Mike Napoli is looking to return to form in 2015. (Getty Images)

Mike Napoli is looking to return to form in 2015. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox haven’t even had their first full squad workout but already Mike Napoli feels like a new man.

The slugger who had offseason surgery to address severe sleep apnea can feel an increase in energy and motivation when he heads to the ballpark.

“It’s been night and day,” Napoli said Monday morning. “Just my energy level when I wake up, I get out of bed and get my day started. Before I’d lay in bed until one o’clock. It’s totally different.”

Napoli looks trimmer than the beginning of last season, when he was still dealing with severe sleep deprivation that was sapping him of energy, making it difficult to deal with and overcome the nagging injuries of the last three seasons.

“You just have to be able to stay in the gym and get your workouts in and take care of your body,” he said. “It’s nutrition, working out and getting sleep. Now I can get sleep, which is probably going to help me out a lot. Just recovery, you get nicked up during a long season, you have to be able to recover and hopefully, I’ll be able to do that now.”

On Dec. 3, 2012, Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox, pending a physical. Following a six-week period, the status of the deal was in question after his physical showed signs of a hip issue. He eventually agreed to play 2013 for $13 million.

He re-signed for two years and $32 million after helping the Red Sox to the World Series title. Last year, his numbers dipped. He batted just .248 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in 119 games. But with his finger, knee, toe and back injuries resolved and his sleep apnea hopefully in the past, Napoli has a lot to look forward to with a rebuilt Red Sox order. He’ll have Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz ahead of him in the lineup.

“It’s been great. We’re going to have a deep lineup,” Napoli said. “It’s going to be fun. Those guys have been around here for a couple of weeks now. We’ve all been getting along and having a good time. Just getting out there and working on our game.”

“There’s a good vibe going around. It feels a little like 2013 in here. Just having fun. Even the ground ball sessions right now. We’re having fun getting our work in and working hard. We had a good time bonding [at Foxwoods in late January]. We’re learning each other and getting to know each other. It’s nice to do that and it’s been fun.”

It’s been so much fun that Napoli bought a house in Boston and is loving life now.

“I just feel like the city fits me,” Napoli said. “It’s a fun city. I like the people. Of course, I go out and hang out with the people. It’s just a good time. I like it. I bought a place there.

“I’m glad I got out of there about three weeks ago. My balcony is probably filled with snow.”

Christian Vazquez leads by example: Christian Vazquez has high goals. He wants to be the next Ivan Rodriguez. “Pudge” Rodriguez was his idol growing up in Puerto Rico and is the reason that he is now wearing the No. 7 this season with the Red Sox.

“He’s my idol,” Vazquez said. “I want to be like him. He’s a great catcher with 13 Gold Gloves. I want to be like him.”

Based on the cannon of an arm he showed in his first year in 2014, he’s off on the right foot toward his goal.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Vazquez said of his arm that helped him throw out 38 percent of would-be minor league base-runners since 2008. “That helps my pitcher and team to [prevent] runs.”

But Vazquez wants to be more. Like a leader. He has spent more and more time talking to his pitchers.

“They were spending every day with me, talking about everything,” Vazquez said. “I’m ready. I’m ready to help the team to win and help my teammates. We have a great group here, great pitchers and great offense. We’re trying to win this year and go to the playoffs. I’m here to win and help the team. I’m excited.

“I’m going to try to be the same guy as last year, be a leader and help my pitchers and team and trying to win.”

Helping him is Jason Varitek.

“He helps with little things like calling games and skills to help me catch and get me better,” Vazquez said. “He’s a great teacher and I like him. He tells me [to learn] what the pitcher likes and what he doesn’t like. That’s what helps me get on the same page with the pitcher.”

His teammates can already see how good the 23-year-old catcher is.

“He’s pretty special,” Mike Napoli said. “He wants to learn. He’s good behind the plate and works well with the pitchers. He’s got a cannon. He’s growing, he’s growing up quick. He had to.”

Runners are also learning.

“There’s been a couple of guys,” Napoli said of his conversations with baserunners at first. “Of course I mess around, ‘You probably don’t want to run on this guy.’ He has a great arm. He’s able to back pick guys. He shortens their secondary [leads] up, which helps our middle infielders on double plays. He’s special. He’s a special talent.

“They know. We go over scouting reports. We know when guys can throw and guys can’t. I’m pretty sure the league already knows about him.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Yoan Moncada Sweepstakes are over, and the Red Sox have won.

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ The Yoan Moncada Sweepstakes are over, and the Red Sox have won.

According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (Twitter link), the Red Sox have signed 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada to a signing bonus of roughly $30 million.

