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SoxProspects News

March 31, 2009 at 7:50 PM

Q&A with Brock Huntzinger

The Red Sox selected Brock Huntzinger in the third round of the 2007 Draft out of Pendleton Heights High School in Indiana. He signed a few weeks after the draft and pitched in only four games in 2007. In 2008, Huntzinger broke out with the Lowell Spinners going 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA before struggling after a promotion to Greenville. He looks to break camp with the Low-A Greenville Drive to begin 2009. Jonathan Singer of SoxProspects.com recently caught up with Huntzinger to talk baseball at Minor League Spring Training.

Jonathan Singer: How did your off-season go? What things did you look to work on prior to spring training?
Brock Huntzinger: One of the things I looked to do was to gain some more muscle mass. I probably gained 7-10 pounds of good weight. Going into this year I just wanted to get a lot stronger, since last year I got tired and my production fell off. I had never thrown that many innings before, and I just wanted to make sure I was stronger and more physical coming into this season so I would have a better chance of staying strong towards the end of August and into September.

JS: You were a third round pick out of high school in Indiana. Could you describe the scouting process that you had with the Red Sox organization? What were your thoughts on the whole process in general?
BH: They (the Red Sox) were very extensive with their background checks. They had a bunch of visits to my house and had a bunch of scouts come see me play, [including] the cross checker, the national guy, the scouting director. [I] could definitely tell they were interested. The process was very in depth, but it was fun as it got me to throw in front of them, even though the talent level here is not like a California, Florida, or even a Texas.

JS: Did you want to sign out of high school or was there a part of you that wanted to go to Indiana?
BH: You know, I was a kid and I am still a kid. All my friends back home were doing the college thing. I always dreamed of playing professional baseball, the opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it. I always knew I could go back to school, but you do miss out on your friends and the social scene that comes with college, but I feel playing professional baseball is a pretty good trade off.

JS: What are some of the things the Red Sox have set out for you this coming season?
BH: I think the biggest thing is the development of my changeup and the continued development of my slider. They also want me to repeat my delivery over and over again, as well as being able to be more consistent mechanical wise. Right now it’s my second full year, so basically it is getting on a program, being able to get your routine down every five days in order to be a starting pitcher,where you know that every fifth day you will feel good. A lot of it is pretty much a continuation of what I worked on last year and when I signed.

JS: Please give us a self scouting report on Brock Huntzinger.
BH: (Chuckling) Fastball is my best pitch. My pitches are much better when they are down in the zone. When I get tired, I tend to get lazy with my mechanics and that is when I start to get the ball up in the zone and opponents start to beat me around. Overall, I think I have a pretty good mental approach on the mound. I don’t get easily rattled out there, and I am someone that can keep my composure when things aren’t going right. My stuff is pretty above average at times, and I just need to continue to put it all together in order to be consistent every time I am on the mound.

JS: You dominated competition in Lowell before getting promoted to Greenville and struggling mightily. Can you describe what you went through in Greenville and the adjustments you will need to make to succeed at higher levels?
BH: I think the biggest thing is just staying strong. Again, coming out of high school I threw 43 innings and I threw an additional 16 innings in the GCL and Fall Instructional League. Last year, from start to finish I threw 130 innings in spring training, extended spring training, Lowell and Greenville. When I got to Greenville, my mechanics were not sharp because I was weak. My fastball didn’t have the life on it that it normally does. It was good for me to struggle like that because coming out of Lowell, I had thrown 42 innings and given up only 3 runs, and then you are on a high. You feel like you are on top of the world and at some point you have to come down. I think it was good for me to realize you are not as good as your numbers are sometimes, and at times you are not as bad as your numbers are. I know what I learned from it and what I have to do to get better.

JS: Did you have a favorite major league team growing up?
BH: I didn't really have a favorite team growing up, but I had favorite players. I am a big fan of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Randy Johnson, and Curt Schilling. I would go to Cubs games, Reds games, [and I've] been to a few Cardinals games, but there really is no hotbed for major league baseball in Indiana.

JS: Who were the most influential people in your development as a baseball player?
BH: There was a scout for the Chicago White Sox from my hometown who went to my high school by the name of Mike Shirley. I would say he is the reason I’m where I am today. I used to be a punk kid. You can have tools and raw ability, but if you don’t listen to anyone, then you are just going to waste it. He had teaching methods in order for me to shape up or ship out. He wouldn’t take any crap or disrespect from me like I would give out to a lot of other people. I would also say my dad was very influential as well, as he pushed me to become confident to myself.

JS: Have you set any personal goals for yourself this season?
BH: Just to get better in every aspect of the game. I just want to start strong, keep the stride going throughout the year, and finish strong. Obviously everybody is going to have a bump in the road here and there where you are going to go out and give up 4 or 5 runs in a game, and you just got to go out the next day like nothing happened. I just want to keep developing as a pitcher, not just physically but mentally as well, and to keep it all on an even keel.
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at 6:06 PM

Buchholz slated to start with Paw Sox, Bailey reassigned

RHP Clay Buchholz will start 2009 in Pawtucket, barring any set-backs for RHP Brad Penny, The Boston Globe's Adam Kilgore is reporting. Buchholz met with Manager Terry Francona after his start against Tampa Bay today and was told of the club's intentions. Until being roughed up today by the Rays, Buchholz had pitched brilliantly and it is unlikely that today's outing factored in the decision ... The Red Sox also officially announced the reassignment of 1B/OF Jeff Bailey to minor league camp, reinforcing the speculation that 1B/OF Chris Carter and INF Nick Green had the inside track on the final major league bench spots.
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at 3:27 PM

Turn on your radio to hear Jon Lester Rally Against Cancer


BOSTON -- Jon Lester, Red Sox pitcher and spokesman for this year's Rally Against Cancer, will take to the Boston airwaves Wednesday, April 1, and Thursday, April 2, to encourage listeners to Rally Against Cancer in support of the Jimmy Fund and its life saving mission. By giving $5 or more, Rally supporters can wear their Red Sox gear to school or work on Opening Day at Fenway Park Monday, April 6, and could win a visit from Lester himself. Visit www.rallyagainstcancer.org for more details and listen for Jon Lester on the following stations:*

Wednesday, April 1:
7:10 a.m. WFNX 101.7 FM
7:20 a.m. WEEI 850 AM
7:40 a.m. WROR 105.7 FM

Thursday, April 2:
7:00 a.m. WBCN 104.1 FM
7:10 a.m. WODS 103.3 FM
7:20 a.m. WZLX 100.7 FM
7:40 a.m. WBMX 98.5 FM

*Please note that times are subject to change.

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March 30, 2009 at 4:44 PM

2009 Prospects Previews: Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Jimenez

This installment of the Prospects Previews series features a young first baseman looking to get back into the swing of baseball life, and a third base prospect looking to round out his game in the upper levels of the organization.

Anthony Rizzo

Position: First Base
2008 Team: Greenville Drive
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: Rizzo brings an excellent approach to the plate. He works pitchers while he is at bat, seeing a lot of pitches, and his command of the strike zone is advanced for his age. Rizzo seeks out his pitch and has a smooth, fluid stroke from the left side of the plate, producing hard, solid contact. With little movement as the pitch approaches the plate, Rizzo uncoils from a closed stance and hits through the ball very well, producing a lot of line drives. Standing at 6’3’’ and 230 pounds, his power potential is above average and he projects to have good power to all fields. With excellent bat speed, the ball jumps off Rizzo’s bat when he makes contact. His overall skills at the plate are well advanced for his age and he projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter at the major league level. Despite his size, Rizzo has excellent quickness and is nimble around the bag. He gets a good jump on balls his way and digs throws out of the dirt very well. Rizzo projects as a solid first baseman defensively down the line. A hard worker and great teammate, he leads by example and is the type of player that others look up to.

