Red Sox

Red Sox' Ortiz, Hawks' Horford a couple of pals

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Red Sox' Ortiz, Hawks' Horford a couple of pals

Four years ago during the first round of the 2008 playoffs, a Boston Celtics fan sitting courtside yelled over to the Atlanta Hawks bench.

He was trying to get the attention of Al Horford, then a 21-year-old rookie who was dominating the paint in his first postseason run.

The Celtics fan didnt care that Horford was playing for the Hawks, the squad that would push the Cs to seven games in the series, or that the big man was averaging a double-double against his favorite team.

Horford was a professional athlete from the Dominican Republic. So was the fan.

His name was David Ortiz.

The Boston Red Sox designated hitter had found out Horford admired him growing up. Being a fan of the NBA himself, Ortiz attended several playoff games that season. It was the perfect opportunity for an introduction.

He was sitting by the bench so he said hello. He sent his information with one of our guys. We talked to each other and got together and weve been hanging out since, Horford told CSNNE.com following the Celtics Game 4 win over the Hawks. I was proud because hes won a couple World Series and is a Dominican hero back home. It was exciting for him to even know me and then come out here and watch us play. I know he obviously had to pull for the home team, but I know that he was happy for me and the way that I was playing, so it was an exciting time.

Horford and Ortiz have developed a close bond since that initial exchange. Now 25, Horford is a two-time All-Star and ranked in the top ten among all players in rebounds during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

He was sidelined in January with a torn left pectoral muscle and returned on Sunday for Game 4 of the Celtics-Hawks first round series. Injuries are one of the many aspects of being a professional athlete he discusses with Ortiz.

I think hes realized that he has to take care of his body a lot more, especially now that hes getting older, said Horford. So one of the things that he always emphasizes and talks to me about is taking care of your body and trying to eat well and things like that. I try to listen to him and I try to follow.

The two friends try to see one another when they travel to Atlanta and Boston for road games. When the schedule permits, Ortiz invites Horford over for a home-cooked meal. Over the years, Horford has had dinner with former Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon and Julio Lugo.

Its real laid back, usually Dominican food which we both like, Horford said. He doesnt cook it (laughs), but we both enjoy it. Usually we just hang out and watch another basketball game if its on TV.

On Saturday, Ortiz gave Horford tickets to the Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles. Horford attended with his wife. Fenway is such a fun ballpark, he smiled. It is a trip he looks forward to making whenever he gets the opportunity.

Davids like a big brother to me as far as just kind of making sure that Im doing good, he said. He always encourages me to work, stay focused, and thats the kind of relationship we have. Hes just a basketball fan. Thats really what it comes down to. He loves basketball and any chance I get, I like to watch him and the Red Sox play.

As for another testament to their friendship, what does Ortiz, who earned the moniker Big Papi for calling people Papi because he has trouble remembering names, call Horford?

Al, Horford said, pausing. I think he calls me Al. Im pretty sure.

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.