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.

Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

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Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

BOSTON -- He had to make a longer trip than the rest of his team to Fenway Park for Sunday’s game, but Joe Kelly was more than happy when he got the call at midnight that he was leaving Columbus before his Pawtucket teammates so he could pitch in Boston again.

The righty rejoins the Red Sox for the first time as a reliever since Boston acquired him from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade in 2014. Kelly is expected to not only fill the vacancy left by Heath Hembree -- who was demoted to Triple-A after the game Saturday -- but to lighten the workload on Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and other relievers since key pieces of the bullpen went on the disabled list.

And the righty said he’s ready for his new role.

“My body and arm got ready a lot quicker than it would of if I was starting,” Kelly said. “It’s weird to see how your body feels on different days when you still have to get in the game. As a starter, you only have to prepare for that fifth day and if your body doesn’t feel that great in between those days it’s all right.”

Kelly’s apprehensions about pitching on consecutive days might sound like a cause for concern, but he also explained that he’s put himself through the ringer in to be in a position to succeed. He's also had good results at Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) after compiling an 8.46 ERA in six starts this season in Boston.

“Out of the bullpen it was good to see different situations,” Kelly said. “[Sometimes I would] get a workout in before the game and go out and pitch that game just to see how I would respond. Pretty much did all the different type of scenarios to see where my arm and body was at.”

That preparation not only addresses the physical toll relieving can take, but also the mental toll.

So, now Kelly should be able to hop into any situation if he’s has worse command than he expects -- of which he noted an improvement.

“Yeah the command feels good right now for the most part with my secondary pitches,” Kelly said. “There hasn’t been a game yet where I’ve had a chance to throw more than two or three of them. For the most part, I’m getting one or two of the off-speed pitches over for a strike.

“And location of the fastball has been pretty good. Not exactly where I maybe where I want it to be, but for the most part it’s been if I want to miss it to a side of the plate, it’s been on that site.”

And now with the move to the bullpen, Kelly really only needs one good off-speed pitch to pair with his five-alarm fastball.

Given he has three to turn to -- including his curve that he said has reached 86 mph -- Kelly should be able to find more success in his shortened appearances.

“I’ve been using slider and curveball for the most part,” Kelly said. “Curveballs to lefties, but recently I’ve been getting some success on curveballs to righties because the velocity has been a little bit higher. Whatever pitch is working the best for me that day -- curveball, slider, changeup -- that’s what I’m probably going to use out there in the game.”

With that advantage Kelly is hunting for strikeouts now more than ever.

He went as far to say he’ll either strike a guy out or walk the batter if he enters the game with a runner on third in order to save the run.
 
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to strike everyone out as a reliever now,” Kelly said.

The Red Sox hope he won’t work to many 3-and-2 counts in that scenario.

White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

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White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

The Chicago White Sox have suspended ace left-hander Chris Sale for five days "for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment" after Sale reportedly cut up his and his teammates jerseys before his scheduled start on Saturday.

Sale, the subject of trade rumors with several teams, including the Red Sox, was sent home Saturday after he reportedly objected to the throwback uniforms the team was set to wear and cut his and others in the White Sox clubhouse. 

The team said the suspension began Saturday and will continue through Wednesday. He was also fined an undisclosed amount and placed on Major League Baseball's suspended list.

"While we all appreciate Chris' talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organization expectations," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a team statement announcing the suspension.

Sale, the All-Star Game starter for the American League, is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA. 

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

BOSTON -- David Price made it clear following the Red Sox' 11-9 loss that he wasn’t just upset with his five-run, 11-hit, 5 2/3-inning outing Saturday night, he’s upset with his whole season, calling his performance “terrible” and “just awful.”

Furthermore, when he was asked if his problems were more mental or physical, he tried to explain how it was neither.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said. “It’s me going out there and making pitches.”

That’s a phrase he’s leaning on quite a bit this year -- going out there and making pitches.

And a day after the rough start, he’s still sticking with that story.

“That’s what it is,” Price said. “What does my velocity say up there? Velocity’s just fine, right? Okay. Then that’s just what it is, I gotta go out there and make pitches. I’m not doing that -- that’s the bottom line.”

Price (9-7, 4.51 ERA) addressed that physically he feels good by noting that his velocity is back to normal, topping out at 95 mph Saturday.

So then his mental game comes into question -- but he’s taken steps to block out anything that might inhibit that.

“I don’t even remember the last time I’ve been on Twitter,” Price said.

Well, his last tweet was three days ago, but he hasn’t tweeted about his pitching in nine days.

So, he’s made adjustments to what he does on and off the field.

But in the end, Price said social media doesn’t even cross his mind when he toes up the rubber.

“Yeah, it’s completely different, but I don’t think about that whenever I’m out there,” Price said. “[I’m thinking about] making that next pitch and getting that next out.”

So, there could be a gray area Price is in right now where he can’t find consistent success. It may not boil down to just mental or physical.

Regardless if that’s the case or not, Price still wants Red Sox fans to know this is not what to expect from him.

“What I have been. That’s what they should expect,” he said.