Tagged: George Kottaras

Carter, Green Make the Team – Buccholz in  Limbo

By Chris Cue
April 1. 2009

     This isn’t an “April Fools Day” joke, nor should it be considered one. Both Nick Green and Chris Carter were announced as “probable”opening day members of the Red Sox yesterday. Green would be the temporary fill in for Julio Lugo on the bench and Chris Carter will fill Mark Kotsay’s spot as the 4th OF-1B. Lugo is expected to be back and ready to play within a few weeks of the season opener. At that time, Green will be optioned back to Pawtucket and Chris Carter will likely follow sometime in mid- May when Kotsay returns.

     As presently constructed, here is the opening day bench for the Red Sox:

(L) David Ortiz DH
(R) Rocco Baldelli OF-DH
(L) George Kottaras C
(R) Nick Green IF-OF
(L) Chris Carter 1B-OF

     Most of the concern this season surrounds Third baseman Mike Lowell and his ability to play after recovering from hip surgery. The Red Sox are well covered there without the need for a bench player to fill a backup role for him. Both Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie are fine defensive Third baseman. Therefore, the only need on the roster is for the bench to provide backup for their positions at 1B and SS. With yesterday’s announcement, it’s clear that Carter will backup Youkilis at 1B in case he needs to move across the diamond and Green will provide depth at SS/2B should Lowrie be needed at Third.

     While all of this is certainly exciting for both players, it comes with one caveat. Both Green and Carter were told they would be going North with the team to play the Mets at Citi-Field, but were cautioned that a last minute trade or waiver claim could still have them starting their season in Pawtucket. There have been no rumblings of a pending deal by the Sox, but that’s not unusual considering how the organization keeps news like that from leaking out. So, there still remains the possibility that neither will actually make the team, however at this late date, it seems likely that they will.

     The only other position on the Red Sox 25 man roster that is still being talked about is the 5th Starting Pitchers slot. The Red Sox have said all along that position belongs to Brad Penny, however there are indications that Penny may not be ready in time for his April 12th start. Buchholz who had been stellar until yesterday’s outing against the Rays, is still the leading candidate to fill that position if Penny is indeed thought to need more time. So, for now, Buchholz remains in limbo awaiting a decision by Pitching Coach Jim Farrell and Head Coach Terry Francona on his opening day role. Most signs are pointing in the direction that Penny will be given more time and that Buchholz will be needed, but that is far from a certainty at this point. Brad Penny is scheduled to pitch today against the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is no doubt how he fares today, could be the deciding factor in Buchholz’s fate. Will he be the 5th starter for the Boston Red Sox or a starting pitcher for the AAA Paw Sox? He should know which it is going to be shortly after today’s game.


Francona’s Unique Approach

By Chris Cue
February 23, 2009

     Red Sox manager Terry Francona introduced a few new conditioning tools to the team yesterday. Many of the new approaches to training are a bit unorthodox, but the players appeared to embrace them without any questions or complaints. When asked why he decided to institute these new measures now, Francona responded with, “Well, we all heard about the suck-up session that Joe Girardi had with his players yesterday, so the Theo and I decided to do something a little different for our guys too.”  Francona then went on to introduce a few of the new idea’s to the media during his afternoon press gathering.

     “This was originally designed for Pitchers. We hope that by using this they will become much better in pinpointing their accuracy when it comes to locating their pitches. When I installed it in the club house, I was surprised to see the entire team line up to try it out.”

“The Location Drill”

Pitching drill.jpg     “They’re all getting their work in by using this.” Francona said. “I think right now, Beckett has the team record, but we’ll keep track of it and update you on the current standings.” 

     Another motivational piece introduced yesterday is a first of it’s kind when it comes to preparing ball players. When asked about the next item shown to the press, Tito said, “You know, ever since Coco’s incident last season, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to prepare players mentally when they are hit by a pitch. All the guys have to do is look at this and I think it gets the message across.”

“The Hit By Pitch Approach”

Hit by pitch drill.jpg     Francona was asked if he had any special idea’s regarding how to approach Tampa this season. He responded by saying, “We kind of had to think out of the box to address that, so what we ended up doing was bringing in someone we felt was an expert at tackling situations like that.”

“The Fishing Instructor”

fishing_drill.jpg       “This next picture shows you something that I can’t take credit for.” Francona said, “It’s something that Tek came up with. He noticed that a number of the guys like Bard, Kottaras and even Dusty Brown don’t really spend a lot of time in the weight room. So, to increase stamina and to test their will power, he had the guys doing this exercise yesterday.”

“The Sam Adams Indurance Test”

Catching drill.jpg      “The guys really seemed to enjoy it. I saw them doing this over and over. It must be really challenging because at the end of the day, most of them couldn’t seem to be able to stand up.”
     “Another challange we had was how to help some of the younger pitchers learn how to hold runners at first base. As you can see in this shot, Michael Bowden got really into it.” Francona labeled this next exercise….

“The Pick Off Drill”

     Time will tell if Francona’s unique approach will have any real benefits to the players this season. It certainly seems like the Red Sox organization is pulling out all stops to get the team prepared for any eventuality that could occur. When asked if he had any other idea’s that he planned to try out, Francona said, “I have a few. Right now we’ve been trying out a plan to help Julio Lugo reduce the amount of errors he has in the field. It involves a metal ball and a high powered magnet inserted into his glove. Lugo hasn’t got all the kinks worked out of it yet and right now he’s pretty bruised up, so we’ll wait until he heals up and try some more.”

     Good Luck Tito…..

Varitek Happy-Backup Job Now the Question

By Chris Cue
February 15, 2009

     Red Sox captain Jason Varitek met with the press yesterday to answer questions on the ordeal of the off season and his thoughts on what transpired. The Boston Globe’s web site (Boston.com) has the entire video of that interview HERE.

     Varitek looked to be in great shape and had mostly positive things to say regarding his role with the organization. He noted that it was his goal during the off season to persue a multi-year deal with the Red Sox first, then look elsewhere if he had to. He added that he instructed his agent Scott Boras to exhaust every opportunity with the Red Sox before he offered Varitek’s services to other teams. Boras never had the opportunity to peruse those other teams because it was Varitek’s intention to hold out (as we know) for as long as he could to get something done with the only team he has ever played for. He wanted more then anything else to get those years and to eventually retire with the team. Money matters aside, both Varitek and the organization got what they wanted and both are apparently very happy with the final outcome.

     With Varitek’s and the teams goals regarding him completed, the attention now turns to who will replace Kevin Cash as the Backup Catcher for the 2009 season. The Red Sox currently have 4 candidates in house to compete for that spot and they are: Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner. It is widely believed by most that Bard is the front runner, but just as the Sox plan to give each a fair look, so should we.

Here is how the competition stacks up:

Josh Bard – Most will recall Bard’s failed attempt to serve in this role back in 2006. Unable at the time to handle Tim Wakefield’s knuckle ball, he was traded to the Padres for the return of Doug Mirabelli. Bard went on with the rest of that season batting .338 with 40 RBI’s and 9 Home Runs in 93 games for San Diego. In 2007, he posted a respectable .285/51/5 in 118 games, but he had an injury plagued year in 2008 that limited his playing time to just 57 games. Bard’s strength is clearly his potential offensive contributions. While he is not considered a poor receiver, his inability in the past to successfully catch Tim Wakefield, coupled with his poor Stolen base/Caught stealing numbers (288/67 lifetime) is certainly enough to give one pause before handing the job over to him. Runners like to run on Wakefield and Bard’s poor ability to throw them out could be a deciding factor.

George Kottaras – Has spent 6 years in the Minor Leagues, 2 of which were spent with the Red Sox AAA affiliate in Pawtucket RI. Kottaras has experience catching the Paw Sox knuckle ball pitcher Charlie Zink. Zink however, throws a much different type of pitch then Wakefield and is regarded as the easier one of the 2 to catch. Kottaras saw very limited time with the Red Sox in 2008. His 3 games last season represent his entire Major League career. The one factor which may play in his favor is that he is out of options. Simply put, that means if he doesn’t get the backup role, the Red Sox can not demote him back to AAA without first putting him on waivers. It would seem likely that with the shortage of quality catchers across MLB, some team would pick him up before the Red Sox had the opportunity to re-assign him. Kottaras is seen as a decent backstop, however many have questions regarding his ability to compete at the Major League level. He has some pop in his bat. Despite his .243 Batting Average, he hit 22 Home Runs with 65 RBI’s in 107 games last season with Pawtucket.

Dusty Brown –  Brown might just be the big surprise in this race. He’s a quality Catcher with a strong arm and an improving bat. Like Kottaras, Brown also has experience catching Charlie Zink, so he’s not unfamilar with catching a knuckle ball. At 26 years old, he may well be coming into his own. Last season when Theo Epstein stated that he didn’t think the future Catcher for the Red Sox was yet inside the organization, Brown took those remarks as a personal challenge and went on to improve his offensive numbers posting a .290 Batting Average along with 12 Home Runs and 55 RBI’s in 84 games for the Paw Sox last season. Of the 4 candidates, Brown may well be regarded as the most complete Catcher in the group. Watch this guy he may just surprise everyone.

