Epstein: Sox clubhouse reports 'exaggerated'

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Epstein: Sox clubhouse reports 'exaggerated'

Theo Epstein said that while some reports about the Red Sox' clubhouse behavior at the end of the year "is accurate", some is "an exaggeration."

"This was not a team-wide, there were not team-wide indulgences. There was not team-wide apathy," Epstein told reporters in individual interviews after his introductory press conference as Cubs' president of Baseball Operations. His remarks were reported by Alex Speier of WEEI.com.

"There were some things that happened that should never happen in a big-league clubhouse, and ultimately, Im the person whos responsible . . . This has almost been a bit of a witch hunt in recent weeks. Its what happens when you dont make the playoffs in these types of circumstances. I feel bad for many of the Red Sox players, who I know were professional, worked really hard, cared about each other and cared about the organization.

In other highlights . . .

Epstein said he "probably" would have stayed in Boston for the final year of his contract if ownership had retained Terry Francona as manager. But Francona's option wasn't picked up, and Epstein -- knowing 2012 would be his final year no matter what -- felt uncomfortable leading the search for a new manager, since he knew he would only work with him for one season.

At Ben Cherington's press conference later in the day, Larry Lucchino responded to Epstein's comment.

He said he asked owners John Henry and Tom Werner not to offer him a contract extension as general manager.

He also said Werner and Henry were willing to keep him in the organization in virtually any role he wanted.

"John and Tom were kind enough at some point late in the summer to tell me that they wanted me to stay with the Red Sox, to stay with Fenway Sports Group in any capacity I could imagine," said Epstein. "I could tailor my role or do what I wanted.

"It meant a lot to me. I was really appreciative. But the more that I looked at it, the more that I realized that if youre not leading the baseball operation, if youve been a GM and go into a situation where you have some sort of hybrid role, or youre a special assistant or you get more involved in the business side, or more involved in soccer, youre essentially doing the same job but getting in the way a little bit more."

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Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.