lucchino painted a picture of a far-reaching commitment by team owners to the payroll, both over the duration of the group’s tenure (which began in 2002) and in 2012.

“Look at what we’ve done and not what we say. Since we have been here — we are now beginning our 11th year — our payroll has consistently been at the top end of Major League Baseball,” said Lucchino. “It has not been No. 1. That position has been reserved, probably permanently, for the New York Yankees, but it has been second most every year, and we have invested lots of money in amateur draft picks. We sign our draft picks at a much higher percentage than used to be the case. We’ve invested in international signings — you can look at some of our Cuban players and some of our Japanese players — and so we have invested dollars into this franchise because we recognize that the fundamental question about a franchise and about its ownership is, is there a commitment to winning. I think that our track record demonstrates that there is that commitment.

“Now, this year, if you want to talk specifically about 2012, we will have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox in 2012,” Lucchino continued. “Will we eclipse the luxury tax threshold? To be sure, we will — once again. So I think the talk of us not spending needs to be viewed in the context of real facts and in comparisons to real dollars.”

In earlier comments to MLB.com, Lucchino also disputed the notion that the Red Sox’ spending has been impacted by the Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of the Liverpool Football Club.

“That has not been the case,” Lucchino said of the idea that the Red Sox ownership group was channeling its resources towards soccer players. “There has not been a situation where that was cited for a reason for us not to do something here.”

Asked for how he feels when his team is characterized as being “cheap,” Lucchino suggested amusement.

“It makes me laugh. It just proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You certainly can’t please all of the sportswriters much of the time. But that’s OK,” said Lucchino. “What’s important to us is that our fans realize that we are in this to win it, and we operate accordingly.

“Are there financial constraints from time to time? Of course there are. No one has an unlimited budget to do absolutely everything they want to do. But with some common-sense parameters, as I said, we’re going to have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox this year, and the commitment to winning from the very highest levels — John Henry, Tom Werner — throughout the entire organization, there is a powerful sense of obligation that our job is to commit to win, provide our fans with entertaining, competitive, winning baseball.”

(For a detailed look at the Red Sox payroll, click here.)

Lucchino also touched on a number of additional topics. Among them: Read the rest of this entry »

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