FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rule changes. Improved time of game. All of it has been surfaced as necessities in order to drop the average age of baseball fans.

But David Price has hope.

SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  David Price attends the GBK & Cartoon Network's Official Backstage Thank You Lounge at Barker Hangar on February 9, 2013 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage)

SANTA MONICA, CA – FEBRUARY 09: David Price attends the GBK & Cartoon Network’s Official Backstage Thank You Lounge at Barker Hangar on February 9, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rule changes. Improved time of game. All of it has been surfaced as necessities in order to drop the average age of baseball fans.

But David Price has hope.

“I remember looking at the Yankees a couple of years ago. I was like, ‘Man, there are 15 guys on this team with 10-plus years in the big leagues.’ I don’t know how many they have now, but it’s not double digits. It’s probably nowhere near,” Price told WEEI.com. “When the Yankees are getting younger, you know baseball is getting younger. That’s for sure.”

He might be on to something.

Neither the Yankees and Red Sox have a player born in the 1970’s. And in the majors, there’s not a single participant over 38 years old, with John Lackey currently serving as the game’s elder statesman.

Sure, the pace of baseball might not play to the attention span of the younger demographics, but there might be something to be said for the power that is not having wrinkles on the face of MLB. Just two years ago, a study by ESPN stated that the median age of MLB viewers were 53 years old, compared to 37 for the National Basketball Association.

“As time goes, it will probably get younger and younger,” Price said. “We’ll continue to have fans and it will continue to get younger and younger, just like the game is. Look at the last couple of All-Star Games. There are a lot of first-timers, a lot of guys under the age of 24 or 25. I feel like the younger the game continues to get, the younger the audience is going to get.”

But according to Price, there is something very simple the game can do to help along the demographic dilemma, and it has nothing to do with altering the flow of the product. As he stated last spring training, the Red Sox pitcher is all in when it comes to getting MLB to loosen its regulations on the color cleats.

Even with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the rule still states that players can’t wear cleats that are made up of more than 51 percent of their team’s designated color. (For instance, the Red Sox have identified black as their main color.)

“Let us wear whatever cleats we want, that will increase interest,” Price said. “I think that’s very simple and would make everyone happy.”

Price has broached the subject with both MLBPA chief Tony Clark, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. When it town earlier in the week, Clark said that he is full agreement with Price, but MLB continues to dig in on the rule (which is penalized with a fine).

“That’s one of the easiest thing we can do that is going to please everybody,” he said. “There’s nobody who is going to be mad. If you want to wear all black cleats like Jackie Bradley, you can wear all black cleats. For guys who want to express themselves, they need to be able to do that. Guys are turning to express themselves on the field with their play and whatever it is. You should be able to do it on your shoes and express themselves that way as well.”

It’s a dynamic that we’re about to see in the World Baseball Classic, and have already witnessed via Johnny Cueto’s bright orange footwear in the All-Star Game.

“Guys get to the locker room and they don’t look at anything else in their locker,” Price said. “They open their shoes, take a picture of them and tweet. That’s all I’m looking for when I go to an All-Star Game is my cleats. I don’t care what else is in my locker. I want to see what kind of cleats I’ve got. Everybody loves shoes.”

As for all the other ideas to improve interest the game, Price likes some of the ideas, but hopes the motivation is universal.

“I hope what why we’re doing it, to improve the fan base and not just make the game go by faster,” he said.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the 2013 spring training unfolded, one of the unique elements of the Red Sox clubhouse became how accountable the players were to each other.

Jonny Gomes. David Ross. There were a bunch of them who set the tone that year. Do something wrong, you were going to hear about it.

dustinswing

Dustin Pedroia is now the Red Sox’ elder statesman (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the 2013 spring training unfolded, one of the unique elements of the Red Sox clubhouse became how accountable the players were to each other.

Jonny Gomes. David Ross. There were a bunch of them who set the tone that year. Do something wrong, you were going to hear about it.

Thursday, this Red Sox team got their first test when it comes making sure there are some sort of checks and balances when Rusney Castillo forgot how many outs there were, didn’t run out a ground ball and ultimately fell victim to a 6-4-3 double play.

“I’m confident in saying that same mutual accountability exists, even though that was a more veteran team,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell Friday morning. “This is a young group that, in that instance yesterday, there was a collective acknowledgement that that’s not the way we play the game. Whether it’s conversation in the dugout or after the game, that gives me that confidence to know that there’s a clear understanding of what we expect.”

The Red Sox’ core group of position players is significantly younger than the group in ’13, with only four players (Dustin Pedroia, Chris Young, Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez) older than 30 years old.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts has started his brief return to third base.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts has started his brief return to third base.

For the first time since he played the position in 2014, Bogaerts will be manning third when he joins Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic next week. With Andrelton Simmons slated to play shortstop and another shortstop candidate, Jurickson Profar, heading to the outfield for Hensley Meulens’ team, that leaves third for the Red Sox’ shortstop.

Bogaerts began the process of reuniting with the position — where he has played 53 major league games — began Friday morning, with the 24-year-old taking grounders from infield instructor Brian Butterfield on the back field at JetBlue Park.

“I think when a player is being asked to play a different position it’s for a defined period of time,” said Red Sx manager John Farrell. “You’re in a tournament setting, unlike the position change over the course of his career. Bogey sees himself as a shortstop, and while, like any player, there’s ongoing work at the position to create consistency, this is for a window of time.

“He will still get plenty of work, having talked to Hensley Meulens already before he reports to the team. But I think Bogey is more accepting of it because it is for a shorter period of time vs. a career change.”

While the position switch most likely won’t derail Bogaerts’ season in 2017, it certainly isn’t ideal. Having made great strides defensively over the past two seasons, the opportunity to continue his work with Butterfield in the low-leverage setting that is spring training would have been a plus.

Instead, Bogaerts is going to be asked to potentially play nine-inning games at an alternative position in front of fans that will seemingly care about the result.

Not ideal. Welcome to another World Baseball Classic.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joe Kelly, Chris Sale and some of Red Sox decided to head over to Sale’s alma mater at Florida Gulf Coast University and take in a men’s basketball game Thursday night. But it wasn’t until after the game that the real story emerged.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joe Kelly, Chris Sale and some of Red Sox decided to head over to Sale’s alma mater at Florida Gulf Coast University and take in a men’s basketball game Thursday night. But it wasn’t until after the game that the real story emerged.

After the game was over, some of the players decided to take some extra shots. Sale, for instance, hit one from half-court. The real highlight, however, was when Kelly grabbed the basketball.

Swish from full-court on his third try.

The Red Sox reliever explained in Friday morning …

“We went to the game and stayed after and were just shooting around. Basically I just wanted to try a full-court shot. The first one I got up to the line, threw it and it was 30 yards right, got inside a little bit, started spinning the other way and I missed it.

“Sale was down there rolling them back to me, so I got it again and I did the same thing but probably even worse and shanked it straight right. I’m like, ‘Gosh dang, that’s not even close.’ I was going to give up after the next one because I was making a fool of myself.

“But I threw the next one and tried to cut it like a football, and like a golf ball, it went in. But the first two were God awful. It was cool it was on tape. I didn’t know I was getting filmed.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox could certainly live with Rusney Castillo’s first at-bat Thursday against Norheastern, a first-pitch, pop up into foul ground. That happens, even against college kids.

But what transpired for the outfielder in his second go-round truly left a mark when it came to the Red Sox’ perception of Castillo.

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox could certainly live with Rusney Castillo’s first at-bat Thursday against Norheastern, a first-pitch, pop up into foul ground. That happens, even against college kids.

But what transpired for the outfielder in his second go-round truly left a mark when it came to the Red Sox’ perception of Castillo.

With one out in the third inning, and Marco Hernandez on first base, Castillo grounded to Northeastern shortstop Max Burt. The righty hitter clearly was not aware of how many outs there were, because he barely jogged down the first base line, allowing for an easy 6-4-3 double play for the Huskies.

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Castillo, who was getting the start in left field, is an obvious longshot to make the Red Sox to begin with, currently not residing on the 40-man roster. As colleague John Tomase points out, if the Red Sox did decide to promote the 29-year-old, it would cost the team $56,596 per day to keep him around, a reality that would eventually push them over the luxury tax threshold.

The outfielder did impress during his stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League after showing some signs of life with Triple-A Pawtucket during the second half of 2016.

But this — which wasn’t the first issues Castillo has had involving game situation recognition — was clearly a step in the wrong direction for the $72.5 million man.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford