It's a little surprising to hear before the season has even started, but free-agent-to-be and one of the newer Red Sox, Joel Hanrahan, has expressed interest in staying in Boston long-term. According to Peter Abraham, Hanrahan is "open" to the idea. Whether the Red Sox are similarly interested is a different question entirely.
The Red Sox let Jonathan Papelbon walk after the 2011 season, and have shown an obvious preference for trading for new closers and back-end bullpen options rather than diving headfirst into the expensive end of the free agent relief pool. Hanrahan's acquisition was part of that, as was Andrew Bailey's and Mark Melancon's the year before. If Hanrahan were to walk, the Sox, as currently constructed, would still have Bailey with one year of team control left to close in 2014. If you want to look even further in the future, Junichi Tazawa could be the closer in 2015, or, if Daniel Bard has worked out the kinks and returned to the Barddom of pre-2012, he could slide into that role. With the sheer quantity of potential quality relievers Boston has in the upper levels of their minor-league system at the moment, the pen could likely survive losing its back-end options one after another to free agency, without having to retain any of them on more lucrative deals.
Of course, this off-season hasn't even ended yet, so there's little reason to speculate further. But, we now at least know that Hanrahan is enjoying his early time with Boston, and made a point of saying so.
Clay Buchholz, who suffered a hamstring strain early on in camp, threw batting practice today with no complications. Abraham tweeted that Buchholz, "felt good throwing," though, he isn't quite game ready yet, either. Then again, who is at this stage of the spring, anyway? He's got some time to catch up.
Buchholz will throw a simulated game on Saturday, and that should give the Red Sox and the right-hander a better sense of where he is coming back from this minor injury. If there's any time of year to be patient with injuries (hint: all year is a good time), the spring is it.
The Red Sox traded for Mike Carp earlier on Wednesday, creating competition for the last spot on the bench. Lyle Overbay, who was signed to a minor-league deal at the end of January, told WEEI's Rob Bradford that he "had a feeling it [the Carp trade] could happen" and is prepared to compete for the bench spot in question. Should he fail to secure said spot, the Brewers are busy looking for a first baseman now that Mat Gamel has gone down with an ACL injury, and, since Milwaukee was looking at Overbay even before the loss of Gamel, they will surely be interested in a month's time.
Overbay will have to win the bench spot prior to the end of spring training if he's going to do it at all, as he's part of the new class of free agents created by last off-season's collective bargaining agreement. From Baseball America's Matt Eddy:
Beginning with last year's class, any Article XX(B) major league free agent who accepts a minor league deal is entitled to three automatic contract clauses: 1) he must be told five days prior to Opening Day-that's March 26 this year-whether or not he will make the 25-man active roster, 2) if he does not ask for his release and consents to open the season in Triple-A, then he will receive a $100,000 "retention bonus," and 3) if he's still in Triple-A on June 1, then he can opt out of his minor league contract so that he can sign with another organization.
He's the only Red Sox minor-league free agent to fit into that group, so he'll know nearly a week before active rosters have to be pared down to 25 whether or not he's made it.
Old friend Alex Cora is no longer playing baseball, but he will be staying in the sports world. He has joined ESPN and ESPN Deportes for the 2013 season:
Cora will provide insights and analysis for various platforms across both networks, including Baseball Tonight, Beisbol Esta Noche, SportsCenter and other studio programming. He will also contribute to ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio.
Cora has always been lauded for his baseball knowledge, and it was believed he had a future in coaching or managing as soon as he wanted it. For now, we'll get to see just what he knows now that he's set to be part of the media that used to cover his game.