Francona excited to begin with new additions


Francona excited to begin with new additions

By Phil Perry

Terry Francona has been in professional baseball for almost 30 years, but he's still excited for the start of his next spring training in a little less than a month.

Of course it helps that this year he has two new All-Stars -- Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez -- to work with.

"It's exciting," Francona told Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam from the 72nd annual Boston Baseball Writers Awards dinner. "When you talk about getting one hitter and what it does to your lineup, it's exciting. But when you talk about two guys that are going to impact our lineup in vastly different ways . . ."

Francona could hardly keep up with himself, understandably.

When Gonzalez was acquired in a trade for prospects, and then Crawford signed a 7-year 142 million deal with the Red Sox as a free agent, his lineup drastically improved over the course of a few days.

"Crawford is hopefully going to create a lot of havoc," said Francona. "And you got a guy in the middle of the order Gonzalez that is hopefully going to be taking advantage of that havoc. It's going to thicken out our lineup and make it a lot more productive."

The Red Sox front office also made deals to improve the team's bullpen, most notably acquiring relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler.

"When you lose that many games late, it's hard," Francona said of last season's bullpen woes. "Too many walk-off losses, too many come-from-behind, on-the-road losses. When we had it all lined up, we were fine. But on those nights that we didn't, we ran into some problems. Hopefully that'll be a little easier this year."

Francona also discussed the health of players like Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, saying they should all be ready to play without restrictions during spring training.

Francona inferred Gonzalez could be slowed by a shoulder that required offseason surgery, but he remained upbeat about the start of the season.

"I think our ownership and our front office has done an unbelievable job just putting the team together," Francona said. "I think it's on our guys in uniform now to go down to spring training and make sure these guys are ready to play baseball the way we want them to because we should be good. You never know what's going to happen, but we should be a good team."

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.