Players thank Red Sox ownership for offseason moves

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Players thank Red Sox ownership for offseason moves

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ordinarily, when management and ownership address the Red Sox players prior to the first full squad workout, it's an upbeat affair.

Optimism reigns and the season is full of possibilities. But Saturday morning, at the Red Sox' Player Development Complex, it was a virtual love-in. Players gave principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino a standing ovation, in an apparent thanks for the moves made and the money spent this offseason.

In all, it was a morning of high hopes and good feeling all around.

"We're tremendously excited,'' said Werner.

"There's very definitely a sense of confidence, a sense of optimism,'' echoed Lucchino. "You feel it when you first walk into camp and talk to individual players. The meeting today had that kind of feel to it today. But everyone knows that hope springs eternal every spring. We've got to make sure we're healthy and that the good luck and randomness in the game work in our favor as well.

"But there's an atmosphere here that is extremely positive, confident and upbeat that's very encouraging.''

Other items of interest:

Lucchino said the the Red Sox paid about 85 million into the MLB central fund in revenue sharing last year, a figure topped only by the Yankees. That figure doesn't include another 1.3 million in luxury tax assessments for going over the payroll threshold.

With the final round of renovations of Fenway Park nearing completition, the Sox have invested about 285 million over the last 10 years.

Lucchino said structural engineers told him that Fenway, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next season, can last another 40-50 years.

"That's the life expectancy,'' said Lucchino. "Whether somebody chooses in 10 years time to make a change would be up to a different ownership.''

Disputing the commonly-held belief that the Sox are the clear favorites to win the American League East, Henry said: "I don't see us as the clear favorites. I see the teams fairly evenly matched. We've got our work cut out for us if we hope to win our division.''

"I feel the same way,'' said Lucchino. "This is just not a mano-a-mano, two-team match. We've got other teams that are building solid teams and making substantial commitments. So the American League East will still be the rough and tuble American League East -- make no mistake about that.''

"We're confident,'' added Werner, "but the Yankees are every bit as strong as they always are.''

Asked about the future of general manager Theo Epstein, John Henry said: "We haven't had any substantive conversations recently. I always ask him how he's doing. Things are going extremely well from his vantage point and our vantage point.

"I really don't know when his contract is up. So we haven't discussed contracts. But the important thing is that we're all extremely happy working with Theo.''

Werner said the Red Sox might look into bringing Liverpool to Fenway for a friendly match and would be receptive to having the Red Sox play in an international venue.

But ownership went to great pains again to point out that the club's various investments -- NASCAR, Liverpool soccer -- are separate.

"They're all stand-alone entities that have their own management,'' said Werner. "We have a firewall between them so that's clear.''

Lucchino said the Sox have enough financial flexibility to add payroll if the need arises during the season.

"We always save some amount of money, to be determined each year,'' said Lucchino. "We will certainly look to make improvements if the team is in the hunt and there's a specific need and a specific opportunity. I think that's part of an obligation of ownership.

Commissioner Bud Selig's contract is up in November 2012 and he has said he intends to retire. Occasionally, Lucchino's name surfaces as a possible candidate for the position.

"Speculation -- the little bit of it that's been -- is flattering,'' he said. "I'm really very content where I am. If you're a baseball executive, this is the best place to be. I love Boston, New England. My family loves it. It seems like the rest of my career was sort of building up so that this could be the final stage of it.

"That's not something I spend any time thinking about. First of all, I don't know that the other clubs will feel a commissioner change is desirable. It's flattering, but it's not realistic.''

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

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”