Sox prospect Hassan up for the challenges presented


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.

Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona


Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona

The Red Sox lost another key member of their front office Monday, when vice-president of amateur and international scouting Amiel Sawdaye followed former general manager Mike Hazen to Arizona.

Sawdaye will be the Diamondbacks' assistant GM. As stated by Rotoworld, he had been instrumental in building up the Red Sox' young big league talent and farm system.

The Boston Globe reported today that the Red Sox may not fill the GM vacancy created when Hazen left, instead using "other staffers to take on Hazen’s administrative duties". President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski handles many of the duties traditionally associated with the general manager's position, leaving the actual GM's job in Boston as "essentially an assistant [position] with a lofty title but little power".

The Red Sox have also lost two other front-office members this offseason: Senior baseball analyst Tom Tippett, who had been with the organization for eight years, and director of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek, who had been with the Sox for five years.

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.