Game 7 rout capped historic comeback in '04

Damon led charge with two HRs, six RBIs; Lowe stepped up on mound

Game 7 rout capped historic comeback in '04

Ten years ago, the Red Sox and their fans were in the midst of an 86-year wait for a World Series championship. And after falling in the deepest of holes -- 3-0 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- everything changed.

Boston would become the first -- and still only -- team in MLB history to win a postseason series after trailing 3-0. And manager Terry Francona's team went on to win the final eight games of that postseason. MLB.com is doing retrospective pieces on the anniversary date of all eight of those wins with remembrances from key voices, continuing today with the 10-3 victory in Game 7 of the ALCS.

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When the 2004 postseason started, Red Sox right-hander Derek Lowe was in a severe funk. Due to a wildly inconsistent season and a horrific month of September, the sinkerballer was left out of the rotation for October and was rather perturbed about it. But things can change in a hurry.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield had selflessly given up his start in Game 4 of the ALCS to save the bullpen by performing mop-up work in Game 3. And that created the opportunity for Lowe to resurface as a starter. Lowe turned in a solid effort in Game 4, and Francona, who didn't have a lot of options, tabbed him as the Game 7 starter. Lowe would pitch one of the biggest games in Red Sox history on just two days of rest.

"Even going through your whole career [with the] Red Sox, at that time of year, you just kind of pitch when needed," said Lowe. "That's how we got to Game 7. Guys like Wakefield were stepping in. Guys were just raising their hand."

And as it turned out, Lowe pitched with a lead for the entirety of his Game 7 start.

David Ortiz provided a first-inning salvo against Kevin Brown, belting a two-run homer over the fence in right, putting Yankee Stadium in a somber mood.

Lowe then went on the attack, working with catcher Jason Varitek to completely change his usual arsenal to prey on the overanxious Yankees hitters.

"It's the beauty of Jason," said Lowe. "I bet we threw 80-something breaking balls. Because at that point, they started getting a little more aggressive. And as every game went on, they started getting ultra-, ultra-aggressive. We threw almost exclusively breaking balls to try to take advantage of their over-aggressiveness."

The strategy paid quick dividends, when Gary Sheffield was way out in front of a breaking ball for a strikeout that ended Lowe's 1-2-3 first. By the time Lowe came out for the second, his Red Sox had basically taken control of the game.

For as much as Lowe thrived in that moment of pitching Game 7, Brown shrunk under the spotlight. He gave up a single and two straight walks to load the bases in the second, and Yankees manager Joe Torre didn't take any chances, removing Brown in favor of Javier Vazquez.

As Johnny Damon stepped to the plate for that at-bat, he was 4-for-30 in the ALCS with just one RBI. With one swing, on the first pitch by Vazquez, Damon reversed his slump and put the Red Sox on the cusp of the World Series with a grand slam over the wall in right. At that moment, virtually all you could hear at Yankee Stadium were the shouts of the Red Sox players as Damon reached the dugout.

"Pretty incredible," said Damon. "That's definitely going to be the defining moment of my career. Yes, there are other great things, but the fact that you helped get the franchise a chance to win a World Series, that didn't come around too often in Boston."

In the fourth inning, there would be another Damon-Vazquez matchup. And Damon won it again, this time hitting a towering two-run shot into the upper deck that made it an 8-1 game.

"Johnny Damon goes ape crazy," said Trot Nixon. "We didn't need Manny [Ramirez] that night. We had Johnny Damon hitting jacks left and right."

And they had Lowe throwing up one zero after another. In all, Lowe went six innings of one-hit, one-run ball, needing just 69 pitches.

Francona inadvertently brought life back into Yankee Stadium by calling on Pedro Martinez of all people to pitch the seventh. A frustrated Martinez, after getting beaten by New York in September at Fenway, infamously said, "I guess I just have to tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy."

Throughout Martinez's Game 2 start, there were 55,000 fans roaring "Who's Your Daddy?" And it happened again in the seventh inning of Game 7, propelling the Yankees to a pair of doubles to start the frame, and two runs, to make it an 8-3 game. It turned out to be just a blip in an otherwise stress-free romp for Boston.

Mark Bellhorn put one off the right-field foul pole for a two-run shot in the eighth, and the Red Sox had a seven-run lead.

Alan Embree threw the final pitch of the 2004 ALCS, and Ruben Sierra grounded out to second baseman Pokey Reese. The Red Sox had not only completed their miracle from down 3-0, but they had avenged a devastating loss in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium one year earlier that left several players in tears. A year later, there were tears for a different reason.

"It was the greatest joy ever," said Martinez.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Jim Callis

Red Sox Arizona Fall League overview

Tremendous with glove, shortstop prospect Marrero aims to improve bat

Red Sox Arizona Fall League overview

Scouts have raved about Deven Marrero's defense for years. If he hadn't been so strongly committed to Arizona State, he might have been a first-round pick in 2009 out of American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla. His glovework with the Sun Devils made him a candidate for the No. 1 overall choice heading into '12, and still garnered him a $2.05 million bonus from the Red Sox when he slid to the 25th pick after slumping at the plate.

Marrero has continued to flash the leather in pro ball, showing excellent agility, range to both sides and the arm strength to make any throw from any angle. Managers rated him as having the strongest infield arm in the high Class A Carolina League in a 2013 Baseball America survey, and the Red Sox gave him their Minor League defensive player of the year award this season. He's sure-handed, too, having committed just 27 errors in 249 pro games, and he would have led the Carolina League last season and the Double-A Eastern League this year in fielding percentage if late-season promotions hadn't kept him from qualifying.

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"That's definitely something I've worked on my whole life," Marrero said. "Rey Ordonez taught me, and my father taught me how to play defense. I take pride in that, because shortstop is the captain of the infield, and I need to have that pitcher's trust. That's kind of what I pride myself on, knowing that pitcher can trust me whenever that ball is hit on the ground, it's an out."

Ordonez, a family friend, won three Gold Glove Awards with the Mets in the late 1990s but lasted only six years as a big league regular because he couldn't produce at the plate. Marrero knows he'll have to complement his superlative defense with enough offense in order to stick in a Major League lineup. He said improving at the plate is his primary goal with the Arizona Fall League's Surprise Saguaros.

"Definitely my hitting," Marrero said. "Staying consistent with that and staying with my approach, kind of finding my approach a little bit and tweaking that."

Marrero has the tools to contribute offensively. A 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, he's stronger than most shortstops and has a quick right-handed bat. While his speed is just a tick above average, he has stolen 67 bases in 83 pro attempts, succeeding at an 81 percent rate.

However, Marrero lacks consistency at the plate, in part because he gets too aggressive and pull-happy. After hitting .258/.345/.338 in his first two pro seasons, he appeared to take a giant step forward when he batted .291/.371/.433 in Double-A this season. But he regressed after a promotion to Triple-A, hitting just .210/.260/.285 during the final two months.

If Marrero hits, he could get an opportunity in Boston in the near future. Xander Bogaerts obviously will be a big part of the Red Sox's long-range plans, but he ranked second in the American League this year with 20 errors and might be better suited to plug the team's hole at third base.

Marrero said he's not worrying about when he'll get the call to Fenway Park. He's focusing on improving in all facets of the game so he'll be prepared when the Red Sox need him.

"You really can't worry about all that stuff, because you never know when that call's going to be," Marrero said. "But you've got to be ready for when it happens. All I worry about is being ready and just going about my business, and when that time comes, it'll come."

Red Sox hitters in the AFL

• A Cuban defector signed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract in late August, the 5-foot-8 Rusney Castillo is best known for his well above-average speed, but he also has surprising power. Boston's likely starting center fielder in 2015, Castillo homered twice and stole three bases in 10 big league games in September.

• Inconsistency and injuries stymied Sean Coyle in his first three full pro seasons after signing for $1.3 million as a 2010 third-round pick out of a Pennsylvania high school. But he finally broke out this year, batting .295/.371/.512 with 16 homers and 13 steals in 96 Double-A games. His power and speed are solid tools, and though he has primarily played second base, he could be Boston's long-term answer at the hot corner.

Red Sox pitchers in the AFL

• A 13th-round choice from Adelphi in 2010, right-hander Keith Couch went 8-2, 2.96 with a 72/22 K/BB ratio in 100 1/3 Double-A innings this year. He doesn't have a true plus pitch, but he's a sinker/slider guy who fills the strike zone.

• A teammate of Bryce Harper's at the JC of Southern Nevada in 2010, right-hander Aaron Kurcz went to the Cubs in the 10th round that June and came to the Red Sox two years later as part of the compensation package for general manager Theo Epstein. Kurcz has bounced back from Tommy John surgery to regain his 92-95 mph fastball in 2014, posting a 2.14 ERA and striking out 54 in 42 innings as a Double-A reliever.

• Purchased by the Red Sox from the independent Yuma Desert Rats (North American League) in 2011, Robby Scott is a lefty reliever who relies on command and the deception he generates with a crossfire delivery. He has three fringy pitches (89-92 mph fastball, three-quarters breaking ball, changeup) and compiled a 1.96 ERA and a 51/15 K/BB ratio in 59 2/3 Double-A innings this season.

• Boston paid right-hander Madison Younginer $975,000 to sign as seventh-rounder out of a South Carolina high school in 2009, when he touched 97 mph and drew some comparisons to Justin Verlander. Younginer still can light up radar guns, but he lacks reliable secondary pitches and command. He had a 4.08 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings as a high Class A reliever in '14.

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Schilling's bloody sock the bridge to history

Act of medical-science improv helped pitcher win Game 6 of 2004 ALCS

Schilling's bloody sock the bridge to history

Ten years ago, the Red Sox and their fans were in the midst of an 86-year wait for a World Series championship. And after falling in the deepest of holes -- 3-0 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- everything changed.

Boston would become the first -- and still only -- team in history to win a postseason series after trailing 3-0. And manager Terry Francona's team went on to win the final eight games of that postseason. MLB.com is doing retrospective pieces on the anniversary date of all eight of those wins with remembrances from key voices, continuing today with the 4-2 victory in Game 6 of the ALCS.

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Before the Red Sox could complete their baseball miracle in the 2004 ALCS, a bit of a medical science miracle was needed. As satisfying as it was to avoid being swept with two heart-stopping, extra-inning wins at Fenway Park, it could have very easily ended in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium with a gimpy Curt Schilling on the mound.

It's easy to look back now and think that, of course, Boston would win that game with one of the great postseason pitchers of all time on the mound. But think back to Game 1, when Schilling pitched through a torn tendon sheath and was shelled for six hits and six runs over three innings.

It was fair to wonder how things could change. A day before Game 6, the Red Sox's medical team came up with a radical procedure in which team doctor Bill Morgan would suture Schilling's loose ankle tendon back into the skin. To be sure, Morgan first tried the somewhat barbaric procedure on a cadaver.

Nobody outside of the Red Sox's clubhouse knew about the impromptu procedure, so it was easy to think the worst when there was visible blood on Schilling's sock that surfaced early in Game 6. In actuality, it was just a byproduct of the stitches pressing against the tendon. Not only could Schilling pitch, but he came out pitching well in Game 6, showcasing a nasty splitter.

"And it wasn't overblown," remembers outfielder Gabe Kapler. "When there was all that talk about, 'Was that really blood?', not only was it really blood, but what he endured and mentally overcame the way he did may never be done again. I don't know that there's ever going to be a procedure like that to get a guy ready to pitch again. It was a little bit, like, science fiction-y."

There was a pitch very early in Game 6 that told Schilling he was right where he needed to be. Two batters in, he fired one high and tight to Alex Rodriguez, reminiscent of the pitch Pedro Martinez threw to Hideki Matsui one day earlier.

"I felt like that's a hard pitch to command and I threw it exactly where I wanted it," said Schilling. "And I felt like, 'OK, if I can do that, there's not a whole lot I can't do tonight'."

Schilling was locked in, but so, too, was Yankees right-hander Jon Lieber, who had outdueled Martinez in Game 2 and took a shutout into the fourth inning of Game 6.

But after Jason Varitek gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in that frame with an RBI single, Mark Bellhorn came up with a three-run homer off the chest of a fan wearing a black pullover in the left-field seats that was originally ruled a double. Back in those days, there was no instant replay. The umpires huddled, however, and got it right.

Third-base coach Dale Sveum had a perfect view, and was adamant in making sure the umpiring crew reversed the call.

"I had a horrible view, but Dale Sveum had a great view," Francona said. "By the time I got out there, he's like, 'Tito, you have to stay out here.' And the umpires did a great job."

The first time it felt like the Yankees might actually come back and win Game 6 was in the bottom of the eighth, just after they had clipped the deficit to 4-2. With Miguel Cairo on second and Derek Jeter at first and nobody out, A-Rod hit a tapper to the right side of the mound, toward the first-base line. Reliever Bronson Arroyo picked it up and went to tag Rodriguez. Suddenly, the ball traveled all the way down the right-field line and it looked like Cairo had scored, with Jeter roaring to third and A-Rod taking second.

But plenty of people -- including most of the umpires -- saw what actually did happen. Rodriguez, in a pure act of desperation, flat-out swatted the ball out of Arroyo's hand as he went for the tag.

"I ran from Tito's office to the clubhouse and yelled at Dave Roberts to tell Tito how clear it was on the replay," said Theo Epstein, the Red Sox's general manager at the time. "But Tito was already on his way sprinting out of the dugout."

"I actually had a real good view, and I got out of there as quick as I could, which wasn't really quick," said Francona. "Joe West was the home-plate umpire, and whatever he said put me at ease."

Just like the Bellhorn play earlier in the game, the call was correctly overturned.

There would be one more adventure for the Red Sox to get through before becoming the first team in history to force Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in a series. Keith Foulke, running on fumes, had to get through the ninth.

With two on and two outs, and Tony Clark representing the winning run at the plate, Foulke at last ended Game 6 with an elevated 88-mph fastball for a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch.

The pitch was Foulke's 100th in a span of three days, and the normally stoic right-hander pumped his fist in triumph.

"After that, I was pumped," said Foulke.

So were the Red Sox, who needed just one more win to complete the miracle.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Source: Red Sox hire Davis as hitting coach

Source: Red Sox hire Davis as hitting coach

Chili Davis, Oakland's hitting coach the last three seasons, has been hired to the same position by the Boston Red Sox, according to a Major League source. The club has not confirmed the hiring.

The Red Sox are believed to have agreed to a multiyear contract with Davis, who had also been courted by the Yankees and Rangers for their vacant hitting coach jobs.

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Davis, 55, served as hitting coach for Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket in 2011 before returning to the Majors as Bob Melvin's hitting coach.

The Red Sox have been seeking a replacement since Greg Colbrunn resigned on Oct. 3.

Under Colbrunn, the Red Sox rode one of the American League's strongest offenses to the 2013 World Series championship. In 2014, Boston scored 219 fewer runs, tying for 11th in the American League with 634.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ortiz's heroics, Nixon's grab kept '04 WS in sight

Red Sox rally to beat Yankees in 14 innings in Game 5 of ALCS

Ortiz's heroics, Nixon's grab kept '04 WS in sight

Ten years ago, the Red Sox and their fans were in the midst of an 86-year wait for a World Series championship. And after falling in the deepest of holes -- 3-0 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- everything changed.

Boston would become the first -- and still only -- team in history to win a postseason series after trailing 3-0. And manager Terry Francona's team went on to win the final eight games of that postseason. MLB.com is doing retrospective pieces on the anniversary date of all eight of those wins with remembrances from key voices, continuing today with the 5-4, 14-inning victory in Game 5 of the ALCS.

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If the image of Dave Roberts getting his hand just under the tag in Game 4 of the ALCS remains the most indelible memory of the 2004 postseason, the best game during the epic joyride was, without question, Game 5.

It is easy to forget now that the Red Sox almost lost the series several times during that 14-inning struggle which started on a Monday afternoon and ended well into the evening.

David Ortiz again ended the day with one swing, but Boston had literally been hanging on by a thread for much of a contest that took a whopping five hours and 49 minutes to play.

If one thing was clear, however, it's that the euphoria provided from Game 4 had given the Red Sox a new attitude the next day.

Hideki Matsui had been taking batting practice against Boston pitchers in the first four games of the series and Pedro Martinez basically said "enough" with one purpose pitch.

In the top of the fifth, with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead, Martinez buzzed Matsui with a high and tight pitch. Mind you, the pitch didn't hit Matsui, but it was a message that he should no longer be so comfortable at the plate. Before that at-bat, Matsui was 12-for-22 and seemingly on his way to ALCS MVP honors. After Martinez went up and in on him, Matsui would go 2-for-12.

"We had to do it," Martinez said. "He was leaning and hitting everything out over the plate. He was feeling too comfortable. He needed to go back and I made a statement. 'I'm going to pitch you inside, and you need to move back', so that I could get back to what I need to do. So I just busted him in and busted him again and busted him again. Then the next day, everybody that saw what I did went on to do the same thing, so I cooled him off. We cooled him off that day."

Still, the Yankees very nearly put Martinez and the Red Sox on ice in the very next inning.

With the bases loaded and one out, Derek Jeter produced another Jeter moment, fighting off Martinez's pitch and punching it into the corner in right for a double that cleared the bases to make it 4-2, Yankees. As Jeter motored to third on the throw home, he triumphantly pumped his fist -- a sight seen many times during the Yankees' dynasty that produced six American League pennants and four World Series titles between 1996-03.

After the Jeter double, Martinez hit Alex Rodriguez and walked Gary Sheffield, again loading the bases. And then came another moment that hasn't fully been appreciated over time. Matsui lined one into right, and Trot Nixon corralled it with a sliding catch to end the inning. If the play isn't made, the Yankees are up, 6-2.

"I didn't remember it until somebody brought it up [recently]," said Nixon. "I think I have a picture of making that play, in my basement. I know Mr. [Joe] Torre said something about it at one point. To me, I was just trying to do my job. At the time, I didn't realize the significance of it."

The Red Sox made it significant by turning the tables again in the late innings. Ortiz delivered the first blow, walloping a towering blast off a sign beyond the Green Monster to lead off the eighth against Tom Gordon, and the deficit was 4-3, the same as it was before the Roberts steal the day before.

If you want to talk about deja vu, how about Kevin Millar starting a new rally after the Ortiz homer by drawing a walk, only this time against Gordon instead of Mariano Rivera? And Roberts again bolted off the bench to run for Millar. Gordon's stomach churned as Roberts took a huge lead on every pitch. Nixon worked the count to 3-1 and ripped a 93-mph heater for a single into right. Roberts bolted for second on the pitch and easily made it to third. Runners at the corners, nobody out.

"Dee [Gordon], Flash's son, has said that he's never seen his dad so nervous as when I was on first base," said Roberts. "You could see it. He was way quicker than he likes to be with his delivery. He's a guy that likes to get loaded, deliver it. He was uncomfortable. For me, I was ready to run and steal, but I wasn't going to try to run into an out. I was just hoping he would make a mistake to Trot."

A trip to the World Series still within sight, Torre called on Rivera to try to get out of the first-and-third, nobody-out jam. But Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly was just deep enough, as Roberts again would easily beat the throw home from the weak arm of Bernie Williams to tie it up.

The teams would trade haymakers for another few innings. Tony Clark belted a double to deep right against Keith Foulke in the ninth that was about to give New York the lead. But the ball took a fortuitous bounce into the stands, and Ruben Sierra had to stop at third. Foulke would emerge from the jam unscathed.

Another kind of drama would unfold in the 13th inning, when Varitek looked like he was trying to swat butterflies. In reality, he was trying to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball, something that was usually Doug Mirabelli's job. Varitek would have no fewer than three passed balls in the inning. But with the go-ahead run on third, he somehow hung on to the strikeout of Sierra that ended the high-wire act of an inning.

By the 14th inning, Manny Ramirez on first, Johnny Damon on second and Ortiz at the plate, a sense of inevitability had probably hit the Yankees. Esteban Loaiza tried to retire Ortiz over and over. But by the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Ortiz finally found one he could put somewhere, and he looped it into center field. There was no way Williams was going to throw out Damon.

"I'll tell you what I remember," said former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler, who now works for FOX. "With all due respect to Loaiza, I thought, 'This guy has nothing to get David out with'. That was the sentiment. And that wasn't unique to that at-bat. It's just because that was what was going on for David at that time."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Roberts' steal set amazing 2004 playoff run in motion

Three outs from being swept in ALCS, Red Sox stay alive with rally vs. Rivera

Roberts' steal set amazing 2004 playoff run in motion

Ten years ago, the Red Sox and their fans were in the midst of an 86-year wait for a World Series championship. And after falling in the deepest of holes -- 3-0 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- everything changed.

Boston would become the first -- and still only -- team in history to win a postseason series after dropping the first three. And manager Terry Francona's team went on to win the final eight games of that postseason. MLB.com will do retrospective pieces on the anniversary date of all eight of those wins, with remembrances from key voices, starting today with the 6-4, 12-inning victory in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

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Sometimes, you simply need to hit rock bottom first. Look at the 2004 Red Sox. A year of great hype and hope had suddenly come crashing down around them when they were bludgeoned by the Yankees, their forever rivals, 19-8, in Game 3 of the ALCS.

Another long, cold winter was coming all too quickly for Boston, a notion that was only reinforced when Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest closer of all-time, had a one-run lead and needed just three outs to put the Yankees in the World Series.

But the course of history started to change innocently enough, when Kevin Millar led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk.

"My initial thought process was just [to] try to get one mistake, middle in, and try to hit a homer. That's it. I was just going to try to pull a homer. You're not thinking walk," said Millar. "[Rivera] doesn't walk people. But at that point, the one positive facing Mariano is he doesn't throw a split finger or a changeup like that devastating scene that most closers have. He just has the scene where you don't square up balls very often because he never hits the middle of the plate.

"He threw a 1-0 fastball that was the only hittable pitch, that I pulled and yanked foul. Other than that, most of them were up and in, which was surprising, because I thought, if anything, I thought they'd attack me down and away. The only place he could really get hurt was up and in. I think I had five home runs to right field in my life."

So as Millar ran to first, he knew he'd be exiting within seconds. Back on July 31 of that 2004 season, the Red Sox made an unheralded move to get speedster Dave Roberts from the Dodgers. It was a trade that barely got any notice, given the blockbuster deal that had sent one-time franchise icon Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs on the same day.

And as Roberts got to first and started to size up Rivera, the voice of legendary base stealer Maury Wills rang in his ear. When Roberts was with the Dodgers, Wills would often impart baserunning wisdom to him in Spring Training.

"I remember Maury Wills on the backfield in Vero Beach," said Roberts. "He said, 'DR, one of these days you're going to have to steal an important base when everyone in the ballpark knows you're gonna steal, but you've got to steal that base and you can't be afraid to steal that base.' So, just kind of trotting out on to the field that night, I was thinking about him. So he was on one side telling me 'this was your opportunity'. And the other side of my brain is saying, 'You're going to get thrown out, don't get thrown out.' Fortunately Maury's voice won out in my head."

Rivera spooked Roberts by throwing over to first three times, nearly picking him off on the second attempt. But in so doing, he also helped get the baserunner into a rhythm. Roberts had not been on the field in 11 days, not since Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Angels.

But his legs were now churning, and he was ready to go. As Rivera finally went to home, Roberts bolted to second. The pitch was perfect for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada -- high and a tad outside. Posada came forward with the fastest release time Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills had ever timed him. The throw was a good one, and shortstop Derek Jeter slapped down the tag. Roberts went head first and was safe -- barely. Fenway Park had gone from the quiet optimism provided by the Millar walk to pure excitement.

Roberts was at second with nobody out, but a hit would likely still be needed to get him home. While the steal by Roberts is without question the iconic moment from this historic game, the bullet that Bill Mueller smashed up the middle on a 1-1 cutter by Rivera to bring home the tying run is often forgotten.

"It was out over the plate and I was able to make contact," said Mueller. "And that's what I was hoping -- that [Rivera would] make a mistake. Very fortunate that I was able to put that ball in play. I was thinking more of moving [Roberts] over and doing my job and getting him to third base, almost to the degree that it would be a positive out because of how tough Mariano is. I was fortunate to find a hole."

Roberts easily beat the throw home by Bernie Williams, and pumped his fist while Fenway Park rocked with bedlam.

And then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein's mind went somewhere else entirely.

"When Roberts stole the bag, I flashed back to July 31," said Epstein, who is now the president of baseball operations for the Cubs. "We were swamped with the Nomar trade and had put our pursuit of a pinch-runner on the back burner. Earlier in the day I had asked [then-intern] Zack Scott to come up with a list of possible pinch-runners we could acquire -- guys who could steal us a base when we absolutely had to have one. Roberts was one of the names at the top of Zack's list, and he suddenly became available when the Dodgers traded for Steve Finley right before the [Trade] Deadline.

"Right in the middle of the mayhem of the four-way Nomar trade talks, we were able to acquire Roberts for Henri Stanley. As Roberts came around to score, I thought of Zack's list and all the great teamwork and camaraderie in our Baseball Operations department. It was a nice little moment during a really big moment."

The teams would remain tied until the bottom of the 12th, when an emerging legend named David Ortiz pummeled Paul Quantrill's two-seamer into the visiting bullpen, setting off a mob scene at home plate. The Red Sox still trailed, 3-1, in the ALCS, but it suddenly felt like everything had changed.

"There wasn't a bigger RBI guy going than David Ortiz, period," said Millar. "You knew that in any situation, he was going to do something special. That's just the way he was. We knew at that point he was a superstar. The stuff that he did doesn't make sense."

With one flick of his wrists, Ortiz had averted a sweep for the Red Sox. And nobody knew for sure at the time, but the win in Game 4 started a string of events that would change Red Sox history forever.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Napoli to undergo surgery for sleep apnea

Napoli to undergo surgery for sleep apnea

After enduring a season riddled with minor injuries, Mike Napoli will reportedly undergo surgery on his jaw to address an ongoing problem with sleep apnea.

The Red Sox slugger told WEEI Radio in Boston that facial reconstruction surgery is scheduled for Nov. 4.

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"I've been dealing with sleep apnea for a long time, my whole career," Napoli told WEEI.com. "I've tried numerous things and none of them worked. Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines. ... It's just gotten to the point where I have to get this done."

Napoli dealt with finger, toe and knee injuries this year but managed to play in 119 games for the Sox, batting .248 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in his second season with Boston.

According to ESPN.com, the procedure is called bimaxillary advancement surgery and will separate front portions of the lower and upper jaw to move them forward and allow more room behind the tongue, reducing the chances of the airway being obstructed while sleeping.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: Do Sox have assets for big-time trade?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Boston fans' questions

Inbox: Do Sox have assets for big-time trade?

Welcome to an offseason edition of the Red Sox Inbox. These run on a weekly basis until Spring Training. There is certainly a lot to talk about this winter.

Just wondering if -- it's a big if, mind you -- the Marlins are willing to trade Giancarlo Stanton, would a package of Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig or Will Middlebrooks (possible Casey McGehee replacement) and Henry Owens be enough to get it done for Stanton? I think an outfield of Stanton, Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts is fantastic.
-- Ryan, New Windsor, N.Y.

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If the Marlins ever do trade Stanton, it would take the exact type of blockbuster scenario you are talking about, incorporating impact talent at both the Major and Minor League levels. Stanton is a franchise talent, someone you can build your whole lineup around. I'm not saying the Red Sox will be successful in landing him, but they are better positioned to make a play for him than a lot of other teams. Not only do the Red Sox have good financial resources, but they have a lot of young, quality depth in the organization.

I've noticed the Red Sox have a lot of starting pitcher prospects that are soon to be reaching or have reached the Majors, like Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson. Do you think the Red Sox will trade some away or turn some into relievers like they did with Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa?
-- Nathan S., Cincinnati

The top goal is always to develop strong starting pitchers. Keep in mind that a starter gives a team 200 innings a year instead of 65-70 as a reliever. Particularly with the players you mentioned, there is no rush for those guys to get to the Major Leagues. They still have some time to develop. The best franchises are the ones with the most depth at starting pitching.

We all expect the Red Sox to make a lot of moves this offseason. Do you think the Sox will be spending a lot of money or surprising us with trades?
-- Sam S., Victoria, British Columbia

No reason for the Red Sox to pigeonhole themselves. I'm guessing general manager Ben Cherington will keep all of his options open on the trade and free-agent fronts. The Red Sox have room in their payroll and the depth to make trades. They really are in a good position this winter.

Will the Sox go after Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes now? Please tell me they will.
-- Michael E., Melrose, Mont.

I still think Lester is a great fit to return to the Red Sox if they can bridge the substantial gap they had in negotiations last spring and summer. But Gomes doesn't seem to be a fit any longer, given all of the other outfielders the Red Sox now have.

Why James Shields over Lester?
-- Jarad C., Londonderry, N.H.

I never said the Red Sox would try to get Shields over Lester. They know everything about Lester. Shields is a great competitor too, and a proven winner. But if I had a choice between the two, I would take Lester.

I was wondering how probable it would be for the Sox to have Cespedes replace David Ortiz as DH. Does he fit in their OF at all, barring that scenario?
-- Emmanouil, Santa Monica, Calif.

Ortiz is under contract for next season, and the club holds options on the two years after that, so I don't think they've started plotting his replacement just yet. Considering the cannon Cespedes has for an arm, I don't see him DH-ing any time soon.

What's going to happen to the DH position after Ortiz retires, which could be after the 2015 season? Will there be a replacement within the organization or a platoon situation?
-- Ricardo S., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

In recent years, the Red Sox have been one of the few teams to have a permanent DH. This is because Ortiz is probably the best DH of all time. I'm guessing they would turn this into a revolving position once Ortiz calls it quits.

With Blake Swihart waiting in the wings, what are the Sox future plans since they have Christian Vazquez and Swihart, both young catchers?
-- Alex A., Salisbury, Md.

Ideally, the Sox find a veteran left-handed-hitting catcher to platoon with Vazquez until they are sure Swihart is ready. As we saw this year, you never quite know when a young player is ready to start producing at the Major League level.

What's the current status of Daniel Bard? I haven't heard his name mentioned in years, is there any chance he could still make a return to the Majors?
-- Martin W., Auckland, New Zealand

It's sad what has happened to Bard. He has been unable to throw strikes in the last three organizations he's been with -- the Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers. The Rangers released him in June and he appears to be a free agent. Hard to believe Bard was one of the top setup relievers in baseball not so long ago. I hope he can make it back.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox trio combines for five hits, six runs in AFL game

Prospects Marrero, Coyle, Castillo put on display for Saguaros

Red Sox trio combines for five hits, six runs in AFL game

The middle of the diamond had a distinctly Boston feel when Surprise was in the field Friday night.

For the second time in the young Arizona Fall League season, Saguaros manager Delino DeShields filled out his lineup card with Deven Marrero, Sean Coyle and Rusney Castillo, all members of the Red Sox organization, at shortstop, second base and center field, respectively.

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The trio put its mark on the game when Marrero and Castillo opened the fifth inning with back-to-back singles. Coyle followed with a triple to drive in both of his teammates and give the Saguaros the lead for good. Surprise went on to score five runs in the inning and defeated Mesa, 14-3.

Marrero, Coyle and Castillo combined for five hits and six runs and each stole a base. Coyle said he is enjoying being able to play with his Red Sox teammates this fall.

"Rusney is obviously a seriously talented guy and he plays the game hard, too," Coyle said. "Me and Deven are good buddies. We like playing up the middle together. It's a lot of fun to be playing with guys you know."

Coyle, the Red Sox's No. 14 prospect, finished the night 3-for-5 with a walk, a run and two RBIs. During the regular season, he hit .295/.371/.512 with 16 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 96 games with Double-A Portland. He also represented the Red Sox at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Marrero, the Red Sox No. 10 prospect, began the year as Coyle's double-play partner at Portland. After hitting .291/.371/.433 with five home runs and 12 stolen bases in 68 games, he earned a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in July.

Marrero went 1-for-3 with two runs, two walks and an RBI on Friday. And, while they didn't have a chance to turn a double play, Coyle said he is glad to be back playing with Marrero.

"We both have a similar style of play," Coyle said. "We bring a lot of energy to the game and keep it light and have fun."

Castillo just joined the Red Sox organization in August when the Cuban native signed a $72.5 million deal. After a whirlwind tour of the Red Sox Minor League affiliates, he made his Major League debut in September and is now in the AFL to get extra work. He went 1-for-5 with a walk and three runs Friday.

Before Coyle's two-run triple in the fifth inning, Mesa held a 3-2 lead. The Solar Sox scored two runs in the third off Saguaros starter Nick Howard and added another run in the fourth off reliever Stephen Landazuri. But they would get no more. Landazuri and four other relievers combined for five scoreless innings to end the game.

Right fielder Chad Hinshaw went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk to lead Mesa's offense. Shortstop Daniel Robertson, the A's top prospect, recorded his first hit of the fall and scored a run.

But, for the third straight game, Surprise's offense overwhelmed its opposition. The Saguaros have scored 29 runs over their last three games. All nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit Friday and all but one scored at least once.

Left fielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a run and four RBIs. Right fielder Kyle Waldrop, his teammate in the Reds' system, finished the game 4-for-6 with a home run, a double, three runs and three RBIs.

Coyle said the Saguaros offense is already clicking and the team is starting to gel.

"We have a lot of guys who are pretty selectively aggressive at the plate and who like to swing the bats," Coyle said. "It'll be a lot of fun to play with them this fall."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox ponder Craig's future in Boston

Versatile player aims to rebound from disappointing 2014 season

Red Sox ponder Craig's future in Boston

BOSTON -- As the Red Sox plot their course for what figures to be a highly eventful winter of retooling, one big question they will have to ask themselves is this: What kind of season will Allen Craig have in 2015?

When general manager Ben Cherington dealt for the right-handed hitter back on July 31, he knew that Craig was having a decidedly down year. And it only got worse over the final two months with the Red Sox.

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However, Craig had a strikingly consistent track record as a solid offensive contributor to a winning team before 2014. And at some point, just about every player has a season he'd like to forget.

In other words, there's a strong chance the Red Sox will hang on to Craig for 2015, figuring he's an American League Comeback Player of the Year Award candidate for the coming season.

"Yeah, he has such a strong track record all the way back to his college days, through the Minor Leagues and with the Cardinals," said Cherington. "This was a tough year for him."

Though the 30-year-old Craig was careful never to use his left foot injury from 2013 as an excuse, it does serve as part of the explanation for his downward spiral in '14.

"I think it's certainly a part of it. I had a foot injury last year," said Craig. "The offseason was limited a little bit. I don't want to use that as an excuse, but it was definitely a factor in my preparation for the season. I felt healthy all year, so I don't look back at that as a main reason.

"It just kind of is what it is. But I think that going into this offseason, a little more time, I'll definitely use that to my advantage. I think it will definitely help me and my conditioning, my preparation for next season."

For the Red Sox, it's easier to forecast a rebound for Craig when they can clearly see what might have led to his enormous struggles.

"He had a tough injury last fall that he tried to play through, played in the World Series with it, but I think it's clear it affected his offseason, which probably affected the beginning of his season. ... He was swimming upstream the whole year, and then the trade," said Cherington.

Yes, the human element. Craig had been traded away from the only franchise he had ever known. He was traded from a team en route to the postseason to one that was already looking ahead to next year. The trade was not easy for Craig to deal with.

"You're talking about a guy who had signed an extension not too long ago, who had settled into a place in St. Louis and then he gets traded," said Cherington. "The whole year, there was a lot coming at him, but in the time we've gotten to know him, we've found him to be an accountable guy, obviously an intelligent guy. And he knows what he needs to do this offseason to put himself in a position to be more successful next year. And the track record and his age suggest he will. We knew were getting a guy in a down year, and he's going to fight back from that."

In 97 games for the Cardinals in 2014, Craig hit .237 with seven homers and a .638 OPS. With Boston, he got into 29 games, and he hit .128 with one homer and a .425 OPS.

There truly is nowhere he can go but up next season.

"I know who I am as a player. Things happen in this game," Craig said. "You battle things. Obviously, personally, this season was a little disappointing. It was tough at times. I'm confident in the player that I am. It's going to be good for me to get back home, rest and get stronger for next year."

The way Boston's current roster shapes up, Craig might fit best as a rover than as someone who can hold down one lineup spot. In addition to Craig, Boston's outfield consists of Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts and perhaps Daniel Nava. Mike Napoli is the first baseman. David Ortiz is locked in for another year at designated hitter.

But if Craig is hitting, he can give Napoli an occasional break at first. he can fill in for Ortiz against tough lefties at DH. He can get Cespedes or Victorino breaks over the long season.

There is always a need in a lineup for players who did what Craig did from 2011-13, when he posted an OPS of .863 over 1,177 at-bats.

As Craig stood at his locker following the final day of the regular season, he wasn't much in the mood to talk about what went wrong. Instead, he was already looking for ways to fix it.

"Obviously, I had things I learned from. I have some pretty concrete things I can go into the offseason and work on," Craig said. "I think that's the important thing -- to know what I need to do to get better."

Through their own tests, and discussions with Craig, the Red Sox don't think the foot injury will be an issue going forward.

"Nope," said Cherington. "We've had it examined. We don't believe -- he doesn't believe -- it's an issue. So he's just focused on having a good offseason. I think we've done everything we can to make sure that the foot is OK going forward. No further testing needed."

The truest test will be answered by the end of 2015 with the numbers on the back of Craig's stat line.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Lindsay Berra

Castillo looking to rack up at-bats in AFL action

Castillo looking to rack up at-bats in AFL action

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo did not make his Arizona Fall League debut on Tuesday afternoon as his Surprise Saguaros dropped a 5-4 decision to the Peoria Javelinas in Surprise, Ariz.

It was simply a manager's decision that kept Castillo out of the lineup, but the 27-year-old is looking forward to racking up at least 100 at-bats during his time out West.

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"I just want to get at bats," Castillo said through an interpreter. "I hadn't played in almost a year and got so few at-bats in the Major Leagues, I just want to get 100 at-bats here and get another 100 in Puerto Rico so I can be ready to play next year."

Castillo will remain in Arizona until the end of October before moving on to Puerto Rico to play winter ball through the end of November.

The Red Sox have said they hope Castillo can accumulate 200 at-bats before the start of Spring Training, where he will be a favorite to earn the starting job in center field despite the overabundance of players in Boston's outfield.

After defecting from Cuba last January, Castillo was forced to sit idle in Florida, working out and training without a team, while he established residency and was declared eligible to play by the U.S. government.

Because Castillo had played five years professionally in Cuba before defecting, he was exempt from international signing bonus limits. In August, he signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston. Since then, Castillo played for the Rookie Gulf Coast League Red Sox, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

In 11 Minor League playoff games, Castillo posted a .293 average with a home run and five RBIs in 41 at-bats. He also stole two bases and did not commit an error in the outfield.

In 10 games with the Red Sox at the end of the Major League season, Castillo hit .333 with two home runs and six RBIs.

"Obviously, it's a big difference playing here, but I try to keep it simple," Castillo said. "It's the same ball, it's the same bat, it's the same game. I just go out there and try to do my best."

When the 5-foot-9 Castillo made his debut in Rookie ball, he weighed 205 pounds, 10 pounds more than he weighed while in Cuba. He is comfortable with his new physique.

"I gained a little bit of weight, but I want to stay where I am right now, and as long as I keep playing and keep staying active, that will happen," he said. "I feel really good right now, I feel like I have good power."

Red Sox manager John Farrell has said that Castillo looked "very comfortable" at the big league level, despite his hasty trip through the Boston system. Castillo, though, acknowledges that he's still learning.

"I'm a big-game guy," he said. "I just want to learn how people play here and help the other guys and help the team."

Lindsay Berra is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Right-hander Beckett announces plans to retire

Nursing hip injury, veteran ends 14-year career that includes Series MVP, no-hitter

Right-hander Beckett announces plans to retire

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett, who threw a no-hitter in May but was on the disabled list for most of the last three months of the season, announced his retirement after the team was eliminated from the National League Division Series in a 3-2 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Beckett's season ended with torn labrum in his left hip. He said he will undergo surgery in May. Although many pitchers return from the arthroscopic operation and the resulting three-month rehab, Beckett said that's not in his plans.

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  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

"I just don't see me going through that rehab and coming back to pitch at this point in my life," he said.

Beckett, 34, went 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA in what was looking like a comeback-of-the-year season after he missed most of 2013 with surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome by removing a rib near his neck.

On May 25, he no-hit the Phillies on the road and became the ninth pitcher of all-time to throw a no-hitter and be the MVP of the World Series. He ends his 14-year career with a 138-106 record and 3.88 ERA, having won the World Series with the Marlins in 2003 and Red Sox in 2007.

He came to the Dodgers from Boston in the 2012 blockbuster trade with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and four Minor Leaguers.

Beckett would have been a free agent in the winter, so his departure frees up $15.75 million in payroll.

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Inbox: Who are primary offseason targets?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Red Sox fans' questions

Inbox: Who are primary offseason targets?

Welcome to the first offseason edition of the Red Sox inbox. These will run on a weekly basis until Spring Training. There is certainly a lot to talk about this winter.

Realistically, who is the one position player and one pitcher the Red Sox will target this offseason?
-- Ryan O., Spring City, Penn.

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Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester. Sandoval, because he's exactly the type of left-handed bat they need in a lineup that is currently overstocked with righties. Lester, because the club already knows him inside and out, and it obviously has a hole to fill at the top of the rotation.

I would like to think two marquee pitchers Boston would be after are Lester and Max Scherzer. Would this be a realistic chance, considering the money they have drop over the last couple years?
-- Joe B., Dacula, Ga.

That would certainly send a shot of adrenaline through the fan base if they were to land Lester and Scherzer. The Red Sox do have some financial flexibility this winter, more than a lot of teams. But I think it would be ambitious to think they'd sign both of those guys. I'm guessing they spread the money out a little more.

Is the relationship still strong enough between Jon Lester and Boston to make Jon want to come back?
-- Al B., Roanoke, Va.

From what I've gathered, the relationship between Lester and the Red Sox is all positive. They left on good terms. The parting was all business, and nothing personal. Of course, the sides obviously had some differences when they were trying to work out an extension. But perhaps that gap can be bridged this winter. It's going to be a story to follow, for sure.

What will happen with Allen Craig in the offseason? Do you think he'll be traded?
-- David, St. Louis

The biggest hope the Red Sox have for Allen Craig this winter is simply that he will get healthy and recover from the foot injury that has been such a problem for him since late in 2013. Moreover, they'd like Craig to regain his hitting mechanics, some of which he lost as he battled to compensate for weakness in his foot. I don't think Craig will be traded, in large part because his value isn't all that high right now.

Which Red Sox outfielder do you think is most likely to be traded?
-- Devi S., Groningen, the Netherlands

At this point, it's hard to see how Jackie Bradley Jr. fits into the club's future plans. The Red Sox have Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Nava as outfielders for 2015. It wouldn't shock me to see Bradley as part of a trade package that would help shore up another area on the club.

Will the Red Sox look to build the bullpen with internal young arms for 2015?
-- Tim, Mount Laurel, N.J.

In my opinion, that's exactly what they will do. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman, in particular, are two pitchers who could make an effective transition from the rotation. De La Rosa, if he commanded the strike zone, could be a real weapon in the seventh or eighth inning. Knuckleballer Steven Wright could become a nice long reliever, depending on how the rest of the staff shapes up.

How will the fact Pedroia missed much of September hurt his Gold Glove chances? In my opinion, he was a virtual lock.
-- Coy M., Virginia Beach, Va.

I think Dustin Pedroia still has a real strong shot at a Gold Glove Award. He played 135 games and was a nightly force at second base. Pedroia is as good as they come on defense. Though his hand woes clearly impacted his bat, Pedroia was as strong in the field as ever.

One of my favorite pitchers is Andrew Miller. Could we see him back with the Sox for the 2015 season?
-- Sam, Victoria, B.C.

Miller is so dominant these days that he might be pricing himself out of Boston, and several other places. And with the exposure of pitching in the American League Championship Series, and perhaps the World Series, Miller's value could see an even bigger increase before the month is over. If the price was right, Miller would welcome a return to Boston. He was happy pitching there and liked the environment.

With the emergence of Brock Holt and Mookie Betts, where does that leave a power bat like Will Middlebrooks in the Sox's future?
-- Tom K., Pequannock, N.J.

If Middlebrooks could ever start to hit with the consistent power he hasn't displayed since 2012, I'm pretty sure the Red Sox could easily find a spot for him. But after two inconsistent and injury-plagued seasons, it's hard for anyone to quite know what to make of Middlebrooks. I don't sense the Red Sox have given up on him yet. They'd love to see a revival from him, because power bats are harder to find than ever.

What's your take on Brock Holt? He reminds me of Wade Boggs with speed and better defensive skills.
-- Roger G., Brunswick, Maine

I like Holt a lot. I'm just not ready to start comparing him to first-ballot Hall of Famers. I think he's a very nice piece to have on a team when you factor in his defensive versatility and plate approach. The jury is still out on whether he's a utility player or someone who can hold down 550-to-600 at-bats.

Will David Ross be with the Sox in 2015? Is he still a good game caller?
-- Elaine H., Arlington

Ross hasn't been completely ruled out yet, but I think it's unlikely he winds up back in Boston next year. His offense hasn't been what the club had hoped for, and the stand-up Ross would be the first to admit that. And the need for more left-handed bats could spell the end for Ross, if they can find a lefty hitter to pair with catcher Christian Vazquez.

What is Deven Marrero's future? I hear he's an exceptional shortstop.
-- Doc C., Fulton, N.Y.

Marrero is probably the best defensive shortstop in the entire organization, Major League roster included. Marrero hit very well at Double-A Portland this season, but he struggled to make the adjustment to Triple-A pitching. His future will depend on whether he can hit well enough to play full-time in the Majors.

What prospects do you think will be coming through in the 2015 season who should we be watching for?
-- Alissa W., Moses Lake, Wash.

The two who will probably get the biggest buzz going into next year are lefty pitcher Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart. They are probably the two most prominent prospects who didn't get a cameo in Boston at some point during 2014. Owens is really intriguing if he can put it all together. And catchers who have hitting ability like Swihart are always in demand.

What's Mike Lowell up these days? I miss that guy.
-- Stephen, N.Y.

If you tune into MLB Network, you should see Lowell doing analysis. He is a part-time contributor, and offers a ton of baseball knowledge and is very good at expressing it. Aside from that, I believe Lowell is enjoying spending a lot of time with his family in South Florida.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Martin among 10 finalists for '15 Frick Award

Martin among 10 finalists for '15 Frick Award

The list of 2015 Ford C. Frick Award finalists has been narrowed to 10, with the winner set to be announced on Dec. 10 at the Winter Meetings.

The finalists are Richie Ashburn, Billy Berroa, Rene Cardenas, Dizzy Dean, Dick Enberg, Ernie Johnson Sr., Ralph Kiner, Ned Martin, Joe Nuxhall and Jack Quinlan. The award is presented annually "for excellence in baseball broadcasting" by the Hall of Fame.

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The winner will be honored during the July 25 awards presentation as part of the Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service.

The list of 10 includes three fan selections (Enberg, Kiner and Quinlan) and seven that were chosen by the Hall of Fame research committee. Cardenas and Enberg are the only two living candidates.

Final voting will be conducted by a 20-member electorate, comprised of the 16 living award recipients and four broadcast historian/columnists.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Colbrunn elects not to return to Red Sox in 2015

Hitting coach helped team to '13 title; missed time in '14 with health problem

Colbrunn elects not to return to Red Sox in 2015

BOSTON -- Coming off their least-productive season as an offense in recent memory, the Red Sox will have a new hitting coach leading them in 2015. The club announced Friday that Greg Colbrunn, who served in that post the last two seasons, has elected not to return.

Colbrunn missed a part of the 2014 season after suffering subarachnoid hemorrhage in early June, then returned to the club in July.

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In 2013, Colbrunn's first as a Major League hitting coach, the Red Sox led the Majors in runs (853), slugging percentage (.446) and on-base percentage (.349) en route to a World Series championship.

The complete opposite occurred this past season, as Boston finished 13th in the American League in runs, 13th in batting average, 14th in slugging percentage and 12th in home runs.

After a 13-year big league playing career from 1992-2004, Colbrunn spent five years as a hitting coach with the Yankees' Class A Charleston affiliate before joining the Red Sox.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox, Lowell extend player development deal through '16

New York-Penn League club has been affiliated with Boston since 1996

Red Sox, Lowell extend player development deal through '16

The Red Sox agreed to extend their player development contract with the short-season Class A Lowell Spinners for two more years through the 2016 season, both clubs announced Thursday. Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett, Spinners owner Drew Weber and president/general manager Tim Bawmann made the announcement.

The Red Sox originally entered into an agreement with the Spinners when the franchise moved from Elmira, N.Y., to Lowell, Mass., prior to the 1996 season. They play in the New York-Penn League, with their home games at Edward A. LeLacheur Park, which was built in '98.

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"Drew Weber, Tim Bawmann, and the entire Lowell Spinners organization provide an excellent introduction to the Red Sox and professional baseball for our Minor League players," Crockett said. "We are thrilled to continue this partnership with the Spinners and the City of Lowell into its 20th season and beyond."

The Red Sox last extended their PDC with the Spinners in January 2012, but it expired after this season.

"Affiliations are true partnerships, and there is no better partner to have than the Boston Red Sox," said Bawmann. "We are very excited to continue our partnership and continue to work with the outstanding staff, from the ownership group to the highly talented baseball operations staff. We look forward to seeing the next wave of Red Sox stars here in Lowell."

Former Spinners currently with the Red Sox include Mookie Betts, Clay Buchholz, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Garin Cecchini and Christian Vazquez.

Lowell is one of Boston's six domestic Minor League affiliates, joining Triple-A Pawtucket (International League), Double-A Portland (Eastern League), Class A Salem (Carolina League), Class A Greenville (South Atlantic League) and Rookie Gulf Coast Red Sox (Gulf Coast League).

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Young stars, free agents can help Red Sox rebound in 2015

Boston will try to repeat championship run after previous last-place division finish

Young stars, free agents can help Red Sox rebound in 2015

BOSTON -- It's always daunting for a last-place team to pick up the pieces and figure out how to regroup as quickly as possible. But the Red Sox are probably more comfortable than just about any other team in this predicament, considering they just went through it two winters ago and bounced back with a stunning World Series championship.

After going from worst to first to worst in the American League East, can the Red Sox get back to first again in 2015? Much of that will depend on what should be a highly eventful offseason for general manager Ben Cherington.

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After a season of anemic offense and perhaps an over-reliance on young players, the Red Sox will try to put together an offense that can be top five in the AL.

Though Cherington already made moves to add more productivity in the lineup with the trade for Yoenis Cespedes and the signing of Rusney Castillo, the Sox have a clear lack of left-handed bats. They also lack established starting pitchers, with the exception of Clay Buchholz.

The good news is that Boston has the financial resources to make an impact on the free-agent market, and perhaps enough depth in the farm system to make a blockbuster trade.

One thing is for sure: Cherington and the Red Sox are happy that they can finally put a thoroughly-frustrating 2014 season in the rearview mirror.

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Junichi Tazawa, OF Daniel Nava.

Free agents: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Craig Breslow ($4 million club option), RHP Koji Uehara, C David Ross.

Rotation: This is the biggest area the Red Sox will address during the winter. Buchholz is the only veteran coming back, and the recently acquired Joe Kelly is the only other sure thing in next year's rotation. Perhaps some of the young arms (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman) who got a chance to pitch regularly down the stretch will be in contention for a spot come Spring Training.

But the Red Sox know full well they need some more established veterans in the rotation to get back in contention. The most intriguing scenario is Jon Lester. Can Boston bring the former ace back as a free agent just months after trading him for Cespedes? Max Scherzer is another free agent who is going to command plenty of attention.

Bullpen: The big question is what happens with Uehara. He was as dominant as any closer in baseball in 2013, and for much of this season. But a late-season slump created questions for the free agent. Do the Red Sox consider giving him the qualifying offer? Or do they attempt to do a deal at a lower-base salary that is stacked with incentives? Badenhop, an underrated member of this year's bullpen, is also a free agent.

Edward Mujica pitched well after a slow start in his first season in Boston, giving the club hope he can be a key component in next year's bullpen. Lefty Tommy Layne, who got a chance after Andrew Miller got traded and thrived, could certainly be a factor. De La Rosa and Workman could be nice fits in the bullpen if there is no room in the rotation.

Catcher: The Red Sox seem happy enough with Christian Vazquez that they will go forward with him as the primary option behind the plate next season. Vazquez has a cannon for an arm and a real good feel for pitch calling for a young player. However, the club would like to have a veteran presence to team with him, ideally a left-handed bat. This could spell the end of the popular Ross in Boston.

First base: Mike Napoli has another year on his contract, and he hopes to get healthy this winter. The slugger was bothered by ailments all over his body this season, and his production seemed to directly suffer because of it. Allen Craig, who struggled to get in any kind of offensive groove this season, is also likely to see some time at first, and he is good insurance if Napoli should go down.

Second base: Dustin Pedroia is recovering from surgery on his left hand, but is expected to be fully ready for the start of Spring Training. Pedroia remains an elite defender and the heart and soul of the team. His production has tailed off the last couple of years, and the Red Sox hope a return to health can cure that. Mookie Betts is available if something goes haywire with Pedroia, but the Red Sox envision the exciting youngster settling in as an outfielder.

Shortstop: Projected as an AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate, Xander Bogaerts struggled mightily at the plate for long stretches, and also lacked consistency on defense. But it should remembered he played the entire season at the age of 21 years old, and with limited experience in the Minors. The Red Sox still think highly of Bogaerts, and are optimistic he will be a productive player for a long time.

Third base: This is a position that is wide open, as Will Middlebrooks struggled to produce and stay healthy for the second straight season. Brock Holt should see some time at third, but the Red Sox might seek more of a run producer to play the position full-time. Pablo Sandoval is one of the most intriguing names on the market, and the Red Sox are expected to make a run at him. He is a switch-hitter, and Boston certainly needs some more options from the left side of the plate.

Outfield: It was by far the weakest part of the team the first four months of the season, but the Red Sox did a nice job making additions down the stretch. Cespedes gives the lineup a clear presence behind David Ortiz. Craig could become a strong fit if he can work out the kinks in his swing. Castillo, the $72.5 million acquisition from Cuba, has already shown glimpse of why the Red Sox liked him so much. He can do a little bit of everything.

Betts has been highly impressive in the final weeks of the season, be it as a leadoff hitter, on the bases or in center field. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the equation next year in beyond. What becomes of Jackie Bradley Jr., who was the primary center fielder for much of the season and was spectacular on defense, but almost non-existent at the plate? And Shane Victorino, coming off back surgery, is under contract for another season and driven to reclaim his job in right field.

DH: Ortiz continues to make his late 30s seem like his late 20s. The slugger belted 35 home runs, his highest total since 2007. For the eighth time in his career, he reached the 30-100 plateau. Ortiz started slow from a batting-average standpoint this season, but he got it back up to respectability. The presence of Cespedes seemed to have a tangible impact on Ortiz, as pitchers were no longer as free to work around him.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sox open to discussing extension with Cespedes

Newly acquired slugger led Major Leagues in outfield assists with 16 in 2014

Sox open to discussing extension with Cespedes

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are interested in negotiating a contract extension with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes during the offseason, but they aren't exactly sure when those talks will occur.

"It is just a conversation that we will have at the right time," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on Monday. "There is no specific date we'll plan on having that, but so far, we think the relationship is off to a good start."

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Cespedes, who came to the Red Sox from Oakland at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes, is signed through the 2015 season.

The Cuban slugger said on Saturday that he isn't sure if he wants to be in a Red Sox uniform past next season.

"I'm still not sure if I want to sign an extension or if I want to go to free agency," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "It's too soon."

The 28-year-old Cespedes hit .269 with five home runs and 33 RBIs in 51 games with the Red Sox after batting .256 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs in 101 games with the A's. This season marked the first time during Cespedes' three-year career that he notched 100 RBIs.

"We have really enjoyed having him here in the time that he's been here; he does a lot of things on the field and fit into the clubhouse pretty quickly," Cherington said. "He does provide an element in the middle of the lineup as a confident hitter with men on base and all those things that you see which we can use."

Yet it's not just Cespedes' bat that makes him a valuable piece for the Red Sox. He led the Majors this season with 16 outfield assists.

"I think we look at the baseline of him being on the team next year as a good thing," Cherington said. "Anything on top of that would be good if it makes sense for everyone. We just like having him on the team next year, so nothing is conditional on it. We look forward to having him in the lineup next year."

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox reverse course a year after World Series title

Ortiz terrific again, but injuries, inconsistency lead Boston to fifth-place finish

Red Sox reverse course a year after World Series title

BOSTON -- Fresh off the glory of going worst to first, the Red Sox encountered disaster en route to an anemic title defense, doing the exact opposite in 2014.

First to worst isn't nearly as enjoyable. For the second time in three years, Fenway Park served as the host of a last-place team in the American League East.

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"It certainly isn't what we anticipated, and yet there's no denying exactly where we are," said manager John Farrell. "We've gone through a lot of change. We encountered some things that we didn't expect. Prior to the Trade Deadline, it felt like we had pitching that was deep and talented, but the offensive inconsistencies -- there were greater peaks and valleys than we anticipated coming at the start of the year."

So bad was the offense that general manager Ben Cherington felt he had no choice but to dip into his pitching inventory, dealing ace Jon Lester and No. 2 starter John Lackey for two bats (Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig) and one arm (Joe Kelly).

And by the time late August rolled around, the Red Sox made a $72.5 million investment in Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, hoping his bat, glove and legs can play a significant role going forward.

If 2013 was defined by magical moments, the summer of '14 will be remembered for an utter lack of offense.

"The thing that always will jump off the page at me was the gap between our on-base [percentage] and our runs scored," said Farrell. "Whether that then entails younger guys in RBI situations, or whether that takes into account that our lineup could be managed a little bit more effectively by the opposition or we had RBI situations that we didn't cash in on. As we went through the season, everyone was aware of it. Everyone was aware of the inconsistencies with runners in scoring position. That became a point of frustration for all of us."

Record: 71-91, fifth place in the AL East

Defining moment: Following a 14-1 romp over the Blue Jays on July 21, the Red Sox had won eight out of nine and finally seemed ready to get back into contention. Then, they proceeded to lose eight of the next nine, forcing Cherington to essentially pull the plug on the season by trading Lester, Lackey and lefty relief ace Andrew Miller.

What went right: Mookie Betts looked ready to be a solid Major Leaguer by season's end, showing consistency in the leadoff spot and in the outfield ... Xander Bogaerts finished strong with the bat after a maddeningly inconsistent season ... David Ortiz remained an elite slugger, even at the age of 38 ... Young catcher Christian Vazquez emerged into a run-stopper on defense ... Brock Holt turned into Mr. Versatility, playing seven positions for Farrell.

What went wrong: The offense was largely unproductive from start to finish ... Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks were unable to get anything going at the plate, leaving the Red Sox to question whether they can fit in to the club's future plans ... Shane Victorino never got healthy and underwent back surgery in August ... Dustin Pedroia re-injured his surgically repaired left hand on a takeout slide during the home opener, and it plagued him all season. He wound up having season-ending surgery in September ... Closer Koji Uehara endured a late-season slump, creating at least some dilemma on whether the club should re-sign him for next season ... Mike Napoli was another player who grinded through a barrage of injuries and didn't hit with the production he hoped ... Bogaerts was productive early and late, but far too quiet for the meat of the season.

Biggest surprise: Holt went from not making the team in Spring Training to becoming one of the team's most consistent two-way players. Look for Holt to play a role again in 2015, be it as a utility man or the starting third baseman.

Hitter of the Year: Ortiz. What more can you say about the star slugger? For the eighth time in his Red Sox career, Ortiz produced a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, establishing a new team record. Once Cespedes came on board, Ortiz became even more dangerous, because pitchers were no longer free to work around him.

Pitcher of the Year: Uehara. Despite a late-season slump, the righty was the most dominant pitcher the Red Sox had for the bulk of the season. Lester was on course to be the club's top pitcher, but he was dealt to the A's on July 31.

Rookie of the Year: Holt. Perhaps he was a victim of late-season fatigue, as his batting average dropped quite a bit. But until suffering a concussion in early September, Holt was a steady presence and the consummate grinder.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Farrell, Cherington take responsibility for rough season

Manager, GM acknowledge that they could've done things differently

Farrell, Cherington take responsibility for rough season

BOSTON -- Last year at this time, Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington were receiving well-deserved accolades for a magical season that would end in championship glory.

This year, both men are more than willing to take their share of accountability for a title defense that went bad early. And both are clearly eager for the challenge for putting together a far more representative Red Sox team in 2015.

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In Farrell's case, he wishes he would have gotten a little more innovative with the offense before it was too late. All year long, his team struggled to score runs and was frequently unsuccessful with runners in scoring position.

Perhaps, the manager suspects now, some small ball could have turned the tide somewhat.

"You look at our overall production, offense was one area that was a shortcoming," Farrell said. "What could we have done differently? When someone asked, 'Do you feel like you're partly responsible for the season?' my first response is 'Yes.' And that's in a way of, 'Could we have done something differently with a different offensive identity given the strength of our roster and who populated it?' In the end, I think the overall thing was where we came up short offensively as a team."

One big reason for the lack of offense is perhaps an over-reliance on young players, most of whom didn't produce with the consistency needed at the Major League level.

And that's where Cherington will examine how he could have evaluated better.

"Going back to last offseason, we felt like as we looked towards 2014, '15 and beyond, trying to build a team that could sustain a level of success, we felt at some point we were going to have to integrate some young position players, and then at some point we were going to have to integrate some young pitching," said Cherington. "We really didn't want to do both at once if we could avoid it. Given where people were in their development, we felt there was a better chance to integrate some young players in '14 knowing that inevitably, there was going to be some transition on the pitching side after that.

"So looking back on it, what we tried to do was build a team that would allow for that, where young players were protected enough where we could still be competitive and winning, and then get into a season and make adjustments if we had to. That was our plan. It's certainly fair to say we didn't execute the plan as well as we should have. That's what I look back on and ask myself, 'Is there a better way I we could've executed the plan'? and the answer is yes, because the results are the results."

Much like after the last-place finish of 2012, Cherington had a clear resolve about him as he spoke on Monday.

"We need to execute better and that leads to better performance, and I take responsibility ultimately for the performance," Cherington said. "We're not going to and we can't shy away from the idea of committing to young players when they prove they should be committed to. That's still going to be the best way we can sustain a level of success over a long period of time."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Offseason gives Sox a chance to overcome injuries

Buchholz to have meniscus surgery as several others receive treatment

Offseason gives Sox a chance to overcome injuries

BOSTON -- The injury bug bit many Red Sox players during the 2014 season. They'll now take the offseason to recover and be ready for the '15 campaign.

Right-hander Clay Buchholz will undergo right knee surgery to repair his meniscus on Tuesday by Red Sox orthopedist Dr. Peter Asnis.

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"He's had some off and on symptoms for some time now. It's not something that prevents him from pitching, but we just want the offseason to take care of it," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "It is a relatively routine procedure with a relatively quick recovery. We just felt like given where we are on the calendar and the fairly quick recovery … we could just knock it out."

Cherington was quick to dismiss that the injury had anything to do with the underwhelming numbers Buchholz put up this season. He finished the 2014 campaign with an 8-11 record and 5.34 ERA.

"It wasn't a debilitating issue," Cherington said. "It is something that he managed. He would tell you that it didn't affect him. We just wanted to be proactive so it didn't turn into something bigger."

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who missed the last few weeks of the season because of discomfort in his right hand, will continue to receive treatment over the next month to resolve the issue.

While the team spoke about the potential of Middlebrooks taking part in Winter Ball, he made the decision to recuperate in Texas.

"Offseasons belong to players, and ultimately they need to do what is in their best interest. That can be different for every guy," Cherington said. "He gave it consideration and he understood where we were coming from, but he just feels like it's in his best interest to focus on an offseason without playing and get strong."

Cherington said that Middlebrooks' choice not to participate in Winter Ball will have no effect on whether he's on the 2015 roster.

"Whether or not he plays Winter Ball shouldn't be a determining factor of where he is next March or April," Cherington said. "We talked to him about it and felt like some merit was there, but players have to make decisions that they think is in their best interest. He has reasons for this and that's what he's going to do."

Super utility player Brock Holt, who missed the last three weeks of the season due to a concussion, will see Dr. Micky Collins in Pittsburgh on Oct. 9. The Red Sox are hopeful that the meeting will lead to a final clearance and allow Holt to go into the offseason without any issue.

The team also expects Mike Napoli's injured toe, knee and left ring finger to heal with treatment. The same goes for David Ortiz, who will continue to get treatment on his injured left wrist.

Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino are both doing well after their surgeries and are expected to be ready by Spring Training. Cherington said that Pedroia will have a normal offseason in Arizona, while Victorino should be able to play in Spring Training games if he stays on track.

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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AFL the next stop for Red Sox's Castillo

AFL the next stop for Red Sox's Castillo

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are wasting no time in making sure Rusney Castillo gets back on the diamond.

After spending a few days at his home in Florida, Castillo will report to the Arizona Fall League later this week. He'll stay there through the end of October.

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He'll then travel to Puerto Rico and take part in winter ball throughout November before heading back to Florida at the beginning of December.

"He'll still be able to have a relatively normal offseason going into the spring," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

The 27-year-old Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston on Aug. 23 and progressed through three levels of the Red Sox's Minor League system before making his Major League debut on Sept. 17.

He showed glimpses of power and agility in 10 games with the Red Sox, batting .333 with two home runs and six RBIs.

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cherington to focus on rotation, lefty bats and bullpen

Red Sox plan to address primary needs in offseason

Cherington to focus on rotation, lefty bats and bullpen

BOSTON -- The offseason didn't officially start until Monday, but Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will be the first to tell you he's been plotting it for weeks.

That's the byproduct of a season gone bad, one in which the defending World Series champions essentially identified they wouldn't be playing in October as far back as late July. So now, as other teams get ready for the postseason, Cherington will start to put his plan in motion.

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The GM and his staff have a clear priority list, and Cherington on Monday identified the three areas that are at the top of his list: starting pitching, left-handed bat(s) and relievers.

The rotation is the most pressing, because it is the commodity the club is the thinnest on right now. That's the calculated position the Red Sox put themselves in when they traded Jon Lester and John Lackey back on July 31 to upgrade the offense.

The only certainties for next year's rotation at this hour are Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly.

"I think I've already talked about this a little bit, but we'd certainly like to add to the rotation," Cherington said. "There are a bunch of different ways to do that. We'll look at all ways."

The most obvious is in free agency, where Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields will be there, albeit at expensive price tags.

Cherington obviously didn't need his scouts to spend a lot of time observing Lester, but you can be sure Boston had representation at most late-season games pitched by Scherzer and Shields.

By adding three right-handed hitters in July and beyond (Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo), the Red Sox have left themselves a glaring lack of left-handed hitters to surround David Ortiz.

This is something that will be addressed, it's just unclear at which position.

Third base is a position that is somewhat uncertain, given the second consecutive underwhelming season by Will Middlebrooks. Left-handed-hitting Brock Holt proved his worth this season, but he might be utilized best as a super-utility player. Prospect Garin Cecchini showed some signs of his worth down the stretch, but can he be counted on to log 450 to 500 plate appearances in 2015?

Cherington is leaving his options open at the hot corner, but it should be noted that lefty-hitting Pablo Sandoval will be a free agent.

"There's time to figure that out," Cherington said. "I think going back to what John [Farrell] said, we need to build a better offense, a more consistent offense. There's different things that go into that. Certainly part of that is a deeper lineup, not just one through nine, but one through 13 if we carried 13 position players in general. We need a deeper group of 13.

"That's what we have to do. Could third base be an area we look at? It could be, but there's a number of different ways I could imagine addressing that issue of building a deeper lineup. But we do feel like we have some guys in the organization now that certainly are capable of being good Major League third basemen."

The catching position is another area where a left-handed bat could fit. Christian Vazquez, a right-handed hitter, could be the primary catcher in 2015, but veteran David Ross might not be back.

Then, there is the bullpen, which is always a key ingredient for a championship-caliber team. Koji Uehara and Burke Badenhop are both free agents.

"I think we've been very clear we want to keep Koji with us," said Farrell. "I'm confident we'll make every effort to do just that. What he went through late in the season we've been able to determine and see that he went through that previously when he was with Texas, so while every elite pitcher, every pitcher, is going to have some stretches where their performance is less than [great], we feel that's been the case with Koji and despite the age, he's still a very good performer and a guy we want to anchor the back end of the bullpen.

"Both guys are going into a time in their career where they can see what's on the market for them. But dependability and reliability are probably the two biggest things you want to attach to any player, regardless of position. And they both fit that bill."

One way the Red Sox might fill some of the needs in the bullpen are in house. Youngsters Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman, who started down the stretch, could be nice fits for next year's 'pen.

"What that pitching staff ultimately looks like is going to be directly impacted by what we bring in or acquire this offseason," said Farrell. "You could see some guys going to the bullpen and contributing in those roles."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox's coaching staff may see changes

Bench coach Lovullo could be sought by clubs with managerial vacancy

Red Sox's coaching staff may see changes

BOSTON -- Unlike a year ago, when the Red Sox brought back their entire coaching staff, there's a chance for changes heading into 2015.

Bench coach Torey Lovullo is drawing interest as a managerial candidate, particularly from the Houston Astros, and other teams with managerial openings could call him soon. Third-base coach Brian Butterfield also has plenty of skills that could make him a good manager.

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In the coming days, Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington will meet with all of the coaches, a group that also includes pitching coach Juan Nieves, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, first-base coach Arnie Beyeler and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.

"I think any time we finish in the position we're in, we're always looking for ways to get better," said manager John Farrell. "This is the same group that I think had an impact on our success of a year ago. Our staff is always going to be an integral part to this organization and to our success going forward, but we still have a number of conversations to be had with each guy on the staff.

"Yesterday was a quick day -- we're in and out. Some of those conversations have already taken place. The most important thing is we'll always have a group of people here that are a big part of what we do."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox end season with loss to Yanks in Jeter's finale

New York shortstop stops to shake Buchholz's hand while exiting game

Red Sox end season with loss to Yanks in Jeter's finale

BOSTON -- While Derek Jeter swirled with emotions as his legendary career came to a close at Fenway Park on Sunday, the Red Sox weren't so nostalgic about the 2014 season coming to an end.

Sunday's 9-5 loss to the Yankees completed a 71-91 season for Boston. For the Red Sox, the last-place finish in the American League East came on the heels of a World Series championship season.

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"We didn't anticipate the final record, but you play the games to determine that and it is where we are," said manager John Farrell. "We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of that has already begun. When we took the field on Feb. 15, this is not what we envisioned."

Now, general manager Ben Cherington and his staff will go about reshaping the roster, hoping for the same type of turnaround they helped spearhead between the 2012 and '13 seasons.

"We know where our shortcomings have been this year," said Farrell. "We have a clear to-do list. How we get to that point remains to be seen. With all people involved, we're confident we'll achieve that. There's a number of good things in place right now in terms of guys on this roster."

Most of all, Sunday was about Jeter -- as it should have been.

The Red Sox gave the Yankees' captain a warm sendoff with a pregame ceremony that included Boston sports legends Carl Yastrzemski and Bobby Orr.

"I mean, the Red Sox really know how to put together a good ceremony, just like the ring ceremony earlier this season," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "Special moment, special day. The years pass by so quick. It was really special."

And just like on Saturday, Jeter had two at-bats and capped his day -- and this time his career -- with an infield chopper that third baseman Garin Cecchini couldn't make a play on.

"I saw the ball off the bat," Cecchini said. "I saw it hit -- we're taught that when it hits right down, you're supposed to come charging, so I came charging in. The thing was up in the stratosphere, you know? I tried to make a play, barehand it, and throw him out -- or throw Ichiro [Suzuki] out, whichever one wasn't closest to the base. I'm happy for him. He's had an awesome career. He was my childhood idol growing up. To be on the same field with him, that's an honor."

Jeter came out for pinch-runner Brian McCann amid a thunderous applause. As he jogged back to the Yankees' dugout, Jeter stopped at the mound and shook pitcher Clay Buchholz's hand.

"He didn't have to run over there to me," said Buchholz. "I was going to stand off the back of the mound because I knew it was going to be a little bit. It was surprising at first, but at the same time, that's why he's Derek Jeter."

Players in both dugouts stood and clapped as Jeter came out, as did a packed house of 36,879.

"When I ran past [Buchholz], I said, 'I know this is kind of odd but I just wanted to say I've enjoyed competing against you over the years and good luck,' Jeter said. "I had the opportunity to speak to everyone on the Boston team, but obviously not him because he was warming up. I thought it would be good to talk to him."

After the game, Buchholz referred to Jeter as "definitely the classiest player I've ever met."

In Jeter's first at-bat, he scorched a liner that shortstop Jemile Weeks snared out of the air.

"In the other dugout, they were like, 'Get out of the way, ole it,' or whatever," said Weeks. "So I guess after he got his first hit, he was going to leave the game. I messed that up a little bit but he still did it. The kind of guy he is, he probably wouldn't want it like that."

Jeter was clearly at peace with the way it ended for him.

"I would have loved to hit a home run like everyone else, but getting hits is not easy to do," Jeter said. "My first at-bat, I hit a line drive and unfortunately it was caught. I don't care how far it goes, where it goes. I have no ego when it comes to hits. It's either a hit or an out. I've gotten a lot of hits like that throughout my career, and they all count the same."

Buchholz gave up five hits and four runs over six innings, walking one and striking out four. The righty finished his season 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA.

The good news is that Buchholz pitched fairly well down the stretch and feels healthy going into the offseason.

"I mean, stuff is good," said Buchholz. "I feel really good about the stuff I throw. There were definitely games I felt a lot better about than others, but that's any starting pitcher in this game. I never could get on that roll you need to get on to have a successful season at this level. The best part about it is I'm healthy and I can go into the offseason healthy."

The Red Sox, who didn't have most of their regulars available due to injuries, were shut down by Michael Pineda. The righty fired 6 1/3 dazzling innings, walking none and striking out 10.

"That today was the final game, we knew that for a while," said Farrell. "That's not something that sits well because of what our expectations are every year, so it's disappointing. The game of baseball has been put to bed for the time being. Like I said, it's not what we anticipated."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Red Sox toast Jeter with exceptional ceremony

Yanks' captain greeted by many Boston sports heroes, Ice Bucket Challenge's Frates

Red Sox toast Jeter with exceptional ceremony

BOSTON -- On the last afternoon of his big league career, Derek Jeter received one more sendoff from the Red Sox and several fellow captains of the Boston sports scene, paying their "RE2PECT" prior to the last game of the regular season.

The manual Fenway Park scoreboard was changed to read, "WITH RE2PECT 2 DEREK JETER," and Jeter stood at his shortstop position as a long line of iconic Boston stars came out of the first-base dugout to greet him, beginning with Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

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"It was unbelievable. I didn't know anything about it, what was going to happen or who was going to be here," Jeter said. "All the things they've done, it was hard to envision what would happen, because this is a place where we've been an enemy for a long, long time.

"For them to flip the script this last time I come here, it made me feel extremely proud and happy that I was a part of it."

Former Red Sox players Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Rico Petrocelli, Jason Varitek and Fred Lynn were also involved in the 30-minute ceremony, followed by appearances from Bruins legend Bobby Orr, former Patriots captain Troy Brown and former Celtics captain Paul Pierce.

"Even though I played baseball, I have an appreciation for athletes in all different sports," Jeter said. "To have them come out here, take time out of their schedule to come out here for this ceremony today for me, it meant a lot.

"I hadn't met most of them. I got a brief moment to thank them for taking the time to come out, but hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to each and every one of them a little bit more throughout the years. I know I'll have some time."

The ceremony also included a long video montage of highlights from the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, with great moments on both sides. Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who helped mold Jeter's defense in a crucial boot camp in the mid-1990s, presented Jeter with a pair of commemorative L.L. Bean Yankees duck boots.

"I thought it was magnificent," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I can't really imagine how you can do it any better at a visiting ballpark. It was special. It was really enjoyable to watch."

The entire 2014 Red Sox team, led by David Ortiz, walked onto the field to exchange greetings with Jeter, with Joe Kelly stopping to take a cell phone "selfie."

"[Growing up], I had Yankees pinstripes in my bathroom," said Red Sox third baseman Garin Cecchini, who attempted to bare-hand Jeter's last career hit in the third inning. "I have a bobblehead of him in my room. I'm glad I got to shake his hand. I told him, 'Congrats, and thanks for being a good role model for kids like us.'"

Dustin Pedroia gave Jeter a base with the No. 2 on it to commemorate the 153 games he played at Fenway, and Jeter was given a large metal sign with "RE2PECT" written in Fenway's font, signed by the '14 club. The Red Sox also made a $22,222 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

"I thought the pregame ceremony played out not to be overstated, probably to reflect the wishes of Derek himself," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And that's just assumed on my part. I thought it was done with a touch of class."

In the most emotional moment of the ceremony, the Red Sox played Jeter's Ice Bucket Challenge video that was taken earlier this year in the Yankees' clubhouse, then introduced former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates, one of the driving forces behind the successful fundraising effort.

As Frates' wheelchair moved onto the diamond, Jeter greeted him on the grass. Frates then took his place alongside Orr, Brown and Pierce as Massachusetts native Michelle Brooks Thompson performed a rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and then the national anthem.

There was one more surprise for Jeter in the seventh inning. The Red Sox trotted former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams on the field to perform "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his guitar, creating the strange scenario where Jeter and Williams both heard their names chanted at Fenway Park.

"When Bernie was with us, he sat behind me on the plane," Jeter said. "He played his guitar non-stop, so I've heard it quite a bit. I think it was cool to have Bernie be a part of this. I think the fans really enjoyed it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Bogaerts reluctantly sits out Jeter's final game

Red Sox shortstop, who grew up idolizing Yanks' captain, has hamstring injury

Bogaerts reluctantly sits out Jeter's final game

BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts reluctantly had to sit out Sunday's regular-season finale, which was the career finale of his idol, Derek Jeter, due to a left hamstring strain.

"That's tough," Bogaerts said of missing Jeter's last game. "But I've been dealing with this for the past few days. I think yesterday after I hit the double, that's when it really grabbed at me more. I woke up today and it wasn't getting any better."

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It's no coincidence that Boston's shortstop wears the same No. 2 as Jeter.

Bogaerts, who came into the season with great hype at the age of 21, had an uneven year at the plate and in the field but finished strong.

"Challenging and yet he's responded to a lot of those challenges, and the fact that he's finished on an upswing is extremely encouraging," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I think he's learned a lot about himself. That, to me, is the most important thing. He's a talented kid and he came into this year with so many expectations placed on him, by himself and by others.

"But when you take a step back, we've got a 21-year-old shortstop who's played 140-plus games. He's going to hit .240 with 12 home runs. It's a pretty good start to what should be a long career."

Bogaerts joined a number of Red Sox regulars who missed the last game due to nagging injuries, including David Ortiz (left wrist), Mike Napoli (overall body soreness) and Will Middlebrooks (right hand).

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Banged-up Napoli doesn't plan on having surgery

Banged-up Napoli doesn't plan on having surgery

BOSTON -- Though Mike Napoli missed the final 10 games of the season with a barrage of nagging injuries, most notably a left ring finger that plagued him all year, the slugger doesn't believe he will need surgery this winter.

"No, they said with time it's going to get better," said Napoli. "With the rest, I'm going to do whatever I have to do. It's been swollen the whole time. It definitely doesn't feel good trying to grip a bat to do the things I have to do. With rest, they said it will get better."

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Napoli dislocated his left ring finger on April 15 on a headfirst slide in Chicago and played through it for most of the season. But he never regained all of his power, hitting just 17 homers in 415 at-bats.

"It's been tough," Napoli said of his injury-plagued season. "I've never been through this before."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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