Saturday, March 3, 2012

Huskies hanging with the Red Sox today

Sophomore center fielder Connor Lyons of Bedford, N.H., is playing center field and batting ninth today against the Red Sox ... Younger brother Sean Lyons replaced his brother in the sixth inning at JetBlue Park ...“It’s really unbelievable just seeing these guys and being in front of them. You don’t know what to think at first. You’re and you’re excited at the same time,” Connor said. “I can’t believe how far and hard these guys hit the ball with such little effort. It looks like they are just barely swinging and they’re hitting the ball 400 feet."

Lineup card as penned by Northeastern head coach Neil McPhee, in his 27th season, today at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. The Red Sox won, 25-0.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sam Fuld and "insanely gifted athletes"

The Legend continues. It was great to catch up with New Hampshire native Sam Fuld in Port Charlotte, Fla., yesterday. The man dropped great insight on the game and money quotes, as usual: "I learned a lot (last year), but, above all, I learned this game is really, really hard. I always knew that, of course, but to play at the highest level over the course of 162 games takes a ton of mental strength. Each, you're pitted against insanely gifted athletes -- and that takes a toll on you after a while." My two favorite shots from the afternoon: 
Kevin Littlefield/Staff photographer
Kevin Littlefield/Staff photographer

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jason Varitek, a great captain, retires

Jason Varitek will officially retire Thursday in Fort Myers -- and the Green Monster is already prepped. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine on the former captain: "From afar, he was everything you want in a guy who wore the 'C.' He was a man's man. He was a big hitter when needed He was the leader of the pitching staff. He was able to beat up Alex (Rodriguez). All that stuff is good stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be."

Kevin Littlefield/Staff photographer

Just another New Hampshire angle ...

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is big for The 603: Minnesota Twins pitcher Terry Doyle finished his Wednesday workout at the team's spring-training complex and received some great news from pitching coach Rick Anderson: “You’re starting against the Red Sox.

Doyle, a Salem (N.H.) native, will be the first visiting big leaguer to take the mound at JetBlue Park. Boston’s official opener of the Grapefruit League will be televised Sunday on NESN at 1:30 p.m.

The big righty went 7-5 (3.24 ERA) and threw a pair of complete games for Double-A Birmingham last season. Doyle, 26, made a big impression on the Twins during the Arizona Fall League. They scooped him up during baseball's winter meetings in the Rule 5 Draft ... In other news, Lars Anderson is still a fascinating guy to talk with:

Breakfast in bed

Good morning!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bobby Valentine: "Jeter was out of position."

The Red Sox were working on relay throws and cut-off situations today, leading to a question about the famous Derek Jeter play from the 2001 American League Division Series.

Watch out for Jesse's curve

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Former Blue Jays reliever Jesse Carlson is once again throwing pain-free after spending all of last season recovering from rotator cuff surgery. He signed a split contract with the Red Sox and has a good shot at winning a bullpen job.

“I know what I can do when I’m healthy. I think here with the Red Sox I’ll actually be used how I should be used,” Carlson said. "There (with Toronto), it didn’t matter if we were winning, losing. If we were up 10 or down 10, it was kind of like, ‘Let’s put Carlson in.’ That’s fine. I’m not going to complain. I’m there to pitch. I did everything I could to help the team. I just think, being that we have so many good guys in the (Boston) bullpen, I think each guy will have specific roles. I think my role will be to get left-handers out.”

The slender Carlson is loaded with tattoos on his upper body, including a "good vs. evil theme" on his arms. In 2009, he was involved with a bench-clearing brawl at Yankee Stadium that started after Jorge Posada gave him a forearm shiver while crossing home plate.

