Okajima not happy to be in Pawtucket


Okajima not happy to be in Pawtucket

By MaureenMullen

PAWTUCKET, R.I. Starting the season in Triple-A was not what left-hander Hideki Okajima had in mind when he re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in January. Had he known, would he have signed back with the Sox?

Probably not, he said Thursday night through an interpreter before the Pawtucket Red Sox' Opening Night game against the Rochester Red Wings at McCoy Stadium.

He pitched a scoreless inning in the PawSox' 2-1 win, recording a strikeout in what was the first minor-league appearance of his career. He had spent all of his first four seasons in North America in the major leagues with the Red Sox -- making the All-Star team as a rookie in 2007 -- and he admitted the demotion affects his pride.

But after going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA last season, allowing righties to hit .340 and lefties .284, the move was not completely unexpected to most observers. Okajima still has minor-league options, so the team could send him down without the risk of losing him via waivers.

Its all up to the front office and manager Terry Francona, Okajima said. So its nothing that I can do. I dont take it as an insult.

He had offers from other teams, he said, and in hindsight maybe he would still be in the big leagues if he had taken one of those.

But at the end of the day my family wanted to be in Boston, he said. So thats why I made this decision and I accept that.

He compared the move to when he was traded just before the start of the 2006 season in Japan, which caught him by surprise.

Thats how I felt, he said. I wish they would have told me earlier this was going to happen because that would have allowed me to be prepared for things, prepare for the season, just get myself mentally prepared.

He said the Sox did not give him specific instructions for things to work on in Pawtucket.

Pretty much what he was told was that although he improved toward the end of last season and pitched well during the spring, they still wanted him to start the season in Triple-A and regain his consistency and just get a few more outings before he gets the call up, said the interpreter. So thats pretty much what hes going to be working on.

Dennys Reyes, the only left-hander in the Sox pen, has struggled greatly since the start of the season. In four games, he has recorded just 1 23 innings pitched, with a 16.20 ERA, giving up two hits, two walks, with one strikeout. Overall, he has thrown 39 pitches, only 17 for strikes. In two of his outings, he has not recorded an out.

In Wednesdays game against the Indians, he faced three batters, hitting the first two and walking the next before exiting. He threw 12 pitches, just one for a strike. His season-high for hit batters is four, in 2004 with Kansas City in 108 innings.

Okajima said he has paid no attention to dismal the start of the big-league teams season, or to Reyes performance.

No, I havent been watching the big-league games right now, he said. I dont want too much TV.

He said hes not surprised at the teams start.

Not really, he said. I think it shows the reality of where the team stands at this point. The same reality that Im starting down here, theyre struggling up there.

The team hasnt told him when or if he might be recalled, he said.

No, I just have to do what I have to do down here and well see what happens, he said.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''