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Sources: Red Sox have 5-year deal with J.D.

Slugger coming off career-best 45 HRs, 104 RBIs in 2017
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The prolonged courtship of slugger J.D. Martinez has paid off for him and the Red Sox, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported via sources that the sides have reached agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract that includes opt-outs after the second and third years of the deal.

The club hasn't announced the signing, which is pending a physical.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The prolonged courtship of slugger J.D. Martinez has paid off for him and the Red Sox, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported via sources that the sides have reached agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract that includes opt-outs after the second and third years of the deal.

The club hasn't announced the signing, which is pending a physical.

Hot Stove Tracker

Martinez gives the Red Sox the big bat they need to supplement a lineup that finished last in the American League with 168 homers last season. Even with the lack of power, Boston still won the AL East with 93 wins for the second straight season.

It took a while, but the Red Sox have now countered the blockbuster move the Yankees made earlier this winter when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton.

Video: Castrovince, Justice on Martinez signing with Red Sox

An outfielder, Martinez is likely to get a lot of his playing time for the Red Sox at designated hitter. The club has a strong starting outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Despite earlier trade rumors, sources have told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that the Red Sox are leaning toward keeping Bradley.

Video: Browne on how Cora will use Martinez in the outfield

Hanley Ramirez, who had been slotted in as Boston's starting designated hitter, will now share time at first base with Mitch Moreland. Ramirez can also DH when Martinez plays the outfield.

Boston's lineup on March 29 for Opening Day at Tropicana Field could look something like this:

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. J.D. Martinez, DH
5. Rafael Devers, 3B
6. Hanley Ramirez, 1B
7. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
8. Eduardo Nunez, 2B
9. Christian Vazquez, C
Chris Sale, SP

As far as the Red Sox were concerned, positional alignments were a non-factor in their pursuit of Martinez. They were focused on getting his bat.

Video: MLB Tonight: Where Martinez fits in Red Sox lineup

It's easy to see why. The 30-year-old Martinez had the best season of his career in 2017, mashing 45 homers in just 432 at-bats and leading the Major Leagues with a .690 slugging percentage.

Martinez did much of his damage down the stretch last season after getting traded from the Tigers to the D-backs. Arizona was the other main suitor for Martinez.

Fenway fans will now be treated to Martinez taking aim at the inviting Green Monster with his big, right-handed swing. However, this isn't to say Martinez is a pull hitter. He has an all-field approach with plenty of power to center and right-center.

Video: J.D. Martinez reportedly agrees to deal with Red Sox

The Red Sox established Martinez as their primary target for this offseason back in November.

After Boston offered Martinez a five-year deal worth more than $100 million a few weeks back, the sides remained at a stalemate until talks finally surged forward with momentum on Monday.

Video: Must C Classic: Martinez hits four homers, plates six

Baseball's offseason has started to pick up in recent days, most notably when first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to terms with the Padres on an eight-year deal on Saturday.

Rather than moving ahead to alternatives when negotiations were stalled with Martinez, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski stayed focused on his top target.

It was Dombrowski who took a flyer on Martinez with the Tigers on March 24, 2014, just two days after the outfielder had been released by the Astros.

Martinez swiftly emerged into a threat for Detroit and he was the best slugger on the free-agent market this winter.

The Red Sox will have a lineup led by Martinez, Betts, Benintendi and slugging 21-year-old third baseman Devers. The club also expects talented shortstop Bogaerts to regain his form after an injury-plagued second half last season. Bradley and Ramirez are two other players who battled through injuries in 2017, and an uptick is certainly possible this season.

Combine that with a pitching staff that includes an elite ace in Chris Sale, a top closer in Craig Kimbrel and a five-time All-Star lefty coming back from an injury in David Price, and the Red Sox feel good about their chances to make a deep run in October after losing in the AL Division Series the last two years.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

While replicating his astonishing 2017 pace (45 homers, 104 RBIs in 119 games) will be a tall task, Martinez can be counted on to make another run at 40-plus homers and rank among the AL leaders in RBIs as part of a talented Red Sox lineup. The slugger warrants consideration during Round 2 of 2018 drafts, within the vicinity of star sluggers such as Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Joey Votto. While manager Alex Cora's immediate plans for Martinez are unclear at this time, this signing could reduce the playing time available for Moreland, Ramirez and Bradley. As a result, all three can now go undrafted in shallow leagues.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

J.D. deal likely means a lot of 1st for Hanley

Newly added slugger to get bulk of at-bats at DH
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For months, a healthier Hanley Ramirez has been saying he's ready and able to play a lot of first base this season. That is a good thing, because the Red Sox are now going to need him to.

