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

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

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Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher.