This player signs for 39 million, while...

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This player signs for 39 million, while...

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Adding offense following a disappointing season, the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a 39 million, three-year contract with catcher Mike Napoli, a person familiar with the deal said.The agreement is subject to Napoli passing a physical, which will take place later this week, the person said Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final."Awesome addition to our team!" Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester tweeted.A 31-year-old who also plays first base, Napoli hit .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs as the Texas Rangers won their second straight AL pennant in 2011, then slumped to a .227 average with 24 homers and 56 RBIs this year as he became a first-time All-Star. His on-base percentage dropped from .416 to .343.Napoli is a .306 career hitter at Fenway Park (19 for 62) with seven homers and 17 RBIs. He is the third free agent this offseason to join the Red Sox following outfielder Jonny Gomes, who got a 10 million, two-year contract, and catcher David Ross, who received a 6.2 million, two-year deal."He's a guy who is getting on base, has power, would be a good fit for our ballpark," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, without confirming the agreement. "We like his offense at Fenway. We like the versatility."The right-handed-hitting Napoli could see most of his playing time at first base because Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August along with pitcher Josh Beckett and outfielder Carl Crawford."We knew when we made the Dodger trade and we moved Gonzalez that we were going to have to try to find a way to replace that offense," Cherington said.Texas was unwilling to guarantee three seasons for Napoli, who hit .350 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the 2011 World Series against St. Louis."They were very upfront with us throughout the process. So not a surprise," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I'm hesitant to use the word disappointment because ultimately we had a decision to make."Boston now has four catchers, with Napoli joining Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway and Ross. Saltalamacchia started 95 games behind the plate last season, with Kelly Shoppach getting 42 starts and Lavarnway 25.The Red Sox could trade one of their catchers, but that might wait until spring training."We're pretty comfortable where we are," Cherington said.Boston still is looking for a left-handed bat and starting pitching. The Mets are discussing whether to trade NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but the price in prospects would be high."It's always steep for the better guys, a valuable commodity, so if a team is going to move someone, especially if there's any length of control, they're asking for a lot," Cherington said, "as we would."Boston is coming off its first last-place finish in two decades, a year when the Red Sox went 69-93 and lost 26 of their last 33 games. Manager Bobby Valentine was fired and replaced by John Farrell."You've got to add a lot of wins (from) where we finished to compete in this division," Cherington said. "I think players and agents understand that despite what happened this year, Boston is Boston. We're committed to having a winning team. We have a history of a winning team. We're going to commit resources to the team."At last year's session in Dallas, Cherington called the winter meetings a "cesspool of information flow and dialogue.""You go through the cycle once and you're a little bit more comfortable with everything you have to do," he said, "and maybe more aware of the potential pot holes and able to navigate those hopefully."But he did have some levity. Asked what player he was looking at to play right field, Cherington responded: "Dwight Evans."NOTES:3B Pedro Ciriaco, who was playing in the Dominican Winter League, had right shoulder soreness checked out by the Red Sox, and Cherington said it was minor and he should be ready for spring training. ... Boston agreed to minor league contracts with RHP Jose De La Torre, RHP Terry Doyle, OF Mitch Maier, utility man Drew Sutton and RHP Oscar Villarreal.

Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

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Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Ryan Spooner quickly ticked off face-offs as one big area that needed improvement headed into his second full NHL season with the Bruins and the speedy young center has most definitely put in the work thus far in camp.

Still, it didn’t translate in Spooner’s first preseason game in Wednesday night’s lopsided loss to the Red Wings as he finished 4-for-16 on the draw, and to add insult to injury: he also served a two-minute minor penalty for a face-off violation that led to a power-play goal. 

The skilled center made up for it at the other end by setting up a score for fellow speed-demon center Austin Czarnik as Boston’s only goal, but he was again back out on the Warrior Ice Arena sheet working on his draws again Thursday.

“I wasn’t great on my face-offs [against Detroit] trying to cheat a little bit too much. I think I just need to maybe just bear down a little bit more,” said Spooner, who finished at a very lackluster 42.8 percent success rate on face-offs last season. “[I need to] not try to win them clean, maybe just tie them up a little bit more. I was just trying to cheat on those [face-offs], and it didn’t work.”

Clearly, the draws were a contributing part of the problem in the rough loss to the Red Wings and it’s something Spooner will need to iron out before he’s fully trusted by the coaching in the nitty-gritty situations late in games. That was obvious at times last season. It’s something Spooner wants to change this season when there’s so much competition at the center spot, with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Dominic Moore, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash and Czarnik all considered natural centers.

“When you start with the puck then the game is so much easier,” said B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “For Spooner [face offs] are important. I don’t want to speak for Claude [Julien], but he does have the luxury now of playing Spooner with guys that can take draws in his place if he wants to go down that road.

“At some point he’s going to have to improve [on the draw]. I think he wants to [improve on the draw] and he’s working at it, but the numbers aren’t where they need to be for him obviously. That’s the challenge Claude has going forward, but I think he can still get out on the ice and help you, even if he’s deficient in the face-off circle, and if he has some wingers that can help him.”

Spooner has employed veteran center Moore to give him some pointers while the two have worked out together in training camp and, in theory, it should be a big help for the young third-line center. Moore is one of those trusted veterans that is used in key face off situations with positive results, and is a left-shot player who can show the 24-year-old the exact techniques to help him.

Spooner said that getting face-off tips from Bergeron or Krejci had a limit to its helpfulness because those are right-handed centers doing the absolute reverse technique that a left-shot center would employ. Moore downplayed his role as a bit of a face off mentor, but the statistics, and his reputation on the draw would indicate he’s got plenty of knowledge to offer a second-year player.

“There are a lot of little things in the game, face-offs being one of them, that you learn through experience, and you want to try to pass it along to help make the team better,” said Moore. “[Spooner] is eager to try and improve a little bit every day. Part of face-offs is trying to get an edge any way that you can because they’re such a hotly contested thing.

“It’s definitely not easy, but if you have the right mentality then you try and build it up. You just have to approach it on a daily basis, commit to it and try to improve as best you can.”

Like so many things in life it would seem face-off ability is about putting in the work as much as it’s about natural-born skill and Spooner is putting in the hours to be a more complete center and trusted part of the team.

 

Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

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Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

The Bruins' lineup for Friday night’s preseason game in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings will include players from both practice groups filling into a more veteran-laden B’s lineup in Motown.

The Matt Grzelcyk-Adam McQuaid pairing that wasn’t great on Wednesday night will get right back into it, and the John-Michael Liles-Brandon Carlo pairing that was so good on Monday night will get another look as well. Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Anton Khudobin, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner will be the established NHL veterans along with McQuaid and Liles suiting up for Boston’s first road exhibition of the preseason.

Here’s the entire lineup, with Boston now serving as one of the last NHL teams that is yet to make any cuts from their camp roster: Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Brandon Carlo, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Brian Ferlin, Alex Grant, Seth Griffith, Matt Grzelcyk, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Anton Khudobin, Jeremy Lauzon, John-Michael Liles, Zane McIntyre, Adam McQuaid, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins will be traveling to Philadelphia for another preseason game on Saturday and that may perhaps be the first time B’s fans get to see returning World Cup veteran players David Backes, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask after they began practicing with the camp group on Thursday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.