The Boston Red Sox added depth to their bullpen by trading Coco Crisp to Kansas City for Ramon Ramirez. Last season, Ramirez struck out 70 batters in 71 innings of work. Right-handed hitters managed only a .153 batting average against him.
"He has a plus fastball, 92-95 mph, and an outstanding power changeup," Sox general manager Theo Epstein told the Boston Herald. "That's a swing-and-a-miss pitch for him against left-handed and right-handed hitters.
"He's very quietly had a tremendous amount of success in the Majors over the last two seasons. He pitched effectively -- very effectively -- for the Royals in the eighth inning last year. We were looking for an upgrade in depth to add to our bullpen."
Ramirez isn't concerned about where or when he pitches.
"As far as my role goes, it doesn't matter what I do. That's up to the team to decide," the pitcher said from the Dominican Republic. "As far as my demeanor, you can call me fearless. I like being aggressive. I like attacking the strike zone."
Crisp ready to take on everyday role: The Kansas City Royals' search for a center fielder ended this week when they traded for Boston's Coco Crisp, who batted .283 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 118 games last year with the Red Sox.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Crisp told the Kansas City Star. "I like the guys in Boston a lot, the front office. I enjoyed playing in a city where the fans were pretty much crazy about the Red Sox. I never played in front of that type of crowd before in my life. That part was fun.
"Now, the sweet part comes in. I'm going to an organization [where] I know I'll be able to go out and play every day. That's what I've wanted to do my entire life, just go out and play the game of baseball."
Heilman seeks move from bullpen to starter: Aaron Heilman would like to get back to starting, even if that means leaving the Mets.
"The object the entire time has never been to get out of New York," Heilman's agent Mark Rodgers told the New York Daily News. "The object is to get out of the bullpen. The most success he's ever had as a pitcher has been as a starting pitcher. He was drafted by the Mets as a starting pitcher."
Dempster aims to be ready to answer the bell: Ryan Dempster says that, as solid as the Cubs were in 2008, they just weren't fully prepared once they reached the postseason.
"Maybe we underestimated how prepared you have to be, how ready you have to be, especially in a five-game series," Dempster told the Chicago Tribune. "It's like a short heavyweight bout. Ding -- the bell is ringing, you've got to go."
Lewis prepared for role of closer: Jensen Lewis says that he plans to pick up where he left off at the end of last season -- closing out victories for the Cleveland Indians.
"I went into the offseason with the mentality that I was the guy until told differently," Lewis told MLB.com. "As of right now, that's my mindset."
Manager Eric Wedge says that while there is nothing yet certain, he's confident that Lewis has the right makeup to fill the role.
"This guy has got the guts, he's got the confidence, and I think he has the mindset to do it," Wedge said.
Hamels talks baseball with Biden: Cole Hamels, along with a lot of other exciting trips and meet-and-greets over the past few weeks, recently sat with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, in the owners suite at the Eagles game against the Giants two Sundays ago.
"It was cool that he was a big baseball fan," Hamels told MLB.com. "It's always an honor to meet a future vice president that is a sports fan. The opportunities that have come with winning the World Series have been outstanding. It wasn't anything I really expected.
"Being on David Letterman was a special event, the whole L.A. experience -- 'Dancing With The Stars' and 'Ellen.'"
Jenks watches ERA steadily drop: Bobby Jenks has 117 saves in 134 chances over the past three years, and his ERA has gone down each season from 4.00 to 2.77 to 2.63. So, even if his strikeout rate has dropped over time, pitching coach Don Cooper says he sees no cause for concern.
"For me, the only red flag I saw and that bothered Bobby was when he was unable to pitch," Cooper, referring to Jenks' nearly one-month absence in 2008 due to left scapula bursitis, told MLB.com. "When he's able to pitch and ready to go, he's done a fantastic job.
"Hey, I like strikeouts as much as the next guy. I also like ground balls, fly balls, saves and wins. Bobby uses his stuff accordingly and has used all his weapons successfully over time in the big leagues."
Blake could make return to Cleveland: The Cleveland Indians' search for a third baseman for the 2009 season may take them to a familiar face -- Casey Blake's.
After Blake batted .274 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs for the Indians and Dodgers combined in 2008, his agent, Jim McDowell, says the Indians are among the teams interested in Blake's services for 2009.
"There is interest on the Indians' part, and, obviously, Casey likes the organization," McDowell told MLB.com, "so there's certainly interest going back the other way, too. We'll just have to see."
Ohman mulls offer to return to Braves: Will Ohman, who was 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 83 games, for the Braves last season, is considering an offer to return to Atlanta this season.
"It was a real offer, an offer intended to make me feel like they wanted me back," Ohman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Baker ready to take on challengers: Last year John Baker made 54 starts for the Marlins, and that total is likely to go up in 2009. Still, Baker welcomes whatever competition may come his way.
"For me, being a competitive person, I kind of welcome any and all challenges," Baker told MLB.com. "If they bring two guys in and one guy plays better, but everybody gives it everything that they have, the other guy deserves to play."
"You have collisions at home plate. You get hit with foul balls. We have a pitching staff that throws the ball very hard, a high-velocity pitching staff," Baker said. "I think that's great if we can lighten the burden, and whoever plays the best, plays the most. I love situations like that."
Astros add trio to roster: The Houston Astros added three players to the team's 40-man roster, protecting outfielder Brian Bogusevic, shortstop Tommy Manzella and infielder Drew Sutton from the Rule 5 draft.
"We had probably eight or nine possibilities to add," Astros general manager Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "We just felt that, realistically, these three plus [Polin] Trinidad [who was added to the 40-man roster on Oct. 31] made the most sense. You try to insolate yourself from losing players in the Rule 5 draft.
"But at the same time, you have to take into consideration that the player taken in the Rule 5 draft has to stay with the selecting club the entire season. That's part of the thought process. We still have flexibility on the roster to re-sign our own players or to go out and do other things."
The Astros currently have 34 players on the 40-man roster.
McAnulty signs Minor League deal with Boston: Paul McAnulty signed a Minor League contract with the Boston Red Sox, ending his tenure with the San Diego Padres. McAnulty hopes to earn a roster spot with the Red Sox, a team that values players with a history of having a high on-base percentage. McAnulty has a career .400 OBP in the Minors.
"I think he fits a lot of what we look for in the American League," Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "If he comes in and wins a Major League job, I think his swing will work for our ballpark. He's going to fight for a spot on our bench -- left field and maybe first base. He really wanted to come here."
Holliday can expect full season in Oakland: Many were surprised when Oakland acquired Matt Holliday, an impact slugger. Team owner Lew Wolff plans to see Holliday in an A's uniform for the entire season.
"I'd rather take the two draft choices than lose him in the middle of the season," Wolff told the San Francisco Chronicle.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.