BOSTON -- Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis hasn't had a lot of time this season to get to know his new manager. But he and Bobby Valentine chatted for a few minutes before a fundraiser Thursday night for Youkilis charitable orgnazation.We talked once on the phone and then we texted a couple times about the event and stuff like that, Youkilis said. My main question to Bobby was, Whats the dress code? Because were all going to spring training, what do we bring? Because some teams wear suits. So we definitely had that conversation. It went well.It's exciting just to have him on board. He's really pumped. I think hes been everywhere, from what I hear. Hes been all over the country and doing all kinds of stuff. So its kind of fun to have him going. It's going to be a tougher spring training. We're going to be working our butts I think off with Bobby. Not that we didn't before, but I think we're going to be hitting a lot more of the fundamentals."Youkilis acknowledged the teams attitude last season was lacking. Asked if he though, Valentine was the manager who could change that, Youkilis responded:Its like my dad always said with Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson: 'You show me a great manager, you got a lot of great players'. Youkilis grew up in Cincinnati as a Reds fan. If Bobbys going to be the guy, we got to do it. But if we dont win games, the blames going to go on him, which is unfair. Thats just how it is. When players dont play well, managers, you know, things happen. Managers get fired. And I always feel personally, its on the players. Players got to play the game to keep managers looking like theyre doing the right thing. But I think hes going to be great. I think hes going to bring a winning attitude and I think hes going to get this team going from day one.Youkilis didnt know much of Valentine before he was named manager less than two months ago. The third baseman believes theyll get to know each other better during the grind of the season.I really cant go off a couple offseason conversations, either, Youkilis said. I always tell people, like when June and July rolls around and were grinding it out and were in it, then you can have a better impressions. You cant, even in spring training, you wont get a good impression because youre not in winning streaks and losing streaks. But I think the thing with Bobby that I got now is you play the game hard you play the game right and you do the little things and hes going to love you.
Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies
BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:
"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.
"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.
"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.
"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.
* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.
* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.
* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.
* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games
* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.
* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.
* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.
* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.
* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.
1) Steven Wright
Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.
2) Travis Shaw
Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.
3) Blake Swihart
Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.
A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.
There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.
“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”
Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.
Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.
“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”
The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.
So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.