Hinske reflects on time with Red Sox

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Hinske reflects on time with Red Sox

BOSTON -- Eric Hinske left the Boston Red Sox in 2007 after capturing a World Series Championship. Five years later, returning to Fenway Park and the city where he won it all still feels familiar.

Especially when you won here, it feels it was a home and it was a family, he said. You've got 25 guys grinding it out together and you win the last game of the year, it's a special thing. Nobody can take it away from you and it's awesome.

Hinske came to the Red Sox in August of 2006. After leaving Boston following the 2007 title season, he signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, where he played one season. In 2009, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates and was traded to the New York Yankees that summer. This weekend Hinske, 34, is back in Boston as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, the team he has played for since 2010.

He enjoyed four straight postseason runs, including another title with the Yankees, before the Braves failed to make the playoffs last season. He says his time with the Red Sox during their championship hunt prepared him for the next stretch of postseason quests.

The experience, how to act, how to know what the bright lights look like (prepared me), said Hinske. It was fun. I got a lot of pinch hit appearances in the playoffs throughout those years and you can't tell anybody how to do it until you get there, so just preapres you for the next one and the next one and how to breathe.

He continued, Playing in Boston taught me how to play in a big market, how to go about your business the right way every day and not let the outside distractions in. It's hard to play in a big city like this and fans expect results. You've just got to do the best you can, work the right way, and take that out on the field every day.

Hinske still keeps in touch with many of the players from the 2007 Red Sox team. He lives near Dustin Pedroia in the offseason and speaks to Alex Cora on a regular basis.

My favorite was Alex Cora because it was my first year being a bench player, he remembered. I came over from Toronto in '06 and I got to play a lot in August and September because Trot (Nixon) was hurt, (Jason) Varitek went down. Then in 07 they told me I was going to be a bench player for the whole year. I was like, Ok, I have to learn how to do this. Alex helped me a lot because he was already doing it. I kind of followed him, got my routine from him, but all those guys -- David (Ortiz), Manny (Ramirez), Mike Lowell -- I loved Mike Lowell so much -- (Kevin) Youkilis, Pedroia, all those guys were great dudes, a great team, I still talk to all of them.

Whenever he returns to Boston, the fans reach out to him, too. Hinske still gets recognized, more so than any other city he has played in, and appreciates the outreach.

All the time, he said. They're the best fans in the game, for sure. Everybody knows you. Very respectful. It's a big city but it has such a small town feel. Everybody lives and dies baseball here.

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."