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Short hops and foul tips

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  February 22, 2009 11:34 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Assorted thoughts from spring training while waiting for the first game to start …

  • With Jason Varitek having signed just before the start of camp, there are no indications that the Red Sox are currently close to any deals for a young catcher. According to one baseball source, the Arizona Diamondbacks met with catcher Miguel Montero at the start of their camp and informed him that no deals were imminent, though the D’backs still intend to trade one of their young catchers.

    In the interim, the Red Sox appear most likely to open the season with Varitek and Josh Bard as the catching tandem, though one club official recently went out of his way to suggest that George Kottaras looked sharp in the early days of camp. Kottaras is out of options and could be a threat to beat out Bard, though the more likely scenario is that the Red Sox are trying to increase Kottaras’ trade value so that they do not simply lose him on waivers.

    Or, perhaps, that the Red Sox are trying to bring down the price for someone like Montero by suggesting that they have in-house options.

    Think about it: If Kottaras looked THAT sharp, why wouldn’t the Red Sox simply regard him as their catcher of the future and forgo all trade discussions with other teams?

  • Early in camp, the Red Sox worked on a fielding drill with their pitchers in the bullpens at their complex. Using soft, stuffed "baseballs," manager Terry Francona stood at home plate and hit one rocket after the next at Sox pitchers with the idea of improving their fielding reflexes.

    On one of the days during the drill, Francona whistled a one-hopper that bounced up and hit Jon Lester in the right shoulder, sending a brief scare through the organization. After the fact, general manager Theo Epstein needled Francona.

    Said the GM, "Next time, can you find someone else to hit?"

  • Before games start, the Sox' daily routine in camp consists of stretching and an emphasis on at least one fundamental -- cut-off plays, bunt defenses, etc. -- before the Sox break into individual groups for work on defense and offense. Defense always comes first, for a couple of reasons.

    First, by taking defense first, the Sox ensure that they will be doing fielding drills on groomed fields that have yet to be chewed up. Second, as Francona noted, "It kind of puts an emphasis on defense, and that just kind of seems right."

  • David Ortiz clearly has had enough of talking about steroids, though he is hardly alone. The topic seems to have runs its course a long time ago. The obvious problem is that the issue resurfaces every time the identity of another user is revealed, which leads to further understanding of just how deep the problems ran.

    And when that happens, baseball’s leadership looks worse and worse.

    Before anyone interprets that solely as an indictment on Bud Selig, it isn’t. Still, like everyone -- including the media -- Selig should acknowledge that he might have done things differently in retrospect. Somewhere along the line, baseball became more interested in rebuilding its business more than anything else, which has led to an unfortunate side effect.

    Now, the game has to rebuild its credibility.

    That said, Selig is hardly alone. Amid the suggestion that union deputy Gene Orza tipped off players with regard to scheduled drug tests, the union looks more corrupt than ever. And lest this come off as passing the buck, the media had its chance to blow the whistle, too. As much as we all talked about steroids at the time, the large majority of us never pursued it.

    And that, dear friends, is how baseball turned into professional wrestling.

  • It takes all of five seconds to recognize the air of dignity and professionalism that envelops reliever Takashi Saito. Saito’s build and mannerisms are eerily similar to those of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is one of the more respected players in the game. Members of the Japanese media adore Saito, and Varitek went so far as to describe Saito’s presence as "Nomo-ish," which is a compliment of the highest order.

    Though Saito is more engaging than Nomo, both are regarded as consummate professionals and gentlemen.

  • Maybe it’s American arrogance at its finest, but does anyone here really care about the World Baseball Classic? OK, it’s a cute event that helps disrupt the monotony of spring training. But is there anyone out there who believes that this country takes the event seriously?
  • Catcher Mark Wagner is just 24 years old and batted .219 in his first exposure to Double-A last year, but the Red Sox believe he is a major league player. The Sox just don’t know if Wagner is a future starter or a backup.

    In 2007, during a full season at Class-A Lancaster, Wagner batted .318 with 14 home runs, 82 RBIs and a .939 OPS. That makes 2009 a very big year for him in terms of forecasting his future, though, as we all know, catchers are frequently slower to develop than most players.

  • On the first day of live batting practice, right fielder J.D. Drew had the misfortune of facing 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound reliever Hunter Jones, who went 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA at Triple-A last year. Asked whom he was facing by a member of the media who did not recognize the 25-year-old Jones, Drew grinned, then shrugged.

    "C’mon, man," Drew chuckled. "If you don’t know, how would I?"

    Ah, the beauty of spring training.


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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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