With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

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With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

Saturday's trade of Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Clay Mortenson wasn't a trade at all. It was, pure and simple, a salary dump.

By shedding Scutaro's 6 million salary for 2012 -- which is actually valued at over 7 million for the purposes of the luxury tax -- the Red Sox did two things: 1) created some financial wiggle room for themselves to make other roster improvements and 2) opened a hole at the shortstop position.

A look at both issues:

1.) The Red Sox didn't wait long to re-allocate some of the money saved from dumping Scutaro's contract.

Source say the Sox reached agreement with outfielder Cody Ross Monday night on a one-year deal worth 3 million. Announcement of the deal will be made after Ross takes a physical.

The Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves were the other teams involved with Ross, but the Mets and Braves don't want to meet his asking price while the Rockies, ironically, may have been priced out of the race for him when they took on Scutaro's contract.

Ross gives the Red Sox a right-handed bat to pair with Ryan Sweeney in right field until Ryan Kalish is cleared to play and claim the position.

Over his career, Ross has compiled a .563 slugging percentage against lefties, making him the perfect platoon partner.

Ross could also see some playing time in left in the early part of the season as the team waits for Carl Crawford's surgically-repaired left wrist to fully heal.

That would leave the Sox with approximately 5 million of Scutaro's money to focus on upgrading the rotation.

Veteran Roy Oswalt is the best of the remaining free agents, and with February drawing closer, his asking price has come down considerably. It's thought that Oswalt is requesting something in the neighborhood of 8 million on a one-year deal.

However, multiple sources Monday indicated that an agreement with Oswalt -- even with the freed-up money -- is far from a done deal. The Sox continue to evaluate the market as the asking price for several pitchers drop. Other notable free agent pitchers include Edwin Jackson

Moreover, there are trades to consider. The Sox have been linked to both Matt Garza (Cubs) and Gavin Floyd (White Sox), each of whom will make significant money in 2012. Garza stands to get somewhere around 10 million either through arbitration or a settlement while Floyd is set to make 7 million with a 9.5 million club option for 2013.

One executive familiar with the Red Sox' thinking said Monday it was his impression that the Sox wouldn't be limited to spend only only what they saved on Scutaro, suggesting they could spend in excess of thatfigure.

"I think," said the executive, "Scutaro's money is more of a ballpark figure."

2.) When the offseason began, the Red Sox seemingly had a surplus of shortstops. Now, months later, they don't have enough.

Having included Jed Lowrie in the trade which brought them Mark Melancon, then shipping Scutaro to the Rockies, the Sox are left with three shortstops on the 40-man roster -- and that might be stretchingit.

Mike Aviles, who was obtained at last summer's trade deadline, has played shortstop in the big leagues, but hasn't done so in a while -- at least not on everyday basis.

If Scutaro was a fringe average shortstop defensively, Aviles is something less than that.

Aviles had, in fact, played the outfield in Puerto Rico this winter, hoping to get more comfortable in that spot. Now that Ross is on board, Aviles is freed from outfield duty and can concentrate on the infield.

Nick Punto, signed in the immediate aftermath of Lowrie's trade, was brought in to be the utility infielder. He's played short in the past, but not for extended periods of time and certainly not in an everyday capacity.

Over the last three seasons, Punto has played a total of 97 games at short and only once in his 10-year career has he played more than 60 games at short.

It's been suggested that the Sox could employ an Aviles-Punto platoon at short to at least start the season, but that would mean that Punto, with a career OPS of .652, would play about 70 percent of the games. Even for a lineup as powerful as that of the Red Sox, that would be an offensive sinkhole.

By now, of course, the Red Sox expected that they could turn the position over to Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector who is a wizard with the glove. But while Iglesias could play the position in the big leagues right now, he's nowhere near ready offensively -- as his hitting struggles indicate at Triple A.

What's more, there's precious little left on the market unless you consider Ryan Theriot the answer.

For now, it appears the Red Sox are willing to patch the position together and hope that Iglesias can progress enough in the first few months of the season, but that seems like a huge gamble at such a critical position.

Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

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Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

BOSTON – There were no updates following the preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, but fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari had to leave in the third period with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

The Rhode Island native appeared to be favoring his right leg after getting tangled up in front of the benches just a couple of minutes into the third period, crawled toward the bench and then headed back to the B’s dressing room for repairs.

Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco didn’t have any update in the moments directly after the 5-1 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Noel did leave the game. I’m not sure what his status is, or what the injury was. I haven’t been told,” Sacco said. Acciari finished with five hits and a blocked shot in 10:35 of ice time vs. Detroit. “I’ll have to check with medical and see where we’re at.”

The hope is that the injury isn’t a serious one after Acciari looked strong and heavy playing an energy role down the middle last season for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season. He teamed with Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh to play a gritty, energy line on Wednesday night, and they were largely effective for the Black and Gold while some of the other bigger name players struggled.

A potential injury to Acciari, however, does leave the door open for Dominic Moore to really put an iron-fisted grip on the fourth-line center spot after it appeared there would be a big surplus of centers at the start of camp. 

 

 

Local kid Grzelcyk ‘really excited’ to suit up for first Bruins game

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Local kid Grzelcyk ‘really excited’ to suit up for first Bruins game

BOSTON – It wasn’t the perfect outcome, or exactly how he probably dreamt it would go down growing up on the streets of Charlestown in the shadow of the home of the Bruins, but Matt Grzelcyk finally got to wear the Black and Gold in front of friends and family at TD Garden. 

The former Boston University standout was on the ice for a couple of goals against in a rough 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night and clearly had a little bit of culture shock adjusting from NCAA hockey to the speed and intensity of a preseason NHL game.

The 22-year-old admitted as much after slowly showing during the game that he was getting more accustomed to the speed, power and precision of NHL opponents playing with purpose.

“I think maybe I was a little bit shocked coming out there. The speed of the game is obviously noticeably faster. But I think as time went on I felt a little more comfortable out there, and was able to skate pucks out of trouble. Hopefully I can build on that going forward,” said Grzelcyk. “It was obviously really exciting to get out there. I was a little bit nervous for the game and stuff and [had to] get the jitters out. But it was nice to get my first game under my belt.”

The puck-moving defenseman had tons of friends and family in the stands including his father, John, who usually works on the bull gang making sure the Garden sheet is in tip-top shape for games such as Wednesday night’s affair. So, it was natural for the nerves to be there despite “Grizz” suiting up for plenty of Beanpot games at the Garden as a member of the Terriers, but they went away as the game went along.

He picked up an assist on Boston’s only goal after working the puck up to Ryan Spooner prior to him feeding Austin Czarnik for the score. Then it was about simply playing the game, and showing where his level of play is right now as the Bruins evaluate all of their D-men. Grzelcyk had the point and he logged a solid 19:49 of ice time while finishing with a minus-1 rating and a couple of shots on net.

So, there were some positives for the local kid and some things to work on as he gets ready for some seasoning in the AHL when cuts eventually come in this B’s camp.

“I think it was a night where, as the game went on, he got better. I thought his third period was the best period he had, and as the game progressed, he started to feel a little bit more confident out there,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “He was skating. He was avoiding… being able to escape some of the breakouts, and it’s his first game in a Bruins uniform back at home here, so I’m sure at the beginning he was probably fighting some nerves. I’m sure it was a special night for him in that regard, but I thought he got better as the game went on.”

The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder will clearly take that the first time out, but clearly Grzelcyk will be looking to show the abilities that saw him post 20 goals and 61 points over his past two seasons at BU as a talented offensive D-man looking to help sooner rather than later.