Pena reunites with friend Crawford

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Pena reunites with friend Crawford

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - When Haverhill native Carlos Pena returned to Boston this weekend for the Red Sox-Cubs series at Fenway Park, it was more than just a reunion with friends and family in the local area.

It was an opportunity to see Carl Crawford, with whom he spent four seasons on the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the years the two developed a strong bond as teammates - and friends. During that time he got to see a different side of Crawford - one that isnt always visible on the field - especially after a slow start this season.

I know that for the fans or for the people that are on the outside looking in, you may judge a player on pure numbers and stats, Pena said. Carl is so much more than that, so much more than that.

From the moment that he signed with the Rays in 2007 (following a season with the Red Sox), Pena knew that he wanted to get to know Crawford. While others had been reluctant to approach Crawford and interrupt his focus, Pena introduced himself and cracked a joke. The two quickly cliqued.

Pena had always admired his game and soon found out all the work that Crawford put into it.

I think just seeing his discipline made me work even harder, said Pena. Im the type of guy, when I was in college Id think, I dont want anyone to work harder than me. No one in this entire world is going to be working as hard as me. Theres not going to be a college player waking up at 5am. Then I get to Tampa and heres Carl Crawford giving me a run for my money. I was like, Wait a second - can I really compete with this guy? This guys crazy. I cant do all these squats after the game or all these sprints. I have so much respect for that type of work ethic.

If anything, it just pushed me even harder to work even more. Hes the type of guy wholl do it when no ones watching - thats the thing. Its so easy to say, See here, Im lifting weights, my coach is looking at me. But when theres no one in the gym and hes pounding the weights or doing all these crazy exercises because he knows thats what he needs to do to get better, that to me is just, whether he got four hits or didnt get any, he would be in that gym just pounding away and getting ready for tomorrow. Its crazy.

Pena fed off of Crawfords discipline and began following a routine of his own. In his first season with the Rays, he batted a career-high .282 with 46 homeruns. Crawford noticed his new teammates work paying off.

The main thing was sticking to his routine, said Crawford. A lot of guys, they get going and they go good and they kind of slack off a little bit. But he did a really good job once he developed that routine of sticking with it.

The two worked out together. They talked in the cage together. They sat in the back of the plane together. And while Pena credits Crawford for motivating him to improve, Crawford says they did it together.

We kind of helped each other, to be honest with you, said Crawford. We kind of thrived off each other. If I was down, he would tell me something to pick me up, and vice versa. We just said we were going to keep each other going, and we fed off each other pretty much.

The two also entered free agency together. Last winter Pena signed with the Cubs while Crawford inked a blockbuster deal with the Red Sox. Pena believed Crawford would succeed in Boston, and even after Crawford hit .155 in April, Pena always felt he would bounce back. He had watched Crawford put in too much work over the years to think he would settle for performing sub-par.

I think hes been doing pretty well actually in the last 20 days or so, he said, referencing Crawfords .288 average in May. I know hes been hitting the ball pretty well, so hell be fine. Hes one of those sure bets and I believe in Carl Crawford all the way until he takes his uniform off his back. I know that hell be that same player that Ive seen for so many years, that I had the pleasure to watch so closely for so many years. Hell thrive here in Boston. People will embrace a guy like how hard he plays and how hard of a teammate he is. I think people in Boston will love Carl Crawford.

Even though they are on opposing teams now, Pena admits he is still a fan of Crawford. And like so many members of Red Sox Nation, he is rooting for him to succeed this season.

Carl is a warrior, said Pena. Carl is one of those guys that I will go to battle with him any day. I just know that he will thrive wherever he goes. I used to joke around and say if you try to follow Carl Crawford and go through all this workout regimens, you wont be able to survive because theres no harder worker than him. Im pretty sure thatll be the same way all the way up to the point he retires, and probably beyond. I know Carl will succeed wherever he goes.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

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.''