FORT MYERS, Fla. – Position players report Thursday to Red Sox spring training and manager Terry Francona said there shouldn’t be any delays. It’s about to get very crowded in the clubhouse and there will be plenty to talk about with many of the new arrivals.
Let’s look at some of those subjects, and a few items from the first week of spring training, in our next edition of the Red Sox Lineup:
1. Look for stories on NESN.com and on NESN’s nightly programming on those we have yet to see this spring. Among them are Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.
Almost everybody in camp has been asked about Crawford this week, and in my notes I have someone calling him a “game changer” or someone who “changes games” 13 times. It’s a popular, and apt, description.
2. While the current player development complex fills up, we were given a quick glimpse at the future one on Wednesday. I went over to the site of the future home of the Red Sox spring training, which will include a field with all the same dimensions as Fenway Park (complete with Green Monster) and six fields that will be used for drills, scrimmages and all that goes into spring training.
Katie Haas, director of Florida operations for the Red Sox, said that having an identical field to Fenway was something the organization has strongly desired, as it will help young players or new players become acclimated long before they head north. For those of you familiar with the Fort Myers area, here is the new location, just off I-75.
3. The Albert Pujols situation has dominated the spring training landscape so far, and even managed to trickle into Fort Myers for a bit. Of course, Adrian Gonzalez may be watching the negotiations with some interest. We’ll hear more from him later in the week. The guy who Gonzalez replaced at first base, Kevin Youkilis, was asked about Pujols the other day.
“I could care less,” Youkilis said. “I hope he gets what he wants. He’ll figure it out I think. I think he’ll be happy somewhere.”
When asked if he would rather Pujols stayed in the National League, Youkilis offered up a bit of a challenge: “He can come to the American League. He can come to the AL East. He wants to come to the AL East to face some of this pitching, he can come.”
4. As for Pujols, is it preposterous to imagine him in a Red Sox uniform in a year? For what it’s worth, the Yankees have already said they have no interest in going after Pujols when he becomes a free agent after the 2011 season. That takes one major player out of the mix. And if the Red Sox decide not to re-sign David Ortiz, that takes away another obstacle in the first base-designated hitter mix.
It is expected that Gonzalez will sign a long-term extension with Boston, or even already has in principle. That would lock down first base, but DH could remain open. It is doubtful Pujols would want that kind of a role, but he obviously wants big money and could look past a shift in positions for the right price.
Let’s be honest — this will be the biggest name to hit the market in years, maybe ever. Boston would have to at least consider such a move.
5. The “Where are they now?” segment sees Orlando Cabrera, the Sox shortstop on the 2004 World Series-winning team, signing with Cleveland. Cabrera will fight for the job as the Indians’ second baseman. Another Cabrera, Asdrubal, holds down the shortstop gig.
6. In case you missed the one transaction thus far in Red Sox camp, right-handed reliever Robert Coello was traded to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Tony Thomas. Coello figured to be a minor league depth guy this year and told me last month that he likely would spend all of the season in the bullpen after performing as a starter and reliever in 2010. But he was down the list a little bit after the Sox brought in several more arms that can fill those depth spots.
As for Thomas, he was ranked rather highly in the Cubs system after being selected in the third round in 2007. High strikeout totals and low walk totals dropped him down a notch or two, but he shined in 2010 for Double-A Tennessee, hitting .276 with 51 extra-base hits in 116 games. He ranked among the Southern League leaders in triples with 11 and slugging percentage at .485.
Jed Lowrie is seen as the probable backup for all four infield positions this year, but as Terry Francona pointed out this week, that plan goes out the window the second somebody gets hurt. If Lowrie takes over for an injured Youkilis, for example, then you need to bring up another infielder and the chances are he won’t be able to play all four infield spots, like Lowrie. Nabbing Thomas gives the system a little more depth up the middle.
7. Because of the translation aspect of things, Daisuke Matsuzaka news conferences are sometimes a bit slow and often some humor might be lost. But one funny moment came from him speaking with reporters Wednesday. When asked by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com where Matsuzaka had hidden Masa Hoshino, his former interpreter, the right-hander said that Hoshino got tired of being picked on my Josh Beckett and ran off to San Francisco.
8. On the subject of Matsuzaka, he threw a bit more than most other pitchers in bullpen sessions over the first two days, as is his wont. Francona commented on the precarious nature of Matsuzaka’s work in the spring, given the fact that he has struggled to stay healthy early in the year the last two seasons.
“He’s obviously worked very hard this winter,” Francona said. “We’ve always told him if he can withstand that, we have no problems with it. Forty-five pitches, most threw 30. That’s a comfort zone for him, but he can handle it because he’s strong enough.”
Matsuzaka was floating along just fine at this point last year. His neck strain came in mid-March and caused him to miss all of April. We’ll see how he manages his workload over the next few weeks and in those first few Grapefruit League outings.
9. Just because I have to represent God’s Country, here’s a little nugget from up north.