Rusney Castillo can’t seem to do anything right

After being outrighted to AAA Pawtucket last season, Rusney Castillo could be the most expensive minor leaguer out there as he was signed to a seven year, $72.5 million contract back in 2014. While he’ll be getting paid either way, one would think he’d actually want to step up and prove something during Spring Training but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

The 29 year old came up to bat in the third inning in an exhibition game against Northeastern today with one out and a man on first and grounded to short. Despite the chance to beat out the double play, he could barely bring himself to jog down the line and Northeastern was able to get out of the inning unscathed.

After the game, manager John Farrell called him out for not only a lack of hustle but for also not fully being aware of the game situation.

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

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No more four pitch intentional walks

In case you were worried about the amount of time it takes for an intentional walk to progress, you’ll be happy to know that time has now been drastically reduced. Major League Baseball has now approved a rule change that will replace the pitcher throwing four straight balls with allowing the dugout to simply signal that it wants the batter walked.

Since this doesn’t have too much of an impact on the game, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the players’ union has agreed to the change and it will be implemented this season. One might wonder, however, how much of an impact on pace of play this will actually have.

Not only does an intentional walk not take too much time, but it doesn’t happen too often either. During the 2016 season, for instance, there were 932 intentional walks over the course of 2,427 games. That means one took place every 2.6 games — or about once for every series (which traditionally last three games during the regular season).

Of course, these aren’t the only changes that Commissioner Rob Manfred has proposed to help increase the pace of play. He’s also suggested things like a 20 second pitch clock, limiting the use of relief pitchers, raising the strike zone, and starting extra innings with a runner on second base. These, however, have all run into a lot of resistance from people claiming they change the nature of the game without offering a significant amount of benefit.

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Matt Wieters signs with Washington Nationals

According to Ken Rosenthal, Matt Wieters has signed a two year deal with the Washington Nationals that includes a player opt-out option for after the 2017 season. The contract is for $10 million this season and $11 million if he decides to come back for the 2018 season. For what it’s worth, Chelsea Jones is reporting that $5 million of this year’s salary will be differed through the 2021 season.

Wieters has been the biggest free agent left on the market for quite some time, which has lead to some speculation about why he hadn’t already been picked up. While he’s definitely had a successful career, his late pickup likely has something to do with the poor showing he had last season.

The switch hitting catcher has a career .256/.318/.421 but only played in a combined 101 games in 2014 and 2015 and eventually had to have Tommy John’s surgery. He then struggled last year after coming back. Over the course of 464 plate appearances, he had just a .243/.302/.409 batting line with 17 home runs and 66 RBI.

As if the offensive struggles weren’t enough, there have been some questions about Wieters’s defensive abilities. There’s been a lot of discussion, for instance, about his ability to frame pitches — though his agent Scott Boras has really been pushing back on those analysis. That being said, most analysts agree that he’s a good receiver and is a strong pitch blocker. Plus, he was able to ease some concerns about his elbow by throwing out 35% of the runners who attempted to steal against him last season.

With all that being said, there’s little doubt that Wieters is being brought in to be the starting catcher even though the Nats had just brought in Derek Norris from San Diego this off season. So the obvious question becomes: what will happen to Norris.

It looks like the early signs are that the 28 year old Norris will be traded — or at least shopped around. “There’s always somebody out there that needs a frontline catcher,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters according to Mark Zuckerman. And for his part, Norris spoke about how he would want to be in there on an everyday basis but is simply trying to help out his team — whatever team it is he happens to be playing for.

Above all else, a lot of fans are still giving shout outs to fan favorite Wilson Ramos — the catcher who the Nats let go during the offseason as he’s trying to come back from his second torn ACL. It will therefore be interesting to see how Wieters is accepted into the DC community.

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David Ortiz could join NESN broadcast team

david-ortizEven while he’s simply enjoying himself at the beach, David Ortiz has constantly been talked about this Spring Training. He’s once again making the news as Red Sox president Sam Kennedy used part of a Boston Herald interview to say the retired slugger might make his way to the NESN broadcast booth during the 2017 season.

“It’ll be fun to watch the next stage of his career,” Kennedy said. “He’s got a lot of different interests. Broadcasting is certainly one. It’d be interesting to see if he goes into national broadcasting. We’d certainly love to have him part of our local broadcast team on a limited basis if he wanted to dip his toe into that water.”

The suggestion that he might be willing to join the broadcasting team isn’t coming out of thin air as he met with front office executives back in January about the possibility. It’s worth noting that this wouldn’t be Big Papi’s first venture into broadcasting as he’s been a part of Fox’s postseason broadcasts in previous years, the last time being in 2014.

Of course, he also wouldn’t be the first member of the Red Sox organization to go into the field. Kevin Millar, for instance, used his playing days as a way into a very successful career with the MLB Network. Pedro Martinez has also done the same with TBS.

Since the Red Sox are only talking about having him join broadcasts on a part time basis, it seems like June 23 might be the day to do have him start since the organization is already retiring his number then.

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Who should start at third if Pablo Sandoval doesn’t work out?

pablo-sandovalAlthough he’s impressed a lot of his critics by coming back in great shape, Pablo Sandoval knows he has a lot of work to do in order to win back the job as the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox. Not only has his work ethic in the offseason proven that he knows this, but he’s saying the right things.

“Everything, I have to prove everything,” he said during a press conference last Thursday. “Especially when you’re coming from an off year after the injuries and you come back and you have to prove a lot of things to the fans, to the team, to your teammates, to the sport. You have to prove a lot of things out there on the field.”

While everyone is cautiously optimistic right now, there are still some who are wondering what the Red Sox might do if Sandoval doesn’t live up to expectations.

One person on the lookout for a potential option to replace Sandoval is the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo who suggests the Red Sox might want to keep an eye on Todd Frazier.

Frazier is a player to keep an eye on if Pablo Sandoval doesn’t cut it and the Red Sox need a big bat in the middle of the order. Frazier is scheduled to earn $12.5 million this season and will be a free agent at the end of the year. By trade deadline time Frazier’s deal will be less than half of that, which could make him affordable to the Red Sox and other contending teams. Frazier hit 40 homers and knocked in 98 runs last season and has a nice swing for Fenway. The White Sox probably won’t deal him before the start of the season.

Now the Red Sox have certainly have a good working relationship with the White Sox as they worked out the Chris Sale trade, so there’s the possibility that something could get worked out. With that being said, I’m not sure it would actually be the best deal possible.

As Cafardo points out in the same article, the Red Sox have several different players already on the roster who could fill in at the hot corner if needed. Brock Holt, for instance, is competing with Sandoval for the third base gig down in Fort Meyers.

You also can’t ignore the minor league depth that the Red Sox have at third. Just a couple weeks ago, for instance, they signed Mike Olt to a minor league deal. While his numbers haven’t been great in the big leagues, he might be an option if he performs well in Portland and/or Pawtucket.

There’s also Rafael Devers, who Baseball America ranked as the number 18 prospect in all of baseball. While he’s likely to start the year in AA Portland, the Red Sox have made it clear that they have no issues with a player skipping AAA if he’s ready for the big leagues. Just look at what they did with Andrew Benintendi.

Of course, all of this could just be a game of speculation if Pablo Sandoval turns out to have a strong comeback season.

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David Ortiz’s new Spring Training

Despite the repeated insistence that he’s not going to come back, there have been a lot of rumors that David Ortiz won’t stay retired for long. But in a new twitter video, Big Papi makes it clear that he’s enjoying his new Spring Training — relaxing at the beach.

While his former teammates are gathering in Fort Meyers and doing agility drills before Spring Training games start on Friday, Ortiz is taking in the scene at the beach and claims it’s “so good to be retired.”

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Red Sox purchase contract of Hector Velazquez from the Mexican League

The Red Sox have purchased the contract of right handed pitcher Hector Velazquez from the Mexican League.

With there already being a competition for the final two spots in the starting rotation, Velazquez is a pickup that will be more for organizational depth in the minor leagues. He did, however, receive an invitation to big league camp.

The 28 year old most recently played for Mayos de Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific Winter League where he started 14 games. Over the course of 85.1 innings he posted a strong 2.32 ERA and had 87 strikeouts.

As he’s heading into camp, he also appears to be riding a hot streak. Over the course of his last four starts this winter, he only gave up five runs while striking out 22 batters. Those games weren’t just a fluke, however, because he had five starts this winter where he shutout the opposing team.

Over the course of seven seasons in the Mexican League, Velazquez made 136 appearances (all but 16 of which were starts) on his way to a 43-29 record with a 3.76 ERA and 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

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