Development Needs: Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May of last season and missed the rest of the year. Given a clean bill of health in November, Rizzo is back on the field and ready to start the 2009 season. Because of his illness, Rizzo lost some developmental time and had his hot start at Greenville derailed. At the plate, he needs to work on tapping into his raw power and lifting the ball with his swing. However, Rizzo’s power was beginning to come around right before his diagnosis. With continued repetitions provided by a full-season of at bats, this is something that should come with time. While his approach is advanced at the plate, he still has some development ahead of him when it comes to his pitch recognition and command of off-speed pitches. Occasionally, Rizzo can get himself out at the plate, but during his short stint at Greenville last season he was producing a lot of hard contact. Rizzo’s developmental needs center on getting back in the flow of the game after his layoff and rounding out his skills as he starts to move up the ranks of the Red Sox organization.

2009 Outlook: Rizzo looks set to begin the 2009 season with the Greenville Drive. Watch for him to continue to bring a patient approach to his at-bats and display his sweet left-handed swing. While the Red Sox will most likely bring him along slowly, Rizzo should get plenty of at bats this season and his development should respond as he gets back in the flow. One of the main things to watch for is how he starts to tap into his natural power and lift the ball. Rizzo should start to hit some home runs at this level as he adjusts his swing more and more. Look for Rizzo to continue to display his solid contact rates as well. Another area to watch for is improvement in his pitch recognition and a better understanding of the pitches he can drive. While 2009 will be a season of getting back on the field and into the swing of things, watch for some nice developmental strides for Rizzo, as well as some flashes of the type of player he can be down the line.

Jorge Jimenez

Position: Third Base
2008 Teams: Lancaster Jethawks and Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: This athletic player brings a lot of fluidity to his game. Jimenez makes excellent contact at the plate and has a nice, smooth swing from the left side of the plate. He handles balls in the middle to outer third of the plate very well and likes to get his arms extended. His swing has some natural lift to it, and he drives balls into the gaps pretty well. With an excellent approach, Jimenez does not strike out much either. He’s generally aggressive at the plate and is able to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes while not working himself into too many tough counts. Jimenez held his own after his promotion to Double-A last season, and he did not look overmatched in his first taste of advanced pitching. Jimenez is also athletic in the field and has good range at third base. He’s fluid and smooth at the hot corner with a sure glove and an accurate arm, andhe can also play first base. After spending the 2007 season with the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox pushed Jimenez past low-A in 2008 and he responded with a nice season overall while making some strong developmental strides.

Development Needs: There isn’t much power in Jimenez’s game despite a strong frame and natural lift in his swing. The power he shows in batting practice has yet to really transfer into games, and he will need to produce some more power to make it as a corner infielder at the major league level. He does not project as a slugger down the line, but has the skills to add some to his game. Jimenez is not overly patient at the plate and does not wait around long in his at-bats. Now that he has advanced to Double-A, some added work in taking walks and being more selective will be necessary to keep pitchers from taking advantage of his aggressive nature. Jimenez has been excellent at producing contact in his career, but needs some work on creating harder contact and cleaning out pitches on the inner third of the plate rather than rolling over them. Some improvement in this area could produce a boost in his power and the number of balls he pulls with authority. His arm is only average for a third baseman, and he could be a little more fluid with his throws to make up for his lack of elite level arm strength.

2009 Outlook: Jimenez is set to man the hot corner for the Portland Sea Dogs this season. Expect Jimenez to continue to produce high contact rates and get the bat on the ball frequently. One of the main areas to watch for is how well his patience comes along at this level. Improvement in the number of walks he draws would be a sign of positive development in this area, as would an increase in hard contact on the balls he puts into the field of play. Look for Jimenez to play a solid third base, while his ability to move across the diamond gives the team some flexibility. Another area to watch for is whether he can add a little bit more power to his game and transfer his impressive batting practice results into live game action. An uptick in the amount of power he produces would further solidify his status as a prospect capable of holding down a starting role at the major league level. After a nice season of development in 2008 in which he got back on a more age-appropriate path, Jimenez is looking to sharpen his overall game and show he can produce over a full season in Double-A.
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March 28, 2009 at 12:54 PM

March 28 Fort Report - First Cuts

Word from two sources is that Mike Rozier, Darren Blocker, Rafael Cabreja, Chris Jones, and Jordan Craft were released on Friday, but the team has yet to officially announce those transactions ... After missing significant off-season and sping workouts with an ankle injury, Jason Place returned to minor league game action on Thursday ... Jon Van Every has also missed time with an ankle injury - about two weeks - and is expected to miss another two weeks of spring action according to the ProJo ... Despite his struggles so far in camp, Chip Ambres impressed with a walk-off home run for Boston on Friday ... Ambres could be the starting centerfielder for Pawtucket if Van Every starts the season on the disabled list ... The Red Sox announced this morning that Justin Masterson has been moved to the bullpen, and the first start for the fifth starter - on April 12 - will go to either Brad Penny or Clay Buchholz, largely depending on the status of Penny's arm strength.
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March 27, 2009 at 8:09 AM

2009 Prospects Previews: Watch List

This installment of the Prospect Previews series focuses on some of the newer and relative unknown prospects within the Red Sox organization, giving an overview on some of the things to expect and watch for during the upcoming season.

Carson Blair

Position: Catcher
2008 Team: Gulf Coast League Red Sox
2009 Projected Team: Gulf Coast League Red Sox

2009 Outlook: Drafted as an infielder, the Red Sox will try their hand at converting Blair to a catcher in 2009. Physically, he is thin in the upper body but has a solid lower half and should be able to fill out as he matures. Blair has been transitioning well to his new role this spring, showing a quick release on his throws down to second base. A hard worker, expect him to pick up the general points of catching this season and provide some clues as to whether this transition is going to succeed in the long run. Watch for Blair to improve on how he handles pitchers. Given his athletic nature he should be quick behind the plate, and agile on balls in the dirt. He should be expected struggle from time to time, but this is a given for someone transitioning to an entirely new position. Offensively, Blair can get the bat on the ball and has some pop in his swing. After a quick start to his professional career in the batter’s box at the tail end of last season, he will be looking to carry that momentum into the coming season. Blair’s mechanics at the plate need some refinement and the Red Sox coaching staff has been working on getting him to be more still at the plate. Watch for Blair to improve on his ability to stay on the ball and keep his body moving together during his swing. The more fluid his body gets, the more solid contact to all fields he will produce.

Manny Rivera

Position: Pitcher
2008 Team: Dominican Summer League Red Sox
2009 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners

2009 Outlook: After spending the 2007 season in the bullpen, the Red Sox moved Rivera to the starting rotation and he produced in his new role in 2008. Striking out slightly more than a batter per inning last season, this left-handed starter aggressively goes after hitters with his fastball. The pitch showed good life and movement this spring, but he can be wild within the strike zone. His delivery is free and easy, but he struggles some with a consistent release point. Watch for Rivera to work on refining his fastball command during the summer at Lowell while sharpening his off-speed pitches. He’ll need to work them in more against the advanced competition he will face in the NYPL to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball and to continue his career as a starter. Rivera is relatively light for a pitcher, and he will need to put on some weight to maintain his stamina to endure a starting pitcher’s workload. After moving into the rotation in 2008, Rivera showed improved control and cut down on his walks. Continuing to improve in this area will be a need for him as he develops in the United States. 2009 will be a season of introduction for Rivera given his relatively unknown status outside of the Red Sox organization.

