Red Sox vice president for media relations John Blake came to Boston from Texas, where he worked with the media covering Alex Rodriguez. Even with one of the game's biggest stars in Texas, Blake didn't have the 270 Spring Training credential requests like he does this year, approximately 130 of which are from Japanese media outlets.
To help brace for the sheer numbers, Blake spoke with the Mariners to see how they dealt with the Ichiro Suzuki craze before he made his American debut in 2001.
"The interest is kind of unprecedented," Blake said. "Seattle is more comparable [than Hideki Matsui in New York] since Ichiro was more of a new phenomenon at the time. That's why I sought them out. We're in much better shape. They had only 25 seats, where we have a full [Spring Training] press box and working area, along with a dining area. Space is not nearly as much of a problem as it was in Peoria [,Ariz]."
Blake also confirmed there will be an additional 12 seats in the newly renovated Fenway Park press box to help control the crowd during the regular season. But even then, Blake admits this regular season will be a challenge to meet all the media demands.
Hello, J.D., so long, Lenny: J.D. Drew is now officially on the Red Sox's roster. Drew, who was signed as a free agent on Jan. 26, was officially added to the Major League roster Wednesday, putting Boston's roster at 40 players. Drew was not immediately placed on the roster upon inking the deal three weeks ago because Major League Baseball had to approve some of the complex health-related clauses in the deal.
Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Lenny DiNardo has been claimed off waivers by the A's. The 27-year-old DiNardo, who was placed on Oakland's Major League roster, was 1-2 with a 7.85 ERA in 13 games, including six starts, with the Red Sox in 2006. The left-hander was on the disabled list from May 24 until Aug. 31 with a strained neck. He is 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA in 43 games with Boston from 2004-06. DiNardo was selected by the Red Sox from the New York Mets organization in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft.
Location is everything: The patch of green grass Craig Hansen was standing on Wednesday morning happened to be just outside the Minor League clubhouse complex. But in late January, it appeared Hansen might be standing and pitching somewhere else. With rumors of his involvement in the Todd Helton trade talks heating up, Hansen's brother decided to be proactive and send the pitcher some real estate classifieds from Colorado.
"I really don't watch that much TV," Hansen said of his lack of attention to the trade talks. "The way I found out was my brother sent me a [e-mail] message with a link. So, I clicked on it and it said, 'House for sale in Colorado.' I had to ask him what that was about. He told me and I was like, 'Rumors are rumors and nothing's official until it's written on paper and until they call you up and [tell you that] you're moving to Colorado.'"
Hansen said Wednesday he is relieved that he doesn't have to send out change-of-address cards.
"I was pretty happy," he said. "I love Boston. I love being up there. I spent most of my offseason up in Boston and got a little bit more acquainted with the city, and [I] got around a little bit more and was able to see some nice restaurants."
His agent, Scott Boras, put things in further perspective.
"I spoke to my agent and he said, 'You basically take that as a compliment. The Rockies have a franchise guy in Todd Helton and they mention your name in the trade, so you have take that as a compliment and use that as some confidence in your workouts and everything,'" Hansen said.
As for the closer's role, which is open to competition this spring, Hansen said he is trying to keep an open mind.
"My goal is just to make the team, be on the team and help out the team as much as I can," he said. "I'm just trying to earn any spot. I'm not going for a certain role on the team. I'm just looking for a role in any key situation to help out the team."
Off to the cases: The first arbitration case in Theo Epstein's tenure as general manager of the Red Sox is scheduled for Friday in Arizona, but he is not expected to attend.
Blake said Wednesday that assistant general manager Jed Hoyer and director of baseball operations Brian O'Halloran are expected at the hearing for Wily Mo Pena, who will be represented by his agent, Josh Zeide.
The Red Sox have offered $1.725 million for the upcoming season, while the 25-year-old Pena is seeking $2.2 million.
If the two sides strike a deal before Friday, the hearing will be canceled.
Acquired by Boston in exchange for right-hander Bronson Arroyo at the end of Spring Training in 2006, Pena hit .302 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 84 games in his first season in Boston. He was hampered by an injured left wrist in the first half of last year, eventually undergoing surgery in late June and missing nearly three weeks of action.
Pena, a career .262 hitter, is expected to compete for the fourth outfield spot this spring. He split time between center field and right field last season.
Road race: Following his workout Wednesday morning, Josh Beckett made his way up to Jackie Robinson Ballpark at Daytona Beach to join teammates Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield for an evening announcement by the Roush Racing Team and the Fenway Sports Group, led by Red Sox principal owner John Henry. Daytona Beach, of course, is the site of NASCAR's biggest event, the Daytona 500, which will be held on Sunday.
Camp tracker: As of Wednesday morning, at least 21 of the club's 59 players on the camp roster had already reported, with pitchers and catchers not due until Friday. The first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers is Sunday.