Mullen: No ready prospects means no rookie program

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Mullen: No ready prospects means no rookie program

BOSTON For the last few years, the Red Sox have conducted a rookie development program for two weeks in January. It has been an immersion program designed to familiarize some of the organizations minor leaguers with life in Boston, both on and off the field. The program was not limited to the organizations top prospects, but for those who could soon within about 18 months be impacting the major league team.

The program has consisted of workouts in recent years at the Boston College bubble -- for about a dozen players, who stay with host families in the area, as well as media sessions and seminars with Sox personnel, including the major league manager and coaches, and others outside the organization. Celtic coach Doc Rivers had been a guest in recent years.

But, with the transformation, both on the field and in the front office, the organization is undergoing this offseason, the Sox have opted not to conduct the program this year, putting it on a one-year hiatus. General manager Ben Cherington is in his first year in the job, as are many of his lieutenants, although most have been with the organization for some time. New manager Bobby Valentine is still filling out his coaching staff. Naming Tim Bogar as bench coach on Wednesday, Valentine has yet to name his pitching coach and base coaches.

The Sox still have work to do filling out the major league roster, with starting pitching and bullpen help needed, along with a right fielder, and a right-handed bat.

"With all the change to coaching and medical staff we are going to focus January on making sure we are fully prepared for spring training," Sox general manager Ben Cherington said in a text. "The rookie program will return in 2013."

It could also be that the players who may benefit the most from the program have either already been through it or are not close enough to the big leagues to benefit from it now.

In previous years, some of the participants were among the organizations most highly regarded prospects, including Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Jose Iglesias, and Lars Anderson. Last year, the group consisted of players who at that time were less heralded --pitchersRobert Coello,Stephen Fife, Stolmy Pimentel,Jason Rice,Clevelan Santeliz, and Alex Wilson; catchersTim FederowiczandRyan Lavarnway; infieldersWill Middlebrooksand Oscar Tejeda; and outfielderJuan Linares.

Of the 11 players who participated last year, four are no longer with the organization Coello, Fife, Rice, and Federowicz. All were sent away last season in trades Coello for minor leaguer Tony Thomas; Fife and Federowicz in a three-team deal for pitcher Erik Bedard; and Rice for outfielder Conor Jackson. Lavarnway is the only one of last years class to make his big league debut, after starting the season in Double-A Portland and earning a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, before joining the big league team on Aug. 18. (Coello had already pitched in the big leagues before participating in the program, appearing in six games in 2010 for the Sox.)

That also reflects a transformation in the Sox minor league system. Once a provider of a steady crop of young players who have helped the big league team, the farm system has been depleted by trades in recent years of high-profile players. Before the Bedard deal at the trade deadline in July, the trade in December 2010 for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez sent pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and outfielder Reymond Fuentes (along with Eric Patterson) to San Diego. In July 2009, three players right-handers Justin Masterson and Bryan Price, and lefty Nick Hagadone were packaged in a deal with the Indians for catcher Victor Martinez.

Of the Sox top 25 prospects, according to soxprospects.com, 10 Middlebrooks, Kalish (who participated twice, the second time at his request), Iglesias, Lavarnway, Wilson, Pimentel, Tejeda, Anderson, left-hander Felix Doubront, and right-hander Junichi Tazawa have already participated in the program.

Of the remaining 15, only Alex Hassan has played as high as Triple A, going hitless with an RBI in four plate appearances over three games for Pawtucket in 2010. None of the other 14 has appeared above High-A, and two right-hander Matt Barnes and lefty Henry Owens, the Sox first and third picks, respectively, in the 2011 draft have yet to make their professional debuts.

Given all the Sox have facing them, this may be the right year to put the rookie program on hiatus.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.