One of the main spinoffs from the J.D. Martinez signing -- which will become official after he passes a physical -- is that Ramirez is no longer Boston's primary designated hitter.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For months, a healthier Hanley Ramirez has been saying he's ready and able to play a lot of first base this season. That is a good thing, because the Red Sox are now going to need him to.

One of the main spinoffs from the J.D. Martinez signing -- which will become official after he passes a physical -- is that Ramirez is no longer Boston's primary designated hitter.

Sources: Red Sox have 5-year deal with J.D.

Video: Ian Browne discusses J.D. Martinez signing

Since the Red Sox have a loaded outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, Martinez will get the bulk of his at-bats at DH. That will leave Ramirez and Mitch Moreland battling for at-bats at first base. Manager Alex Cora can now spend Spring Training evaluating that competition.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I can play as many [at first base] as Alex wants me to play," Ramirez said on Friday. "I don't have any problem with that."

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

Provided Ramirez demonstrates that he can produce closer to his 2016 level (30 homers, 111 RBIs) than last year, when injuries to both shoulders hindered his production (23 homers, 62 RBIs), he figures to emerge as the starter. It should be noted that in his strong '16 season, Ramirez started 133 games at first, compared to just 17 last year.

"I know I can get 100 RBIs and 30 homers," Ramirez said. "Like I said, I never make excuses, because in this game, you've got to produce."

Video: Hanley Ramirez on his shoulder injury and offseason

The addition of Martinez couldn't have been stunning for Ramirez. He has been asked about it for months, and more specifically how it could impact his playing time.

"The more we can get, the more help we can get is fine," Ramirez said earlier in camp. "It's like I told you guys in [the winter]: I know that I'm going to hit. They're going to find a place to put me in the lineup. I just want to win."

It's possible that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski could make a trade to alleviate the logjam for playing time. But for now, it's far more likely he stays the course and takes stock of what he has in Spring Training.

Moreland re-signed with the Red Sox on a two-year, $13 million deal in December. Free-agent signings can't be traded without consent until June 15, per rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. At the very least, the left-handed hitter gives value to the Red Sox as a standout fielder. Moreland has also excelled at pinch-hitting in his career, hitting .307 with three homers, 18 RBIs and an .868 OPS in 85 plate appearances.

It's conceivable that Ramirez, who is due $22 million this season, could be dealt to a team in need of a run producer. But the Red Sox are trying to increase production, not detract from it. It seems more likely he will stay.

Video: Outlook: Injury-prone Ramirez could still be a force

It seems doubtful Boston will trade Bradley, because Dombrowski places a high value on his defense and said numerous times in the offseason he wasn't inclined to deal him, even if the club acquired a big bat like Martinez's.

The one thing that might make the Red Sox consider trading Bradley at some point is if such a deal could land them a premium prospect. The depth of elite prospects in the farm system has been tapped into the past couple of years in trades for Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz.

One thing is clear: Dombrowski now has some options and can deal from a position of strength.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez, Hanley Ramirez

Henry: Red Sox are highly underrated in '18

Club's ownership feels healthy pitching staff is best in AL
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Enthused by his team's improved health and an almost entirely new coaching staff, Red Sox owner John Henry said on Monday that it is a mistake to overlook the two-time defending American League East champions.

"I think we are very strong and people are highly underrating this team," Henry said at around the same time the first full-squad workout was getting underway. "If we have the right approach, I think we'll be very successful. I think we have the right team.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Enthused by his team's improved health and an almost entirely new coaching staff, Red Sox owner John Henry said on Monday that it is a mistake to overlook the two-time defending American League East champions.

"I think we are very strong and people are highly underrating this team," Henry said at around the same time the first full-squad workout was getting underway. "If we have the right approach, I think we'll be very successful. I think we have the right team.

"I know people don't like us apparently saying we won the division the last two years, but we had the best offense in the American League the year before last. We had significant pitching that was injured last year."

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

Henry met with the media alongside chairman Tom Werner, who is also bullish on his team's chances this year despite the Yankees adding a major bat in Giancarlo Stanton.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I think it's good for the rivalry," Werner said. "The Yankees will have a very strong team and we have a very strong team, too. I think our pitching, John alluded to it, if we're healthy, I think we've got the best pitching staff, starting pitching ending with [Craig Kimbrel] in the bullpen. I think we have the best pitching staff in the American League."

Video: Dave Dombrowski on unfolding FA market

The Red Sox reportedly added a big bat to their lineup by reaching a deal with free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez on Monday. The club has not confirmed a deal.

Both Henry and Werner said earlier on Monday that their club is a championship contender regardless of another addition to the roster.

