Cherington on Japanese pitching phenom Otani

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Cherington on Japanese pitching phenom Otani

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington confirmed that the team has met with Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, the high school phenom. But, Cherington offered little more than that.

I can confirm that we met with him, but Im not going to say anything else, Cherington said. Hes a respected young pitching prospect in Japan.

I dont want to get into what we do to try to evaluate players, but he is someone weve talked about.

The Yankees, Orioles, Rangers, and Dodgers are reportedly also interested in Otani, who has expressed his preference for pitching in Major League Baseball, requesting that Japanese teams do not draft him. The Japanese draft is Thursday.

Great players from every country go to MLB, Otani said on Sunday, according to Japanese sports newspaper Sponichi. I dont want to lose to those players.

In coming to the United States, Otani, who is just 18, would have challenges any other teenager would have leaving a familiar environment to enter a foreign culture. Just as there are challenges for a team bringing in such a player.

This isnt specific to Otani, Cherington said, but any young player whos a teenage player who comes to the United States, whether theyre from the Dominican, Korea, or Taiwan, theres an assimilation challenge. Its important for us to help them assimilate in a way, get
comfortable in a way that they can focus on their work on the field and developing as baseball players. So if youre going to invest in signing a young player and bringing him out of his comfort zone, out of his home country to the United States and a different environment, you have an obligation to surround them with the right resources and get them as comfortable as we can. So we do that to the best of our ability no matter where the player's from.

The Sox have had similar experiences in recent years with Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, Junichi Tazawa, and Hideki Okajima. Matsuzaka and Okajima had already established careers in Japan before coming to the U.S. Tazawa was 22 when the Sox signed him in December 2008 after four seasons in the Japanese industrial league. He pitched just one season in the Sox organization, including six games and four starts for the major league team, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2010. He was not activated until June 27, 2011.He blossomed this season, going 1-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 37 appearances, a 0.955 WHIP and 9.00 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

In Tazawas case we spent a lot of time trying to make sure the right resources were around him, Cherington said. In particular when he went through surgery, coming back from that. Its a difficult thing to do for a young pitcher in a foreign country. So we feel like were built to address the challenges that come for players from any part of the world.

Cherington said he has not spoken to Matsuzaka since the end of the season, and has not had any communication with agent Scott Boras, who counts Matsuzaka among his many clients. Matsuzaka is eligible to be a free agent, after six seasons with the Sox.

We have not had any discussions with Matsuzaka yet, Cherington said. Wouldnt rule it out, but havent had any discussion with him yet. Im sure hes going to have a chance to talk to other teams and see whats out there for him. Our expectation is that he wants to pitch. Certainly respect the way he went about things here even thought the last few seasons didnt go the way he wanted them to. He was always professional, worked extremely hard, and gave it everything he had when he was out there. Hopefully, hell be two years out of surgery next year, hell be in a better position to do what hes capable of doing."

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.