Theo's state of the Red Sox
BOSTON -- When the doors opened to the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning, a few players were there, packing their belongings a day after the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Angels.
As usual, there were many questions about the construction of next year's team and what general manager Theo Epstein and his staff plan to do about filling holes. Among the players in the clubhouse was Josh Beckett, who said he was disappointed with the results, not just of the team but also his start against the Angels in which he lost. He said that after the Red Sox were eliminated -- when closer Jonathan Papelbon blew the save as the Angels came back for the win -- many players didn't know what to do.
"I think yesterday was kind of tough; when you acquire that much off time, a lot of guys don't really know what to do," Beckett said. "It's so regimented because you have so much to do every hour of every day in the regular season. You don't really know what to do. I saw a lot of people just moseying around after the game because we didn't really know what to do."
Beckett added that his health was fine, with the exception of when he had back spasms the last week of the season and had to miss a start. He finished 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 32 starts.
As for other players whose futures are up in the air and who were in the clubhouse Monday:
- Outfielder Jason Bay will be a free agent two weeks after the World Series ends. He said he's unsure what will happen, but seemed to be leaning toward testing the market. "I have no idea; that's why I'm kind of curious," Bay said about free agency. "I don't know who's interested; I don't know any of this stuff. I've never done this before. I'm kind of interested to see how it plays out. I really don't know what to expect."[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Has Jason Bay played his last game in a Red Sox uniform? The sides are still talking, but free agency looms.
Epstein said that he and Bay and Bay's agent have been in various talks in the past nine months but that the sides have been unable to agree. He said that it wasn't because there were any major issues and that the negotiations have been a bit unusual, though he wouldn't get into specifics.
"The fact that we want to keep him and he wants to stay here and we've been unable to reach a deal; I don't think either side has been unreasonable or too conservative or not aggressive enough, not proactive enough," Epstein said. "It just hasn't happened, and it's been disappointing that it hasn't. I don't think he's to blame for it; I don't think we're to blame for it. It still hasn't happened, I hope it does. And if that [two-week] period can help bring the sides together, then great. And if it doesn't, then we'll see what happens."
- Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, acquired in mid-August from Cincinnati, has a $6 million team option for next year. He said he will go home to Miami and wait to hear from his agent about whether Boston plans to pick it up. "Going to wait, but I'd like to be back," Gonzalez said. "But anything can happen."
Said Epstein: "We'll do a little bit more analysis of supply and demand and then try to figure out what the market might look like before we decide on Alex's option for next year. That's certainly one way we could go, is bringing him back. I think we'd all be comfortable having him back here under the right circumstances."
- Jason Varitek was not in the clubhouse, and it's unclear whether the team will pick up his $5 million team option (Varitek also has a $3 million player option). Varitek saw his playing time significantly reduced toward the end of the season after Boston acquired Victor Martinez. He was benched for the playoffs and didn't play an inning. Varitek, who is the captain of the team and will turn 38 in April, hit a career-low .209 with 51 RBIs in 109 games. Beckett, who considers Varitek a close friend, voiced his vote. "He's definitely one of those guys I'd love to see back," Beckett said. "Even if the transition [with Martinez catching] starts like the way it started at the end of the year, I think there's a lot of things people can learn from him and him being around is never a bad thing. He's so great with the young guys and he knows how to run a clubhouse, and that's why he wears that 'C' on his chest." [+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Josh Beckett was disappointed with being eliminated, but said Monday that he enters the offseason healthy.
Epstein was noncommittal about bringing Varitek back, saying he needed to speak with him first.
"I haven't talked with Tek yet. We're going to. There are decisions that need to be made on both sides. I don't think it's fair to discuss those publicly before we get to sit down and talk about it."
- Epstein was effusive in his praise for Martinez and said he would be the team's starting catcher next year.
"I think we made a trade that should address that for the most part next year," Epstein said about Martinez. "Victor is about as good as you're gonna get. We're really happy with him on and off the field, his leadership, his offensive ability, his desire to work with the pitching staff. Ultimately it's [Francona's] call, but we've discussed it enough to know Victor is going to catch a lot next year. Then we'll see what happens from there."
- Pitcher Paul Byrd was packing his belongings, and he said he had no idea whether he was going to continue playing. Byrd, who signed a minor league deal in early August after sitting out most of the regular season, was 1-3 with a 5.82 ERA in seven appearances -- six of them starts -- for the Red Sox. He is 38, and he said spending time with his wife and two sons is extremely important. He was asked whether he could pull a Roger Clemens and just keep coming back in the middle to late part of each year. "I've been average over the last few years," Byrd said, "although definitely still have what it takes, but it will just have to be with the right team."
Other items of note Epstein touched on:
- The Red Sox are sending pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka home with a strict conditioning plan and expect him to adhere to it throughout the winter, with much better communication between the player and club than last offseason.
"Make sure his core is strong and make sure we can notice right away that he's had a strong offseason of workouts," Epstein said. "And also with his shoulder, that he does the shoulder program to such an extent that he's ready to go out and throw 200-plus innings, and those are things he didn't accomplish last year. He did accomplish them in a condensed offseason that we had, late summer [when Dice-K went on the disabled list]. That's not the time to do it. The time to do it is throughout the winter. That's been clearly communicated. There will be follow-up, and our strong expectation is that he shows up in fantastic shape on Day 1 of spring training this year. I see it as a necessity, not really an option."
- David Ortiz's difficult season was well-chronicled, as was his turnaround (he finished the season with 28 homers and 99 RBIs). But that doesn't mean that there won't be higher expectations of him next year. "If he's going to be the DH on this team, we need him to be a force," Epstein said. "We're a different team when he is that force. There will be conversations about what he thinks he needs to do to get back there. It's important. It's important for this club for him to be that force as the DH."
- Pitcher Tim Wakefield likely will have surgery this week to repair the disk in his back. The 43-year-old knuckleballer said Sunday that he has no plans to retire and expects to be healthy by spring training. The team holds a $4 million option. "Wake is someone that is in our plans and we hope makes starts for us next year and is a member of the rotation," Epstein said. "We haven't sat down and finalized anything. Obviously, we want to see how the surgery goes and then both sides will sit down and talk."
- As for other players, Epstein said that Papelbon had a good year but that he thought there were ways in which he could get better. Francona said that after talking to the medical staff, the team feels fairly confident that Mike Lowell should not be hampered by his surgically repaired hip. Lowell had to have two injections during the season to help with his overall movement. Francona declined to answer a question about whether he thinks Lowell will need to take time off next season to rest it for certain days.
- Both Francona and Epstein were very happy and encouraged by the progress 25-year-old pitcher Clay Buchholz made this year. "We've got a young pitcher that came up halfway through the season and wasn't just a good young pitcher. He was a good pitcher," Francona said. "It helped us win a lot of games. I know I said this numerous times because I believe it -- and I bet Theo does, too -- not only did it help us win games but it helped make our organization a lot healthier."
- Shortstop Jed Lowrie had surgery on his left wrist earlier in the season, and never fully regained the strength he needed to swing effectively from the left side. He will follow up with team doctors on his course of treatment but plans to let it rest.
"I need to get stronger," he said. "The thing that plagued me for the remainder of the year was inflammation, giving it rest and getting it back to neutral in the offseason and strengthen it."
He said he hopes to be healthy by the spring.
"It's been obviously a frustrating year, and unexpectedly the wrist didn't respond to really anything we did to it this year," Lowrie said. "So you just move on."
Lowrie was limited to just 32 games this season. Epstein said that Lowrie is an important factor the team believes in but that the 25-year-old shortstop would not be guaranteed the starting job and needs to prove he is healthy.
"I don't think we can hand a job to him because he hasn't proved his health yet at this point," Epstein said. "But at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if we're sitting here at this time next year, hopefully with champagne and not having one of these post-mortems, but looking back and saying, 'Wow, he really got healthy and proved himself in winning that job or playing his way into a meaningful role.' So we'll see. Now it's on him. He's got to get himself healthy and make an impact. We can't stake our season on the hope that he'll be healthy. We have to have other options."
- Epstein concluded that the two main areas he feels the team needs to improve are its defense and how it hits on the road. Epstein admitted there is no easy way to improve the road woes but did shed a little insight.
"There's only so much you can do about it," he said. "Obviously we're going to be a better-hitting team at Fenway. There are certain players that don't have enough power to go out on a regular basis in some of the biggest ballparks on the road, that do have the ability to hit the ball off the wall at Fenway, that's one example."
- After 95 wins and a wild-card berth, many in the organization said they felt unfulfilled after being bounced so quickly. Epstein and his staff will have a few months to construct a new team, then it will all start over again.