"We are very happy with our roster," Henry said. "I think we do have the highest payroll in baseball, and again, we're defending American League East champions and I think we've done what we needed to do to improve this team."

Henry thinks much of the improvement will come from an offense that will take a different approach under manager Alex Cora and hitting coach Tim Hyers. Last season, the Red Sox finished last in the AL with 168 homers, which is why there has been so much scrutiny regarding the club's pursuit of Martinez.

"I think our approach last year was lacking offensively and we had issues that the players have already talked about," Henry said. "I didn't think we were nearly aggressive enough and I think our approach was lacking for a good part of the season. I think we would have had significant power last year if we would have had a different approach. That's my opinion. It may not be true. I think we have a very good offense."

Video: John Henry and Tom Werner confident entering 2018

Henry thinks not enough is made of how well the Red Sox did last season despite David Price making just 11 starts due to left elbow issues. By all accounts, Price is fully healthy entering this season.

"I think he's mentally ready and I think he's physically ready," Henry said. "When you look at the injuries we had in the starting pitching last year, we have those guys back strong this year. It should be, as Tom said, quite a pitching staff."

After losing in the AL Division Series the last two seasons, ownership hopes for a deep October run this year.

"And just speaking for John and me personally, we were nostalgic last night," Werner said. "This is our 17th year doing this and we feel we have accomplished a lot, but we'd like to win another World Series."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox

Red Sox respond to Cora's spring message

New skipper lays out team goals before full-squad workout
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Alex Cora remembers the tradition well from his time as a player with the Red Sox. Each year, on the morning of the first full-squad workout of Spring Training, there is a big meeting that includes ownership, the front office, the entire roster and uniformed coaching staff.

Only this time, instead of merely being a spectator, it was on Cora to provide one of the most important speeches on the agenda as the manager.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Alex Cora remembers the tradition well from his time as a player with the Red Sox. Each year, on the morning of the first full-squad workout of Spring Training, there is a big meeting that includes ownership, the front office, the entire roster and uniformed coaching staff.

Only this time, instead of merely being a spectator, it was on Cora to provide one of the most important speeches on the agenda as the manager.

What was Cora's message on Monday morning?

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

"That everybody has a role and everybody has an impact of what we're trying to accomplish," Cora said. "There are different ways and different roles. For us to be the best team in the big leagues whenever everything is said and done this year, everybody has to do their part."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

It was one his players took to heart.

"Yeah, I mean, it's true," left fielder Andrew Benintendi said. "Everything he said this morning was true. We're all working on the same goal. It's not just as players. It's everybody throughout the entire organization contributing in some way and it's good to have everybody here."

"I thought it was what we needed to hear," center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "It was the first meeting of the year and he talked about what we plan on doing and becoming a team."

Ownership also thought Cora struck the right chord in his message.

Video: Cora talks comfortability, effort at Spring Training

"I think he's extremely positive," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said. "I think you feel a sense of, he wants to encourage the team to have fun, not get too down over a couple of losses. He talked about how we are a family. I know the response from the players has been that it's a joy to play for Alex and it's a joy to see the pleasure in the interaction between Alex and the players already. You know he's just an outstanding leader and we're proud that he's our manager."

Having been part of several different organizations in his baseball career, Cora appreciates the uniqueness of the meeting the Red Sox have each spring.

"We do things differently than other organizations," Cora said. "You've got people who come down from Boston and are part of that big meeting. They call it the company meeting. We have people in there from different areas, non-uniformed personnel who are a big part of what we do here as an organization."

Surprise guest: Coach Stevens
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who is enjoying his All-Star break in Florida, was a surprise guest at the end of Monday's meeting.

"He talked to the guys a little bit," Cora said. "I thought that was cool. Talking about his experience as a baseball player and then talking about the first day. One thing he mentioned that got my attention, they're in their [All-Star] break and he wanted to have that feeling of the first day again. When it's the first day, everybody has that extra hop, everybody's energized, everybody's into it. He wanted to come down here, not only to hang out with us and be part of it, but to have that feeling again. Hopefully it helps out."

The players enjoyed hearing a different perspective.

"Oh, it was great," Bradley said. "It was special to see or hear things from different perspectives and another great figure around the city. I look forward to seeing him around more often."

First impressions
Once the Red Sox took the field, Cora was impressed by quite a bit of what he saw.

"[Hanley Ramirez] hit a rocket off somebody, and was hitting the ball to right-center," Cora said. "Defensively, [Mitch Moreland] obviously. He is that good at first base. Moving his feet, the footwork, communication with everybody."

Cora also expressed excitement about the improved health of setup man Carson Smith, who missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery.

"He isn't a comfortable at-bat," Cora said. "His stuff plays, his delivery is very deceptive. He's going to be a big part of what we're trying to accomplish. We've just got to make sure like anybody else to keep him healthy throughout the season. I really like what I see, I really like what I saw last year. He's good, man. He's a good pitcher."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com @_dadler

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

•  Pace of play rules FAQ

A pitch clock -- giving the pitcher a certain amount of time to deliver the ball -- had been one of the major proposals considered. MLB decided to defer implementation of a pitch clock, as well as a between-batter timer, in order to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

New phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout will be installed and monitored, limiting the ability of teams to steal signs, which is viewed as a contributing factor to the increasing number of mound visits. Rules governing when players can and cannot leave the batter's box between pitches, instituted during the 2017 season, remain in effect.

•  Players, managers react to new rules

"Players were involved in the pace of game discussion from Day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans, but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future," said Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director.

Here is a breakdown of the new rules:

• Mound visits: Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Also, normal communication between player and pitcher that do not require either to vacate their position on the field do not count as a visit. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher's request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher.

Video: Hot Stove on mound visits regarding pace of play

• Between-inning breaks: As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

• Timing of pitcher changes: The timing clock -- as listed above -- also applies to pitching changes, and it will begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

• Instant replay: All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Chavis leads new Red Sox Top 30 Prospects list

First-round Draft picks from 2014, '16, '17 claim top three spots
MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

When the Red Sox hired David Dombrowski as president of baseball operations in August 2015, they had a big league club headed toward its second consecutive last-place finish, yet hope in the form of the best farm system in baseball. Fast forward to today, and they're the two-time defending American League East champions but the system is thinner than it has been in more than a decade.

Red Sox's Top 30 Prospects list

When the Red Sox hired David Dombrowski as president of baseball operations in August 2015, they had a big league club headed toward its second consecutive last-place finish, yet hope in the form of the best farm system in baseball. Fast forward to today, and they're the two-time defending American League East champions but the system is thinner than it has been in more than a decade.

Red Sox's Top 30 Prospects list

The changes in fortune in the Majors and Minors are related. Dombrowski hasn't been afraid to trade elite prospects to acquire the likes of Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale. The system also has contributed potential stars Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, both of whom arrived in Boston ahead of schedule.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

The Red Sox should be able to contend for at least another year or two without getting much immediate help from the system, whose only potential impact prospect on the cusp of the big leagues is third baseman Michael Chavis. The early returns on a 2017 Draft that began with right-hander Tanner Houck (first round) and outfielder Cole Brannen (second) are promising. The loss of Venezuelan catcher Daniel Flores, who died of cancer in November four months after signing for $3.1 million, was a tragedy for the organization while also resulting in a major setback for the farm system.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Bryan Mata, RHP (2017: NR | 2018: 4)
Fall: Brian Johnson, LHP (2017: 12 | 2018: NR)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.

Hit: 55 -- Sam Travis (Pedro Castellanos)
Power: 60 -- Michael Chavis
Run: 70 -- Cole Brannen
Arm: 60 -- Bobby Dalbec (C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Danny Diaz)
Defense: 60 -- Cole Brannen
Fastball: 65 --Tanner Houck (Ty Buttrey, Darwinzon Hernandez, Joan Martinez)
Curveball: 65 -- Jay Groome
Slider: 60 -- Mike Shawaryn
Changeup: 60 -- Bobby Poyner
Control: 60 -- Bobby Poyner

How they were built
Draft: 21
International: 9

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 9
2019: 5
2020: 10
2021: 4
2022: 2

Breakdown by position
C: 0
1B: 3
2B: 1
3B: 3
SS: 4
OF: 2
RHP: 11
LHP: 6

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Nunez proves health, inks 1-year deal with Sox

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The reunion between Eduardo Nunez and the Red Sox took patience from both sides, and ultimately a uniquely exhaustive workout that the super-utility man went through before the signing could become official.

After Nunez completed a physical on Friday morning, the Red Sox took him to a back field of their Spring Training complex in the hot sun that afternoon to make sure his right knee was sound. Nunez suffered a PCL strain in that knee on Sept. 9, then re-injured himself almost immediately in comebacks on Sept. 25 and Oct. 5.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The reunion between Eduardo Nunez and the Red Sox took patience from both sides, and ultimately a uniquely exhaustive workout that the super-utility man went through before the signing could become official.

After Nunez completed a physical on Friday morning, the Red Sox took him to a back field of their Spring Training complex in the hot sun that afternoon to make sure his right knee was sound. Nunez suffered a PCL strain in that knee on Sept. 9, then re-injured himself almost immediately in comebacks on Sept. 25 and Oct. 5.

And there was still one more test after the workout. The Red Sox made sure Nunez had no swelling in his knee on Saturday. He cleared that hurdle also, and on Sunday, Boston and Nunez formalized a one-year agreement for $4 million that includes a player option for 2019 (also $4 million) and a buyout of $2 million.

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Was Friday's workout the hardest anyone has ever put Nunez through?

"A hundred percent, yes. They almost killed me," quipped Nunez. "They gave me a lot of stealing bases, running, hitting, ground balls, diving, everything, and I passed it."

In truth, Nunez was thrilled to be able to prove to both the Red Sox and himself that he's healthy again. The timing of his injury -- coming right before the Red Sox got to the postseason and just prior to his free agency -- was not ideal.

But it all worked out in the end.

"I told my agent before I was a free agent that I would love to come back," Nunez said. "The time I was here last year was amazing. There was a lot of energy, and I love to win. I think that's the best thing, my first choice by far. The situation was about my knee, they wanted to make sure I'm healthy. I think I proved it this week, and now I'm back. Now hopefully everybody is healthy, myself, and other guys, too, and we can look to win the World Series this year."

The immediate value of Nunez to the Red Sox is that he can help fill in at second base for Dustin Pedroia, who is expected to miss the early portion of the regular season as he recovers from surgery on his left knee.

Video: Nunez returns to Red Sox after signing deal

But the main value is that Nunez is the rare utility player who has the bat to be in the lineup on a full-time basis.

"Instead of having nine starters, you have 10 now," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He's a versatile and athletic player. From afar, I saw what he did last year with this team offensively. He impacted the game, he was driving the ball, he was running. He's a guy that will help us move people around."

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that the Red Sox were interested in bringing Nunez back independent of Pedroia's situation.

"We're thrilled to have him signed," Dombrowski said. "He did a great job for us last year. It's been a long process basically because we've been concerned about his knee. We feel comfortable that he's 100 percent ready to go, and we're absolutely thrilled that he's with us because he's a good player."

Nunez was traded from the Giants to the Red Sox on July 25, and he thrived on arrival, slashing .321/.353/.539 with eight homers and 27 RBIs.

The only thing that could stop him was the right knee, which gave out for the last time in the first inning in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Astros, when he tried to beat out a grounder.

"That was a bad situation for me and for the team," Nunez said. "Nobody expected that. Nobody wanted that, I was injured that bad. But that's what it is. Now I'm healthy, and I'm looking forward to turning the page."

Video: Zinkie on fantasy impact of Nunez's return to Red Sox

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With multi-position eligibility and the potential to rank among the leading basestealers when working in a regular role, Nunez should be an asset in shallow leagues until Pedroia returns from his expected season-opening stint on the disabled list. However, Nunez's value may be relegated to deep mixed formats if the Red Sox shift him to a utility role upon Pedroia's return. Overall, owners should expect a double-digit homer total, 20-25 steals and a batting average near .300 from Nunez this year.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Nunez

Kelly shows off his Strike 3 call

Baseball has a lengthy list of "what if" stories. What if Babe Ruth had remained a pitcher? What if the Yankees had swapped Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams? What if the Rangers had traded Alex Rodriguez to the Red Sox? What if Joe Kelly was an umpire?

Okay, maybe that last hypothetical wasn't one of the sport's great mysteries, but Kelly answered it anyway at Red Sox Spring Training. A self-described "quiet guy," he said his regular strike call would be low-key

'Big picture' on Pedroia's mind during rehab

Second baseman progressing after knee surgery; no date set for return
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.

The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media on Saturday morning. For Pedroia, it serves as a reminder that the injury that pained him for all of last season is gone, and he will be able to enjoy the game again once he gets back.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.

The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media on Saturday morning. For Pedroia, it serves as a reminder that the injury that pained him for all of last season is gone, and he will be able to enjoy the game again once he gets back.

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For the first time in Pedroia's career, he is looking at the big picture. He will follow the plan carefully, as outlined in his rehab.

Usually, Pedroia sets the tone at Spring Training from the very first workout. This year, he is confined to doing his work indoors on a weighted treadmill.

"I'm still excited and ready to go," Pedroia said. "It's just, they kind of have to make sure we look at the big picture and make sure I'm healthy through the remainder of my career, and I appreciate that from them. I kind of haven't taken that stance before, so it's been great."

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This will be the first time since Mark Loretta in 2006 that the Red Sox have had someone not named Pedroia play second base on Opening Day. Eduardo Nunez is likely to hold down second base for Boston in the interim, assuming he passes the physical necessary to complete his one-year contract.

Does Pedroia have a target date for returning? One reporter suggested May 15.

"Honestly, we haven't really set any dates like that," Pedroia said. "It's kind of monitored on a week-to-week thing. If I continue to make strides in one area, then I could do more. So far, the whole thing, I haven't had any setbacks. I've added more weight to each time I do an exercise, and it's been great."

Video: HOU@BOS Gm4: Pedroia gets the out with a sliding stop

Though Pedroia didn't make excuses for his diminished play down the stretch last season, it was clear to anyone who watched how hobbled he was. He now acknowledges how hard it was to go out there at far less than 100 percent.

"I don't feel that [pain] anymore," Pedroia said. "I think that's why the decision to have the surgery was important. If I didn't, then yeah, there would be kind of an issue. The way it's worked out, it was the best decision I could have made. My knee doesn't hurt. Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It's not fun to live your life like that."

Pedroia acknowledged being down before the start of the American League Division Series against the Astros, confiding in teammate Xander Bogaerts at the time that he didn't envision being able to do much with his bat unless the pitch was right down the middle. He went 2-for-16 as the Red Sox lost in four games.

What gets Pedroia through his monotonous rehab exercises is the knowledge that he will feel like himself again when he returns.

The surgery Pedroia had was a cartilage restoration procedure.

"Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now it's just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that, and your body picks that up quick."

Given the pounding the 34-year-old Pedroia takes on a daily basis playing second base, he asked the doctors before the surgery what it would be like once he plays again.

Video: Browne on Pedroia's health entering 2018 season

"I said, 'Listen man, I don't know if you've seen me play, I land on my legs about 100 times a game.'" Pedroia said. "He goes, 'Oh, I understand. What we're going to do is, it's going to basically give you tread on your tire and you can go crazy again. It's just a matter of building strength around it and doing the things that you've always done. You're just going to have cartilage now.'"

That was all Pedroia needed to hear before deciding to go ahead with it.

"I'm not worried about other areas of anything else," said Pedroia. "I take care of myself pretty good with the flexibility, things like that. This was just a thing that I had to get fixed, and now that it's fixed, I don't envision anything being a problem."

What is next for Pedroia?

"I'm on one of those weighted treadmill things at 80 percent weight. Next week, I go up for seven minutes," said Pedroia. "The week after, I'm supposed to go for 10 minutes. And then the week after that, I'm off that treadmill and running regular without the weight taken off. I'm ahead of schedule, so now it's just continuing with the process of it, and we'll go from there."

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the process will lead Pedroia back to his home at second base.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia

Kimbrel open to entering in non-save situations

Cora considering using closer earlier in games; to Pedroia, team leadership a group effort
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though the ninth inning will still be the time Red Sox right-hander Craig Kimbrel is called on most often, the dominant closer sounded open to manager Alex Cora's idea of deploying him in higher-leverage situations earlier in the game when needed.

"Potentially, I think I'll be used in positions I need to be used in," said Kimbrel. "I think I'll be closing out a lot of games and getting us out of some tough spots when needed to."

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though the ninth inning will still be the time Red Sox right-hander Craig Kimbrel is called on most often, the dominant closer sounded open to manager Alex Cora's idea of deploying him in higher-leverage situations earlier in the game when needed.

"Potentially, I think I'll be used in positions I need to be used in," said Kimbrel. "I think I'll be closing out a lot of games and getting us out of some tough spots when needed to."

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There was some thought that Kimbrel, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2018 season, would be hesitant about giving up some save opportunities. Cora is pretty sure it will work out in a fashion that keeps everyone on board.

Video: Kimbrel focused despite daughter's health concerns

"People think it's a big adjustment. If you start looking at the numbers, you don't lose too many saves if it's the way you want to use him," said Cora. "We're not talking about the lower third of the lineup. We're talking the middle of the lineup, eighth inning, certain situations. What I feel is 'game on the line.' Game on the line for you might be different for me, the way you think. We'll sit down and talk about it, and he'll understand where we're coming from. And as long as he's healthy he'll do it."

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As far as free agency goes, Kimbrel is open to re-signing with the Red Sox, the team he was traded to in November 2015.

"I'd like to. I've enjoyed my time here in Boston," Kimbrel said. "Been a part of two winning teams and hopefully three after this year. You never know where life is going to take you. I learned that a lot this offseason in dealing with my daughter."

As Kimbrel discussed at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods last month, his daughter, Lydia Joy, who was born on Nov. 3, has heart defects. She had surgery at four days old and will have another one later this month, at which point Kimbrel will return to Boston for a week.

"She's doing great," said Kimbrel. "Doctors have been amazing. They've been very encouraging. And she's growing fine. So it's tough to be away, especially being so hands-on, but there's a plan for everything and you can't change it. Just have to take it for what it is."

The situation with Kimbrel's daughter has given him a new perspective on baseball issues like free agency or what part of the game he pitches in.

"So I'm just going to take each day for what it is. If we're talking about if I'm coming back here next year or if I'm going somewhere else, I mean, next year is really the time to talk about that," Kimbrel said. "Like I said, right now I'm a Boston Red Sox and I'm happy to be a Boston Red Sox, and I'm looking forward to this year."

Video: Pedroia discusses offseason knee surgery

Pedroia on leadership

With last season his first without David Ortiz, a reflective Dustin Pedroia said Saturday that he might have tried to take on too much of a leadership role. As a member of World Series championship teams in 2007 and '13, Pedroia noted that the best teams he played on had many leaders. Pedroia took it upon himself to draw out more leadership from his younger teammates.

'Big picture' on Pedroia's mind during rehab

"I need them and they need me, and we all have to work together. Because it's not one leader," Pedroia said. "And everybody always says that it's not one guy in baseball. It's me, it's Mookie, it's Bogey, it's Jackie, it's Benny. It's our team. So we have to go be together and know that.

"I know David's gone, but you know when [Jason Varitek] was done, we were OK. Because he built that into David, and David's built that into me to where I got to do a better job of finding a way to get everybody to realize that it's not one guy, it's everybody. And that's -- after thinking about it -- that's what it is. It's not, you know, we need one leader or one guy on the pitching staff and one guy on the … No, we need everybody. And that's what it takes to win at this level and in this environment, is for everybody to come together and take responsibility and doing it together."

Video: Cora discusses the offseason and rivalry with Yankees

Cora on start times

While other teams are working out later this Spring Training to give their players more rest, the Red Sox have been the field each day at a more traditional time of 10 a.m. Before that, players are in the cages or in meetings.

"If we start at 11 [a.m.], you're there until 1 [p.m.] and at noon, that sun is tough out there," Cora said. "I don't know how it works with other teams. But [our] players show up early. We've got guys here at 6:30. Sometimes we wonder if we should push it earlier, because everybody is here and we have all these meetings, we have to go through stuff, but most of the time everybody is ready at 8:45."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Craig Kimbrel

Hanley a disciple of -- who else? -- Tom Brady

Slugger focused on slimming down and flexibility, credits TB12 with assist
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez no longer does any heavy lifting. Instead, he has put all his focus into strengthening his smaller muscles.

In his equipment bag, you will find a sizable collection of resistance bands.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez no longer does any heavy lifting. Instead, he has put all his focus into strengthening his smaller muscles.

In his equipment bag, you will find a sizable collection of resistance bands.

It turns out that Ramirez has become inspired by the training methods of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who just won the third MVP Award of his storied NFL career at the age of 40.

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"More [resistance] bands. I went on Tom Brady's diet. I think it's 100 percent [right]," Ramirez said. "Everything he says in the book, and the work he does, it makes a lot of sense."

How does he feel after putting Brady's TB12 methods to work?

"Fantastic," said Ramirez, who arrived at Spring Training on Friday. "I'm ready to go, 100 percent."

By lifting less -- and on the strength of a surgically repaired left shoulder -- Ramirez plans on getting back to 30 homers and 100 RBIs after his disappointing season (.242 average, 23 homers, 62 RBIs) of a year ago.

"That was terrible," Ramirez said. "I need RBIs. That's how you win games. RBIs."

Ramirez says the Red Sox can count on him again, much like they did in 2016, when he belted 30 homers and had 111 RBIs.

"Oh, yeah. No doubt," Ramirez said. "You're gonna see it, for sure. Literally, I was hitting with one arm last year, and I hit 23. Now that I feel good, there are not going to be excuses. Better go out there and hit 30."

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And if Ramirez does do what he thinks he's capable of? He will give Brady some of the credit.

Ramirez said he hasn't talked to Brady or his trainer Alex Guerrero, but he has been following the words of training and dietary wisdom in the "TB12 Method" book.

It's not as if Ramirez is eating avocado ice cream like Brady. But he said he lost 15 pounds, and it shows.

"I can feel it with my hips and swinging, the hands are faster," Ramirez said. "It's effortless. I feel good things. At the end of the day, you just sit down and think about changes you've got to make for next year and when you start doing that, you see the difference. The mind is telling you that it needs it."

The 34-year-old Ramirez knows that hitters can't stay at their best simply by maintaining at this age.

Brady's book -- released on Sept. 19, 2017 -- came along at the perfect time for Ramirez.

"When you're young, you need the big muscles to get stronger. When you get in that age, past 30, you've got to concentrate on the little muscles," Ramirez said. "You get that power from the big muscles. When you get hurt, most of the time those little muscles stop working. So you've got to keep working on those little muscles, which is what those bands do. They give you resistance and keep the little muscles working."

New Red Sox manager Alex Cora looks forward to seeing how Ramirez's improved fitness translates on the field.

"I visited with him in December, and he talked to me about his workout program, his offseason program, his new one," Cora said. "I saw him today, and he looks a lot different than what I saw the last two years. The last two years he reminded me a lot of Ray Lewis, as far as how big he was. Now he's going to be more mobile, flexible and he's upbeat. So that's always good."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez

Pitching staff getting tips from Pedro

Hall of Famer's ties with LeVangie empower him to do more at camp
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At one moment on Friday morning, arguably the best pitcher in Red Sox history was in a catcher's stance working with Eduardo Rodriguez on flat ground.

About five minutes later, Pedro Martinez had moved to the bullpen where he spotted something slightly amiss with the position of Rick Porcello's feet.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At one moment on Friday morning, arguably the best pitcher in Red Sox history was in a catcher's stance working with Eduardo Rodriguez on flat ground.

About five minutes later, Pedro Martinez had moved to the bullpen where he spotted something slightly amiss with the position of Rick Porcello's feet.

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You have to be quick to follow Martinez around this Spring Training because he is ever-present for the pitchers, whether it be an ace like Chris Sale or a Minor League pitcher trying to make the team.

Martinez, who dominated for the Red Sox from 1998-2004, is now in his sixth season as a special instructor for the club.

Though Martinez isn't a full-time member of the coaching staff, there is nothing ceremonial about his role when he is on hand.

And Martinez feels enabled to be in the trenches more this year because his friend Dana LeVangie is the team's new pitching coach. LeVangie was a bullpen catcher for Boston during Martinez's entire pitching tenure with the team.

In past years, Martinez wasn't quite as assertive for fear he would be stepping on the toes of a pitching coach he didn't know as well in Carl Willis.

"Every year I do enjoy it. This year, it's special. I'm committed to helping out my friend Dana and the organization, and I have a little bit more leverage so I'm using it," said Martinez. "I'm using the leverage I have, and like always, just trying to help out in whatever way I can, and having fun with it too."

For the pitchers who grew up in awe of Martinez's greatness, it is a thrill to work with him.

"He's one of a kind," said Sale. "There's definitely no replicating that. Not only to the game, but to this team, to the fanbase. Pedro is one of the most genuine guys I've ever met. And he's more than willing to do anything for anybody, whether it's grabbing a cup of coffee in here, walking around during PFPs out there, he's here for us.

"And I think that's a great asset to have, when you have a guy who is one of the best who has ever played this game more than willing to give as much of his time as he can. We're lucky to have him around here as much as we can, not only for myself, but the guys in the clubhouse too."

Perhaps lost in Martinez's sheer talent as a pitcher was the way he studied the game. That could be seen in his interaction with Porcello on Friday.

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"Sometimes you go out there and unconsciously move your feet," said Martinez. "I'm very picky with little details. Details that could throw you off a little bit. It could be the margin for break, or height, or movement. I saw him moving a little bit on the rubber so I was quick to approach that, because I know him well enough where I know he's not moving that much. And he was moving from one place to the other, so I was quick to approach that before he goes into a habit of something."

Manager Alex Cora, who missed being Martinez's teammate by one season with the Red Sox, is happy to be united with him now.

"He's a Hall of Famer. He's involved," said Cora. "He has a will to connect with players first, and [then] connect with the coaching staff. He's very comfortable. I'm learning from him. Pedro connecting with Dana, and for us to understand he's not stepping on anybody's toes is great. It's a great situation not only for us as a staff, but also the players."

Hanley option out of Cora's mind
Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez faces an interesting contract situation this season. If he gets 497 plate appearances and passes his physical after the season, his $22 million option would vest for 2019.

Does that make a difference in how Cora utilizes the designated hitter/first baseman?

"Not for me," Cora said.

Like he stated at the Winter Weekend, the guy that hits will play.

"We expect Hanley to hit," he said. "He's a guy that, honestly, I saw what happened in October with the quality of at-bats, him staying through the field, still driving the ball to left-center. That's when he's at his best. If he hits he's going to play."

Resting the regulars
Cora expects to have a deep bench for the upcoming season. And he will use that as an opportunity to keep his regulars fresh.

"If they start buying into it, they will see the benefits of having off-days," said Cora. "You start looking at our schedule, and I did, there are certain trips here that they're tough. The three-city trips, one where we start on the West Coast then go to Minnesota and end up in Toronto, whatever it is. Those are tough. There are fewer at-bats you're going to have compared to previous years, but in the end they're going to benefit from the plan."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez