John Farrell

John Farrell

Red Sox manager John Farrell joined the Hot Stove Show on Wednesday night and provided a number of Red Sox updates, including who might play in the World Baseball Classic, the physical status of Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright, and his thoughts on who might start on Opening Day.

Here are some highlights.

— Red Sox starters Chris Sale and David Price have already said they won’t be pitching in the WBC. The Red Sox are allowed to keep Rodriguez out of the tournament following the minor knee injury he suffered in winter ball in his native Venezuela.

— Speaking of Rodriguez, he’s getting his visa sorted out and will be in Boston shortly to have a followup exam on his knee. An MRI in Venezuela was negative. Farrell didn’t want to put a timetable on his possible return. “He’s been able to do some light exercise,” Farrell said. “There’s no reason to think spring training is going to be delayed.” That said, Farrell acknowledged that Rodriguez’s history means the team will proceed cautiously with him.

— Wright, the knuckleballer, is throwing from 90 feet as he continues his return from a shoulder injury.

— Carson Smith has started a throwing program. He’ll be in Fort Myers on Feb. 1 to continue his program. He won’t be ready for the start of the season.

— President Dave Dombrowski recently told Buster Olney that Drew Pomeranz and Wright are penciled in to the last two spots in the rotation. That doesn’t mean there won’t be competition, however, because Farrell wants that culture to continue. E-Rod remains in the mix.

— Farrell is impressed with how the trimmer Sandoval has looked this winter, but he also knows that it will be about how he looks in spring training. He’s not ready to say there will be a platoon at third base, noting that Sandoval looked better hitting right-handed last year before his injury. “He’d be the first to admit he’s got a lot of ground to make up,” Farrell said of Sandoval’s overall outlook.

— Could Andrew Benintendi bat second? “It’s a possibility, no doubt,” Farrell said. Farrell likes the idea of breaking up four righties atop the order, and acknowledged that Benintendi could be a candidate for that spot, though nothing has been decided.

— Asked if Xander Bogaerts could hit down in the order, as he did in the playoffs last year, Farrell offered a reminder that Bogaerts was a tremendous hitter for much of last season. “In the first half of the season you wanted Bogey to the plate as many times as we could,” Farrell said. Farrell added that he wouldn’t commit to any lineup positions until talking to the players involved.

— With the potential of four left-handers in the rotation, Farrell was asked about Rick Porcello starting on Opening Day. He’s not ready to make that decision, though he did praise Porcello for all he accomplished last year.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Pablo Sandoval isn’t messing around this winter.

The presumed Red Sox starting third baseman has been posting Instagram videos all winter illustrating his progress as he returns from shoulder surgery. Overweight last year, he has looked trim this offseason, and his latest video is another example — boxing.

Judge the southpaw’s form for yourself.

Pablo Sandoval isn’t messing around this winter.

The presumed Red Sox starting third baseman has been posting Instagram videos all winter illustrating his progress as he returns from shoulder surgery. Overweight last year, he has looked trim this offseason, and his latest video is another example — boxing.

Judge the southpaw’s form for yourself.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

There isn’t much buzz around Rusney Castillo. That’s understandable.

Rusney Castillo (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There isn’t much buzz around Rusney Castillo. That’s understandable.

Considering what the outfielder has done since signing his seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox, expectations have diminished to next to nothing. Over parts of three seasons, Castillo’s contributions to the big league club have amounted to a .262 batting average and .679 OPS with seven home runs over 99 games.

So, with that in mind, even one of Castillo’s biggest supporters, Houston bench coach Alex Cora, is tempering expectations even after the righty hitter’s performance with Cora’s team (Caguas) in the Puerto Rico Winter League.

“I’ve been on this train before and I got burned the first time,” Cora said when appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast. “A lot of people on Twitter remind me.” (To listen to the entire podcast, click here.)

But, according to Cora, there has been a change in Castillo.

The first thing he has noticed has been a different demeanor off the field, thanks in large part to the presence of the 29-year-old’s mother and child, who have arrived from Cuba.

“One thing about him, and I’m not going to get caught in all the hype and the numbers and all of that, his Mom is here, his kid is here, and there’s something different as far as off the field stuff,” Cora said.

There is also a slightly slimmed down body, which has, according to Cora, led to better baserunning and improved fielding. (He has primarily played left field with Caguas.)

But the biggest change has been Castillo’s approach at the plate. The league’s playoffs are currently unfolding (he scored a pair of runs in Caguas’ Tuesday night win). But prior to the postseason, Castillo managed a .392 batting average and .892 OPS in 14 games.

