Nieves ready to lead Red Sox staff in fresh start

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Nieves ready to lead Red Sox staff in fresh start

FORT MYERS, Fla. When Juan Nieves joined the Red Sox this offseason he became their fifth pitching coach in the last four seasons. Going back to 2010, the last year of John Farrells four-year stint before he left to manage the Blue Jays for two seasons, the Sox have had Curt Young, Bob McClure and Randy Niemann. Now Nieves in the job.

Weve had almost a revolving door there. Its been tough at times. But I think Juans going to be a good fit for us, Jon Lester said. Hes hands-on. He wants to get involved.

For Nieves, 48, this is his first stint as a big league pitching coach. He spent the past five seasons as a bullpen coach for the White Sox, with whom he was more of an assistant pitching coach to the highly-regarded Don Cooper.

Nieves knows his new job has its challenges, but hes excited for those challenges. One of the top priorities is getting to a know a new coaching staff as well as all his pitchers.

I know a lot of the guys from before, Nieves said. Third base coach Brian Butterfield. Of course, I knew assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez. We actually coached against bench coach Torey Lovullo when he was a manager in the minor leagues. And I heard about hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. I met bullpen coach Dana Levangie. So its almost like a continuation.

And Ive known Farrell, of course, for years. But its been very interesting. The welcoming has been great. It helps that theres a rapport from John, a connection with this team. I think thats one of the biggest reasons why, you think about coming to Boston with a person that already has a base with them, a history, and great history. It actually makes things a little easier transition-wise for them to welcome you, to embrace you in the culture. And its been so far a very comfortable ride, and hopefully it stays that way and continues growing.

Nieves has been driving his philosophy of first-pitch strikes since he got the job. To emphasize that, and to get his point across in a fun way, he has devised a spring training competition for his pitchers. Whoever throws the most cumulative strikes in the workouts will win a gift certificate, but perhaps more importantly, bragging rights.

Were focusing on strike one, he said. Whatever the sign is, its strike one. From the wind up, from the stretch whatever it is, if its a changeup, breaking ball, fastball, wherever its at, its strike one the whole time.

Youre hitting the strike zone and youre pounding the strike zone from day one. And were practicing sides. if youre going to miss, miss glove or lower. We can find a vendor in the stands to throw balls up high. But the glove better move down. Batting practice will be strictly strike one. So itll be fun but at the same time Im challenging them. What we expect, and if you want to impress us, thats the way to impress us.

Nieves knows his staff, especially the starters, has its work cut out for them. Starting pitchers combined ERA of 5.19 was better than all but three teams in the majors last season. It surpassed the previous team-record high of 5.16, set in 1932.

I know theyve gone through some tough times but we dont talk about that, Nieves said. We just talk about the task at hand. Its coming together.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK - Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

The Red Sox have invited nine non-roster players to spring training, the team announced Wednesday. The team now has a total of 15 non-roster invitees. 

Added Wednesday to the spring training roster were outfielder/infielder Allen Craig, third baseman Rafael Devers, first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Jordan Procyshen, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Rusney Castillo, and right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepherd and Ben Taylor.

In addition to 39 players on the 40-man roster, the Sox have the following breakdown of non-roster invitees: 

Pitchers: Kyle Kendrick, Edgar Olmos, Chandler Shepherd, Ben Taylor, Marcus Walden
 
Catchers: Dan Butler, Jake DePew, Jordan Procyshen
 
Infielders: Rafael Devers, Matt Dominguez, Sam Travis
 
Outfielders: Brian Bogusevic, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Junior Lake