Brentz eager for shot in Boston

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Brentz eager for shot in Boston

It was a long season for outfielder Bryce Brentz, the longest of his young career. Brentz, the Red Sox second pick (36th overall) in the first round (supplemental) in 2010 out of Middle Tennessee State, played a total of 154 games combined with Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket, including eight post-season games, and in the Arizona Fall League.

So, it didnt help when he was stranded in Ithaca, NY, for a couple of days earlier this week when his truck broke down on his way from Montreal, where he had left the vehicle after the regular season, to Tennessee, where he was hoping to make it in time for Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, everything worked out. The truck was repaired, and he made it home for the holiday dinner.

It was one of those years for Brentz.

In 122 games with Portland, he hit .296 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, a .355 on-base percentage, and .478 slugging percentage for Portland, while playing 83 games in right field. He had a season-high 11-game hit streak in August, and recorded eight straight hits over two games in May. Brentz was twice named Eastern League player of the week, including Aug. 20-26, when he hit a league-best .536, going 15-for-28, with two home runs and a league-high 10 RBI, earning a late-season promotion to Pawtucket.

Although Brentz, who turns 24 on Dec. 30, struggled in his five regular-season games with the PawSox, going hitless until the final game of the season, he turned it on in the postseason, going 8-for-27 (.296), with two home runs, a double, a triple, and five RBI, as the PawSox won the International League title.

It was a great experience, Brentz said of his season. Learning, playing in Double A, especially Triple A, the fall league, facing some better talent, older smart pitchers. It was all about, for me, I had to learn discipline at the plate. Im a risk taker and Ive always been one, and when youre a risk taker things are going to happen. Youre going to strike out, maybe not walk as much. But thats just kind of who I am.

In three seasons, Brentz has struck out in 27.4 percent of his at-bats, including 28.8 percent in 2012, one-third of his at-bats with Pawtucket, 29.7 percent in Arizona. Hes working on his approach and his plate discipline.

I want to put myself in good position to take those risks, he said. So when I first got in the season, there was a lot of going up there just swinging from the hip, not really having an approach at the plate. So that was something that me and Portland and Arizona hitting coach Dave Joppie, we had to work on, gaining an approach and figuring out, Hey, you got to earn a fastball. Theyre not going to just give it to you. And I was able to do it. It was overall a good learning experience this year.

The mental adjustments at the plate are more of a challenge than the physical adjustments, Brentz said.

I believe the mental adjustment is always the toughest thing to do, he said. I dont have anything figured out, never will. But I know that if I just stick with the game plan, stick with my approach, let the at-bat take care of itself -- a lot of times I expand the zone because I expand my approach. Actually, its because of the fact that youre worried about this pitch or maybe youre concerned too much about one pitch instead of saying, 'Hey, its just not there. You dont have to swing at it.' The mental side is always tougher than the physical.

In 17 games in Arizona, Brentz hit .297 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and an .804 OPS, being named to the Rising Stars game.

Its a great league, Brentz said. The players obviously are really goodIt was a good experience. These guys are really good, great players. I had a lot of fun, and it was a good time.

Between Portland and Pawtucket Brentz played a combined 87 games in right field, one of several holes the Sox have to fill this offseason. It may not be long before he is playing the position for the major league team.

For me, I believe I share the same view as every guy whos in the minor leagues, whos on the cusp of being in the big leagues, we all look at those type of things, see what theyre doing, what the parent club is doing, Brentz said. For me, with that situation, I want to be there to help out. I hope Im one of the guys in the lineup for the Red Sox. Thats what Im looking forward to. But were all the same. And theyre going to do whats best for the team. Its not the Boston Bryce Brentzes or whatever. Its the Boston Red Sox. And theyre going to do what they have to do for their team, and hopefully Im the right guy that can help them out.

His goals for 2013 are simple.

Hopefully to be in Boston at some point, he said. Thatd be really nice, to start there and play. But it depends on how I do and how I develop and if Im ready for it, which I think I am. But actually thats the goal, is to be in Boston next year.

But, I really dont set number goals. I just want to be productive. Thats all I can ask for.

For now, hes looking forward to enjoying the rest of the offseason, being a normal 23 year old before he heads to Fort Myers for spring training. Hell visit with his family, take some hunting trips with his buddies. Hell be back training and in the weight room after Thanksgiving.

But its good to finally have some time off, he said. It was a very long season.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.