Hot Stove Cool Music warms up Fenway


Hot Stove Cool Music warms up Fenway

By Maureen Mullen

BOSTON On the coldest night (so far) this winter, the annual Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable was held inside Fenway Park, looking out over a field buried under a blanket make that several blankets of snow. With Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons serving as moderator, the discussion ranged from pitch counts, to injury rehabs and prehabs, to learning how to watch baseball games and dissect video, to dealing with the media.

The Hot Stove Cool Music events, which include a concert Saturday night at the Paradise lounge, is now in its 11th season. It was the brainchild of Gammons and former Herald baseball writer Jeff Horrigan. Proceeds benefit A Foundation to be Named Later, a branch of the Red Sox Foundation. Since the first event in 2000, more than 3.5 million has been raised.

The panel included Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, former Sox pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell, former Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, Sox pitcher Rich Hill, Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, Sox trainer Mike Reinhold, farm director Mike Hazen, former pitcher and current Sox sports psychologist Bob Tewksbury, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Comedian Mike OMalley served as emcee.

The evening included many good natured barbs. When Schilling admitted, I talk a lot, Farrell quickly offered, Dont sell yourself short. When Epstein said hed let someone make a trade for a charitable donation, Saltalamacchia figured that was how he got to Boston.

Later, Epstein addressed several Red Sox-specific issues, including Saltalamacchia, who was hampered by a thumb injury last season, and is now expected to be the full-time catcher after the departure of Victor Martinez with Jason Varitek as his back-up.

Off-season reports on Saltalamacchia, who has been working out twice a week in Florida with bullpen coach Gary Tuck, have been positive.

Hes been working out really hard. Hes kind of reformed his body a little bit. He looks to be in great shape and has improved flexibility, Epstein said. Hes has made some alterations to the way he sets up and receives the baseball, and his transfer and his release down to second base. So hes not taking the opportunity for granted. Hes tackling it head on and looking for ways to get better so that he can step up and be a big part of this club.

Saltalamacchia and Varitek have already shown that they can work together extremely well. Saltys always looked up to Jason even before he was part of this organization. And I remember a conversation with Tek four years ago or so when Salty came thru with the Braves and he was talking about how much potential he had. Both being switch-hitting catchers and caring about the defensive side of the game first, I think they have a lot in common. Jason didnt blossom as a big leaguer until he was around the same age that Saltys going to be this coming year 26 in May, hes a very willing mentor and Saltys a very willing disciple, so to speak. So I think that relationship will be a plus for us. And its always really important when you have a young player getting established that his complement behind the plate isnt someone looking to take his job or get more at-bats. Its someone whos looking out for him. The whole might be greater than the sum of the parts for those two in their relationship.

Saltalamacchia said his priority changed after the Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. After that he felt he could focus more on his defense.

I think people have to remember that hes still a young player, Epstein said. Whenever youre breaking in a young position player youd like to do it in a way that takes as much pressure off him as possible. So you dont want to put a young player third in the order and put him in a situation where he has to drive in a lot of runs for you, carry the offense by getting on base. Youd love to be able to hit a guy ninth. Tell him to focus on his defense and let his true offensive abilities come out through confidence, comfort, and repetition.

Epstein also addressed the shortstop situation, which could be the only spring training controversy, with incumbent Marco Scutaro coming off a shoulder injury and Jed Lowrie performing well in the second half of the season when he was finally healthy after a lingering wrist injury and a bout of mononucleosis.

I think we have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career and theyll both end up helping this club win, Epstein said. How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to manager Terry Francona and ultimately the players will determine their own roles. If were a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing a third of the time and moving around, then thats what well be. If it looks like well be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time-share, then thats what well do. The players ultimately make those decisions for you. But in this case the manager makes the decision.

But Epstein would not say the shortstop job is open.

"No, I'm not saying that, he said. Im saying Scutaro signed here to be a shortstop and he should be healthy when he comes to camp and hes going to play a lot of shortstop. But were not good enough where we cant use every available resource that we have.

If Jed Lowrie is someone who can play a good shortstop and can play a number of positions, hes going to help this team win. Im sure hes going to see some time at shortstop. But Marco was our shortstop last year and until something changes, thats how its going to be. Im just making the point that we believe in both guys and we think they can both help us win.

Epstein also addressed the minor league system, which has lost several top prospects in trades over the last few seasons Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes for Gonzalez in December; Bryan Price, Nick Hagadone, and Justin Masterson for Martinez in 2009 and another, Ryan Westmoreland, who has been sidelined by a serious illness.

I like our minor league system, Epstein said. I think one of the reasons we were able to make the Gonzalez trade was because we really like the upside of a lot of the kids in our system, both at the upper levels -- Ryan Kalish we feel is really close to becoming an everyday player for us -- and then at the lower levels there's a lot of kids we feel based on what we know have potential to be everyday players if not well above-average players in the big leagues. Their track records might not even demonstrate that yet because theyre only 19, 20 years old, and just starting out in their careers. We like the depth that we have and I think if you take a snapshot just with what we have in our system right now at the end of the year I think the industrys going to be saying a lot better things about those players than theyre saying right now. I think a lot of guys are going to have big years. And, off of what I think was really good draft last year, we now have four of the top 40 picks in a very deep draft. Were excited about adding to our system.

Epstein said he is mostly done with offseason moves before heading to spring training.

I think our big moves are probably over, but you never say never, he said. If theres an opportunity that presents itself, were always looking to get better. But for the most part we feel good about the team were bringing to spring. Were spending most of our time this month working on player development and scouting issues, getting ready to start the year on all fronts.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment


David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels


Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.