Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

175737.jpg

Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
BOSTON -- Before the Home Run Derby, before the World Series championships and All-Star Game selections, David Ortiz and Robinson Cano met for the first time at a baseball stadium in the Dominican Republic.

Ortiz was in his 20s looking for playing time on the Minnesota Twins. Cano was a teenager aspiring to follow in his footsteps and make it to the Major League.

A bond began that day over ten years ago. And as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees square off this weekend at Fenway Park, their friendship is still strong while they battle for control of the AL East standings.

Ortiz wasnt always the superstar he is today in Boston, but that didnt matter back home in the Dominican Republic. There, countless children looked up to him and saw him as an example of what can happen with hard work. Cano was one of them.

He was so cool and nice, Cano told CSNNE.com of their first meeting. He is the same guy that he was 10, 11 years ago. I told him I was a big fan and I loved the way he played. He wasnt as big as he is now because with Minnesota he didnt play every day because he had Doug Mientkiewicz back in the day. Now look who he is. Back then he was David Ortiz. Now hes Big Papi.

Ortiz noticed something special in Cano, too. There are plenty of athletes who have talent but lack the dedication to take it to the next level. Cano was different. Ortiz immediately recognized a sense of maturity and awareness of the hard work that lay ahead.

Hes always been one of my favorites, Ortiz told CSNNE.com. Im so happy to watch his success and its because hes a great kid. I always try to encourage him to do the right thing and make sure that he works hard every day so it will pay off because thats the only way you can see the results of good things when you put in some pretty hard work. I always try to make sure because hes a great kid.

Cano was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2001. Four years later, he made his Major League debut. By that point, Ortiz had already won a World Series with the Red Sox and had earned a regular playing role. The two were reunited on opposing sides of baseball's biggest rivalry, yet that never got in the way of their relationship.

Often times when the Yankees come to Boston, Ortiz will invite Cano to his home for dinner. When the Red Sox are in New York, they will go out to eat together. Then there are the phone calls and text messages exchanged throughout the season.

He became like a big brother, said Cano. He always gives me advice to remember where you are. You arent there because they gave it to you. You earned it. You worked hard - dont forgot how hard you worked to get here. Those are the kinds of things where its always good to have someone remind you of the little things that keep you in the game for a long time.

Today Ortiz and Cano are two of baseballs hottest hitters. Now 28 and in his seventh Major League season, Cano entered Friday's game hitting .301 with 18 homeruns and 75 RBI. Ortiz, 35, has a .289 batting average with 20 homeruns and 70 RBI.

This season Ortiz called on Cano to participate on the American League team in the Home Run Derby. Cano was honored to be asked to compete and returned the favor by taking home the trophy. Both players were happy with the outcome, even if it meant Cano ousted Ortiz, the defending champ.

In the moment you dont feel anything, but after that you look back and you see youve got Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Rickie Weeks, Jose Bautista, said Cano. So you look back and you say, Wow, Im the one that had less homeruns in the season and I won the Derby. But the best thing was it was fun, you get to spend time with them in the same clubhouse, on the field, you get to joke a lot, which is good.

Ortiz didnt have to ask Cano to be on his team for Cano to appreciate the significance of their friendship. His kindness over the years has inspired Cano to reach out to younger Dominican players in baseball as well. Cano knows that he has a mentor, a confidant, and a loyal friend in -- ironically -- his American League rival.

It means somebody that not only talks to you because of who you are, but somebody who cares about you, gives you advice, things that help you in your career on and off the field, Cano said. Thats the best thing.

Ortiz is happy to fill those roles.

I look at him like a little brother, said Ortiz. Its great. I really try to get along with everybody around me and since the first time I saw him, I saw how hard he was trying to be a good player and came to be who he is today. I always have open hands for people like that.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

world_series_francona_epstein_102416.png

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.