Red Sox

Patriots know Texans WR Johnson still a threat

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Patriots know Texans WR Johnson still a threat

FOXBORO -- Safe to say, Andre Johnson is back.

After missing more than half of last season with a torn ACL, the Texans wide receiver is once again one of the most productive in the league. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,114 yards and he's seventh with 87 catches.

Johnson's former college teammate at the University of Miami, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, sang the receiver's praises on Thursday.

"Talk about a team player," Wilfork said. "He has a heart of a champion. He's very quiet. He doesn't say much. I just remember playing with him in college. He was always quiet but he was a fireball on the field. He gives it his all. He plays hurt. He's a tough, tough football player."

Johnson could make life tough for Patriots defensive backs on Monday night. He doesn't have the breakaway speed he possessed when he was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2008 and 2009, but he still finds ways to get open.

The Texans running game is so potent with running back Arian Foster that Johnson is oftentimes the beneficiary of play action. When teams begin to overplay the run, that's when quarterback Matt Schaub and Johnson are able to connect for big plays.

Wilfork said that Houston's offensive line -- which utilizes a zone blocking scheme, a staple of former offensive line coach Alex Gibbs -- does a good job of disguising both the run and the pass.

"They cut. They don't cut. They man block. They double. They keep it moving," Wilfork said of the Texans offensive line. "They definitely keep it moving. You really can't get a beat on them when they running a zone, or when they running the ball, or when they passing the ball because they do a real good job up front of showing you the same look on run and pass.

"We're just going to have to rely on technique, good fundamentals. Play what we see. Games like this, it always comes back to playing good technique."

Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

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Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may not be looking closely at the Yankees' and Astros' rosters, but chairman Tom Werner was on Friday.

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“Sure there’s pressure,” Werner said at Winter Weekend when asked about the Yankees’ pick-up of Giancarlo Stanton and the Astros’ addition of Gerrit Cole.  “Houston was formidable last year. I thought we played them competitively in Fenway Park. They’ve obviously improved. But if we have the kind of performances I expect from some of our players this year — obviously we’re looking for some more improvement from certain players. Hopefully, a healthy David Price will be very important to that. 

"I think we have an excellent team, but anything can happen in a short series. The Yankees have improved, there’s no question about it. They have a deep bullpen and a great offense. But I like our chances.”

At the Boston baseball writers awards dinner on Thursday, Sox president Sam Kennedy cracked a joke about Dombrowski presenting Yankees general manager Brian Cashman with an Apple Watch as a gift.

“I’m sure that when Judge and Stanton come to Fenway Park this year, it’ll be electric,” Werner said.

It’s not exactly an offseason punch-for-punch dynamic with the Sox and Yankees, though, as it was circa 2003-04.

“Not specifically,” Werner said of countering Stanton. “It’s important for us to be competitive with them, but we’re not trying to play chess with them.”

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Yawkey Way will not become David Ortiz Way, for those who may have been holding out hope for the street to be renamed after him, or any other recent star.

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“We’ve talked about several different names,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said on Friday evening at Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “There’s been talk about the possibility of returning to what the original name was, which was Jersey Street. It’s been made clear in our research and due diligence that you can’t currently petition for a living person when there’s other property owners on the street. There’s a provision that allows you to petition for a name of a living person if there aren’t other property abbuters on the street. So living person is out of the question. So we’ve had a few different ideas, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Kennedy said the Sox are in conversations with the city and neighboring property owners on Yawkey Way about renaming the street. 

“We have to have a sponsor of our petition, so we’re engaged in those discussions right now and would anticipate a petition being filed,” Kennedy said. “The mayor has been terrific and his staff understand our desire to formally petition, but we’ve got to get a resolution on a few logistical items — like a name, for one — that we’re going to formally petition for.”

A next step could come within a couple weeks, although Kennedy wasn’t firm about that timeline.

“But I’ve said that before, and it’s just a lot of behind the scenes steps that you have to take getting formal approvals from property owners and elected officials,” Kennedy said. “The club can petition for the name and then ultimately as John Henry said back in August, [it’s] a public process. … it’s our decision to request a name.”

• More netting is coming to Fenway to protect fans from batted balls and such.

“Before 2016, we expanded to the inside wall of the dugouts and we’re going to beyond that in 2018,” Kennedy said. “All the way down to about Field Box 79 down the left field line, and then all the way down to almost canvas alley in the Field Box 9 area. So we’re still finalizing the exact dimensions, but it will be a dramatic expansion of our netting … beyond the dugout down the third base line and the first base line.”

  • Sox chairman Tom Werner supports pace of play initiatives, and said he’s heard from Red Sox players who support it as well — even though the players union decided to shoot down a proposal from the league, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. MLB can unilaterally make changes but ideally, the union and league would come to an agreement together.
     

“As you know the commissioner is having ongoing talks with Tony Clark and the union,” Werner said. “I think it’s pretty clear that there’s too much dead time in the game. And as I’ve said, it’s really not about pace of play but like trying to have less dead time. Last year the average game, the time was higher than it’s ever been in history. And I think we have talked about some common sense ideas. We’re not the only league as you know who is looking at dead time. 

“But just for an example, I think that to have the managers or the catchers go up, or the second baseman just be able to talk to the pitcher whenever they want, we should address that. So we’ve addressed a pitch clock in the minor leagues. I think it’s working. But I’m hopeful certainly that the union and owners will come together on this. Because I think it’s something that the fans are expecting.”

  • Sox ticket sales are not doing quite as well as they were a year ago, Kennedy said. 
     

"We’re very healthy and humbled by the fan support,” Kennedy said. “We sold [out Winter Weekend] faster than ever before, about three weeks. There will be between 6,000 and 7,000 people here, which is really a testament to Red Sox fans. You’ve got an unbelievable sports market as we all know with the Patriots and what they’re doing, the Bruins and Celtics at the top of their games. 

“We’ve got people buying tickets [for games] at a pace consistent with 2015 and 2016. We are slightly down from last year, I think there was a big bump from Chris Sale, understandably, so about 6 percent down from last year, which is understandable given it’s been a very slow moving offseason in terms of baseball news. But we continue to be grateful and humbled by the support we get.”

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