By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Fenway Park hosted a homecoming of sorts for several members of the Padres traveling party before the opener their three-game set with the Red Sox Monday afternoon.
General manager Jed Hoyer, assistant general manager Jason McLeod, first base coach Dave Roberts, third base coach Glenn Hoffman, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo all have roots in Boston.
Rizzo was one of three former Sox prospects along with pitcher Casey Kelly and outfielder Reymond Fuentes were sent to San Diego in the December trade that brought first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. Rizzo was a sixth-round pick of the Sox in 2007. In 2008, while playing for Single-A Greenville, he was successfully treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was called up from Triple A on June 9, after hitting .365 (73-for-200) with 42 runs scored, 16 home runs, and 63 RBI in 52 games.
Its awesome, Rizzo said of being back at Fenway. I got drafted here and they developed me to be the player I am, the person I am for the most part. Theyve helped me through a lot through the four years Ive been there, so it definitely feels good to be playing here.
I really havent thought about the what-ifs. If things didnt change over the winter, Id probably be in Double-A right now. So I have a great opportunity with the Padres, so its awesome. I have some friends and family coming up from New Jersey. So, itll be a good series.
Hoyer, who was assistant GM with the Sox before getting the GM job with the Padres, doesnt see Rizzo being overwhelmed stepping into the position formerly held by Gonzalez.
I think one of the advantages is Anthonys a very grounded person, Hoyer said. He knows he cant replace Adrian, at least any time soon. So, hes trying to be the best first baseman he can and not worry about that. And weve emphasized that to him, too: Dont try to go out there and replace Adrian Gonzalez. Adrian Gonzalez at 21 years old was toiling in Triple A. And it took Adrian a number of years before he really established himself as a major league player. I think he had two years where he kind of got traded and kicked around a little bit and then eventually established himself with his third team. So, dont feel like you need to replace the Adrian Gonzalez that we see on the field right now. Just go ahead and be yourself and I think hell do a very good job of that.
For Hoyer, getting Rizzo was a key to completing the deal.
Of all iterations of the deals we talked about and there was a lot because we went back and forth quite a bit but Anthonys name was always in there, in part because of the position. We wanted Anthony but also once the Sox got Adrian they were going to sign him to a long-term deal and therefore he would block Anthony. So, that was the part of the deal that never changed and it was probably the most logical part of the deal. So, yeah, I think he was the only player that was really in every iteration that we went through.
Rizzo has appeared in 10 games for the Padres this season, batting .148 (4-for-27) with one home run, eight walks, and 11 strikeouts.
His at-bats have been pretty good, Hoyer said. He hasnt had a lot of hits in the last four or five games to show for it. But there have been a lot of deep counts. His takes and his recognition are excellent. Candidly, I think he might be overswinging a little bit, trying to do a little bit too much damage, because when he does get his pitch, he fouls it back. But hes going to be a really good player. I talked to these guys when they asked about him every day for two months to know, sort of cautioned, hes going to have his growing pains. Hes going to go through an adjustment period, which were seeing now. But hes going to be a really good player and hopefully just a part of the group we got for Adrian helps replenish us. Were excited to have him.
Padres manager Bud Black, whose ties to Fenway go back to his major league debut on Sept. 5, 1981, while with the Mariners, is not surprised by what Gonzalez has done for the Sox this season.
He put up All-Star numbers with us as well, Black said. You look at what he did for the Padres, those numbers are very, very solid. And hes doing it again.
No doubt he was the focal point of our offense when he was here and I think that was probably stressed from the other dugout. I can only imagine when they went through scouting reports they probably said dont let Gonzalez beat you. Thats something that we could see quite frankly from game to game, how good he is.
Its a little tougher for a pitcher to go through a lineup as deep as the Red Sox have. I think that when youre surrounded by other players and the Red Sox are getting on base at a pretty high rate, it makes it awfully tough on the opposing pitcher.
Roberts is in his first season as first base coach for the Padres after working in the teams baseball operations department last year. He played parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues, including 45 games with the Sox in 2004 that led to one very memorable stolen base in the ALCS against the Yankees (which the Padres pre-game press notes jokingly downplayed He stole one freakin bag, big deal).
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before the game, if it werent for Roberts he might not still be managing the team.
I dont know where the heck I would be if it wasnt for Tito, Francona said. But you know what? We had a special group. People always talk about the 04 team and what it meant to the people in New England and Boston. The group, were still tight, all of us are still tight. We still reminisce about 04 and the group we had. Im still looking forward to seeing David Ortiz over there, Jason Varitek.
Roberts, who was diagnosed in 2010 with Hodgkins lymphoma, got a clean report from doctors at Dana-Farber in his visit there Friday.
That was a big day for me, he said. Im pretty happy to be here, and just taking every day. Whats not to love about this ballpark?
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen