Ortiz continues to cherish All-Star Game appearances

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Ortiz continues to cherish All-Star Game appearances

KANSAS CITY -- After seven previous appearances, the All-Star Game is a familiar experience for David Ortiz. He's been part of winning teams and losing teams and his share of personal experiences.

Ortiz figured he would do the right thing Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium and come out of the game after one at-bat, giving playing time to Billy Butler, the host Kansas City Royals' lone representative.

American League manager Ron Washington had other ideas, though.

As the manager of the Texas Rangers, currently in the lead in the American League West and winners of the last two A.L. pennants, Washington had a selfish reason for wanting Ortiz to get more at-bats.

He wanted to win the 83rd annual All-Star Game, which would reward the Rangers with home field advantage in case they return to the World Series for a third straight October.

So the two compromised. Ortiz got two at-bats.

Against Matt Cain in the bottom of the second, Ortiz hit a fly ball to the warning track in left, just in front of the foul pole, which was caught by Ryan Braun.

Three innings later, he came up against lefty Clayton Kershaw and lined a single over shortstop Rafael Furcal's head to left. Ortiz then advanced to second on a single by Mike Napoili and to third on a groundout by Curtis Granderson. He was stranded at third, as the A.L. was blanked by the National League, 8-0.

"It was good, like always," said Ortiz of the experience. "Those guys (in the N.L.) came out hot (with five runs in the first). But it was a good experience. You just make sure that the fans enjoy it and have a good time. It's always good to put on a good show for them.

"It's always a blessing to be part of the All-Star Game. Having the fans voting and having you come out, it's great. It's something that never gets old and I always look forward to."

After his second at-bat, Ortiz was glad to cede the stage to Butler, who was left off the American League Home Run Derby team by New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who served as the team captain.

Cano was booed mercilessly Monday night during the Derby.

"I think what everyone did to Robinson was kind of wrong, man," he said. "He wasn't trying to keep anybody out of the competition or anything like that. He went out and picked three guys to help him out to win and keep the title in the American League. Those guys that he picked (Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder and Mark Trumbo) were actually pretty good.

"It was a little rough, but everybody knows that Robinson is a Class A guy and he just wanted to make sure things go well in the All-Star Game for everybody."

While stopped at third base, Ortiz chatted with New York Mets third baseman David Wright and inquired about his contract status.

"I asked him, 'How many years you got left on your contract?' recalled Ortiz. "He said (he's eligible after next season). I said, 'Good luck to you. Hitting .351 . . . wow."

Asked if Wright returned the question about contracts, Ortiz laughed.

"Actually, no," said Ortiz. "He knows what's up with me."

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."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.