The Red Sox have boosted their list of non-roster spring training invitees to 14 players after announcing eight more to the group Wednesday.

Those most recently announced as invitees to major league camp are infielders Josh Rutledge and Sam Travis, outfielders Brennan Boesch and Allen Craig, catcher Sandy Leon and pitchers Roman Mendez, Kyle Martin and Danny Rosenbaum.

Already on the list of non-roster invitees were pitchers William Cuevas, Sean O’Sullivan and Anthony Varvaro, third baseman Chris Dominguez, outfielder Ryan LaMarre, and catcher Ali Solis.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Fort Myers, Fla. Feb. 18, with position players starting Feb. 24.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
The guys speak with former Blue Jays GM and current VP of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers about the American League East and how it changed in his time in Toronto

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Mut, Bradford, and Tomase talk some over/unders for the upcoming Red Sox season, and speak with former Blue Jays GM and current VP of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers
The guys speak with former Blue Jays GM and current VP of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers about the American League East and how it changed in his time in Toronto
Mut, Bradford, and Tomase talk some over/unders for the upcoming Red Sox season, and speak with former Blue Jays GM and current VP of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers

A quick look at Rusney Castillo’s most recent foray into winter baseball might elicit a bit of panic.

Heading into Monday night’s Puerto Rican Winter League playoff game, Castillo was 1-for-16 with six strikeouts since joining Caguas for its postseason run.

But Castillo’s manager this offseason — former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora — is adamant that Red Sox followers shouldn’t worry. As he explained on the Bradfo Show podcast, there is still a belief that Castillo will be the player the Red Sox envisioned when signing him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.

“He’€™s been working. Right now, in the playoffs, pitchers are way ahead,” explained Cora, who also managed Castillo last offseason during the outfielder’s 10-game stint with Caguas. “But you can see the approach is there, it’€™s just a matter of getting more at-bats. But if he doesn’€™t do it here, that doesn’€™t mean he’€™s going to struggle at the big league level. I think he has a plan, he understands what he wants to do. He’€™s going to be OK this season.

“The pressure is on those guys (in the Red Sox lineup, such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, etc.). It can’€™t be on Rusney Castillo. I still think he’€™s going to be a guy who is going to hit for average, he’€™s going to get some home runs, he’€™s going to get some doubles, he’€™s going to steal bases. ‘€¦ .280, 15 home runs, 20 bags. That’€™s the Rusney Castillo I envision.”

Here are some other things we learned from Cora when appearing on the Bradfo Show:

CORA DOESN’T AGREE WITH THE NARRATIVE THAT HAS FOLLOWED CASTILLO

“I was kind of surprised last year when he came down, there were a lot of people up there doubting him as far as his baseball instincts. But being around him day in, day out, it was the other way around. He has a good sense of the game, who he is and what he needs to do. That’€™s a good sign

“He’€™s played for two years and all of a sudden you want him to perform at the highest level in the best league in the world, it’€™s not easy to do. But I do think he’€™s in a good place, and he will be successful, not only offensively but defensively.”

CASTILLO IS STEP AHEAD OF HIS CUBAN TEAMMATES, HECTOR OLIVERA, DIAN TOSCANA

“Comparing those two with Rusney, the kid understands the way we play the game, the American way. If he can just go to Boston again, be himself and stay inside the ball, drive the ball to right-center and hit the breaking ball off the wall.”

BRYCE BRENTZ REMINDS CORA OF DUSTIN PEDROIA

“It takes certain guys to handle that environment, and just watching him go about his business, day in and day out, talking to him about baseball, he fits the mold. Coming down here I thought he would be a free-swinger who strikes out a lot and doesn’€™t hit the ball the other way, but it’€™s the other way around.

“Talking to Dustin all these years, he has the Dustin Pedroia syndrome. He feels he can be that good. The difference between those two is Pedey is 5-foot-6 and Bryce is a big guy. I like him. Defensively, he has a strong arm, can play right field. He has a good sense what he can and can’€™t do defensively. But he puts himself in a spot where he can make plans. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be in spring training, halfway through the season, or in September, but he will make a difference. I feel that way about him. The way he goes about things is the most important thing, I really like him.”

CORA BELIEVES CAGUAS RELIEVER PAT LIGHT WILL HELP RED SOX SEASON THIS SEASON

“Loved him. I think he has a pretty good idea of who he is, and what he can do. He has a big arm, 96-97. His split/slider combo, it’€™s OK. It got better. ‘€¦ He would come in the middle of the game and shut people down, we did that and he was very successful. Hopefully for the Red Sox he can be a big contributor in August, at the end of the season because he can help.

“I know spring training for him is very important, but regardless of the results if they’€™re great or bad, it really doesn’€™t matter. I think this kid is going to contribute with this team in this season and be big part of if they make it to the playoffs.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Daniel Bard is hoping he can put his troubles behind him with the Pirates. (Rich Pilling/Getty Images)

Daniel Bard is hoping he can put his troubles behind him with the Pirates. (Rich Pilling/Getty Images)

Daniel Bard is still hopeful, and that’s why he has found himself currently wearing the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The former Red Sox is working out with his new organization this week — having signed a minor-league deal with Pittsburgh — participating in the Pirates’ offseason mini-camp.

Bard hasn’t pitched in a professionally since giving up 13 runs on nine walks while retiring only two outs in four outings for the Rangers’ Single-A team in Hickory. He most recently spent time in the Cubs’ organization, never have officially pitched in a game.

The last time the 30-year-old pitched in a major league contest was with the 2013 Red Sox, making two relief appearances before ultimately being designated for assignment by the club.

Since leaving the majors, Bard’s totals in the minors (and winter ball) have been pitching in 16 1/3 innings, giving up 34 runs and 45 walks.

“I think it’s just a matter of time. I haven’t been ready to give it up,” Bard told MLB.com. “I’ve felt myself continue to get better. Not always as fast as I’d like, but I’ve seen progress the last year. Just glad to have an opportunity here.”

A big reason Bard ultimately chose to sign with the Pirates was their history of helping revitalize pitchers’ careers. In large part due to the work of pitching coach Ray Searage, Pittsburgh continues to get the most out under-performing hurlers, with flame-throwing reliever Arquimedes Caminero serving as one of the most recent examples.

For those who might have forgotten how dominant a reliever Bard was before making the failed transition to starter in 2012, from 2009-11 he totaled a .190 batting average against and 2.88 ERA while striking out 213 batters in 197 innings.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Red Sox on Monday announced the 2016 inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame, and you’ve definitely heard of three of them.

The Red Sox on Monday announced the 2016 inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame, and you’ve definitely heard of three of them.

Stalwarts Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, who each won two titles in the 2000s, and former CEO Larry Lucchino, the hard-charging executive who remade Fenway Park, will join someone named Ira Flagstead, a forgotten outfielder from the 1920s, in induction ceremonies to be held on May 19.

Varitek, a three-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger during his 15 years in Boston. He caught a club-record 1,488 games and served as captain for his final seven seasons (2005-11). He retired with a .256 average and 193 home runs. He is now a special assistant to the general manager.

Wakefield spent 17 seasons with the Red Sox and is the franchise’s all-time leader in starts (430) and innings pitched (3,006). He’s second in strikeouts (2,046) and third in wins (186).  He also made the playoffs more times (8) than anyone in club history, all on the strength of a knuckleball. He made one All-Star team, in 2007, and recorded the 200th victory of his career in September of 2011. He became honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation and a special assignment instructor in 2013.

Lucchino had already made a name for himself with the Orioles and Padres when he arrived as part of John Henry’s ownership team. Over 14 years, he oversaw the renovation of Fenway Park, as well as the assembling of three World Series champions.

That leaves Flagstead, an obscure name from a dead period in Red Sox history. He spent seven years with the Red Sox from 1923-29, hitting .295 and somehow earning MVP votes in five straight seasons.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Hall of Fame discussions always get messy.

That’€™s what makes them a terrific sports topic, I suppose; lots of people love the carnage and chaos of arguing who was good, vs. who was great, vs. who was truly elite. And unless we’€™re talking Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, there’€™s always something about a player’€™s on-field legacy to pick apart.

So like everyone else, I’€™m always up for a good Hall debate, and with this week’€™s annual Cooperstown vote revealing two new inductees, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, I tuned into Tuesday’€™s WEEI Hot Stove Show featuring Mike Mutnansky, Rob Bradford, and John Tomase to hear their thoughts on this year’€™s ballot.

One part of the guys’€™ debate centered around how to begin with a baseline for discussion as to whether a player is Hall-worthy, and the thought came up of using a player’s number of top-10 or top-15 appearances on MVP balloting through the years.

I liked this idea, so I thought I’€™d do a little more research on the subject, and start by combing back through all the inductees of the 2000s to see what I’€™d find.

The results?

Unfortunately, not good. As in, it’€™s just not that simple.

It’€™s not that the Baseball Writer’€™s Association of America does a poor job in their yearly voting for the MVP; the top-15 vote-getters in any year I believe are an accurate one-year snapshot of greatness. But how many Top 10’s or Top 15’s should a player have to get in? Are six or seven years enough, the length of most guys’€™ primes? Seems reasonable, even if Carlton Fisk played for 24-years and Kirby Puckett only 12.

However, when evaluating a player’€™s lifetime body of work, it just doesn’€™t seem to hold up.

If having six Top-10 MVP ballot finishes were the standard, here are recent Hall inductees who wouldn’€™t be enshrined in Cooperstown: Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Fisk, and Tony Perez.

And that’€™s just over the last 15 years. Carl Yazstremski, for instance, only had five Top-10 MVP finishes.

Stretching it to Top-15 appearances didn’€™t help much, getting only Dawson, Boggs, and Fisk in.

Not to mention guys like Fred McGriff, who did have six Top-10 MVP finishes, but got less than 30% of the vote this year, would be in.

And we know Fred McGriff was not the ballplayer, say, Cal Ripken was. Ripken racked up 19 All-Star game selections, two Gold Glove awards, and eight Silver Sluggers at SS, not to mention his immortal consecutive-games streak. McGriff had five ASGs, no Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers, respectively.

Now, two prominent baseball writers, Bill James and Jay Jaffe, have come up with their own player-metrics for Hall of Fame rankings, and they come much closer to getting a definitive, intellectual answers of who deserves to be immortalized.

Jaffe’€™s ‘€˜JAWS’€™ numbers, using the Wins Above Replacement metric, does a terrific job of comparing players through different eras, ballparks, and all the while including offense, defense, and baserunning into one unified number.

You can check out Jaffe’€™s work here.

However, the WAR numbers don’€™t take a player’€™s postseason success, career milestones, league leads in various stats categories, historical importance, etc.

Smart-guy Bill James tackled those latter categories with his ‘€˜Hall of Fame Monitor’€™ metric, and you can see that here.

Myself, I particularly like the wRC+ metric that Fangraphs uses (strictly an offensive measure of a player’€™s run-creation value per the league averages), so I included it in my research, and broke it down to show a player’€™s seasons of ‘€˜Elite’€™, ‘€˜Great’€™, and ‘€˜Above Average’€™ at the plate.

The Fangraphs wRC+ explanation is here.

And here is my chart of all of these numbers for recently-debated players:

MLB_HALLOFFAMERS_CHART

The bottom line is, Hall of Fame arguments are complex and disorganized for a reason, and that reason is that there is no completely unifying theory of relativity that can solve the Hall of Fame debate for every player.

But the debates are fun every year, and maybe next year I’€™ll be more prepared for it.

Blog Author: 
Ken Laird