The offseason is under way for Josh Reddick. But it won’t last long.
The former South Effingham High School star and current member of major league baseball’s Boston Red Sox is ready to get back into the swing — literally — after a taking a break following a stint in the Dominican Winter League.
“I didn’t start it as early as I have in the past few years,” Reddick said of his offseason. “I just started working out again. I took my time off. I’m hitting the weights again and swinging the bat again, start swinging again and get ready to go back at it.
“I spend every offseason playing golf and staying bored,” Reddick added with a smile, “trying not to spend too much money.”
The major league season ended in October and a month later, Reddick was in the Caribbean, continuing to hone his skills. His time playing winter ball made him appreciate just how good things are on the mainland.
“It’s very different, the atmosphere and playing surfaces,” he said. “You get to experience how they live their life down there. It makes you open up your eyes and respect the way you live a lot more.”
But his stay in the Dominican was cut short, by his own accord. In 23 games with the Gigantes del Cibao, Reddick hit .182, collecting 12 hits in 66 at-bats. He had one double, one triple and one home run en route to driving in six runs. He fanned 14 times but walked 10 times.
The winter ball season ended Dec. 21, but Reddick was home a month beforehand.
“I went in as a starter for the first three weeks and then for 10 straight days, I didn’t play at all,” Reddick said. “And then I came in as a defensive replacement for half those games.”
Reddick spoke with his agent — “I didn’t come here to be that kind of guy,” he said of his situation — and approached the team with his request to leave.
An up and down start
Reddick’s 2010 campaign began in Triple-A Pawtucket but he spent a great deal of time either on his way to or on hold to join the big league club.
“The first month was really exhausting,” he said. “I think I went up four or five different times and only got activated twice. The first two times I sat in a hotel room and didn’t get activated to play. It can get frustrating at times, but you feel like they’re going to get to you.”
With two starting outfielders placed on the disabled list, the Red Sox called up Reddick on April 20 and he was sent back down four days later. He was called up June 5 and optioned to Pawtucket a week later. He had another short stay in the bigs later that month, getting pulled up on June 22 for three days.
Reddick rejoined the Red Sox on Sept. 6 for the remainder of the season.
In between his jaunts up and down I-95 from Pawtucket and Boston and back, Reddick struggled at Triple-A. He hit just .182 through May and his average was at .207 going into the all-star break.
At that point, Reddick came home during the intermission of the season.
“That was big for me,” he said. “I got baseball out of my mind. I said I was going to go up there and not care anymore and that mindset ended up working out in my favor.”
Once he returned to Pawtucket, Reddick’s new attitude led to a torrid pace at the plate. He hit .332 over July and August with nine home runs and 17 doubles. He finished the season at Pawtucket with a .266 average in 114 games, belting 18 homers and 28 doubles, to go along with four triples. He knocked in 65 runs and was twice named the International League player of the week in August.
Standing out in a crowd
But the Red Sox outfield — already full of starters with left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, LaGrange’s Mike Cameron in center field and Valdosta’s J.D. Drew in right field — got even more crowded with the addition of Carl Crawford. The former Tampa Bay Rays star, a Gold Glove outfielder and the MVP of the 2009 All-Star Game, is coming off perhaps his best season — 19 homers, 90 RBIs, a .309 average and 47 steals.
The Sox outfield lost one of its members when Kennesaw’s Eric Patterson — yet another Georgian who suited up for Boston in 2010 — was sent to San Diego to complete the trade for slugging all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
With Cameron Crawford, Drew and Ellsbury, the Red Sox have nearly $35 million tied up in four outfielders — for three spots — for the 2011 season.
“The Crawford signing is a big thing for me,” Reddick said. “They’re trying to win championships, and they’re getting guys who are established. I’m not established yet. I need to get up there and still prove I can play everyday.”
Spring training begins in less than two months, and in the last two Grapefruit Leagues, Reddick has shone brightly in the late winter Florida Gulf Coast sun. He’s hit .390 and has an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.091 in the last two spring trainings with Red Sox.
Reddick doesn’t anticipate changing the approach he’s had going into the previous spring trainings.
“I’m going to treat it like I have the last two years,” he said. “I’m going to swing the bat like I know I can and help them make a better decision on my part. I feel I’ve proven a lot to them. I had a great spring training and then the first two months were real disappointing. I really could have made a name for myself. But I feel I’ve worked to improve in the organization.”
A caravan of mercy
Reddick was part of the annual Red Sox caravan that visited hospitals throughout the metro Boston area earlier this month. Reddick joined infielder Jed Lowrie, coaches Ron Johnson, DeMarlo Hale, Dave Magadan and Tim Bogar, and Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster in touring the hospitals to brighten the days of ailing children.
“It’ll drop your heart to the floor to see how some of those kids have lived and what they go through every day and how rough they have it,” he said. “They brought us in to see a 3-year-old who hasn’t left the hospital since birth. He hasn’t experienced the wind in his face or the smell of grass. He was in a bubble and hooked up to a breathing machine. It brings you down about three notches on your radar.”
The caravan made stops at eight hospitals in three days — even if the players and coaches may have been playing second fiddle.
“I think more of them were happier to see Wally,” Reddick said with a laugh of the kids they saw. “But the kids’ parents know who we are. It gives you a good feeling knowing you can get people up and excited no matter where they are in life, who have been in that hospital for years.”