Red Sox notebook: first base options

776784.jpg

Red Sox notebook: first base options

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's not much competition for roster spots here in Red Sox camp, but one job battle that bears watching is the one for the backup first baseman.

That could be an important spot, since starting first baseman Mike Napoli is not a great defender and the Sox would like someone who could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement. Also, Napoli's well-documented hip issues mean he may not always be available.

In a perfect world, the Sox would like that candidate to hit lefthanded, to complement Napoli, who is righthanded. And, they'd prefer that the player be able to contribute in the outfield.

Involved in the mix are Lyle Overbay, Mitch Maier, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton. The Sox also had some discussions with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, for now, there are no plans to have Sweeney try the position and he remains exclusively an outfielder.

"It's important that we have another first baseman on the roster,'' said GM Ben Cherington. "We think we have a good chance to find the solution with the guys that are in here. It would be ideal (to have a person who could play both first and the outfield). It needs to be someone who can handle the position defensively and can hopefully produce against a righty (pitcher)."

Manager John Farrell said Nava "has shown decent actions around the bag and with each passing day and added reps, he's getting a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more fluid there.''

According to Farrell, Nava played about 20 games at first while in junior college.

Cherington said the Sox will most likely begin the year with 12 pitchers with 13 position players, leaving them four bench players -- a catcher, an infielder, and outfielder and another outfielder who could handle first.

"There have been times when we've carried 13 pitchers and it never feels optimal when you're doing it,'' said Cherington. "I think what we'd like to do is set up a team with 12 pitchers and make it work that way. But we'll see where we are at the end of the spring.

"Our team really works better with 12 pitchers. We've carried 13 before due to extenuating circumstances, so we'll see. We can't rule it out. But our preference would be to have another position player.''

The Sox plan to bring in Tim Wakefield later this week to work with fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Wright was obtained last July from Cleveland in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson.

"Understanding what worked well for Wake,'' said Farrell, "is not to say that it's going the same exact checkpoints for Steven. But that's such a tight-knit fraternity (pitchers who throw the knuckleball), to have Wake as a resource and have him in here...He's more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.''

David Ortiz likely will be held out of the first few exhibition games, which begin Thursday, but shouldn't be sidelined long.

He took live batting practice, but the Sox are carefully monitoring his right Achilles heel which kept him out of the final two months.

"He looks great,'' said Cherington. "He's in great shape. It doesn't seem like he'll be that long, but we're probably going to be cautious with him. We've got a fair amount of time in camp and we're much more concerned about the 162-game schedule than we are the spring training schedule.''

Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years

yankees-aroldis-chapman.jpg

Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

CSN CHICAGO: Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

CSN CHICAGO: Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu are back together.

The two Cuban natives were teammates in 2012 when they played for Cienfuegos in Cuba, and now they'll be in the same dugout once again — this time in Chicago.

"To get the opportunity to play with him right now in the United States, it's an honor for me," Moncada said through a translator on a conference call Wednesday. "I'm thrilled with that."

Click here for the complete story on CSNChicago.com