Spring Training Day 3: Familiar faces

On every road trip, I always seem to find someone from New Hampshire, and try to mention them in a story, but yesterday took the cake. Just some of the folks from The 603: fans David T. Segal and son Benjamin of Bow, Nicole Pappas of Nashua, Nick Mourgenous and family from Dover, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington of Meriden, Red Sox minor-league coach Ralph Truel of Wolfeboro, Red Sox psychology coach Bob Tewksbury of Concord, WTPL Radio crew of Concord, and I'll even include ex-Fisher Cats Jesse Carlson and Brad Emaus. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back in Blue Video Podcast VIII

These guys totally cracked me up this week, wearing eyeblack stickers and having fun with some random stuff I sent them. Been meaning to give them a shoutout here in the Gray Matter Swag District. Love the passion of these guys and how they swagged up at 10:45.

Spring Training first stop: Fort Myers

The coolest thing about JetBlue Park is how it looks and feels like the 100-year-old Fenway version in Boston -- and today it was 87 degrees. Hello from Fort Myers, Fla., where the Red Sox unveiled a $78 million player development complex and ballpark, funded with tourist taxes. I'm loving the $5 tickets for a lawn spot beyond right field, and an interesting Green Monster with seats in the middle of it. 

The new Pesky Pole at JetBlue Park is already Fenway-esque.

Everyone here is happy, except for Josh Beckett, who apparently hasn't turned the page on last year's Beer and Chicken Controvery, a symbol of the epic September collapse. Beckett told WEEI today that someone in the clubhouse was a snitch and made up those reports of Beckett and others playing video games and crushing KFC during the late innings at Fenway Park.

"Somebody made that stuff up, just like somebody made up that we were doing stuff," Beckett said in the interview. "This is stupid. I don't understand what the big deal is. Somebody was trying to save their own ass, and it probably cost a lot of people their asses. The snitching [expletive], that's [expletive]. It's not good."

I caught up with ex-Blue Jays reliever Jesse Carlson, who'll be pitching in Thursday's "B game" against the Twins. The lefty threw live batting practice today and looked terrific. He said his shoulder is back at 100 percent, and he's looking make a big impact in Boston's bullpen.

Bobby Valentine is beginning to grow on me. Seventy percent of voters in a poll (right panel) believe Bobby V is a "blowhard" and won't work in Boston. He keeps asking everyone questions and is trying to learn something new about the Red Sox every moment of the day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fisher Cats aren't going anywhere

I believe the Fisher Cats and Blue Jays will re-up for another two years on their player development contract, keeping Toronto's Double-A team in New Hampshire through at least 2014.

That doesn't jive with the game plan in Ottawa, where city leaders are attempting to land an Eastern League franchise, preferably the Jays' affiliate, as early as 2013. One problem: there is no EL team owner willing to move to Ottawa. League president Joe McEachern has no franchise application on his desk, no lease agreement, and absolutely no reason to believe the Blue Jays are moving their Double-A team to Ottawa.

The Fisher Cats will remain in New Hampshire whether they are aligned with the Blue Jays, Twins, Rays or another team. Many fans around here are hoping the Fisher Cats eventually become an affiliate of the Red Sox, who are signed to play in Portland, Maine, through 2014. Ottawa is a long way from landing a team but the city is sure creating a buzz, as reported in my baseball column in today's New Hampshire Sunday News.
“The people of Ottawa are trying to position themselves for consideration to have an Eastern League franchise,” McEachern said. “There’s still an awful lot of work to be done for them to host a team, not the least of which is finding an owner of (an affiliated) team to move there.”
The Fisher Cats and Blue Jays have agreed to a player development contract through 2012. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say they'll extend the PDC for another two years with an announcement this spring or summer. Fisher Cats team president Rick Brenner directed any questions about affiliations to the league office.
“The Blue Jays have a great relationship with New Hampshire. The only way the Blue Jays would ever leave New Hampshire – and nobody, absolutely nobody has talked with Toronto about this happening – would be if another team agreed to come (to New Hampshire). It would have to be a win-win situation for everyone," McEachern said.

Charlie Wilson, Toronto's director of minor league operations, has told me the Blue Jays want to stay in Manchester as long as possible, saying the club's relationship with NH is "amazing."