Brentz eager for shot in Boston

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Brentz eager for shot in Boston

It was a long season for outfielder Bryce Brentz, the longest of his young career. Brentz, the Red Sox second pick (36th overall) in the first round (supplemental) in 2010 out of Middle Tennessee State, played a total of 154 games combined with Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket, including eight post-season games, and in the Arizona Fall League.

So, it didnt help when he was stranded in Ithaca, NY, for a couple of days earlier this week when his truck broke down on his way from Montreal, where he had left the vehicle after the regular season, to Tennessee, where he was hoping to make it in time for Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, everything worked out. The truck was repaired, and he made it home for the holiday dinner.

It was one of those years for Brentz.

In 122 games with Portland, he hit .296 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, a .355 on-base percentage, and .478 slugging percentage for Portland, while playing 83 games in right field. He had a season-high 11-game hit streak in August, and recorded eight straight hits over two games in May. Brentz was twice named Eastern League player of the week, including Aug. 20-26, when he hit a league-best .536, going 15-for-28, with two home runs and a league-high 10 RBI, earning a late-season promotion to Pawtucket.

Although Brentz, who turns 24 on Dec. 30, struggled in his five regular-season games with the PawSox, going hitless until the final game of the season, he turned it on in the postseason, going 8-for-27 (.296), with two home runs, a double, a triple, and five RBI, as the PawSox won the International League title.

It was a great experience, Brentz said of his season. Learning, playing in Double A, especially Triple A, the fall league, facing some better talent, older smart pitchers. It was all about, for me, I had to learn discipline at the plate. Im a risk taker and Ive always been one, and when youre a risk taker things are going to happen. Youre going to strike out, maybe not walk as much. But thats just kind of who I am.

In three seasons, Brentz has struck out in 27.4 percent of his at-bats, including 28.8 percent in 2012, one-third of his at-bats with Pawtucket, 29.7 percent in Arizona. Hes working on his approach and his plate discipline.

I want to put myself in good position to take those risks, he said. So when I first got in the season, there was a lot of going up there just swinging from the hip, not really having an approach at the plate. So that was something that me and Portland and Arizona hitting coach Dave Joppie, we had to work on, gaining an approach and figuring out, Hey, you got to earn a fastball. Theyre not going to just give it to you. And I was able to do it. It was overall a good learning experience this year.

The mental adjustments at the plate are more of a challenge than the physical adjustments, Brentz said.

I believe the mental adjustment is always the toughest thing to do, he said. I dont have anything figured out, never will. But I know that if I just stick with the game plan, stick with my approach, let the at-bat take care of itself -- a lot of times I expand the zone because I expand my approach. Actually, its because of the fact that youre worried about this pitch or maybe youre concerned too much about one pitch instead of saying, 'Hey, its just not there. You dont have to swing at it.' The mental side is always tougher than the physical.

In 17 games in Arizona, Brentz hit .297 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and an .804 OPS, being named to the Rising Stars game.

Its a great league, Brentz said. The players obviously are really goodIt was a good experience. These guys are really good, great players. I had a lot of fun, and it was a good time.

Between Portland and Pawtucket Brentz played a combined 87 games in right field, one of several holes the Sox have to fill this offseason. It may not be long before he is playing the position for the major league team.

For me, I believe I share the same view as every guy whos in the minor leagues, whos on the cusp of being in the big leagues, we all look at those type of things, see what theyre doing, what the parent club is doing, Brentz said. For me, with that situation, I want to be there to help out. I hope Im one of the guys in the lineup for the Red Sox. Thats what Im looking forward to. But were all the same. And theyre going to do whats best for the team. Its not the Boston Bryce Brentzes or whatever. Its the Boston Red Sox. And theyre going to do what they have to do for their team, and hopefully Im the right guy that can help them out.

His goals for 2013 are simple.

Hopefully to be in Boston at some point, he said. Thatd be really nice, to start there and play. But it depends on how I do and how I develop and if Im ready for it, which I think I am. But actually thats the goal, is to be in Boston next year.

But, I really dont set number goals. I just want to be productive. Thats all I can ask for.

For now, hes looking forward to enjoying the rest of the offseason, being a normal 23 year old before he heads to Fort Myers for spring training. Hell visit with his family, take some hunting trips with his buddies. Hell be back training and in the weight room after Thanksgiving.

But its good to finally have some time off, he said. It was a very long season.

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

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

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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."