Anderson stays positive despite Gonzalez addition

191542.jpg

Anderson stays positive despite Gonzalez addition

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Lars Anderson heard about the trade which brought Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres to the Red Sox last December, he felt some sadness.

Not, however, for the reason you may think.

To obtain Gonzalez, the Red Sox had to part with, among others, Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo, two of the organization's best projects, but also, two of Anderson's closest friends.

The notion that the Sox had just traded for a 28-year-old first baseman whom they expect to soon extend for another seven seasons, wasn't the problem for Anderson that you might think.

"There were two ways to look at it,'' said Anderson. "One of them would be that I'm totally blocked here by an All-Star player at the same position and my future is grim for me personally. Or, there's the other option, which is more positive and more constructive, is we're getting a great player who's going to help everybody out and anchor this lineup and be a force defensively.

"And for me personally, I get to watch one of the best in game work every day. So that's what I'm going with. That's a lot better for everyone to consider.''

Finally, Anderson noted that with Kevin Youkilis -- a Gold Glove-winner with the second-best OPS in the game across the last three seasons -- he was already blocked at first. Adding Gonzalez, in his mind, changes nothing.

"It wasn't like there was some clear-cut freeway to the big leagues for me before the Gonzalez deal was made,'' Anderson said. "And with a team like this, it's hard for a young guy to crack it sometimes. That's not necessarily a bad thing.''

It wasn't long ago that Anderson, selected in the 18th round of the 2006 draft, was considered Boston's top prospect. But that was before he seemed to regress in 2009, his first full season at Double A, when he hit just .233.

It wasn't long before Rizzo, also a first baseman, eclipsed him within the organization. Anderson rebounded somewhat last year, hitting .355 in the first month at Portland before graduating to Pawtucket, where he hit .262 and added 10 homers and 53 RBI in 113 games.

Ironically, just as Gonzalez's arrival seemed to suggest a closing of a door for Anderson within the organization, the new slugger's surgically repaired right shoulder has had the affect of providing Anderson with more playing time at first. Gonzalez isn't likely to play in a Grapefruit League game until mid-March.

In the meantime, this is another opportunity for Anderson to showcase his skills -- both to the Red Sox and any other club which may be watching.

"It's nice to play, get some playing time and make an impression,'' he said.

Anderson helped himself with a homer Sunday night in the spring opener, and at least twice since, Terry Francona has mentioned it.

"We saw him take some nice swings last September when Anderson earned a late-season callup, some line drives,'' said Francona. "But if you're a corner infielder or outfielder you've got to make some noise with your bat and to see him do that is exciting.''

But such suggestions almost rankle Anderson, who isn't sure he's necessarily going to be the power hitter some forecast.

"That's what everybody else has always said,'' he said. "I hit a lot of home runs in high school, but I was hitting against guys throwing 80 mph and swinging an aluminum bat. I never thought of myself as a power hitter. Maybe I am. But I always thought of myself as a hitter who can drive the ball and do some damage. But I never thought myself in that classic sense of a Mark McGwire-type power hitter.

"Everybody learns how to drive the ball more as they get holder. You learn how to repeat that swing that's going to put backspin on the ball and give it some more carry.

One thing Anderson won't stew about is his future place in the organization.

"I think the mind is always curious about what the future holds,'' he said. "But it doesn't really serve any purpose to get caught up in that.''

Anderson learned the hard way in 2009 not to obsess too much about any one aspect of the game. That was his most challenging season, made worse by Anderson being unable to forget a poor game or a first-inning at-bat that didn't go as planned.

Finally, he learned to live in the here and now.

"I realized how important being in the present is,'' he said. "When you get caught up in past or future stuff on a baseball field, the ball finds you, an at-bat finds you and catches you and you're not where you need to be.

"If you can be present, those bad at-bats in the first inning don't bother you and the whatever in the future isn't tripping you isn't bothering you because it's not real.''

Francona, too, seems to take the same big-picture view.

"I think he's in a good place,''said the manager. "He knows that, regardless of who we have here, if he goes to Triple A and puts up his numbers, he'll be fine. We tell everybody: it might not be on your timetable, but if you can play, there will be a spot in the big leagues for you.

"You don't see too many guys at Triple A who don't get to the big leagues. Things have a way of working out.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.