Bruins

Gomes groomed to be Sox left fielder

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Gomes groomed to be Sox left fielder

BOSTON Even before he ever cracked a big league lineup, Jonny Gomes began grooming himself to play left field at Fenway Park.

Gomes is now the newest member of the Red Sox and the teams left fielder. The Sox announced Saturday the free agent agreed to a two-year (10 million) deal.

Im excited, Gomes said on a conference call with the media Saturday afternoon. I think the challenge is as big of a challenge as you can put on it personally. Obviously getting drafted by Tampa, made it through the organization pretty fast, was up and down between the big leagues and Triple A early in my career. But the Triple-A Durham park has almost the exact dimensions in left field as the green wall, and I always thought young in my career I was grooming myself to play left in Boston one day. And this was obviously even before I was in the big leagues, obviously Manny Ramirez was there, so it was far-fetched.

But really worked hard on that wall, really studied the angles, and really took the challenge as something exciting and not something difficult. So I do have quite a few starts in left field in Boston, but I got years of starts in Triple A underneath that wall in Durham, which is just about exactly the same.

Gomes, 32, was an 18th-round pick of the Rays in 2001, making his big league debut in 2003. His first major league road trip, beginning the 03 season, went to Yankee Stadium and then Fenway Park. In his 10-season career, he has played with the Rays, Reds, Nationals, and As. He has appeared in 327 career games (290 starts) in left field, and 145 (130 starts) in right.

He appeared in 99 games for the As last season, batting .262 with 18 home runs, 47 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage, and .491 slugging percentage. He appeared in 39 games (25 starts) in left field, three in right field, and served as the designated hitter in 53.

In 31 career games at Fenway Park, Gomes, a right-handed hitter, has hit .262 with three home runs, seven RBI, a .354 OBP, and .429 SLG. He hit .2991126.413.561 in 196 plate appearances against left-handed hitters in 2012, .209721.324.391 against righties.

In 2012 Gomes led the majors, hitting .480 (12-for-25) with two outs and runners in scoring position, the best mark in the American League in 17 years. He hit .311 (19-for-61) with runners in scoring position, and .306 (38-for-124) with runners on base.

Im not really too concerned about how Ill be used, Gomes said. I came up groomed into believing that this is a results-driven industry. And if the results are there, youll play. I try to get myself ready one way, and thats to be ready for 162 games and thats to be wherever the manager puts me, left, right, DH, or wherever the manager wants to put me that day. But I have one way to approach the game and thats to be ready every single day, and one way to approach the offseason and thats to get myself in shape for 162 and like I said before this is a results-driven industry. So if the results are there, youll play. So Ill be ready to play every single day and hopefully I can keep myself in the lineup.

Gomes is a student of the game, with an obvious appreciation for its history. Even as a visiting player at Fenway, he respected the history of the games oldest big league park.

You cant help but to be in awe of the history of the ballpark, he said. The further you walk in and the more you play, the more history escapes you really cant help but to take. Its almost selfish to say its just your team vs. the Red Sox. There are so many battles and so many pitches and home runs exchanged and world champs that paved the way for me to get in between those lines. Its so much more than a nine-inning ballgame that Im playing that day, which I definitely dont take for granted and Im very appreciative of.

Now, hes looking forward to being part of it.

First and foremost, nothing less than honored, he said. When you have a team with the history-rich organization, the fan base, educated fans, its an honor. Not everyone has had the path that Ive had, bouncing around. Ive played for the youngest organization in Tampa. Ive played for the oldest organization, that being the Cincinnati Reds. Ive played for the team that I grew up cheering for, the Oakland As. And now I get to play for what I think personally is the mecca of baseball fan base. Chevy, American pie, and baseball. And baseball, thats the Red Sox. So Im definitely honored.

He watched from afar as the Sox suffered through their disastrous 2012 season.

Obviously what happened last year, unless you were living under a rock, what went on with the Red Sox, and I know the core guys with the Red Sox, he said. I know the guys that have been there for a while. I know Dustin Pedroia, I know Jacoby Ellsbury, I know Jon Lester. I know Big Papi David Ortiz. So right away, without even signing, I was like the Red Sox are going to play with the biggest chip on their shoulder. Knowing the pasts of those guys and how they play, I said theres no possible way that would happen two straight years to the Sox nation, and telling myself, I would love to be a part of that.

I would be honored and love to bring back the fire to the Nation. And ironically enough, the phone rang. And at the end of the day, where I am in my career, it wasnt about location, it wasnt about need, it wasnt about money. It was about being wanted. All I wanted was to be wanted... Me being a historian of the game and a fan of the game, it was a pretty easy decision to be able to call Fenway home.

Gomes has a reputation as a stand-up guy. A solid character in the clubhouse. Someone who will lead by positive examples. How does he see his role in turning the team around from 2012?

I always say how does a big machine run? he said. Well, a big machine runs with a lot of grease. You get a tall building with all kinds of fancy windows. Well, its that foundation that keeps that building up. I always say I represent the grease that runs the machine, not the machine. I represent the foundation, not the star at the top.

And for the Red Sox, that may be just what they need.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

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