Oscar Perez

Position: Catcher
2008 Team: Did not play
2009 Projected Team: Gulf Coast League Red Sox

2009 Outlook: Signed in July of 2008 during the international signing period, the Red Sox gave Perez a bonus of around $750K, demonstrating how high they are on him. Just seventeen years old entering the 2009 season, Perez is a raw player, but he has the tools to develop into a solid major league player down the line. Advanced defensively for his age, he’s been fluid and smooth in his actions this spring. His body is physically advanced for a player his age as well, and he seems to be built to withstand the rigors of the catching position. At the plate, Perez has a lot of raw power potential, which makes him an intriguing prospect offensively. Given that this will be his first experience against professional pitching, the expectations aren’t overly high for this season, but there should be flashes of the type of solid contact he can produce as the season moves along. With the instruction and repetitions he will be getting in Florida, his development could jump as he has the natural skills of a top-of-the-line prospect. The Red Sox will give Perez a strong shot to open the season in the GCL and 2009 looks like the beginning of Perez’s career in the United States, giving followers a taste of what is to come.
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March 26, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Rocky Cherry signed to minor league deal

According to Art Martone of the Providence Journal, the Red Sox have signed reliever Rocky Cherry to a minor league contract. Last season, Cherry posted an 0-3 record with a 6.35 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 16 walks in 18 appearances out of the Baltimore bullpen. He began the 2008 season at Triple-A Norfolk, where he went 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 28 games, striking out 37 and walking only 9 in 37.1 innings. Cherry had been picked in the Rule 5 draft by the Mets in December, but was released on March 17 and became a free agent when Baltimore declined to buy back his contract. He has made 4 appearances so far this spring, allowing 1 earned run on 5 hits and 1 walk in 4.0 innings, striking out 1.

The 29-year-old righthander began his career in the Cubs organization after the team made him a 14th round draft pick in 2002, and he made his major league debut for Chicago in 2007. He was then traded, along with third baseman Scott Moore, to the Orioles at the 2007 trading deadline for starter Steve Trachsel. In 40 career major league appearances for the Cubs and Orioles, Cherry is 1-4 with a 5.77 ERA, 38 strikeouts, and 35 walks in 48.1 innings, all out of the bullpen. He will likely do his pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2009.
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March 25, 2009 at 4:02 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Ryan Westmoreland and George Kottaras

The 17th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a 2008 Draft Pick set to make his debut midway into the season, and a catcher on the verge of breaking camp with the Boston Red Sox.

Ryan Westmoreland

Position: Outfield
2008 Teams: Portsmouth High School (RI)
2009 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive

Strengths: An exciting 5-tool prospect, Westmoreland has all of the skills to be a top player at the major league level. One of the fastest players within the organization, he projects to be a player who can impact the game with his wheels and steal a good amount of bases as he rises through the system. Westmoreland has strong, quick wrists, which generate tremendous bat speed as he whips the head of the bat through the hitting zone, and he has a knack for consistently squaring up the ball to produce hard contact to all fields. Given his excellent bat speed and strong athletic frame, Westmoreland has excellent power potential and projects as a player who will drive the ball out of the ballpark as he follows his development path. His plate discipline has been reported as being advanced for his age. In the field, he is more than capable of patrolling centerfield, and his defensive skills are highlighted by excellent range along with a strong arm. Committed to Vanderbilt, the Red Sox lured Westmoreland away from college with a $2 million signing bonus after selecting him in the 5th round of the 2008 draft.

Development Needs: Westmoreland underwent surgery on his labrum this off-season and will probably be sidelined until mid-May. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it remains to be seen how this injury will effect his development and how long it will take for him to get comfortable at the plate again. Playing his high school baseball in Rhode Island, there are some concerns about the level of competition he faced and how smooth his transition against professional pitching will be, but the Red Sox heavily scouted Westmoreland, including a personal trip from Theo Epstein. While he possess all of the tools, including an advanced approach at the plate, he is still a raw hitter and growing into his body. It can be expected that there will be some developmental needs surrounding his pitch recognition, which is driven by more and more repetition against advanced pitching. However, Westmoreland put up excellent summer baseball numbers against top competition, and was the hitting star of the Red Sox Dominican Instructional League just prior to having surgery on his shoulder.

2009 Outlook: Given his rehabilitation from surgery, Westmoreland will not be ready to break camp with a full-season team; had he been healthy, he most likely would have started the year with the Greenville Drive. Swinging a bat and beginning his work on getting his throwing strength back, look for Westmoreland to begin appearing in some game action in mid-May or early June with the Lowell Spinners. He could also debut with the Greenville Drive if there are openings there or the Red Sox feel inclined to challenge him right off the bat. One of the main areas to watch for this season with Westmoreland is the development of his pitch recognition. 2009 will be his first go-around with professional pitching and some adjustment in this area can be expected. Watch for Westmoreland to be an exciting player all-around. His athleticism and feel for the game should project while he is out on the field. 2009 marks the beginning of Westmoreland’s development, and while there are some growing pains to be expected, expect some flashes of the things to come, things that made him an exciting signing for the Red Sox.

George Kottaras

Position: Catcher
2008 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox
2009 Projected Team: Boston Red Sox

Strengths: Kottaras’ strongest assets at the plate are his power potential and his plate discipline. Hitting from the left side of the plate and from an open stance, he works counts and sees a lot of pitches during his at-bats. He goes deep into counts and jumps all over pitchers’ mistakes. Kottaras displayed his power potential with 22 home runs in the IL last season. After a disappointing 2007 season at AAA, he came back in 2008 with a much more productive season and looked a lot more comfortable than he did in his first go-around. Behind the dish, Kottaras has done a lot of work to improve his defensive game, which had been a knock on him since being acquired for David Wells back in August of 2006. A hard worker, he’s developed the reputation as a catcher that his pitchers are comfortable throwing to and a player who takes well to instruction. His game-calling skills have improved since his arrival, and he’s generally worked to focus on the finer points of catching. Kottaras has always been adept at blocking balls in the dirt and quick behind the plate in his reactions. He has good experience catching knuckleball pitchers, which has kept him in the picture to handle those duties at the major league level

Development Needs: Out of options in 2009, Kottaras is at a make or break point with the Red Sox. Because of this, he skipped representing his home country of Canada in the WBC to report to Spring Training on time. Despite his strong arm, Kottaras has struggled with throwing runners out due to a slower release on his throws. His throwing attempts down to second base tend to tail back into the runner and have seemed rushed. In the past, especially in his 2007 season with Pawtucket, Kottaras has been pull happy at the plate, which shows in the number of ground balls he hits to the right side. If he is going to have success in the batter’s box in the major leagues, he’s going to have to be more conscious of going with the offerings given to him and focus on keeping his hands back to prevent him from rolling over on pitches. Kottaras can also go into extended dry spells where he doesn’t make enough contact. Improvement on his contact rates is another area of needed development for him to be successful at the major league level. Kottaras made improvements on driving the ball more in 2008, and with some added work on keeping his swing consistently fluid, he can take another step at the plate.

2009 Outlook: Kottaras entered camp in a battle with Josh Bard and Dusty Brown for the back-up catcher’s position with the Red Sox. As camp has gone along, Kottaras has seen more time handling Tim Wakefield and with Bard being released, it appears that he has the inside track on breaking camp with the major league team. Expect him to catch Wakefield’s starts and give Jason Varitek some days off during the season. His handling of the knuckleball will be his first and foremost priority, but expect him to be an upgrade offensively over last year’s back-up Kevin Cash. One of the main areas to watch for is how consistent Kottaras can be in the batter’s box at the major league level. His plate discipline is a strong advantage for him, and as he gets comfortable some power may start to play in his game. Kottaras could struggle some in his first go-around in the league, as he has seemed to have periods of adjustment as he’s made his way to the upper levels in the organization. Spreading the ball around the field and taking what pitchers give him will be a good sign of some positive development in his offensive game. At least to start the season, he has a grasp on the back-up catcher’s spot, and it looks like his spot to lose.
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at 10:47 AM

Q&A with Bryan Peterson

The Red Sox picked Bryan Peterson in the eleventh round of the 2008 Draft out of West Valley High School in Washington. He signed almost immediately after being drafted, and hit .277/.361/.391 in 38 games with the GCL Red Sox in 2008. Peterson now looks like a solid bet to break camp with the Low-A Greenville Drive in 2009. Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com recently had the opportunity to sit down with Peterson and talk some baseball.

Mike Andrews:
How did you get into baseball? How long have you been playing?
Bryan Peterson: My Dad got me into baseball when I was about six years old, so I've been playing for about thirteen years. I started out with coach-pitch - I never played T-Ball - my Dad just got me into facing live pitching right away. He's been coaching me throughout my whole life, up until I got into high school and summer ball.

Does your father have a background in baseball?
BP: He played in high school, but went on to play college football for Washington State as a receiver. He has also played softball competitively, and his team won a national championship in fast pitch softball. He was on the team with his brother, as well as former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien and his brothers. He knows what he's doing with coaching baseball.

I understand that you pitched some in high school. What kind of arsenal did you have? Do you still mess around with pitching at all?
BP: I did pitch in high school. I pitched during the school year, but I didn't pitch during the summer at all - I focused on hitting during the summer. I had a fastball, curveball, and changeup. I had a pretty good curveball, being a quarterback in football, it's a pretty similar rotation. I was the #2 starter. Our #1 last year, Andy Vennum, is over at Montana State playing baseball now. I had a lot of fun pitching, but I don't really mess around with that anymore, I just focus on the other aspects of the game now.

What positions did you play in the field?
BP: I played a little bit of first my freshman year, but from then on out I just played outfield - played center and right. Never really played left.

Can you talk about the differences between being recruited by colleges vs. being recruited by pro teams?
BP: The colleges, they sell you the school, but they don't really talk about the downside of it. They would talk about the bad side of the pros, overselling it, almost negative campaigning about the pro side of things. The pro guys just lay it out there - what's going to happen, what to expect from pro baseball. They said I could still go to school if I went pro, it would pretty much be up to me.

After you committed to Washington State, did you get scouted by a lot of other pro teams besides the Red Sox?
BP: I was scouted by almost every team, mostly in-home visits. One team I remember not coming in to scout me was the Reds - that was the only team that didn't contact me, either by mail or coming to my games. The scouting actually started up during the summer of my junior year, and continued throughout the fall and winter. There were home visits, and some teams also came to my basketball and football games.

Did you get any attention from scouts for football and basketball?
BP: In basketball, I got one recruiting letter from Weber State, I thought that was pretty cool. I knew I wasn't going to play basketball, but it was nice to get some attention. In football, I had been the starting varsity quarterback since my sophomore year, so I got a little bit more attention. I got recruited by some Pac-10 schools, primarily as a play quarterback, but in some cases as an athlete. I also heard from some Mountain West schools and some WAC schools, as well as some smaller schools close by like Eastern Washington.

Tell us about your draft day experience.
BP: On the first day, I was thinking I could slide up into the fifth round - some teams had said they might take me as high as the fourth or the fifth. So I was on the computer all day checking the draft board, but unfortunately I didn't go on day one. We got a lot of phone calls that night saying, "If we pick you here, and give you X, would you sign?" I told a couple of the teams yes - there were a few teams that contacted me, so we had some ideas on what teams it might be. My Dad generally talked with the scouts and handled the business part of things. I talked to them a little bit, but I never had an official agent or adviser. The next morning, I had walk-through for my graduation. I just couldn't keep my mind on the rehearsal, I was just wondering which of the teams that called me the night before were going to draft me, and maybe nervous that none of them would. I was driving home from rehearsal when my Dad called me on the cell phone and told me I was drafted by the Red Sox in the eleventh round. I just remember getting a big smile on my face and thinking, wow, my dreams just came true. I was just really excited when I found out that it was the Red Sox.

How do you feel you did in the Gulf Coast League in 2008?
BP: I thought it was good to get out there and just experience the pro life, playing baseball every day, seeing advanced pitching. At first I was a little worried on how I was going to adjust to the fastballs, as not many pitchers throw that fast in high school. But when you see it every day, you get used to it. Everyone was great - the coaches, the players everyone was really nice. Which actually goes against what some of the college coaches will tell you. Some of those coaches told me that the international players will stab you in the back, do anything to take your spot. I didn't see it that way - everyone was very cool, I really enjoyed it. Playing in he GCL, a lot of people say it's not going to be fun, it's a drag, but I thought it was fun. It is what it is.

How does a day in the GCL differ from the a day playing in the Fall Instructional League?
BP: It's pretty much the same, getting up early, getting to the Complex, eating with the team. During the GCL, they let you play, don't really give you instructions. During Fall Instrux, there was a lot more teaching. [MA: During games?] Not necessarily, here's how it breaks down - we eat, then we lift, that's pretty much the same thing in both the GCL and in Instrux. After that we have early work hitting, in the cages with guys hitting off the tee and soft toss. During the GCL, we just go through our routine without much instruction. During Fall Instrux, we go in the cage and there will be a lot more staff members there to instruct us and tell us what we need to work on. Definitely a lot more teaching during Fall Instrux.

You got to participate in the Dominican Instructional League this off-season with a select few other 2008 draftees. What was that like?
BP: It was all of the international guys and six of us American guys - Ryan Westmoreland also came down for part of it, making seven of us. It was good to hang out with the international guys, get to know them better, and see what the lifestyle is like in the Dominican for those guys. It made us appreciate where they're coming from. The culture down there is just totally different from the Unites States. There's a lot of poverty, but there's some nice areas. It really just made us appreciate both what we have and where they're coming from.

After the Fall Instructional League and the Dominican Instructional League, what kind of training regimen did you have for the rest of the winter?
BP: I followed the Red Sox workout plan, and also did some work on the side with a trainer named Drew Buchkowski. He had worked with a lot of other major leaguers, and other pro athletes. I think Jeff Kent, James Loney, and Jeremy Affeldt are a few players that he has worked with. I got a lot of workouts in with him this off-season, and I feel good.

Has the Sox Front Office talked to you about the parts of your game they'd like to see you develop more?
BP: I had my player plan meeting the first week I was here. On the hitting side, they said they'd like me to work on understanding and executing the Red Sox hitting plan, which includes being selectively aggressive, knowing your pitch and what you can do with it, looking for that pitch until you have two strikes, not being afraid to walk, getting a pitch you can drive, expanding your zone, competing, staying within yourself, not trying to do too much. Defensively, Tom Goodwin's been talking about taking good routes to balls. Ground balls into the outfield - that's where a lot of error can happen, so you've got to make sure to keep your head down and go get to the ball.

What are your own personal goals for this year and beyond?
BP: I'm competing for a spot in Greenville, I would definitely like to make the Greenville team and be an everyday player, get my at bats in, and keep getting better every day. I want to try to come to the park focused every day, ready to learn new things, don't have any days where I just show up and go through the motions. Stay consistent throughout the year - I really want to work on that. Just getting a routine down, so even when I'm in a slump, I can still stick with my routine and that can carry me through the season.

Give us a scouting report of yourself.
BP: I have okay speed, a strong arm in the outfield, good instincts in the field, I make good contact at the plate. I can probably work on making hard contact more consistently. Smart base runner. My power is alright now, I just need to work on making more consistent contact, and I think I have fairly high power potential.

What one teammate has impressed you the most since you've been drafted, and why?
BP: I'd have to say Will Middlebrooks. He's big, he's fast, he smokes the ball in BP. He's got a great arm, he's great in the field. He has just really impressed me a lot, he has all five tools. On top of that, he's also a great teammate. It was a shame he got hurt recently, because I just love to watch him play.

Last question - I understand that you enjoy making short films in your spare time, and you have your own YouTube channel. Tell us about that.
BP: In the off-season, there's a lot of free time, so I was watching YouTube videos one night, and I thought, wow, that looks fun, I should try that. I just did it on my own one day, and I showed my brother - I was a little embarrassed at first, but he thought it was really cool and wanted to help out. So we just started making videos - we make some music videos, some different sketch comedy videos, a wide variety of stuff, but mostly comedy. Our channel is called Snappy Productions.
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March 24, 2009 at 7:59 PM

SoxProspects.com Podcast, Episode 1

In SoxProspects.com's first go at podcasting, we discuss the Staff's recent trip to Ft. Myers, the biggest stories heading into the 2009 minor league season, and the coverage of the minor leagues by the mainstream media. Included in the hour-long round table-discussion are Staff members Mike Andrews (soxprospects), Chris Mellen (Cem21), Ian Theodoridis (templeUsox), and Chris Hatfield (Arquimedez Bozo). We hope to continue podcasting on a monthly basis from here on out. Hope you enjoy!

SP Podcast.mp3

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at 12:37 PM

March 24 Fort Report: Battle for the 25th roster spot

The latest installment of the Fort Report brings you the skinny on the battle for the 25th spot on the Red Sox roster – the first base-corner outfield-pinch hitter role. The battle seems to be down to Brad Wilkerson, Chris Carter, and Jeff Bailey. Carter may be inching ahead for a few reasons, including his impressive offensive performance this Spring, his roster flexibility, and his 40-man status. However, Wilkerson's defensive superiority, his major league experience, and his ability to play some centerfield in a pinch are also keeping him in the running for the spot. Keep in mind that this spot will likely only be vacant until Mark Kotsay returns from the DL in early May. Additionally, there is also the possibility that two of these players could make the team temporarily if Brad Penny starts the season on the DL - until a fifth starter is needed on April 15. Here’s the tale of the tape:

Spring Training Offensive Stats
● Wilkerson - .128/.209/.308, 2 HR, 39 AB, 17/4 K/BB
● Carter - .353/.377/.706, 5 HR, 51 AB, 4/1 K/BB
● Bailey - .385/.500/.641, 1 HR, 39 AB, 5/7 K/BB

2008 Offensive Stats

● Wilkerson - .220/.308/.326 in 104 games for Seattle and Toronto;
Also played 3 games with Dunedin
● Carter - .300/.356/.515 in 121 games in Pawtucket;
Also played 9 games with Boston, hitting .333
● Bailey - .280/.390/.460 in 27 games for Boston;
.301/.405/.562 in 109 games for Pawtucket (International League MVP)

Spring Training Defensive Innings Played

● Wilkerson – 71 (36 in the OF, 35 at 1B)
● Carter – 85 (57 at 1B, 28 in the OF)
● Bailey – 62.1 (49.1 in the OF, 13 at 1B)

Defensive reputation

● Wilkerson is considered a strong defensive player at both 1B and in the OF
● Carter is considered a sub-par defensive player in the OF and at 1B
● Bailey is considered adequate defensively at both 1B and in the OF

Ability to play centerfield

● Wilkerson has played 7 games in centerfield since 2005. He played 92 games in center in 2005. He has played 3 games in centerfield for Boston this Spring (February 28, March 9, and March 21).
● Neither Carter nor Bailey can play center


● Wilkerson will turn 32 in June
● Carter will turn 27 in September
● Bailey will turn 31 in November

Major League Service Time

● Wilkerson – 7 years, 81 days
● Carter – 24 days
● Bailey – 61 days

Contract Status

● Wilkerson has two opt-outs in his contract: April 1 and June 15. He is signed to a minor league deal with a base salary of $400,000, but the deal could be worth up to $1.5-million if he reaches all of the incentives in the contract. He has no option years left, and is not presently on the 40-man roster (which has two open spots as of today).
● Carter is on the 40-man roster, will make the league minimum salary, and has two option years left.
● Bailey can opt out of his contract and become a free agent if he is not called up by July 15. He is on a minor league deal, and likely would make the league minimum salary if called up. He has two option years left. He is not presently on the 40-man roster.


● Wilkerson bats and throws lefty
● Carter bats and throws lefty
● Bailey bats and throws righty

Recent playing time

● Wilkerson hasn’t played in an A-Game since March 21. He has two hits in 29 at bats in March.
● Carter has been playing every day for the Sox lately. He’s hitting .346 with 5 home runs in March.
● Bailey has also played almost every day for the Sox lately. He’s hitting .364 in 33 at bats in March.
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March 23, 2009 at 10:04 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Yamaico Navarro and Derrik Gibson

The 16th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a young shortstop looking to take the next step in his development within the Red Sox organization, and a 2008 Draft Pick working to open the season in full-season baseball.

Yamaico Navarro

Position: Infield
2008 Teams: Greenville Drive and Lancaster Jethawks
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: With quick wrists, Navarro generates excellent bat speed, whipping the head of the bat through the zone and generating hard contact when he squares the ball up. His swing has some natural loft to it, and the ball comes off his bat with a lot of backspin. A line drive hitter, Navarro is adept at turning on pitches and is very fluid with his lower-body mechanics, creating a good about of torque when he drives through the ball on the inner half of the plate. There aren’t many fastballs that get by him, and he has pretty good power for a middle infielder. On the defensive side of the ball, Navarro has an above-average glove and has seen time around the infield during his career in the Red Sox organization. He’ll make his fair share of spectacular plays over the course of the season, making him an exciting player to watch in the field. His range and arm play well enough for him to stick at shortstop for at least the near future. After a strong 2008 season of development, Navarro pushed himself up the Red Sox depth chart and sharpened the focus on how he’ll project as he continues to hone his overall game.

Development Needs: Navarro struggles some with off-speed pitches and could stand to work on his plate discipline. He can chase curveballs down in the dirt and get himself out on occasion. An aggressive hitter, he’ll need to work on seeing more pitches and focusing more on the ones he can drive as he moves to higher ranks within the system, while laying off the off-speed stuff outside of the strike zone. Navarro has shown some improvement in this area already, especially during the 2008 season, but this aspect of his game will be tested when he reaches double-A. Although he is a very skilled player in the field, his footwork does need some work; he can sometimes tangle himself up, struggling with double plays around the bag. The type of hitter he ends up becoming is a bit of an unknown at this point as well, given that speed is not a huge part of his offensive package and that he’s not going to project as a middle-of-the-order run producer. Given his versatility in the field and some of the questions surrounding his bat, his initial projections were that of a utility player, but his strong season in the batter’s box in 2008 lent credence to him projecting as a major league starter down the line.

2009 Outlook: Look for Navarro to start the season with the Salem Red Sox, most likely manning the diamond as a shortstop, but also moving around the infield to keep his bat in the lineup. With a strong first half of 2009, there is a chance he could make his way up to Portland to be challenged against more advanced pitching. Navarro will make a lot of plays in the field and sting line drives around the yard. One of the main areas of development to watch for is how much improvement he makes on his plate discipline. While the goal isn’t to make him more passive at the plate, the Red Sox would like to see him working on making better decisions on which pitches to go after. An increase in his walks should follow suit, along with a reduction in the number of pitches he chases outside of the strike zone. Another area to watch for is an improvement in his footwork in the field. Strong development in this area would further round out his defensive game and go a long way towards deciding whether or not he is going to be able to stick at shortstop at the higher levels. One of the players who made good strides within the organization in 2008, Navarro is looking to take a further step forward in 2009 and position himself as one of the next wave of homegrown players to break into the Boston lineup.

Derrik Gibson

Position: Shortstop
2008 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox and Lowell Spinners
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: Gibson brings elite speed to the baseball diamond and is one of the fastest players within the organization. With his speed and intelligence on the base paths, he projects as an excellent base stealer and a player who can make an impact with his legs. Polished defensively upon entering the system, Gibson is very fluid and fundamentally sound. His great range allows him to make difficult plays look easy and get to balls a lot of players wouldn’t. He makes quick, accurate throws across the field and brings a lot of athleticism to his position. Gibson projects to be an elite defender at either shortstop or second base. With the bat, his short, compact swing is highlighted by his quick wrists. There is a lot of fluidity to his swing and some jump to the ball when it comes off of his bat. His hands are quick to the ball, which allows him to square up a lot of pitches. A highly talented player, Gibson brings a lot of energy and excitement to the field.

Development Needs: Standing at 6’1’’ and 170 pounds, one of Gibson’s biggest needs is to put some added weight on his frame. There is not a lot of power in his game, and while he does not project as a power hitter, he’ll need some more muscle behind his swing. The added weight on his frame would also keep him from wearing down over the grind of a full season of baseball. Gibson held his own in the GCL after signing, but was overmatched at the plate during his short stint in Lowell. He didn’t handle breaking pitches well and he was behind a lot of fastballs. He’ll need to adjust to professional pitching and get used to seeing pitchers with good stuff day in and day out, but this will come with more and more repetition. Gibson’s stance is on the compact side and he has a longer stride coming out of it, which can affect his timing and balance. However, his head remains pretty still and he is short to the ball. Gibson has some jerky throwing mechanics, but his throws are quick and accurate. His throwing is more of an area of possible improvement where he can further enhance an already above-average skill.

2009 Outlook: Gibson looks set to break camp with the Greenville Drive. Given the amount of polish in his defensive game, he could play either shortstop or second base; the main goal is to get him the work at the plate. Look for Gibson to use his speed to make an impact on the game. He should hit some doubles and spray the ball around the field. The biggest area of development for him in 2009 is getting the exposure to professional pitching and developing a feel for the strike zone. Signs of positive development in this area would be consistent contact and better pitch recognition on off-speed pitches. Getting comfortable in this area will allow Gibson to attack fastballs better with his smooth swing. Where ever he is playing the field, he’ll make difficult plays look easy and bring energy to the position. A new face in the organization, 2009 will be a season of initial development and exposure for Gibson, one that should lend some clues as to what type of player the Red Sox have.

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March 22, 2009 at 11:35 PM

More players assigned to minor league camp

The Red Sox continued to trim the active roster today, assigning six players to minor league camp. Michael Bowden, who posted a 7.59 ERA in 10.2 innings this spring, was optioned to Pawtucket, while Junichi Tazawa was optioned to Portland after allowing only 1 run in 9.0 innings. The team also assigned outfielder Paul McAnulty (.286/.333/.381 in 42 at bats) and pitchers Daniel Bard (0 earned runs, 10 strikeouts in 9.1 innings), Marcus McBeth (no game appearances), and Billy Traber (11 earned runs, 7 strikeouts in 8.0 innings) to minor league camp.
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March 20, 2009 at 2:47 PM

March 20 Fort Report

Some tidbits from Fort Myers ... We learned this week that Robelys Reyes and Ivan Marcano are not with the organization – they never officially signed their contracts … David Harriott, an international signee out of Australia that was supposed to debut in the U.S. in 2009, has opted to retire from baseball … Accordng to Boston.com, Ty Weeden is expected to miss three months with his broken hamate bone (we had previously reported that Weeden was likely to miss the 2009 season) … Also, Nick Hagadone is still progressing nicely, and is now scheduled to return to game action in early May … Alex Speier brings us some interesting minor league notes on Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick, Jason Place, and Oscar Perez … Place is still suffering from a ligament strain in his ankle that he suffered at the end of the 2008 season - he's being held out of game action … Daniel Bard continues his assault on major league hitters, remaining unscathed in Grapefruit League play … Ryan Kalish, Luis Exposito, and Mitch Dening each made appearances for the big league club in Thursday’s game against the Reds … Kalish hit a triple in his only at bat ... Peter Gammons reports that Boston is still searching for another catcher, but continues to reject Arizona’s insistence that Michael Bowden be included in any trade for Miguel Montero.
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at 11:26 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Junichi Tazawa and Luis Exposito

The 15th installment of the Prospect Previews series features the Red Sox international signing from this past off-season, and a catcher looking to continue his push through the organization.

Junichi Tazawa

Position: Starting Pitcher
2008 Team: Nippon Oil ENEOS (Japan Industrial League)
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: This Japanese right-handed pitcher features exceptional secondary offerings and a fastball that sits 90-92 MPH, with some riding action in on right-handed hitters. His advanced slider is a pitch he can bury on batters as it sharply drops out of the strike zone late in its approach to home plate. Tazawa will mix in a 73-77 MPH curveball with some big bend to it, as well as an above-average forkball. His forkball acts more like a change-up and is a pitch that he uses to pull the string on hitters, keeping them off-balance and way out on their front foot. Working with an unconventional delivery, Tazawa has a whipping arm action that gives his offerings a bit of a different look. The ball appears a lot slower out of his hand when he throws his secondary pitches, and his fastball will jump on hitters given the number of off-speed pitches he mixes in. Its tough to gauge his delivery, and his pitches have a lot of deception to them. Capable of moving the ball inside and outside, Tazawa has excellent command of his arsenal at this point in time. In a controversial move, Tazawa asked the professional teams in Japan not to draft him in order for him to pursue his career in the United States. The Red Sox signed him despite other teams outbidding them, in part because of Tazawa’s dream to pitch with his idol, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Development Needs: Tazawa’s fastball is just average right now and the least advanced of his offerings. When he’s able to keep his hand on top of the pitch, it has some run on it, but when he gets under the pitch and tries to overthrow it, it flattens out and comes in on a straight trajectory. Despite some reports of velocity in the high 90’s, he generally operates in the low 90’s with his fastball and tops out around 94. Improvement on his fastball is a target area for Tazawa, and how well this pitch improves will be a good indicator of where he will project as a major leaguer. At 22 years old, he’s most likely reached his peak in fastball velocity. Coming from the Japan Industrial League, he’s very untested against advanced competition and has yet to face the type of batters he will in the United States. Given the culture change and the advancement in competition, a period of adjustment can be expected of Tazawa, and it remains to be seen how long it will take for him to transition into baseball at the highest level. However, Tazawa has been strong this spring in the major league camp and has drawn a lot of praise from Sox officials for his stuff and potential. His delivery is on the unconventional side, but the Red Sox haven’t made any indications that they will try to change things as of now.

2009 Outlook: Tazawa is still in the major league camp with the Red Sox and is having a strong start to his transition to baseball in the United States. Look for him to begin the season with the Portland Sea Dogs in their starting rotation. Expect Tazawa to continue his mastery of changing speeds and mixing in his off-speed pitches frequently. Batters should be off-balance against him, especially in the first go around in the Eastern League. One of the main areas of development to watch for is how well his fastball comes around. If Tazawa can consistently turn the pitch over and improve his release point, he should have excellent results at this level given the polish on his secondary pitches. Tazawa should demonstrate excellent command and make batters earn their way on base. Another area of development to keep an eye on is how quickly he adjusts to the advanced competition he faces in AA. Tazawa is an intriguing prospect to follow given all the unknowns that surround him. 2009 will be a good indication of how far away he is from appearing in a Boston uniform.

Luis Exposito

Position: Catcher
2008 Teams: Greenville Drive and Lancaster Jethawks
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: Exposito has excellent present power produced by a fluid swing that is quick to the point of contact, and he generates good loft on the follow through. He demonstrated nice power numbers in the 2008 season and made some strong developmental strides becoming the Red Sox top catching prospect in the process. Still improving as a hitter in his pitch recognition and approach at the plate, he has some more room to add power as he hones in on picking out the pitches he can drive. Given his propensity to square up the ball consistently, he makes a high rate of solid contact and is able to get the bat on the ball well, keeping his strikeouts down. Standing 6’3’’ and 215 pounds, Exposito has a solid frame and an excellent base for a catcher. Behind the plate, he possesses all of the tools to be an above-average defender at the major league level. Exposito moves well for a player his size and is adept at blocking balls in the dirt. His strong arm is augmented by fluid throwing mechanics. A student of catching, his game calling skills and instincts behind the plate are advanced for a player of his experience level, and pitchers are very comfortable throwing to him. With his outgoing personality, Exposito is very popular with his teammates and the type of player that brings a team together.

Development Needs: While he is a hitter who makes excellent contact, Exposito is not overly disciplined in the batter’s box. Improvement on his patience at the plate and selection of pitches to attack are strong developmental needs for him. Exposito will face his biggest challenge when he reaches more advanced levels within organization to prevent pitchers from exploiting his aggressiveness. As a player who has natural lift in his swing, Exposito will have to keep a balance between trying to jerk the ball and driving through the ball to minimize slumps at the plate. He does not walk very much, and some improvement in this area should make him a tougher out while limiting the times he gets himself out. Exposito’s caught stealing percentage was below average in 2008, mainly because he needs to make improvement on his throwing accuracy. He can rush his throws or get under them from time to time, but this should improve as his learns to slow things down more and trust his technique. With one strong season of professional baseball under his belt, it remains to be seen if Exposito can continue to trend upwards with his development, but all signs point towards this prospect taking another step forward in 2009.

2009 Outlook: Exposito should begin the season with the Salem Red Sox. He will be looking for a promotion to Portland this season, and with a strong start to the season, the Red Sox may be inclined to challenge him in AA around Memorial Day. Look for Exposito to continue his knack for getting the solid part of the bat on the ball at this level and to continue to produce solid power numbers for a catcher. One of the main areas of development to watch for is how much his patience and discipline at the plate improve. It is a good bet that the organization will be closely watching this area of his game, and a promotion to the next level will depend on him showing improvement in his plate discipline. Watch for an increase in deep counts and some added walks as a by-product. Another area to watch for is an improvement in his throwing numbers. Exposito has an outstanding arm, and sharpening of his accuracy should allow him to throw out as many runners as one would expect of someone with his arm strength. 2009 will be a key season of development for Exposito. Coming off a season in which he moved up the Red Sox depth chart at the catching position, he will look to continue his assent up the ranks and to solidify himself as a candidate to be the organization’s long-term solution behind the plate.
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March 19, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Q&A with David Mailman

The Boston Red Sox selected David Mailman out of Providence Sr. High School in North Carolina in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. Signing at the deadline in 2007, Mailman only played a handful of games in the Gulf Coast League before breaking camp with the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League in 2008. Spending all of the 2008 season with the Drive, he struggled initially before coming on strong to finish off the season. Recently, during Minor League Spring Training, Chris Mellen of SoxProspects.com had a chance to sit down with Mailman to talk some baseball.

Chris Mellen: David, you started off on the slow side last year in Greenville, but came on strong in the second half of the season. What kind of adjustments did you make at the plate?
David Mailman
: I just began to trust myself again. I worked hard with Billy (McMillon) and Victor (Rodriguez), the hitting coaches with the team, trying to get back to the reasons that they drafted me. I always had a pure swing so I tried to go back to that again, and the results started to come.

CM: What’s been the main difference between Spring Training last season and your experience thus far this season?
DM: Ah. I’m just more comfortable with things. I know the process much more now and how things go. Right now it’s getting in tune for the games. You realize that everything you are doing thus far is about getting yourself to Salem or wherever I may be, but it’s also about getting ready for the season, whether that is taking a lot of pitches or seeing the curveball or change-up. You want to see a little bit of everything so that way you are coming into the season prepared and there is nothing that you haven’t seen in the last six or seven months.

CM: What type of things did you focus on this past off-season and what do the Red Sox have you working on as your main developmental goals for 2009?
: This past off-season I worked hard on getting stronger. I worked out with a guy who played football at Florida and, actually, with the New England Patriots named Tony George. He’s a great guy. Tony talked with Pat (Sandora), our strength coordinator, and they got me on a program. I was with him four days a week and then by myself for another one or two. I just tried to work hard, getting myself up to 200-205 [pounds]. I’ve been feeling really great and strong. The biggest thing for this year is just to trust myself and let everything go; to try to slow the game down and let everything come to me, and the results will come.

CM: Can you give our readers a self-scouting report on David Mailman?
: (Laughing) You know, [I’m] just a natural lefty [with a] pure, smooth swing. Besides the swing, [I] maybe not someone with great, great tools, but [I’m] a ballplayer that’s going to play the game solid, smart, and the way it should be played.

CM: What are some of the things you learned last year in your first season in professional baseball, and how do they translate against what you want to accomplish this season?
: Basically, you have to go out each day with a plan. Last year I let everything speed up on me. I was just happy that I was in Greenville for the first couple of months. You have to work on the little things to make you better each day [and] realize that it’s not about the short term results. Those things are nice, but everything I do needs to be for the long run. Hopefully, I can apply these things to my work this season and move my way up to Boston in a couple of years.

CM: After playing first base in high school, the Red Sox converted you into an outfielder. Can you talk about how the conversion went and some of the main areas you needed to focus on?
: The main reason I played first was because I also pitched. I was just a little lefty pitcher that got by in high school. I ran like a 6.7 (60-yard dash), and all of the scouts started to say that maybe I could play the outfield. It just kind of came naturally. I worked with Lou Frazier the first year and now [I’m] working with Tom Goodwin; you can’t ask for two better coaches than that. Goodie’s been saying the same thing: let the game come to you. Our job isn’t to make the spectacular play, but to make every play. We’re there because maybe the pitcher made a mistake or one gets past the infield so our job is to clean things up.

CM: What’s been the one thing that has really stuck out at you about professional pitching?
: Especially in Greenville last season, everyone threw hard. They maybe don’t always know where it is going, but is going to come at you hard. Guys are beginning to get a plan with what they are doing. Maybe it’s about establishing their fastball and working off of that, but they are going to come after you. Everyone’s got good stuff. There is no longer someone throwing 85, where you know it’s going to be meat, and everyone is throwing 90 so you have to get ready for that on a daily basis

CM: As a hitter that is known for a patient approach at the plate and isn’t afraid to draw a walk, can you talk to us about how you go about approaching an at-bat?
: We talk with Victor (Rodriguez) a lot about it. Our goal isn’t to draw a walk. Victor says that Manny Ramirez always said it the best [when he said] that we don’t do all of that work in the cages and before a game to go up there and walk. Our job is to hit the ball. I’m going up there looking for my pitch. You zone in on that pitch and if it comes, you hit it. If not, I’m not afraid to get deep into the count and work off of that.

CM: While at Greenville last season, what kind of things did the coaching staff work with you the most on?
: It’s a great coaching staff up there and they professionalized me a lot, especially Bolsie (Kevin Boles). Overall, they’re just a good group of guys all around. I was fortunate enough, being one of the younger guys, to have some of the older guys like
(Ryan) Kalish and (Kris) Negron really help me and teach me how the game is supposed to be played. If there is a pop-up, you run hard. Little things like that. Never show [your] emotions as well, and don’t wear it on your sleeve. Go about every at-bat with a level approach and success will come.

CM: What is your favorite part about playing baseball?
DM: It’s fun. I had a long off-season, and coming down here you realize how much you love and miss it. Of course, hitting is the best part of playing baseball, but there is just a great group of guys here with the Red Sox.

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March 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Sox release Josh Bard

The Red Sox today announced that the team has released catcher Josh Bard. The soon-to-be 31-year-old backstop had signed a non-guaranteed one-year contract, with a team option for a second year, in December that would have paid him $1.7 million had he been on the 25-man roster on opening day. By releasing Bard today, the team will now only owe him one-sixth of that amount. Bard had been having a strong spring prior to being cut, compiling .429/.529/.786 totals with 2 doubles, 1 home run, 3 walks and only 2 strikeouts in 14 at bats.

This move likely signals that George Kottaras, who is out of minor league options, will break camp as Boston's backup backstop. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter is also having a respectable spring, having put up .286/.375/.500 numbers with 1 home run in 14 at bats so far. He has also done well in catching the knuckleball of Tim Wakefield, a certain pre-requisite to be the backup catcher for the Red Sox.
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at 7:46 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Michael Almanzar and Casey Kelly

The 14th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a young third baseman continuing his work on learning the ins and outs of the professional game while looking to hone his raw skills, and a multi-position prospect with his sights set on developing at two positions this upcoming season.

Michael Almanzar

Position: Third Base
2008 Teams: Gulf Coast Red Sox and Greenville Drive
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: Almanzar generates excellent bat speed, uncoiling from a wide open stance and attacking the ball with a slightly long but fluid swing. Scouts rave about his overall package and the sky is the limit for this prospect. His plus power potential projects him to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and a run producer. Making his debut at seventeen years old last season, he more than held his own in the Gulf Coast League prior to a call-up to Greenville to finish the year. Standing 6’ 3’’ and 190 pounds, Almanzar has an excellent frame and a lot of room to add muscle as he grows into his body. Extremely athletic, he made some strong strides in Extended Spring Training after looking overmatched earlier in the spring. Offensively, he has all of the tools at the plate to become a hitter who makes solid contact and drives the ball around the field. After signing as a shortstop, Almanzar made the transition to third base and picked up the position pretty quickly. His strong arm plays well at the hot corner and he has shown the necessary reactions to handle the position once he has more experience and repetitions. In general, Almanzar has shown the ability to learn quickly and to make strong developmental advances with more and more repetitions. With his high ceiling, young age, and excellent tools, Almanzar has the potential to become an impact player at the major league level down the line. The Red Sox showed what they thought of Almanzar’s potential by signing him to a $1.5 million bonus as an international free agent in July of 2007.

Development Needs: Given his young age and inexperience in professional baseball, Almanzar is very rough around the edges. His plate discipline and pitch recognition are currently a work in progress, and he struggles considerably with off-speed pitches. Almanzar struggled against more advanced pitching in Greenville after his promotion, but this is expected with a player of his age. He works from a very open stance and has a large timing step, which throws him off-balance and causes his bat to drag through the zone from time to time. His swing is on the long side, and he will have to continue to work on getting the bat head to the ball more quickly to cut down on his wild swings and improve his contact rates as he works against advanced competition. Almanzar had some maturity issues in 2008, but he has been learning how to be a professional. In the field, his footwork and glove work need improvement, and he needs to work on becoming more fluid in the field. Given his age and potential for more physical development, it remains to be seen if Almanzar will continue to project as a third baseman; he could potentially have to move to another position in the future.

2009 Outlook: Almanzar looks ready to break camp with the Greenville Drive and start his first season in full-season baseball. He has looked more polished this spring, and the improvements have been very noticeable. Look for Almanzar to show flashes of elite performance, but also some flashes of the rawness in his game. One of the main areas of development for him this season will be the improvement of his pitch recognition and patience at the plate. This should come on its own with more and more experience, but there could be stretches of growing pains as he develops this season. Making better decisions on which pitches to attack will be a sign of positive development in this area, which should result in a drop in his strikeout totals. Another area of development to watch for is how well Almanzar continues to improve defensively at third base. Signs of positive development here would be a drop in the errors he makes on throws and increased fluidity in his footwork. Improvement here should lend a clue as to where he projects positionally down the line. 2009 will be a year of development for Almanzar, and although we may not see huge results this season given how age advanced he is going to be, we should still see flashes of brilliance and a confirmation of his elite tools rounding into form.

Casey Kelly

Position: Starting Pitcher/Shortstop
2008 Teams: Gulf Coast Red Sox and Lowell Spinners
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: This multi-position player projects as a major-league-caliber contributor both at shortstop and on the mound. After playing shortstop in his debut with the Red Sox last season, the plan is for Kelly to transition to the mound this season. The plan is for Kelly to throw 100 innings and then to continue his work at shortstop. Despite his age and relative inexperience on the mound, Kelly features an advanced arsenal highlighted by a heavy fastball with some good sink that operates in the low 90’s. He projects to add some velocity as he matures and has good command of the pitch. Mixing in a hard, 12/6 curveball and an advanced change-up that he has good feel for, his off-speed pitches show plus potential and had scouts raving about his potential as a pitcher prior to being drafted. In the field, Kelly is an excellent defender, with fluid mechanics and a plus arm. His smooth motions in the field and plus range project him as an elite defender down the road. At the plate, Kelly has average present power with the potential to develop above-average power as he develops his swing. The ball comes off his bat well when he squares pitches up, and after initially struggling in the GCL he performed well in a short sampling at Lowell, hitting hard line drives to all fields. Another high-ceiling young player, the Red Sox gave Kelly a $3 million bonus after making him their #1 draft pick in 2008.

Development Needs: Kelly’s bat is still raw and his swing mechanics will have to improve if he is to continue his path as a position player. His swing is a little on the long side and he struggled with his contact rates after signing, striking out frequently. Many of his strikeouts came from chasing breaking pitches down and out of the strike zone. Kelly also hit from behind in the count and was on the defensive in a lot of his at-bats. On the mound, he’s relatively inexperienced after spending most of his time focusing on playing shortstop in high school, but his overall skills and potential are impressive enough to spark a strong debate within the organization over which position track to put him on prior to being drafted. Kelly will have to adjust to life as a pitcher and get comfortable with his new routine, along with the finer points that go into being a starting pitcher, if he his to continue on the mound. With the plan to play him at both positions in 2009, there are some questions as to how his development will be effected with the amount of work he will have to put in to make the experiment work. He may also be affected offensively by the layoff between his at-bats at the end of last season until his continuation at the plate towards the end of this season. Kelly made it clear that he wanted to sign as a shortstop and continue to play there, but after signing he spoke about being open to exposure on the mound. He will need to work on his arm strength and consistency with his delivery as he works towards to the goal of 100 innings pitched in 2009.

2009 Outlook:
With the plan outlined for him, Kelly looks set to begin the season in the rotation for the Greenville Drive and then transition back to shortstop in the last couple of months of the season. Look for Kelly to display his advanced arsenal on the mound and to begin to get comfortable with his role as a starting pitcher. One of the main areas to watch for is how well his arm responds to his workload and how his arm strength comes along as he logs his 100 innings. A sign of positive development in this area will be a strong finish to his pitching phase of the season. Kelly should work to get ahead of batters by establishing his fastball and mix some off-speed offerings in later in the count. At the plate, the main area to watch for is how well his pitch recognition develops, especially after the long layoff between at-bats. A sign of positive development in this area will be a drop in his strikeouts and a continuation of the hard contact he produced to all fields to finish up 2008. 2009 could prove to be a very interesting season for Kelly with the plan that has been outlined for him. With his exceptional talent, some nice strides and development are to be expected, and a clearer picture of where he ultimately projects should come into focus.
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March 17, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Lugo undergoes successful right knee surgery

The Red Sox have announced that shortstop Julio Lugo has undergone successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The procedure was performed in Boston by team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill. Lugo, who put together .268/.355/.330 numbers last season before suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury in July, had been competing with Jed Lowrie for the starting shortstop job this spring. With Lugo expected to be out three to four weeks, Lowrie now seems likely to be in Boston's starting lineup on opening day against Tampa Bay.

To replace Lugo on the active roster, the Red Sox will likely choose between a number of veteran non-roster invitees currently in major league camp. Nick Green, who was signed to a minor league deal earlier this off season, is the leading candidate, having put up impressive .353/.436/.588 numbers with 2 doubles and 2 home runs in 34 at bats so far this spring. Other possibilities include Gil Velazquez, who was a September call up last year after spending most of the season at Pawtucket, Angel Chavez, and Ivan Ochoa, both of whom were signed to minor league deals this off season.
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