“There are a lot of balls he drives to right-center, especially against lefties, but against righties you see the red ‘C’ in between shortstop and third base, the roll over,” Cora said. “He has problems catching up to that pitch, but he doesn’t have problems with pitches outside that he can drive to right field.”

He added, “For me, he’s too passive. He understands the strike zone. It’s more like he sees the ball and he’s going to attack instead of thinking, ‘I’m hitting, hitting, hitting and then I’m going to take.’ I said, ‘You feel discipline enough?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m discipline.’ ‘So get off the plate and this is winter ball and you see guys throw 87 and guys who throw 95, 96, so don’t go by the results. So, get off the plate and be disciplined enough on the inside part of the plate to take that pitch. You might be 2-0, 3-1, then they have to go outside and that’s your strength.’ So far, so good.”

The challenge for Castillo once spring training rolls around is to get back in the good graces of the Red Sox brass, having to enter camp not on the 40-man roster. But considering how thin the Sox may be in the outfield at the Triple-A level, with Junior Lake and Brian Bogusevic around on minor-league deals, and Bryce Brentz still in the mix, there might be some semblance of an opportunity.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

You may have heard Donald Trump’s name in the news today. Apparently the Cubs want no part of that (bleep)-show.

According to Mary Ann Ahern of NBC, the Cubs will be honored at the White House on Monday, before President Obama leaves office. President Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, Jan. 20.

The Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, has an up-and-down history with Trump. Todd Ricketts, who sits on the team’s board of directors, was recently named deputy secretary of commerce for the new administration. But Trump has also clashed with the family over political donations to groups dedicated to stopping him during the election, and he threatened to spill dirt on the family in a tweet from last February.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, the Brookline native and former Red Sox general manager, is a known supporter of Democratic causes. While it is often reported that he skipped the White House visit after the Red Sox won it all in 2004 and George Bush was president, he actually just chose not to appear on stage with the team, instead sitting in the audience. He did, however, skip the team’s second visit after winning in 2007, citing family reasons.

Obama is a Chicago native who grew up rooting for the White Sox.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase
David Ortiz

David Ortiz

David Ortiz may be retired, but he hasn’t been forgotten on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Speaking at the confirmation hearings of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has been nominated for attorney general by President-elect Donald Trump, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse invoked Ortiz while questioning Sessions’ history of questionable racial positions.

“We have a vibrant Dominican community, who look at Big Papi, David Ortiz, swinging his bat for the Red Sox, and wonder why you said, ‘Almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us,'” said Whitehouse in reference to a 2006 speech that is available on Sessions’ official website.

In response to Whitehouse, Sessions explained that he was referring to the fact that most immigration is based on family connections, rather than proof of skills that could be useful in the U.S.

“The immigration flow from almost all of our countries, frankly, is based on family connection and other visas, rather than a skill-based program, more like Canada has today,” Session said. “And that’s all I intended to be saying there. . . . Please don’t see that as a diminishment or a criticism of the people of the Dominican Republic.”

Red Sox fans would certainly question Sessions’ opinions on the issue.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

A case can be made that Mookie Betts was the best all-around player in baseball last year. He’s certainly the game’s best right fielder.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

A case can be made that Mookie Betts was the best all-around player in baseball last year. He’s certainly the game’s best right fielder.

That is the conclusion of ESPN’s Buster Olney in his latest positional roundup, conducted via a poll of industry evaluators, which places Betts ahead of even former NL MVP Bryce Harper among all right fielders in baseball.

Olney cites Betts’ emergence as a WAR monster (9.6) last year, when he hit 31 homers, stole 26 bases in 30 chances, won a Gold Glove with an astounding 32 runs saved, and stepped forward as one of the best young players in the game’s history.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this:

From Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information: Betts had 9.6 WAR in 2016 in his age-23 season. The only Red Sox player with more WAR in an age-23 season or younger was Ted Williams, who had 10.6 in 1941 in his age-22 season and 10.6 in 1942 at age 23. The only position players overall with higher WAR in age-23 or younger seasons were Williams, Trout, Harper, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Cal Ripken and Rogers Hornsby.

Those are all Hall of Famers or future ones. Betts is off to one heck of a start.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Red Sox fans can’t quit David Ortiz. It’s understandable.

What makes far less sense is the frenzy Ortiz whipped them into on Monday night when he tweeted a blank message at the Boston Globe.