December 1, 2013

On baseball: Counting the days until spring training

If we make it through December ... pitchers and catchers soon report.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Welcome to December, which means that pitchers and catchers report in only 2 1/2 months

Now some more news meant to keep you warm while you wait.

THE RED SOX demonstrated their subtle ways of using their big-market money in a few recent transactions.

Boston acquired veteran right-handed middle reliever Burke Badenhop from the Brewers for fringe pitching prospect Luis Ortega, a 20-year-old lefty who pitched in the Gulf Coast League last year (2.45 ERA).

Badenhop is effective but the Brewers likely didn’t want to pay him more than the $1.5 million he made last year. He is arbitration-eligible and will be getting a raise after a solid season (3.47 ERA in 63 games – 62 innings).

Badenhop, 30, won’t light up the radar gun but he throws strikes (12 walks total in each of the last two seasons), and could complement the bullpen.

Boston’s other acquisition came in October when the Sox spent $4.25 million to sign 27-year-old Cuban pitcher Dalier Hinojosa. He will be on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Hinojosa seems to be a reasonable gamble the Red Sox can afford.

THE SEA DOGS announced their annual Hot Stove Dinner will be Jan. 17 at the Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland. Among the guests will be pitcher Brandon Workman and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., two former Sea Dogs who will be receiving World Series rings next month.

Tickets are $50 with proceeds going to the Strike Out Cancer in Kids fund. There are 300 seats available and this event annually sells out.

ALLEN WEBSTER has been trying to master his control in the Dominican Winter League. He picked up a win last week but still has a 6.11 ERA (15 strikeouts/10 walks in 17 2/3 innings).

GEORGE KOTTARAS was a little-known catcher when Theo Epstein traded pitcher David Wells to San Diego for him near the end of the 2006 season. Kottaras helped the Sea Dogs win the Eastern League title that year.

Since then, Kottaras has made a career as a major league backup catcher – with Boston in 2009, then with Milwaukee, Oakland and Kansas City. He puts up solid numbers (.273 average, .820 OPS).

Epstein apparently wanted Kottaras, 30, again. The Cubs recently acquired him from the Royals.

DANIEL BARD is also a member of the Cubs. Chicago is hoping Bard can recapture his dominating form. It hasn’t happened in Puerto Rico’s winter league. In three games Bard has faced 13 batters, retiring one. He has issued nine walks and hit three batters while throwing four wild pitches.

THE ORIOLES NOT only signed former Sea Dogs pitcher Brock Huntzinger but they also collected former Portland outfielders Ron Bermudez and Chih-Hsien Chiang on minor league contracts.

Bermudez, 25, looked promising when he filled in at Pawtucket for 57 games in 2011. He batted .261 but never showed improvement, bouncing between the Sea Dogs and PawSox. He hit a combined .261 last year.

Chiang, also 25, was sizzling in Portland in 2011 (.340 average/1.050 OPS) when he was traded to Seattle. Chiang cooled, was eventually let go and ended up back in Double-A with the Rangers last year (.263/.714).

RED SOX spring training begins Feb. 15. The exhibition schedule begins with the doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College on Feb. 27. Spring-training tickets go on sale Saturday. See www.redsox.com.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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