Anderson stays positive despite Gonzalez addition

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Anderson stays positive despite Gonzalez addition

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Lars Anderson heard about the trade which brought Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres to the Red Sox last December, he felt some sadness.

Not, however, for the reason you may think.

To obtain Gonzalez, the Red Sox had to part with, among others, Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo, two of the organization's best projects, but also, two of Anderson's closest friends.

The notion that the Sox had just traded for a 28-year-old first baseman whom they expect to soon extend for another seven seasons, wasn't the problem for Anderson that you might think.

"There were two ways to look at it,'' said Anderson. "One of them would be that I'm totally blocked here by an All-Star player at the same position and my future is grim for me personally. Or, there's the other option, which is more positive and more constructive, is we're getting a great player who's going to help everybody out and anchor this lineup and be a force defensively.

"And for me personally, I get to watch one of the best in game work every day. So that's what I'm going with. That's a lot better for everyone to consider.''

Finally, Anderson noted that with Kevin Youkilis -- a Gold Glove-winner with the second-best OPS in the game across the last three seasons -- he was already blocked at first. Adding Gonzalez, in his mind, changes nothing.

"It wasn't like there was some clear-cut freeway to the big leagues for me before the Gonzalez deal was made,'' Anderson said. "And with a team like this, it's hard for a young guy to crack it sometimes. That's not necessarily a bad thing.''

It wasn't long ago that Anderson, selected in the 18th round of the 2006 draft, was considered Boston's top prospect. But that was before he seemed to regress in 2009, his first full season at Double A, when he hit just .233.

It wasn't long before Rizzo, also a first baseman, eclipsed him within the organization. Anderson rebounded somewhat last year, hitting .355 in the first month at Portland before graduating to Pawtucket, where he hit .262 and added 10 homers and 53 RBI in 113 games.

Ironically, just as Gonzalez's arrival seemed to suggest a closing of a door for Anderson within the organization, the new slugger's surgically repaired right shoulder has had the affect of providing Anderson with more playing time at first. Gonzalez isn't likely to play in a Grapefruit League game until mid-March.

In the meantime, this is another opportunity for Anderson to showcase his skills -- both to the Red Sox and any other club which may be watching.

"It's nice to play, get some playing time and make an impression,'' he said.

Anderson helped himself with a homer Sunday night in the spring opener, and at least twice since, Terry Francona has mentioned it.

"We saw him take some nice swings last September when Anderson earned a late-season callup, some line drives,'' said Francona. "But if you're a corner infielder or outfielder you've got to make some noise with your bat and to see him do that is exciting.''

But such suggestions almost rankle Anderson, who isn't sure he's necessarily going to be the power hitter some forecast.

"That's what everybody else has always said,'' he said. "I hit a lot of home runs in high school, but I was hitting against guys throwing 80 mph and swinging an aluminum bat. I never thought of myself as a power hitter. Maybe I am. But I always thought of myself as a hitter who can drive the ball and do some damage. But I never thought myself in that classic sense of a Mark McGwire-type power hitter.

"Everybody learns how to drive the ball more as they get holder. You learn how to repeat that swing that's going to put backspin on the ball and give it some more carry.

One thing Anderson won't stew about is his future place in the organization.

"I think the mind is always curious about what the future holds,'' he said. "But it doesn't really serve any purpose to get caught up in that.''

Anderson learned the hard way in 2009 not to obsess too much about any one aspect of the game. That was his most challenging season, made worse by Anderson being unable to forget a poor game or a first-inning at-bat that didn't go as planned.

Finally, he learned to live in the here and now.

"I realized how important being in the present is,'' he said. "When you get caught up in past or future stuff on a baseball field, the ball finds you, an at-bat finds you and catches you and you're not where you need to be.

"If you can be present, those bad at-bats in the first inning don't bother you and the whatever in the future isn't tripping you isn't bothering you because it's not real.''

Francona, too, seems to take the same big-picture view.

"I think he's in a good place,''said the manager. "He knows that, regardless of who we have here, if he goes to Triple A and puts up his numbers, he'll be fine. We tell everybody: it might not be on your timetable, but if you can play, there will be a spot in the big leagues for you.

"You don't see too many guys at Triple A who don't get to the big leagues. Things have a way of working out.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

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McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

CHICAGO -- It could happen Thursday night, or perhaps sometime this weekend in New York, where he always hits well.
      
But sometime soon, David Ortiz is going to tie, then surpass, Carl Yastrzesmski as the second-greatest home run hitter in Red Sox history.
      
Ortiz hit his sixth of the season Wednesday night, giving him 451 for his Red Sox career, one behind Yastrzemski. Ted Williams is, of course, the Red Sox' all-time leader with 521, safely out of reach.
      
"Know what happens when that's happening?'' asked Ortiz, when told of the approaching milestone. "I'm getting old, man. Like I always say, whenever they mention your name right next to the legends, it's something that, humbly I can tell you, is an honor.''
      
What makes Ortiz's spot on the list all the more amazing is that he has reached these heights after being discarded by the Minnesota Twins some 14 years ago.
      
He arrived as a backup first baseman, initially stuck behind Jeremy Giambi on the Red Sox depth chart. He'll retire, later this year, as one of the handful of best hitters the franchise has ever known.
      
On nights like Wednesday, the context seemed to have Ortiz himself in awe.
      
"I was just a guy who was trying to have a good career,'' said Ortiz, “and put (my) family in a better situation. Now, all of a sudden, these things are happening. It's a blessing.''
      
It's a stretch to suggest that these things are happening "all of a sudden.'' To the contrary, they're the result of a remarkable stretch of 14 seasons in Boston.
     
Only now are the numbers coming into focus. And what numbers they are.
      
Beyond Ortiz's ascension on the all-time lists for the both Major League Baseball and the Red Sox in particular are the improbable feats of a 40-year-old who is performing this season at a level that would be impressive for a hitter a decade younger.
      
Consider:
      
* When Ortiz homered off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances last Friday, he did so on a first-pitch curveball. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated noted that Betances had thrown 355 first-pitch curveballs in his career; Ortiz was the first to hit a homer on one of those pitches.
      
In fact, only six of the first 355 had even been put in play.
      
Ortiz hit his well into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory.
      
* On Wednesday night, Ortiz became the first lefthanded hitter to ever homer off White Sox lefty starter Carlos Rodon.
      
Since last July 2, Ortiz is third among all lefthanded hitters in hitting homers off lefthanded pitchers. That's quite an accomplishment for someone who was being benched as recently as last June against some lefty starters.
     
And what did Rodon learn about that particular showdown?
      
"Don't throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,'' said Rodon.
      
Sounds like a good strategy.
      
It's fairly amazing that a 40-year-old, in his final season, is enjoying all these firsts. But Ortiz has lasted this long, and played at such a high level, precisely because he works to get better all the time.
      
Manager John Farrell noted that Ortiz hadn't faced Rodon before Wednesday night and didn't look particularly good in his first two at-bats, grounding into a double play and hitting a flyout.
      
But Ortiz is forever making mental notes, getting ready to make adjustments and process what he's seen.
      
"His retention is great,'' marveled Farrell. "He understands what he's seeing after just one at-bat.''
      
There's still more than five months to go in the regular season and a lot can happen in that span. But after a month in 2016, it seems likely that we are in the midst of one of the greatest final seasons a player has ever enjoyed.