Sox prospect Hassan up for the challenges presented

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Sox prospect Hassan up for the challenges presented

BOSTON Underneath the bubble covering the Harvard football field during the Red Sox rookie development program last week, the hard plastic boot on Alex Hassans left foot raised a few eyebrows. Nothing to worry about, though. It was not related to the injury to his left leg that limited him to just 94 games last season, ending his season prematurely. The boot was just precautionary, after he fouled a ball off his left foot during a recent work out.

Hassan, an outfielder who added to the Sox 40-man roster earlier this offseason, was one of 11 prospects participating in last weeks mini camp. The program is designed for players whom the organization considers to be within 18 months of impacting the big league team. Along with workouts, its an immersion program to get the young players accustomed to the grind of big league life both on and off the field.

After his first invite to big league camp in 2012, Hassan hit .256 with seven home runs, 46 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage and .365 slugging percentage in his first full season for Triple-A Pawtucket. The move up was a challenge.

Last season was a great season for me mentally, said Hassan, the native of Milton, Mass., who was the Sox 20th-round pick out of Duke in 2009.

I went through a lot of challenges. Things I might not necessarily have gone through in my career. I think I was challenged in a lot of ways, both mentally and physically at the new level but I think I made a lot of good adjustments and learned some things that are really going to benefit me in the future.

Triple A was definitely a step up in experience level. Double A theres a lot of good stuff, guys on the way up. But Triple A is a lot of guys with experience and theyve been around a while and it really just challenged your approach. They're smart about how they pitch you and if they throw a ball its for a reason. Its not because they can't throw a strike. So it just really challenges your approach. That was a big thing for me, balancing when to be aggressive, when not, when to be selective, and my overall approach. But I think it really shaped my approach and helped make me a better player.

Hassan got off to a slow start last season, hitting .250 (16-for-64) in April and .230 (20-for-87) in May, before finding his stride and improving to .300 (24-for-80) in June and .304 (17-for-56) in July before the leg injury ended his season on Aug. 13.

I think he learned a lot about himself last year, said Ben Crockett, the Sox director of player development. Being invited to big league camp for the first time, there were a lot of firsts for him. In Triple A he talked about it to the group recently, he struggled early in the season and had to realize that struggling in April is the same as having two bad weeks in July. But when you look at the scoreboard and it says .083 its different than July when you drop 110 points.

Its just having to deal with some of the statistical side of things that really doesnt matter in the short term. Having to kind of deal with some of those things and he continues to progress and for him its about being aggressive and attacking pitches and improving on the defensive side.

Hassan has played all three outfield positions in his minor league career, but has far more games, 230, in left than in right (98) or center (14). He appeared in 60 games in left for the PawSox last season and 30 games in right.

After batting .291 with a .404 OBP and .456 SLG in 126 games for Double-A Portland in 2011, last season caused Hassan to take stock.

Its the nature of the game, he said. Its a game of failure. At certain times you do feel not as good as other times but I think you have a confidence about you. When things are going bad you dont feel great but theres still that confidence within that you know that I think Im a good player and even though Im struggling I think I can figure it out and I think this is helping me become a better player. So I think you have that perspective. Thats really important.

Hassan has been living in North Carolina this offseason where he can work out at his alma mater. Hell be back in big league camp this spring, hoping to build on what he learned there last year.

It was awesome, he said. Tremendous experience. Was able to see the ins and outs of how major leaguers go about their business. Its kind of s first-hand look at that and I think you can really learn a lot just by watching and listening and just seeing how they do it.

Hassan turns 25 on April 1, which is the major league Opening Day. But he will likely begin the season with Pawtucket again. Which is fine with him.

I think Im on a good development path I've been on throughout my whole career, he said. I've been moving up it seemed like a level each year and right now Im just focusing on being a better player. That stuff is really out of my control. The rest of the stuff, if I started worrying about that, it would just put more pressure on me. So I just kind of let that stuff take care of itself and Ill take care of what I can take care of.

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

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."