Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

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Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
BOSTON -- Before the Home Run Derby, before the World Series championships and All-Star Game selections, David Ortiz and Robinson Cano met for the first time at a baseball stadium in the Dominican Republic.

Ortiz was in his 20s looking for playing time on the Minnesota Twins. Cano was a teenager aspiring to follow in his footsteps and make it to the Major League.

A bond began that day over ten years ago. And as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees square off this weekend at Fenway Park, their friendship is still strong while they battle for control of the AL East standings.

Ortiz wasnt always the superstar he is today in Boston, but that didnt matter back home in the Dominican Republic. There, countless children looked up to him and saw him as an example of what can happen with hard work. Cano was one of them.

He was so cool and nice, Cano told CSNNE.com of their first meeting. He is the same guy that he was 10, 11 years ago. I told him I was a big fan and I loved the way he played. He wasnt as big as he is now because with Minnesota he didnt play every day because he had Doug Mientkiewicz back in the day. Now look who he is. Back then he was David Ortiz. Now hes Big Papi.

Ortiz noticed something special in Cano, too. There are plenty of athletes who have talent but lack the dedication to take it to the next level. Cano was different. Ortiz immediately recognized a sense of maturity and awareness of the hard work that lay ahead.

Hes always been one of my favorites, Ortiz told CSNNE.com. Im so happy to watch his success and its because hes a great kid. I always try to encourage him to do the right thing and make sure that he works hard every day so it will pay off because thats the only way you can see the results of good things when you put in some pretty hard work. I always try to make sure because hes a great kid.

Cano was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2001. Four years later, he made his Major League debut. By that point, Ortiz had already won a World Series with the Red Sox and had earned a regular playing role. The two were reunited on opposing sides of baseball's biggest rivalry, yet that never got in the way of their relationship.

Often times when the Yankees come to Boston, Ortiz will invite Cano to his home for dinner. When the Red Sox are in New York, they will go out to eat together. Then there are the phone calls and text messages exchanged throughout the season.

He became like a big brother, said Cano. He always gives me advice to remember where you are. You arent there because they gave it to you. You earned it. You worked hard - dont forgot how hard you worked to get here. Those are the kinds of things where its always good to have someone remind you of the little things that keep you in the game for a long time.

Today Ortiz and Cano are two of baseballs hottest hitters. Now 28 and in his seventh Major League season, Cano entered Friday's game hitting .301 with 18 homeruns and 75 RBI. Ortiz, 35, has a .289 batting average with 20 homeruns and 70 RBI.

This season Ortiz called on Cano to participate on the American League team in the Home Run Derby. Cano was honored to be asked to compete and returned the favor by taking home the trophy. Both players were happy with the outcome, even if it meant Cano ousted Ortiz, the defending champ.

In the moment you dont feel anything, but after that you look back and you see youve got Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Rickie Weeks, Jose Bautista, said Cano. So you look back and you say, Wow, Im the one that had less homeruns in the season and I won the Derby. But the best thing was it was fun, you get to spend time with them in the same clubhouse, on the field, you get to joke a lot, which is good.

Ortiz didnt have to ask Cano to be on his team for Cano to appreciate the significance of their friendship. His kindness over the years has inspired Cano to reach out to younger Dominican players in baseball as well. Cano knows that he has a mentor, a confidant, and a loyal friend in -- ironically -- his American League rival.

It means somebody that not only talks to you because of who you are, but somebody who cares about you, gives you advice, things that help you in your career on and off the field, Cano said. Thats the best thing.

Ortiz is happy to fill those roles.

I look at him like a little brother, said Ortiz. Its great. I really try to get along with everybody around me and since the first time I saw him, I saw how hard he was trying to be a good player and came to be who he is today. I always have open hands for people like that.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Three players are tied for the Red Sox' lead in home runs in Florida. Only two of them will be with the team come Opening Day.

The other may be the starting first baseman a year from now.

Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Sam Travis have all gone deep three times this Grapefruit League season.

Coming back from surgery on his left ACL, Travis has yet to play in the majors. But he easily could later this year.

In a perfect world, though, the 23-year-old spends 2017 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He needs to prove he can consistently hit off-speed pitches.

A right-handed hitting first baseman who played college ball with Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, Travis already crushes fastballs.

He carries himself like a stereotypical masher, too.

Travis rocks an unbuttoned jersey with no undershirt. No batting gloves. A grip-it-and-rip-it approach and Mike Napoli vibe.

But, don't get too caught up in the image.

"I mean, are you essentially asking like, do I still like have a plan?" Travis said when approached about his reputation.

No, because everyone has a plan. It's a question of how his is formulated, what matters to him. Because it can't always be as simple as see ball, hit ball. And it isn't.

"I definitely watch video. Everyone watches video," Travis said. "You kind of need to watch video when you get to this stage . . . You're in the box, you don't really want to think at all. That's what practice is for. But yeah, I'm definitely working on stuff.

"Just because I don't wear batting gloves doesn't mean I'm just going out there -- I definitely still got an idea what I'm trying to do."

Travis said he tried batting gloves once in high school and they just didn't feel right. So he takes hacks with a 34-inch bat with no frills..

But even when hitters say they don't think at the plate, they do.

If you're up 2-and-0, the thought has to cross your mind: fastball?

"I mean, yeah, you definitely are talking to yourself," Travis said. "But you don't want to get too far into your own thoughts because then that's when you get in trouble."

Slugging involves calculating.

Travis will look at scouting reports, but they're not his end-all be-all. The written ones, anyway. He keeps others in his head.

"I like to know what pitches [an opponent] has, which way pitches are going to move," Travis said. "But you know, you find that out from other players, and of course scouting reports and video. But the best experience is when you're actually in there, when you actually see it first hand.

"I remember everybody."

Video can be used to break down one's own swing, too. But that's not Travis. Tinkering's not his bag.

In part, that's because he's always had a simple approach mechanically.

"I don't really take much of a stride or anything. I kind of just pick it up and put it down," Travis said. "I've always been the guy that can make an adjustment pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat depending on what the pitcher is, it just goes with like timing and stuff."

Usually, somewhere along the way -- in the professional or amateur chain -- a coach will try to change a player's swing. Travis said that wasn't the case for him, though.

"No. Not really," Travis said. "Everyone's still gonna have minor adjustments, it's just how the game works. You know, you're going to put a bad swing on the ball. But as long as you recognize it and get right back to where you are . . .

"I've always been a guy who believes less movement, the better it is. That's my own personal opinion. Whatever works for people, that's what they're going to do."

Sometimes, that means loosening a few buttons and just letting it rip.

After watching a little video before the game.

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.