Mark Wagner – Not many give Wagner a real shot at making the club this year. He’s young, only 24 years old and viewed as needing some more experience to reach his potential. Wagner spent last season with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox AA affiliate. While there, he showed that his biggest attribute was behind the plate. Wagner was not an offensive threat last season. He batted just .219 with 10 Home Runs and 48 RBI’s in 94 games for the Sea Dogs. Still young, his place in this years Spring Training camp is being looked at as a learning experience. An opportunity to observe and work with Jason Varitek is something that Wagner himself say’s is his goal while in camp.. “You can learn a lot by watching him. He’s not a bad guy to try to
follow in his footsteps and hopefully I can continue to open up more
The Red Sox, always eager to expose young talent to the Major League atmosphere, are giving him that opportunity this year.

     While Theo Epstein continues to say that a main goal for the organization is to find Varitek’s eventual replacement, those 4 players have a smaller, but still difficult goal to achieve first. Each is looking to just become this seasons backup to Varitek. Can one of them eventually step forward and become the player Epstein is looking for? Anything is possible, but the current goal for each of them is to be given an opportunity to show what they have and to learn from one of the best. Varitek has stated that he is eager to mentor whomever the Red Sox decide upon. Whether it is Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown, Mark Wagner or someone outside the organization, that individual will have to make it on the 25 man roster first. The competition for that spot is now underway. 4 players, one spot to fill. May the best man win.

Spring Training: Francona, Epstein News and Notes

By Chris Cue
February 13, 2009

     When Terry Francona and Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein sat down with reporters yesterday, they had a few updates on players yet to report to camp and each shared his feelings on several subjects involving the team and individual players.

Regarding where Mike Lowell currently is health wise….
Epstein: “(The reports we hear have) been pretty good. We just got an update yesterday that he’s not
experiencing any pain or any symptoms and he’s doing some baseball
activities. He hasn’t really run yet full-fledged, and that’s going to
be an important step for him, but he’s hitting and doing some other
baseball activities. We’re going to take it slow. We’re going to hold
him back. We’re not focused on what he looks like on the report date or
when the first exhibition date happens. The whole rehab is built around
the proper timetable, which happens to coincide with getting him ready
for opening day.”

Regarding the amount of Minor League players in camp this year….
Francona: “I love it. We just went through our second day of meetings. Today it
was the pitchers. We probably have a unique amount of young guys in our
major league camp this year, and that’s by design. It probably makes
for a more exciting camp for me and the coaches. There are some younger
kids that are going to see some time in games that don’t need to be
ready to make our ballclub, but that still doesn’t make camp less
exciting. If anything, it will be fun to watch their progression, how
they handle themselves.”

Managements thoughts on Jacoby Ellsbury and what the expectations are for this year….

Epstein: “I think Jacoby’s already an impact defender and an impact baserunner,
and I think based on his track record in the minor leagues this is a
guy we all feel is going to hit and get on base enough to be a real
weapon offensively, more so than he already is. The league adjusted to
him last year. They found a hole and really exploited it, which is
really common with young hitters. Now it’s his turn to adjust back.
He’s got the talent level and I think the drive to make the adjustment.
It will be fun to watch him play. We also I think have a roster that
can protect him a little bit, where maybe he’s ready to take that next
step. If he’s not, I don’t think it’s going to sink our club either.
We’re pretty bullish on Ellsbury long-term. He needs a chance to play.”

Regarding the clubs long term plans for the Catching position….
Epstein: “We have a number of good young catchers in camp, George Kottaras, Dusty
Brown, Mark Wagner. That said, we’ve been up-front that it’s an area
where we’re still probably out there looking for our catcher of the
future. One of these guys in our camp, one of the young guys, wants to
step forward and prove that he’s that guy, that would be great. We’re
always open to opportunities to improve outside the organization.”

On information contained in Manny Ramirez’s new book “Becoming Manny”….
Francona: “I was asked last night about it and I saw some excerpts. In what little I did see, it sounded like (it didn’t belong) in the non-fiction area of Barnes & Noble. My recollection of
some of that isn’t anywhere close (to what is in the book). And that’s disappointing. I think it was obvious over the years we bent over backwards to be fair not just with Manny, but with all of our players while at the same time having them understand that they need to be
accountable for their actions. I don’t apologize for anything that
happened. I thought we did the best we could.”

     It would be safe to assume that Tito thinks Manny is full of……..well, Manny.

     Real baseball activities begin tomorrow with scheduled workouts for the Pitchers and Catchers that are on hand. I’ll update this blog with any new information that may come out during the day.