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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Boston eyeing Berkman

With the Toronto Blue Jays filling their needs at a rapid pace – adding shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielders Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio, catcher John Buck and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle – the shape of the Red Sox continues at a slower pace.

A glimpse of one route the ballclub could take emerged Monday when free agent first baseman Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle that the Red Sox were one of four teams – with the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies being the others – who are showing interest in him, or “tire-kicking.” ...

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With the Toronto Blue Jays filling their needs at a rapid pace – adding shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielders Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio, catcher John Buck and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle – the shape of the Red Sox continues at a slower pace.

A glimpse of one route the ballclub could take emerged Monday when free agent first baseman Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle that the Red Sox were one of four teams – with the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies being the others – who are showing interest in him, or “tire-kicking.”

Berkman, a switch hitter, can also play in the outfield. First base and outfield are two of the Sox’ positional needs, and his bat is one of the best in the business. But at the age of 36 and having played just 32 games last season with the St. Louis Cardinals because of a knee injury, Berkman’s health and mobility would likely have to be closely scrutinized.

Still, it is easy to see why the Red Sox would renew their interest in Berkman, who has a career .409 on-base percentage and .544 slugging percentage. He played half a season in the American League in 2010, after the Astros traded him to the New York Yankees.

The last four seasons, injuries have taken a toll on the former All-Star, although he played in 149 games, mostly as an outfielder, for the world champion Cardinals in 2011. St. Louis paid him $12 million in 2012.

Prior to the 2010 trade, Berkman spent his entire career with the Astros, and some believe he wants to finish his career in Houston.

On the pitching side, the Red Sox keep getting mentioned less and less – if at all – as a possible destination for free agent Hiroki Kuroda, who is coming off a one-year deal with the Yankees. Indications from multiple media outlets are that Kuroda favors pitching next season back in Japan, with the Yankees or with a team on the West Coast, where he spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Coaching circles

Arnie Beyeler was picked as the club’s major league first base coach Tuesday.

The 2013 campaign will mark Beyeler’s first on a major league staff and 10th in Boston’s system. The native of Moab, Utah – who graduated from Wichita State University, where he earned all-conference honors in all three seasons from 1984-86 and was tabbed to the all-region team in 1985 – served as a minor league manager in the Red Sox organization from 2000-02 (Single A Lowell Spinners/Single-A Augusta) and 2007-2012 (Double-A Portland/Triple-A Pawtucket), guiding his clubs to a 585-553 (.514) record and four playoff appearances in that time.

In 13 seasons overall as a minor league manager, including three with Rangers organization from 2003-05, the 48-year-old Beyeler has compiled an 802-756 (.515) record and reached the playoffs six times.

“Arnie has had a successful professional career as a player, coach, and manager,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “This allows him to bring a wealth of experience to this position.”

Between stints with the Red Sox organization, he managed the Rangers’ High-A California League affiliate in Stockton (2003-04) and Bakersfield (2005), leading Stockton to the California League playoffs in 2003 and 2004. In 2006, he served as hitting coach for San Diego’s Double-A Mobile affiliate.

Beyeler played six seasons of minor league baseball in the Detroit Tigers system from 1986-91, reaching as high as Triple-A Toledo in his final professional campaign. His best season came in 1987 when he hit .285 with 20 stolen bases in 117 games at Single-A Fayetteville, playing alongside Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.

Craig Counsell interviewed with the Red Sox for the hitting coach vacancy. Greg Colbrunn is also expected to interview for the job this week, and the Sox may hire a pair of hitting coaches.

Spring has sprung

The Red Sox released their 2013 spring training schedule, with 20 of their 38 games being played at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers. The first exhibitions are on the calendar for
Feb. 21, with a single-admission doubleheader against Northeastern University and Boston College.

The first workout for pitchers and catchers will be held Feb. 12, an earlier date than normal due to the World Baseball Classic being contested in March. The first full-squad workout is set for Feb. 15.