Notes: Varitek getting reacquainted with Wakefield

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Notes: Varitek getting reacquainted with Wakefield

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It almost wasn't fair.

There were Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz getting ready to take their first batting practice swings off live pitching, and they had to step in against Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball.

Youkilis flailed at a few offerings, Ortiz jokingly started running toward one of the approaching pitches, and Crawford appeared overwhelmed.

"Crawford was asking, 'Does Wake know he's making it go this way, that way, up, down?' '' recounted Jason Varitek, who caught the session. "I told him no. But that was the perception of some not as familiar with the knuckler, like he was trying to make it go toward the feet, he's trying to make it go away from them. I was like, interesting -- if he did, he should let us know.''

Varitek himself is getting re-acquianted with Wakefield's signature pitch this spring. It's been a while since he last caught him much in a game and there are still vivid memories of Varitek being unable to handle the pitch in the 2004 ALCS against New York.

Since then, of course, Wakefield has been paired with Doug Mirabellli, Kevin Cash, Victor Martinez and others. But it's time for Varitek to work with him and prepare.

"Wakefield is the one guy we always kept Varitek away from,'' said Terry Francona. "We want both catchers to have the ability to catch Wake so we don't ever feel like we're boxed in if Wakefield comes out of the bullpen.

"I think he caught him earlier in his career, and then when he was the everyday catcher, he was catching so much, that Wakefield's starts were just the obvious day to give him off. If you're not catching him regularly, that's not an easy thing to do. But Varitek can catch anybody. That won't be issue. He just needs some repition with him . . . We'll get both of those guys comfortable.''

The Red Sox have a number of players with zero-to-three years service time unsigned in camp, including pitchers Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz, infielder Jed Lowrie and outfielder Darnell McDonald.

The aforementioned players don't have much leverage, since they're noteligible for salary arbitration.

Major League Baseball has a deadline for players in that service class to be signed by the first week of March. Members of the Red Sox Baseball Operations Department have only recently reached out to the agents representing the players, though little progress has been made.

Ultimately, the Sox can unilaterally determine the salaries, though the club tends to take less of a hard-line with its younger players than some other franchises.

This season, the major-league minimum is increased to 414,000. The four players in that class will, to varying degrees, be paid significantly above that figure.

Reliever Dennys Reyes, who was signed earlier this month, has had some visa issues. He and countryman Alfredo Aceves will go to the Mexican consulate in Hermosillo Wednesday morning and are expected back into camp the next day.

Aceves is already in camp and has been throwing without restriction; Reyes, a lefty, has yet to report.

Francona doesn't believe Reyes's late arrival will hinder him in attempting to make the club.

"If he hasn't been throwing and he's behind, that wouldn't be good,'' said Francona. "I imagine he knows what he's in for. He knows he's in competition. He certainly wants to put his best foot forward. I certainly would be surprised if he allowed himself to get behind. We certainly don't want him to be behind.''

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

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

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McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

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Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A former Major League Baseball player is running for governor in Vermont as a member of the Liberty Union party, which bills itself as nonviolent and socialist.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee tells WCAX-TV voters will "need umbrellas" if he's elected, because "it's going to be raining dollars," referring to money trickling down from the wealthy.

Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lee says he's a "pragmatic, conservative, forward thinker." He supports legalizing marijuana, a single-payer health care system and paid family leave.

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find relief help?

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Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find relief help?

Jared Carrabis joins Sports Tonight to discuss the news that Carson Smith will undergo Tommy John surgery, and whether he has faith that Dombrowski will be able to find bullpen help.