For more on Moncada, check out Monday’s story on WEEI.com detailing how his final decision was likely going to come down to the Red Sox or Yankees.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase
Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ The Yoan Moncada Sweepstakes are over, and the Red Sox have won.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox snared the 19-year-old infielder with a bonus in the range of $30 million, beating out the Yankees for the prized prospect’s services. News of the deal was first reported by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

The move makes sense, because the Red Sox have already blown past their international bonus pool allotment for 2014, and this was their last chance to spend big before being limited to $300,000 bonuses for each of the next two years.

Whatever bonus Moncada ultimately receives, the Red Sox will owe that amount to MLB as a penalty, thereby doubling the cost of acquisition.

So what kind of player are the Red Sox getting? Moncada is considered one of the better talents to come out of Cuba, with one rival executive comparing the 6-2, 205-pounder to a high first round pick. The Red Sox, according to the New York Post, used Cuban legend Luis Tiant to woo Moncada. The Yankees countered with a renowned countryman of their own in Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.

Opinion is split on what position he’ll end up playing ‘€“ probably second or third ‘€“ but he is expected to progress through the minors relatively quickly.

He’s the final jewel in a strong international class for the Red Sox. The Red Sox have already spent $1.8 million on Venezuelan pitcher Anderson Espinosa and $1.5 million on Dominican hurler Christopher Acosta, two of the best pitchers available. Moncada gives them one of the top position players on the market.

There’s no question the sculpted Moncada is talented. Red Sox farmhand Dalier Hinojosa overlapped with him for one season in Cuba before Hinojosa signed with the Red Sox in 2013. Moncada hit .277 in two seasons of pro ball.

“I always saw a lot of potential,” the right-hander told colleague Rob Bradford through translator Adrian Lorenzo on Sunday. “He’s what we call a five-tool player here, and he was that back then. He can run, throw, he’s physical, hit from both sides, hit for power, hit for average.”

Hinojosa was nearly 28 when he signed. He expects the process to be quite different for Moncada.

“When you’re older, you’re more mature and you think things through a little more,” Hinojosa said. “When you’re younger, you think things through on the fly. That being said, going through what we go through and taking the risk we take, it’s always going to be difficult, for anybody at any age. Because you’re risking not only your life, but the lives of the people coming with you and making the voyage with you.”

Hinojosa’s advice to Moncada is simple: listen to your coaches.

“My main suggestion to him would be to allow yourself to be guided, allow yourself to be coached,” Hinojosa said. “Be adaptable and be accepting of wisdom from everybody. Because sometimes, especially some Cuban players, you think you have your own ways of doing things and you think it’s the only way to do things.  I would suggest that he be coachable, be approachable, be accepting of other opinions or other people’s advice, when they get here.

“He’s got everything on the field. That’s not going to be his issue. Some guys can’t translate their ability because they think of the game in this stubborn way and that becomes an obstacle for them. I think he’ll be able to do that, no problem, but that would definitely be my suggestion to him.”
After today’s news, he’ll now be able to make it in person.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

UPDATE (Monday morning): According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the Red Sox signed Moncada today for a bonus of roughly $30 million) 

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Allen Craig is a man without a job, but he’s determined to make the best of it at Red Sox camp.

Allen Craig

Allen Craig

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Allen Craig is a man without a job, but he’s determined to make the best of it at Red Sox camp.

The outfielder/first baseman is a prime candidate to be traded before opening day, thanks to a logjam at the positions he plays.

“I think that everybody knows where things are at,” Craig said. “I’€™m going to come in and compete for playing time and just play my game. That’€™s all I can do. If my name is in the lineup card, I’€™m going to go out and play as hard as I can, be a good teammate, and do the best I can.”

The idea of Craig being expendable would’ve been unthinkable just two years ago. He was coming off a season that saw him smash a career-high 22 homers with 92 RBIs with the Cardinals. He then went out and made the 2013 All-Star team before left foot/ankle injuries derailed his career.

He hit just .128 with the Red Sox last year and is no better than sixth on the outfield depth chart, behind Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Daniel Nava.

“I believe I’€™m an everyday player, but I’€™m here  to compete and be a good teammate, and just play the game whenever my name is in the lineup card,” Craig said. “That’€™s all I can do. I know I have a lot to prove. I’€™m looking forward to doing that.”

Craig at least believes he’s healthy after an offseason that featured a more normal workout schedule.

“It was night and day,” he said. “I had a lot of time. I went into the offseason with a pretty good plan of what I wanted to do as far as physically getting ready for the season, mechanically working on some things. It was a really productive offseason. I’€™m just looking forward to getting here and playing games.”

Craig isn’t afraid of competition.

“That’€™s when teams are at their best, when there’€™s a lot of guys competing for playing time,” he said. “I think it’€™s going to be good for everybody. It’€™s going to be good for this team. I’€™m pretty confident that the best players are going to play. That’€™s the way it’€™s going to be, and I’€™m going to go out there and do the best that I can.”

Craig said he wants to be here ‘€“ “You look around the clubhouse, guys that have accomplished a lot of things, World Series champions, MVPs,All-Stars, it’€™s definitely something you want to be a part of,” he noted ‘€“ and isn’t worrying about the possibility of being traded.

“That’€™s not something that I really think about,” he said. “I’€™m focused on where I’€™m at right now. I’€™m wearing the Red  Sox uniform. That’€™s where I want to be. That’€™s what I’€™m focused on, just being a good teammate and competing and playing hard when my name is in the lineup.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

FORT MYERS, Fla. — You remember Quintin Bery, the outfielder the Red Sox acquired to offer a pinch-running threat throughout the 2013 postseason. Well, he’s back.

His previous stop with the Red Sox made a whole bunch of sense, with the speedster going 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts (including 3-for-3 in the postseason) after being acquired from Kansas City Aug. 27, 2013. He was billed as the next Dave Roberts — the man whose stolen base in the 2004 World Series will go down as one of the franchise’s signature moments — and Berry didn’t disappoint.

“I saw [Roberts] when he threw out a first pitch,” Berry remembered. “I told him, ‘You don’t really know this, but you got me a job.”

A fit with the Red Sox wouldn’t have even been out of the question last year with some uncertainty in John Farrell‘s outfield. But Berry ultimately signed with the Orioles, where he played in just 10 major league games.

This time, it’s worth asking the question: Why?

The Red Sox have one of the deepest, most complicated outfield depth charts in baseball. Currently ahead of the 30-year-old Berry are Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, and Jackie Bradley.

Yet, when it came down to making a decision, Berry chose to take the Red Sox’ offer to return on a minor-league deal.

“The thing about it is that you have to compete wherever you go,” said Berry, who hit .285 while going 25-for-31 on stolen base attempts at Triple-A Norfolk last season. “Everywhere you go you’€™re going to be fighting the numbers and you’€™re going to be fighting the players. Because of this team and the relationship I had with the coaching staff, the way they treated me and took care of me, I really wanted to get an opportunity to get back here no matter was in front of me.”

Evidently, the two-month stint with the Red Sox really left an impression on Berry.

“I really liked it here. I enjoyed myself,” he said. “I loved the coaching staff here. But I really wanted to come back in 2014. I was really hoping. I was just glad they were going to give me the opportunity to come back this year, be back with the team and hang out with the players I built a good relationship. I loved it here.”

– Most of the Red Sox position players have Sunday off, with their official reporting date coming Tuesday. (David Ortiz remains the only player not in camp after the arrival of Berry and Allen Craig.)

Still managing to make an appearance were Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Deven Marrero, Garin Cecchini and a few others.

– The entire starting rotation, except for Joe Kelly, were besieged by a healthy number of media members Sunday morning. Here are how a few of them answered the “ace” question:

Clay Buchholz: “I believe that there’€™s five guys who have been really, really good in the past. It’€™s a matter of being healthy and making your 33 starts during the season. I think if everybody does that, I don’€™t think this staff is going to have a problem. It’€™s fun to be out there and called the number one or whatever. I’€™ve been No. 5, I’€™ve been No. 2, I’€™ve been No. 3. It seems like I’€™m always facing the aces of other staffs after that first, second week of the season because of off-days. I don’€™t think you can take it too far. It’€™s an honor, obviously, to do the Opening Day gig, but after that, there’€™s not a whole lot to it.”

Justin Masterson: “What is an ace on a staff? I think in general people want to have an ace because they want to set this person out. Typically they just put it on the person who does well, ‘€˜Oh there’€™s your ace.’€™ ‘€˜Why’€™s he you’€™re ace?’€™ ‘€˜Because he pitched well.’€™ That’€™s kind of what they put it on. I think just in general we have leaders and we have quite a few of those. Guys who are going to do the right think, work hard, and the biggest thing is your team has confidence in what you’€™re doing. So when I go out there and play Clay, Wade [Miley], Rick [Porcello], Joe when any of us go out there the guys have the confidence in us, we’€™re the ace that day. And they look forward to having each of us go out there. There’€™s going to be times when one’€™s going to struggle and another the next guy is going to struggle and they know the next guy is going to pick them up and they know the next guy is going to pick them up and I think each guy can satisfy that role.”

Rick Porcello: “Whoever’s pitching that night needs to be an ace. We need five aces to be successful. We can’t just have one guy go out there. We only pitch once every five days. We need five guys firing on all cylinders. We need to get in a rhythm as a staff. We all have to be aces.”

– Third base coach Brian Butterfield — as intense a New England Patriots fan as there is — suggested he is going to simulate Patriots’ defensive backs coach Brian Flores waving in Malcolm Butler into the game at the end of the Super Bowl when sending runners home this season.

Remember: “Malcom, go!”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Dustin Pedroia is fired up and ready to return the Red Sox to the top in 2015. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)FORT MYERS, Fla.