Sox introduce elated Valentine as manager

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Sox introduce elated Valentine as manager

BOSTON Over the last few years, Bobby Valentine had come to accept that his managing days might be over. Instead, in what he called a dream situation, the Red Sox introduced him Thursday at Fenway Park as the 45th manager in team history.

I was doing good and exciting things, said Valentine, who has been an ESPN analyst, is the director of public safety for his hometown of Stamford, CT, owns a restaurant, and has organized charitable works.

There were a lot of different things I was doing. And I was getting paid to do things a couple days a week at a kings ransom. So how can you not be happy with that situation?"

But . . .

"Did I dream about this situation? Absolutely. Did I wake up and put water on my face whenever I had that dream and said, Hey, cmon, go back to thinking abouthiring a new fire chief for Stamford? Yes, I did. Im a realist. And I saw the game as it was changing and I saw it, obviously, getting younger. I saw it getting kind of different. And I didnt know that I could ever fit in. Now, Im maybe going to fit in.

The Sox signed Valentine to manage for two years, with team options for 2014 and 2015.

Hes the right man for the job, said principal owner John Henry. The right man at the right time for this particular team. We are set to win. We should have won last year. We are built to win. We thought in the end that Bobby was the person most capable of taking us to where we want to go 2012 and 2013 . . .

"Were not at a point right now where were building for the future. We are trying to win now. We always try to do both, but we felt he was the right person as the right time for this team.

Valentine takes over a team that finished third in the American League East, out of the playoffs for the second straight year, after posting the best record in the A.L. through Aug. 31. He is a veteran of 15 major-league managerial seasons with the Rangers and Mets, compiling a record of 1,117-1,072. Hes also managed over parts of seven seasons in Japan. Valentine currently ranks fourth among major league managers in games, with 2,189, and wins. But, he has not managed in the major leagues since 2002, after a tumultuous seventh and final season with the Mets.

Hes learned from those experiences, he said. Still, he prefers not to focus on them.

"To take all this time that we have, which is very valuable time, and delve on the past is not productive, he said.

Valentine, 61, has more than 40 years in the game, since being a first-round pick of the Dodgers in 1968 draft. Words that have been used to describe him range from brilliant and genius to polarizing and egotistical.The Sox were happy with the whole package.

We want him to be a creative, energetic, strategically wise field manager who has learned from his experience from his past and I think he has, said Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino. I think he admitted that today.

We did talk about his experience with the Rangers, the Mets andJapan. We talked about all those things.

I feel very strongly we found the right person in Bobby Valentine, said general manager Ben Cherington. He has an enormous baseball intellect. He is creative, he is open-minded. He is certainly passionate and he badly wants to win.

Cherington is not concerned with the perception that Valentine was not his pick, but rather the pick of those above him in the Sox hierarchy.

It's just not true, Cherington said. We went through a very thorough process. We talked to a lot of candidates. We did a lot of research on a lot of candidates. At the end of the process, I think it was Monday, I made a recommendation to ownership, I believe it was sometime Monday, that we offered the position to Bobby.

Ownership, as they absolutely should, was very involved in the process.

For the first time in his major league career, Valentine is taking over a team from the start of a season. With both the Rangers and Mets he was a midseason managerial replacement. He wouldnt allow himself to think his new job was a real possibility until he received an e-mail from Cherington earlier in the week telling Valentine to stand-by for another e-mail.

Valentine is a little uncertain exactly when he got the first e-mail.

I was in Japan, and it was 8:37 a.m. on November 29, he said. But I dont know if that was here or there. It was night.

Valentine, who enjoys hero status in Japan, was there on a charitable mission, an outreach after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March. His new status has not quite sunk in yet.

I wish I was smart enough to explain all this stuff, he said. I think Im going to have to almost look back and reflect and figure out what this whole thing is. Maybe its a little jet lag, too. I keep coming up with the word special. Its the most different day of my life. Ive never, I havent experienced this. Ive had uniforms on for the first day. Ive had a press conference. I could tell you, what the hell, everyone knows, this is different.This is, today was absolutely different. And I feel special.

Valentine grew up in Stamford yes, on the Yankee side of the mythical line that determines loyalties. The first major-league game he saw was as a young boy was a Sox-Yankees doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. He sat between his Yankee fan father, and his fathers younger brother, a Sox fan.He knows all about the ancient rivalry.

I might take a little of that craziness away from some of the players, he said. Because I know that they learn to hate the 18 days they play each other each season. It is an awful lot. And its so big. Its so much. And its so important, not only to the franchises, but to the fans, to front office, the ownership."

Valentine has 80 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.Hell spend that time poring over stats, watching video, and reaching out to the players. Hes managed just one Sox player previously shortstop Marco Scutaro, who already has a place in Valentine lore. Clashing with then-Mets GM Steve Phillips in 2002, Valentine wanted an outfielder called up. When he was given Scutaro, Valentine sent Scutaro in to play the outfield. Scutaro, inevitably it would seem, misplayed a ball, leading Valentine to say Phillips had told him Scutaro could play the outfield.

Asked if he would treat pitcher Josh Beckett, who was at the center of much of the disreputable behavior that plagued the team in its crippling September spiral, differently, Valentine responded, somewhat cryptically:

I think the most unfair thing you can do is treat people who are different the same way. So I think he will be treated differently. Was that alright? I think I said that right.

And so begins the Bobby Valentine era at Fenway Park.

Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

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Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

BOSTON -- Just before the All-Star break, it almost seemed like the Red Sox were bound to lose Craig Kimbrel for six weeks potentially with the knee damage.

However, prior to Saturday’s game, John Farrell sounded optimistic about Kimbrel return more towards the three-week timetable.

The closer has gotten back to what he was working on prior to his injury, including his breaking ball.

“I’m out there spinning the ball right now,” Kimbrel said. “My knee feels great, so I’m just working on getting back into my mechanics. Staying compact and before I hurt my knee I was working on a few things. Just getting back to focusing on [those things].”

Kimbrel also stated that his arm “feels great” which was originally a concern for the Red Sox Front Office when he was injured -- fearing the knee would somehow lead to arm problems later.

Although things seem to almost be moving too fast for Kimbrel, he feels like the process has taken too long.

“It may look like a pretty fast recovery but it feels like forever,” Kimbrel said. “I think the way some people may look at it, it might be a little fast, but I’m not doing anything that is uncomfortable. I’m pushing myself, but I’m not pushing myself to a point where it doesn’t feel good. Testing everything out, that’s kind of where it is.

“Went in there and we didn’t really fix anything. Just kind of cut some cartilage out and right now it’s [about] getting my muscles firing like they’re supposed to. That’s coming back pretty fast because we were able to keep the swelling down right after surgery, so I was able to get back into the weight room and get back to the range of motion pretty quick.”

The righty will throw his first bullpen since the surgery and his confident he’ll feel good on the mound.

In fact, he thinks he could’ve thrown off the mound Sunday, but still hasn’t tested one important responsibility of a pitcher.

“I think I could throw off the mound,” Kimbrel said. “I don’t know if I can run in from the bullpen yet. Tomorrow we’re going to get off the mound, throw a bullpen and then can start pushing off and running.

“Fielding my position and cutting -- things like that. The kind of things where if a guy bunts on me [or] if I’ve gotta cover first -- I’ve gotta be able to do things like that.”

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Two players who began their careers at opposite ends of the spectrum nearly three decades ago ended up in the same place on Sunday — with their names etched on plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, the culmination of their long journeys was tinged with tears all around.

"I stand up here humbled and overwhelmed," Griffey said, staring out at his family and tens of thousands of fans. "I can't describe how it feels."

The two became a piece of history on their special day. Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever inducted. Piazza, a 62nd-round pick the next year —No. 1,390 — is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.

Griffey played 22 big-league seasons with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox and was selected on a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast, an affirmation of sorts for his clean performance during baseball's so-called Steroids Era.

A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997, drove in at least 100 runs in eight seasons, and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.

Griffey, who fell just three votes shy of being the first unanimous selection, hit 417 of his 630 homers and won all 10 of his Gold Gloves with the Seattle Mariners. He played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners and led them to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

"Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life," Griffey said, punctuating the end of his speech by putting a baseball cap on backward as he did throughout his career.

"I'm going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that's your first team. I'm damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner."

Dubbed "The Natural" for his effortless excellence at the plate and in center field, Griffey avoided the Hall of Fame until his special weekend because he wanted his first walk through the front doors of the stately building on Main Street to be with his kids, whom he singled out one by one in his 20-minute speech.

"There are two misconceptions about me — I didn't work hard and everything I did I made look easy," Griffey said. "Just because I made it look easy doesn't mean that it was. You don't become a Hall of Famer by not working, but working day in and day out."

Griffey's mom, Birdie, and his father, former Cincinnati Reds star Ken Sr., both cancer survivors and integral to his rise to stardom, were front and center in the first row.

"To my dad, who taught me how to play this game and to my mom, the strongest woman I know," Junior said. "To have to be mom and dad, she was our biggest fan and our biggest critic. She's the only woman I know that lives in one house and runs five others."

Selected in the draft by the Dodgers after Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, a close friend of Piazza'a father, Vince, put in a good word, Piazza struggled.

He briefly quit the game while in the minor leagues, returned and persevered despite a heavy workload as he switched from first base to catcher and teammates criticized his erratic play.

Mom and dad were foremost on his mind, too.

"Dad always dreamed of playing in the major leagues," said Piazza, just the second Hall of Famer depicted on his plaque wearing a Mets cap, after Tom Seaver in 1992.

"He could not follow that dream because of the realities of life. My father's faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame. Thank you dad. We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it's time to smell the roses."

Piazza played 16 years with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics and hit 427 home runs, including a major league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league's MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza, a .308 career hitter, posted six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average (all other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons).

Though the Dodgers gave him his start, Piazza found a home in New York when he was traded to the Mets in May 1998.

Three years later, he became a hero to the hometown fans with perhaps the most notable home run of his career. His two-run shot in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium lifted the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Piazza paid tribute to that moment.

"To witness the darkest evil of the human heart ... will be forever burned in my soul," Piazza said. "But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing.

"Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on Sept. 21st, but the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice."

Attendance was estimated at around 50,000 by the Hall of Fame, tying 1999 when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Young were inducted, for second-most all time behind 2007 (Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn).

Copyright The Associated Press

 

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Milone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Milone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.