"Wow, I'm excited, I really am excited," Casey told redsox.com Friday. "To be a part of this and even to just put on stuff that has ‘Red Sox' on it is pretty cool if you're a baseball player and you have any spirit toward the game. Everyone wants to play, at some point, their career in Boston. For me to be here and a part of this, I'm excited."
Casey is so excited about playing in Boston that he's willing to take on a reserve role for the first time in his career. Casey has spent the previous 10 years as a starting first baseman for the Reds, Pirates and Tigers but will back up Kevin Youkilis this season. While Casey does not provide the versatility of last year's backup corner infielder Eric Hinske, the Sox believe he's an upgrade thanks to his ability to make consistent contact and hit for a high average—he's a .301 career hitter who has whiffed just 552 times in 4,867 career at-bats.
"His ability to hit good pitching and step in if we do suffer an injury at either corner infield position—because of Youkilis' ability to go to third—we feel protected," Theo Epstein told redsox.com.
Lefty Lopez must right himself: Javier Lopez doesn't need to be reminded how he didn't live up to his reputation as a situational southpaw last year. While Lopez recorded an overall ERA of 3.10, he was far more effective against right-handed hitters, whom he limited to a .176 average, than left-handed hitters, who hit .293 against him.
Obviously, that's no way for a submarining left-hander to secure a roster spot. "I think it's one of those things where I was focusing so hard on getting righties out to stay in those games—and it worked out well," Lopez told reporters Friday. "But I have to get back to the strength that got me into the league, which is being able to get left-handed hitters [out]."
Last year's performance represented a deviation from the norm for Lopez: In a big league career dating back to 2003, he's limited left-handers to a .257 average while allowing right-handers to hit .282.
Lopez told reporters he may have struggled against lefties last year because he wasn't throwing what he called his "bigger slider," choosing instead to rely on his fastball. "It's something that I'm probably going to change coming into the spring—try some different things out," Lopez said. "The success I had with righties was a good thing for me, to be able to have that confidence to go out and face the righties. Now I need to get those lefties."
This is a vital spring for Lopez, who is out of minor league options and cannot be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers.
No Joshing: Byrnes gets D-Backs extension: One of Epstein's former protégés is now one of the few general managers in the game with more security than the Sox' head honcho. Josh Byrnes, who was the Sox' assistant general manager for three seasons before he was named general manager of the Diamondbacks in October 2005, signed an eight-year extension through 2015 earlier this week.
Byrnes and Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest are the only GMs who are known to be signed through 2015. Epstein's contract terms have not been revealed since he ended his three-month sabbatical from the organization in January 2006, but it's well-known that he returned to the club with far more power than he had beforehand.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
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