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Offseason updates on rest of AFC East

While we continue to view the world through a Patriots’€™ prism, here’€™s a quick update on what’€™s been going on in the rest of the AFC East this offseason:

Jets – New York started the offseason with a bang, announcing Rex Ryan landed a multiyear extension. But at the same time, the Jets have some tough calls to make on some veterans, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace. Then, there’€™s the question as to whether or not to release quarterback Mark Sanchez — per salary cap expert Joel Corry, the Jets will gain more than $8.3 million of cap room if they let him go before his $2 million roster bonus is due on March 25. (They’€™ll also get some more financial flexibility if they decide to part ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes in mid-March.) If Sanchez is indeed gone, that will likely clear the decks for Geno Smith, who was involved in an off-field dustup involving a flight attendant on a Virgin America flight. However, GM John Idzik says he anticipates a competition at quarterback this season. On the other side of the ball, while the New York defense is pretty solid as a whole, they’€™ll almost certainly be the market for offensive skill position players this offseason either in the draft or free agency.

Bills – As is the case at this time of year, the biggest moves for Buffalo to this point in the offseason have come on the coaching staff — following the departure of Mike Pettine, the Bills have added Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. They’€™ve also done some more sideline shuffling, including the addition of Rob Moore as receivers coach and Pepper Johnson as linebackers coach. Schwartz favors a 4-3 scheme, which means the Bills will have to tweak their personnel as a result, but on paper, the Buffalo defense is actually pretty well-positioned going into 2014. Led by linebacker Kiko Alonso and pass rushers Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, the Bills led the league with 57 sacks, and were second in the league with 23 picks. They could add some depth in the secondary, particularly if defensive back Jairus Byrd leaves as a free agent. Buffalo also needs some help on the offensive line, as well as some help at tight end if Scott Chandler walks in free agency. The Bills reportedly have roughly $15 million under the cap, and will likely use some of that to put more offensive skill position players around quarterback EJ Manuel, who needs to make a sizable leap going into 2014 if the Bills are able to break through in the AFC East.

Dolphins – Where to start? Miami is a bit of a mess right now, as the franchise continues to deal with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins end up making changes on their coaching staff as a result of what’€™s happened, but they’€™ve already parted ways with GM Jeff Ireland, going with Dennis Hickey in his place. (They also fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after Miami’€™s offense finished 26th in the league with an average of 19.8 points per game. They hired Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor as the new OC.) Hickey will have roughly $17 million in cap space to deal with when free agency opens, and he will almost certainly focus on an offensive line that was struggling, even before the Incognito-Martin situation blew up — quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013, most in the league. From a big picture perspective, it will be interesting to watch the moves that Hickey, coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross will make this offseason in hopes of trying to repair the Dolphins rep this offseason.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Stan Van Gundy on M&M: My guess is Rajon Rondo stays in Boston through trade deadline

Speaking with WEEI’s “Mut & Merloni” on Tuesday morning, NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy said that he sees Celtics guard Rajon Rondo staying in Boston after this week’s trade deadline.

Van Gundy said that while Rondo is one of the best in the league at his position, he’s not necessarily a good fit with any of the potential trade partners that have been kicked around.

“He’s a hard guy to classify, because he’s very unique,” Van Gundy said of Rondo. “I don’t think he can carry a team without a ton of talent. But on a championship-level team, he’s as good as anyone.”

With that in mind, Van Gundy said that among those teams, Rondo wouldn’t necessarily be a good match.

“I’m not sure any of the contenders are lacking at that spot,” said Van Gundy, who added he would be “shocked” if any team gave Boston two unprotected first-round picks for Rondo.

Maybe the Pacers would be the best fit,” he said. “But my guess is that he stays in Boston through the trade deadline.”

Van Gundy also said that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference were Miami and Indiana, and added he “can’t imagine what would happen at the trade deadline to change that.”

He also had some nice things to say about Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens, indicating the addition of Stevens “was a great hire.”

“i think it was a perfect situation for a college guy to go in to, in that he has time,” Van Gundy said of Stevens. “Brad is a very smart, very analytical guy who relates to players very well. I think he’s done a great job late in games this year in terms of situational stuff.

“I think he’s very good, and will continue to get better,” he added.

For the complete interview, check out the Mut & Merloni page.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Mike Carp says he has no desire to be traded

Mike Carp (AP)

Mike Carp (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Carp could be forgiven if he wanted to prioritize personal accomplishment at this stage of his career. The 27-year-old proved enormously productive in a limited role in 2013, hitting .296 with a .362 OBP, .523 slugging mark and nine homers in 86 games. Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to see what kind of production he could offer over the course of regular playing time.

But even though such a role is not immediately available to him in Boston — Carp instead represents a strong left-handed bat who gives the Sox depth at first base, in left field and at DH — he’s not going to beg to be sent elsewhere. Carp relished his role as a contributor to a championship team in 2013, and he’s content to remain in it in 2014 in hopes of assisting the Sox’ efforts to repeat as champions.

“This is where I want to be. I want to be able to contribute any way I can this year, so whatever role I have to be in, I’m happy to take that and go about my business every day,” said Carp. “My agent talks. You can’t help but hear. Your buddies will say to you, ‘You might be going somewhere else.’ But this is the only place for me. To go out and compete with these guys on the field every day, that’s all you can ask for.”

Given that Carp was designated for assignment by the Mariners at this time a year ago and that he was in limbo until the Red Sox acquired him for cash, the experience of feeling at home in Boston — even in a part-time role — made an extraordinary impact on the player and defined his goals for the coming year.

“It was amazing. To come over from where I was and mesh with these guys and to go about the winning ways that everybody contributes and pulls for each other was a lot of fun,” said Carp. “Last year was last year. It’s 2014 now. We had no expectations last year. Now we have some expectations with that World Series title under our belt. We’re going to go out and try to win every day. That’s the plan. That’s what we did last year. There’s no reason we couldn’t do it again this year.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Shane Victorino: ‘I’ll play center if I have to’

Shane Victorino had a 2013 postseason to remember. (AP)

Shane Victorino had a 2013 postseason to remember. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The 2013 world championship ride with the Red Sox taught Shane Victorino a lot.

Mostly, the veteran outfielder learned that he was surrounded by a lot of people that would do whatever it takes to get the job done.

He’s trying to take that attitude into 2014.

Asked Tuesday about his concerns with Jacoby Ellsbury now playing center field for the rival Yankees, Victorino said he’s not concerned because he feels Jackie Bradley, Jr., newcomer Grady Sizemore or even he could fill the void.

“I”m excited wherever,” Victorino said. “I’ll play center if I have to. Worst case scenario we go out there with what we have and have fun doing it.”

Victorino, at first wouldn’t even mention Ellsbury or the Yankees by name when talking about some of the losses from the roster of a year ago, including Stephen Drew (for now) and Ryan Dempster.

“We did lose two key pieces,” he said. “Obviously, one is somewhere else. The second guy I’m talking about is Stephen. I think three guys, actually, in having Dempster step away from the game. You’re going to miss that guy, regards to what he brought in the clubhouse, what he brought as a teammate. But that’s all part of the game. It’s a business. You’re putting the puzzle together, you put the pieces we’ve gotten and you go out there and have fun doing it.

“Most importantly, those guys that are going to get that opportunity, Xander, if he plays every day at short. Will, he’s been there before. You look at those kind of things. Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center field, and Grady. All of those guys have had the opportunity to play at the highest level and get an opportunity to play every day.”

Victorino pointed out that he’s been through this type of transition before. Jayson Werth left the Phillies after the 2010 season, signing with the Nationals.

“I’ve been there before,” he said. “I lost Jayson Werth when I played alongside and he was a big key to our puzzle when we did well in Philly. Losing Jacoby is a big piece of the puzzle but for us, as players, we understand it’s part of the game. We don’t look at it anymore than that. I think it was made [a lot] of because he went to that other side. If he had signed anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t have been so drastic. At the end of the day, guys are going to get their opportunity, wherever it may be between Jackie and Grady.”

Something else Victorino has been through before is being on a team trying to repeat as World Series champion. His Phillies came within two games in 2009, losing to the Yankees in Game 6 after winning it all in 2008.

“It’s not that hard,” Victorino said when asked about the mindset heading into 2014. “I’ve been there before. A lot of us have been there before. I’ve won a championship. I think we all have an understanding of what it’s all about. Talk is always going to be about being the World Series champion but as I said, you prepare for ’14 and get ready for this season and you focus on that.

“More importantly, it’s great to be known as World Series champion but this is a whole new year. The target is on your back. Everybody is going to come after you, everybody is going to want to take that trophy from you. So, we focus on what we have to do and take one game at a time.”

As for his thumb, on which he had surgery in December, Victorino said the healing process is just about complete.

“Good. Good as offseasons can be,” he said. “You enjoy every moment. Now we’re here. This offseason was great in regards to the healing process, getting back to feeling somewhat good and ultimately getting ready for 2014.

“It’s part of the game. It’s what you play for. At that point of the year, late in the season, everybody is hurting from playing a lot of games. You focus on trying to win, more importantly. I feel good. I’m here in spring training, ready to go.”

Victorino said he has taken some “dry hacks” but has yet to strike a ball with force in the cage.

When he does return to hitting, where he bats in John Farrell‘s batting order is sure to be a subject of conversation and debate.

“I never say where I want to be,” Victorino said of the batting order. “I don’t care where I hit. I said it all along. Whatever opportunity presents itself, whether it be leadoff, whether it be down in the lineup, wherever. I’m not really focused on all that. I think it’s more about getting myself prepared and wherever I’m put in the batting order, I’ll be ready to go.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Spring Fort-itude: What happened with the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Monday

Will Middlebrooks says he has plenty of motivation in 2014 (AP)

Will Middlebrooks says he has plenty of motivation in 2014 (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The rhythm of bullpen sessions, pitchers’ fielding practice (PFPs) and batting practice has commenced, and with the exception of injured knuckleballer Steven Wright, the entirety of the Red Sox 40-man roster is now in camp after the arrivals of David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino on Tuesday. (More from Victorino will be posted shortly.)

Of all the players on the Red Sox roster this spring, Will Middlebrooks may be facing the most scrutiny. The 25-year-old discussed his motivation to prove that the 2013 season was an aberration, and to re-establish himself as a core member of a championship-caliber team.

“I like it. It creates a competition not only with other people but with myself. Any time you’re pushed or you get your face pushed down in the dirt a few times, you’re probably going to work harder to where you were and where you want to be,” said Middlebrooks. “We won the World Series. That’s awesome. I’m about this team. But could I have helped us more? Yeah. That’s my plan. My plan going forward is to win another World Series. I feel like I’m going to be a big part of that. I just have to get my [stuff] together and be ready to go.”

Another young player with the potential to make a big impact on the 2014 Red Sox, Allen Webster, discussed his understanding of what he needs to do to permit his electrifying stuff to translate into results.

While Middlebrooks’ on-field status will be analyzed closely, Jon Lester will be monitored for off-the-field news this spring, specifically as it relates to the possibility of a new contract. The 30-year-old left-hander reiterated his desire to get an extension done that would help him remain in Boston for the rest of his career, stating that he is willing to negotiate both during spring training and the regular season.

From the training room, John Farrell suggests there is optimism that oft-injured outfielder Grady Sizemore can be kept healthy in his attempt to return to the field for the first time since 2011. (For an excellent feature on Sizemore, who is being forced for the first time in his life to play at something less than full speed, check out this piece by Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com.)

Catcher David Ross joined the Mut & Merloni show to give insight into the off-field impact right-hander Ryan Dempster — who announced on Sunday that he won’t pitch in 2013 — made on the team in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Celtics trade rumor: More Rajon Rondo rumblings

The NBA trade rumor mill is really churning now, and it should come as no surprise Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo‘s name repeatedly rises to the surface.

As Rondo said, “It’€™s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic.” Other teams want an All-Star, All-Defensive point guard, and they want him cheap.

Here’s the latest that’ll make Danny Ainge chuckle.

According to the Toronto Sun (h/t SB Nation), the Raptors would like Rondo, and the C’s may budge on the alleged asking price of two first-round picks, citing a source who believes Ainge would welcome “at least one lottery pick and talented young player.”

It’€™s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’€™s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its ‘€œstar’€ quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’€™s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.

Oh, one of the game’s top five point guards has piqued their interest? Well, then, we might as well lump the remaining 28 teams into this rumor. And is it no secret the C’s have dangled Rondo league-wide? Time and again, Ainge reminds everyone willing to listen the phone may ring but he’s not making the calls about his lone star.

Take this retread rumor, for example. As a number of less reputable outlets reported two months ago, the Kings offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick in exchange for Rondo, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Except, “Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.” Let me get this straight: Sacramento didn’t want to part with Ben McLemore for Rajon Rondo. That must be it. And there’s the small matter of that deal missing roughly $10 million in salary to make it work.

 

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Report: Ubaldo Jimenez agrees to 4-year, $50 million deal with Orioles

Veteran pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has agreed to a deal with the Orioles pending a physical, according to The Associated Press.

The free agent, who went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts for the Indians last season, reportedly came to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles Monday evening. Since Jimenez turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Indians this offseason, Baltimore will lose its first-round draft pick, 17th overall, when the deal becomes official.

Dan Duquette, the Orioles executive vice president, said he wanted a veteran pitcher throughout the majority of the offseason to go along with the team’s relatively young starting rotation.

“If we can sign a veteran starter, it would fill out our ball club,” Duquette said. “And then some of these young pitchers that we really like should be able to help us later in the season.”

The 30-year-old Jimenez is 82-75 with a 3.92 ERA over eight major league seasons. The righty started his career with the Rockies in 2006 and had his best season in 2010 with Colorado when he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 33 starts.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Ex-Dolphin Richie Incognito apologizes in return to Twitter

Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Knicks at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. (NBATV)
NBA: Spurs at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (NBATV)
College basketball: Wake Forest at Maryland, 7 p.m. (NESN)
College basketball: Villanova at Providence, 7 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Texas at Iowa State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: South Florida at Louisville, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Kentucky at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: N.C. State at Clemson, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: George Washington at Richmond, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Iowa at Indiana, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Butler at St. John’s, 9 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Georgia at Tennessee, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Utah State at San Diego State, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
Soccer: UEFA Champions League, Manchester City vs. Barcelona, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Olympics: Men’s hockey qualification, Russia vs. Norway, 7 a.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Men’s speedskating, men’s Nordic combined, cross-country, 10 a.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Men’s hockey qualification, Switzerland vs Latvia, noon (MSNBC)
Olympics: Men’s speedskating, men’s Nordic combined, 3 p.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Men’s curling, women’s curling, 5 p.m. (CNBC)
Olympics: Women’s Alpine, men’s freestyle skiing, women’s bobsled, women’s short-track speedskating, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Women’s short-track speedskating, 1 a.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Men’s hockey quarterfinal, Slovenia vs. Sweden, 3 a.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

Richie Incognito, who deleted his Twitter account Friday after the release of the report that chastised him and two of his Dolphins teammates for creating a culture of harassment in the locker room toward Jonathan Martin and others, returned Monday with a new approach.

Incognito, who blasted Martin last week before the report came out — writing, “The truth is going to bury you” — took a different approach Monday, apparently realizing that he has jeopardized his playing career with his behavior. Incognito, who was suspended for the final two months of the season, is a free agent, and the Dolphins have made it clear he’s unlikely to return.

Tweeted Incognito: I apologize for acting like a big baby the last few days. This has all been so much on me and my family. I just want to play football

And: I want everyone to know I’m in good spirits and looking forward to playing again one day Early Tuesday, he added a note to Martin: I would like to send Jonathan my apologies as well. Until someone tells me different you are still my brother. No hard feelings

 

Incognito completed his series of apologies with a message to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and investigator Ted Wells.

Wrote Incognito: I would like to also apologize to Mr. Ross and Mr. Wells. [Expletive] got cray cray #MYBAD

– The Phillies are looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2013, and Jonathan Papelbon says he wants to help by bringing a positive attitude.

The former Red Sox closer — who last year stated, “I didn’t come here for this,” and indicated the team needed major changes — is ready for a new start under new manager Ryne Sandberg.

“I know I said a lot of things that have come in the middle of 10-, 12-game losing streaks that come out with emotion,” he said Monday (via the Philadelphia Inquirer), adding: “I’ve always been an emotional-type player. That’s just the way I am. This year, that emotion has turned into so much more of a positive than a negative. I’m not saying we’re going to go out and everything is hunky-dory. We still have a lot of work to put in. That starts from the top with Ryno. A lot of guys are jumping on board.”

That said, Papelbon indicated he doesn’t plan to stop speaking his mind.

“I’ve said a lot of things in my career that may or may not have been right,” Papelbon said. “I won’t take a single one back, though. I say what I say and I mean it. I’m an emotional person. I pitch emotionally. I wear my heart on my sleeve, man. That’s just the way I go about it. If that’s the way I’m going to continue to do it, I want you guys to know I’m a good teammate.”

– The Pennsylvania high school senior with Down syndrome who hit four 3-pointers in a basketball game last week is turning pro.

Kevin Grow, the student manager at Bensalem High who scored a game-high 14 points when given a chance to play (with cooperation from a gracious opponent), was presented with a two-day ceremonial contract by the 76ers. He was given the chance to shoot around with Sixers players toward the end of Monday’s practice, and he’s slated to participate in pregame activities before Tuesday’s game against the Cavaliers.

“Grow has become an inspiration to the Sixers organization, as his story has swept the nation,” the team said in a statement.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Feb. 18, 1930, which Bruins goaltender set an NHL record for most wins in a season when he recorded his 31st with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Canadiens?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He’€™€™s going to be greatly missed as far as a competitor, teammate, person, on and off the field. Just a quality quality human being.” Red Sox catcher David Ross, during a Monday appearance on Mut & Merloni, speaking about Ryan Dempster‘s decision to sit out the 2014 season

STAT OF THE DAY: 70-9 – The U.S. women’s hockey team’s advantage in shots in goal in Monday’s 6-1 rout of Sweden in the Olympic semifinals

‘NET RESULTS (mobile users, check the website to see the videos): Oklahoma State’s Leyton Hammonds capitalizes on a Baylor turnover to hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer (although Baylor would go on to win in overtime).

During a halftime contest at West Chester University, a fan hits a layup, free throw, 3-pointer and halfcourt shot in 25 seconds, but his halfcourt shot — a one-handed fallaway after he races back to the line — comes on his second attempt, and the rules state that he can’t have a miss in order to win the $10,000 prize.

From a high school basketball game in Arkansas, junior JaMario Bell shatters the backboard on an alley-oop dunk.

In this Gatorade commercial, workers transform a New Orleans high school basketball team’s locker room during the second half of a game, installing new lockers, chairs, lights, carpet and more. To cap it off, Dwyane Wade stops by to inspire the players.

A rooster gets on the field at an Israeli soccer match and proves tough to corral.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Tiny Thompson

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Former Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung was born on this day in 1947.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game?

Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘€™s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.

Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.

Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:

‘€¢ Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.

For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.

‘€¢ In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’€™s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.

To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’€™t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.

‘€¢ While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’€™re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’€™s already at 235 catches and counting.

When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.

Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’€™s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’€™s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘€™s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).

As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’€™s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’€™s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’€™s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

John Farrell on optimism about Grady Sizemore, the value and role of Brandon Workman

New Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore (WEEI.com photo)

New Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The great unknown in Red Sox camp is outfielder Grady Sizemore. It’s virtually impossible to project what he might be able to offer the Red Sox in 2014, in no small part because he hasn’t played in any kind of game since 2011. Indeed, the mere question of whether he’ll play at all for the Red Sox in the coming season is a fair one, a fact reflected in the structure of the contract he signed with Boston for a $750,000 guarantee with bonuses that could increase the value of the deal to $6 million.

For now, the majority of his attention in the training room is on his knees. But there appears to be initial signs of optimism from the Red Sox that they can keep the oft-injured outfielder — who underwent microfracture surgery on both knees — healthy.

‘€œThe majority of his maintenance work is going into right now. But our medical staff feels confident they’€™ll be able to keep him on the field,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He feels great right now. That’€™s probably the first area. Overall, we’€™ll just see how the tolerance holds up. It’€™s been two years so we’€™ve got some levels to go through here.”

Sizemore has never played a position other than center field in his career. But this spring, the Sox plan to have him play both center and left field.

– Even before Ryan Dempster announced his intention not to pitch in 2014, Farrell and the Sox had planned to stretch out Brandon Workman as a starter. That remains the case now, with the idea that he can be prepared to work out of the bullpen at the very end of spring training if necessary. Along those lines, it’s worth recalling that Workman had no preparation for his bullpen role in the minor leagues last year; he was shifted from the rotation to relief on the fly, at a time when the Sox felt like the cost of acquiring relievers in trades was prohibitive. At that time, Farrell placed his complete trust in the evaluations of the Red Sox’ player development staff and front office, since Workman hadn’t been invited to big league camp in 2013, thus meaning that the Sox manager’s familiarity with him was based almost exclusively on the reports of others.

“We were looking at ways to fortify the bullpen. Because of the cost of the guys out there, let’s take a look at guys internally first. There was a feeling that with Brandon particularly, in shorter stints, the velocity might spike a little bit, and it did. And we’re fortunate to have a guy like that in the system,” said Farrell. “That’s where our player development staff, whether it’s Bob Kipper in Portland, or Rich Sauveur, their recommendations and their communication with us was spot on with him.”

Though Workman gained Farrell’s trust in the bullpen, the Sox manager continues to view him as having more value as a starter.

“If he’s not closing, then you’d always look to the innings out of the rotation as being much more valuable,” said Farrell. “He possesses a very strong focus and concentration. He’s not afraid to pitch in. He has a lot of the attributes you’re looking for for an innings-eating starter and a guy that’s going to pitch quality innings.”

– Reliever Francisco Cordero, who agreed to a minor league deal on Sunday, is expected to be ready to take part in the pitchers and catchers’ workout on Tuesday.

– Farrell said that the team will define catcher A.J. Pierzynski‘s workload so that he has an opportunity to catch all of the team’s pitchers and familiarize himself with a mostly unfamiliar staff in game situations. Farrell said that, when the club talked with Pierzynski as a free agent, it outlined a potential breakdown of roughly 100-110 games for Pierzynski and 50-60 for backup David Ross. The breakdown could occur based on whether a righty or lefty is on the hill, with Ross perhaps in line for the lion’s share of starts against left-handed pitchers and Pierzynski starting primarily against righties.

– Right-hander Jake Peavy was awaiting an examination of his irritated right middle finger, but the hand specialist who was expected in Fort Myers had been delayed by weather. Farrell expected Peavy to be seen on Monday evening.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier